Notes From an Esthetics Student

Once upon a time, there was a very reliable zit. It lived on my forehead, a little east of center, between my two eyebrows. Every month it made an appearance and stuck around a week or so, and the mark it left behind saved zit’s place until its inevitable return so that I could never forget it. Very rude.

Auditioning for a Corona commercial a couple winters ago, I bumped into Leisel. Liesel is an acquaintance of mine, our relationship a result of countless hours spent in the same waiting rooms over the years. She has always been undeniably nice to look at; cheekbones to die for and that European effortlessness that makes a Hanes tee look like the coolest shirt you’ve ever seen. But on that day her appearance actually struck me— I had never seen such beautiful skin in my life. Not a drop of makeup on her face, she exuded warmth and somehow a secure sense of well being. She was radiant. 

The concealer hiding my reliable zit and other patches of my face suddenly it felt like clown makeup. Clearly, she is genetically gifted. She does pilates every day and drinks cucumber-infused water by the gallon. She’s never phased by anything out of her control and falls asleep in a chic yet comfortable bedroom with three cherubs floating above her, singing lullabies in harmony. Most of all, she has beautiful skin. I wanted beautiful skin too.

If you’re like me, shopping for face products is an overwhelming task. I don’t even know where to begin at Sephora. There are so many products promising so many worthy results, but what actually works? The salesgirl recommended something I wasn’t aware I needed, and I don’t mean to be an asshole but does she even know what she’s talking about? If she’s wearing a lot of makeup, I feel unsafe. Inevitably, I either leave with a gaping hole in my checking account or have to carry the burden of all the ways I’m not taking care of my skin.

Hours of internet research and many beauty store excursions later, it occurred to me that overcomplicating skin care is probably about as common as reading into the subtext of a crush’s texts. We all have skin; we also all exist in a time when virtually every part of our lives has been simplified and streamlined. An effective routine to keep our faces clear and healthy while we ease into the inevitable aging process shouldn't be privileged information. All of this was very interesting, so I decided to go to school and learn about skin for myself. 

I’m midway through my esthetician program, so I’m still learning. But here’s some advice I’ve compiled for all the other girls struggling to find their ‘glow’ and want skin like Leisel’s. 

  • Commit. The older we are, the better we understand that the world doesn’t blindly reward anyone— at least not regularly. Personally, my most coveted assets are the ones I worked hardest to earn. It takes strong work ethic to get shit done! If you want skin like Liesel’s, make a commitment to your decision to have it. This requires a level of diligence; healthy skin is a culmination of positive choices you make for your body every day. Your life knows no bounds to the good fortune of making health-conscious decisions(!), so prepare yourself for unexpected wins across the board.

  • Treat your skin to the effects of a consistent regimen. Keep it SIMPLE. My first routine was three products: cleanser, face oil, and night cream. Morning and night, every day, I used these guys. Within a couple of months, the outcome of consistency was visible. Which leads me to our next tip…

  • Try, really try, only one new product at a time. So you’re excited and feeling ambitious… that’s cool. Enthusiasm is great but take it easy. How can you possibly know what is or isn’t working if there are so many variables in the mix? As long as you aren’t having a bad reaction, give a product time. It may take time for your skin to detox and get used to the better product.

  • Find an esthetician. The Beauty Solution by Mathilde Thomas (the founder of Caudalie) explains that French women get regular facials the same way Americans get their nails done. Facials cost less in France because they value beautiful skin and its upkeep (and manicures cost more. Imagine that). The American misconception that a facial is a luxury is understandable because, yes, facials are relaxing and pampering. But what’s more important is that an esthetician has the equipment and knowledge to achieve results that we cannot on our own. A good facialist will guide you to the discovery of your ideal at home routine because they want to help! Extractions alone make my monthly facials worth the money. Guess what. After a few consecutive services, the zit that lived on my face for YEARS left for good. The pustule it resided in was properly extracted by my esthetician from its root and now it’s gone, along with that horrible spot it always left behind. I had been going about it all wrong. Let an expert assess and teach you how you, uniquely, can have a healthier conversation with the largest organ of your body. I could write an albums-worth of love songs about the benefits of facials, but only my mom would listen. You might not be convinced by my praises, but here’s a neat life-hack: If you cut out a couple nights of drinks you can pay for a facial. So in addition to feeling great about your skin, you’ll save yourself from some late-night texts you can’t unsend your ex! At least consider it.

  • Enjoy your bathroom. Did you know that your bathroom is a room? Yes, your bathroom is a space in your home where you spend intimate time with yourself every day! Let’s assume you live to be 85. If you spend only 30 minutes in the bathroom every day of your life starting at age 15 then, cumulatively, the bathroom is where more than 530 days of your life are spent. For most women, the daily average of 30 minutes is seriously on the low-end. When you stand in front of the mirror pulling your hair back to massage stuff into your face, luxuriate in the sensations you are providing yourself with. Self-care is synonymous with self-love. When you are in the bathroom your phone, boyfriend, crappy weather, and credit card debt do not exist. Shut the door, light a candle, and take your sweet time. This is distinctly you-time.

Try not to forget that your skin has no intention other than to protect you and give you sensation. And keep your other organs together. I’m committed to the idea that taking care of it should not be an endless, complicated expense. You deserve to have great skin, so go get it.

Check out Do You Really Know How to Take Care of Your Skin? for a simple decoding of your skincare routine. 

by: Julia Barna

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