Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Picking a new bad habit

This skincare set from by Philosophy was a
lifesaver. Literally.
I decided to stop using tanning beds in the summer of 2008, shortly after my college graduation--about a year and a half before I was diagnosed with melanoma. This sudden change coincided with my transformation from blonde to brunette, and a new, chin-length bob that I felt made me look more "professional." I still spent a fair amount of time in the sun, but I was starting to realize that tanning beds were a habit I couldn't afford to maintain (for both health and financial reasons). Paradoxically, when I decided to quit tanning cold turkey, I remember obsessing over how uneven my skin tone looked. As soon as my tan began to fade, the freckles on my arms and face became more noticeable. There were freckles, now, on my legs and chest that didn't exist before I started using tanning beds. It seemed the only way I could hide these new freckles and keep my skin looking flawless was to continue tanning, but every 12 minutes in that bed, I knew how much worse I was making things for myself in the long run. How could I break the cycle?

Enter Sephora. In 2008, there was a Philosophy skincare kit I'd been dying to try. Face wash, ultra luxe moisturizer, exfoliant--it was a beauty addict's dream come true. The only problem was that it retailed at about $100. Normally, there's no way I'd be able to rationalize spending 100 bucks on skincare, but when I thought about it, wasn't I doing so already? A month-long unlimited tanning package in my preferred choice of bed cost me around $40 a month. Single tanning sessions ranged from 5 to 15 bucks a piece depending on where I went and what level bed I used. Then, I had to factor in the tanning bed lotion. Although I was unconvinced that it made much of a different, the women who worked in tanning salons were as ruthless as used car salesmen. They could sell me a bottle of $30 moisturizer that I swore was probably generic brand lotion with coconut scent added, packaged in a shimmery pink bottle. If I were to cut tanning beds out of the equation, that opened up at least $150 in my budget every three months. I could more than afford to spend $100 on a skincare kit that would last me at least the same amount of time. So I bought it.

Last month, I was relaxing after a hard day's work with my stack of fashion glossies. Right there, staring me in the face, was an article in Marie Claire called, "Smart Girls Bad Habits." Story of my life. I decided to read on. The teaser of the article: "Stop drunk-texting your ex, snacking late-night, and skipping the gym! New research into how the brain works may help you get into the positive groove--once and for all." OK, now I was really hooked. What was this new research and how could I incorporate it into my life?!

According to the article, based on research in a new book called, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, our brains are hardwired to stick to our habits. Even the strong-willed find it impossible to break bad habits (um, hello failed New Years resolutions?) until they replace their old habit with a new one. The answer to unparalleled bliss: Replace all of your bad habits (e.g. tanning, smoking, drinking) with better ones (e.g. running, volunteering, eating salad). Sounds a little unrealistic at first, but this is exactly what I did when I quit using tanning beds. It was rough at first, not having the bronze glow I was accustomed to, but after four years of diligently using high-quality skin care treatments, my skin looks clearer, smoother and brighter now than it did when I was 18. Just the other day, a friend of mine asked me, "How do you get your skin to glow like that? You look so well rested." Retinol, my friends. Retinol.

I've come to terms with the fact that when I'm having a bad day, nothing will make me feel better than a hydrating face mask or a Biore pore strip. I will never not care about how I look or what other people think of how I look, I just channel my money and energy into finding the best sunscreens and cleansers, not the strongest bed or newest tanning potion. If you're trying to cut back on tanning or stay out of the sun, it could be worth making a trip to your local department store (or You could also try yoga, or a subscription to wine-of-the-month club.


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