Recently, I got a call from a girlfriend, all breathless and excited, having just seen an ad for a skincare line that promised to “erase 10 years” from her appearance. “But it’s $200,” she wailed, “Should I get it?”
Having been in the beauty industry for most of my adult life, I’m a certified beauty product junkie. It started in my early years. I’m talking three years old. My mother’s bathroom counter was always laden with sparkly, gold-topped jars of lotions and heavy crystal pots of creams that she generously shared with me from the time I could say “Face, please.” By the time I was a teenager, I could argue the merits of Lauder versus Lancome moisturizers with enthusiasm and accuracy.
In high school, while all my friends were using Clearasil, I was saving my allowance for Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. My mother warned her daughters against tanning our faces, employing graphic descriptions of wrinkles that had us scrambling for thick towels to lay over our faces if we ever went sunbathing. Tanning beds were simply out of the question. She’d always say “You’ll thank me someday.”
And we did.
Smoking was also out, largely because I never found a product that repairs the damage it does to your skin. Yes, I was more concerned with my face than my lungs, but I was 20. I am a red wine lover, so I’m always on the search for newer, better products that put back what alcohol dehydration takes away.
To this day, I’m a commissioned salesperson’s dream. If she’s got a counter full of beauty products that feel fabulous, smell yummy, and make undying promises of eternal youth, I’ll be paying for her son’s college education before I leave the store.
However, I’m also a bit of a skeptic about product promises versus delivery. I view them a bit like politicians. I want to know what they’re going to do for me, and exactly how they’re going to achieve it. My girlfriends call me their beauty product expert, because they know I’ve done relentless research.
If a commissioned salesperson’s got a counter full of beauty products that make undying promises of eternal youth, I’ll be paying for her son’s college education before I leave the store.
Like many women over 50, my skincare regimen is primarily focused on getting the dewy glow of youth back. The flawless skin we had before baby oil and iodine tanning lotion. Before years of outdoor exposure. Before gravity, too much alcohol, and too little sleep was taking our youth and running to the border–never to return.
The secret? Despite my love of trying new products, I keep my routine surprisingly simple.
Firstly, I actually cleanse with a mild bar soap. The most important thing to remember about cleansers is that you rinse them off. They’re not absorbed into the skin, so as long as they’re gentle, who cares? Then I exfoliate. Every day. If you have a layer of dead skin on your face, none of your other products will work. They’re not absorbed through the dead cells. So do this every morning. But be gentle. It’s your face, not a coffee table.
So here’s the one big money-sucker: I use the most expensive moisturizer I can afford. Not because of the beautiful jar and blinged-out sales counter, but because of what’s in it. Many actually do contain better quality and higher amounts of key anti-agers like collagen, hyaluronic acid, and Retin-A. I want this. I want this a lot.
I then finish off with a lightweight sunscreen, and I do this religiously, every single day. Sun damage, as many of us know, is the number one way to age your face. Guess what? Not just in the summer, either. You can be exposed to damaging sun rays when you go get the mail. In February. Basically, wearing sunscreen only in the summer is like “only smoking” during the winter. Sooner or later, it’s going to show up.
The one not-so-simple step? When I turned 50, I began getting Botox for the pronounced furrow (vertical “frownie” line) between my eyebrows. Best. Decision. Ever. It makes me look less pissed off, and I do it three times a year.
Of course, there are a wonderful wealth of additional products, like serums and wrinkle-fillers, that are fun to try (and I do), but I always go back to the basics.
I’ve discovered that my best hedge against aging skin is to do what I know to do, and do it every day. With little boosts from Botox and the occasional anti-aging facial, when I look in the mirror, 59 doesn’t look so old.