Friday, February 27, 2015

Why You Don’t Want To Use A Magnifying Mirror

At the end of Chapter One of Timeless Skin I wrote:

I strongly recommend not using a magnifying mirror when it comes to looking at your face. Unless you require one to apply makeup, there is no need to make yourself crazy with this unrealistic view of your skin. No one looking at your skin can see what shows up through magnification. Not even you!

Recently a new client, Diane, called me about her problem skin, wondering if I could help her. We spoke for a few minutes, and she booked a facial. She came in without makeup, and I noticed her skin looked to be in pretty good shape although she reiterated her concern for “all the breakouts” she was experiencing. At first glance I thought perhaps she had gotten a little too much sun over her lifetime, but all in all, she didn’t have a lot of problems that I could see. Later I would look at her skin under magnification. That would tell me the real story.

I filled out a questionnaire and proceeded with the facial. I asked what her top concerns were regarding her skin and she replied, “I want to stop all the breakouts and stop my skin from aging.” I stepped up onto my soapbox about the aging process, basically explaining to her my philosophy that “you will age!” And yes, certain things can be done to keep the process from speeding up, but certainly nothing can ultimately be done to literally stop the aging process from happening.

As I examined her skin, I wasn’t finding the breakout she complained about. I could see some residual spots clearing from previous infections, but her skin looked good to me with just a few areas that needed clearing. She simply had normal skin with a few spots here and there, but nothing major. The first red flag presented itself.

I questioned her about her diet and found out she didn’t eat well. Normally she ate lots of fast foods and was a consumer of large amounts of sugar. (She did have a few places on her nose that looked to me like sugar spots—tiny infections with sebum in the middle, but she was lucky her skin wasn’t a mess due to her diet.) I thought to myself, “Something is wrong here; we are not seeing eye to eye.” This is not to say that a client’s view of his or her skin is always the same as my own opinion. But with Diane, she really had a very critical view of her skin, and I wasn’t able to concur.

When I look at a client’s skin, I am comparing what I see to thousands of clients who have come before. And in Diane’s case, I not only wouldn’t classify her skin as the worst I’ve seen, but she wouldn’t even make the list of clients with problem skin. I was beginning to realize her problem was something other than with her skin.

Later in the facial she started asking me what she could do about “all the hair on her face.” What hair? She meant the normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill peach fuzz we all have on our faces. “You need to leave it alone,” I said.

Then it hit me: She has a magnifying mirror. I asked her if she used one and sure enough, I was right. Everything looked huge through her magnifying mirror—her pores, the hair on her face, any small blemish that might be present—everything! No wonder she had a skewed view of her skin. Nothing looks normal under magnification! She had been looking at her skin from the point of view of almost seven times its normal size.

She said she needed to use the mirror to tweeze her brows. I asked Diane if she could restrain herself and only use the magnifying mirror to shape her brows and not look at her skin. She said she would try. It would take discipline, but I have faith that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I wanted to tell Diane’s story to illustrate how you can drive yourself crazy by looking at yourself enlarged. What would it be like if we magnified our voices seven times the normal volume or magnified pain seven times? Don’t magnify your perfectly good skin seven times larger by looking at it through a magnifying mirror! Otherwise you are simply and completely setting yourself up for failure, disappointment, and ultimately for taking steps to solve a problem you probably don’t even have.

Trust me, don’t use magnifying mirrors for anything other than applying makeup (if you can’t see very well), shaping your eyebrows*, or for some other positive reason. And if you do have problems with your skin, looking through a magnifying mirror certainly isn’t going to help clear it up. Looking at your lifestyle habits and making better choices will be a surer way to bring about long-term, permanent change.

*Using a magnifying mirror to shape your eyebrows can be equally disastrous for your skin if you don’t use restraint. Once again, no one can see the stray hair of your brows unless he or she is standing extremely close to your face. What usually happens is you will see hair that no one else can see, perhaps hair that isn’t even ready to be tweezed. You go after it, can’t get it, and then have to get it. Due to your diligence you break the skin, causing a tear, which will cause a scab to form. You may have gotten that stray hair, but now you have a very obvious scab or scabs on your brows. You have just given attention to something you were trying to conceal.

To read more on waxing and tweezing, see:

For more skin care no-nos, see: