On Perioral Dermatitis and Embracing an “Uncool” Skin-Care Routine


Finally, I use barely any skin-care products at all.

That’s right. In an age where “get ready with me” content dominates TikTok and influencers spout 30-step makeup routines, I’m down to using three products a day. Fewer, if my perioral dermatitis is particularly bad: CeraVe cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. (“Gentle cleansers and/or a gentle glycolic or sulfur wash and gentle moisture from products with ceramides in them are great simple and gentle skin care regimens,” Stevenson says.) Each costs 12 to 15 dollars at CVS. So far, it’s the only routine that’s kept my face in a reasonably clear state. Most people my age have a bathroom cabinet that rivals those seen in a Top Shelf. Mine, however, resembles that of a cosmetically clueless seventh grader.

I did actually use CeraVe from middle school into my early years of high school. Hormonal, awkward, and knowing nothing about beauty, I got it because my cool friend swore it was the best way to prevent breakouts. Little did I know, she was more insecure about her looks than I was. She’d recently started on Accutane—CeraVe and Cetaphil, as it turns out, are safe choices for those suffering with acne too. In fact, its gentle reputation is the main reason that in 2020, the brand went viral on TikTok and flew off the shelves of stores across the country.

As an adult user, I feel a newfound appreciation for those no-frills brands that are accessible, affordable, and a savior for those of us with messed-up skin. Yet it’s odd, opting out of the high-end skin-care craze when it’s continuously marketed to you. As a 30-year-old woman, my browser is dotted with targeted ads for 300-dollar miracle creams. Suggested Instagram posts for buzzy beauty start-ups with pastel interiors fill my feed. A sign that reads “Getting old is getting old,” stares at me on the subway. 

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit to feeling anxious when I read something about how skin-care ingredients should be organic and all-natural, or how someone my age should be on retinoids. I still feel strange not participating in an industry that society tells me, both subtly and overtly, I very much should be.

But then I remember Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who became obsessed with finding the Fountain of Youth. The waters, he believed, would restore the youth of anyone who drank or bathed in it. He searched his entire life but never found it. The fountain, as it turns out, was nothing more than a myth.



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