La Peau: Upping My Game

Une femme feels fortunate to have been blessed with mostly-good skin: not much acne as a teenager, and fewer wrinkles than one might expect at my age. However, since the Menopause Fairy visited me a couple of years ago, I’ve noticed an increasing dullness and coarseness of texture, as well as some “softening” around the jawline.

Aside from religious daily use of sunscreen and nightly makeup removal, the rest of my skincare routine has been inconsistent at best in recent years. I’ve skimped on some items and probably overspent on others. A couple of glycolic peels from a facialist showed me that my skin could look better; my mishmash of products at home based on others’ recommendations and hard-sells from department store counter sales associates wasn’t getting optimum results.

So while on our recent cruise when my MIL mentioned there was a free skincare seminar at the spa, I figured, why not? I was pretty sure this would be a sales pitch for products and spa services, and while that was true, it was also an informative hour.

Some of what I learned:

1. Don’t apply your eye cream on lids right up to the lash line. Apply around the orbital bone only. The cream will get to where it needs to be. This keeps product from getting into the eye itself and irritating. (Since I’ve begun doing this, I’ve noticed that my eyes are noticeably less red most of the time.)

2. Sun damage begins at deeper layers of skin and takes up to seven years to become apparent. (Yikes! Glad I got serious about sunscreen a while back.)

3. If you don’t exfoliate regularly, even the priciest moisturizer won’t penetrate the top layers of dead skin and get to where it can do some good.

4. The active ingredients in any skin treatment product are bound up with carrier molecules (inert ingredients). The larger the carrier molecules, the less they will penetrate the skin. (Which may explain why Oil of Olay and some other drugstore skincare products seem to sit on top of my skin like a sticky film.)

5. Women over 40 should be using a cleansing milk twice daily, rather than soap. (Cleansing was the step I’d been shorting, using a Pond’s makeup remover cloth in the evening, with thrice-weekly St. Ives Apricot scrub, and nothing but water in the morning. I did buy the cleanser she recommended and started using it immediately, and saw marked improvement in the texture of my skin after just a couple of days.)

6. Brown spots that develop as a result of hormones probably will not respond much to brighteners or even lasers. (This is also what my dermatologist has told me, merde!)

7. A twice-daily non-alcohol toner and weekly clay mask will help reduce the size and appearance of pores. (I’d stopped using toner many years ago as I found them drying, but apparently that was because of the alcohol. I’ve been doing the non-alco toner for the last three weeks, and will get serious about finding a clay mask this weekend. I don’t know if it’s the toner or my overall regime, but my pores do seem to be less noticeable.)

8. Use a collagen cream to firm skin. (My overall skin texture has improved, hard to say if it’s noticeably firmer or not.)

9. Glycolic night cream will improve skin’s texture and clarity. (I’ve just started using this, so jury’s still out.)

10. Microdermabrasion is what she recommended for fine lines and acne scars. (My dermatologist is lukewarm on the microdermabrasion, feels that peels are more effective.)

So my skin is looking better and I’ll probably keep this routine going. I’m also going to make a point to visit the facialist for a gentle peel every three months or so. My goal isn’t to necessarily turn back the clock, but rather to keep my skin looking and feeling as good as possible whatever my age.

Do you have a regular skincare routine? Has it changed over the years? Are there any particular products that you swear by?

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  1. I’m a Clarins gal overall, with a few exceptions — I use a Garnier microbead scrub almost every day and am one of the vast army of slavish devotees to Cetaphil cleanser. But I’m with you — the thing I’m chasing most these days is a brightening and freshening of my skin. At some point I’m hoping there’s some filler in my future, but until then I can live witht he lines provided I at least look like I got some sleep the night before.

  2. In the book, “The Perricone Prescription”, Dr. Pericone says that just rinsing your face in the morning can lead to roseacea because rinsing doesn’t clean off bacteria that accumulates overnight.

    I love Lancome’s Galatee Confort cleansing milk, and I think Murad products are great, especially their Night Reform lotion. I think it does have some firming effect, and also has some glycolic acid. My skin looks brighter when I use it faithfully.

    Dr. Murad has written a book on skincare, I think he says the same thing about eyecream.

    When I can afford it, I love microderm, I prefer that over a peel, because the peel takes about a week to completely get rid of the dead skin. I try to have a microderm treatment every month.

  3. Metrin… when I was in my twenties tried it and thought “Meh…” NOW I love it, it leaves a really nice glow and I get a lot of compliments on my skin. I’m an actress and make up people are always asking what I use, and Metrin and a great sunscreen called Kinesys SPF 30 (another great product , weightless and non-sticky but waterproof; makes a great base for makeup, over the Metrin) on my face and everywhere else. I
    know I sound like a shill, but there you go. I’ve actually thought of selling the Metrin line myself. It’s like the Cosa Nostra of skin,(“Just when I thought I was out– they pull me back in!”) the sales agents are everywhere, but invisible. It’s www.– a little pricey but not too, and goes a long way. I also use a scrub twice week, St Ives.

  4. my mother is a true flower child and do-it-yourselfer and so always made her own facial cleanser or bought the most economical brands she could find at the drugstore (even when she could afford anything she wanted). She has pale skin, tons of freckles and seriously difficult skin. Now that she is celebrating her late 50s, she is starting to take skin care seriously. She spent about a year gathering info and testing. The verdict: Elizabeth Arden works best for her (and some of her closest friends). She HATES spending the high prices for it – but can’t deny the value and the quality of the product. I’ve started using it too – I inherited her difficult, sensitive, pale, wrinkle prone skin. I figure if I start now at 30, hopefully it will make a difference in the long run! Good luck finding the best products for your own skin. E. Arden works well for me too – I noticed a huge difference within a few days.

  5. I’m a devotee of skincare forum. Look into it, it’s wonderful and shows on your skin!

  6. I’m an advocate for taking care of your skin. In addition to being blessed with good genes, I’ve been a faithful Mary Kay girl for 20 years, including 15 and now 25 SPF sunscreen. I have a sister 2 years older than me, and she does not take care of her skin–and it is apparent. 🙁

    Anyway, I’ve added anti-aging products as I’ve gone along, branching away from Mary Kay when those products didn’t seem to be making the difference I needed. In particular I developed melasma (brown spots) that get worse with sun and worse with self-tanners (!). I’ve been using a 4% hydroquinone cream (Obagi blender for those who care) for 2 years now, and the melasma has gone away completely. I also use a retinol night cream combined with the melasma treatment to help take off the dead layers and fine lines
    Finally, I use Mary Kay’s microdermabrasion kit (which uses the same aluminum oxide crystals as the pros do), 2-3 times/week and my face, neck, decollete and hands look great.

  7. I have been using the MyChelle line you can get at Whole Foods. I use a fruit acid scrub and a cleansing milk for cleaning, then C serum and Peptide serums here and there, plus the Pumpkin moisturizer and the eye cream.

    But I am preparing for a visit to the medispa come September when I turn 53. The thought of filler or knives creeps me out, but I am game for everything else.

    I am expecting they will prescribe Retin-A too. For now I just use a retinoid cream a few nights a week. Who knows if it is all working?

  8. I learned years ago that if you use products from the same line you get better results (same with shampoo and conditioners) I have used Beauti Control products for 15 years. I have wonderful skin at 45. As a young person you buy from the grocery store, then you graduate to the dept store. And as someone serious about skin care you look for a professional company. – not associated just a happy customer.
    Also stay far far away from the St Ives Apricot scrub. They use walnuts and pieces like that, that will tear your skin. Use something with beads that are formulated for exfoliation.

  9. Some great suggestions, Miss Pseu. Miss J will try that toner.

    Miss J exfoliates regularly but is lackadaisical about toner. Of course she moisturizes (jasmine oil at night) and her face cream for day time contains sunscreen. She could definitely step up her routine as well!

  10. yes. I agree Clarins is wonderful for post menopausal skin. Only 48 but still have that to deal with. The Clarins pore minimizer serum I used is wonderful smells great and a little bit goes a long way. Must be used with some type of moisture so use the lotion in the same line and the Brightening Peel used once a week applied with a cotton ball and washed off is great for smoothness and also a little goes a long way. Maintenance of what we have left is an every day thing now.

  11. Could you tell me more about the recommendation about cleansing twice daily for women over 40? I am like you in that I just wash with water in the morning, and that seems to be fine, but I’m interested in her reasoning.

  12. I am a bit younger than you, but have generally taken care of my skin (very fair sensitive skin- everything shows up) I have used Lush Fresh Farmacy soap/complexion bar followed by ROC around the eyes and Eucerin sensitive Q10 skin creme at night for years now. Seems to be doing the trick. I used to use Retin A in my teens/20s for zits, and I am thinking of going back to it for skin renewal now.

    Things I learned from my dermatologist way back when:

    Soap is not evil. Just use a mild, fatted one. It’s just cleanser in bar form.

    Exfoliation should be as gentle as possible, and a simple soaped up washcloth will actually do the trick

    In general use mild formulas.

    Most spas and their skincare lines product copy lies to women – these creams do not really penetrate the skin deeply, since if they did, they would need to be classified as a drug and go through the FDA approval process. Only prescription products really penetrate the skin. They even invented a word, “cosmeceutical”, for these products that only superficially penetrate the skin. Some skin care lines have had legal challenges to their copy by the FDA.

    I personally feel that you only get real results from a doctor = you get what you pay for. i’d rather invest in a good retinA product than spend the same cash on a fancy cream.

  13. I used to work in the cosmetics industry and am the queen of what I like to call “lather and slather”. I have a summer and winter skin care regimen. Summer Day: Basis Cleaner Clean Face Wash (no soap, but it lathers), I don’t use a toner but think I might again (non-alchol), ROC Multi Correxion Eye Cream, Patricia Wexler Skin Brightening with SPF 30. Summer Night: same routine but use ROC Multi Correxion Night Treatment. I also do a mask once a week…Borghese Fango Mud is phenomenal (ok, so I used to work for them, but it is awesome). I also use Biore Warming Blackhead Cream Cleanser to exfoliate…nasty name, but it feels really nice.

    Winter is a bit more intense with the moisturizer at night. I also have different foundations that I use for summer and winter.

    I used to get microdermabrasion…my derm sent to insurance as acne treatment…might do that again. I am also going to start on hydroquinone with Retin A (the derm has his own formula).

    I have to up my game since I turned Four Oh.


  14. This is no age to mess around–best to go to an esthetician who uses Physiodermie or Decleor. Submit to monthly facials and get samples/buy products there. You’ll save in not buying store stuff that is not right for you.

  15. I have used Retin-A for 22 years and I’m doin’ pretty good on that alternated with Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum. That damn pigmentation is a problem and I am fixin to get a Cosmelan treatment in the fall.

  16. I cleanse with Cetaphil, apply a moisturiser in the morning with a broad spectrum sunscreen.

    At night I cleanse with Cetaphil then apply on alternate nights either a BHA or AHA product (BHAs exfoliate for acne, AHAs exfoliate for sun damage and wrinkles). I then apply an antioxidant gel, then a moisturising cream.

  17. I’ve used Principle Secret since I was 25. I’ve just used the different lines for my age. I stopped buying it because I had a huge stock pile of product to use up.

    For now I have a mish mash of products.

    I have principle secret cleanser and undereye gel.

    StriVectin is my face moisturizer.

    Avon Anew is my facial peel.

  18. StyleSpy – Do you find Cetaphil to be drying? I’ve heard that it can be.

    Denise – I think someone answered it below, but basically it’s just about removing dirt, oils and dead skin that can clog pores.

    WendyB – say it isn’t so! You have such great skin.

  19. Rita – I remember getting a jar of Murad free in some gift bag a few years ago. At the time I’d never heard of it, but remember being impressed at the results it gave. We have a Murad spa a few miles from here, am going to have to check it out. On the flip side, the only products that have ever made my face break out were Perricone! Do spas do microderm or does one need to see a doctor for that?

    Katriona – I’ll look into that brand, thanks! Does the sunscreen protect against both UVA and UVB rays?

    Anon @7:47am – it’s a good thing to start a serious skincare regime young, and MOST important is suncreen (wish I’d known that earlier!)

  20. Anon @ 7:55am – I’ll have a look, thanks!

    Belle – I’m thinking it might behoove me to make an appointment with Dr. Dream—er, Sayeh. I’m not ready for needles or scalpels, though!

    spacegeek – I have some age spots that appeared when I was pregnant and nothing seems to do much for them, even the prescription stuff. I’ll look into that product you’ve mentioned.

  21. LPC – pumpkin moisturizer? Does it smell good? I’m with you on the knives and needles. I’m just not there yet.

    Sal – I hope at least you’re wearing daily sunscreen? You have to preserve that gorgeous skin of yours!

    Sandi – I’ve heard that from sales associates about using products from a single line, but assumed it was just another sales gimmick. On another level it makes sense though. I am hereby tossing the remaining tube of St. Ives!

  22. Miss Janey – I’ll admit I’m still skeptical about the toner, but I’m giving it a fair shake.

    Daffodil Planter – that’s an excellent point about wasting money on products that aren’t a good fit! The facialist I went to before seemed to recommend something different each time, so maybe I’ll try to find another one.

    Anon @ 12:08 pm – I might see if I can get a sample of that Clarins pore minimizer. I’d really like to give it a try.

  23. hollarback – I think at my age, even the fatted soaps are a bit too drying. What I’ve heard is that if your skin feels tight after use, then it’s too drying. Does RetinA do anything to firm skin and clarify, or is it more of an acne treatment?

    L – I’ve heard good things about ROC, but can never find it anywhere! I wish my derm were more interested in anything besides removing moles. Whenever I ask her about products or treatments, she’s a bit “meh” and doesn’t really enthuse about anything besides 70+ sunscreen.

    Karen – what’s Cosmelan? Who does it??

    CHICM– USE – thank you very much!

  24. Imogen – it sounds like AHA’s are what I need to be looking for! Lancome used to have a daily moisturizer with AHA that I loved, but then they dropped the AHA component.

    Sher – how is Principal Secret price-wise?

  25. With AHAs you need to make sure the product has the correct pH – so check out Paula Begoun’s book (Cosmetics Counter without me) for the products that have the right pH for it to work properly.

  26. I’ve been using that stuff that Jane Seymour promotes on an infomercial–Natural Advantage–for almost a year (even though I’ve never fallen for an infomercial before!). I like it a lot. It was time to buy something new, after using soap and Oil of Olay for about 25 years.

    The Natural Advantage line is basically a RetinA product for night and a fruit acid thing for day, along with a twice daily cleanser.

    Like others, I also love the Mary Kay microdermabrasion set.

    Am encouraged to hear about the hydroquinone for spots. I need to try that!

    Thanks, Pseu. This was a great post and very informative comments.

  27. I started using Origins products in my 30s when I was diagnosed with rosacea. I’ve now been using their products for over 20 years and am very happy, and so is my skin. I use a gentle cleanser in the morning, followed by a toner and moisturizer. I use a gentle scrub once a week.

  28. Like WendyB I do soooo little, Nivea night cream, wash with Dove and water. But I have at least 25 years on Wendy so maybe I should do more. But twice daily, yikes.

  29. I have always been fanatical about skin care. But I never stay with one product. I find my skin seems to get used to the line and it becomes less effective. I recently discovered some really good skin products from a woman in San Francisco. Check out Caroline Chu’s line. I like the bamboo scrub and love the seaweed repair cream. Her green serum toner is also excellent.
    Another thing: we are so careful about what we eat (organic, no pesticides etc etc) and yet the stuff on the market is full of bad toxins. Why put them on our skin? Lots of alternatives. Check out to see some of them.