One of my favorite things in the world is skincare. Maybe not the most deep or expected of passions but know you know. While I may not have the best skin, I do really love washing and moisturizing my face, plus all the steps in between.

I remember as a kid I never washed my face, or occasionally I snuck some of my mom’s face wash, but that was it. Then when I got older and interested in actually caring for my face, I got whatever I saw show up the most often on drugstore shelves.

The face-wash made my face feel tight enough that someone could play a snare drum solo on my face. Whatever moisturizer I mistakenly picked up was essentially a too strong concentration of salicylic acid (an effective BHA acid in small doses) suspended in a silicone cream; it left my skin sensitive and irritated.

It was a dark time that almost killed any desire I had to take care of my skin.

It was frustrating, what was supposed to help me feel good about myself was instead making me feel like I didn’t even want to try to take care of myself. Instead of feeling relaxed, my skincare was stressing me out, which in turn made my skin freak out.

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So I began to actually research skincare. I started with the products that had made me so sad and pinpointed what ingredients didn’t work for me, and ones that could.

I followed obscure internet trails into back alley articles about the difference between moisture and hydration, pressure points to take down face swelling, and that products with pearl powder are known for their brightening properties.

Now, one of my favorite parts of skincare is all the research that goes into learning about different ingredients and their uses. In fact I often become obsessive and go down rabbit holes I didn’t even realize I stumbled into.

For example, did you know that snail mucin, which is exactly what it sounds like, is great for hyper-pigmentation, and that the best way to harvest it, cruelty- free, is to pamper the snails by putting them in a dark room and avoiding stressing them out. It’s like prepping escargot but the snails live in the end.

The more research I’ve done the more quickly I’ve discovered that skincare is an extremely subjective topic; recommendations and “holy grail” items don’t apply to all. While one person could love birch sap another could hate it, plus everyone’s skin is different.

Through all my research I also learned that caring for my skin isn’t about vanity, it is about taking care of myself mentally. It has become a part of maintaining my mental health.

I look forward to it before I go to bed and when I get out of bed in the morning. I use it to decompress at the end of the day or armor up for one. Skincare to me is time I have carved out for introspection and reflection, which helps me feel less anxious and better about myself, inwardly and outwardly.

A good book for more research is Charlotte Cho’s The Little Book of Skin Care.

Dear My Long Lost Mother

Dear Mother,

The memory of you fades more and more each day I grow older.

What I remember is the crashing waves against the sandy coast lines of Malibu.

The wind blowing into my hair from the rolled down windows.

The blinding sun shimmering in my eyes, and I’d squint hoping it’d go away, unaware of how I’d long for the feeling again in the near future.

The bright blue sky in the distance.

The cheeseburgers that somehow always tasted better near the ocean

The laughter in my heart, and my squeaking voice as I’d sing off key to my favorite Abba songs with you and Rachel.

There wasn’t a care in a world during those moments, but they never lasted long anyways.

I remembered the endless nights just as clearly as the endless days.

The hours of screaming. The hours of crying.

The secondhand cigarette smoke and uncleaned bedrooms.

The weekends moving from your place to dad’s.

Child support money being gambled away on lottery tickets, and gas money for late night drives when I’d rather be sleeping.

One day I was pulled out of school early. I said goodbye to my friends, to my crush, and to my teacher, unaware that I’d never see them again.

Unaware that I’d never step into a school building again until fifth grade.

Unaware that I’d never live the life I longed to have until you weren’t there to experience it with me.

I never said goodbye. May 14th you made a promise to get better, but you never kept that promise for me or my sister. You left me, and never came back. Sometimes I see you in the crows that’d never leave me alone, and they’ve always annoyed me, but I’d take their beauty for granted because I never knew what it meant.

I blame you for leaving me. I blame you for worrying about the relationships in your life that constantly broke your fragile heart more than your own daughters who loved you more.

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I hate you for never being the mother I always wanted to have.

I was ten years old. I’ll never have a mother to help do my hair for my senior prom. Instead, you chopped it off to my ears when I was nine, and left a curse on me so it’d never grow back.

You left me.

I’d never have a mom to meet my first boyfriend, to move me into college, to watch me go to law school and take on the world I always craved to explore. I have aunts, but is that really the same?

It’s been six years. All you are to me is a faint memory. A small memory, similar to a memory of passing smoke in the air. The same smoke that’d leave your lips. The same smoke from a habit you never really broke.

But you, my mother, are everything I loved and hated at the same time.

You are the sound of my favorite band, and the warmth I felt when I finally hugged them for the first time. You are the stars in the galaxy; the ones I don’t look at enough, but I know they’re always there. You’re the scent of oceans on a summer day, and the sweetness of my favorite cookies.

But you’re also the sound of terrifying police sirens coming to get me when I know I’m safe in my bed. The vision of snarling fangs glowing from a beast growling under their breath. The thought of betrayal; when those I love most don’t love me back, but you did.

At least I thought you did. You’ve told me so many times, but did I believe you? I always wanted to, but love is such a frightening concept to me that I can’t recognize even when it’s right in front of me. I can’t appreciate it like other people do when they love their own family, boyfriends, or best friends.

You’ve made me into who I am today. You’ve lit the match that sparked the fire in my soul. You made me appreciate music. You made me curious about the world. You gave me happiness in the smallest ways even when we didn’t have much.

But you also ruined me. You isolated me from the world, and when I returned to it I was fearful. It took me so long to learn how to communicate again, how to express myself, and even then I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the same, fiery spirit I had when I was a kid full of happiness and innocence. You made me closed off, and I might never forgive you for it. I can never fully place my trust into someone else’s hands, because it’s already been destroyed by yours.

But I thank you, Mother. You gave me life, though a part of it died with you.

But even then, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Do I miss you? No. Do I miss the thought of what you could’ve been? The thought of having a mother to watch me grow up? I miss that everyday.

So, Mom, I hope you’re happy up in Heaven. I never really believed in God, but I know you did, and I hope you’re happy there if that’s where you wished to be. Because after all the pain, the sadness, the tragedies, and heartbreaks you’ve been through, all I wish for you is happiness.

Love, Jaclyn.