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My mission to anti-age my sensitive skin on a budget - Joanne Wondering
My mission to anti-age my sensitive skin on a budget

My mission to anti-age my sensitive skin on a budget

Right, as previously mentioned, I am a skincare fanatic. This is why there is a skincare category here on my site. It’s one of my top five obsessions in life. I’ve read countless articles on skincare for at least the past decade and have learned as much as I possibly can.

One of my biggest frustrations is the amount of choice we have as a consumer.

There just seems and infinitely growing number of skincare brands which I feel overwhelmed by and have a feeling you might too. There are countless formulations, price points and skincare approaches; how on earth do we navigate through and find what works best for our skin as an individual? Do I need to explain that we all have skin chemistry unique to us? One glove does not fit all. I’ve looked at what dermatologists use on themselves and found their product choices vary greatly which simply adds to my confusion. Saying this, one common item is their use of a retinoid of some kind.

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives. They come in the form of prescription-strength Retin A , over-the-counter retinol or retinyl palmitate and are consistently rated as the gold standard in anti-aging. For this reason I’ve been using a retinoid as part of my routine for the past few years.

Being in my late thirties, aging is my top skincare concern. I have tried my best at maintaining a youthful complexion with my skincare, getting plenty of exercise and eating healthily. However, there are a few aspects of my lifestyle that may have counteracted my efforts to some extent. Firstly, I’m an insomniac and so my skin has regularly lacked the optimum conditions to regenerate overnight. I also suffer with bouts of anxiety and depression that involve lots of crying which has lead to increased fine lines under my eyes. One skin ruining habit that needs addressing is my consumption of too much collagen-destroying sugar. In any case, I have developed fine lines under my eyes and slight crows feet which I am keen to reduce at the same time as reducing my annual skincare spend.

I’ve typically spent a silly proportion of my income over the years on overpriced skincare, believing that more expensive products leads to better results. I’ve now come to different conclusions. I really believe you can anti-age your face using effective but affordable skincare (especially as we now have available the affordable, vegan brand most skincare fanatics are trying out, The Ordinary).

Recently I’ve managed to get hold of the aforementioned prescription strength Retin-A Tretinoin! Retin-A is very difficult to get in the UK as can only be obtained through a dermatologist or skincare clinic. . A friend of mine bought me back a tube from a pharmacy in Mexico. One 30ml tube cost £13.00 so going the Retin-A route is definitely affordable!

I’ve often wondered why Retin-A tretinoin is confined to prescription-only in the UK. Obviously NHS doctors will only prescribe it for acne afflicted patients and never for anti-aging. From the research I’ve done, I can only presume it is because the medical field believe that without regulation, many people would damage their skin by not using the product responsibly. For one thing it must never be used by pregnant or breast feeding women as excessive vitamin A can cause fetal abnormalities. Also, using too much or too regularly can cause horrific irritation, peeling and inflammation. It also makes the skin more sensitized and susceptible to sunburn. However, having watched a vlog by Caroline Hirons, another reason may be that the increased use of Retin A (at £13 a tube) would impact negatively on the sales of retinol products and hence decrease sales of the skincare industry. Food for thought.

Contrary to my expectations, I’ve been using the cream for one month now and have so far experienced next to no irritation, peeling or redness.This may be because I have acclimatized my skin to vitamin A by using Paula’s Choice Retinol Treatment 1% for 6 months. Additionally, in case you are considering buying it, the Paula’s Choice product has unfortunately not noticeably reduced my fine lines (quite disappointing after shedding out £50 for it).

Apparently the time Retin-A takes to work varies person to person. Some dermatologists advise it can take 6 months. With only one month of use every-other-night behind me, I have some way to go.

So, aside from Retin-A, what are the other products I am using to help anti-age my face? The below is my current routine. However once my pricier products have run out, I’m planning on replacing them with more affordable options such as from The Ordinary.

My routine thus far is:


  • Cleanse (optional, Hada Labo Foaming Cleanser)
  • Tone (optional, *FAB Radiance Pads, Avene Thermal Water)
  • Anti-Oxidant Serum (*Medik8 Vitamin C Serum) 
  • Hyularonic Acid Serum (*First Aid Beauty Hydrating Serum)
  • Moisturiser (optional, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repairing Cream)
  • Eye Cream (Niod Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate)
  • SPF (*Skinceuticals Radiance Mineral uv Defence SPF50 or Baremineral s Complexion Rescue SPF30)


  • Cleanse (Rohto Hadalabo Gokujun Cleaning Oil)
  • Retinoid (Tretinoin Retin-A 0.05% every other night)
  • Moisturizer (First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream)

On Retin-A free nights:

  • Cleanse (Rohto Hadalabo Gokujun Cleaning Oil)
  • Face Oil (The Ordinary Argan Oil)
  • Eye Cream (Niod Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate)
  • Moisturiser (First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream)

Twice or three times a week

  • Exfoliating Mask (The Ordinary AHA 30% BHA 2% Peeling Solution or Bravura London Lactic Acid Mask) 

*All products marked with an asterix I’m planning to replace with cheaper products. The First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads are a favorite of mine. They however cost around £22 for 60 pads. This works out as 37p a day if used once a day. I plan to swap these for The Ordinary 7% Glycolic Toning Solution that is just £6.80 for 240ml. The Medik8 C Tetra Serum costs around £28 for 30 ml. It contains an unknown quantity of Vitamin C and hasn’t been noticeably effective. I will swap this for The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% 30ml (£4.90). The First Aid Beauty Hydrating Serum cost me £22.00 for 30ml. It feels hydrating and gentle, but I haven’t seen discernible differences from using it. I’ll swap this for The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5. I’ve read this serum isn’t as hydrating as other more expensive serums in the Deciem camp such as Niod’s Multi Molecular Complex (£38 for 30ml) but until my budget increases The Ordinary will suffice. Regarding Skinceuticals Radiance Mineral UV Defence SPF50 that cost me £29.00,  I currently have most of the bottle left so as yet I’m undecided what I will replace it with. It is a quality product that I’ve been really happy with.

Watch out for my follow-up….

Okay, this is my first post about my current routine. In my follow up post I’ll be able to discuss whether the Retin-A has been working it’s magic and if my product swaps deliver on their efficacy! In the mean time I’ve definitely got to put the brakes on my skincare spend.











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