The use of skin care by people can be traced back as far as 3000BC to the time of Ancient Egypt (envision now Cleopatra languishing in a bath of sour milk). This offers me some relief that my preoccupation with skin care is somewhat justified, given that if people were feeling a need to add something to their skin to enhance it in some way THAT long ago, then my concern about my skin is a feature of being human, rather than just me being influenced by advertising and social conditioning.
In this technologically advanced age, the internet is abundant in skincare and beauty blogs. Some of those blogs are managed by quite famous specialists within the beauty world; newspaper skincare journalist Sali Hughes, former model Ruth Crilly, and facialist Caroline Hirons. Unlike these women, my obsession with anti-aging skincare is fraught with guilt and discomfort. On the one hand, given that the anti-aging industry is reported to be worth USD 140 billion, I know I am hardly alone. Note I am using the word obsession here, because I think about skin care a lot..and when I order a new product, I get excited about trying it out for the first time. The reason I am fraught with guilt is, that old adage “true beauty is on the inside”. I am concerned I am too materialistic and am focusing too much on superficial concerns rather than more meaningful matter within myself. I feel we live in a superficial age where looking as youthful as possible is the norm. In spite of my guilt, I just don’t want to stop caring for my skin and try the best I can to look youthful for as long as possible.
What I have learned is that everyone has a skin unique to them, and concerns vary widely. For example, people with oily skin may grapple with congestion, spots and shininess. My main concern has been aging and red dry patches. I recently learned the fear of wrinkles actually has a name, “rhytiphobia”, but I don’t reckon my preoccupation reaches that far!
My skincare journey over the years has definitely been disorganized and bitty. I have tried many different brands, cheap, expensive, organic, natural and unnatural. I have suffered some bouts of adult acne, which has left some scarring on the sides of my head, but on the whole I have been blessed with fairly healthy skin. It helps that I have always maintained a healthy balanced diet, packed with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Around age 30, a friend of mine was avoiding products with parabens and was buying very expensive moisturizers (e.g. Decleor). This inspired me to spend more on my skincare and to use natural, organic, plant-based products which tend to be more expensive than drugstore chemical-led ones. I maintained the assumption that natural plant-based products would be best suited for my sensitive skin rather than chemicals. Once I started buying natural skincare, I was hooked on the lovely floral aromas and textures compared to chemical ones.
My favorite natural skincare brands
After spending many hours doing some novice research, I learned that argan oil was especially nourishing for sensitive skin so I went on to purchase many argan oil brands. I bought Mir Argan Beauty Oil (£17.50 for 30ml) a few times, which as I recall was great, non irritating and left my skin peachy soft. I put the oil around my eyes as well. Mir seems to be a hidden or niche brand as it is pretty much never mentioned in all of the skincare blogs or publications I regularly read.
My favorite natural brand has to be Pai Skincare. However this is quite a dear brand for those of us like myself on a budget. I bought the Camellia and Rose Hydrating Cleanser (around £28.00 for 100ml) along with the recommended muslin cloths quite a few times as it did seem to do something lovely to my complexion. I also loved the Pai Chamomile and Rosehip Daycream that I also purchased multiple times. A few years on, I wanted to try a slightly cheaper brand so my successive favorite brand was Ren, especially the Evercalm Range. I really liked their Glycolactic Radience Renewal Mask.
Bringing us up to date, I have recently started using unnatural skincare again. As I have progressed further into my 30s, my skin is showing more prominent signs of aging and I reasoned I needed more hard hitting anti aging ingredients to fade my crows feet that had dishearteningly sprung onto my face overnight! Okay, they have formed slowly and gradually but I’ve for whatever reason not noticed them until recently.
There are two skincare specialists whose blogs I consult to help me learn about skincare, Paula Begoun, the American “cosmetics cop”, who’s Beautipaedia website I regularly visit, and recently Caroline Hirons. Both agree on the following:
The most important anti-aging ingredient among them all is retinol. I had avoided it until recently because of the warnings about increasing skin’s sensitivity to the sun and possible irritation and breakouts. After some research and many endorsements in magazines, I started to buy La Roche Posay Redermic as it has been formulated for sensitive skin. I have been using the eye cream for probably 2 years and it has been fine to use, it’s caused no irritation however my fine lines and very shallow crows feet have developed which makes me question it’s efficacy! It’s possibly explained in Beautypaedia which says LRP Redermic contains a very low concentration of retinol.
I have also been using a vitamin C serum, Medik8 C-tetra every day under a sunscreen for the past year. It smells nice, has a lovely texture and absorbs quickly. I cannot say if it is doing any anti-aging work either but I continue to use it in good faith.
My way of choosing products these days is quite complex. I usually look at the product reviews first before buying. I also consult the “cosmetics cop” Paula Begoun’s Beautipaedia review site and makeupalley.com. Makeup Alley is however an American site so many products reviewed are only available in the US and a lot of British brands are not featured on the site.
Incidentally, I was excited to learn Paula Begoun’s own brand Paula’s Choice is now available to buy over here from www.lookfantastic.com and PaulasChoice.co.uk. As such I have bought a few of her products to try out. One really useful aspect of Paula’s Choice is that trial size products are available.
At the moment I think my skin is confused as I am treating it with a mix of both natural and unnatural products. Caroline Hirons has comfortingly advised that it’s perfectly okay to mix up organic with chemical-led products. I am a believer that skin acclimatizes to whatever you put on it, so at first there may be some signs of irritation but with continued use of the same products, your skin tends to calm down. If it doesn’t, it’s time to chuck whichever item is relentlessly causing the irritation.
The last three months I’ve been using Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Serum. This is a strong treatment for me who previously used La Roche Posay’s gentle retinol product. The colour is orange and it smells pleasant. One squeeze is enough for the whole face. Initially I used it every other night, then every night. However, my skin has developed an ezcema type rash on my cheeks and has become extra sensitive. As I have been using other new products, it’s difficult to ascertain what has caused my rash but as an educated guess, the retinol must be causing it. After this point, I mix the retinol with a drop of moisuriser and use it every other night and that seems to keep the redness and irritation at bay.
After 3 months of using the product, I can’t say it’s diminished my crows feet. It doesn’t seem to have done any harm though. I read to commit to retinol for at least 6 months, so in another 3 months I may see a significant improvement.
Due to the soothing ingredients in the product, my skin has tolerated the retinol well and am confident this is one of the best retinol treatments currently available.
Update: November 2017
I have continued to regularly use Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment and as above, and after examining my face I can clearly see my crows feet are still there. Which leads me to conclude – I have no idea if it is doing anything beneficial.
So, my evolved philosophy is this; if you, like me, want to care for your skin, prevent or slow down aging (fine lines, wrinkles, lack of firmness etc), do all the things dermatologists recommend; cleanse, use a retinol, apply sunscreen, use a serum, moisturise. However, don’t spend a silly amount compared to your income, thinking more expensive means more efficacy (like I have). There is apparently effective skin care available that is very reasonably priced.
The affordable but effective brand that has been widely reviewed the past year is – The Ordinary (a range by Deciem). Interestingly Deciem is a young brand, it was founded by Brandon Truaxe as recently as 2013.
My next retinol purchase will be The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Emulsion 2% (priced just £8.00). There is a stronger version at 5%, priced at £12.00. If I’m going to continue using a retinol when I’m not even convinced it is anti-aging my skin at all, I don’t want to splurge a fortune on it!
Also, my current cleansers are not cheap. Clinique’s Take The Day Off Balm is £23.00, although lovely to use, completely non-irritating, only takes one application, leaves my skin soft and clean, lasts a long time (there is a reason it’s a “cult” product), it is still just a cleanser. Some women, all they use is almond or coconut oil with a hot flannel! I have recently bought a Japanese Cleanser called Hada Labo Rohto Gokugyn Cleaning Oil, £7.79 on Amazon. This is reportedly a gentle, non irritating yet effective cleanser that contains olive oil.