Okay…so this one’s not in the promised “Beauty” series…but is a short anecdote regarding recent experiences with beauty products. Tianjin’s winter weather is the kind that makes your skin feel extremely dry, to the point of cracking and peeling. So, around Christmas time, I was overjoyed to find some wonderful Olay brand lotion that did a great job helping me feel more human and less lizard-like. Fast-forward two weeks…in the middle of my month long bout with bronchitis and a bad cold, I suddenly develop bright red splotches behind both knees and in my elbows. These spots were itchy, hot to the touch, and extremely uncomfortable. Fearing that I was having an allergic reaction to the antibiotics I had started to take, I asked a nurse friend to take a look at the red spots. She felt like it was a topical kind of reaction, and together we decided that I either might be allergic to my new lotion, or maybe my body was just overwhelmed with having been sick for too long and more sensitive to the new lotion than normal. Her advice? Stop using the lotion.
So I stopped using it, and (after several layers of skin had peeled off) the area behind my knees and elbows slowly returned to normal. One month later, being fully recovered from my illness and once again suffering from extremely dry skin, the lotion began to beckon me to try it again. So I did. Three weeks later, everything seemed just fine and I was beginning to hope that the first reaction might have just been a fluke. Until one night, when my legs began itching so fiercely that I thought I might wear off my fingers trying to scratch through my jeans. Peeling off the jeans and my long johns, I discovered…angry red hot patches behind my knees, and a prickly red rash all up and down my legs. Wonderful.
Then, a stroke of genius/suspicion struck. A stroke of genius/suspicion that should have hit me way back in December when I bought the lotion, or at least when I had the first reaction. I grabbed the bottle, sat down at the computer and painstakingly looked up all of the characters on the bottle. Fortunately xuezhongwen.net (which saves our butts on a regular basis) has a little sketch pad where you can draw in characters that you don’t yet recognize. I used that function to find all the characters in the dictionary, then used the translator…
…and discovered that my “lotion” was not lotion after all. It was body wash…intended to be slathered on in the shower, foamed up, and then (probably most importantly) RINSED OFF. Not, mind you, rubbed INTO the skin twice a day for several weeks in a row. How could I make this mistake? Easily enough, when you’re functionally illiterate. This bottle was located in the lotion section of the body wash/lotion aisle. The English on the bottle said “Silk Moisturizing”…and the texture of this stuff is really thick, like a nice body cream. I didn’t know most of the characters on the bottle, so I just took location, texture, and the few English words to draw a conclusion as to what the product was.
Suddenly, it all made sense…and I dashed off to the shower to rinse away the soap residue that was making my legs so itchy. Five minutes later, the itchiness was greatly relieved but my ego was still feeling a little bruised over the whole thing. Of course I had reacted to this product…it was never intended to be left ON the surface of the skin for that long!
Which makes me wonder…will I still be allergic to this stuff if I’m using it properly? I’m not sure…once my legs have peeled and returned to normal again, I may be tempted to try it as a body wash and see how it works. Next time I buy something, I’ll certainly be paying closer attention to those characters on the bottles, and running them through the translator before I go deciding how to use a certain product.
Also, we’ll be gone for two days/one night starting tomorrow…we’re going north of Beijing to hike one of the less restored (and apparently most beautiful) sections of the Great Wall. It’s supposed to be a pretty challenging hike, but we’re looking forward to it. This is a just a teaser to let you know that the next post will probably involve lots of beautiful pictures. Other upcoming posts will (most likely) continue the series on beauty.