Being Skin Safe

I am weird about my skin. Maybe not weird, but very protective. The number of products I have collected under the sink in my bathroom could fill up two pharmacies and a whole Lush store. I make sure to moisturize my skin at least three times a day, since it is so dry. I use eye-creams, lip scrubs, face masks (charcoal and mint are my favorites), and pore strips every week. But the thing I am most meticulous about is making sure my products have SPF.

This, I am the strictest on.

I was fourteen when I began Acutane. Before the medication, I tanned easily and (unfortunately) would go outside without putting sunscreen on my shoulders or face. That all changed when I started Acutane. My skin went under a severe change. Although my acne went away like magic, replaced by extremely dry skin and peeling, I burned every time I went out in the sun. My dermatologist warned me of the side effect and said that I probably won’t be able to tan as easily as I once did, and instead burn.

Two years later, when I was sixteen, my mom had pieces of her skin cut out to remove cancerous cells. She had many spots on her chest and a couple areas on her face that needed to be monitored over the next few months since they looked to be cancerous as well. I was told to get checked out as well, just in case, because I was 50% more likely to develop skin cancer because my mom had it. 50%! More! Likely!

To me, this was a massive wake up call. Before, I didn’t care that I burned, I wanted to have color. People always told me I looked better when I had some sun because being pale, I looked “ill” and “unhealthy.” I began researching products that would help protect my skin, not just for my face but for my body as well.

Seven years later, I am proud to say, I have taken really good care of my skin. I don’t tan. My lotions all have SPF. And I make sure, that if I am outside, I carry sunscreen in my bag and make sure to reapply at least every couple hours. I may be a little crazy about my skin, but it is for good reason. 50% more likely! And, now, I love my pale skin. 

Last year my mom had even more cancerous cells and had to undergo chemo. However, she still goes in the sun without protection and even went into a tanning bed the other day before her week long trip to Mexico. Apparently, there is a new tanning bed on the market that is supposed to be “safe.” I call it false advertising because there is no way that a bed that fakes UVA and UVB rays will be safe. While I can yell at her all I want about making sure she is making smart choices about her skin, she needs to be the one who chooses to do it. I just hope it doesn’t get worse than it is.

If you’re wanting to be tan or be out in the sun, just please be smart about it. Yes, the sun and the heat and the beach are all great, but what is better is that your skin is healthy. Seeing my mom go through what she did last year was hard and it’s so much easier to put on sunscreen starting at a younger age, then getting skin removed when you’re older. Plus, you will look so much younger when you’re older without all those wrinkles and age spots!

Also, make sure that once a year you go to the dermatologist. It’s so important to make sure to take care of your skin and check out any moles or other spots that are causing you some concern. 1 in 5 Americans develop some type of skin cancer in their lifetime. Let’s not let that number increase.

If you’re looking to be tan and not damage your skin, here are some options that will make you look darker without damaging your skin.

St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse: This baby is one of the only tanning mousse’s that I have used that does not streak or turn you orange. I recommend the Express Bronzing Mousse. I’ll admit, it’s a bit pricey, but so worth it if you really are desperate for a tan. Leave it on for about an hour and you will get a nice glow.

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Tarte’s Brazilliance: Another nice (and slightly pricey) tanner. It smells kind of strange and takes a bit longer than the St. Tropez to dry, but it gives a really nice color. Don’t apply it more than once a week though! You might turn a color you don’t want to turn (bright orange).

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If you’re looking for a great sunscreen, below are a couple of my favorite products:

Tarteguard: Are you sensing a theme with my products? I love Tarte. They are so good to my very sensitive skin and their newest product is my newest obsession. Tarteguard smells really nice and isn’t greasy or oily on my face. I tend to put this on before my BB Cream so I know I am protected throughout the day.

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Neutrogena Dry-Touch: Again, this product isn’t greasy or oily. It definitely has that sunscreen smell, but hey, it’s summer that’s what your skin is supposed to smell like, right?

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Also, if you’re in the St. Louis area, Miles Against Melanoma is a great organization that helps raise money and awareness around skin cancer! June 7th is their annual 5K race, so get involved! 

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Doing New York (on a major budget)

If you’re like me, you probably don’t have tons of money to go travel, but still want to see as much of the world as possible. Now, I don’t have all the answers when it comes to traveling, so this is just what I did and how I saved money on going to a very expensive city.

Getting there:

When buying plane tickets, I tend to go into “incognito” mode and check Skyscanner, Google Flights, and Kayak. The reason for going incognito is that the websites use cookies to track what flights you are looking at, so when you go back to check prices at another time, they tend to bump up prices based on your past searches. When you go incognito, they tend to not be able to track your activity.

I bought my tickets to New York at the start of the year when ticket prices tend to drop (about a week after New Years), and I bought a roundtrip ticket to New York for $200.

Where to Stay:

If you have friends in New York, I highly recommend staying with them, obviously. If you don’t, a great option is Airbnb or Couchsurfing. You meet great people who tend to know the city well and can give you great ideas of where to go, eat, and walk. The best advice I can give for both is to research, research, research. Make sure they have photos, lots of recommendations, and email them to make sure you don’t get a bad vibe from them! Trust your gut and be safe. Remember, if you do agree to do Airbnb or Couchsurf, meet in a public place. You always have the option to say no.

However, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of staying with a stranger, here is a list of fairly cheap places to rest your head for the night. . .or day:

Hostels

The Bowery House // Average nightly stay is around $55 with free wifi (which is definitely the most important thing to have in your hostel). A bar is located downstairs and a nice rooftop terrace that has incredible views of the city.

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The Local NYC // Average nightly stay is around $45 with free wifi, book exchange, laundry room, and board games. This hostel is very “Brooklyn” with great wood tables, exposed brick, and plaid everywhere.

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Hotels

City Rooms // Average nightly stay is around $120 (much higher than the hostels, but you get your own room!) Centrally located with unique doodles painted on the walls of each room, City Hotels is a nice place to stay if you’re on a budget.

The Jane Hotel // Average nightly stay is around $90. If Wes Anderson’s film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was real, The Jane would be it. The interior is what I picture hotels used to look like before they became “hip” and modernized. The hotel is located right next to the Hudson and close to subway stops to get you anywhere you need in New York.

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MetroCard

If you’re going to be staying for close to a week, I recommend getting the 7 day MetroCard for $30. The card has unlimited rides for those 7 days on any subway and bus in New York.

Places to Eat

Chelsea Market // Not only does Chelsea Market have great clothing and book stores, but they have an array of foods for you to try (and a lot of the places have samples that you can scour!). I recommend Fat Witch Bakery for their brownies.

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Shake Shack // Oh, how I love me some Shake Shack. You can get a nice double burger and fries for around $10. However, shell out that extra $5 for a shake. You need one.

Murray’s Cheese Bar // My body hated me after eating the largest grilled cheese sandwich at Murray’s, but it’s worth it. I recommend the Murray Melt with a side of tomato soup for $12.

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Convenient Stores

When I was staying with a friend in Red Hook, we were starving and ran down to her local convenient store at the corner of her street. With boxes of cereal and kale chips in hand, we ordered an Everything Bagel with ham, cheese, turkey, lettuce, tomato, onions, and mustard toasted. It was $3! Look out for those kind of deals. They’re usually the best ones.

Free Things

A lot of people don’t talk about the free things that you can do while you’re in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

The High Line // The High Line used to be an old subway track that New York revamped with gardens, flowers, and restaurants. The views along the Line are incredible and worth climbing the steep steps to the top!

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Central Park// This is an obvious one. You can be like me and pretend you’re in “Friends” and do the handclap by the water fountains.

Brooklyn Brewery // Free tours on Saturday and Sunday at Brooklyn Brewery. It’s in such a hip part of Brooklyn that you’ll never want to leave.

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Bronx Zoo // On Wednesdays, entry is “pay what you want” and if you like zoos, it’s supposed to be a good one.

Museum of Modern Art // On Fridays, from 4-8pm, entrance to the museum is free. I highly recommend going early as it is bound to get packed!

Walking Tours // There are also a lot of free walking tours you can take to see the city. I love taking walking tours as they usually have interesting information on the city and I’ve always had a blast meeting people on the tours!

I hope this has been somewhat, if at all, helpful if you’re looking to travel to New York, but don’t have tons of money! I went for four days, and including airfare, food, and transport, spent $600.