This Shit Rules: Soft Skin and Rapunzel Hair

Welcome to This Shit Rules, wherein members of the Autostraddle team open up to you about the beauty products they can’t live without.


I work from home and most days I talk to between zero and one other humans. This means that I don’t usually need to spend a lot of time thinking about the impression I make on others or appearing ‘professional’ or ‘showered,’ so I don’t spend a lot of time or effort on makeup or clothes. Being in my own home all day does, however, mean that I have the time to commit to a multi-step skincare routine and also spend a lot of time figuring out how I can make my hair perfect, aka like Mädchen Amick’s in Twin Peaks. What I’m saying is that I have a lot of skincare products and intense rituals around my hair. I’m a lot of fun to travel with. Anyhow here’s the stuff I use on my fragile human outer shell.

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CeraVe Products

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I think CeraVe is a really remarkably great line of stuff considering you can buy it at Walgreens and everything costs under $20. The moisturizers have really good ingredients that you can also find in high-end products, like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and CeraVe AM moisturizer has niacinamide in it, which helps fade scarring and hyperpigmentation. The only thing I’ve used of theirs that I’m not wild about is their sunscreen, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I use the big tub of plain ol’ moisturizer at night and CeraVe AM in the morning, and also the Hydrating Cleanser, which is like Cetaphil but I like it slightly more.

Buy them on Amazon: Hydrating Cleanser, 10.99; Moisturizing Cream, $13.77; AM Lotion, $10.97


La Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen

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I am firmly on board the Sunscreen All Day Every Day train, and when you’re on that train you need to find a sunscreen you really like because it sucks to wear something you don’t like that much every day. The only thing I’ve found that really works for me is Anthelios, which seems pricey but is pretty dope. It’s a physical rather than chemical sunscreen, it rubs in fairly quickly and easily, there isn’t really a greasy or product-y feeling on my skin after a few minutes, and it doesn’t leave a white cast even when I use a full 1/4 tsp (which is the amount of sunscreen you should be using for your face, otherwise you’re not getting the full SPF! Trust me, try measuring it out, 1/4 tsp is way more than you think it is).

Buy it on Amazon: 1.7 oz, $23.33


40 Carrots Vitamin Serum

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Vitamin C and Vitamin A (retinol) are both good for making your skin glow like a baby angel’s, and also this stuff smells fresh and lovely like you’re romping through a Tropicana orchard in the dew. I put this on every other night before moisturizer. It also doesn’t have parabens in it, which I don’t actually care about that much but maybe you do. I feel like when I use this at night my skin looks hydrated and well-rested in the morning, even though I probably fell asleep on the couch drinking box wine at 2 am.

Buy it on Amazon: 1 oz, $15


St. Ives Exfoliating AHA Pads and Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid

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Exfoliation is cool because it keeps your skin soft and can help with stuff like acne and hyperpigmentation, but physical exfoliation that relies upon literally scraping off the top layer of skin (like with scrubs or microbeads) isn’t awesome for you. It can create little tears in your skin and make tiny cuts on your face, which isn’t ideal. Chemical exfoliation, with an alpha-hydroxy acid or beta-hydroxy acid, is safer and more effective. AHAs and BHAs do different things but are both good for you, so I switch off and take turns using them at different times.

Buy them on Amazon: 60 pads, $5.09; 4 oz, $26


Yes to Carrots Conditioner

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Right now as part of Living My Best Life as a curly-haired person, I don’t use any hair products that have sulfates or silicones in them. This conditioner doesn’t have silicones, smells nice, and works well; it makes my hair soft and shiny. Because it’s sort of thick-ish, I also use it as a leave-in conditioner and styling product; after I turn the shower off, I scrunch as much water as I can out of my hair and then use my fingers to comb some more conditioner in for super hydrated and defined curls.

Buy it on Amazon: 17 oz, $8.99


J.R. Liggett Bar Shampoo

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This neat little shampoo bar contains no sulfates or other surfactants (again, good for curly hair) and has lots of stuff in it that I know my hair likes, like castor oil and coconut oil. Even without surfactants, it makes a nice lather and my hair gets clean without getting dried and out and feeling like straw. The fact that it’s in a bar is also convenient for travel, whether it’s over to your boo’s apartment for the night or on the plane to A-Camp, where I inevitably have things confiscated because I accidentally packed too many liquids because I’m an idiot.

Buy it on Amazon: 3.5 oz, $5.99


Jamaican Black Castor Oil

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I feel like people are in two camps when it comes to oils; either you’re obsessed with them and slather them all over your skin and hair or you think that’s really weird. I am one of the former, and I’m also trying to grow my hair out, and so I’m super into Jamaican Black Castor Oil which apparently helps hair grow for reasons that I don’t understand. I warm it up to use as a hot oil treatment for my hair once a week or so and will sometimes give myself a scalp massage with it if I’m feeling very “treat yo self.” People who are more motivated than me also brush it into their eyelashes and eyebrows so they can look like Cara Delevingne with false eyelashes on.

Buy it on Amazon: 8 oz, $9.99


Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Deep Pore Cleansing Mask

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This mask is so serious. It’s a whole thing. I don’t use it as often as I should because it is, as aforementioned, a whole thing, but whenever I do my skin looks so great it makes me upset. You should use it with apple cider vinegar even though it says you can use water, trust me on this. One container also contains enough clay for about four thousand masks, so this is a super good deal.

Buy it on Amazon: 1 lb, $9.90


Long Winter Soap Co Houndstooth Perfume Oil

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I don’t really understand the world of ~*fragrances*~, the idea of basenotes and whatever all seems very intense and I can’t imagine ever spending like a hundred dollars on a fancy bottle of smelly water. But I like these little rollerballs of perfume a lot, and they’re very affordable and the scent descriptions are pretty straightforward and easy for me to grasp. Houndstooth is sort of a “masculine” scent; technically it’s “leather, oakmoss, dark chocolate, and green tea,” but to me it smells mostly like lots of leather and also a sort of warm spicy situation that is vanilla-ish without smelling like a cupcake. If I went on a date with myself and was wearing this I would probably want to go on a second date with myself.

This isn’t on Amazon but is on their website: 0.3 oz, $9


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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1136 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. Eeeeeeeeeeee benny clay is just THE BEST stuff ever. I tried it on a whim and am never going back. I’ve basically never used a face mask which actually had an effect besides this one. And a little goes a long way. Can I ask, though, what makes ACV better? I’ve only tried it with water, because I read that it doesn’t make a difference, and it was really good as is, but if there could be improvements (how is this possible?) I’d love to know :) Also I really need to stop buying beauty products I can’t afford but I so want to try all of these.

    • i have no idea honestly! i could be wrong about that. i mean i do know that ACV is supposed to be PH-balancing for your skin, and also juliana huxtable said so in this article (although she also recommends st. ives apricot scrub in the same article, which i think is a devil product from hell, so)

      • Do you even know how lovey sexy that photo of your face is??? Omg!!! Or is that just giving my self away ,? Ok, I want to taste you…. yep., but only because of that cute/ sexy pic
        of you with all that stuff on your face!!

        You are such a lovey face girl! Without anything on your face!!!!

    • Using apple cider vinegar (or a lemon juice/water mix) makes it mix WAY more easily. You know how when you use water, it’s sorta clumpy and difficult? Mixes up smooth as butter with ACV (or other acidic situation). I also bet there is a benefit to your skin, but for me, the main benefit is ease of use.

  2. EJ

    Rachel do you have sort of sensitive skin?? Because I normally don’t pay much attention to product recommendations but I just HAVE A FEELING that these are all things I want to try AND they are all in my price range-ish AND I’ve been MEANING to try to actually take care of my skin. I have had cerave things before and loved them too. I want to go to the drugstore RIGHT NOW.

    • not super sensitive, but a lot of the things i like are good for sensitive skin! maybe just skip the chemical exfoliants for now and also the super intense face mask and you’ll be fine. i don’t often pay attention to product recommendations either but i promise i have done a fair amount of research here! also does your skin like oil cleansing. do you wanna talk about oil cleansing. bc if so this is a safe space.

      • EJ

        i WAS going to skip the clay and only maybe TRY the exfoliants so COOL. and my skin is not SUPER sensitive so i still think these might be good thing.

        but my skin does NOT like oil cleansing!! well, really i’ve only tried it a few times and am VERY BAD at sticking with things with a “worse before better” period. but really i just didn’t like it b/c it made my skin dry and involved so much hot water which I felt like was also drying. and also oils are kind of expensive?? but maybe i should give it another go. i am kind of a hippie with personal care products but with skin stuff i have been unable to find anything that works as well as the stuff that’s like 100000% parabens.

          • OH OK so i do oil cleansing but am off the hot water train — i don’t believe in the hot water thing after, i think that’s bad for your skin. i do double-cleansing instead, so like i oil cleanse but then just wash off the oil with the hydrating cerave cleanser and room temp water. not to pressure you into the oil cleanse, because oil cleanse pressure-ers are the worst, but just to let you know. just fyi. ftr.

          • EJ

            ooohhhh, i hadn’t heard of doing that, only the thing where you have to wash it off with hot water or a wash cloth and like never ever touch your skin with anything but oil. your way sounds better and i do not feel pressured at all! thanks!

    • If you want to try chemical exfoliation, try using an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid aka glycolic acid) treatment every other day. Also, use caution with clay masks, and only apply them to the oiliest parts of your face.

      Boots No 7 (at Target) has some great cleansing balms and gels that are comparable to pricier brands and are sensitive skin friendly.

  3. EJ

    oh also

    yes to TWIN PEAKS HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. This is so great, I have always wanted to smell “second date nice” without spending a bunch of money on a bottle of smelly water, now I can achieve my hopes and dreams.

  5. I have some friends who teach English in Seoul and they’ve become rather evangelical about Korean skincare. I finally caved to peer pressure and ordered a bunch of stuff online from w2beauty.

    That shit is FUCKING MAGICAL. I have rather obnoxious combination skin where some parts are oily, some parts are scaly and dry and some parts somehow manage to be both. Like, there is skin flaking off *underneath* the oil slick. I don’t get it. But the dryness is no longer a problem at all and the oil issue is actually manageable now. I’m so happy!

    So far, I really like Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence, It’s Skin Star Cream (for day), Snail Bee Steam Cream (for night), and Snail Bee High Content face sheets. There’s also an oil cleanser that’s the best makeup remover I’ve ever had, but I forget what it’s called. It smells like apples.

    • Is it the Innisfree Apple Juicy Cleansing Oil? Their green tea series is pretty good too~

      Korean and Japanese skincare products are huge locally and I have friends who make yearly trips to Korea now to stock up on products. Personally I love Laneige and swear by their Water Sleeping Pack.

  6. May I ask an academic question here? I am transfemale. As I read Rachel’s post and the various products, it made me wonder where our concept of “female beauty” comes from. I know about natural selection in nature, being attractive to mate and strong enough to survive…….the science things.
    Some things are engrained in our minds as we learn from society, and parents, friends, the media……to the point where we only feel pretty and attractive by doing those things or pursuing that image……..
    And I have the same need…..especially me, , …to feel pretty and attractive, to all of you cis lesbians. But, as I assume you know, it is much more difficult for me to look like a pretty woman, since I was born with a male body. But I am female inside…..how I would be attracted to you emotionally and intellectually…..and need to be loved as a female and thought of as a female by you….in order to be happy. An intellectual “tall order” for all of you….to see beyond the surface of a translesbian to the lovable woman inside. And since I am asking for your insight into what is maybe a new type of queer situation for you, I hope for thoughtful gradual understanding.

    I believe all of our beauty and attractiveness is inside ourselves, really. That is where my female heart is trapped.

    But if there was a cream that I could use to make myself look like a cute woman, I would certainly buy a barrel full. :)

    I apologize to Rachel for off topic comment. Just needed to say this.

    • Society, mostly. And it’s not even all that consistent. I’ve lived in three different countries and the standards for beauty can differ greatly – for instance, while I’m not exactly prized for my brown skin anywhere in the world, I actually found it (ironically) a lot easier to be valued for it in the US and Australia than in Malaysia, which has this epic Fair and Lovely problem going on despite 90% of the country looking JUST LIKE ME. Let me put it this way – Mindy Kaling has no chance of hosting a show back in Asia.

      Also in Malaysia I am FATTY MCFATFAT BOOM BOOM FAT whereas in the Western world I am average. Not even plus-sized. Just M/L.

    • When it comes to physical beauty, I think healthy skin, healthy hair and a big genuine smile are the most important things to me. On anyone.

  7. Oh hey! I’m doing a 100-day skincare challenge right now and had been contemplating the clay masks for some time. I’m a little broke to buy anything on the list right now (mostly because I spent it all on getting my startup set ;P) but next month maybe!

    Note to people with darker skin: chemical peels may not be so good for you.

  8. The next time you’re at Walgreens getting your CeraVe stuff, look for the Studio 35 Beauty AHA cream. It’s super cheap and my absolute favorite AHA I’ve ever used.

  9. So, this is just a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to try the apple cider vinegar/clay mask. I had bought a tub of the Aztec clay before, and having tried it with water before, I found that it dried the fuck out of my face. You can actually feel it pulling at your skin as it dries, and even after washing it off there were areas of my face that it had pulled too tight, and I had (temporary) wrinkles from it (after an hour or so those parts of my skin relaxed back to normal).

    Anyways, I’ve read previously that a lot of people like using the apple cider vinegar with instead, and after reading this article it inspired me today to get some and try it that way. While the mask was on, I could feel it drying, but not as tightly. So far, so good. I rinsed it off after about 15 minutes, and everywhere the mask had been, was RED. It didn’t feel irritated, but it looked like I had missed putting sunscreen on some spots and laid out in the summer for hours. I took 800 mg of ibuprofen, double the allergy relief pills (for an antihistamine) that you are supposed to take, and slathered my skin in tallow cream (yes, tallow is rendered beef fat. Sounds gross, but I work in healthcare and my hands were getting cracked and dry from too much handwashing/winter weather. They are ridiculously better now).

    So, I don’t know if the redness would have faded on its own, or if anything in particular helped. It’s an hour and half later, and my there is just slight redness on one cheek. On a positive note, my skin feels pretty soft now. If it hadn’t gotten red, I wouldn’t have had any problems with this. Anyways, if you decide to try this do it on a small inconspicuous area for a short amount of time, and not right before you have to go anywhere. I read online just now that some people get redness from this and others don’t, so it sounds like it could go either way depending on your skin.

    also, 2 things that I really love for my skin – medicine mama’s bee magic cream, its supposed to be the same as egyptian magic cream but cheaper and organic. I put it on at night, my skin looks bright/healthy the next day, and it’s noticeably helped with any breakouts. The other thing is deep steep body wash. The main ingredient is aloe vera, it also has shea butter in it and it doesn’t have anything that dries your skin out. My legs were getting super dry and itchy this winter, and this now keeps my skin super soft. I also put some sort of body oil on all over before getting out of the shower too. That always kept my skin soft the rest of the year, but the body wash has definitely helped it this winter. It is a teeny bit pricey, but as long as you don’t use a ton it lasts. There’s probably a slightly cheaper alternative out there somewhere, I just don’t know what it is.

    • Never experienced temporary wrinkles myself, but the redness is pretty normal. Maybe some people don’t experience it because they don’t leave it on for long. I do it before going to bed for that reason.

    • Jacky

      The redness is normal! There’s a note on the side of the jar that says it might occur, and it goes away after 30 minutes or so. If you have no complaints otherwise it should be fine :)

  10. As a potter, I used bentonite to flocculate my glazes…..make them smooth flowing……and added vinegar to keep the glazes from “settling”….hehe….oh, and cat litter is made out of bentonite…..did you know? yikes…. and also :P ….
    So….if you have cat litter……………….hehe……oh, and apple cider vinegar is also used to kill weeds…..an acid….chemically burns weeds
    Yep….I know……I am a bitch…..but it is all true…..and the white wigs of judges in Victorian times…..white lead powder…..justice? maybe! ?

  11. Do you happen to know which products are non-animal tested? Also, which ones are NOT owned by Johnson and Johnson or other mega-corporations?

    @janelle I’ve also used the aztec mask and it lit up my face like a red lightbulb too. I avoid that stuff like the plague.

    On a side note, I started using SkinActives and let me tell you, THIS SHIT RULES! The company is out of Arizona, their products are like nothing I’ve ever tried before and my acne-prone skin has cleared up like I took a vaccuum to it. Also, all their products are targeted towards your specific skin. You can buy ingredients and add them to your basic cream.

    I use the T-Zone Serum, Collagen Serum, Acne Control Cream, I-Bright Cream and Antioxidant Day Cream. When I turned 27, I began taking really good care of my skin and the results have made me feel younger and more beautiful.

    http://www.skinactives.com/

  12. Teresa

    We all know that exercise and eating the right foods are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. But have you also known that exercise affect your hair health, hair loss, or hair regrowth? Let me know your thoughts.

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