Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easy Anti-Aging

I'm quite keen to grow older. As a child, I got along very well with my mother's friends, and throughout my life I've found that people who are (slightly to much) older than me have a lot of things to say that I find really interesting. I knew some amazing older women in my youth, women with laugh lines, crow's feet, and gray hair. They were so fascinating and independent that I never really associated aging with anything negative.

I also have the personality of a grumpy old man on a porch, so aging helps me grow into that.

Now that I'm in my 30's, however, I do find myself not wanting to age disproportionately. I've done a lot of hard livin', as they say, with the drinking and the working in the sun, drying out in the desert, not washing myself for nine days on a trek, etc. So I do watch my face as a barometer of how well I'm protecting myself from the elements. I'm not a wrinkly gal (yet), but I do have the laugh lines and eye creases starting, plus my pleasant "squinty at the microscope" horizontal line between my brows.

Using myself as a guinea pig over the past several years, I have made an astonishing breakthrough (spoiler: not astonishing) in anti-aging face care. You ready?

Wear. Sunscreen.

Oh my gosh, I know, I sound like a mom! But it's 100% true. I have used eye creams. I have tried wrinkle serums. I've used retinols. And the only... repeating for emphasis, only... product I have used that has made a dramatic difference in my skin, in terms of helping the tone and reducing wrinkles (yes, reducing), is sunscreen.

Take a deep breath, my fellow product junkies.

I use an eye sunscreen around my eyes, then one for my whole face, and a goopier one for my body - I gotta protect all my tattoo investments! My body one is whatever I can lay my hands on that isn't too greasy, but here are my favorite face and eye sunscreens. For reference, I have pale and sensitive skin that gets dry at the edges and a bit oily by midday elsewhere.


Clarins Sunscreen for Eyes: Yes, it's expensive. But it doesn't irritate my sensitive eyes or contact lenses, it feels great, and it has really protected my eye area. A little also goes a loooong way. I currently use this product. I'm considering trying their face sunscreen because I like this product so much.

La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 50+ Tinted Fluid: The name of this is a complete mouthful of oatmeal. I barely even know what I'm ordering when I get it from my Amazon wishlist (I usually find it cheapest there). The key things to look for are "anthelios," "tinted," and "Mexoryl" in the description. Mexoryl is a physical barrier and is much easier on sensitive skin than chemical sunscreens. This product has a light tint, so it may not be good for darker skin tones, but I believe they make an untinted version. I get a kind of dewy finish from this, not my favorite look, but it's worth it to keep my skin feeling and looking better. I currently use this product (topped by a little Dream Matte Mousse for work, but otherwise unaided). Warning: it is a fluid, and it will go everwhere if you don't hold the bottle upright when opening it. Still worth it.

Pevonia Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 30: This stuff is awesome. I got a bottle from a spa and was a little afraid of it being greasy, but it was one of the nicest things I've put on my face. I prefer it in winter or dry climates, when there's a bit less sun blasting my face. It's thicker than La Roche Posey, but it is so soothing and has never bothered my skin. I'm a big fan of it.

Neutrogena Stuff: No link, because this brand is readily available in whatever drug/pharma/grocery store you stumble in to. I wear this when I do field work, because that means reapplying sunscreen approximately 800 times per day, over layers of dirt, and I'm not going to flush $30 down the toilet every two days that way. I like the sheer fluid for the face and the dry touch tube for the body, the highest SPF I can get my hands on.

So there you have it. My secret to not only preventing, but reducing wrinkles. The rest of my skin care and make-up routine is pretty light, but I'll happily share it if people are interested.

Friday, March 15, 2013

This is Science

My current office is in a building beside a lake. A system of trails, paved and unpaved, leads around the lake on both sides. Every day at lunch time, I eat for about 15 minutes* and then set off from our parking lot, on to those trails, for the rest of my hour. I've walked from the winter into the spring since I started working here, on sunny days and rainy ones, in the wind and the warmth. I get to pick from about four branches of trails, and I try to go down each at least once a week.

When I walk, I look around. I look up into the tree canopy and at the sky, and I look down at the sides of the path and into ditches. I see squirrels, birds, moths, butterflies, and lizards. I don't listen to music while I walk, nor do I take phone calls or texts. I listen to the world around me and the people that pass by. I listen to the scolding mockingbirds and the whirring of bike tires.

Sometimes, I see plants or animals that I don't recognize. If I'm curious about them, I'll try to take a quick photo (the moment a cell phone is allowed on my walk) and look them up when I get back to my office. I don't always do this, though; sometimes I just let the strange flower or unknown butterfly linger in my brain, and look for it again on the next walk.

I started walking in late December. I wore waterproof boots and a coat with a warm scarf at my neck. Sometimes I carried an umbrella. I had the trails mostly to myself. I looked at the lake edges and saw the water level rise and fall, dictated not only by falling rain but by the activity at the dam that created the lake. I saw squirrels taking shelter. I slipped on rocks.

For a month and a half I braved the colder weather, the wind, and the drizzle. Braved is a funny word because, being a transplant to California from the Pacific Northwest, I really don't mind days like that. I enjoy the solitude it gives me and the bright, emerald wetness of trees and ferns. I like walking to warm up. The only person I saw regularly on these days was a quiet man, probably ten years my senior, in a dark red jacket. We never spoke to each other (and still haven't), but we gave smiles and nods in passing.

A few weeks ago, something changed. I started to get warm on my walks. I would walk out wearing a light coat or sweater, and walk back with it slung over my arm. As a big fan of autumn and winter, I wondered if my sweater-and-soup season was coming to an end...

It did, abruptly, over a weekend. In just two days of absence from my walking paths, everything changed. On that Monday that I will always think of as the real start of spring, I saw butterflies for the first time -- the black and iridescent blue of the Red-Spotted Purple, who loves to feast on oaks as a caterpillar, and who flits charmingly to animal droppings as an adult. I saw squirrels chase each other on looping routes up trees, chattering away. Ducks and geese were honking their loud calls of anger and lust (who can tell the difference with geese?), and frogs were piping away in the little ponds beside the road.

Only a week after the animal outpouring, the plants followed suit. Dutchman's Pipe cast its lime green tendrils over last year's dead brush, and the tender leaves of Liliaceae pushed through the dry, scrubby grass on banks. A few brief rains came and went, and suddenly catkins were out here and there, like little Christmas bulbs. Wild onions and mustard bloomed, the deli in the wilderness, and new grass started replacing old, tired blades.

The people changed, too. The few lone cyclists and frustrated looking joggers** multiplied, and more people were bringing their babies along for the ride. Single mountain bikers became pairs and packs, and the winter tights peeled away in favor of the ever-flattering Spandex shorts. Others started walking, too, and chatting, filling the air with conversation as well as goose rage.

I knew it was spring before the calendar told me. I knew before Daylight Saving Time. I knew because I was there, and I felt the undeniable urge to bounce back to the office with a flower behind one ear. I experienced the change and recognized it because of my familiarity with what preceded it.

This is science.

To walk in the world, to revisit the same ideas and routes over and over, until they are familiar enough that minute changes leap easily to our eyes. Science treads the same steps until they are predictable, routine, and then introduces one new element -- to witness the change and absorb the repercussions.

Science isn't dry, or boring, or removed from the world at hand. It doesn't exist only in a lab, and you certainly don't need a degree to do it. Some science looks stodgy, but that doesn't make the fun science any less real.

Science is alive, vibrant, and exciting. It happens when you cook, when you train your dog, when we meet, and all that we do. It is merely the act of observing a situation, thinking about the elements that make it up, and perhaps seeing those things play out, over and over, until a pattern becomes clear. There is power in that pattern, the power to predict and effect change.

I do science by walking around. Everyone can. We just need to clear away the distractions and not worry about being "bored," because there is plenty happening around us to keep our minds occupied.

Today, when I went for a walk, there were little orange flowers blooming. I need to go look them up...


*Don't worry, I don't scarf my food. I'm just a light eater... at lunch...
**Joggers always look unhappy, to me. I will ride my bike, walk, and hike, but jogging just looks and feels unpleasant! Sorry to any joggers reading this.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Return

I will admit to being a fair-weather blogger. My head is full of ideas, photos, and experiences I want to share, but I suffer from a life-long case of antisocialitis* that keeps me cagey and skittish. The Internet is a big, murky place, where everything you produce can live in perpetuity and be linked or Googled by, really, any mook with a computer.

This blog, which is a revival of the last one of the same name, is an attempt to keep my desire to share and produce quality material stronger than my skittish tendencies.

This year I was accepted into the Masters of Human-Environment Relations program at Cornell University's Department of Design and Environmental Analysis. Part of this exciting change means moving, with my partner and our dog, all the way across the U.S. of A. and leaving behind our friends, colleagues, and most of our family. I wanted to revive this blog, in part, to keep in touch in a way that I consider more personal and constructive than Facebook or Twitter. You can also find me blogging at the very sporadic, which I co-produce with my partner (who is even more antisocial than I).

Let's go!


*Not a real disease...