Just as our personal style constantly evolves, so should our skincare philosophy and routines. After all, we are changing over time, we are moving through different stages of life, and often our environment is changing too as we move from one climate to another. In this post I’m going to describe my own skincare journey. I am not a skincare expert, but perhaps if we share our experiences we can learn from each other. Please comment on my routines and share your own skincare thoughts in the comments section below.
My earliest skincare memories all revolve around protecting my skin from the sun. My Mum was a strict sergeant major when it came to skincare, and sun protection was at the top of her list of skincare rules. I was the kid at the beach and poolside wearing a hat and smothered in the highest sun protection factor. In those days (the ’70s), sunscreen wasn’t as invisible as it is today and you could spot my huge white sunscreen streaks a mile away. But I was little and thought that the streaks were fun. I still wear sunscreen each day, even in grey and rainy Seattle.
In my early teens I moved from a child’s skincare regimen of soap and water, to adult skincare products. My Mum started me on a basic cleanser, toner and moisturizer, and advised against using regular soap on my face. I also used a homemade skin scrub made of oatmeal, and proper body lotion and make-up remover, both of which I still use today. I started wearing a little make-up over the weekend, and this was when Mum’s second most important skincare rule came into play: remove make-up and clean up before going to bed. I still religiously follow this advice and can’t sleep with a face full of make-up and mascara.
There were a few times during my late teen years that I completely ignored my Mum’s number one skincare rule. Twice I burnt myself to a cinder on the beautiful beaches of Cape Town because it was too much trouble to reapply sunscreen after being in the water, and wearing a sunhat wasn’t cool. Both times, my Mum was absolutely furious and wouldn’t speak to me for days. I was in so much pain that I had to see our GP on one of the occasions. My skin peeled right off and peeled off again. I learnt my lesson.
In my late twenties I started going for facials a few times a year. I had grown up seeing Mum have facials so it was a natural addition to my skin care routine. Today, I try to have regular facials because on many levels, the process works for me. I enjoy the effects of the steamer and extraction, which are things I can’t do myself, and I like the afterglow of a facial. Facials are also one of the few ways in which I can really relax, so it’s become more than just part of my skin care regimen.
At the age of 29 I developed eczema for the first time. My Mum had just been diagnosed with Cancer, and it seems that my outbreaks of eczema are directly related to my stress levels. I treat it with an over the counter cortisone cream. I think my skin is getting more sensitive as I grow older. I have learned to travel with my own soap, for example, because I have found that using the scented soaps provided in hotel rooms has often lead to a rash.
From my mid twenties through to my late thirties I believed that expensive skincare products were the best skincare products. My Mum used a pricey skincare range for most of her adult life, so I followed suit and switched to her brand as soon as I could afford to do so. In fact, I remember working a few more waitressing shifts just so that I could afford one or two expensive skincare goodies. For years, I totally bought into anti-aging creams, serums and eye creams promoted by the major brands.
That all changed at 38. Suddenly, after 38 years of normal, healthy skin, my facial skin was dry as a cork. I even wrote about my dry skin dilemma, asking for your help. I tried just about everything that was suggested. While some of the recommendations worked, none were more than a temporary solution. After about a year, I saw a dermatologist who offered life changing skin care advice. He said that I should stop using expensive skin care products and switch to an inexpensive skincare line that he recommended.
Ironically, the expensive products that I had been using were full of ingredients that were drying out my skin. Can you believe it! My dry facial skin was so bad that I had to apply a prescribed ointment, but I saw a major skin improvement by the end of one week. I so wished that I had seen my dermatologist earlier.
For the past three years I have enjoyed a very simple and inexpensive skin care routine. For my face, I use a very basic cleanser and moisturizer twice a day, removing my make-up in the same manner as I have always done. I exfoliate with a enzyme cleanser once a week and apply sunscreen to my face and hands daily. I use a drugstore body and hand lotion, along with a very gentle soap for the rest of my body. That’s it. No more fancy products and anti-aging serums. Unless my skin starts reacting negatively, or my skincare products are discontinued, I will not change my skin care routine.
I have heard that ample sleep, several glasses of water a day, and a caffeine-free diet does wonders for our skin. This seems right, but these habits are hard for me to incorporate into my lifestyle. I am used to sleeping only six hours a night (I welcome seven when the opportunity arises). I don’t drink lots of water because I’m just not a thirsty person. And when I am thirsty, I’d much rather have a cup of hot or iced tea. I’m afraid that very little will stop me from drinking strong caffeinated earl grey tea with milk and sugar three or four times day. On the other hand, I don’t smoke or drink coffee and alcohol. I also eat loads and loads of vegetables. I’m not sure whether those habits help my skin, but it would be a bonus if that was the case.
By now it is probably clear that I learned most of what I know about skincare from my Mum. She drilled into me from a young age me that you only get one chance to look after your skin, so best you look after it. She had beautiful skin right until the day she died at age 59. There are a couple of things I would add to her advice though. First, do not assume that the expensive products are the best products. Everyone’s skincare needs are different, and the right products for you might be very inexpensive ones. Second, if you do have any serious skincare issues, I would suggest seeing a dermatologist sooner rather than later.
That’s my skincare story so far. What is yours? I’d love to know how you care for your skin, and what you’ve learned along the way.