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In 2017, Iva Dixit wrote about her experience with Retin-A for The New Yorker. The audience editor for the New York Times, Dixit says, “For three years, in my early 20s, I walked around with a beard of pimples and dead skin debris that I lovingly called face dandruff.”
Through time, dermatologist visits, and proper medication, Dixit finally achieved acne-free skin. “I joke that my zits are so famous they’ve been in The New Yorker, but truly, the only reason I look like a poreless cyborg (in good light) now is because I was lucky enough to have insurance for isotretinoin [Accutane], blood tests, and prescriptions back in 2015,” she says.
The biggest advantage for Dixit’s newly clear skin seems to be her newfound sense of confidence. Another one is that for first time in her life, Dixit says, she can afford the “modest luxury” of buying and trying a few of the beauty products she has read about for years “only to discover that not all of them are worth the hype.” Below, a look at her current morning and nighttime routines, which include a treatment that reminds her of a “magic cream” from one of her favorite novels, a lotion that smells like sprouting mung beans, and the sunscreen she stocks up on.
“My skin is very, very, very, and I cannot stress this enough, very oily, and this soap is the only thing that keeps it under control. My mother started using it when she was in her late teens, and later she wouldn’t let us bathe with anything else because it apparently has 80 percent Total Fatty Matter (TFM) content, which is like a rating scale of bathability on which soaps are ranked according to the percentage of fatty acids in them (it needs to have 70 percent and above to be good enough to use). This obviously irked me a lot as a teen because I always wanted glamorous face wash cleansers to take to boarding school. But she was right, (I hope she never reads this), the soap is otherworldly. It’s gentle, doesn’t dry out my face, but also leaves it with a very profound sense of being CLEANED out of all oil and dirt.”
The Exfoliating Pads
“Exfoliation! The vacuuming of the face. Much like the vacuuming of my apartment, it depends on how much time I have to do it properly. When I wake up on time, it’s Paula’s Choice, daubed on a cotton pad and generously applied all over, and on the mornings when I have exactly ten minutes to get ready, I’ll just take the Cane & Austin pad and swipe it all over.”
“The allure of splashing fancy water on my skin has always evaded me, but I read an analogy in a New York Times article that the purpose of an essence for your skin is like “loosening garden soil before watering it.” There’s a very specific kind of ‘wet, but not oily’ glow it imparts to your face.”
“I finally succumbed and bought this wildly expensive Vitamin C serum to help fade the scars from the dead zits, and also because Lisa Eldridge, whom I’ve been following since 2010 and she could tell me to do anything in that calm, grounded voice of hers and I’d do it, recommended it highly. At this point I don’t even have that many scars left but I continue using it for protection and vanity, as one drop and my face suddenly has the blurred, blazing glow of the tail end of a rocket launching into space.”
“I discovered this because a novelist (whom I admire deeply from a distance for her work just as much as her excellent skin-care recs) was tweeting about how she stocks up on this small batch cream which repairs the skin barrier. And then I found it at New London Pharmacy in Chelsea (another favorite place for new finds), bought a bottle to test, and turns out they were right.”
The Eye Cream
“My eyes. My eyes. They are so puffy on most mornings that I look like a whole other person between the hours of 7 and 9:30 a.m. Nothing can rid me of this genetic tendency, but this eye cream makes me look awake in an instant, brightens ever so subtly, and does not settle into the cavernous depths of my under-eye area.”
“I only started wearing sunscreen in 2016 (I know, I know) and started out with Neutrogena, but this was recommended to me by the supremely knowledgeable girls at oo35mm, one of my favorite places in the city to scour for skin-care products. And now I am terrified that something will happen to prevent its import to the States, so I buy six bottles at a time, which may sound excessive, but I stock bottles of sunscreen the way people stock lip balms. I have one on my dressing table, one at my desk at work, one in my gym bag, and one in my regular handbag (and six more stashed in a cabinet at home after I run out in two months).”
The Face Oil
“In a previous life I used to assist on several fashion and film shoots in India, and I’d see makeup artists use this to prep model’s faces, and then to remove makeup afterward. I read that Karl Lagerfeld used to bathe in it, using one bottle every day. Despite knowing all this trivia about it, I still don’t know what exactly is the technical definition of this product. Is it a toner? Is it a micellar water like Bioderma? Is it a makeup remover? All I know is that it smells faintly lemony, removes even the staunchest of chartreuse Lemonhead.LA glitter flecks from my eyelids, and leaves my skin feeling velvety (there’s no other word to describe the combination of clean luxuriating smoothness after you wipe your face with it).”
“Just like every person with an internet connection and (newfound) disposable income, I also own this. I use it every night. It burns, it tingles, it stinks like residue from the time when I left sprouting mung beans in water for longer than needed to be soaked. But it does its job, and keeps making my grandmother comment on how my forehead is so bright each time we video call.”
“At an old job we shared a floor with a fashion magazine, and some of our floor-mates were very generous when it came to sharing goods from their beauty closet with their hard news–exhausted neighbors. That’s how I got this night cream, and so far it has worked well for me, in that it’s heavy but doesn’t feel so, and on the mornings after using it, I’ve noticed I always wake up not looking the color of asbestos.”
“In one of my favorite novels, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, the devil, Azazello gives the heroine a magic cream which makes her young again and transforms her into a witch. This is the more fabulist equivalent of what Retin-A, demonic unguent of epidermal carnage, has done for me, sans the powers of witchery element. I’m eager for whenever my 50s arrive, and I assume that even then my skin will still be tight with the tell-tale uncomfortable tautness of a dedicated retinoid user.”