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Because It’s Funny To Imagine Marlon Brando Screaming “Skincare! SKIIIINCARE!

By Amalah

Dearest Amalah,

So the 13 months of sleep deprivation (that came with the baby) and spotty effort at face care (who has the time to shower, much less wash your face twice a day) has finally started taking its toll on my face. I broke down and visited our friendly Nordtrom cosmetic counter and purchased some concealer for the first time in my life to hide the yellow streaks under AND above my eyes. However, I’m noticing that my pores seem to be expanding and strange bumps are appearing on my face that I’ve never seen and the Dove Soap and washcloth just won’t remove.

My question to you: Is it really worth it to pay for the facial at the local spa ($70 – $100), or should I simply pick up an at-home product and vow to spend more time taking care of myself?

Thanks so much,

Facials are a delicious, luxurious treat, and a good way to turn over a new skincare leaf, so to speak. But they really aren’t the most practical approach to long-term skincare.

A facial can ultra-moisturize and deep clean the hell out of your face, but if you go back to the same skincare regimen (and could I be saying “skincare” any more? skincare! skincare!) that didn’t prevent the problems in the first place, well, you’re just going to need more facials, and you just don’t need to spend that kind of money to take care of your skin. Yes, you need to spend a couple minutes in the morning and before bed, but still. Cheaper and easier than finding someone to pawn the kid off on for HOURS at a time while you go get cucumber slices put on your eyes while a Russian woman berates you over the size of your pores. (Or, so

I hear. That this, sometimes happens to some people. Like me.)

You don’t mention if your skin is prone to dryness or breakouts or anything, but for enlarged pores and general complexion crappiness, I cannot say enough good things about the Philosophy line. A couple weeks ago I bought their Jump Starters kit and Crisis Intervention: Large, Impacted Pores set.

I have a couple issues with the Jump Starter kit (no SPF product, mixing a half scoop of vitamin C power into the moisturizer seems ridiculously fussy, also HALF SCOOP? THEN WHY DID YOU GIVE ME A FULL SCOOP? GOD.), but I cannot argue with the improvements. My pores look MUCH better, my skin tone MUCH more polished, and that persistent patchy dryness on my cheeks is gone.

But I imagine you’re sitting there going, SIX bottles? She wants me to buy SIX bottles? That also involve mixing? Is she HIGH? So instead of the kits, just start off with the Purity Made Simple cleanser twice a day– you can do it in the shower even! — followed by the Hope in a Tube eye cream. Then use the Hope in a Bottle exfoliating moisturizer before you go to bed.

You can do this! Mere minutes a day! Let the dog babysit in the meantime! I mean, we’ve all read Good Dog Carl, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Dearest Amalah,

I’m not an Alphamom…or a Mom for that matter…I don’t’ even have a pet…although I’ve kept a couple houseplants alive for a few years. What was my point? I’m not a Mom, but I’ve been a loyal reader for a while now, so I hope you will bestow your oh-so-spot-on advice to me.

I’m having skin issues. My face is doing all sorts of things I just can’t comprehend. In my formative and college years, I was able to have a good complexion with minimal work — wash with a Dove bar every morning and night, occasionally exfoliate and use a mud mask. When I graduated college and moved to DC, I started using a stronger cleanser, usually Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleanser. Of course, I moisturize every morning and night with SPF.

In the past few months, I moved to New York City, and my skin has gone haywire. I’m not sure if it’s age (I’m 26) or the city, but my skin is even more combination than usual (as I type this my forehead is slightly peeling and my nose is shining). Even worse, I have a couple dark spots (scars?) from a few deep pimples I’ve gotten…a new breed I’m not familiar with, so I’m don’t know the best way to get rid of them or cover them up.

So please, please help me. What products should I get? What regimen should I have? I’d like to get this straightened out so I can return to the care-free days of good skin as soon as possible!

And yes, I know that most people would go to a dermatologist before writing you, but that’s not as fun, is it?!

All the best,

Whoa. Second verse, same as the first. Right down to the Dove bar. (Which I didn’t know so many people used as a facial bar! Huh! See, people? We are all learning TOGETHER here.)

So. Just like I done told Sara already, try the Philosophy line. It’s gentle, effective and offers products for a multitude of sins and flaws.

For relatively normal skin that’s throwing a temper tantrum, get the Purity cleanser and the Hope in a Jar moisturizer. Because of the environmental skin woes you described, I’d say you should go and get the wee bottle of Vitamin C powder and the infuriating scoop. (If a half scoop is all I ever need, JUST MAKE THE SCOOP THE RIGHT SIZE. ARGH!) It kind of…supercharges your moisturizer and is completely kickass for patchy combo skin. You use it in the morning only — just use the moisturizer by itself at night. (If you’re into the eye cream, go ahead and get the Jump Starters kit to save some money, although…blaaaah. Four products with no SPF in sight. Blah. I’m sure Philosophy’s sunscreens are awesome, but use whatever you want. I’m cranky now.)

Then! Then! (See, you give me an open-ended request for a product line-up and I go completely crazy shoving little boxes into your shopping basket. I am HELL to shop with, let me tell you.) For zits and the spots they leave, you may want to add in either the Pigment of Your Imagination or the On a Clear Day blemish serum.

Or, you know, go see a dermatologist for that last bit, in case dropping a hundred bucks on cleverly-named skin products doesn’t sound as much fun as you thought it would.

Dearest Amalah,

I do have a question for you and it relates back in fact to this answer to a recent question:

III. Thou Shalt Use a Foundation Brush and a Most Excellent Foundation, and Lo, Thou Shalt Use a Small Amount of the Most Excellent Foundation and the Most Excellent Foundation Shall Be of the Oil-Free Variety. And holy HELL, make sure it matches your skin tone. Foundation does NOT exist to make you look tanner. Or paler. I remain a fan of Sue Devitt’s 70% water triple seaweed gel foundation.

OK, it’s that whole skin tone matching thing that I have a huge issue with. You see, I am a redhead. One of the unfortunate accompaniments to glorious red hair however are masses and masses of freckles. These freckles do NOT join up eventually and make your skin look flawless. There is NO looking flawless with freckled skin. It seems to be the sworn duty of any and all make up consultants to make me either look like I spent too long in a tanning booth (when they try to match the foundation to my freckle color) or like I have just spent 17 years underground (when they try to match my ‘underneath’ skin tone). How do I go about getting the right tone of foundation? (And why oh why can I NOT get any of that seaweed gel foundation here in Australia when Sue Devitt is, in fact AN AUSTRALIAN?)

Thank you,
The Flawed Freckle

I’ve talked about freckles before somewhere and while I am entirely too lazy to go look up the link right now, I remember saying that I love freckles. That I don’t believe freckles SHOULD be concealed, and that freckles are adorable, and while every non-freckled commenter TOTALLY AGREED WITH ME, everybody with freckles disagreed and whined and moaned and rent their garments because they hate their freckles.

So with all that said: I love freckles and don’t believe you need to conceal them at all. You CAN look flawless with freckles because freckles are not a flaw. Mwa.

And with all THAT said: in theory, you should match your foundation to your “underneath” skin tone. The 17-years-underground look is probably more a result of the foundation itself instead of the color, you want something that provides very sheer coverage. Something that lets your freckles show through (quiet. no arguing with the advice-giver.). You want oil-free, and preferably something with the words “sheer,” “lightweight” or “water-based” slapped all over it. I’d even be tempted to say you might want to try a tinted moisturizer instead.

(Digression #1: When trying to figure out if a foundation matches your skin tone, test it on the back of your hand. Blend it in. If you can still see it, it’s the wrong color. Keep testing until you find one that vanishes.)

(Digression #2: No Sue Devitt foundation in Australia? Well, that’s BOLLOCKS, is what that is.)

You’d also be well-served with a foundation primer and something with SPF 15 in it. This could either be your foundation or your moisturizer, or even just some plain old sunscreen. (You have Clarins in Australia, yes? I’d recommend just loading up on their full line.) A little sunscreen every day will keep your freckles firmly in the “adorable” range.

If you’re still not 100% satisfied, brush on some “illuminating” (no, I don’t really know what it means either, but I know that I LIKE IT) face powder. This will pick up the lighter colors in your skin and minimize the appearance of your freckles. MINIMIZE.

That is all I will allow you to do, because freckles are NOT FLAWS. NOT!

(Whew. Look at me, busting out the caps lock key. If skincare [skincare!] is getting me this worked up, I am guessing I need to get out more.)

Dear Amalah,

I have read you for a while now and must preface this with you are pretty and I think you are funny and smart. Now that I have that out of the way, I am wondering how you happened to land a freelance gig at both Alpha Mom and ClubMom. Did you approach them or did they approach you? I am desperate to get out of my BORING job and write for a living (but since I am by education a civil engineer, I wonder if anyone will really take me seriously). I am actually sending in two sample articles to a Construction equipment guide as a start since I figured its “in my field” and at least a place to start. But what I really want to do is blog and write snarky comments about my family, friends and random people on the sidewalk. Any advice?


Ah. The great mystery of blogging: how to con people into paying you money for something you do anyway, for free, usually while already collecting a paycheck at some soulless 9-to-5 job, ha ha SUCKERS.

My own personal story, which is probably about as useful as those foamy things you use to spread your toes while painting your toenails, which is to say “very slightly and vaguely useful, in a dumb-looking and not necessarily life-changing sort-of way,” is that I hit the wall of quiet yellow wallpaper desperation with my corporate job, sought out opportunities, created my own opportunities, and then a few other opportunities fell into my lap.

So you know. A combination of grit, spunk, determination, moxie and dumb stupid luck. That.

Specifically, I read (on someone else’s blog) that ClubMom was hiring bloggers for actual cash money and sent in a very long and pleading application (with gobs of writing samples) that they really liked. Meanwhile, the so-gorgeous-I-may-have-licked-her-face-in-person-last-week Isabel Kallman of Alpha Mom was a fan of my website and approached me for a little freelancing thing, which somehow morphed into this column that you are reading right now. Then I pitched some part-time and contract-based ideas to my old employer, emailed every person I knew in any sort of writing-like field and somehow talked my way into a couple other (boring, non-Internet) gigs to help pay those pesky “bill” things that people insist on sending me every month.

My advice for anyone who wants to write is to, write. Start a blog. An online journal. Whatever. Get your voice and your writing OUT THERE. The world of publishing has been turned upside down, as anybody can self-publish and attract an audience BEFORE getting published in any traditional sense of the word. I wouldn’t have gotten any of my current freelancing gigs if I hadn’t made a success first. (Which I have no idea how that happened, incidentally. No. Freaking. Clue.) The audience for blogs (about 50 million people right now, or 11% of Internet users) is big and getting bigger. Go grab your part of it.

(Insert inspirational, Chariots-of-Fire music and stock footage of people typing furiously on their laptops.)

As for the non-blogging, boring-old-paycheck part of freelancing, I think you’re doing exactly the right thing. Use your existing contacts “in your field” to get published, or at least to used to the ebb and flow and oftentimes-crushing rejection of a freelance writer’s life.

Oh, and just as an aside for anyone starting a blog for the express purpose of finding fame and fortune and ad revenue? It doesn’t really work like that. Readers can smell the selling out from four blogrolls over. Building an audience takes an awful lot of hard work, and I honestly think it’s harder for bloggers who are obviously craving an audience — a great! big! audience! — more than anything on earth. First, you must do it because you LOVE IT. Or at the very least, because it’s cheaper than therapy.
(Says the girl who just may be one of the biggest sell-outs currently on the Internet, but whatever. The Philosophy people aren’t sending me any free stuff and baby needs herself an oxygen peel, you know?.)

If you would like to submit a question, email Amalah at [email protected]. By submitting a question, you agree to allow us to post your question here on

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Amy, why did you have to bring up the scoop? WHY? I was just starting to calm down about the whole thing, and I’m all worked up again.
Not upset enough to stop using it, but still.

Laura B.

I love love love Philosophy products. I’ve been using them for about three years now, and cannot say enough good things about them. I have combination skin and here is my regimen: moisturize with Shelter sunscreen mixed with HALF! a scoop of vitamin C powder; I use The Present Clear Makeup as a foundation primer followed by my foundation and then Supernatural powder (spf 15); in the evening I wash my face with either On A Clear Day wash for blemished skin or Purity depending on whether I feel like I need some zit-fighting help and I follow with Hope… Read more »

Heather Barmore

I ordered a whole bunch of philosophy stuff yesterday (have used Hope in a Bottle on and off for awhile. Who knew that if you use it regularly, your face doesn’t look like you’re going through puberty again?). I’m praying to God that it all works and I have semi-normal looking skin again.

Abra Leah

Ack! The Crisis Intervention set is out of stock. Just another excuse to go into town to visit Sephora in person. 🙂


I hope you’re right! I just bought the starter kit. So far I like the using part of the kit (LOVE the cleanser) though I’m holding off final judgement for a week or so to see if it makes me breakout.
Fingers crossed! But that scoop, is ridiculous!


VHMP – If your skin is prone to breakouts, I’d advise going verrrry easy on the moisturizer that comes with the Jump Starters. It’s for “all skin types” instead of oily, like the moisturizer in the Crisis Intervention kit. (Can I tell you that the names also drive me a little batty? Hope in a Jar, Hope in a Bottle, Hope in a Handbasket, what?)
I noticed a few blemishes right when I switched. Then in about a week everything was really improved. Two weeks for full effects. This weekend? I got carded. Twice!


Thanks for answering my question. I’ve got my list and I’m heading back to Nordstrom’s. Funny thing is that I actually had been using Purity, but ran out. Visited the Philosophy counter and was either (or both) overwhelmed or unwilling to shell out the bucks at the time for a refill and the new products I really need. But after reading my post I thought how dumb that I would consider spending so much on a facial and not on product that would last for months!