Never did I expect to become a watch person. Fetish objects for punctual people—or so I thought, until I laid eyes on an elegant Chopard from a Connecticut man’s estate. On day two it stopped, prompting a rookie lesson in manual watches. “Like a Tamagotchi!” I texted a friend. I took to tending my new pet each night before bed: winding up as I wound down.
Temporal structure has its comforts, particularly following a tumultuous three years. The pandemic’s lockdown phase saw people unmoored from daily rhythms (a void some filled with skin care pageantry), while the return to seminormalcy has sent us back into warp-speed life (cut to me waking up on the sofa at 2 a.m., stumbling to wash my face). That yo-yo effect drew me to Saving Time, Jenny Odell’s sharp book (out March 7) tracing the cultural forces that shape our conception of time. “Clocks arrived as tools of domination,” she writes, detailing how industry yoked time and labor to squeeze out every last drop of productivity. “As planet-bound animals, we live inside shortening and lengthening days; inside the weather, where certain flowers and scents come back, at least for now, to visit a year-older self. Sometimes time is not money but these things instead.”
Aging is its own wearable timepiece. A raft of topical products aims to stave off the crinkly, droopy inevitable. But tapping into the body’s circadian rhythm is a way to get time on your side. Midsleep, the skin barrier is more permeable, leaving the door ajar for potent ingredients but also moisture loss. Following UV damage, DNA repair peaks at night. “When we’re not getting enough sleep, we wake up and virtually every cell in the body is in a kind of high alert,” says Rebecca Robbins, PhD, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a sleep scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Ample rest plus skin care attuned to biology is a twofer.
It’s a “case of looking at dead time as active time,” says Omorovicza cofounder Stephen de Heinrich. Feeling like Snow White before slumber, I dip into the brand’s Midnight Renewal serum, featuring retinal (a vitamin A derivative) and microalgae that helps quiet cortisol (the stress hormone spiked by a late-night inbox trawl). Many dermatologists vote for prescription-strength retinoids, but sensitivity steers me to gentler forms, such as a retinol with aloe and marula oil from Current State, a line arriving in February 1. Hardworking products need days off too, making room for cocooning moisture. The p.m. serum in Shiseido’s Bio-Performance duo acts as a dewy underlayer, with a “shrunken” form of hyaluronic acid designed to plump up skin; Lancôme’s Advanced Génifique Night cream is a cushiony overcoat of hydration.
What about extra credit? One morning, eureka: I hit Snooze and slip on Shani Darden’s LED mask, turning my groggy habit into a virtuous session with anti-inflammatory light. It calls to mind a campaign for Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, with poet and brand ambassador Amanda Gorman. “Repair isn’t always about fixing what is broken,” she recites, like a clock. “It’s an invitation to reset, reassess, reimagine.”
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