I was traveling on business in Dublin recently and couldn’t stop staring at her face. She was a hotel publicist, willowy and beautiful, with arrow-straight posture, eyes like a Disney fawn, and a singsongy lilt. But what had me really transfixed was her skin. So fresh-faced and dewy. Was this an age thing? (She’s 24; I’m 37.) Or was she just born this way, the spawn of porcelain dolls or some mutant gene pool lacking sebaceous glands?
Like a creep, I cocked my head left and right, studying her Photoshopped complexion and wondering why mine looked like potato bread by comparison. When I found myself seated next to her at dinner, I couldn’t suppress my curiosity any longer. “Your skin is ridiculously beautiful,” I said. “Please tell me your skin-care routine and how I can look half as good as you do.”
Instead of politely excusing herself to the bathroom, never to return, she launched into an excited monologue about a product I’d never heard of, but which she insisted all Irish women swear by: E45 dermatological cream. She rarely wears makeup, she said, and only sometimes swipes on a facial toner (Pixi Glow Tonic is her favorite). But she slathers on “an obscene amount” of E45 each morning and night after washing her face.
Committing the three-character name to memory, I rushed out the next morning in search of a drugstore. The E45 packaging was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen; hemorrhoid creams had more sex appeal. Sold in 12- and 36-ounce tubs, it was easy to imagine old Irish grannies placing it in their grocery carts next to economy-size squeeze bottles of Yorkshire Relish. The label copy was even worse, describing the emollient as “a trusted formula suitable for the whole family, including adults, children and the elderly,” and particularly effective at treating eczema, psoriasis, sunburn, and “detergent hands.” The main ingredients: white soft paraffin (14.5 percent) and light liquid paraffin (12.6 percent), which is like the wax used in candles.
My doubts were many but my faith was strong. The smooth, nongreasy moisturizer didn’t smell like anything in particular, just clean and waxy. It felt a bit tacky when first applied, but letting it “air out” for 10 to 15 minutes before adding makeup helped. It didn’t immediately reduce redness or shrink my saucer-sized pores, but it did give me an instant luminosity — like an apple-cheeked farm girl in an Irish Spring commercial. Three or four days into using it, I took a rare selfie while horseback riding on the coast of Donegal. I couldn’t believe my sunny glow, skin juicy and plump like a peach.
I’m not one to sing the praises of a million different beauty products. I find one thing I like and stick with it like an old hound dog. A month into using E45, I’m still hooked. My skin has never looked this moist and supple, and I haven’t broken out once since I started using it. My face has a healthy shine, which I can tone down with mattifying powder if I’m feeling like a human headlight. I’ve even started using E45 to moisturize my three-quarter-sleeve tattoos. The cream makes the colors pop like a box of Crayolas. If I get detergent hands, I’m sure it’d do wonders for that, too.
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