Fashion & Beauty

Bless Our Mess

April 9, 2023


By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

ONE OF THE first things I noticed when I arrived at New Jersey’s Newark Airport last week after living in Tokyo for nearly four months was how different everyone looked. Not different from the Japanese, but strikingly different from one another. Because Japan’s population is about 98% Japanese, people’s general appearance, clothing, and other aesthetic choices are rooted in a single culture—which results in a less diverse array of styles than might emerge from a broader mix of ethnicities and cultures. I must’ve been at Newark for at least 10 minutes before I heard a word of English. And what a stew of faces, of skin colors, of dress, of head coverings: straw sun hats and turbans and crocheted rainbow yarmulkes! While I was away, the news from home—so much antagonism from all sides—often seemed grim; the conformity I experienced in Japan, comforting and safe. But seeing again the variety of cultures here, I felt suddenly protective of our gorgeous mess. How could we possibly have survived this long with so cacophonous a culture clash? You might say “With classism, racism, colonialism, paternalism, and sexism, among other things,” and you would not be wrong. But wading into this field of wild diversity inspired renewed affection for our democratic experiment. And for Rodney King’s anguished, supremely sad plea: People, can’t we all just get along?


“Ask Val” answers your urgent questions, Vol. 34

Is that you, L? With your tote bag crammed, as usual, with books? So happy to see you!

Q: Are there any procedures for getting rid of or minimizing the tiny red veins (which my dad also has) popping up on my face? An aesthetician recommended some sort of three-part method but I’m not sure if I should go ahead with it. What are your thoughts?

A: I’ve had those little red veins on my face, too. A dermatologist long ago zapped them with a device that temporarily left me looking like (as my husband observed) I’d shattered a glass door with my face. Remember Harold and the Purple Crayon? You would’ve thought Harold had had a field day on me. After getting used to the idea that I would just have to be patient till the squiggles faded, I found it interesting which of my colleagues at O, The Oprah Magazine asked me about them and which pretended nothing was different. When Gayle King saw me, she immediately cried, “Val! What happened to you?” (An exclamation, despite Gayle’s tone of genuine concern, I’m never fond of hearing.) Other colleagues tried to carry on a conversation with me as if my face looked completely normal. My trust in those people shifted at the time; I never felt totally comfortable with them again. When the purple marks disappeared, so did the little red veins.

Anyhoo, I emailed devoted HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf for her advice about your little red veins. Following is a slightly edited version of her response:

Tiny red veins—or “telangiectasia”—of the face are very common. The two primary causes are rosacea and sun damage. Since rosacea is familial, patients frequently tell me their mom or dad has the same. We can also see prominent telangiectasia on the neck and chest from chronic sun damage. On the neck, it’s called ‘poikiloderma’ [Val here. That word is from the Greek for spotted or embroidered; I would’ve named it pointilloderma.] You mention an aesthetician’s advice, but it’s important to be evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist for diagnosis and to confirm there are no precancerous or cancerous lesions in the area that require treatment. If the diagnosis is rosacea, you may be given topical or oral prescriptions to improve what you have now and keep it from progressing.

Treatment of telangiectasia is with either a vascular-specific laser or an intense pulsed light device. Depending on the extent of the redness, several treatments may be necessary. Treatment can feel like a rubber band snapping on the skin. [Val again: If you grew up with an older sibling, you’ll recognize that sensation.] After treatment, the skin can look blotchy and hivey (though rarely swollen). Using ice afterward is helpful. Like so many treatments, it’s best done when you are at your least tan and when you don’t have any cold sores or other infections on the face or neck. While you’re being zapped, it’s felicitous to remember that the absorption of laser or intense pulsed light as heat can trigger collagen remodeling—meaning that repeat treatments may result in the effect of a more youthful  bouncy, smooth, and even-toned complexion.

One thought on “Bless Our Mess

  1. cynthia tilson says:

    Absolutely loved your read on our crazy quilt of a society. Thank you for that perspective!
    As for lasering away our rosy cheeks, it’s good to know there are options out there that are no more painful than a quick pinch with a big price tag.

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