It’s probably a cliché to start this article with a play on the adage, “beauty is only skin deep,” but let’s face it, when you’re embarking on a conversation about your complexion, there really is no better way to start. Taking care of your skin is incredibly important, not just on your face, but on your whole body. Your skin protects your tender insides from the world’s harsh outsides, and as a general rule, you probably thank it by slamming into inappropriately placed inanimate objects, forgetting to put sunscreen on, exposing it to the elements, and periodically scraping bits of it off because you suddenly realized that you actually were really itchy.
Putting aside the more traditional problem of acne, living life like a functional human being puts your precious skin through the ringer, and I’m of the firm opinion that giving back to your skin for all it does for you is a first, and very important step in learning to appreciate your body for what it is and building up your self-esteem. Why? Because your skin is the first thing that people tend to notice. Before they look at your weird hairline, your crooked nose, or your supposedly tiny mouth, they’re going to notice the great, living organ that connects your qualities. How’s that for some extrinsic motivation to take care of your skin?
Before we begin, though, let’s make one thing clear:
I’m not just talking about the skin on your face. As a general rule, you should be paying attention to your body as a whole. I’m also not saying that following this to a T will yield drastic, life changing alterations in your appearance. That’s not the point of this: the point is to outline how you can develop a routine that will allow you to have an excuse to invest time into yourself, and to take pride in the body that you’re pampering. That said, let’s begin:
Let’s start with your environment.
It’s well and good to take a shower every day and to call that your skincare routine, but in order to really take care of your body as a whole, you need to consider the sorts of things you put your skin through on an everyday basis: Do you have a job where you interact with grease? Cooking oil? Concrete? Do you live in a climate with extreme temperature changes throughout the year? A dry climate? A cold climate? A sunny climate? All of these things effect your skin, and while your skin does a fairly good job of adjusting to weather and work conditions, there’s only so much that your genetics and body chemistry can really overcome on their lonesome. Likewise, your skin is shedding constantly, and although a good scrub in hot water can help diminish and prevent build up, using the wrong products can actually increase the residue that lingers on your skin after a long day.
Try to make conscious choices about the products that you use on your skin based on your daily routine. If you live in a dry climate (hot or cold), invest in the products that will combat that (we’ll talk products in a minute). If you live in a sunny climate, make a conscious effort to use products that have SPF in them. If you’re working with grease or in an oily environment, buy products that can cut through that residue, and then a follow up product to help replace the moisture that you stripped from your skin in the process of removing the oil and grease. Likewise, it’s a good idea to invest in two different types of body soap: a daily use soap and an exfoliator of some kind to use about once a week or every two weeks; this will allow you to remove any residual dead skin regularly, but not so often that you’re also constantly scratching and damaging new skin as it forms.
For some of you, this will not be new information, and you probably already have a vague idea of a routine that you already follow, or know that you would like to follow. To those of you who fall into this category, I can only say go forth and follow through with your ideas. Make a conscious effort to implement a daily routine, a weekly routine, and even a monthly routine and stick to it. For those of you who are uncertain of the types of products you should be using, just keep reading:
Products and their purposes
Once you’ve considered your environment and the daily tribulations of your skin, you need to start collecting products accordingly. There are literally thousands of different types of products, and brands of products. I can do my best to throw in recommendations, but usually, a quick google search will help you find the product brands that will best help your specific needs and meet your preferences:
- Body Wash/Cleanser: This is a generic soap that you’ll want to use every day; it can be in liquid or bar form, and the form that you use usually doesn’t matter so much as what the product is designed to do and what sorts of ingredients it has in it. If you have a problem with acne on your back, chest, butt, or shoulders, I recommend looking for brands that are specifically designed to treat acne (Neutrogena is great for this); if you are looking to put a glow in your skin, there are types that have tint in them that will add a subtle, healthy colour to your skin; and if you have dry skin, something that advertises itself as having extra moisturizer in it would be the most ideal.
- Exfoliators/Exfoliants: There are actually a couple of forms of exfoliant that you could be using. Some of them are close to cleansers, but have the addition of a coarse or sandy ingredient that is designed to rub off the residual dead skin that hasn’t flaked off of your body yet, and to sort of buff the surface of your newer skin to promote circulation. Others are going to be made of syrupy types of ingredients and actually contain large quantities of sugar or salt for a more rigorous buffing effect. Generally speaking, the thicker the exfoliant, the less often you’ll want to use it. I tend to have an exceptionally thick sugar scrub that I use right before I shave my legs to make sure that I’m getting as close to my skin with my razor as possible; otherwise, I have a less cohesive scrub that I use about once a week or if I’m feeling exceptionally grimy.
- Lotions: Most of us have a general awareness of the purpose of lotion: to restore and help your skin keep moisture. These are usually closer to liquid form than to solid, but a good way to judge the quality of the product is to look at the product’s consistency. If the lotion feels wet and watery, it probably isn’t going to help your skin retain moisture. If the product is creamy or mousse like, there’s a much better chance that it has a higher concentration of active ingredients and a smaller percentage of water, making it much more effective at its job.
- Body Butter: A really intense moisturizer. As the name implies, a good body butter (at room temperature) is going to be anywhere from the consistency of cold butter to room temperature cream cheese. It’s usually made with higher quality and more natural ingredients, like shea or cocoa butter that will warm up and melt as it makes contact with your body. These are fabulous for exceptionally dry skin or when you want to feel like you’re doing something special for yourself (and also a really good way to make you smell like a bar of chocolate, if chocolate is your thing…).
- Body Oils: These will definitely be liquid, and there’s no real way to tell from the consistency of the product how good it is; you’ll have to read the ingredients to determine what kinds of oils are being used and then research the general consistency of those types of oils in their purest forms in order to get a really good idea of what you should be looking out for in that regard. But body oils are great for when you want to amp up your moisturizing routine: you can either apply them directly to dry skin, or you can add a few table spoons into a bath and let yourself soak; it’s also a really nice way to infuse a scent onto your skin without buying perfume, as most oils (especially flower oils) carry the scent of whatever plants they’ve come from.
(Note: there’s an awful lot of hoopla about using “all natural” products on your skin. Be aware that finding a product with “all natural” ingredients that are actually “all natural” will be like finding a three headed unicorn that shoots fire from the nostrils of its second head. Sure, it’s possible in theory, but the few products that I’ve found have been as expensive as the unicorn and have yielded subpar results. Your best bet is simply to isolate any allergens that might affect you and look for products without them.)
Setting up a routine
Once you have products you’re happy with, setting up a routine is pretty simple. There’s a natural order to using products that’s pretty intuitive as far as these things go: Use the cleanser first, and moisturize second. The tricky part is determining when to use what products on a daily basis verses once every few weeks and once in a great while.
Your Every Day Products
need to actually be things that you’re willing to use every day. These might be the slightly less expensive and more generic brands, or they’ll be the products that best fit your daily needs. I strongly recommend that you have one cleanser that is free of (or contains very little) exfoliating additives. Applying your cleanser with a loofa will provide you with more than enough friction to get rid of the majority of your dead skin. You should also have a moisturizer. Again, I’d recommend something a little lighter, either an oil or a lotion, that you feel comfortable applying to the majority of your body after you shower or bathe.
Your Once in a While Products
are your next grade up, and this is really where treating yourself can help boost your confidence. Even a scheduled break from a routine can give you a sensation of starting fresh and uncovering your better qualities. So, once a week or once every two weeks, depending on what you’re comfortable with, you should mix up your routine. Use your more concentrated exfoliant instead of your cleanser, and follow it up with your thicker moisturizer. Remember, these will probably be your slightly more expensive products, so this is a nice way to feel like you’re indulging yourself on a more regular basis. Think of it as a mini (and much cheaper) trip to the spa, where you’re creating a nice baseline for yourself for the coming weeks.
Your Special Occasions Products
aren’t going to be the sorts of things you only break out for the holidays, but rather products that you buy for specific purposes; for example, if you wax at all, your skin care routine needs to reflect that, and the types of cleansers and moisturizers that you use are going to change drastically. On the same token, however, these could be your more expensive Date Preparation or Special Night In versions of your every day or once in a while products. These might be products that you can use for an extended routine, for after care, or for a ritualistic exchange between you and your Dom. If your Dom enjoys pampering you by occasionally taking part in your grooming routines, save these higher quality and more expensive products for those moments.
Also note, too, that you can save your special occasion products particularly for your down days. If you’re struggling with your self-esteem, dedicate a full evening to yourself: take a longer shower, or indulge in a bath, follow whatever hair care routine that makes you feel best, and use your best quality products to remind yourself that you’re worth the effort.
So that’s the body; let’s take a deep breath and talk about the face:
I decided to address the body first because a lot of the same techniques that you use on your body are going to apply with your face. The biggest difference is that your face products are going to be vastly more concentrated than your body products because they are designed to go over a much smaller area of skin. There are a few minor differences that you need to take into consideration, and a few additional products as well.
Generally speaking, your body’s skin type is going to be relatively consistent across the board, but faces get a little bit tricky. Oily, dry, and combination skin types do actually change the types of products that you want to use on your face. Why? Because you’re trying to balance your face out, and using a product that is created with excess oil (like Olay) on an already oil face is going to compound the issue. Likewise, dry, flaky skin isn’t going to be helped by a face wash that is “oil free.” As with the body products, make sure that you read the ingredients and isolate the intended market.
How do you tell the difference?
Generally it’s as simple as describing how your face feels by the end of the day. Do you feel like your skin is slick, greasy, and clogged? You probably have oily skin. Do you feel patchy and is your make up caking or accentuating loose flakes of skin rather than applying smoothly? You probably have dry skin. And if you’re like the vast majority of the population, you probably have combination skin, which means you get patches of both and you’re left wondering if you over moisturized your forehead or applied sandpaper to your cheek bones recently.
If you’re lucky enough to have one clear skin type over another, make sure all of your products are targeted towards your skin type. If you have combo skin, I recommend mixing and matching products based on the season or your skin’s current condition (I have an oily face wash for mornings, a dry face wash for the evenings, and I always use a dry skin moisturizer to balance the two out).
Different Product Types
You aren’t likely to find body butter quality moisturizers for your face, but you will find cleansers and moisturizers from now to kingdom come. In addition, you’ll find the following:
Some of these are clay, some of them are food or gel or charcoal based. Food and gel based masks are applied specifically for moisturizing purposes. Clay and charcoal masks are designed to suck up excess oil, and usually help reduce blackheads or dry out whiteheads to the point where they can easily be taken care of with handy dandy black head wands (which are amazing and also a little yucky, and you can find them here: http://www.amazon.com/Tweezerman-2740-P-Whitehead-Blackhead-Remover/dp/B0006PLPBC ). Your masks should go in your Special Occasion category for your extended skin care routine days.
This goes on after your cleanser, before your moisturizer, and should be added to your Every Day routine if you have particularly oily skin, or suffer from regular acne breakouts. Toner tightens your skin, shrinks your pores, and helps your skin maintain a healthy PH balance; toner is particularly useful for pulling off the last stubborn remains of make-up (but should NOT be used as make-up remover), and making sure you’ve really gotten that last layer of dirt off of your face.
I will be the first person to admit that I do not currently have make up remover, but for anyone who wears make-up regularly (especially eye make-up), this is an absolute must. Make-up remover is designed specifically to cut through even water proof and long stay products. You should use it to get the heaviest layer of stuff off of your face even before you cleanse (and in some cases, a good rinse and repeat might be needed). It really is detrimental to get all of the make-up products off of your face, otherwise you’re allowing what essentially amounts to gunk and dirt build up in your pores, and that’s a surefire way to induce a breakout.
Other Notes on Your Face Routine
You need to be fairly consistent with your face products in order to see results, but don’t confuse consistent with iron-fisted stringency. The skin on your face is exceptionally persnickety and doesn’t enjoy being jerked around, so make sure that you pay close attention to the balance of your skin and adjust for weather to keep the PH and oil levels of your skin as consistent as possible. Plan to moisturize more in the winter than in the summer (but don’t skip moisturizing if you’re in an environment where the AC runs constantly), and be open to adding a toner to your summer time routine to give your face an additional level of clean during the warmer months.
Bring It Back to Center
Ultimately, building up your self-confidence and self-esteem is dependent upon forging a connection between what you see in the mirror and recognizing the aspects of your body that make you worthy of your Dom’s affection. Remember that you are your Dom’s most prized possession and taking care of yourself in a way that is fitting of an object who bears that title is the most important jobs that you can have as a submissive. Learning to treat your skin well might seem a bit pedantic or silly, but recognizing that you are important enough to be the subject of pampering is a vital step to learning to appreciate the person that your Dom loves. If you’re unsure of the best way to implement a more steadfast routine, talk to your Dom about what they would prefer you do, scents they would prefer you wear, or steps that they would prefer you take on a day by day level or for special occasions.
I’d have loved to walk you through some examples of routines, but this article is already five pages long, so I think I’m going to leave that up to some of the readers: if you have a routine, post it below as an example. If you have a question about the kinds of products you should be looking out for, or where to start in developing your routine, pose some questions below, and we’ll put you on the right track!
Until next time,