On… crazy skin

If you are here to read about writing or movies or TV shows, scroll past, darling.

If you’re here to read about lovely shallow things, come on in! Take a seat. Let me get you a drink and tell you a story about how my skin went batshit crazy.

[Dramatic pause, while we all sip our drinks.]

You guys, I over-exfoliated.

I woke up one morning and boom, my face was in a weird perma-goosebump, skin-of-a-lemon, shiny-and-hypersensitive mode. I’m talking about the strangest skin you’ve ever seen: scratchy, painful, red and dull yet puffy and shiny… terrible. It was like my skin was scared of me. And it had good reason to be: I damaged it, like a moron, by using REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask followed by a nice firm swipe of Biologique Recherche P50 followed by Korres Wild Rose Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial. I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess I was just playing with all the pretty shit in my bathroom cabinet one night, the way you do when you’re thinking about a story but your ass hurts from sitting at your laptop.

All of those products are, by the way, really good – the best! – at making your skin look like angels-in-a-fresco-perfection when used properly. But when you use them all together, it’s like… it’s like… okay, I can’t think of a good metaphor. Pretend I did and smile knowingly. It’s like a thing on a thing that does the same thing on another thing that also does the exact same thing. It’s like stabbing someone to death and then shooting them and then running them over with a truck. There we go. Metaphor, accomplished.

Anyway, so my skin was bad. And I was pissed. My entire personality is like 90% good skin and 10% skirts that are too short.

But, like the intrepid amateur dermatologist that I am, I decided to fix myself.


I tried my usual standbys: Trilogy Roseship Oil. Nope.


I tried the best moisturizer ever La Roche Posay Hydraphase Riche. Nope.


I tried the workhorse. Nope. Nothing. The internet didn’t help. Nothing helped. Then I tried this and this and this, none of them helped and I returned each with a long-suffering sigh. My face looked and felt like one of those jute rugs.



That is a jute rug.


I tried Avene Skin Recovery Cream, and it helped a tiny bit.


I tried First Aid Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration (that name seems a little off, doesn’t it? I think I would have put ‘cream’ last but WHATever). It helped a little.



I tried Mario Badescu Healing and Soothing Mask. Again, it helped a tiny bit. As with all things Mario Badescu, what I like most about it is the price. (Though this stuff is delightful, btw.)

It was (pause to gather emotional strength and add drama) hard, my loves. Not just the having scared skin part, and looking like a jute rug every day (which was bad even though I’m not THAT vain, I just act like it). What was hard was just finding something to help. I was the Goldilocks of skin creams: stomping around New York while the bears were out, and everything I found was too hot/cold/hard/soft. Almost all skincare has some kind of acid in these days, or is riddled with silicones that make things FEEL smooth but really just exacerbate problems. I didn’t want anything with radiance, or glow, or renew, or anything like that in the title, as that indicates some kind of exfoliation, and that’s what got me into such a pickle. I wanted names like repair and heal and soothe. If there was a cream called ‘Happiest Skin On The Block’ that promised to swaddle, shush and rock my skin into normalcy, I would have bought it immediately. (That’s a little joke for everyone with a baby out there.)


Then I unearthed an ancient tube of Biafine, bought on a trip to France years ago, and hello miracle lover let me lick your feet with joy. This stuff was formulated for burn victims or people recovering from chemical peels, and though I have nfi about those specific problems, if your skin is scared of you, this is the answer. I put on a big thick mask one night, woke up and my skin was significantly better. Another day of wearing it as a mask (this is the best thing about writing from home: you can literally work all day wearing a unicorn horn on each boob and a face mask made of pink frosting and crushed goji berries and no one would know) and my skin was almost normal.


I also got this Ceramide Gel Rosette stuff, just because some Reddit post raved about it for healing and soothing skin and at $13, who cares if it ends up elbow salve, and I kind of love it. It absorbs faster than the Biafine, which means you can put it on before SPF and your skin feels poreless and lovely all day.

So then life was perfect again and when I woke up birds chirped happy songs to me and bunnies hopped up to wrinkle their noses at me and I was like, whoa, wtf is a bunny doing in New York City, whatever man, it’s all good, just like Gwyneth says, and so on.

Enough about skin. This happened a month ago, I’ve just been too nuts with writing scripts (yay!) to sit down and properly write about it. But I figured this is a PSA: if you over-exfoliate your skin, GemGem has the answer, and it is French.

Let’s talk about Harvey, huh? What a fucking monster. Have you read this?






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6 thoughts on “On… crazy skin

  1. Porkchop

    Something similar happened to my skin in high school. I had lovely, zit-free skin but wanted to try Clearasil because I thought it was cool lol wtf. Glad you managed to find some products in your arsenal to remedy the issue!

    Are there any anti-aging products you recommend? I am 37 and starting to get lines on my face, incl these weird ones from being a side sleeper sigh. I would be forever grateful xo

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Ugh oh well, darling, I honestly don’t know anything. I am a side sleeper too, I wake up and my face is like a crumpled hankie. I have worn Retinol from time to time over the past decade, but inconsistently, mostly because you can’t use it when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and also, um, I forget about it. Always the Avene ones – Eluage, and I can’t find it recently, so I’m using the other one, YsTheAl or whatever the silly name is… I haven’t had any fillers or Botox or anything, though I think about them way more than can possibly be good for me, and I am sure that at some point in the future I will find bits of food or a mouse or something in the sleep-creases in my cheeks and think, time to get some professional help…. I think that not drinking wine helps, that may sound totally weird, but I have a theory about wine and skin. (OH so many theories do I have.) I also think wearing SPF 50 every day is pretty much the only skin secret that really makes a difference. Basically, I don’t know… I am no help at all, am I?

  2. Nerissa

    Can I just say that I adore your blog, in particular, your beauty/skin care posts? I too have a theory about wine and skin. This might be a convenient theory, because I like to say it’s all the sugar in wine, that ages our skin. But, there’s sugar in other forms of alcohol, yes? And even in the verrry dark chocolate I crunch on at 3 pm.

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Thank you (blushes) and YES, totally, wine and skin! Maybe it’s the sugar, the chemicals, I have no idea (shrugs dramatically). But vodka doesn’t affect my skin in the same way. Wine makes me look like a squished old raisin. When I had excema in my 20s, the specialist told me to avoid all wine and citrus, and if I had to drink alcohol (“I really do,” I said helpfully), then to drink vodka and soda.

  3. Indigo

    Thanks for the timely post. My face is going inexplicably red in the rising Australian temperatures. I’ve bought both the last two in a desperate attempt to stop me looking like a tomato before I have to turn up to Christmas and be in photos.

    If it doesn’t work, i’ll ask for a full coverage foundation recommendation!

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Oh no!! I hope they help!! Clinique also does a nice redness cream – I used it when preggers when my skin went a bit red at one point. Mine turned out to be mild rosacea – pregnancy-related – and after trying about seven nuclear options from the dermatologist, the best results (thank you, Reddit) were from the La Roche Posay Rosaliac line – the Rosaliac AR Intense Hydrating Serum, and the Rosaliac CC Cream. Bless the French. Such great skincare, so easy to invade. (JUST kidding.)


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