My Pandemic Skincare Tips

Zoom and Imperialist tactics for quelling a conquered people

To act like I’m not all out here spending the most on some completely bougie skincare products would be disrespectful to you. I’m here to lay it all out for you. I typically hate the whole genre of “Why is your skin so good” beauty piece where a brilliant sexy historian also has perfect skin (?!!), so I’d like to try something different. I’d like to separate skincare routines from their actual result on the skin. Skincare could be not that much about skin at all. Stick with me.

I don’t remember ever looking at my face this much? Zoom is one part so let’s talk about it! I’m sure I could figure out how to turn off the square with my face so that I only look out to see other people, like how it used to be. But at this point it seems I’d be at a disadvantage. If everyone else is looking at their little face while simultaneously looking out at people, then if I don’t also watch myself I might miss some critical face slip-up of mine. I might let my face fall? Look as bored or tired as I actually am? I remember back in the pre-Covid days when people would say randomly “you look tired”, and I’d curse them internally for what? Seeing me? I’ve always had a face that was perpetually tired, but not the sleep-deprived kind of tired, another more meta-type of tired. Tired of the constant bullshit kind of tired. Being me is kind of tiring too. (But also side note: South Asians and other not White people sometimes have the type of coloring around our eyes where we start looking “tired” when we’re 19 so maybe people should just say “how are you?” instead. Thanks.)

Me with signature zoom duck face (literally never look like this), with the secret to good skin: Take photos in sun-drenched rooms only.

Often I’m trying to focus on the person talking but mostly I don’t and look somewhere to the side of them. Many times when I zoom-speak I don’t focus on any faces in particular, in the moment it feels like a lot to both speak coherently and pay attention to human faces looking at you at the same time. But I do this in real life too.

Remember how whenever you went for an interview, the advice was always firm handshake and look at people’s eyes when you talk? (Now do people look into the laptop’s eye when they want to make eye contact?) Why? Look it’s fine if that’s where people want to look when they talk or listen to you. But you know what I’ve learned in my years in this place? There is absolutely NO correlation between a person’s decency/tenacity/intelligence and their ability to look me straight in my eyeballs. Often times people who have crafted this down to a science, the perfect handshake while smiling just wide enough not to be too assuming, while holding your eyes and nodding while you speak, have done just that. Perfected something that perhaps is just smoke and mirrors? Nowadays, and especially right now when social norms seem especially pointless, if you want to stare at my shoes while talking to me, you know what? Fine! If you want to twirl your hair or pull on your ears while listening, cool. The substance was never in the handshake anyway. Also eyes are great, windows into the soul and all that, they are wonderful. But culturally speaking not everyone in the world does this intense stare into the eyes thing that the Western world is obsessed with, just saying. Asians have other ways.

So I know I was doing skincare tips but here to finish up the Zoomcare for you. Glasses are great for when you want to look wherever your mind wanders three hours into a call. Listen, you have to mix up your facial expressions in those long endless zooms: so send a friend who is also in the meeting a funny text about something meeting-related and watch their face subtly crack and pull itself together several times. Try out that fancy hairstyle one day for a zoom, wear a sexy tanktop, do it all while wearing underwear or pajama bottoms for an extra thrill. Earrings are key, even though i never change my studs. Why bother? Eyeshadow! I aspire to all the eyeshadow looks because why the hell not, but also why? I’m tired all the time, you might be too, so literally do or don’t do anything you feel like.

And you know what? If the only person you want to look at is your own face, then do the whole zoom looking at your damn face! Get acquainted with it like you never have before. Look at how your face reacts naturally or not to different situations. Try a whole zoom looking at nobody but yourself because you are just that interesting to look at.

The relationship I have to my face has existed in some state of turmoil for the better part of my whole life. I’m happy its there in mostly the shape I find it, it suits me. I get by and do things with it. I think some people that I deeply love like looking at it and that makes me happy. I was a skinny brown Indian kid growing up in the suburbs of Americana and for my first tween/teen years wished it looked like some completely other face. A White face, of course. For the next 10 years I suddenly got attention for this face from other people who seemed to think it was attractive. So I started thinking it was maybe fine. But never really enough. Because in your 20s no part of you is really enough, no matter what you look like.

Around my 30s I started breaking out for the first time ever. I don’t know what you call this late stage breakout cycle, but that was me. It’s continued ever since. My overactive oil glands are both a curse, but a facialist once told me it’s also probably why I get people thinking I look younger than my age. My 30s are when I started liking my face for myself, not as a reaction to what other people thought of it. But I have to say I feel more in love with my face in my 40s than I ever have before. Now I can finally see myself in it.

Here’s a photo of some skincare products I like. I’m not going to sit here and tell you any of them actually do anything they say they will do, that my skin looks so good because of any of it, or that you should regard any of this with any seriousness.

Here’s a photo for you:

So briefly from left to right. I was introduced to Lush products on a pitstop in a swanky white California town overlooking the ocean on the way to Big Sur. It felt like a revelation at the time, but it could have been some other stuff, I was with a person I love, etc etc. I still use their products, and they have made showers in pandemic feel like a guilty pleasure. This Daft Angels charcoal face scrub is nice, if you like to scrub your face.

I was looking for a Black-owned beauty product that could handle scarring on brown skin, so here’s this HyperSkin Hyper Clear vitamin C product that is an extra thing in my routine post toners, pre-oils that makes me feel like I’m handling my shit. (Every other day I pass out on my bed in full day clothes, teeth unbrushed, face whatever, dehydrated AF FYI.)

Lotion P50, do I have to say anymore? If you want to feel like you’re getting the high you used to get doing illegal substances in your 20s, use this super shady exfoliating tonic post face-wash. There are levels to the shady, current P50 I’m using is the original 1970 formula that smells like formaldehyde and maybe it is?

Ok Vintner’s Daughter is this face oil that’s really lovely, costs a shit-ton of money, but I swear when I first started using it, I felt like everyone was asking me what I did to my face (It was probably actually one very enthused person). Now no one asks anymore but it’s basically stuck around and as I’m writing this I’m realizing how many face oils have graced the market in the meanwhile that could also be fine? One bottle lasts a long while, but also let me know what cheaper face oils you like in the comments?

Ling spa is the place near Union square where Ann works. She helps me get zits out of my face a few times a year, but also talks to me about life, love, divorce, kids, Asian relatives, Malaysia. I found this place through one of those online coupons. Obviously nobody’s getting facials now. I like their Pomegranate detox mask to help deal with my breakouts. I breakout when I stress, when I period, when I eat shitty, when I don’t sleep, when I do sleep, it’s just a constant in my life, that I’ve had to learn how to manage. I’ve also learned to manage the managing of things like skincare.

It’s all basically whatever helps you feel like you’re alive. Do that thing.

If you’re gonna read anything I write, I have to be honest about what a bougie bitch I am. So I continue. The clear bottle has La Roche Posay Micellar cleansing water in it. This got into my routine years ago and it’s stuck around even though my facial cleansing is currently four steps too long. I like seeing the dirt on the cotton ball , very satisfying and I recommend it. Generally I’m into processes whereby I can see the icky guts of it somehow revealed. Sign me up. Is this why I write?

Weleda gentle cleansing milk for those dry months. Black Hello toothpaste which requires you to wipe down your walls and sink every day because of black spittle, but that just adds to everything, don’t trust me on this one. Rosewater spray is really nice first thing in the morning, in your hair, on your kid’s face, on your scalp, it’s just refreshing! Homemade body butter (a friend inspired me years ago and it’s so easy and so much better than store-bought body lotion) recipe is here, don’t say I never did anything for you:

Also in general, what if we as women (and men) just shared, all the wealth, knowledge, love? Without abandon, without competition, just gave it all away? Best skincare tip is this one right here I’d venture at the risk of sounding cheesy. Once you find something good, give it away. I’m working on this one all the time.

Finally the Jasmine tea deodorant smells SO good. When I am really going to sweat, nothing will save me stench-wise, but this is good right up until that Zoom-anxiety sweat sesh hits. (I haven’t formally exercised in any form since it got too cold to bike, so the only sweat I break out in is the occasional anxiety sweat.)

Ok that was a lot of skincare so let’s visit an a excerpt from the essay Grenada Revisited in Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde which speaks of the American invasion of the Black Carribean island of Grenada in 1983 (if you don’t know about it, that’s the point). Lorde’s parents left Grenada some sixty years before this invasion (it was her mother’s birthplace).

In addition to being a demonstration to the Caribbean community of what will happen to any country that dares to assume responsibility for its own destiny, the invasion of Grenada also serves as a naked warning to thirty million African-americans. Watch your step. We did it to them down there and we will not hesitate to do it to you. Internment camps. Interrogation booths. Isoloation cells hastily built by U.S. occupation foces. Blindfolded stripped prisoners. House-to-house searches for phantom Cubans. Neighbors pressured to inform against each other. No strange gods before us. U.S. soldiers at roadblocks and airports, assisted by former members of Gairy’s infamous Mongoose Gang, carrying notebooks with lists of Bishop and PRG sympathizers. The tactics for quelling a conquered people. No courts, no charges, no legal process. Welfare, but no reparation for damaged businesses, destroyed homes and lives, Street passes, Imprisonment of “trouble-maker.” The new radio station blaring The Beach Boys rock group music hour after hour.

Sounds familiar to me. So how do we do skincare while we are trying to awaken to the knowledge of our own implication in this capitalist imperialist racist nation? You don’t buy into whatever they are selling you, you use the skincare products that allow you to counter some of the personal damage of living in this place, and those will be whatever makes your insides feel slightly less anxious. Whatever makes you better able to actively uplift those that need our care. I have not addressed but should that we should always be trying to buy products that are not made by a corporation that exploits its workforce, animals, or the planet in making it. It will be difficult under capitalism to be completely free of partaking in some form of fuckery against others so to that I say try your best. Same as with your oatmilk and underwear. Also many of the most sustainable and ethically produced skincare products are priced in a way to limit access or are not made for BIPOC skin. This is a shame-free space. But also try not to hurt people.

Do the skincare that gives you time to slow down, take your time, look at your face in the mirror and remember who you are absent what you have. Do the skincare that lets you see yourself absent what anyone under patriarchy ever told you about your face. Do the skincare that helps you realize you are beautiful because you are there, looking at your own eyes with kindness. Do the skincare that reminds you that we are complicit in our silence, so show up in your nervous anxious state, say the hard things in zooms while your armpits sweat, then turn off the zoom and exfoliate your face. Do the skincare that allows you to be a part of the fight for peoples’ liberation everywhere.

Writer. I care about justice for black and brown bodies, public education, good vintage clothes, how societies and technology work, and immigrant recipes.