Upon airport arrival of my youngest daughter, Kate, it was not two minutes after deplaning before I’d apologized rather self-deprecatingly for the condition of my skin.

“I am breaking out all over my forehead!” I pointed to the mess that added insult to injury since I have so many deep worry wrinkles there already.

“Oh mom, it’s okay; I can’t even notice it,” she sweetly reassured. I knew full well she was lying—I hadn’t lost my eyesight yet, after all. And I own a mirror.

“And my chin!” I added while she tried to push past me to grab her suitcase from the conveyor belt at luggage claim. “How do you explain this chin?”

“You think that’s bad; check out my cheeks,” she plopped down her bag and forcibly took my hand to run it across what once were those chubby, little, rosy, dimpled darlings I’d mothered.

“Feel those bumps?” she challenged. “What do I do about those?”

The sad truth was evident moments into our much-anticipated visit: both mother and daughter had acne.

“I thought I was past all this,” I moaned, all too aware that I was to celebrate my 58th birthday the very next day.

“So did I!” the 25-year-old new bride barked.

“Do you think it’s stress?” she wondered. After all, we’d lost a lot over the past year: my father had passed away, we’d both moved states apart (a challenge indeed for a pair who couldn’t choose a lipstick shade without the other’s advice), and her first-grade teaching position—well, I need not elaborate on the everyday pressures she experiences while shepherding seventeen little ones in the confines of a classroom.

“Okay, so what do we do about it?” I nearly spit as I ran my fingers across my forehead and wondered if my condition could pass for measles.

We’d both been using “all natural” products in an effort to save ourselves from certain demise due to chemicals, that which most cosmetic companies refer to as “science.” These admirably produced products contained several essential oils. Might they be interacting with our skin in an unfriendly manner? There was only one way to find out: go to the mall to uncover what was the matter.

Once there, the brilliant and premeditated plan to keep our mouths shut and simply allow the esthetician leeway to freely diagnose went right out the window. As I whined about how could this be happening at my age, Katharine whimpered about the fear that her high school years of rampant acne were returning.

The wise woman at the skin care location briskly lifted three bottles from the shelves that housed hundreds of colorful containers, all promising eternal youth.

“I don’t care about looking young forever,” I added, actually lying through my teeth, but in a moment of such pimple peril, I had to relinquish resolve to remain girlish at eighty. “And I don’t want forty products for night and day cluttering my bathroom counter!”

“We’ll keep it simple,” our new guru advised. “Three steps only—for each of you.” Alleluia.

The next demand emanated from one who’d been burned. I’d recently gambled and lost enough money to feed four families at Christmas by buying natural skin care cosmetics that, unbeknownst to me until I tried, could not be returned even with the receipt. Ladies, when an invoice reads, “If you are dissatisfied in any way, just call us,” I am here to tell you that doesn’t mean that when you do they are going to accept your comments.

We scurried home, anxious to scrub our faces and start fresh. Chemicals—just a few and in miniscule amounts—how can I say this—work. And yes, we are traitors to the natural cosmetic cause; we admit it. Katharine’s skin is crystal clear and mine is smooth again, although I do feel a suspicious bump rising right now on the left side of my forehead. I’ll look at the bright side: maybe with acne I will look as young as my daughter when I am eighty.

– Kathleen Clary Miller