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Self-Care Sundays

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It’s hard to find the right words to describe what life has been like since March: the uncertainty of the unknown, the constant changes to our schedules. Every time I feel relatively settled, something happens that makes my stress and/or anxiety levels rise. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, especially since there’s no clear end in sight. One of the ways I’ve been coping is to be more deliberate about self-care: giving myself permission to skip the research, for instance, or eat the extra dessert. I’ve also pretty consistently been using a new skincare regimen, and I have to say, it’s working! I’ve gotten comments from friends and family, and I can see the difference, too.

In some ways, talking about skincare during a global pandemic feels trivial – but actually, I think it matters now even more than usual. For one thing, it is much easier to be my best self when I look like my best self. I just changed cities and jobs, and being the new kid is hard; looking polished helps me with that transition. For another, I’m hearing from my girlfriends with kids that their free time has disappeared. Women in general, especially mothers, are notoriously bad at prioritizing themselves – but if we don’t, who will? And finally, I must admit that taking twenty minutes to do a mask and be intentionally selfish every weekend is oddly gratifying. It’s a good reminder that taking care of myself is as important as taking care of the people I love. And, I do feel amazingly relaxed afterwards.

I’m 35 years old, and honestly until February, I used bar soap and Alba lotion on my skin, so no judgment here. But, I was getting a massage (a post-boards treat), and in the big mirror, it was hard to ignore all the gray hairs and forehead wrinkles. That, along with realizing I was getting closer to 40 than 30, made me wonder what I could be doing better with my skin. So, I went down the rabbit hole of skincare recommendations that is the Internet and pulled some useful knowledge.

People say I can pass for my age or a little younger, and I bet that’s mostly because I avoid the sun. It’s conditioned behavior from my childhood – as any of-South-Asian-origin person can tell you, tans are bad. (In truth, my culture has real work to do on its colorism, but that’s another topic). Dermatologists agree: the sun contributes to photoaging as well as skin cancer. Luckily, the American Academy of Dermatology has good, clear recommendations for prevention. I also liked this interesting piece about the damage from blue light from our phones.

Obviously, we all have our own skin, with our own genetics and history. This Tatcha blog post goes over determining skin types, a necessary first step. I really appreciated the pieces that understood that 25-year-old skin is different from 75-year-old skin, like this one from Refinery29. American media does a bad job of acknowledging the presence of women older than 60ish, which is both disappointing and irritating – I certainly plan to be working and contributing well past that age, so kudos to Megan McIntyre for making that space.

If I could recommend only one article from everything I read, it would be this one on building a regimen from the NYT Magazine. The skin on our face is different from the skin on our bodies, so we should be using different products. I used to scoff at the idea of toner – I mean really, what does it do? – but now I can say, I was wrong. I also demystified serums and learned their go-to ingredients, depending on the primary goal: hyaluronic acid for dry skin, vitamin C for dark spots, and retinol for wrinkles. The lists of best serums are frankly overwhelming, but this one from Cosmopolitan and this one from Byrdie were digestible.

My regimen is based on Shiseido products and takes me five minutes every morning and evening and twenty minutes on Sundays. It is expensive, but I do think the investment is worthwhile. I tried this once as a medicine resident and couldn’t make it stick, but now that I can see the difference, it’s easy to be compliant. Here it is:

  • AM: Shiseido Benefiance Extra Creamy Cleansing Foam + WrinkleResist24 Balancing Softener + Wrinkle Smoothing Day Cream SPF 23
  • PM: same face wash + same toner + Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum + Shiseido White Lucent Overnight Cream and Mask
  • Sundays: Shiseido Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask

I love the overnight face lotion – it’s like having a mini-spa treatment every single evening! I like the eye mask, and my skin does seem glowy and smooth after I wear it, but I’m not convinced it’s earned its price tag. When I finish the box, I want to try a Joanna Vargas face mask or a Charlotte Tilbury clay mask. Sometimes on Sundays I’ll mix up a little home facial, too, because I usually have yogurt and fruit in my fridge and can make one of these work.

I spent some time debating the need for eye cream and ultimately pulled the plug, though it’s too soon to comment on results. Chrissy Teigen just raved about Alpha Beta Daily Peels from Dr. Dennis Gross, so that’s also on my list to try. Finally, although I know we’re not getting back to a place where going in for facials will be safe anytime soon, I did find this list to be a helpful reminder for when we are.

I feel really good that I took the time to build a basic skincare regimen that keeps me looking and feeling healthy. I hope this post inspires everyone to do the same – especially right now when we’re home most days anyway.

Author: Lakshmi S. Tummala, MD, FACC

Lakshmi S. Tummala, MD, FACC

Dr. Tummala is a cardiologist at Grady Memorial Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. She was previously a cardiologist at the DC VA Medical Center, and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Georgetown and George Washington Universities. Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are hers alone, and sharing resources does not equal endorsement.


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