My obsession with skincare began as a teenager. When puberty hit, it hit hard and my face and back erupted like an oily bag of microwave popcorn. I was so greasy classmates asked if I rubbed oil on my face and hair in the mornings before school. The really mean kids called me "pus face". I had the worst acne of anyone I'd ever met. One day a friend of my brother looked at me and said: "Wow. I thought I was bad!"
Looking in the mirror was horrifying. But the worst part was the shame. Old ladies in the street telling me to stop eating sugar and wash my face, my parents arguing over which side of the family those horrible acne genes came from. My grandmother looking down the back of my T-shirt to check out the painful lumps all over my once-perfect skin.
So I tried everything my casual job at Coles enabled me to afford. I cleansed, toned and moisturised twice a day. Applied face masks. Took vitamins. I even did home steaming treatments by filling a bowl of boiling water, popping in a few drops of tea tree oil and putting a towel over my head so I could sweat out the toxins. There wasn't a pharmacy or health food shop teen skincare line I didn't try. Tea tree oil. Benzyl peroxide. Those blotting tissues from the Body Shop that help soak up excess oil.
With the credible and beautiful Cate Blanchett as its spokesperson, the SK-II brand screams integrity.
Things didn't improve until I went on the pill. But when I went off it 10 years later, the acne came back and I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. This time around I had more money to invest in glycolic acid, vitamin A treatments, naturopaths and facials at the beauty salon. None of those worked either.
Ironically, it was having children, an experience so many women associate with negative changes to their body, that finally fixed my skin. But while imbalanced hormones were clearly the culprit, my skincare habit has remained. It doesn't matter that I have absolutely no first-hand evidence that any product, no matter how expensive, makes much of a difference at all, I'm still on the lookout for my skincare "holy grail".
And it seems I am not the only woman willing to spend up big on my skin.
This is the soap that will set you back $120.
When skincare company Cor released its signature soap containing "nano-silver with silica compounds" there was no shortage of media hype and celebrity endorsements. Never mind the fact that it costs $120. Jessica Biel claims it to be her perfect skin secret weapon. Surely she wouldn't lie about such a thing.
And how about the ubiquitous SK II skincare campaign that bombards anyone willing to pick up a fashion magazine? With the credible and beautiful Cate Blanchett as its spokesperson, the brand screams integrity. Sure a small bottle of the brand's best-selling facial treatment essence costs more than $100, even on discount websites, but it's the only brand to contain the miracle of pitera. My friend Bec swears by it. Though I must admit, I haven't been able to see any of the dramatic changes she speaks of.
We hear it time and time again. Dermatologists recommending Cetaphil to cleanse the skin, sorbolene to moisturise and sunscreen to protect. Sure I have tried this sensible approach. But you know what? Cetaphil doesn't smell half as good as Aesop's fabulous face cleaner and comparing sorbolene to Jurlique's balancing day care cream is really quite insulting.
In computers they call it "waving a dead chicken", a ritual that makes a person feel better even though they know it's not going to lead to any tangible results. Maybe buying a $200 jar of face cream or a soap containing silver is the same thing. You're going to get wrinkles whether you shop at Priceline or Mecca Cosmetica. It's the way it makes you feel that counts.