Divorce Recovery Skincare: My 21-Day Experiment Results

As promised, here's the results post about my 21-day, super cheap skincare experiment to transform the double whammy of parched winter skin that's also showing signs of being under extreme emotional stress.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am not a beauty blogger, I'm a divorce recovery coach, so there are no before/after photos below, just a log of how my DIY coconut oil/baking soda/essential oils regime worked for me.

To see the original post, detailing how I came up with the experiment (with the help of 60 women from my Facebook communities), and exactly what I used, click here.

Don't need the blow-by-blow?  Just scroll down to Final Thoughts.

21-day post-divorce skincare diary

Day 2: Alligator skin looking more moisturized.  A small difference, but it's there.  The big revelation was how much smoother my skin looked with makeup -- concealer wasn't settling into wrinkles, BB cream absorbed into my skin quickly without sitting on top of my skin in a greasy, slippery mess.  Vertical lines on upper lip are MUCH less visible.

Day 4: Bright sunlight today as well, so I'm still getting merciless views of my skin in my 10x magnification mirror.  Skin looking plumper overall, and, starting yesterday, I'm rubbing a little extra essential oil cocktail on my 11 lines between the eyebrows.  I'm definitely happy that I no longer look scary to myself, and it's only the morning of Day 4!

Day 5:  Bright sunlight persists, so I'm still getting non-flattering views of my face in the magnifying mirror.  Today:  The biggest news is that my crepey neck is much smoother.  Also, I have a persistent wrinkle along the side of my left cheek, and it's starting to diminish.  Eleven lines between my eyebrows are slightly better.  Who expected results like this in only a few days?  Overall, skin feels and appears thicker and much more hydrated.  Pores are smaller and clearer.  If these were the results after the full 21 days, I'd be pleased, but I'm not even through the first 7 days.

Day 7:  Wow, it's been a full week of bright winter sunlight -- 65 degrees today -- so I'm still getting scary views of my face.  Today:  Smaller and cleaner pores -- this keeps improving -- and plumper skin (it bounces back when I press my cheeks, instead of leaving finger indents where I pressed).  And, my hands and nails -- unexpected big change.  No wrinkles, and shiny, healthier-looking nails with no ridges.  When I wash my face with the coconut oil/shea butter/baking soda concoction, I also rub some on my hands before removing with the wet washcloth.  Didn't expect to see a dramatic change in my hands, but, there it is.

Day 9: I'm taking a look at my skin in the magnifying mirror only every couple of days from here on out, and seeing a little bit more improvement every time I look.  The skin is just appearing younger and healthier.  I'm now seeing a slight lightening of sunspots -- very slight, but it's there -- perhaps due to the daily exfoliation from the baking soda?

Honey mask:  I was advised to purchase organic, filtered honey.  Have you shopped for honey lately?  Even non chi-chi grocery brand honey is expensive.  I am not someone who prioritizes organic groceries, and I'm not on a mission to spend as much as I possibly can, so I just used a jar of Goya honey that I already had in my pantry.

I left it on for 30 minutes, and rinsed it off in the shower.  Results:  Even cleaner, smaller pores.  That's about it, but I'll take it : ) .

Days 8 through 16:  I stopped scrutinizing my face . . . and fell down on the job a little bit (a lot).  I didn't use any products not on the menu, but, as I had earmarked several days to do nothing but generate content to share with my divorcees, no one was going to see me during those days, so I stopped bothering about using the products in the morning, and only did the regime at night.

So, Day 17:   My message is:  Don't love the results so much that figure you can slack off now.  The results are dramatic only if you keep at it, day and night.  So, if you're someone like me, who works in solitude in your creative cave and has the luxury of video conferencing (in less than high-definition) when with clients, don't skip doing the coconut oil/shea butter/baking soda cleaning and moisturizing in the morning as well as evening.  My face went almost all the way back to square one.

Day 18:  Back on track, with coconut oil and all of the other ingredients twice a day -- morning and night.  The twice-a-day regime is essential to keep getting the results that I was getting early on in the first ten days, so do stay with it.  Otherwise, your skin will go back to Day 1.

Day 21:  By the final day of the experiment, there was just one thing on the regimen left to try:  The DIY coconut water mask.  (Soak a paper towel in coconut water; apply to face for 5 minutes, and approximate the results of a high-priced Korean or Japanese sheet mask.)

I'm not a big fan of sheet masks, since, at $6 or more each, I feel there should be significant bang for buck, and that's never been the case, no matter how expensive the masks I've tried.  I usually leave them on for a minimum of 20 minutes.  But, I wanted to follow my correspondent's instructions to the letter, and she said, just five minutes.  If I could notice an improvement in just five minutes, I'd be more likely to do this little ritual on a weekly basis, since I'm not much of a fan of lying still with my eyes closed when it's not sleepytime!

So.  I tried it.  Didn't notice much of a difference after five minutes -- maybe a slight tightening effect, but no discernable difference in the way my skin looked pre- and post-mask. (I went to the magnifying mirror after the mask dried, before applying any other products.)  For me, it had kind of the effect of a toner (which I don't tend to use), so I may start using my left-over coconut water (there's lots left over!) as a toner.

Or . . . I have enough left to do at least 30 additional masks, so I'll probably try again and leave it on for 20 minutes.  The sequence I used was dermaroller, coconut oil/shea butter/baking soda cleanser, then the mask (and don't wash it off).  Then I continued with the essential oils, my Roc retinol product, and finally, the Cetaphil lotion.

Why bother?  Maybe you're thinking:  "I can hardly make myself get out of bed in the morning."

#1  The coconut oil/shea butter is soothing and feels good.  The essential oils smell great and have aromatherapy benefits as well as helping your skin.  The honey mask feels gooey and nourishing.  It all costs next to nothing.

#2  You'll be looking much better by Day 2 -- and when you see your true self in the mirror, rather than someone who looks like your grandmother, it's a big, emotional lift.

#3  You'll start getting compliments -- and who doesn't feel better when people ask you what you've been doing because you look well-rested, chill, and, well, like your old self . . . only better. 

#4  Because of #2 and #3, you'll feel an uplift in your mood, and be able to look around you and have the first glimmers of what's next, what would be good, what might you be up for?

Divorcees:  Here are my DIY skincare results, and it's really worth a try!

Plumper, more hydrated skin.  Less-prominent 11 lines, upper lip lines, and nose-to-mouth lines.  Much much much smaller and cleaner pores.  Smoother-looking neck.  Even less-crepey eyelids.  Lightening of sun spots.

I haven't used any soap-based product on my face for 21 days, but my skin looks much cleaner than before.

Makeup goes on smoother -- so the results look even more incredible with makeup.  If you've given up on wearing matte lipstick because it makes you look like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, try again.  If you're like me, it will glide right on, and no feathering.

Plus, it's cheap, ladies!  A box of baking soda; tub of coconut oil; a tub of shea butter; and 1 oz. sizes of frankincense, lavender, and lemon oils (combine a little of all three in a small bottle for easy application) will last you for-ev-ah.

This is not a miracle, but it's pretty darn incredible, considering that no expensive products were used.  The only actual "products" were my usual Roc retinol day and night.  I stopped using Strivectin during this 21-day test, and I can't say that I notice any difference.

Thanks to all my Facebook crew who chimed in with their favorite products to help stressed out, post divorce skin!

In the Amazon product links below, you’ll also find two gadgets that help with skin tone and sagging, and which I’ve been using for years. They’re both pretty indispensible when you’re trying to recover from the ravages of divorce and don’t like what you’re seeing in the mirror. The Dermawand uses electric pulses to tone and lift facial muscles, and the neckline slimmer gizmo is the best beauty gadget for under $10 that I’ve ever used. Check ‘em out if sagging is something that bothers you.

If you try my 21-day skincare experiment, will you comment below with your results, or share your own nature-based DIY skincare regimes?  Thank you!

21-Day Experiment: When your skin looks like hell from the stress of your divorce.

Each year, February is the time when my skin looks its worst.  Dry, wrinkles that look like they belong to someone 20 years older, plus red and splotchy skin.

This made me think:  What about my divorcees?  If your situation is anything like mine during my divorce years, my stress only started with my husband's extracurricular activities.  My decision to divorce was swiftly followed one tragedy after another.  (You can read the whole saga here.)

At first, friends and family may tell us how great we look as we experience the first flush of freedom, but when some of the harsh realities start to sink in, and other parts of our lives start to fall apart, our faces can't help but show the evidence.

I've never written on this topic, so three days ago, on a whim, I queried my facebook communities about skin-care advice for stressed-out divorcees -- and thought that maybe I'd pick up a tip or two myself.  

More than 60 responses later, I was faced with how to make sense of an enormous range of product recommendations.  

Since my own skin currently looks . . . well . . . ugh! . . . as it usually does in the middle of February, I decided to start with the one product that more women recommended than any other.  Coconut oil.

Follow along with me as I spend 21 days on a regimen for which I already have all of the ingredients:  coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda, essential oils (frankincense, lavender, lemon, and tea tree), Roc retinol (day and night), Cetaphil Intensive Moisturizing Cream (for the body, but used on the face), and a cheap derma roller knock off that I've already been using for about a week to try to coax my products deeper into the skin.

It's been sunny here in Chicago, and direct sunlight was relentless yesterday, as I looked at the condition of my skin.  Best to start right away, I thought, so today is day 2 of 21.  I'm using the lowest-cost options of those I received, and will be reporting on results, from time to time, on The Dynamic Divorcee facebook page, so if you want to follow along, that's the place to be.

The products I'll be using:

(Links to purchase all the products are above.  The links below give background information on the products used from independent  bloggers.)

Derma Roller knockoff (I paid $14 for this little gadget on Amazon).  Mine is the "starter" version with needles of just .25mm.  A little table with information on needle lengths and their uses is here.  I want to emphasize that I'm not suggesting any of you try this; just documenting what I'm doing.

Coconut oil (on its own, or with baking soda) as an oil-cleanser.  Most of the women who commented said that they didn't have problems with clogged pores while using coconut oil, and many use coconut oil not only as a oil-cleanser, but as a moisturizer.*  A couple of commenters mentioned the importance of extra attention to exfoliation during times of stress; hence, the baking soda.  Experiment to find the ratio of coconut oil to baking soda that feels right to you.  I started with a 2:1 ratio, but that felt a little too gritty to me.

*Several women also mentioned almond oil (as a cleanser and also as a moisturizer) and rose-hip oil (as a moisturizer/serum).  

Shea butter. One of my friends gave me a homemade Christmas gift of coconut oil mixed with shea butter as a moisturizer. Although I started this experiment using only coconut oil with baking soda, pretty soon, I switched to using my friend’s homemade moisturizer, combined with baking soda, as my go-to winter cleanser. See my follow-up post for details.

Frankincense.  I have been using frankincense essential oil for years, and have saved hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in dermatologist visits.  By applying it directly to the skin as a spot treatment, several times a day, I've removed skin tags, keratoses, moles, and age spots -- all of which used to require doctor's appointments at a cost of at least $200 per visit.  So, I was happy to see that many of my facebook friends recommended it for use in their moisturizers, and also in the serum recipe below.

My new essential oil serum, recommended in a comment on my facebook post: "1 drop frankincense, 1 drop lavender, and 1 drop lemon essential oils. It's like magic for wrinkles. Rub on morning and night around eyes."  If you plan to try this (I'm patting it all over my face morning and night), do a patch test first to be sure that you don't have a reaction.  Some women may need to dilute this combination with a carrier oil.  If your skin reacts to citrus oils in sunlight, you may want to save this for night application only.

Tea tree oil.  This has been my go-to antibacterial oil for many years, and it works great on congested skin and blackheads.  So, I'm going to keep using tea tree as I always do.  I use it undiluted, but please do a patch test first, to be sure your skin likes it.

ROC retinol day (with SPF30) and night -- containing a combination of vitamin C, glycolic acid, and retinol.  It's #10 in this round-up of best retinol creams for 2017, but as these raters say, "you really can't find one as good as this for the price."  While researching this post, I ran into a wrinkle-cream round-up for 2016 that has Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum -- combination of retinol and hyaluronic acid -- as their top drug store pick, having a higher percentage of retinol at a similar price.

Cetaphil.  My correspondent says, "It seems to be the only thing that never fails me. Not the lotion, has to be the cream. It comes in big jars at CVS or Walgreens. The generic brands seem to be fine as well." I agree.  This is the best moisturizer ever for my dry, lifeless February face.  A 16oz tub of the cream is less than $12.  As far as I know, this is not meant to be a facial cream, but it does say "non-comedogenic" on the label.  Right now, I already happen to have a tube of the lotion (which is a lighter consistency than the cream), so that's what I'm using.

Honey.  Or, as one of my facebook friends specifies, "raw, organic, unfiltered honey as a face mask". I'd forgotten all about using honey as a mask.  When I've used it in the past, it seems to draw out all sorts of impurities and leaves my skin looking radiant (and I've never even sprung for organic honey).  Here are some of the many amazing beautifying uses for honey.

And a homemade sheet mask from one my correspondents:  "Coconut water soaked in paper towel, poke holes for eyes, nose, mouth . . . apply to face 5 minutes and rinse. Voila, rejuvenation -- celebration!"  If you've ever purchased Korean or Japanese sheet masks, you know that they're expensive!  I thought my friend's idea was so cool, that I poked around on the internet for a bit, and found lots more DIY suggestions.  Check these out.  However, I'll be sticking with the simplicity of coconut water.  My challenge is to see a big, beautiful change in my skin by using as few consumer products as possible.

Just to recap:  The main things that are new to me during these 21 days are coconut oil, baking soda, the frankincense/lavender/lemon oil blend, and the occasional honey or coconut water mask.  I've dropped my standby, Strivectin, for the duration, and am no longer using any sort of soap-based facial cleanser or exfoliating scrub (it's now just coconut oil/baking soda and a wash cloth for three weeks).

So, now, for my disclaimers:

  • I am not a beauty blogger. I will not be doing before and after photos, but simply reporting my subjective results and reactions on my facebook page during the 21 days, and in a results post afterwards.

  • Try any of these ideas at your own risk. If there's one thing we all know from reading beauty blogs and online product reviews, skincare is a very individual matter -- one product does not work for everyone (or even for most).

  • I'll be careful not to make any life changes during my 21-day experiment except for the skincare above. (That is, I won't up my water intake, do additional exercise or yoga, or make any dietary changes. I'll try to keep everything the same as it has been over the past few months.)

In case you want to consider your diet instead of (or along with) your skincare:

I found this facebook comment very interesting: "I am 49, and while I think I was genetically fortunate, my biggest anti aging secrets are sleep, 64oz of water everyday, minimum of 70 grams of protein everyday, and 2,000mg of lysine everyday. If I do those things, it doesn't seem to matter which moisturizer I use. I buy the cheapest retinol containing product that I can find -- usually from Marshall's."

Yes!  During times of stress, one of the first things that starts to go is healthy eating habits.  Healthy diet disappears to be replaced with lots of coffee, sugary drinks, or alcohol, along with junk food and sweets.  For the purpose of this experiment, I won't be changing my diet, but I can't wait to up my protein and water intake as soon as I finish my natural skincare testing.

If you're curious about my results and recommendations after the 21-day experiment, here's my follow up post, where I dish about my findings (which were pretty amazing!). You’ll also find out about two gadgets that I love (in addition to the derma roller).