It’s the time of year for self-improvements of various kinds, and don’t even let me hear you open your whine-hole about how laaaaaaame and superfiiiiicial it is when people talk about diets in January, because 1) get back to us when you’re done volunteering in Haiti, Mr. Deep and Meaningful, and 2) maybe you should ask yourself why people feeling motivated and having goals makes you so uncomfortable.

Anyway! I have some lame and superficial things I’ve been thinking about lately, starting with my face.

I’ve been pretty unhappy with my skin for a while now. Somewhere back at the beginning of the summer I started getting this rashy sort of breakout around my chin, which I assumed was a rosacea flareup of some kind possibly associated with switching to cheaper skincare. I went back to the higher quality makeups, moisturizers, cleansers, but nothing helped, so I finally saw a dermatologist. (Leading to an amusing first visit where he carefully asked, with female assistant present, if the issue I was there to discuss was above or below my waist.)

The dermatologist thought it probably wasn’t rosacea but some kind of dermatitis, although he wasn’t really sure what it was. He gave me some antibiotics which in turn gave me nasty headaches, so I went back and he prescribed a different round of antibiotics which made my stomach unhappy.

Fuck this, I thought, and resigned myself to shitty skin.

It’s gotten worse in the last couple months, though, so when I saw AndreAnna talking about the Oil Cleansing Method I decided to give it a try. You can read about it on her site (and there are some handy additional links at the bottom of her post), but basically the idea is to clean your face using a mixture of castor oil and some other vegetable oil.

(I notice that many people who are fans of the oil cleansing method have pretty bottles of organic castor oil, but I bought mine in the drugstore. The bottle said STIMULANT LAXATIVE FOR RELIEF OF CONSTIPATION in very, very, very large letters.)

After trying it for a few days, I’m a new fan. I’m using about 30% castor oil and 70% grapeseed oil, mixed together and rubbed into my face nightly. It sounds so awful, doesn’t it? Rubbing oil on your face? But I swear to god my skin feels like a baby’s buttcheek afterwards. My pores are smaller, my face looks smoother, that bullshit on my chin is less inflamed and not raised like it was.

I also got a Clarisonic Mia after hearing more and more rave reviews about this device (plus it’s made by the Sonicare folks, and I am purely addicted to my Sonicare), and I’ve been using that in the mornings. No soap, just a quick buzz over my face in the morning during my shower. This, I think, is helping with some of the flakiness I am also prone to.

It’s too early to unreservedly endorse the expensive Clarisonic, but I think I’d recommend the oil method to anyone, even if you just try it as an occasional facial.

These aren’t very good before/after photos, but the first is intended to show the Chin Yuck from a week ago, the second was taken this morning with minimal makeup.



Okay! Next thing: diet.

I’ve been having a really hard time breaking out of an ongoing habit of dieting followed closely by wild junk food abandon. It would probably be okay if I could keep the junk binges under some sort of control, but they’re getting much longer than the stretches of healthy eating. I’ve gained a fair amount of muscle in the last few months thanks to CrossFit, but I’ve also piled on some fat. My jeans don’t fit, I don’t like the way I look, I don’t like the way I feel.

To help me stay on track with meals, if only to force myself to be more thoughtful about food before mindlessly shoveling it in, I started a daily food diary. I’m not entirely diligent with this, but I try and document meals via photo, and more recently, CrossFit workouts.

At total cross-purposes with the obsessive food-journalling, I’m reading Geneen Roth’s When Food is Love. It’s often a little too . . . touchy-feely for me, but there were some passages that sort of reached out and grabbed me by the collar.

I’m going to post them without comment on what they mean for me personally, because that’s probably a whole different blog post.

Love is the willingness and ability to be affected by another human being and to allow that effect to make a difference in what you do, say, become. […] Compulsion is the act of wrapping ourselves around an activity (…) to numb our experience of the moment.

We create drama by externalizing our pain, by making things hard between ourselves in relationships instead of being honest about how hard it is inside ourselves. […] Compulsive eating is fabulous theater. It is replete with all the elements of good tragedy: rage, frustration, grief, sorrow, fear, happiness, hope, exhilaration, excasty.

You never have to do anything but go on extravagant binges and rigid diets (…) to experience the vitality and intensity most people define as being alive. You never have to let another human being come close.

Something is wrong when we feel we have to deprive ourselves of foods we love because we believe we would abuse them—or ourselves—if we allowed them in our lives. Something is wrong and we are using food to express it.

The choice is exactly the same for all of us—alcoholics, drug addicts, smokers, compulsive eaters: Do I want to live while I’m alive and embrace what sustains me or do I want to die while I’m still alive and embrace what destroys me?

Really interesting and insightful stuff. I’m going to read more of her books.

Lastly! I’ve decided to try and take part in Flickr’s Project 365, where the idea is to take a photo a day throughout the year. It’s been, you know, all of five days, so we’ll see if I can keep it up, but so far it’s a fun daily activity. No rule that says it’s too late to join, should you feel so inclined.

Jan 1:


Jan 2:


Jan 3:


Jan 4:


Now, tell me: what’s new in your 2011? Any personal improvement goals you’re working on, however superficial?


69 Responses to “Surface polish”

  1. deanna on January 6th, 2011 5:41 pm

    just a thought on the skin: have you softened your water? i dont know what seattle water is like, but i grew up in buffalo (home to some of the hardest water on the planet!) and always had issues with dry, yucky, flaky skin. when i moved to nyc (home to some of the most amazing, softest water on the planet!) i noticed a total difference in my skin. even going home for xmas this year my skin freaked out and got all flaky in just a few days. its still recovering! might not be the answer or anything, but it might help.

    also, im doing project 365 this year, too!

  2. transientxpress on January 6th, 2011 7:29 pm

    I’ve heard Women, Food, and God is a great read on food relationships and body image, though I’ve not read it myself. Personally, I have been playing around with Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbooks that incorporate vegetable purees into regular dishes for healthier options. Some recipes are blander than I care for, but I can experiment with that. I just enjoy knowing I’m picking healthier foods without really dieting. And, per my new year resolution, I’m back to yoga. Aaaahhh! It hurts so good. And the ending meditation gives me time to reflect on how hard my body worked for me during my practice. Finding I have more respect for my body that way. Good stuff.

  3. KS on January 6th, 2011 8:08 pm

    I read “Women Food and God” and it changed my whole way of thinking about myself. New and improved, now with less self-loathing!

    Then I read “Intuitive Eating” and all the rest of the Roth books, and tried to find intuitive eating blogs, except there aren’t many out there.

    I’ve been at it for almost a year now. Making peace with food is a process. I’ve put on some weight (for now) but the everyday sense of calm and relief is incredible.

  4. Velocibadgergirl on January 6th, 2011 11:42 pm

    My main resolution / goal thingie is to declutter my house and life in a big way this year. I’m also hoping to do a daily post on Grace in Small Things.

    Secretly I also want to find a new job and get back into my pre-baby jeans this year.

  5. Karen on January 7th, 2011 9:04 am

    Dude. I am an avid reader of both your blog and your twitter feeds, but because I can’t be bothered to figure out how to use Twitter, just wanted to recommend the following TV programs: Party Down, Dollhouse (done by the Firefly guy), Eastbound and Down. So fun.

  6. Sara on January 7th, 2011 10:21 am

    I just wrote a post about my health journey and how Geneen helped me! I agree about the touchy-feely aspect of it, but man, her books changed my life anyway.

  7. Tatiana on January 7th, 2011 12:17 pm

    About the face-funk: try honey as a cleanser. I use Fresh’s lemon oil based cleanser and I love it, smells like a dream. When I get my monthly break-out I do a honey mask at night: spread it on dry skin, wait five minutes, rinse with warm water. It dries out the bumps right away.

  8. Chloe on January 7th, 2011 11:32 pm

    I actually don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I suppose my resolution this year is to keep doing what I’m doing (I’ve lost 30 pounds since April of last year, and have continued exercising for like 6 months with reasonable regularity, a personal record).

    I tried OCM a few years ago, it didn’t work for me, but I hope it does for you, the chin is looking much better! I make my own homemade cold cream, it’s easy and fits my lazy personality. Smear cold cream on face in shower. Wipe off with hot wet washcloth. Done. No moisturizer needed, and my skin is much better than ever before.

    Also, I like the pictures so far for the challenge.

  9. Nicole on January 8th, 2011 5:56 am

    I have the Clarisonic Mia and my rosacea is 80% better after using it for 8 months. I buy the blue heads (ultra sensitive) off of ebay as they are much cheaper (you get 2 for the price you pay for 1 at Ulta). The cleanser that comes with it irritated my face so I use CeraVa. I am down to some surface capillaries, slight pink tone and no drugs.

    Depending on how the year goes, I may spend some money and get a few passes with the laser on the capillaries and around my eyes.

  10. lonek8 on January 8th, 2011 10:32 am

    thanks for the tips on the Oil cleansing Method. I’ve already been using sweet almond oil at night as a moisturizer and it works so wonderfully – I’m going to have to try adding a bit of castor oil in and going full OCM.

  11. Julia on January 8th, 2011 5:58 pm

    Hey, your book reminds me- the book that changed my life in terms of my relationship with food and with my body: “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies.” Seriously. When it comes to dieting and food-related stuff, I think of my adult life as Before and After reading that book.

    Happy New Year!

  12. Jen - Mom of 4 on January 8th, 2011 6:02 pm

    I have decided that even though I really want to loose the weight I regained this past year, that what I really need to do is to concentrate on being healthy. I am exercising 5 times a week and have cut my running time from 30 minutes for 1 mile to 15 minutes. I’m going to embrace those accomplishments and vow to continue them in 2011.

    It’s also the year of getting our finances in order – boring but necessary.

    Also, my 7 year old went bat-shit crazy for your photo of the web shooter idea! He thought all the ideas were well thought out and asked when we could make one :0)

  13. Ser on January 9th, 2011 5:10 am

    I think this might be my very first comment, although I read regularly. I have recently read my first Roth book, and, like you, found some of it a little much, but overall really interesting and helpful. That is one of my big goals this year: to try to get a mental grip on my junk food binging. I don’t even really care about the extra 10 lb. I carry (come on, I’ve had three kids, who really cares?) but I don’t like the mental stuff that goes along with it. My other goal is to blog regularly again.

    Your photos are beautiful.

  14. Alice on January 9th, 2011 3:41 pm

    Oh I love the idea of the tumbler visual food diary! Not only great for keeping accountable but also inspiration for later days if you are hungry and cant decide what to eat.

    Infact, I’ve decided to start my own! Thankyou! and best of luck with it all!


  15. Josefina on January 9th, 2011 3:58 pm

    Congrats on the face! I’m happy for you.

    This year I want to exercise more regularly to counteract the effects of stress. First I need to get my back healthy enough so I can do that, so there is another goal. In general, I’d like to take my stress more seriously and really try to deal with it rather than letting it control me.

    THANK YOU for the bit at the beginning of your post: “maybe you should ask yourself why people feeling motivated and having goals makes you so uncomfortable.” YES. I’m pretty bitchy at times, but I really am growing weary of it, and of hearing all the bitchitivity and…vitriol spewed from this source and that. Maybe that’s another goal of mine: to surround myself with less of that. Did I read too much into what you said? Sorry if yes.

  16. Carolyn on January 12th, 2011 10:49 pm

    I also thought your hair looked fabulous (and wished that mine would look that nice! Without effort, though. I don’t know if you have to work hard for your hair or not). I don’t think I’m prepared to switch to an oil based method of cleansing, but every so often I do use almond oil as a skin treatment – I just smear it all over my face, leave it on while I take a bath or do some chores, and then wash it off later with my regular cleanser. It is amazing sometimes how your skin can break out in reaction to being too DRY, and the oil really helps with that!

  17. Leah on January 13th, 2011 8:57 pm

    I use an oil cleanser made by DHC (a Japanese skin care line) – you can find it online at

    They’ll send you free samples if you ask!

  18. QID: On New Years Resolutions | Brouhaha on January 18th, 2011 4:26 pm

    […] I Dig from “Surface Polish” at All & Sundry: ‘It’s the time of year for self-improvements of various kinds, […]

  19. Now We’re Cleansing With Oil « Logy Express on February 22nd, 2011 7:21 pm

    […] one of the most counter intuitive things I’ve read about in a long time. But if people on the internet jump off a […]

Leave a Reply