When you pass your mid 30s there tends to be a significant change in the quality of your skin. Reality check: It’s called aging. The alarm rings, you press the panic button. You have to do something about it ASAP, but there’s so many products out there that promise the same (eternal youth) that you don’t even know where to start. Nobody enjoys aging. Even guys. It’s sad but true.
Sounds familiar? Before you start buying and trying expensive skin care products randomly let me share with you what I have learn about skincare through the years. From the perspective of a very practical person and not a beauty blogger.
The basics of skin care
Before I start I have to confess that secretly I have always wanted to be a columnist in Glamour Magazine UK. The research, first hand experience, opinion. All I gathered reading and was told by the therapists that did my facials over the years. I’m delighted to sum it up for you today like they would do in Glamour.
MYTHBUSTERS 1- The first thing to do is to buy a good cream
The first thing you need to do is to learn what are the things in your life that affect your skin, daily. Starting with water intake, sun exposure and proper cleaning.
– FACT 1 – Creams don’t go very deep down the skin, so what comes from the inside or gets much deep inside makes a bigger impact.
– FACT 2 – Sun exposure accelerates aging, and so does smoking
– FACT 3 – If your skin is dirty from the exposure to pullution whatever product you use will not go work much. Because It will not penetrate.
How is that for starters? I’m the kind of person that really needs to understand the “why” fore buying into anything so here’s the why. After writing this article I realized that there’s actually some truth in what we might know about skin care from advertising but It’s just a all over the place.
What you need to know are the basic principles, steps and products. The musts and nice to haves.
MYTHBUSTERS 2 – Good skin care is important to look pretty / handsome
This one is half true actually. The most important thing to look good is for your skin to be HEALTHY and that to be honest is above pretty. Your skin has the memory of an elephant and whatever you do when you are young will eventually show as you age.
That includes crazy things like putting oil on your body for tanning faster instead of SPF (we have all done that haven’t we? 🙂 You won’t see the effects of the damage immediately, but they will come, with time and aging.
Awareness about skin health should start in your 20s not once you pass 30. So please send this to your nieces, cousins etc.
Skin care routine – tried and tested
If it wasn’t because I live in Asia I don’t think I would care that much about my growing crow’s feet, but oriental women my age look so much younger than me. It’s hard not to notice, they are everywhere 😉
They don’t age much until they are 50 or so, and then … well then, they seem to become grandmas all of a sudden. Nobody is perfect. One thing they really get is how to stay out of the sun no mater what lengths you go to…
Image from the NYtimes of women in China with Burkinis and Facekinis
1- The best anti-aging cream ever is sun block.
People back home wonder how I don’t have a permanent tan living in the tropics. Simple. I stopped tanning, it’s bad for you. End.
You actually just need 15 min outdoors to get your daily dose of vitamin D
, a bit more of you are dark skinned. Over exposure to the sun is very dangerous. Western culture teaches us that a nice tan is a sign of health, and a pale face is a sign of illness, while Asians on the contrary praise fairness as the ultimate beauty quality.
For me, when my face is tanned I see my usual dark circles are less noticeable, the redness of my eyelids blends in with the rest and my cheeks get a natural blush. That’s a fact, I think I look prettier, but it’s also a fact that if I don’t keep tanning this glow doesn’t last. It’s a temporary illusion, so better get used to the real me instead.
I did the whole roasting by the pool for the whole summer thing. Also the tanning bed thing before summer, the no need SPF at the beach because I want to tan faster, the carrot juices and the oils. It was when I was not even a teenager but now I have an ever growing legion of moles in my body.
Some grew juicy so I had to go get them checked and removed. I’m healthy and I’m lucky that I am so far. Some others are not so lucky. My friend K is not so lucky, but she’s doing fine.
I had no idea what I was doing back then, nobody knew, so let’s raise awareness about skin cancer now. WATCH THIS VIDEO
I used to think that sun screen was just for sunbathing by the pool or to wear when you are at the beach but now I wear it daily. Think about it. We spend more time walking around in the open in our everyday lives than sun bathing during a holiday.
TIP 1 – CHANGE YOUR DAILY MOISTURIZER TO ONE WITH SPF.
Do it now. It takes very little effort to be protected against wrinkles and against the damaging effects of the sun. Tell your better half too. My lovely boyfriend (now Fiance!) The Troglodyte has that wonderful Irish complexion. A mix of alabaster and freckles. He recently realized the rosy cheeks were not part of the package. It was the tropical sun. Now he lets me nag him with the creams.
I started using this one from Olay Total Effects
8 years ago. It’s really good value for money because it’s also an enriched cream. The texture and the smell are really lovely. You have it also with a hint of color.
When I first came to Singapore, I promised myself I would not fall into the trap of being a make up slave, even if everybody in my office wore make up daily and I felt underdressed.
I decided I would have to deal with my face the way it actually looks like when it’s raw because getting used to seeing improved version of yourself daily only leads to disappointment when you see the ugly truth. I mean the real you.
I have to confess I only fulfilled that promise partially. I discovered tinted moisturizers like Nivea Q10 CC cream
. It’s an anti wrinkle cream with color and sun protection. The Q10 worked very well on my body and it turned out very good for my face too. I love the light texture, how it makes my skin soft and plump, gives a healthy color and has SPF 15.
It’s inexpensive and does the all the jobs. You can’t hardly consider this make up, right? am I saved? 🙂
When I feel like spending a bit more I absolutely love Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer
. It’s got higher SPF (20 vs. 15) and It’s invisible once it sets. It’s finer than Nivea and it absorbs very easily. You feel what you are paying for. I bought the non oily one for those times of the month (AKA PMS) but I really should have gone for the one below, the illuminating one. It’s heaven.
2- Be water my friend
Hydration is essential to skin health. Everything that dehydrates you (coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, sun bathing, dry weather) is bad for your skin.
I would plug an IV daily and pump in a full bag of that magic hydrating syrup the have at the hospital if it wasn’t because I have a horrific phobia to needles I’m sure it’s cheap. When I was hospitalized my skin was glowing, it looked full and fabulous. No matter how sick I was. Maybe that’s why pregnant women look so glorious after delivery… It’s not joy, it’s that saline solution! 😉
TIP 2 – DRINK LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER
My doctor told me to forget about the 3 liters, that I needed 5, so check how much your body needs. Remember that having frequent headaches and fatigue might be a sign of dehydration.
If I may add, drink mineral water. Not just the so called ‘drinking water’, ‘bottled’ or filtered tap water. Unless you live next to a great water source (when it’s like mineral water coming out of the tap) or you have an industrial standard water purifier, chances are your water is treated and stripped of all the goodness, for safety reasons.
I tried years ago having at least 500ml of Evian a day for a month, and it showed on my face immidately. The minerals do make a difference to me, and mineral water is also softer to the palette. Lighter, not so hard. Most governments have a website where you can find out the quality of the tap water you get so do a check if this concerns
Nowadays I drink even more Evian than 500ml a day. I can taste the chlorine in the tap water and I hate it. My only problem is that importing water to Singapore from France feels like a very snobbish and non eco-friendly thing to do.
Unfortunately buying mineral water from the nearest possible source to reduce my carbon footprint is not possible in this country, . Fiji and Evian are the most popular brands so I get some consolation in the fact that there’s massive imports happening and it’s not juts me. Read economies of scale.
I recycle the bottles and also carry around my own small water bottle that I fill with the big ones, but if I had a tank or a tap of Evian at home I will be a much happier and hopefully younger looking girl. Shame…
3 – Relax your face
Our gestures affect our wrinkles in the same way our sitting habits affect our posture. Yoga
helps with the second one, but for the face, try take some time every day to consciously relax the muscles on your face. Having a meditation app with a body scan will do the job. You can try Calm
for free here or download the app.
I love meditation and relaxation. I loved it since my science teacher in primary school decided that we would do it once a week. So I highly recommend it. In fact I’m currently working on my first ever meditation workshop. Yahoo!
TIP 3 – MASSAGE OR RELAX YOUR FACE OFTEN TO REDUCE ACCUMULATED TENSION
Relax the the temples, the eye lids, the cheeks, the jaw, the mouth, and down to the neck and shoulders too. Just sink into your chair for 10min a day to give a break to those eyes that skint a the PC for way to long. To that jaw that accumulates so much frustration.
Try to stay away from your phone screen too. This one is hard I know, but again, squinting contracts the muscles and that leads to wrinkles. Unless you are heavily Botoxed of course. I’m actually going to start a collaboration soon with the guys from Bagby
to create phone free spaces so stay tuned!
I also own own of those little ReFa devices to massage your face, with rollers. The best comparison I can find to tell you how this feels, well, it’s like when you clean your ear canal with a cotton bud. Read near to sexual pleasure. It relaxes your facial muscles like a professional facial. My tip: do it to your partner, and then say it’s swap time!
Image from ReFa Singapore
4 – ABC = Clean, tone and moisturize
Here comes the meat. The holy grail of my facial routine is to always do this. And here you have the products I that I use or have used. Some are cheap, some more expensive.
I have tried dozens through the years and now I only switch when one stops working. That happens because we change, our environment changes, so we have to observe how our bodies react and adjust. I have mixed skin, some parts more oily some parts dry, so also see what works for you.
THE BASIC ROUTINE
– Wash everything off your face before you go to bed.
– Balance the PH of your skin with a toner after washing and before applying moisturizers, else they are not so effective.
– Use an eye cream, because the eye area is thinner and requires richer creams
– Consider a serum, because moisturizers don’t reach so deep
– Get night cream, because skin cell renewal happens while you sleep
– Give your face a break once a week and don’t wear make up.
– Scrub your face to remove dead cells once a week
I don’t claim to have perfect skin but every time I go to get a facial (once every 3 months I have to confess) the therapists praise my skin condition, so something I’m doing must be working… even if I see the crow’s feet so obviously.
PRODUCTS FOR CLEANSING
My oldest skin care buddy is actually Clinique’s Take the Day off
make up remover for lids and lips. We go a long way back. So long I don’t even want to mention. I tried others, I keep this one. No more going to sleep with your make up on no matter how drunk you are! I blockes the pores and leads to spots.
I also use Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser daily when I shower, and have been doing so for at least 10 years. It looks I’m not the only one apparently. Some celebrities are fans and also praise the gooey stuff. It’s a soap-less, fragrance-free thick gel lotion, and can be used as daily face wash and as a balm form rashes, to sooth your skin.
It removes make up with a cloth or cotton wool, or just rubbing and rinsing. It’s the most skin friendly product ever invented, and you can buy it for 10$ in any supermarket or pharmacy. It’s highly recommended for people with highly sensitive skin too.
The ultimate trick is to mix the Clinique make up remover with the Cethaphil in the shower. It’s a 2 in 1 face wash and they go well together. Put both in a container with a pump (if you don’t have go to Muji) and voila you got yourself a life hack! If there’s any leftovers you can put some make up remover on a cotton disk and finish the job out of the shower the traditional way. Going to bed with the make up on can be a thing of the past with this little tip.
When I need a deeper wash I use a soft foaming gel from Galenic that removes stubborn oils, and for exfoliating I use Akin facial scrub with natural walnut and bamboo. It smells lovely of cinnamon.
PRODUCTS FOR TREATMENT
Toners are the forgotten cousin of skin care. I broke up with them because of Clinique’s 3 steps clarifying lotion. It has done some damage to my perception of toners and to my skin at the time. This was the first wash-tone-moisturize set I ever used. The soap was great for oily teenage skin, but it became too harsh as I grewp up. The toner was simply abrasive and the dramatically moisturizing lotion was like putting raw cocoa butter on your face. Sounds lovely, right?
The therapist from St Gregory Spa, at the Park Royal hotel in Singapore (where I go for a facial every once in a while) once told me: ‘If you don’t use toner, the mismatch of PH between the water you use to wash and the cream, makes the cream so much less effective’. She was sooooo right. I tried it. Wow! Then my mother introduced me to spray toners and the two ladies have given me my faith back in toners.
TIP 4 – PUT YOUR TONER ON A SPRAY BOTTLE
A simple spray bottle makes the whole experience so much more convenient and saves you cotton disks. If your brand of choice does’t come in this format but a spray bottle from Muji
I have to confess I’m not very loyal or even consistent with this one, but here’s my product recommendation. Clarins Chamomile Toner, Aesop Parsley seed, NuSkin NaPCA
There’s only one cream in the eye department that I have seen a radical difference with. That’s the ARTISTRY™ Creme LuXury Eye, but the moment I stopped using the effect was gone. And I had to stop because It was just too expensive…
It’s only available through Amway direct sales but lately you can buy anything online, in Amazon. At 150$ per bottle you really feel the price and the results that come with it. In firmness, fullness and dark circles. Out of all Amway products I tried I was only impressed with the LuXury collection. The eye cream and their face cream too. I highly recommend as a rich night cream.
A few others have been OK so far. Clinique All About Eye Serum De-Puffing Eye Massage when you need refreshment and both versions of Dermalogica: Age Smart MultiVitamin Power Firm that has a lovely velvety texture and smells of berries, and Age Smart Reversal Eye Complex
After cleansing and toning apply eye cream or eye serum and tap slightly with your fingers to activate circulation and facilitate absorption.
This is probably one of my favourite skin care products because I can really feel it working. I love Bobbi Brown’s Intensive Skin Supplement when I’m on dry weather, but Nuxe Creme Fraiche De Beaute Serum is inexpensive and works better in the tropics.
Forrest Essentials India makes this lovely Advanced Soundarya Age Defying Facial Serum With 24k Gold gold that smells on sandalwood. It’s very oily but I use it instead of a night cream every once in a while and when I wake up in the morning my skin is plump and glows. Aesop’s Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum is also divine. I’m a huge fan of the botanical aromatherapy theme of the brand, but the price…
Remember that the serum goes after the toner and before the cream, because it goes deeper with its oil or gel texture, getting in through the smaller and more narrow holes.
Earlier I mentioned that a cream to use for the day should have SPF and that I prefer the ones with color, so I’m going to go straight to the night cream in this section. The holy grail of night creams is SK-II. Stempower was the previous one that I have, now they call it SK-II RNA Power but it’s a refined version of the same. I don’t put it under day because It does not have SPF and you will need a separate cream for that, which I think it’s too much hassle.
They have a Rich Cream version for night but this is good enough and doesn’t feel like a mask. The eye cream is good too by the way. All are quite expensive. I can only advise you to buy the big pot and at the duty free shop in the airport, but it’s 220$ minimum. It does last, you need only a bit every time, so it’s worth it.
Only the Artistry LuXury face cream, from what I have tried, can be put at the same level as this one.
There’s hundreds of options for face creams. I think that’s why probably people think it’s the first or most important think to buy. Just in a quick trip to Sephora, a department store or the duty free cosmetics area can drive you crazy. Remember that a cleanser is actually more important.
I have tried many face creams in the Duty free, as part of my super moisturizing routine to survive long lights . Including the outrageously expensive ones like La Mer (500$ a bottle) and La Prairie (1,800$ a bottle), and I did not feel much difference at a glance. I’m sure they work better with continuous usage but for that price it better give you instant youth! I can’t afford them anyway so let’s leave it here.
NICE TO HAVEs
There are many other products out there related to skin care. I do not want to call this a miscellaneous section but I do now know how to classify them, except they are not essential but nice to have. Here’s a few I have used:
- Dermalogica Phyto Oil – you could say this is a Serum, but it’s like a dry oil. I usually blend it with my daily tinted moisturizer to give it a treatment boost, and sometimes when I’m not going out of the house I just use it instead of cream. It’s one of those things that you just have to try to see the difference. It goes under your skin and plumps, softens in an few seconds. A bit like an instant boost that’s very visible. Magic! That’s why I love it. Thanks to Laura Kee from Le Petit Spa for the tip!
Once upon a time in Japan, somebody noticed that the hands of the ladies that brew Sake were incredibly clear soft, white and smooth, whereas their faces really showed their age. 30 years later, the rest is history. This facial water is the signature product that made SK-II famous, the most awarded bestseller, that has over 90% PITERA™, the main ingredient, that comes from fermenting rice… I’m guessing.
You can also put this in the treatment section under serums because it’s used like one but it’s a special one you could say. I have tried it long ago. I liked it I did not love it. Maybe I was too young to see the difference but I have friends, Asian friends, that swear by it. Maybe it doesn’t work the same for Caucasian skin… It evens your skin tone which essential means it whitens.
What you eat, obviously affects the quality of your skin too. My beloved Glamour Magazine UK published a article about Vitamins for skin care before me, so I might as well just redirect you there. Learn what Vitamins are responsible for what when it comes to your skin.
In a nutshell:
Collagen is made by Vitamin C. This one deserves an entire chapter. There’s no such a thing as too much Vitamin C, because the body disposes the excess in the urine. What’s interesting is that It’s more effective if you eat it than if you put it on the skin but like the article says: “skin is the last organ being addressed within the digestion process, so there was a gap of a ‘topical Vitamin C’ formulations that work efficiently within the skin’s metabolism.”
Vitamin E is another one of my favorite because it’s hyper moisturizing and makes my skin instantly smooth. Most Palmer’s products have it. Body Shop used to have an entire range of Vitamin E, but they don’t have it in Singapore shops anymore. Sad face… It works great for dry skin and to reduce and prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
To sum up. Like my doctor said, when it comes to vitamins you are good to go with one multivitamin and fish oil, but if you eat a lot of salmon like me you don’t even need the fish oil. If you live in a country where food is fresh, no imported, not GMO and organic you can probably take anything your body needs from a good balanced diet.
In Singapore the cost of eating ‘that well’ is astronomic so we will stick to the vitamin supplements and the salmon sashimi for now.
MEDICAL / FACIAL TREATMENTS
If the world of creams is crazy the world of facial treatments is bananas. All those branded terms and jargon confuse me all the time. Daily care doesn’t mean you don’t need a professional treatment every once in a while, and well, admit it, getting a facial is a bit of a treat, isn’t it? This is a small glossary of what I learnt about facials.
- Sharplight skin rejuvenation- Using IPL (Intense pulsed light) to reach the deeper layer of the skin and promote collagen creation. Cold or warm therapies also do this. You really see the difference, quite fast, but needs a few treatments to make a massive change.
- Microdermabrasion – it’s basically ‘fancy’ for scrubbing your face with a special machine. It’s either a strawberry shaped rotatory metal head with sand paper, or a vacuum tube with sandpaper on the edge. Objective? to remove dead cells and promote better product penetration or products, and cell renewal. To do once or twice a year I would say.
- Medical grade facials – The difference between a normal facial and a medical facial is that the first one is applied by a beautician and the second one by a dermatologist, using medical tools and products instead of cosmetics. Read stronger products and stronger treatments. These are the people that also do invasive treatments like fillers and Botox. For people 40-60 this is much better use or their money that normal facials, but for 30 year olds is a bit of a treat at 500$-1000$ a session.
- Laser/chemical peelings – This is an extreme cell renewal method that basically uses chemicals (read a mild form of acid) or laser to remove (burn) the upper layer of the skin so you grow a new smoother one. Seriously consider if you have acne scars. I would say this is more a once off thing do do if you really have a serious problem. You will be red for a good two weeks. Celebrities love it. It’s like growing a new face.
That’s all folks! I hope it was useful.
This is probably the most difficult post I ever wrote, but it was due! Now hydrate yourself in and out, eat well, take vitamins and stay out of the sun!
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to reach out and share tips. I would love to hear from you.
Until next time!