Monday, August 10, 2009

Rosie Redface

The last time I had a pregnancy complaint, it was regarding my inability to sleep in any position except on my back, which happens to be the one position that pregnant ladies are supposed to avoid. Well, no sooner was that gripe cured (with the help of the fantastic Snoogle pillow) that another, even more irritating issue arose...

For the past month or so, I've noticed that my face has been red, blotchy, and what can only be described as speckly. Each morning I stumble into the bathroom hoping to see my usually alabaster (some would say "pasty" but I prefer delightful euphemisms like "alabaster" and "porcelain" instead, dammit) visage staring back at me, and every morning I am disappointed with a monochrome Jackson Pollack of sorts, stretching from my cheeks down to my chin.

Anyone who knows me well can understand the depth of my frustration with this. I have been obsessed with skincare for my entire adolescent and adult life, since my father first gave me a worn issue of Seventeen magazine, already dog-eared from countless patients rifling through it at his office. For a pre-pubescent small town girl, Seventeen's grinning, bouncing models were the very height of sophistication, and I took every skincare article deeply to heart. Soon I was doing home facials, steaming my skin over a pot of boiling water, then smearing on a green drugstore face mask and sitting with cucumbers over my eyes. My pink, flowery, little girl bedroom would become a personal spa for the afternoon while I toned, moisturized, and examined every pore. As I grew older, next came my zealous, near-fanatical obsession with sunblock - to this day I do not believe I have left the house - even just to walk down the street to the mailbox - without an SPF on my face.

Until recently, all of this diligent attention to good skincare paid off, as I reveled in blissfully trouble-free skin, relatively unscathed by freckling, acne, or - gasp! - premature aging. Some women may take this for granted, but I, super-fair, sun-damage-and-skin-cancer-prone blondie that I am, was thankful.

Cut to the middle of last year: when we first began thinking of getting pregnant, my other obsession - to do whatever small part I can to save the planet, ecosystem, ozone layer, you-name-it - was at an all-time high. In addition to my regular work, I was freelance writing for Ideal Bite, hunting down local eco-friendly businesses to highlight in sassy daily e-blasts to subscribers. Although working late in corporate America and coming home to write for several hours was challenging, I relished the outlet for my eco-soapbox.

It was around this time that I went to a meeting for the Environmental Working Group's Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and learned about their "10 Americans" study, in which researchers found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants (out of 413 tested) in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in 2004 in U.S. hospitals. The blood of these perfect, innocent little people had all kinds of gunk in it - pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage. Of the 287 total chemicals detected in the umbilical cord blood, scientists know that 134 of these cause cancer, 158 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, 186 cause infertility and 151 cause birth defects or abnormal development. Obviously, THIS TOTALLY FREAKED ME OUT. While there is little to prevent at least some chemicals from reaching the fetus, I learned that day that there are ways to avoid others, like parabens and phthalates, which are omnipresent in many skincare and cosmetic products.

After the presentation, I went home and flung open my medicine cabinet. One by one, I went through my go-to products, looking up each one on the EWG's Cosmetics Database website, which ranks products according to their toxicity. I was shocked at what I discovered - even my gentlest products contained a slew of questionable ingredients. My mission was clear - with baby-making time approaching, changes must be made.

Over the next several months, I gradually replaced the biggest offenders with baby-friendly alternatives. Out went my beloved drugstore concealer , my favorite powder, and my perfect shampoo. I gradually hunted down decent nontoxic substitutes, and when I got pregnant shortly thereafter, my paranoid mind rested easy, knowing that I had tried my best to get little LOOL off to a chemical-free start in life.

But enough with the self-congratulatory crap: despite my best efforts, I must admit that my beauty arsenal has been severely depleted over the past nine + months. Day after day, I have faithfully slathered on California Baby's extremely gentle sunblock - totally baby-safe, but I am left looking like Casper the Friendly (and greasy) Ghost, and no amount of eco-friendly powder seems to take away the shine. I find myself longing desperately for my prize product, Anthelios XL, AKA "the best sunblock on earth," which I used to buy on French websites before it was available in Canada (its key ingredient, Mexoryl XL, is still not approved by the FDA for sale in America, although it's been on the market in Europe for years - lucky European Union!).

I have diligently swiped on Josie Maran mascara daily - although it does a decent job, I find myself fantasizing about the gloriously doe-eyed moments of my Maybelline Full N' Soft heyday.

I have puckered up to Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer while dreaming of the day that I can once again dab on one of my countless beloved red, 1940s-film-star lipsticks.

When I behold my pale, oily face every day, I realize that this is just the beginning of the many sacrifices I will make for my child. Ultimately, it could all be for naught - after all, I don't have a single mom-friend who has tossed her regular products during pregnancy. The truth is, I think my efforts have been partially to ease the "green conscience" that I developed after writing about all-things-eco for months on end, partially to ease my own obsessive paranoia, and partially to simply stand for something - to know that I walked the talk while I was expecting.

Today I went to the dermatologist and was told that my redness could simply be a hormonal result of the pregnancy or could actually be pregnancy-induced rosacea. Delightful! Oh, the irony. There is little to do but wait and see if it goes away post-birth - LOOL is due in just over two weeks, and I find myself counting down to both the moment I hold my child and the moment I apply my regular mascara.

T-minus 16 days...

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