How I’m Learning To Get Along With My Wrinkles

Lately, I find myself focused primarily on the care of some new friends who have unexpectedly, though some may say otherwise, appeared in my rather placid life. I had been under the impression, at the age of 39, my two children already born and now of school age, that most of my intense caretaking days were over, that is until my still youngish parents become elderly. I had at least ten years of unfettered carefree living, more reminiscent of my twenties perhaps. Days where hours stretch before me and end sleeping in bed with only my husband next to me. Sleeping easily and, well, since I’m in the sweet spot between having children who wake up every night and having menopausal night sweats. In short, I had not a care in the world.

Then last night my daughter drew lines on the part of her drawing which represented my forehead. In the detailed portrait of me she created with markers, there were six pronounced lines. I’m now officially wrinkled.

I did not immediately recognize them as such. She is five, after all, and although I think she has artistic talent, we all make mistakes. When she brought her creation to me, I commented on the colors, I commented on her attention to detail. I asked her to tell me about the extra lines.

“What are those?” I asked smiling, as I pointed to the six wavy horizontal marks on her paper.

“Your lines,” she said. “On your face.” As if that would be obvious, to anyone. Then she looked pointedly at my forehead.

“Oh,” I said, still smiling.

“Oh,” I said, not smiling.

When asked if she could still see them when I made my hair sweep in front to create long bangs she said, “Yes! You can!” In such an enthusiastic way you would think it was cause for celebration.

I asked her older brother about the noticeability of said wrinkles.

“You can’t really see them when it’s dark.” He said, barely looking up from his book. Apparently he had already spotted them.

I was standing in a bright room at the time. Directly under a light, in fact, so I moved to the unlit hall and asked again.

”It has to be darker.” And then as he kept looking at me, “Much darker.”

That evening I tried to seem youthful and energetic during their nightly rituals before bed, I skipped down the hall with my daughter to get her pajamas. I did a jig in my son’s room until he begged me to leave. I even did the hula while helping them brush their teeth. That was a bit messy, but I felt my clear display of youthful energy made it worth the clean up.

Since then I have tried to accept my wrinkles as new friends. I have carefully attended to them every night since discovering they were here with us all. New cream has been purchased for them. A special brush that rotates over them before we all go to sleep is used nightly. I have a new satin pillow that I ordered so that they sleep peacefully and stay young and small. A dermatologist appointment has been made in their honor. What will happen there, my wrinkles and I have yet to decide.

My husband has heard much about these new friends. Supportive as he is, he does not want to participate in their naming. I have been toying around with ideas. I have made sure to include them in all conversations. That’s what good friends do, and I don’t want them to feel left out. I now realize how often people I know well, or run into throughout my day, ask me how I am. It really is nice. It is civilized. I have answered every time, since learning that I am not alone, that we are just fine, thank you. My wrinkles and I are just fine. Thanks for asking.

These wrinkle friends have become a pastime for me. Researching their care, their options for the future, now takes up much of my day. So much information is available online. They have so many opportunities. I see them easily now, the good friends that they are; they never leave my side, and we often spend many minutes a day together looking in the mirror. I like to think they now feel well known.

I know people who have obliterated their own with needles, lasers and such, but I fear the possibility of the drooping eyebrow side effect that can come with needles. I don’t want to look like I’ve had a stroke. I’d rather have my wrinkle friends.

We’ve decided to cancel the dermatologist. But all lights should be dim from now on.

The post How I’m Learning To Get Along With My Wrinkles appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Ask Scary Mommy: My Husband Suggested I Get Liposuction

Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.

This week: What do you do when your spouse suggests plastic surgery for a “problem area” that isn’t a problem? Have your own question? Email advice@scarymommy.com 

Hi Scary Mommy,

I’m eight months postpartum with my third baby. I have had two C-sections and we are done having babies now. Recently, my husband brought up to me that I should now consider getting a “mommy makeover” to get rid of my post C-section FUPA. I was taken aback and offended by this suggestion because I’ve never mentioned wanting plastic surgery to “fix” myself. He said he just assumed I wanted my pre-baby body back, and that he was willing to help me get it. I asked him if HE wanted me to pursue the surgery and he said “well, yeah” but he also said that it’s up to me and that he will be fine with it either way. You can imagine what this has done to my self-esteem. I was just under the impression that a FUPA is normal and fine, and I wasn’t hung up on it. Until now. What do I say to him? How do I get back to loving my body after this low blow? I feel so upset and hurt.

 

Wait.

What?

And by “what,” I mean what the ever-loving fuck?

Where do men store this endless well of audacity? I swear to God.

Are we entertaining the opinion of the guy who thinks it’s even remotely close to acceptable to tell his wife and the mother of his three children that she should have part of her tummy lobbed off? UNPROMPTED.

No. No, we are not.

You literally never mentioned this to him ever, and he thought this conversation was going to go well? Has your husband ever met a woman?

Poor thing. Did you suggest that he have his head surgically removed from his ass? Because that’s where he’s clearly shoved it.

You are one hundred zillion percent correct in your impression that having a FUPA is normal and fine. Any form that your body naturally takes after giving life to three human beings is not only “normal and fine,” but beautiful and miraculous. Not only did you create people in your body, you had two surgical births. That’s some badass womanhood. Your body is a walking testament to the power of a woman.

If this surgical makeover was your idea, I’d be in your corner. You don’t need a mommy makeover, and your body is amazing as-is. But if you had talked it over with a qualified board-certified plastic surgeon decided on your own you wanted to move forward; I’d say go for it. You’re already perfect, but I totally support your choice do what makes you happiest with YOUR body.

But your husband is a dude. What the hell does he know about how it feels to live in a post-baby body?

I’m like, really pissed that your husband’s boneheaded decision to bring this up has affected how you see your body. The petty side of me wants you to make a list of all the ways he could surgically alter his own body for your viewing pleasure, starting at the top and working your way down to the toes. Doctors are doing some amazing enhancements on pretty much every single body part these days.

But the adult side of me says that he deserves to face the music for his outrageously insensitive and stupid decision. Tell him clearly that his suggestion was immature and hurtful. You had no problem with your body before he made you feel self-conscious. You’re going to be loving it again, exactly like it is. If he doesn’t like your FUPA or any other piece of you, that’s something he needs to work out on his own. You carried children so he could be a father, and if he thought that your body would look exactly the same after carrying three babies and having two C-sections, well, he’s an idiot, and that’s not your problem.

Then you rock that FUPA without a single fuck, and let him feel stupid for a while. I bet he’s a decent enough guy, but he screwed this one up, and he needs to marinate in that for a while.

The post Ask Scary Mommy: My Husband Suggested I Get Liposuction appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Adult Acne Is A Bummer – Here’s How To Deal

I’ve battled adult acne since I was, well, an adult. I only had the occasional (but nevertheless mortifying) pimple when I was in middle and high school. The year I was finishing college and was engaged to my long-time boyfriend was also the year I faced major breakouts that no amount of foundation could conceal. We ordered a then-popular skincare line by mail, and I slowly saw some improvements. I chalked up my adult acne to the stress of working two jobs, planning a wedding, and going to school full time. After the wedding, moving, and taking a summer off, my acne disappeared. Well, for a time period, anyway.

Throughout my adult years, my acne has come and gone. After a particularly bad breakout last winter, which I think was an allergic reaction, I finally went to a dermatologist. She offered me a few topicals, plus warnings to avoid anything that would clog my pores. She also said that acne can take three months or longer to clear up, so I shouldn’t expect immediate results. Much to my dismay, the topicals did little for me. It was only when I made some major dietary changes and drastically simplified my skin care regime that I saw some improvement. This leads me to wonder, for those of us with adult acne, how do we know if our zits are caused by a dietary or dermatology issue?

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of products out there that promise to give you a blemish-free complexion. Additionally, there’s always cosmetics to cover up the redness, bumps, and scarring. If you’re wondering if those products are pricey, the answer is yes, they are. Plus, attempting to clear up your skin while concealing the zits is trial and error.

Scary Mommy reached out to two board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Annie Gonzalez in Miami and Dr. Gretchen Frieling in Boston, to get to the bottom of the adult acne frustrations. We’re tired of handing over our hard-earned cash on products that don’t work, and in some cases, make our skin worse. Plus, what if the root cause of our pimples is something we’re eating? All the facial cleansers, toners, and moisturizers in the world won’t be able to fix an internal issue.

Whom to see first for adult acne?

Dr. Gonzalez says it’s best for a person struggling with adult acne to visit a dermatologist first, because acne is a common problem that dermatologists deal with. “A dermatologist specializes in the treatment of hair, skin, and hails whereas a dietitian or allergist may not have the same information and resources.” However, this doesn’t mean a dermatologist is your be-all, end-all. Dr. Gonzalez told us that a dermatologist can refer a patient to other specialists if necessary.

What causes adult acne?

Dr. Gonzalez says the primary causes of adult acne include physical and emotional stress, hormones, clogged pores, diet, and contact irritation. Hormonal acne may be caused by fluctuations or too much of a hormone which can result in “a pH imbalance of the skin, inflammation, and excess sebum production” (AKA: oil). Stress is problematic in that it can “create biological changes in the body” which is an acne trigger. Anything that rubs the skin, like a mask, razor, or scrub, can irritate, weakening the skin’s protective barrier. There’s some evidence — though not much — that certain foods like dairy, greasy foods, and high-sugar foods may be the culprit (or at least, a contributor).

If at first you don’t succeed, then what?

Dr. Gonzalez wants you to give your prescribed treatment a fair shot, which is ten to twelve weeks. After this, you might need to try a different route, such as a new medication. She wants us to know that it can take time to find the right treatment for your adult acne. Yes, friends, patience is needed.

But it’s hard to be patient with adult acne.

Dr. Frieling suggests we give treatments four to six weeks to begin showing results, and during this time, it is possible we will see more breakouts. She explains, “Whenever we introduce our skin to a new product, especially a chemical exfoliator with strong acids or retinol creams, it has to bring out the junk before getting rid of it.” She also shared that some active ingredients – specifically vitamin A, BHAs, and AHAs — “trigger cell turnover, prompting your skin to exfoliate.” While we prefer a speedier process, we need to know that breaking out isn’t always bad. Rather, it’s a necessary evil in order to bring out what’s lying in the skin’s deeper layers.

What about natural and homemade products?

Dr. Frieling warns us, “Don’t expect the same results as a clinically tested product.” Natural treatments may not only be ineffective, but unfortunately, might even pose danger due to the ingredients. She also says that patients may have allergies, then haphazardly slather products with unknown ingredients onto their faces. She acknowledges that DIY treatments might be more cost effective, and they aren’t always dangerous.

Adult acne can have an emotional impact on a patient.

Anyone who has suffered from adult acne can tell you that blemishes and scarring aren’t just a physical issue. Just like a teenager can have an epic freakout session over a single pimple, an adult can struggle emotionally with their ongoing battle with acne. Dr. Frieling shares, “Certain studies have found that those who suffer from acne experience social, psychological, and emotional problems similar to those with chronic health issues.” If you find yourself canceling social plans due to your acne, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

I was hoping that by my age (close to forty!), I would no longer be combating acne. What I’ve learned is that the journey to clearer skin is rarely quick and simple, but there are products and changes that can help. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan or perfect, natural treatment which is why having experienced, educated professionals guide you is important. My skin isn’t flawless, but I’ve seen a lot of improvement by visiting both a dietitian and a dermatologist.

The post Adult Acne Is A Bummer – Here’s How To Deal appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Tattoos And Trauma: How Body Art Helped Me Overcome An Abusive Past

Trigger warning: physical and sexual abuse.

The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was 16 years old. My “boyfriend” forced me into a compromising position. He gave me an ultimatum: give him a blowjob or get out.

I was first diagnosed with mental illness when I was 17 years old, after years of cutting and self-injury. After a precarious suicide attempt.

I got my first tattoo when I was 18 years old. I gave up my driver’s permit, trading the thin piece of cardstock for a state-issued ID and some ink. And I was physically abused when I was 19 years old. My boyfriend struck me in the face during a fight over a banana.

He gave me a bloody nose and blackened my eye.

And while this was the first time, it wouldn’t be the last time. I collected bruises like my friends collected Beanie Babies or cards. Every day was a different wound. A different battle. A different scar. 

The good news is, eventually things got better. I’m 36 and haven’t been beaten, pushed, kicked, or struck in some time; however, the wounds remained (and, in many ways, still remain) — at least until I turned to body modification. Until I realized the healing that I found in tattoos and body art. 

“Trauma experts encourage us to work from the body out in the course of recovery and healing — to attend to the sensations, senses, and images that carry the imprint of trauma,” Suzanne Phillips, a psychologist and adjunct professor of clinical psychology at Long Island University, tells PsychCentral. “The tattoo’s use of the body to register a traumatic event is a powerful re-doing. It starts at the body’s barrier of protection, the skin, and uses it as a canvas to bear witness, express, release and unlock the viscerally felt impact of trauma.” And this was the case with me.

The first time I was tattooed, I felt empowered. Like I was reclaiming a piece of myself. Of my voice. The second time I knew it wasn’t a fluke. The act transformed me. I felt whole — and healed — and since then I’ve used tattoos to overcome grief, trauma, sadness, and loss. My tattoos aren’t just a part of my story, they are the story. They are pictures of pain and triumph. Of battles won. 

Of course, I am not alone. Many people use tattoos as a means of catharsis for various reasons. Kelli, whose last name is being withheld at her request, told Scary Mommy she used body art to overcome a “difficult crossroads” in her life. 

“Everything was crumbling around me, and my religion and culture were the only things there for me during that trying time — hence why I got a shamrock with a trinity knot.” 

Caitlin Papiner, a childcare provider and educator, admits she used tattoos as a way to stop injuring herself and engaging in self-harm.  

“[Cutting] was a way for me to bring an instant calm to a chaotic emotional overload. When my anger and anxiety would become too much to handle — when my adrenaline was skyrocketing at an insane pace — the ONLY way to drop those levels were to cut and then instantly take a nap. But then I found tattooing and the second I felt that needle, I was instantly calm. It felt like I could finally breathe.”

And Samantha Robinson, a mother of three, shared a similar story.

“I tattooed my left forearm to cover scars from my past. I used to cut as a way to cope from sexual assault in my teenage years. As I got older and found better ways to cope I was embarrassed by the scars. My tattoo brought beauty from pain and reminds me of everything I have overcome. It made me confident again.”

That said, tattoos still get a bad rap. Many associate the art form with deviant, criminal, or sexualized behaviors — hence the terms “prison art” and “tramp stamp.” The notion that tattoos and body modification can be used to heal is also widely debated. Some believe it is a form of social masochism. However, tattoos can be cathartic for many of us, particularly for those (like me) overcoming trauma. In fact, “therapeutic tattoos” represent a powerful pathway to healing and body reclamation.

“In its visibility and in the bearer’s wish to let it be seen, a tattoo can undo the shame so often associated with trauma, war, victimization, and the intergenerational legacy of hidden trauma,” Phillips writes. “Choosing to publically… [share things which are] often hidden, they [tattooed individuals] turn horror to honor and shame to a shout about survival and a mandate to ‘Never Forget.’”

As for me, tattoos have helped me cover physical wounds, bringing new light and life to myself and my body. They have helped me overcome invisible scars. The act of tattooing has actually helped me heal, feeling comfortable in the hands of others. I’ve allowed men (and women) to touch my body in a safe, controlled, and intimate way. What’s more, tattoos have given me a renewed sense of self. Body art has helped me feel more secure in my skin. For me, body art has been transformative, in more ways than one.

Does that mean tattoos are right for everyone? No. Of course not. Tattoos are personal, as is trauma. But there is potential pushed with ink. Power. Tattooing can be motivational, inspirational, and full of healing and hope.

The post Tattoos And Trauma: How Body Art Helped Me Overcome An Abusive Past appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Magnetic Lashes Are All The Rage — But Are They Worth The Hype?

I love a nice, full set of lashes. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried every mascara in the book in order to give me the lashes I want but don’t have. I’ve also tried several serums and went through a spell of getting lash extensions.

Then I heard you can get lash lice, and all my money was going towards keeping my false lashes filled, and I realized I had better things to do with my time and money.

I’ve also tried the glue-on lashes, and though I’ve always loved the way they make my eyes pop, they are hard for me to put on, and there have been too many times I’ve gotten in a fight with the tube of glue and stood over my bathroom sink wondering why I was dedicating a full hour to get my fake lashes on right.

If I could have someone come over every morning and do them for me, I’d definitely sign up, but alas, that’s not happening anytime soon.

When I heard about magnetic lashes, I thought I’d give them a try. I mean, what could be easier than having lashes attach to your eyelids with magnets, right?

I saw women wearing them on Instagram looking fabulous and I figured with a quick “Buy now” press of the finger, they would look just as fab on me … and I wouldn’t have to throw a tantrum applying them.

Only, I didn’t look like the Instagram models when I first tried them. Instead, I looked like someone who’d gotten into a bucket of asphalt and painted it all over my face and hands.

I’ll pause now to admit that following the directions (especially when you are putting something near your eyeballs) is key. There are times when I get too excited and anxious, dive right in, and figure it will all make sense once I get started. This was one of those times.

After putting away my first set of magnetic lashes and thinking they weren’t for me, I talked to a friend who said she’d been using them and loved them. She gave me some much needed pointers:

First, these lashes come with magnetic eyeliner that you apply to your eyelids. It’s imperative that you swipe this on, then let it dry. The first time I did this I didn’t wait long enough, so when I went to adjust my eyelashes, the eyeliner smeared all over the place and I wanted to punch my bathroom mirror and rip those little lashes up and flush them in the toilet.

Word to the wise here: let them dry for a while. My friend said she stretched out her eyelid, applied the eyeliner (it doesn’t have to be perfect, that line will be covered), then she did her hair, and ironed her clothes before she put on her lashes. If she’s short on time, she closes her eyes and gives them a quick blow with her blow dryer.

Waiting longer made all the difference. The second time I tried to put my lashes on, they stuck beautifully.

Another tip you already know if you are a falsie expert is to hold the fake lashes up to your eyeball and measure before applying. If they are too long, go ahead and snip them so they fit on your lid. Eyelash overhang doesn’t look or feel good, folks.

Once I got these key tips down, I was ready to try a few different kinds to see which ones I liked best.

First, I tried Lamix magnetic lashes. They were under $7 and they looked natural, which I liked.

KATIE BINGHAM-SMITH

They went on nicely, and I had to trim them a bit which was easy to do. They stayed on all day and didn’t budge until I washed my face that evening. Removing the magnetic eyeliner is pretty easy — most of it comes off with soap and water. I did have to remove a bit more with a makeup wipe after, but it came right off.

You can definitely feel them on your eyelids. The magnetic kind are heavier than their lash-glue counterparts, but easier to remove so it evens out.

KATIE BINGHAM-SMITH

Next, I tried the EARLLER Magnetic lash and eyeliner kit. I decided on this one because it came with two tubes of the liner and seven different styles of eyelashes to try for under $15. 

KATIE BINGHAM-SMITH

These fit my eyelids perfectly and I didn’t have to trim them at all. The magnets in all of these lashes were a bit heavier than the Lamix and give the appearance of wearing heavier dark eyeliner — a look I love on other people — but I’ve never been able to pull off black eyeliner no matter how much I blend or experiment.

KATIE BINGHAM-SMITH

My skin is fair and my eyes are close-set, so maybe that has something to do with it. I’m sure a makeup artist could give me some tips, and perhaps there’s a way to blend the black line a bit, but I am far from a makeup expert. I tried these with my usual beige eyeshadow I wear everyday and finished them off with some mascara I’m not sure I needed. You could definitely skip that and wear these lashes naturally.

The EARLLER lasted all day as well, and everything washed off that evening with my face wash and water. 

So, while I love these magnetic lashes on other people and do agree they are a lot easier to use, they just don’t look good on me because of the dark line they leave on my upper lids. 

If you can pull off that look, you will love magnetic lashes — and also the fact that most pairs can be reused quite a few times and are easy to take off. Since it’s such a hot trend lately, there are magnetic lashes at just about every price point; one Scary Mommy editor swears by MoxieLash, which cost up to $30 a pair, but the cheaper ones are far lower risk to experiment with.

They really are fun to play around with, and now all my girlfriends love wearing them for date night.

As for me, and everybody else who has trouble with a dark black line, I’m hoping they will come up with clear magnetic liner and clear magnets for the lashes so I can partake in this trend with more confidence … and give people lash envy to boot. 

The post Magnetic Lashes Are All The Rage — But Are They Worth The Hype? appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Girls Are Undergoing Labiaplasty, And We Need to Talk About It

For the vast majority of cisgender girls, the physical changes in puberty can feel downright uncomfortable. We get periods, grow breasts, sweat more, discover hair in spots we didn’t expect. Compounded with this is the gross lack of information presented to us about the awesome individuality of our bodies. Not only have we been cheated out of some kickass female empowerment lessons as kids and teens, but we’ve also been conditioned through the media and beauty industry to see skewed images of women that give us a ton of anxiety if our physical parts didn’t match up to them.

There are two really important topics in my high school health class that no one ever covered, and I really wish they had. They are the sexual pleasure we as females deserve to receive and experience, and that it’s normal AF to have your labia look unique to you. Can you imagine if our teachers had been given free rein to openly discuss the undeniable magic of the clitoris and how female orgasms have unexpected health benefits, or if they had shared with us this nifty photo gallery courtesy of The Labia Library? I know I personally would’ve been getting my big O on a little earlier had I known how to actually make it happen and felt totally cool to doodle underneath that poster of my teenage crush Angelina Jolie hanging in my bedroom. Instead, I was taught to see my reproductive parts as two main things — the source of my generationally stigmatized menstrual cycle, and that spot where the unprotected sex need never happen. 

Seriously though. Maybe, just maybe, if our educational institutions acknowledged the very real and very deserving perks of having a vagina, the right to choose what to do with it, and the confidence that comes with allowing ourselves the pleasure of enjoying it, we might not have a growing number of teenage girls feeling so ashamed of their vaginas that they’re going to extreme lengths to surgically alter them. 

I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. According to the BBC, over the past five years in particular, girls as young as nine have been seeking out cosmetic labiaplasty and going under the knife to voluntarily trim their labia in an effort to make it appear closer to what they think one is “supposed” to look like. And yes, our adolescents are most definitely being exposed to images of vaginas online and taking mental notes, I can assure you. They’re also looking at their own body parts in confusion and potential disgust, because they don’t have the necessary resources around them to understand that each labia is different in its size, shape, and composition. Hell, there’s even a surgery available to fuse the outer labia together like a clam shell called “The Barbie,” and it’s gaining popularity among teens. 

This is obviously a terrifying reality, considering that Barbie is completely made of plastic and doesn’t even have a vagina. 

“Labiaplasty, which is the trimming of the inner and outer labia, is the fastest-growing cosmetic surgery among teenage girls,” says “Girls and Sex” author Peggy Orenstein in her 2016 Ted Talk. “It rose 80 percent between 2014 and 2015, and whereas girls under 18 comprise two percent of all cosmetic surgeries, they are five percent of labiaplasty.”

Between 2013 and 2018, The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that labiaplasty surgeries have seen a 53% increase, with more than 35 million dollars spent in 2018 on the procedure and 12,756 total surgeries performed. Of those documented procedures, 491 had been performed on girls under the age of 17.

Between 2018 and 2019, The American Society of Plastic Surgeons noticed a 9% increase in cosmetic labiaplasty procedures, and I can only imagine that girls and teens may very well still be an active demographic for those seeking out the procedure. There are also few extensive guidelines for screening adolescents prior to surgical approval. This poses a huge risk to our girls in more ways than one. Since their outer labia doesn’t finish growing until they turn 18, there is the great potential for scarring and even asymmetrical genitals if an adolescent surgically alters her vulva before it’s had a chance to properly grow.

“The labiaplasty trend has become so worrisome that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued a statement on the procedure, which is rarely medically indicated, has not been proven safe and whose side effects include scarring, numbness, pain and diminished sexual sensation,” explains Orenstein. “Now, admittedly, and blessedly, the number of girls involved is still quite small, but you could see them as canaries in a coal mine, telling us something important about the way girls see their bodies.”

Just months before the author’s groundbreaking Ted Talk, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published an article stating that the surgical alteration of the labia is not necessary to the health of an adolescent girl, and it can even be considered a violation of federal criminal law in many cases. And yet, girls under 18 have still been getting this procedure, with one of the only major screening guidelines suggested being the examination of whether a young patient has body dysmorphia

For these impressionable young girls, the desire to cosmetically alter their genitals can often stem from our society’s impossible beauty standards and the media imagery they compare their bodies to, along with the infuriating lack of positive sex education available to them in school. According to Orenstein, this assuredly results in female adolescents feeling shame and the fear of humiliation if their anatomy does match up with what they may see online, keeps them from prioritizing their own pleasure during sexual encounters, and leads a bunch of girls to even avoid self-exploration. 

“Kids go into their puberty education classes and they learn that boys have erections and ejaculations, and girls have periods and unwanted pregnancy,” she says. “And they see that internal diagram of a woman’s reproductive system — you know, the one that looks kind of like a steer head — and it always grays out between the legs. So we never say ‘vulva,’ we certainly never say ‘clitoris.’ No surprise, fewer than half of teenage girls age 14 to 17 have ever masturbated. And then they go into their partnered experience and we expect that somehow they’ll think sex is about them, that they’ll be able to articulate their needs, their desires, their limits. It’s unrealistic.”

Obviously, a major fucking shift needs to happen here. It’s ridiculous enough that there is still an overwhelming amount of stigma around periods and postpartum bodies, not to mention living with racist and discriminatory industries that constantly pick apart our perceived physical “flaws” in order to profit off of the self-loathing they helped to create. We don’t need to add into this harmful mix the damaging reality of teens thinking that their vaginas are a problem to be fixed or an area devoid of pleasure. And we certainly don’t need them seeking out a cosmetic genital surgery named after Barbie.

The post Girls Are Undergoing Labiaplasty, And We Need to Talk About It appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Plastic Surgery Has Been In High Demand During COVID-19

I have largely avoided mirrors for the better part of the last three years. After my husband died, my self-esteem took a vicious hit—something about no longer being able to see myself the way he saw me, and not recognizing the grief-ravaged face that stared back at me. I’ve slowly been working on rebuilding that self-esteem, but it’s a process. For example, I would (reluctantly) get into the picture with my kids and not pick apart the image too much, but I absolutely would not take a selfie or use FaceTime.

And then the pandemic hit. The world shut down and everything, from my children’s school to the Pilates studio where I teach, went virtual. Suddenly, I found myself on FaceTime and Zoom all the time. I was staring at my face more often than I ever wanted to. I could see the lines and dark circles that hadn’t been there before at the most unflattering angles I could think of.

It was hard not to criticize what I saw. And by hard, I mean nearly impossible. And then I found the Zoom “touch up my appearance” feature. It softened a few lines and blurred a few imperfections, and suddenly, thanks to a digital touch-up, what I was seeing wasn’t so bad.

As it turns out, this time, my widowhood was not to blame for the hypercritical way I looked at my fine lines and dark circles. This time, in feeling a little less than when I saw my face staring back at me on Zoom, I wasn’t alone. Plastic surgeons across the country, and in many parts of the world are seeing a rise in the number of patients seeking cosmetic procedures. Botox, fillers, and other cosmetic surgeries are on the rise during the pandemic, and more people are considering procedures.

According to a survey conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons on attitudes towards plastic surgery in the wake of COVID-19, 49% of respondents who had never before had any plastic surgery say they are open to having cosmetic or reconstructive procedures completed in the future.

If the fact that plastic surgeons are booking appointments out a month in advance and more people are considering cosmetic procedures than ever before is surprising to you, you aren’t alone. Dr. Suneel Chilukuri, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in Houston, told InStyle magazine that his team had been discussing the potential of downsizing, expecting a significant lull as the pandemic’s financial and mental toll took hold. Instead, he’s rushing to expand his staff.

The rise could be explained simply. Many patients see the stay-at-home orders and the requirement to wear a mask in public as a way to stealthily heal from any procedures. Events are canceled, and folks are staying home. When they do go out, any procedure related bruising or swelling can be covered by a mask. But that wouldn’t really explain why surgeons around the world are seeing a surge of first time patients.

One theory offered up by Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, to explain the rise in interest in cosmetic procedures is that on Zoom, “[y]ou see yourself the way others do, but you are also adopting an alienating perspective on yourself. When we do this, we start imagining all the judgments people could make on us, and our insecurities can manifest in what we say to ourselves.”

Other people’s judgments shouldn’t matter. The judgments we imagine other people are making should matter even less. We all know that to be true. And yet, it’s sometimes hard not to let the whispers slide in. Sometimes those whispers slide in so insidiously, weaved in to messages we subconsciously receive about how terrible aging is, that we don’t realize they’re there until they’ve taken hold.

Dr. Heather Furnas, a plastic surgeon at Plastic Surgery Associates in Santa Rosa, California, and an adjunct clinical professor of plastic surgery at Stanford University, offered up another theory. She says, “Some of [the patients] will say they see themselves on Zoom and they just want to feel better. In this crazy time, I think people are looking for something to make them feel better about themselves.”

This is a theory that makes sense to me. In my early widowhood, it was easier to focus on my dark circles than the fact that I was suddenly facing a lifetime alone. I could buy a few dozen creams for dark circles, but there was no product anywhere that would make my loneliness fade. Maybe for many folks it’s easier to focus on fine lines than the terrifying state of the world outside that little Zoom box.

There’s an inherent element of privilege in this conversation, of course. Cosmetic procedures can be expensive. Millions of people lost their jobs due to the pandemic and are struggling to afford food and rent. These procedures also take time, including time to heal. And not everyone has the ability to do all their work from home, on Zoom, where they could stare at themselves in a little box and pick apart the face on the little box in the corner.

We’re all navigating a life we never pictured we’d be navigating. Most of us—maybe all of us—are feeling completely beaten down by this pandemic, and we’re looking for a way to feel less beaten down. For some it might be training for a marathon or binge watching every episode of Friends. For some, that might mean turning to cosmetic procedures.

The truth I learned during the earliest days of my widowhood and again now, is that whatever you turn to, whatever choice you make to feel a little less beaten down during an impossible time, is your choice. But make your choice for you, for your confidence and your happiness, and not for those insidious whispers. Those whispers don’t know the strength and beauty in your every breath like you do.

The post Plastic Surgery Has Been In High Demand During COVID-19 appeared first on Scary Mommy.

A Dermatologist Answers Your Questions About Acne and Masks

I’ll keep it real. Wearing a face mask isn’t comfortable for me, but I do it anyway because I want to protect myself and others from the coronavirus. I’ve tried several masks, and most were flops. I wasn’t trying to look cute. I simply wanted a mask that was reasonably priced and comfortable. Unfortunately, some that I tried were too hard to breathe in, while others caused “maskne.”

What’s maskne, you might be wondering? It’s acne that you can get from wearing a mask. I know you thought you were done with blemishes after that long (and horrendous) stint during your teen years, but acne can come back with a vengeance when wearing a mask. Cue Debbie Downer. If you’re experiencing a similar problem, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about maskne, including what it is and what you can do to remedy it.

Acne from masks, defined.

Dr. Elizabeth Mullans, a board-certified dermatologist, shared with Scary Mommy that face masks absolutely can cause acne. She reported that masks “trap sweat, skin oil and saliva against the skin, therefore disrupting the protective skin barrier and causing irritation.” It gets worse. “Bacteria can then penetrate the skin barrier and cause pimples, while skin oil and products can clog the pores,” she shared. This chain-of-events can lead to pimples, pustules, and blackheads. Ew.

Summer and mask-wearing can cause double trouble.

Plus, it’s summer. Dr. Mullans told us that thicker masks can cause a person to sweat underneath and around the mouth. Given the heat and humidity, which is downright oppressive in some areas, she suggests we opt for a lighter-fabric mask that has breathable material. She also says we should avoid masks made of synthetic materials, especially those of us with more sensitive skin. Aim for a mask that’s made of 100% cotton, because it absorbs moisture and is less irritating than other typical mask materials.

Work to find the right mask for your skin.

The season, plus your skin type, plus your mask materials can make for a trifecta of failure, which is why it’s important to heed the advice of professionals. You may need to drop some dough to find the perfect mask for you, being aware that as the season (and weather) change, you may need a different type of mask. Those of us who wear glasses also need to experiment with different masks due to lens-fogging. Whatever mask you wear, make sure it covers your mouth and your nose. Wearing a mask only over your mouth is defeating the purpose.

Wear the mask.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, again, but please wear the mask you choose. Though all this maskne talk and experience is gross, you aren’t getting a skip-wearing-a-mask pass. Many public arenas, churches, and medical facilities are requiring that entrants wear a mask and keep it on for the health and safety of everyone. After each wear, you need to wash your mask.

Wash your mask properly.

Dr. Mullans shares that it’s important to properly wash your mask in hot water using a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic detergent. Every time you wear the mask, it will need to be washed afterward, since masks attract dust and bacteria. This means, of course, that you need multiple masks for each family member. It’s a good idea to have multiple masks anyway, in case one gets lost or damaged.

Sun protection matters.

One question you might have is about sun protection. If you wear a mask, do you still need to wear sunblock? The answer is yes. Dr. Mullans shares that the mask only covers part of your face. Some people are concerned about the heavier, thicker sunscreens causing acne and discomfort, which is a legitimate worry. Dr. Mullans suggests looking into facial moisturizers, many of which contain a 30 or higher SPF, which she recommends everyone wear daily. It’s never a good idea to ditch the sun protection and increase your cancer risk. Plus, there’s no guarantee the mask is providing you the necessary SPF in the area it’s covering.

Carefully choose your cosmetics.

Some of us already struggle with adult acne. Doesn’t wearing makeup under our masks only make the problem worse? Dr. Mullans says yes, and suggests skipping on putting on makeup under your mask, particularly products you might layer, like foundation. When purchasing makeup, do your research. The best choice is cosmetics that are labeled non-comedogenic. If you need an alternative to heavier products like foundations and powders, she suggests finding a tinted moisturizer.

Wash your face.

Just in case you need to be reminded, wash your face. Doing so means taking a proactive approach to maskne. Wash your face twice a day using a gentle cleanser to get rid of dirt build up and clogged pores. She also suggests looking into a biotin supplement to help overall skin health. Don’t wear your makeup to bed or when exercising, says my own dermatologist.

Experiencing acne at any age is no fun, but luckily there are steps we can take to ditch the maskne that may crop up. None of us want one more issue to deal with right now, including the redness, bumps, and inevitable too-much-concealer that comes with zits. We have enough on our plates with the pandemic.

The post A Dermatologist Answers Your Questions About Acne and Masks appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Baking Your Skin To A Crisp Is Not Cute — It’s Dangerous

We need to have a chat about tanning. I guess I knew that people are still purposely subjecting themselves to UV exposure for the sole purpose of darkening their skin. I’ve just been a pale, sunscreen-loving, hang-out-in-the-shade kind of gal for so long that I had almost forgotten.

My summertime Instagram feed has provided a stark reminder. I can’t even count the number of ads coming across my social media feeds for products designed to make your tan deeper or more intense.

Everywhere I turn, I see images of shiny, browned legs baking in the sun, bottles of suntan oil tossed casually in the corner of the photo. (I’m not going to gloss over the fact that many of these are taken on crowded beaches. Hello? Pandemic. Knock that shit off.)

I don’t know why we are still doing this in 2020. Tanning is pretty dangerous, y’all.

I admit I did some stupid tanning-related things in my teens a few times. Who didn’t? But I’ve learned a thing or two since then. Nobody in my adult life has ever described my summertime skin as bronze or glowy or golden. Genetics gave me skin that tans easily, but I choose to keep my natural skintone year-round.

I’m not the only one who keeps it pasty around here. My kids inherited my blond husband’s fair skin, and I am serious about protecting every one of us. I’m really careful about sun exposure for my entire family. We might be pale even in July, but we are doing our very best to keep our skin healthy.

I know that we are all pretty conditioned to the idea that pale skin looks nicer with a “healthy glow” from sun exposure, but the reality is that using UV—from the sun or a tanning bed—specifically to get browner skin is actually not healthy at all. Of course, we should enjoy the sunshine and spend time outdoors in the fresh air, but we should also respect what UV can do to our skin and be smart and safe.

As we all know by now, tanning is a great way to get yourself a deep, rich skin tone—and a nasty case of skin cancer.

There are a zillion types of skin cancer. None of them are good news, but malignant melanoma is especially dangerous, and it’s linked in many cases to sun exposure.

You might have read about Bethany Greenway on Scary Mommy a couple summers ago. She had to have a pretty significant part of her face removed as a result of melanoma. She chose to share photos of her journey through the melanoma process.  They are difficult to look at—so imagine how much more difficult it was to live it.

Greenway’s message after her ordeal was clear: “Please stop sun bathing and going to tanning salons. A tan isn’t a healthy glow — it’s damaged skin.”

If you missed Bethany’s story, you might remember our article about Mallory Lubbock, who had to have a cancerous spot removed from her upper lip due to tanning bed usage.

“Is tan skin REALLY worth it?” she asks. “This will scar, and this HURT. I am now the mom at the beach with the umbrella, and my spf 100 HEAVILY applied. Never, ever, ever did I think this would happen to me (who does?)”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my eyebrows and mustache waxed a time or two, and it hurts. The face is a sensitive area. Even a big zit can get a little throbby. I don’t want to imagine the pain of having a chunk of my face removed, or the terror of wondering if I would survive skin cancer.

I had a scare with an ovarian mass a few years ago, and the weeks I spent waiting for surgery and then holding my breath for test results were the scariest time of my life. My mass was benign, but the experience humbled me completely. If I can reduce my risk of skin cancer just by choosing to be unfashionably pale, sign me up. I never want to look back with regret, wondering if my bronze glow was worth it.

As scary as these stories are, these two brave women had happy endings. They caught the cancer at a time when it could be treated. They lived to warn the rest of us.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States in 2020 over 100,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed, and around 6,850 people are expected to die from the disease.

Almost seven thousand families will lose someone they love this year from melanoma. That’s scary and hard to think about. And it’s plenty of reason to avoid tanning and take care of our skin in the sun.

Tanning seems like a grown-up issue, but sun protection during childhood is so important.

According to the American Cancer Society, research suggests that melanoma is linked to intense sun exposure or sunburns as a child and teenager. “This early sun exposure may damage the DNA (genes) in skin cells called melanocytes, which starts them on a path to becoming melanoma cells many years later.” Yikes.

Chronic sun exposure throughout the course of a person’s life (like, ya know, laying in the sun or a tanning bed for long periods of time on purpose) is the second way UV is linked to melanoma. They warn, “tanning booths might help either kind of melanoma to develop.”

It’s time to toss the tanning habit out the window. Enjoy the sun with your family, but do so safely. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher for everyone (regardless of skin tone!), every time you’re going to be in the sun.  They also recommend relaxing in the shade, and wearing clothing that protects the portions of your skin that will be most susceptible to UV exposure.

While nobody can prevent skin cancer completely, protecting yourself from the sun and tanning bed can contribute to your chance at a full life with cancer-free skin.

Once and for all: Baking your skin to a crisp is dangerous, and not cute.

The post Baking Your Skin To A Crisp Is Not Cute — It’s Dangerous appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Owning My Blackness, Hair and All

Black women and our hair, the act of getting it done, spending hours (typically the better part of an entire day, or say 5+ hours) at the salon, the waiting, the routine of it all, it is an activity that has in some ways, defined us. It has inevitably allowed us to create a kind of community among us, a haven of sorts where we can figuratively wash away the troubles around us.

As a child, going to the salon was a family affair. Every other Saturday morning, I’d drive with my maternal grandmother, aunts, and cousin and we’d sit for long periods. We would ping pong between the dryer and the hairstylist’s chair, waiting our turn to get our ‘do done. For myself and many other Black women, it was one of the ways we found a space to explore our own identity.

For so many years, more than I’d like to admit to, I fought against getting the hairstyle I have today, sisterlocks. In the ’80s I donned a Jheri curl. In the ’90s, it was a svelte cropped cut, which I’d sometimes swap out for long synthetic braids which were interlocked into my hair. Then in the ‘00s came the flat-iron.

By 2011, I’d had enough of my trips to the salon, enough of traveling the winding road to find another hairstylist because I’d moved to a new city. I was ready to embrace who I was, and root myself a little deeper into my Blackness, not to mention save money. I decided to do the big chop and wear the hair on my head exactly as it grew out of it: no alterations or any modifications of any kind.

As my hair grew out, so did my confidence. I had more money in my pocket, opting to take on the responsibility of my hair maintenance on my own. I also grew into my skin more. I began to own my Blackness in a way that I’d never done before. Not only did I have hair confidence, but confidence in my body too. My thighs, the same ones I thought were once too big and jiggly, I appreciated more for carrying me. And I chose to view my nose and my dark skin as badges of honor, finally appreciating them for the beauty. 

My wife, on one of our very first dates, asked me “Have you ever tried dreadlocks? I love them!” The disgusted look on my face and the explanation which followed turned her question into a yearly one, but one she would never let go of. After my twin daughters were born, I could not bear giving myself five minutes to even take a shower let alone commit two hours needed to twist my hair every other day and maintain it the way it needed. The idea of committing to something as permanent as sisterlocks became more of a reality with each passing day. So I spent twenty-seven hours in my new hairstylist’s chair, known as a loctician in the sisterlocks community — with a sore butt and all, kind of like what your ass feels like after your first spin class when it was all said and done. I then paid her close to $1,000 for her work and had 520 mini locs to show for it. I was all in; there was no turning back now. 

With my hair done and a slight fear that I would not like it tomorrow when I looked in the mirror, this ‘do was something I said I would never actually do. So why now, in 2020, did I decide to finally lock my hair? Why did I find myself losing countless hours on YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest searching up “sisterlocks” or “natural hair” or drooling at the sight of Naptural85’s loose luscious curls or Jess_inprogress_’s gorgeous locks? This hair community, albeit online, was now my community. I could “be” in the salon with thousands of other black women, with sisterlocks or natural hair, who for so many years, I would have given the side-eye to.

Now, I am one of them. Not only were they introducing me to different hairstyles or ways of life, but they were (without even knowing it) reintroducing me to myself, to who I am as a Black woman, hair and all. With each swipe left or right on Instagram, I felt empowered to live more confidently in my skin. I began to pack up the notion I’d told myself over the years, that dreadlocks and sisterlocks would make me “too Black.” If this was the story I told myself, then wearing my straightened ‘do meant that I was not Black enough, didn’t it?

What I truly know now, as a 38-year-old Black woman, is this: I am me. I am a work in progress. I am not searching any longer for something on the outside to make me whole on the inside. All I need is right here within my Black body, hair, and all.

The post Owning My Blackness, Hair and All appeared first on Scary Mommy.