Welcome readers, new and old. In the department of Celebrating Good Old Things, a thank you to loyal HNTFUYF-ers. So happy to see you again! If you’re still glad to be here, please don’t forget to tap the little ❤ above.
More from the CGOT department: I was wandering, briefly aimless and frozen, one recent weekend afternoon around New York City’s Greenwich Village when I happened upon America’s oldest apothecary, the family-owned C. O. Bigelow. [Full disclosure: I was once related to the family by a cousin’s marriage; sadly, a divorce un-related us.] Its windows beckoned steamy warmth, so I trundled in for some relief from the cold. Inside, I was overwhelmed by a cornucopia of delights: vividly packaged soaps, adorable miniature tubes of hand lotion, exotic toothpastes and shaving creams. Oh, the silky rose blushes! The divine, gardenia-scented candles! I wanted to touch and sniff everything (and was kindly encouraged). The store, I learned, celebrates its 185th anniversary this year. (If you can’t get there, you can have an almost comparable experience in their online establishment.) Poking around, I was reminded why it’s easy to fall prey to conspicuous consumption. It’s fun! But as I spied one skincare cream after another promising one skin-saving miracle after another, I was also reminded that while there are many packaging miracles in the beauty forum, there are few miracle products. Yeah, yeah. Dum spiro, spero: While I breathe, I hope. But caveat emptor!
“Ask Val” answers your urgent questions Vol. 44
Q: In the past few months, I’ve noticed that the skin on my forehead and around my eyebrows is constantly flaking. I don't use anything except cleanser and moisturizer on that part of my face. I read that it might be due to colder weather but I live in SoCal, so I don't see how that could be the problem. Any thoughts?
A: My first thought, as I zip myself into a full-length, down sleeping bag coat and tug on my Uggs: Do you have a guest room? Second thought: Because my relationship to med school is secondhand, I should get advice from dermatologist Ranella Hirsch. “When a dermatologist hears ‘flaking on the forehead and eyebrows,’ two very specific things come to mind,” she said. “Seborrheic dermatitis is incredibly common and is often seen as flaking on the central forehead, the brows, the glabella (the smooth part of the forehead above and between the eyebrows), and the nasal folds.”
Have you been feeling especially youthful, Baby? Because another name for your issue is “cradle cap.” The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis isn't clear, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may be due to the yeast Malassezia (which also causes dandruff on the scalp), excess oil in the skin, stress, or something wacky (technical term) in your immune system.
The best way forward is to see a dermatologist to confirm what you’ve got. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition, says Hirsch, meaning it can’t be cured, only managed; your doctor will be able to prescribe something you can pull from your medicine cabinet when the need arises. Till you see her, Hirsch says you can try a touch of ketoconazole cream. Or you could dance over to TikTok for their viral advice and wash the affected area with Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo, which contains pyrithione zinc 1%, also effective against seborrheic dermatitis.
If the above solutions don’t work and you’re stuck waiting for a dermatologist appointment, Hirsch’s second suggestion might be helpful. Is it possible you’re using a product on your hair that’s seeping onto your forehead? You might be suffering from what’s called “pomade acne.” Keeping with the theme of grease, Hirsch recommends testing out this hypothesis by styling yourself in an Olivia Newton John-type headband for a spell. Obviously, if it turns out that a haircare product is the crux of the problem, quit it.
Sometimes seborrheic dermatitis—like other unpleasantries—simply goes away on its own for no discernible reason. Dum spiro, spero!
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HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
Readers, a few of you have asked if I get a cut from sales when I mention a beauty 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.
I was eyeballing a similar product just this morning--honey candies in a vintage jar. I thought of what magical transformation the jar would have on my whole environs. Would it suddenly convert my messy kitchen into a plain, white one, warmed by an Aga stove, by which I sat, contentedly drinking tea and sucking honey drops? But then I remembered how many times I've spiro-spero'd my way into buying something and then felt an actual DISMAY at the mismatch b/t the way I actually live and the way the product whispered I might live... if only I had it. Sometimes, it's easier to hold onto the daydream and pass on the product. Nothing against CO Bigelow or honey drops!!
Wow, I nearly succumbed to the siren song of C.O. Bigelow with one look online! No wonder they've been in business so long. I wanted to swan dive right into a jar of lemon body cream! Ahhhhh... thank you for saving me by the end of the paragraph, Val. Whew.