Discover more from How Not to F*ck Up Your Face
Another Magic Ingredient?
plus, stardust, sneakers, and...toilets
Welcome to the hundreds of new readers who’ve dropped in during the past couple of weeks. You’re arriving from so many different directions I wonder if you know where you are! Read this to get an idea of what you’re in for. If it feels right, please find a comfy seat, settle in, and enjoy the ride.
HNTFUYF’s birthday sale continues until April 11th, which means yearly subscriptions are now $40 rather than the usual $50. I refuse branding opportunities to ensure these posts are unbiased and reported without obligation—which means I rely on you for financial support. There are so many of you who read HNTFUYF every week; if you find it helpful and you can swing it, now’s a good time to become a paid subscriber. Thank you!
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While I’m still in Tokyo, let’s start this week with a couple of fun, Japan-related things.
First, out-of-this-world news: The Japan Times reports that organic compounds essential for living organisms have been found in asteroid samples retrieved by Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe, which supports the theory that the ingredients for life arrived on Earth aboard space rocks billions of years ago. We are stardust! We are golden! We are billion-year-old carbon! And we got to get ourselves back to the…
And speaking of compost—weren’t we?—a down-to-earth story about public toilets, an area in which Japan consistently exceeds my expectations. (Granted, coming from New York City, my expectations could hardly be lower.) I can expound upon the joys of Tokyo’s public restroomsfor hours: the capacious stalls; the numerous hooks for accessories; the abundant, sparkling shelving; the pristine floor and toilet seat (usually heated); the symphonies of waterfalls and birdsong; the automatic flush; the complimentary spritz and blow-dry, if you’re into that. The only thing often missing are paper towels, so you’re advised to carry a small kerchief to dry your hands after washing them at the spotless sinks. If there were hand towels provided, I guarantee they’d somehow be monogrammed with your initials. So sure, come to Japan for the fascinating culture and the divine food—but also for the toilets.
Finally, I’ve written before about my obsession with Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. They’re a Japanese brand, founded in 1949 by Kihachiro Onitsuka, whose original design was for a basketball sneaker. As the designs became more sophisticated, high-profile athletes and A-listers started wearing them; Willow Smith has been a brand ambassador. I fell in love with them years ago when I was a beauty editor and Shiseido gifted me a pair. Since then, I’ve bought several pairs online. But when I discovered two brick-and-mortar stores not far from my apartment in Tokyo, I was elated to see all their styles IRL. I now own four more pairs. They’re comfortable enough to walk almost ten miles in (which I did recently) and I think they’re very handsome, unlike the Hokas—a.k.a. Portobello mushrooms with shoelaces—I wore at home last year. A story in The Atlantic about relegating oneself to ugly footwear could have used a reference to Onitsuka’s comfortable but fine-looking options. When I visited a store last weekend it was packed with Westerners in an Onitsuka frenzy. If you haven’t already, my guess is you’ll be seeing these cult-favorite kicks coming soon to a town near you.
In last week’s post about using silicone patches to prevent wrinkles (they don’t), I neglected to mention what a couple of astute readers pointed out: Silicone gel sheets can be a helpful adjunctive treatment for scar healing. The sheets are more effective than silicone gels or ointments, says dermatologist Jessica Weiser. Why? They can induce hydration and, through various mechanisms including something called “oxygen homeostasis” (and a few other mechanisms I couldn’t explain to you if my life depended on it), reduce the risk of keloid or hypertrophic scar formation.
And now for a beauty question.
Q: About 10 years ago, I started using a product containing the ingredient matrixyl—and whaddaya know, people began telling me I looked great. The company I originally ordered from was bought and now the product doesn’t seem to have the same effect. I've tried No. 7 Protect and Perfect Intense Advanced Serum, which contains the magic matrixyl, but I didn't see any change in my skin. I've also ordered it from The Ordinary but think I broke out from using it full strength at 10%. I’d love to look 70 again! Maybe I've just gotten...older and...I don't even know how to finish this sentence...alas.
A: Yes, dear reader, the likelihood is that in 10 years you have gotten older, as have we all. Lucky us.
You bring up two interesting points. First, why is it that as soon as we feel we’ve found the one product that seems to be doing something lovely for our skin, it’s unceremoniously yanked from the shelves? Here’s why: In general, beauty companies don’t decide which skin care products to market based on how happy we are with them. They base their decisions on some kind of magic having to do with sales, which means if they can come up with another product with fresh allure, capturing a larger supply of hopeful consumers, that’s where their production and marketing money goes. We might feel gypped by this strategy, though I want to point out that your affection for a skincare product probably has less to do with its effect and more to do with a multitude of other possible reasons your skin happened to look good when you used it. For example, you applied the product consistently, therefore moisturizing your face well, therefore temporarily plumping your skin, therefore eliciting flattering comments.
As for the magic matrixyl, it’s a synthetic peptide, says HNTFUYF DermDiva, Heidi Waldorf. Peptides have been shown to help stimulate collagen production, which is why there are lots of skin care products containing various kinds. Matrixyl, even at a high percent, is unlikely to have caused your breakout; it was more likely from another ingredient in the product, says Waldorf. She’s also not surprised that you think you saw more results a decade ago.
Which brings me to the second thing worth mentioning about your experience. Less is required to make younger skin look better because the building blocks in the epidermis and dermis are more robust, says Waldorf. You could apply the same logic to skincare products that the wise dermatologist Estee Williams has applied to in-office devices: The less they have to do, the better they work.
🎧 🎧 🎧
Last week I was a guest (for the second time) on the terrific podcast Everything Is Fine, with hosts Jennifer Romolini and Kim France. Though I don’t think it was a shining moment for me (I was blathering on Tokyo time), I loved talking with them, as always. You can listen to the episode here.
And Jennifer has also released Stiffed, a fascinating podcast about the history of Viva Magazine—soft porn for feminists?— where I worked for an intense eight months in the 70s. Enjoy Jennifer’s excellent reporting here.
👁️ 👁️ How Not to F*ck Up Your Face is a reader-supported publication. To receive all new posts and support my work—have I saved you at least $40 in skincare? helped you solve a beauty-related issue?—consider becoming a paid subscriber. Thank you!.
A Moment of Personal Horn-Blowing
HNTFUYF was recently included in a roundup of the “23 Best Health and Wellness Newsletters of 2023” by the (what else?) health and wellness website Ness. Thanks, Ness, and thanks to all you HNTFUYF-ers for inspiring me with your thoughtful questions and comments. xo
HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
Readers, a few of you have asked if I get a cut from sales when I mention a product. I do not. I only mention products I’d like to buy myself, and therefore think you might like, too. I share this so you know my recommendations are offered without obligation.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send your beauty-related questions to email@example.com. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.
Except in the large parks during cherry blossom season. Then, the public restrooms look more…public.