I Tried A Vintage Beauty Routine For A Week

My grandma (and probably yours, too) has always told me cold cream is good for your skin, but up until recently, I was quite skeptical that something so decidedly vintage could work as well as all the fancy new products you'll find at Sephora. This winter, however, was especially brutal on my skin. My forehead is covered in tiny white bumps, my chin has throbbing red cysts, and I'm itchy all over. My usual routine just wasn't cutting it, so I decided to give the original beauty must-have a try.

I must admit, however, that this vintage beauty experiment wasn't entirely my idea. In my desperation this winter, I hit a fancy spa for a facial, hoping that it would provide some relief. As the esthetician poked and prodded at my face, her mouth puckered in disgust. "Your forehead needs to be exfoliated daily," she instructed sternly. "It's broken out because of layers of dry, dead skin that needs to be removed and deeply moisturized." She gave me a list of the usual recommendations, like switching Clarisonic brush head types, buying one of their oil-based cleansers, and, of course, regular professional facials. I just nodded. Finally, relaxed from the steam mask and mini-massage, I settled in for the torturous extractions and promptly jumped a mile when she leaned in and whispered, "What you really need is cold cream."

"...Excuse me?"

"Cold cream," she sounded paranoid, like the corporate spa gods might be listening. "Use it every night instead of a face wash until the weather gets better. Scrub it off with a hot, damp towel. It will change your life."

I scoffed. Cold cream is so vintage! And ... affordable! I came of age in the early aughts when dermatologists insisted that everything needed to be oil-free. While the theory of facial oil products makes sense to me, I haven't been willing to test it on my own skin. Cold creams are most definitely not oil-free, I argued. But a few days passed and my skin reverted back to its pre-facial state. On a Target run, I found myself in front of the three cold cream options. At less than five dollars, I figured I could afford to try it out for a week. My skin couldn't possibly get any worse, right?

Day 1

The best way to document a change is pictures, right? As terrifying as I find the idea of a makeup-free selfie, I'm willing to take an ego hit in the name of science. So here I am on day 1 of this cold cream–cleanser experiment.

I warned you it wasn't pretty! I started the day by splashing warm water on my face and patting it dry. I decided against makeup, but still smoothed on my favorite moisturizer. Fourteen long hours later, I came home and cracked open the jar of Pond's Cold Cream. Google told me that you should apply thick globs onto dry skin, massaging into skin with big circular motions and let sit for a minute. While I was waiting, I ran a nubby face cloth under hot water, squeezed it out, then scrubbed the cream off my face paying particular attention to my forehead. Afterward, my skin felt clean and super soft but a little heavy, like the grease was just waiting under the surface. I was a bit red, too, but I'm sure that was from my vigorous "exfoliating." I decided against using a moisturizer, but did apply my usual under eye serum.

Ponds Cold Cream , $8, Amazon

Day 3

I woke up to discover a new pimple on my cheek. It's not painful, but it is red and annoying, plus now I really need to wear makeup. Otherwise, my skin looks and feels mostly the same. I am pleasantly surprised by how easily cold cream removes my makeup at night without leaving my usual traces of mascara smeared everywhere. Every time I open the tub, I get that faint soapy scent that reminds me of my Ponds-loving Nana. Cold cream was a staple of her beauty routine and her skin was always youthful and gorgeous ... so she must have been on to something! I decide to stick with it.

Day 5

I had a slip-up this morning when, out of habit, I reached for my usual face wash in the shower. In my defense, it was really early! Anyway, other than that, I've only been washing my face at night with the cold cream, and am really starting to see a difference. My forehead and chin are less flaky and those white bumps have almost disappeared. That pimple is still holding strong along with a new friend, but I have a feeling it wasn't the cold cream that did this. The rest of my skin looks clear and it's easier to cover up two large pimples than a bunch of little ones anyway, right?

Day 7

My forehead is clearer than it's been in months, my skin looks less dull and my nose is no longer peeling. Looking in the mirror, I feel like I have a light layer of BB cream on (I don't) and there's a nice, natural glow now! But for all the good the cold cream has done, it hasn't helped with the two painful cysts on my cheek and chin. I'm worried that more deep pimples might pop up in the next few days so I'm really looking forward to using my old face wash and Clarisonic again. Overall, I don't regret the experiment, but it wasn't the miracle I was hoping for. Cold cream definitely works well as a makeup remover and, especially for my forehead, an awesome deep moisture mask, but it's not something I'm going to keep using every day.

Clarisonic, $129, Amazon

Photos: Kara Weymouth