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I Tried the $100 Cleanser That I Thought Was For Old Ladies and Here’s What Happened 

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Anja Tyson | Saturday October 7th 2017


Three years into my 30s, I have successfully broken into nearly all of the adult attributes I envisioned for myself at this age. I have a life insurance policy, two dependents (one is a dog), and I finally lost the baby fat from my cheeks. I wear sensible shoes and go home at a reasonable hour and recently decided to quit dairy after nearly two decades of near certainty that I am lactose intolerant. The thought of opening a 401k before the end of the year actually organically crossed my mind the other day. I am a grown up! In all but one way.

I remember it like it was yesterday: my first pubescent skin care set, the Clinique gold standard of 1997, a birthday gift that was then as ubiquitous as the stacks of Tiffany’s locket bracelets my friend collected at their bat mitzvahs. An enormous bar of soap, a toner, and a moisturizer, wrapped up in all their mint and pink glory. No SPF in sight. For the first tenuous years of my teens this was the sole component of my skincare routine before I caked foundation on my face to cover the freckles I loathed so much at the time. And somehow, nearly a decade later in my early twenties, I had managed to evolve not one bit in my knowledge of cleansers, and decamped into the adult world with only my Clinique gift set and a newly emerged case of adult acne.

And if there were any time to experiment with skincare, being 21 in the aughts was not it. We burned our skin to a crisp in the sun, online shopping barely existed, and the staple accessible beauty brand Glossier was a mere unfertilized egg in a then reality-show interns mind. Natural beauty would not become a trend for another ten years, and I remember nearly everything I bought for my skin in the year 2005 proudly announced its glycolic acid contents on the label like a badge of honor.

Aside from lack of available options there was also a distinct lack of funding preventing me from investing in my skin, and so, like all of the other things we take advantage of in life until they become really urgent, I kept on with my drugstore beauty regimes in a daring game of chicken with the universe. Keihl’s, Murad, Mario Badescu, I can name nearly all of the mid-priced lines that exist in the world, as many of them still sit half-used on my bathroom vanity.

And in that last decade, I have aged. I have fine lines around my eyes, my skin looks a bit more tired a bit earlier in the day. I started using a light SPF every day a few years ago, and there is a refillable vessel in my office to remind me to drink a full liter of water. But perhaps the most important sign of aging is that I have begun to care about it in a way that I didn’t when I was in my twenties and flying high on the wings of false immortality.

So the other day, when I got a big gift card to a department store that I don’t normally shop at, I found myself standing in front of the La Mer counter after exhausting all other possibilities in the store. Hmm, La Mer, I thought. Visions of elegant perfectly-preserved ladies in their forties (mainly Samantha from Sex and the City) floated through my mind, and when I came to I was holding three products, a complimentary gift bag and a handful of samples and the very nice La Mer representative was gently removing the gift card from my hand.

You have to understand how gluttonous I felt at that moment. Two of the products I bought, The Cleansing Foam and The Refining Facial (which has actual ground up bits of diamonds in it), are $90, each. I have never spent that much on my own skin in my life. Overcome with a wave of guilt and laden with luxury products worth roughly the monthly income of a family in Indonesia, I wandered out onto Fifth Avenue and into a taxi to finish preparing for my flight to Paris later that same day.

It has now been roughly ten days since I began exclusively using La Mer products, and I would like to announce to the world that I am presently investigating taking on a second job in order to secure La Mer as my sole skincare line for the foreseeable future.

Here is the sequence of events:

1. I applied The Eye Concentrate and The Regenerating Serum on my trans-Atlantic flight later that evening and arrived in Paris the following morning. I accidentally opened my front-facing camera while in my Uber and noted to myself that I looked drastically less haggard than I normally do after a long flight.

2. I arrived at the hotel and immediately began working (PFW, right guys?), but took a short break to wash my face and freshen up using the The Cleansing Foam and The Refining Facial. When I rinsed my face and looked in the mirror, I found that The Refining Facial had gently exfoliated nearly all of the dead skin off of my face with the authority and finesse of a hostage negotiator, and I gently brushed the leftovers from my face.

3. As is to be expected when combining an exfoliant with overseas travel, emerging toxins created small eruptions in my skin. The difference between these and my breakouts of the past was these were smaller, shorter, and less inflamed.

4. I used the special holiday edition of The Lip Balm that the saleslady had talked me into every few hours, a solid pot of pink balm that smells vaguely like the Christmas room at Bergdorf Goodman. Rather than sitting on my lips like an oil slick, the balm sank in directly and my skin immediately felt smoother and plumper, but not in a Lip Kit sort of way.

5. Everyone I encountered, from new acquaintances to older friends, commented on the condition of my skin (which has historically been one of my least-complimented organs), and while I generally try to practice the pursuit of happiness from within, I have to admit that the ego boost was a help to my tired, carbohydrate-stuffed spirit during that intense trip.

Here’s the thing: no one told me in my teens and 20’s to invest in my skin, and I’m not sure I would have cared even if they did. I smoked cigarettes, applied as little sunscreen as humanly possible at the beach, and have never – not once – hydrated enough. No one really believes that their youth will ever end. Most of the time it ends up as a realization you have after it’s already over.

So, here I am: 33 with a handbag full of La Mer samples, one week of reverse-aging under my belt and a doomsday countdown clock ticking in my head til I run out of this cleanser. I estimate I have about two more months of luxury in my future before I am faced with desperate nights of trolling Ebay looking for black market re-salers, but in the meantime if you find yourself with a gift card or a lottery windfall or a doting childless aunt in town, I have some important advice for you, Pretty Birds:

Get the La Mer. Get It All.

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