There is something to be said for a quick fix. I am for the long term effects. Bring the retinol. Yes, to consistent routines and gradual change. I’ll take a slow burn. But if a arduous journey to make peace with my skin (think hormonal acne) has taught me one thing, it’s the unrecognized glow of immediate results, in particular, a green-tinted moisturizer.
Four years ago, after reading dozens of Reddit threads and watching so many testimonials on Youtube, I took to Accutane (medically called Isotretinoin). The process has been intense. Even when arriving To the process was intense. My dermatologist, Dr Cebele Fishman, put me on antibiotics immediately. Nothing worked. I spent hours in infrared saunas and cut dairy products for weeks. It didn’t help. I remember crying in his office, the merciless lighting emphasizing my despair. “I just want it to be done,” I told him. She sighed, crossed her arms and told me it was about time.
Accutane was rolled as a final pass from Hail Mary. The side effects scared me, but I was engaged in the process. Every month, I was early for my blood tests. I coated myself in sunscreen, even for a bodega run. I completely ditched the beach, harsh toners, and makeup as I took on my newly sensitive skin. There were tears and nights when the tension and the crackle of the skin around my lips scared me, but I ended up sleeping – repeating “long game” in my head like a mantra.
There were tears and nights when the tension and cracking of the skin around my lips scared me, but I ended up asleep – repeating “the long game” in my head like a mantra.
Fortunately, the results have also been intense. While my complexion on the other side was smooth and streak-free, the potent medication left me with almost constant residual redness and skin care fatigue. I was fed up with things “getting worse before they get better”. The high potency cell turnover has left my skin naturally pale and prone to reddening somewhere in the baby pink color category. Permanently. On my last visit before my last round of medication, I asked my dermatologist for advice. The usual spiel about drinking more water wasn’t going to cut him off.
She wrote “Eucerin Redness Relief ($ 10) and CeraVe Gentle Cleanser ($ 17)” on a monogrammed notepad. I rushed out of the elevator in his office to the nearest pharmacy. I bought both products and a bag of Peanut M & Ms for good measure. Back in my apartment, I rushed into the bathroom and pumped the Eucerin moisturizer onto the back of my hand.
It was green. It had not expired, despite my frantic searches. It wasn’t badly labeled. The green goop I had to coat my face in was intentional. Dr. Fishman was on to something. “If you look at a traditional color wheel, the opposite colors neutralize each other,” she explained in a recent email exchange. “Red and green are opposite each other, so green tends to neutralize red. The green pigment absorbs red light as much as possible (the classic example is chlorophyll), so when you put green on the skin, the red pigment in the skin is less noticeable because it is absorbed by the green pigment. ” My insecurity could boil down to basic color theory. I felt a boost of confidence as I mixed the sage green cream on my skin. He disappeared, leaving me with a soft, momentary feeling of relief.
I felt a surge of confidence as I mixed the sage green cream on my skin.
And that’s what is so useful about a quick fix: its ability to inject a sense of short-term tranquility. The green tinted moisturizer did not reduce the problem. But it relieved me of the pressure of trying to find a miracle antidote for my redness and allowed me to focus on living beyond my redness. I felt the confidence to close the medicine cabinet and focus on being a better partner or meeting my friends for dinner that turned into drinks that turned into dancing.
It is of course important to note any underlying issues that the physical manifestation of the color might indicate, such as a drug reaction or infection. But in my case, the redness is the result of my skin flipping over on Accutane (and genetics). While experimenting with beauty products has its time and place, I have learned to accept the truth of my pale pink complexion. Most of the basic truths about our body benefit from acceptance instead of attempts to change.
I have since switched to Dr. Jart’s “Cicapair” collection, specifically the Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment ($ 52). The price is higher than Eucerin, but the texture is easier to combine and provides barrier protection. I mix it with a dollop of EltaMD UV Clear sunscreen. What made the biggest difference was the smoothness to my skin and with that a realistic set of expectations for the scope of skin care. What works for me is a consistent routine, sealed with a layer of green tinted moisturizer.
What made the biggest difference was the smoothness to my skin and with that a set of realistic expectations for the scope of skin care.
There are all kinds of those short-term assurances for a good day: green-tinted moisturizers, my favorite vintage Levis, a call with my best friend. The products I adopted after Accutane don’t promise an eternally even skin tone, just like a pair of jeans doesn’t guarantee a life without wondering what to wear. The quick fixes leave you looking better than you started, and that’s good enough. As for the green tinted moisturizers, they give me a little less redness and the ability to take any slow burns that come my way.