Channeling Gracie Lou Freebush: Special Beauty Routines

I frequent The Knot forums.  I’m a regular poster in a few, but there are a number I lurk in for one reason or another.  One of the boards I like to view from the shadows is the beauty board, where it seems there is always at least one person a few weeks out from the wedding looking for suggestions on new things to try to get them perfect skin or perfect hair or any number of things.  I see it often enough that I am under the impression that a majority of women don’t seem to know how their skin works, so I thought it was worth addressing here.

A lot of people seem to forget that your skin is an organ.  It reacts just like the rest of your body does to any changes, though it is more resistant to change because it is constantly exposed to it (you know, being outside your body and all).  When you start a new diet, you don’t immediately start dropping weight.  When you start a new medication, it probably won’t work for a few days, or you may develop a reaction to it after a while.  Your skin works the same way.  When you do something different, you don’t really know what you’re going to get, and it’s going to take a while for the changes to show up.

I am of the mindset that if you think you’ll want to do something special leading up to the wedding, you need to try it out ahead of time.  I know the whole point is that you might be splurging on something you wouldn’t usually pay for, and that you don’t want to do it for ages, but you need to go the extra splurge and have a trial run.  Wouldn’t it be a shame to spend all that money to just end up with ridiculous acne or a rash right before your wedding?  Or for that new hair routine to lead to overly dry (or overly oily) strands?  That’s a discovery you’re best off making ahead of time, when you still have time to undo the damage.

Now that I am 6 weeks out, I’m starting to do what I would call a “special” routine, but by most definitions it’s not special.  It’s really mostly things I should always be doing, but always have excuses for not doing.  I’m not using any new products (mostly, I have one exception…).  My “special” routine is called “do the crap you know you’re supposed to do every day but are too busy stuffing your face with Sour Patch Kids and surfing the internet for funny videos”.  If you’ve been thinking of tackling a particular thing, but have been putting it off, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been self-conscious about and what I’m doing about it so that maybe you can start to come up with your own plan!


Since I started the pill 4 years ago (I am not ashamed to say I’m on it, especially given that I take it for actual medical reasons), my acne has really cleared up.  Hallelujah!  I still always have some rogue pimple somewhere on my face, usually my chin or forehead, and every once in a while on my back (it used to be TERRIBLE) but for the most part its okay.  However, because of all that awesome acne I used to have, I have quite the acne scar mosaic going on.  I’ve tried a couple different scar treatments, but the best thing I’ve found is Mederma.  That stuff ROCKS.  I’ve used it on acne scars, surgery scars, and any other random scar I can find on myself, and it really does work.  It does take a while to see results, and it takes a pretty strict regimen to see them in a reasonable amount of time.  The tube lasts for ages, despite how often you use it, because it spreads so easily.  You take a small amount and rub it into the scar 3-4 times a day, and after 2 or 3 months (longer if you have a stubborn/old scar), you can barely see it anymore!

I bought the tube last summer to work on a scar I gave myself riding trails with Tim.  I was great about using it to get rid of that scar, and it worked wonderfully, and I was fully convinced I’d use the rest of the magical tube to get rid of other scars on my body.  Well, yeah, that dedication didn’t last long.  With the wedding coming up though, I decided I could use another round of it, especially for the areas that will be exposed.  I started putting it on every morning and evening at home a few weeks ago, and I bring the tube with me to work so I can sneak into the bathroom and put it on in the middle of the morning and afternoon.  I highly recommend Mederma.  I’ve been told it even works on stretch marks!

The other scar problem I have is that most of the acne on my back was of the cystic variety, so I have more of the dark mark type scars there (insert Harry Potter joke here).  For those, I’ve found that topical treatments with vitamin C work great.  The vitamin C, for whatever reason, works really well to break up that dark pigment.  I actually found a vitamin C mask intended for your face that I dab little bits of onto these marks every night before bed.  I’ve only been doing that for a few weeks, and the marks are already mostly gone.


Even though my acne issue is generally gone, I still get some flare ups, and there’s always one hiding somewhere.  I’m majorly guilty of picking at them, so it’s taken an active effort on my part to stop doing that lately.  I had used the Neutrogena body wash once upon a time, but it dried my skin out so I hadn’t touched it since.  Well, being desperate, I gave it a shot again, but I went with the pink grapefruit one that has the little beads in it.  MUCH BETTER.  My skin is still a little on the dry side (which is being fixed by some lotion), but the flare-ups seem to have been defeated without the awful skin flaking issue I had previously.  If you’ve had a similar experience with the regular wash drying out your skin, I’d recommend trying the pink grapefruit variety if you haven’t found something else that works for you.

My face has been taunting me and keeps developing those cystic pimples that hurt like crazy and make it look like your face has some localized swelling for no reason.  You can’t see them, so it’s not that I’m too self-conscious about them, but oh my gosh I can feel them and I want to give in to the ridiculous urge to dig them out.  I’m combating them with a basic Target brand benzyl peroxide gel that I dab on before I go to bed (the instructions say to rub in a thin layer, but I’m doing the “glob it on and let it dry in a visible mound on the offending intruder” method”) and it’s been slowly but surely helping.  Knock on wood, I currently only have one persistent little bugger holding on.


I had this weird issue with my face where I didn’t just had combination skin.  I would be crazy shiny directly on top of a dry patch so bad it was like my face had dandruff.  I tried umpteen different things over the years, but anything I found that was strong enough to get rid of the dry patch would leave me with breakouts and ridiculous amounts of oil, and anything strong enough to get rid of the oil made my face look like the Mojave.  The solution I finally stumbled on last summer has been AWESOME.  Neutrogena is again my savior.  They have a line of “natural” products, and the face wash is a miracle worker.  It removes my makeup and excess oil without stripping my skin of the oil it needs to stay healthy looking.  The moisturizer I’ve been using is Clinique’s Moisture Surge.  It’s actually a gel-based moisturizer.  It feels great, and hydrates without creating extra oil or causing breakouts.  It is a bit expensive, but because it’s a gel it spreads really easily, so you don’t need much.  The smaller jar would last me about 4 months.  The larger jar had a special going on last time I needed to replace my stash, and that one is probably not even halfway gone and I bought it right before Christmas.

I’ve also been using Clinique’s All About Eyes gel for my extreme under-eye circles.  I was constantly looking like I had gotten in a fist fight over the weekend.  I’ve been using it since January, and now I don’t even need to put concealer on before I use my foundation to cover it up.  With no make-up you can still kind of see it a little, but considering where I started this is pretty damn impressive.  It also comes in a cream form.  Which one you use is a matter of personal preference as I’ve been told that they work exactly the same.

Even though I knew I should, I never used to wash my face in the morning, only at night.  And because I wasn’t washing it in the morning, I wasn’t putting moisturizer on in the morning either (or my eye stuff, which is suppose to go on morning and night).  Well, the wedding is coming and my face isn’t going to fix itself!  2 weeks ago I buckled down and I’ve made a point of washing my face when I first wake up and using my moisturizer and eye cream.   So far so good!  In the morning I use the pink grapefruit face wash to help wake me up 🙂

My nose is a landmine of stubborn blackheads that require some serious work, but I’m starting to make a point of attacking them (you know, like I should have been for forever).  In the middle of college, I discovered a pretty nice way to knock them out for about 2 weeks at a time, so I’m working it in to my weekly routine for the next few weeks.  Once a week, I use a mud mask (any kind should do it, but I prefer the little Montagne Jeunesse packets you can find at Ulta or Target or almost anywhere; the dead sea one is my favorite!).  That seems to do a good job of drawing all the ickiness at least close to the surface, if not all the way out.  The next day (because doing it the same day is too much stress for your skin), I use those handy blackhead remover nose strips from Biore.  The strips work fine on their own, but I’ve realized they work better once I use a mask because everything ends up so close to the surface.

The other obvious “you should have been doing this anyway” thing I’ve started doing?  Putting on a lip balm before I go to bed.  I’ve found the C.O. Bigelow Overnight Lip Balm works well.  I’ve also mixed up a sugar scrub for my lips (approximately 1/4 tsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp olive oil) that I do every couple of nights (i.e. whenever I remember).


My teeth aren’t yellow, but they aren’t white either.  I don’t drink coffee or red wine, and whitening tooth pastes don’t do much for me (aside from maybe keeping it from getting worse).  A few years ago I tried the Crest White strips, but they were messy and a hassle, so I thought I’d try a different route for the wedding prep.  However, when I went to my dentist for a regular check up and asked him what he recommended, he directed me back at the strips and insisted they were better than they used to be.  Folks, always listen to your dentist.  Apparently this “advanced seal” thing is not just a gimmick, but really does what it says: it actually truly holds onto your teeth and won’t slide around.  I don’t know if I’d drink water like it says you can (since, lets face it, that gel stuff still tastes nasty and I don’t want to be swallowing it), but the strips do stay put.  I found a pack of 21 strip sets at Sams for cheaper than most other stores have the regular 14 strip sets and have been using those.  I’m did the regular 14 day run about 2 weeks ago, and then I’m saving the other 7 strips for the week before the wedding.  My teeth definitely look way better.  Seriously, advanced seal is the way to go.

Something I may not have mentioned back when I started the blog is that I also had some straightness issues with my teeth.  I had done the braces thing back in middle school, but the orthodontist then set my arches too small, so not only did everything get squished when my wisdom teeth formed and started coming in, but my tongue quite literally didn’t fit in my mouth.  The tongue thing was annoying, but I was sort of bothered by the aesthetics of my smile (or lack thereof).  Last January I decided to check out Invisalign, and I decided to go for it.  It was a little expensive, but you can pay for it through a flex-spending account, so I got to pay for it all pre-tax, which was really nice.  I just finished it last month, and I’m not only amazed at how some little pieces of plastic can make such a drastic change, but I’m so happy with my smile!  I can’t remember the last time my front teeth all actually touched each other, or that I could close my mouth all the way without actively moving my tongue out of the way.  It’s awesome!  It’s so pretty!  Side note: Invisalign should be marketed as a weight loss strategy.  You can’t snack on stuff while you’ve got them in!


I flat-iron my hair quite a bit, so it gets dried out and frizzy looking rather quickly.  I had mostly accepted this as a fact of life, that I could either have straight dry hair or poofy healthy hair.  3 weeks ago I started poking around the shampoo aisle instead of just defaulting to my usual stuff, and I decided to try something different.  Meijer had their Organix on sale, and there was a Brazilian Keratin shampoo and conditioner that I picked up.  I’ve used it a couple of times, and I would recommend this to absolutely anyone who will listen to me.  My hair is smoother, shinier, and definitely softer.  I kid you not I actually spent about 10 minutes this morning running my hands through my hair going “seriously, this is so soft I think you could make baby blankets out of it!” (except for the fact that that would be weird and gross).  My only complaint is that it makes my hair smell like coconuts, so I constantly want to go eat Almond Joys.

I also picked up a conditioning mask from the Healthy Sexy Hair line that I started using just his past week (I had a coupon that made it free!).  Oh yeah, it’s magical too.  Combined with that Keratin shampoo and conditioner I don’t think my hair has ever looked better!  It is designed for coarse, damaged hair, and also serves as a color protectant.  Between my highlights and constant flat ironing of the jungle growing on my head, it’s like it was made for me.

The only other change to my routine here has been that I’ve been using a hair clip as opposed to an elastic to pull it back whenever possible.  Again, something I should probably always do, but clips take too much effort for me.  My hair is so thick that most clips don’t hold it, and the ones that do I have to position in some magical sweet spot that I only hit 1 out of every 10 attempts.  For the sake of my hair health, though, I’m making more of an effort to not put the extra stress of the hair tie on it.  I should probably also resolve to not straighten it as much, but it’s too long to wear curly now…so my only choice would be to always wear it up in the clip that annoys me.  Why must it be so difficult?!

To Summarize, In Case You Got Bored Somewhere In The Middle

  • For regular scars: Mederma
  • For dark pigment type scars: Vitamin C face mask
  • For body acne: Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Body Wash with Microbeads
  • For acne spot treatment: Target brand benzyl peroxide gel (be careful, it can bleach fabrics!)
  • For washing my face in the morning: Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit face wash
  • For washing my face in the evening: Neutrogena Naturals face wash
  • Moisturizer: Clinique Moisture Surge
  • Eye cream: Clinique All About Eyes (gel variety)
  • Face mask: Montagne Jeunesse Dead Sea Mud Mask
  • Blackheads: Biore Nose and Face strips (the “ultra” ones don’t seem to work any different from the “regular ones” for me)
  • Lips: ~1/4 tsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp olive oil scrub, C.O. Bigelow Overnight Lip Balm
  • Teeth: Crest White Strips Advanced Seal
  • Hair: Organix Brazilian Keratin shampoo and conditioner; Healthy Sexy Hair Reinvent Color Care Treatment

Is there anything special you’re adding to your routine?  Did you splurge on any particular products?


Posted on May 21, 2012, in Misc. Topics (Wedding), Personal, Priorities, To-Do, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Boooo my hair is anti-clips too… In fact, it frowns in the general direction of clips. Either it decides it’s too slippery and the clip falls right out or it decides it is too tangly and the clip gets totally integrated into my hair and I have to yell angry words to get it out. Tragedy. It will be exciting to see how we manage to get my hairpiece/veil thingy to stay in. Currently we are predicting the use of a comb with multiple bobby bins but we have yet to try it out…

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