Friday, January 15, 2021

Skincare Update: Two Months of Curology

via Unsplash

Here's a quick update about my skincare routine, even though it may still be too early to do a full review of my Curology experience. I've now been using Curology for a little over 60 days, or two months. 

Because my Curology formula includes some fairly powerful, potentially irritating active ingredients - the tretinoin and possibly also the azelaic acid as well - I use it with a fairly light hand. As with prescription Retin-A Micro, a roughly pea-sized amount should be plenty to cover the entire face in a thin layer. In practice, because of how much the Curology pump bottle dispenses with each push of the pump, I often end up using slightly less than the typical pea-sized amount each night. (One full pump is generally just shy of the right amount, but two full pumps would be way too much and result in some wasted product.) 

Accordingly, even though it's been a little more than 60 days now since I started, I'm actually still using my first supposedly one month-sized, just-pay-shipping trial bottle of my Curology formula. (Which means that the $19.99/month price of Curology may work out to be more like $10/month for me in practice, at least with my current formula.)  Because of the opaque bottle, I also can't tell how much more is left in there! 

I've mentioned that K and I spent the year-end holidays staying over with his parents at their home, after a strict 16 days of quarantine for both households before they picked us up and drove us there. We stayed with them for nearly two weeks total, and my skin reacted somewhat oddly to the change in setting.

Please note that this portion of the post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

In general, the air felt slightly more dry at K's parents house than it usually is at our apartment, maybe from running the heater more. They don't buy or eat as much in the way of dairy products as we do, a change, however temporary, in diet that past experience suggests should improve my acne. And while we were staying with them, I switched back to using Cerave foaming face wash - a trusted part of my routine for several years, though I recently switched to and now prefer the Vanicream gentle facial cleanser because it's less drying - because that was what they had on hand. 

I was a bit mystified that my acne got noticeably worse all of a sudden while we were staying over for the holidays, especially with the diet change that should be helpful. Any new blemishes got significantly more inflamed and healed more slowly than they had been since I started using Curology. I found it very odd, since I thought the change in my skin's condition was so significant that it couldn't be fully explained by the drier air or the switch back to a face cleanser I'd used with no problems for such a long time in the past. 

Now that I've been back home for a while, however, my skin's back to improving noticeably on Curology. Back when I was around three or four weeks in, I'd already started noticing that new blemishes were smaller and healed more quickly, and that trend has continued. My skin is still a little dry and dull-looking some days, but is also still free of the extreme flakiness and irritation that I had back when I was a first-time topical tretinoin user. I might potentially inquire about increasing the potency of either the azelaic acid or tretinoin in my Curology formula for my next refill - which I may not need for four months, since I just received a two-month sized refill bottle, but haven't opened it yet due to still working my way through the first bottle - though I'm also not sure it's necessary to change my formula.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Things I Like Lately: Stationery, Kitchen Goods, and Slippers

As I mentioned in my 2020 year-end shopping reflections, I'm currently trying to have a low-spending, low-shopping few months when it comes to clothes, shoes, and accessories. At the moment, I'm very focused on the impending end of my student loan repayment journey, which will hopefully be in mid-August if all goes according to plan. In the absence of being able to safely travel or go out to dine at restaurants, fashion-related shopping is my biggest discretionary expense, so that's why I'm so focused on trying to keep that spending category down for now! 

This doesn't mean I'll completely stop shopping for things that are fun or a bit indulgent, however. I also don't think I'll completely eliminate shopping for my closet until August. I'm satisfied as long as I'm just shopping noticeably less than usual in that area. Here are a few, mostly non-fashion things I've been looking at so far in the new year. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

Stationery: I recently decided to order my first ever set of washi tapes and stickers from Yoseka Stationery (a small stationery shop local to me, though I've unfortunately never had a chance to visit in person due to COVID-19). I mainly want to use them to decorate my five-year Hobonichi Techo - ordered last September - which I've been using as a sort of hybrid memory book and "a line a day"-type journal. I'll probably also use the stickers and washi tape to add more color to my bullet journal-slash-planner, which I currently keep in a dot-grid Leuchtturm1917 notebook, handwriting in all the dates and weekly planner layouts myself. 

I've only just started playing around with my new washi tapes and stickers. One observation so far is that an A6-sized notebook - like my five-year Hobonichi - is maybe a little small to allow much room for showing off washi tapes wider than ~15 mm or so, at least for long-winded writers like me! I'm still able to use the ~15 mm tapes as small, colorful accents on the pages, but can't use full lines of them to separate off each one-year section on each page. 

Ooh, and the "print-on stickers" I bought are particularly fun! Here's a quick video clip from one of Yoseka Stationery's Instagram posts that shows you how to use them. I've tried a few of these stickers now, and they're really easy to use. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

January 6, 2021

via Unsplash

On the morning of January 6, 2021, I was happy because it was clear that Democrats had won both of the Senate runoff races in Georgia. Since last November, I'd donated to the Warnock and Ossoff campaigns and to Fair Fight in hopes of helping to make this happen, but I hadn't really dared to get my hopes up too much. With the news of the results of the Georgia Senate runoffs, it was shaping up to be a good day. 

Then, in the afternoon, there was an attempted coup incited by our outgoing President, in which domestic terrorists breached the US Capitol Building while Congress was in session. I was horrified and disgusted. I don't think I am equal to the task of writing something adequate to address what happened, but it also doesn't feel right to not say anything. 

The thing that struck me most in the heat of the moment, when the Capitol Building was breached, was the stark reminder of how deeply racism permeates law enforcement and policing in our country. As President-Elect Biden stated in his January 7 speech:

"No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn't have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that's true, and it is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. The American people saw it in plain view." 

Last year, I did a bit of pro bono work related to NYPD police reform, a surpassingly small contribution to the fight against police violence and racially discriminatory policing here in NYC. This, in particular, is an area in which the work of individual lawyers is hard, against tall odds (in part because of qualified immunity), time-consuming, and ultimately feels like a mere drop in the bucket. I saw how one important reform took decades, really, and the major victory in that area was through legislative reform, not litigation. Even then, that new legislation is currently being held up by legal challenges from the police unions. 

I also feel a particularly intense disgust for people like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. It's probably too much to hope for that their political careers be tanked forever by what they've said and done this week, but I hope for it nonetheless. In truth, this same special opprobrium is appropriate for any attorney that has voluntarily participated in the efforts to undermine the recent presidential election, whether by appearing as attorneys of record in the relevant cases or by making public statements spouting lies about election fraud. Those cases clearly added fuel to the fire. 

As part of the process of being admitted to the bar, I took an oath to support and defend the US Constitution, and this is true about every attorney from every state. We are obligated to maintain our integrity, along with our competence, in the practice of law. Our duties of professional responsibility also require candor to the tribunal, that we tell the truth to the Court, including by refusing to offer up information or evidence that we know to be false. (Different state bars may phrase their professional responsibility rules somewhat differently, but the same general obligations should be present everywhere.) It seems clear to me that so many attorneys involved in the litigation seeking to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election have failed in these duties.

And that's all I've got. I don't think my words are adequate or particularly eloquent in addressing this historical moment. It's been horrifying and sad, and I'm afraid of what all this means for the future of American democracy. I do at least derive some satisfaction from the sitting President's permanent suspension from Twitter, and only wish the company would have made this decision sooner. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

2020 Year-End Shopping Reflections

Unlike in past years, I don't really have all that much to say when it comes to my 2020 fashion-related shopping, particularly when it comes to the analysis of individual purchases. I shopped a fair bit less than normal because it was a strange year, purchasing 20 total items in 2020 compared to 28 total items in 2019. I spent $3,528.14, significantly less than 2019's personal all-time high of $4,409.33 and also less than 2018's $4,016.51

I've already laid out most of the relevant personal finance context for 2020's fashion-related shopping in my recent and very belated 2019 year-end shopping roundup. My personal finance situation has changed dramatically since 2018: I first hit "net worth zero" in April 2019; paid down my student loan balance to five figures in late December 2019; and I've been steadily making substantial student loan payments since, most recently at $5,100/month. Assuming all goes well, I should finish paying off my current ~$38,900 balance - down from over $190,000 when I graduated law school in 2015 - by mid-August 2021. The end of my student loan repayment journey is finally in sight! 

Now that my student loan balance is solidly in the lower five figures and the possibility of being debt-free seems far more concrete and easier to imagine than before, I feel more acutely that every dollar spent now to indulge my fondness for clothes, shoes, and accessories - or to enjoy any other luxury - is a dollar not put into eradicating my remaining student loan balance even more quickly. To have full repayment be so tantalizingly close is to develop a more acute sense of opportunity costs with all my discretionary spending, I suppose. Would I rather buy this fun or pretty thing? Or are those dollars better spent on leaving my student loans behind for good? 

That's an indirect way of saying that I think - fingers crossed! - the first half of 2021 should be a fairly low shopping time for me when it comes to my closet, mainly because I'm just so eager to put more cash into my student loans. In any case, I expect to still be working almost fully from home until the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to the general public here in NYC (vaccine distribution has been logistically challenging and slow in NYC so far, so this may not occur until summer). Between that and all the nice, colorful loungewear I already bought in 2020, I really shouldn't have any wardrobe "needs" coming up before August this year. 

I can't guarantee I won't still pick up something for my closet here and there when I see something pretty, particularly if there's a good also available. But I also feel like I've gotten all the pandemic-induced stress-shopping urges out of my system by now - I pretty much went through two separate rounds of that in the first six or seven months of social distancing - so I also don't think I'll indulge too much.