Oh hey there! Manouska [ma-NOOSH-ka] here—we’ve probably DM’d on Instagram. I’m part of the Glossier gTEAM, where I answer all of your product-related questions as quickly as I can type ‘em. It’s good to finally meet here on ITG, though. I’ve been addicted to makeup since the tender age of 14, which is a big part of the reason I work here in the first place.
To me, my skin isn’t just skin. My relationship with it goes well past blackheads and brightness and pore size. Many women of color, myself included, experience what I’ve been referring to as a “color complex”—where skin feels like this multidimensional cloak that presents itself to the world on your behalf. Of course, that’s a whole other story. Let’s sip tea and talk about it some time. All of this is just to say that how I feel about my skin is never just a moment. It’s inextricably wrapped up in how I feel about myself as a person—and it’s something I picked on, poked at, and obsessed over every single day since I turned 9.
By 11, acne had set in. Every year, I would think “Wow my skin is horrible,” only to have it outdo itself the next year. At this point, I’ve left no drugstore acne solution unturned, and have reordered Proactiv three times. Don’t even get me started on the hopeful-but-disappointing visits to the dermatologist that resulted in several oral and topical prescriptions I can’t pronounce. Nothing seemed to get to the root of my skincare woes. So, I took things into my own hands. I became what I thought was a master popper for any and all pimples that cropped up. Fast forward a decade and change later and my face is freckled with hyperpigmentation across my cheeks, jawline, chin, and forehead. My bare skin is really hard for me look at.
Not loving my skin gradually turned me into a foundation addict. My first taste of powder came when my mom buffed some Lancôme on me before a Homecoming dance, and I noticed it helped hide some of my acne. Never was there an easier sell. By the time prom rolled around, I was fully a “slave to the cake,” with my MAC compact foundation on so thick you could barely see skin. College came and went in a blur of Lancôme, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Cover FX, and Becca.
Somewhere between Smashbox and Bobbi Brown, I realized that my skin and I weren’t getting along. All I wanted to do was cover it up, no matter how irritated and painful it felt. And all my skin wanted to do was be left alone to heal. As if it were some sort of compromise, I tried BB creams for a while instead (even haphazardly blogged about it on Tumblr) but the shades weren’t right and the coverage was too sheer for my insecurities. Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint and Stretch Concealer is the most comfortable duo I’ve found. But makeup that looks like skin isn’t the same as being thoroughly comfortable in your own.
Which brings me here: In 2018, I’ve decided it’s time to face what the past 16 years of constant picking, popping, and scratching has yielded. This year, I’m giving healthier skin an honest go...whatever that means. For a quick minute, I considered a dairy-free diet (work on my skin from the inside out, you know?), but pizza and ice cream have already proven too difficult to willfully give up. I even entertained the idea of Accutane. That was until the Glossier Product Development team found me back in October. They gave me a bottle of Solution, Glossier’s newest launch that’s out today. It’s a liquid exfoliator that harnesses the power of very safe skincare acids—the familiar salicylic and glycolic, along with lactic and polyhydroxy—to control acne, retexturize skin, and turn up the brightness. I’d never tried anything like it so wanted in on the trial, and I wanted to be serious about it—more serious than I had been about anything in the past. That meant no distractions (no makeup) for the next three months. Just Solution once a day, paired with the rest of my skincare routine. Scary, but no risk, no reward, right?
At first, it didn’t feel like much. I was expecting that vaporizing sensation that you get with an alcoholic toner. Cooling and then immediately gone. The first swipe of Solution felt much dewier, for good reason. (There’s glycerin and aloe in the formula, our PD team told me, to hydrate in addition to exfoliating. And no alcohol at all.) The first two weeks were slow—my skin felt more or less the same, though there weren’t any new breakouts. Week three was the turning point. The texture started to change; the existing pimples got smaller. And what used to feel mountainous—my skin has always reminded me of lots of hills and valleys—was now an even plane. And it continued to get better. These days, I catch myself touching my face and whispering, “Wow, whose skin is this?” The texture is smooth and the daily breakouts are minimal to none.
My current routine now looks like this: Milky Jelly Cleanser, Solution swiped on with a cotton pad, a prescription topical if I feel a pimple coming on, some La Prairie eye cream, and Pai Geranium & Thistle Rebalancing Day Cream. But what I’m most excited about, ironically, is getting to wear more makeup. I know, I know—isn’t this all about cleansing and remedying my makeup addiction? Yes, obviously. But my makeup routine has always been about covering up, to the point where I’ve avoided so many new and cool blushes, highlighters, and formulas. Fenty Beauty exists now! And those KKW glosses. After years of watching YouTube tutorials and thinking “Not for me,” I’m ready to jump into the fun of artistic makeup looks I’ve been wanting to try for years.
And of course, I love not forking over so much of my time each day to beating my face. I can better use that time in the morning to sleep, force myself to the gym, or make a well-balanced breakfast. It’s killing me how cliché this is about to sound, but being comfortable in my own skin is a whole new world. I’m blown away that I’ve become a person who can leave the house without makeup. Six months ago, if you were to tell me that I would work at a beauty company and regularly come to work with no makeup, and have my coworkers see that I’m there and showing myself, I would have told you you were crazy. Maybe at age 30, I’d think...I don’t know what happens at 30, but that feels like the time I theoretically get comfortable with myself. It came a lot sooner than I was expecting.
Obviously I’m not done with Solution. I’m not at war with my skin anymore, but Solution isn’t only there for that. It’s a lover and a fighter of a product. And I know that if I got a hormonal zit in the future, I know how to handle it. But what I spend more of my time thinking about now is this: I don’t know if it’s our generation or something about women—maybe a little of both—but we don’t praise ourselves enough. After all this—three months without makeup, figuring out my skin, showing me for me—I’m proud of myself. Like, damn girl. You’re doing this. Younger Manouska would be in awe of me. Current Manouska is in awe, too.
Editor's note: This post has been edited throughout.
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