Forgiveness In A Bottle

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I’m not a person who has regrets. I’m just a person who spends most of their waking consciousness paralyzed with uncertainty, which is different.

I spend a lot of time wondering if I’ve done damage, where that might be, and if it’s too late to fix it—like socially, physically, psychologically, everything. Having a regret implies that you can pinpoint a moment of decision or shift in your life where you made a choice and can identify issuing consequences. I’m more the “I don’t know how I got here” type.

Of course, some consequences make themselves known. I was a lifeguard for a few summers, and the concept of a ‘base tan’ was my science. I said base tan a lot. Now I say ‘sun damage’ a lot. Combined with peekaboo acne throughout my life, which leaves little traces behind here and there. As well as all sorts of skincare phases, and now, more intense product testing. My skin’s had a lot of influences over the years, and many of them negative.

Over time, I started to notice that my face was getting red, blotchy, and, overall, weirdly ruddy. My face wasn’t the color of my neck. It wasn’t even close. I’m not talking half-shade discrepancies of light and shadow—I mean, it looked like I’d been to a tanning bed wearing a turtleneck. I needed to calm and brighten. I started using the Estée Lauder Enlighten Dark Spot Correcting Night Serum. I got hooked sufficiently to make it a 2-stepper—I picked up the Even Skintone Correting Crème and started lightening up (literally and figuratively). Using this duo, you brighten up immediately and even out over time—your face starts to match your neck, throat, and that gorgeous skin on your inner forearm (side question: why is that skin always so beautiful? I wish so much that was the skin on my face. It’s so clear and soft and spotless).

The best part is that you can use it intermittently. I do the same thing with teeth-whitening strips—maybe twice a year, I do a three- or four-day round of whitening, and after that just once a month for maintenance. I’ve used these Estée Lauder products much, much more often than that, but in the same kind of pattern. You can do it for a few days, take a break when another problem presents (breakout, cold snap, sun poisoning, whatever, and treat that instead), and then come back to enlightenment (so to speak). Unlike a cleanse or a marathon, you’re not undoing any progress if you take a break. Start up again with this routine anytime and you’re still on your way to brighter skin.

Although the call for enlightenment in a more spiritual, personal sense can be a big ask. I guess if I’ve been enlightened at all, maybe it’s through knowing that I haven’t really done any damage yet, and what’s done can pretty much be undone. Big breath. No regrets.

—Trace Barnhill

Photographed by Tom Newton.