Skin Deep (Wellness Column): An Introduction to My Skin Care Journey by Rachel Cabeza

Hey hey, Mixed Mag readers! My name is Rachel Cabeza, and I am a Latinx actor/writer located in Brooklyn, NY,  interested in all things skin deep that makes us feel whole and beautiful. From makeup to skincare to fashion, I am obsessed with all of it and I’m excited to bring to you a column that covers all of these topics. Beyond the aesthetic purpose of skincare, makeup, and fashion, I want to emphasize how these subcultures relate to our confidence and how much of an impact they make in our life. I thought for our first encounter it would make sense to share some of my skincare journey with all of you. It’s been a long road in learning to love my skin, and no – it isn’t perfect, but I am happy with it and that is what I believe to be the essence of this column: learning to love yourself and understanding others through every experience we have, big or small. There are so many unrepresented voices, ideas, and stories in fashion, beauty, and skincare and I am thrilled to bring this column to Mixed Mag. 

‘Vivaporu’ to combat acne: No, I’m not lying

Growing up, my immigrant mother from Colombia, always stressed the importance of taking care of my skin. I, like her, had been graced with skin that was low maintenance and easy to work with. My mom really enforced the law of sunscreen in our household from a young age; rainy day? Sunscreen. Sitting inside all day? Sunscreen. I was raised with a tenement of skincare I hold holy to this day; sunscreen is essential. But I was also raised with some problematic products that I wouldn’t dream of using on my face today. For instance, whenever I got a zit my mom would insist I use Vicks Vapor Rub on it, or as she and most Latinos have dubbed it, ‘vivaporu.’ So yeah, I was that middle schooler who smelled like eucalyptus and menthol. Please don’t do this, ever.

Ponds Cold Cream was another product I was raised to treat as a holy grail skin product. In theory, it’s a great moisturizer for people with dry skin because of the equal distribution of water and oil in the product allowing for a great amount of topical hydration that really acts as a mask if applied for overnight use. For my combination skin, it caused breakouts in my t-zone because it was too rich of a product.

The factors that affect your skin

I was shocked to learn that everything affects your skin. From how much water you drink, to what you put on it, to how long you sleep, to the stress in your life. As I got older, I became more interested in a ‘skincare routine’ because publicizing your daily skin rituals became more popular in pop culture. For the most part, I followed what I saw other people use: a cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer, eye cream, and daily sunscreen. And this worked – until it didn’t.

In the spring of 2019, I began to get hormonal cystic acne suddenly and for the first time in my life. I was shocked because I had never dealt with more than an occasional zit. I had a huge flare up on my chin and I tried everything. Facials, exfoliators, micro-dermabrasion, a whole new skincare routine, and nothing was working. It was extremely frustrating and a huge downer; not only was the acne painful, it made me so uncomfortable in my skin. I found the issue to be my birth control and an improper skincare routine that was causing a breakdown of my skin barrier.

Know Yourself 

After meeting with a dermatologist, she suggested switching my birth control from the arm implant, Nexplanon, to the pill which has been known to specifically target acne. I was also over-exfoliating my skin, causing irritation. So I did my research and I created a simple day time routine: cleansing my face with lukewarm water and applying moisturizer with SPF.

For my night time routine I do the following: double cleanse, serum, moisturizer, and retinol. Double cleansing is something I swear by and I think everyone should do it. The first cleanse is done with an oil cleanser or micellar water to break down any makeup, then we move onto a hydrating cleanser to address your skin type. I choose a gentle hydrating serum made up of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and DMAE to combat my hyperpigmentation caused by acne, and a moisturizer meant for skin barrier repair. I finish my routine with a retinol to combat aging and hyperpigmentation. Within weeks following this regimen, my skin began to heal itself. Now I have no acne and all my acne scars are gone.

My Favorite Products

An upside of this rollercoaster of an experience was finding products that work for me. First and foremost, I have to name my favorite product of all time: Stratia Liquid Gold. This lightweight yellow dream of a moisturizer is a reddit cult favorite for skin barrier repair. The cocktail of ingredients within this product includes ceramides, sea buckthorn oil, and niacinamide which promote cell turnover, skin protection, and healing of the skin barrier. At $27 for a 2 oz. bottle it runs at a median price range but it lasts a long time. All you need is a pump once a day, I use it as my nighttime moisturizer  and it lasts about 2-3 months.

Another favorite of mine is the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Face Wash Cleanser, Purifying Foaming Cleanser for Normal Oily & Sensitive Skin, which is a great product for combination skin in the summer. In the winter, I find it can be drying for my skin and go with an even gentler product like Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser. Both cleansers come in at around $14, which is a steal for a product that lasts months.

Normalize All Skin

What we should strive for is understanding our skin. Acne isn’t bad, scarring isn’t bad, texture on your face is not bad. It’s not normalized to be anything but perfect and we are constantly being judged by our society based on our appearance. Throughout my skin care journey, I learned the best thing I could do for my skin was to love it. I would force myself to go out in public without makeup to hide my acne and release that anxiety I felt of being judged. And once I did that, it became less and less of a big deal and I believe in some part, my release of the fixation of my ‘bad skin’ helped get rid of my acne.

A lot of people don’t have access to a dermatologist or an esthetician as many people don’t have access to healthcare or their healthcare is not that comprehensive, but this should not discourage you. My three tips for anyone intimidated by skincare would be to: spend time researching what type of skin you have and what works best for you. Try out a ton of products – ask for free samples at Sephora, buy travel size versions to see if it’s a match before committing to a full size product. Secondly, look into various sources – not just one influencer pushing a product they love. And lastly, know that for every expensive product there is most certainly a dupe out there that works just as well as the original over-priced option.

Rachel Cabeza is a Latinx actor/writer located in Brooklyn, NY. She loves watching movies, hiking with her dog, cooking pizza in her pizza oven EVERY weekend, and working out. Rachel is excited to bring a new column about skincare, beauty, and fashion to Mixed Mag and connect with all the amazing readers.

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