Last weekend, I made the mistake of walking into an upscale cosmetics shop. I got a little bit excited because it was some fancy brand from New York that had just opened here in Australia. Everyone at the lunch table on Sunday had heard of their products except me, and their collective enthusiasm gave me the strong impression that regular use of said cosmetics would definitely transform my skin, and probably my life
Skincare is important to me because, in the spirit of the oversharing that has by now become customary to regular readers of this column, I have very dry skin. I thought it was because I have Scottish skin, but on Googling “Scottish skin dry”, I’ve discovered that dry skin is more of an issue with Scottish terriers, which is a touch disconcerting.
But whether or not my ancestry is Scottish or Scottish terrier, the problem remains. So I’m always in the market for fabulous skincare products that make my skin – I was going to say “moist”, but that’s just icky, even though the stuff I use is called “moisturiser”. And “wet” doesn’t sound appropriate, either. So let’s just say that I wanted my skin to be not-dry, however that’s defined.
After lunch I went and checked out this new shop, feeling like Harry Potter did on first entering Diagon Alley, only with eczema on my skin instead of a lightning bolt. The staff wore lab coats, which I felt might have been somewhat overstating their qualifications, but they were certainly friendly, perhaps because there were very few customers.
I gravitated towards the small rack in the corner marked “MEN”. As is always the case in cosmetics stores, they had special male products for male skin that might just be the female products rebadged in special male packaging so as to look male and definitely not female. I appreciated the differentiation.
One of the white-coated characters offered me a free consultation, and, as I almost always do when I hear the word “free”, I said yes. What followed was a bizarre process where she put a range of different creams and liquids on the back of my hand while painstakingly explaining to me what they did, none of which I understood.
Let me try and recreate the laboratory process. There was a cleanser first of all, whose purpose seemed fairly self-evident. Then there was a toner, which was a chemical-stenchy liquid whose purpose entirely eluded me – tone refers to shade, and it was clear, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how it would improve my muscle tone. To be honest, it smelt more like photocopier toner than anything else.
Then there was a separate tube of moisturiser and a scrub with little rough beads in it and something called Transformer. She explained that if I applied various combinations of these products throughout the week, my skin would be as smooth as a radio station that played nothing but Michael Bublé.
(Who, I must say, has excellent skin.)
There was only one problem with her expert prescription for my life. I simply can’t see myself spending ten minutes applying a complicated range of skincare products each morning. I’m more than happy to slap a bit of something or other on my cheeks while showering, but I don’t want to overthink things. Besides, what if I toned or moisturised before I cleansed by mistake, and the entire process fell to pieces like a US whistleblower’s asylum application.
I said I’d think about it, and went back to staring at the shelf, trying to make sense of it all. The twenty-cent piece-sized area of my hand where she had applied all the products felt great, admittedly, but strange. It was almost too pure, like it was the hand of an 11 year old choirboy.
The shop assistant’s chemistry experiments on my hand involved a mere fraction of the products on offer for men. The shelf also contained body cream and shaving cream and shaving oil and post shaving cream and eye cream and eye depuffifier (that’s not a word but it promised to do that!) and foot cream and anti-wrinkle cream which I can’t for the life of my imagine any man purchasing, but perhaps they do.
In the end, after reading every single label on every single product, I bought a small bottle of moisturiser to try on my dry skin and a small tube of face stuff that seemed like it had a bit of everything in it, including suncream. These two items alone cost – you know, I’m not even going to admit to the precise amount. They cost as much as a nice meal. For two.
To be fair, the moisturiser seems excellent – almost worth the money for someone with eczema. It’s like this magical de-Scotlandifying cream that gently placates my hyperirritable skin. I suspect I’m using too little of the face stuff to have properly tested it because I’m so freaked out by how much the stuff costs, but it may well be a decent product as well.
I walked out of the shop, thoroughly confused about skincare – and that was after exploring only the simplified blokes’ range, not the dozens of items available for women. I may decide somewhere during the process of using these supposedly magical products that I can’t live without them, but right now, the skincare stuff in the supermarket that costs $5 for a giant pump pack is looking pretty good value for money.
And perhaps I should just leave my skin well alone. After all, it’s my Scottish heritage. These moisturiser peddlers can take my money, but they cannot take my freedom. Even if it’s just the freedom to have, well, really dry skin.