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I just started my first skincare routine since the 90s.
In high school when I was supposed to be all hormone wacky and breakout prone, I regularly received compliments on my clear, smooth complexion.
Sometime in college, probably when I had a roommate who liked to steal things, I started cleansing with my regular shower soap and didn’t moisturize. It was fine for a while, but just before having babies I noticed once-a-month breakouts. It wasn’t severe enough to do anything about it, though.
Then came the breaks from the monthly hormone ups and downs. Pregnancy and breastfeeding were very kind to my skin, and I was back in high school from the neck up.
The babies came close together, so here I am years later, not pregnant and cycles back in full swing. And with cycles come hormonal acne and why did this all happen so backward?
The bumps got me to pay attention. While I was all up in the mirror, I started to notice dull skin and lines that linger around my eyes even when I’m not smiling. I wasn’t too thrilled about looking so tired all the time.
Whence came the epiphany. I can’t get away with grabbing whatever soap is in the shower anymore.
After spending some time online on the message boards and such, I came up with a skincare routine that has made an incredible difference in my skin tone, appearance and breakouts. I can’t promise what I do will work for you, because oh, the variables. Skin type, water hardness, age, diet, genes, occupation…you skin tells it all. Nonetheless, I’ll share what I do.
My Over 30 Skincare Routine
– Morning –
Upon waking, I splash with warm water and dry off. Any more than that, and my face feels a little too tight for my liking.
Antioxidants (Vitamin C)
I never in a million years thought I’d need anything called “serum” for my face, but the science makes sense, so I’m using it for now. What does Vitamin C serum do?
Think repair, damage control and damage prevention.
According to Dr. Google, topical Vitamin C stimulates collagen production, creating a firmer and tighter appearance. It is also said to thicken the dermis layer, protecting against the sun’s penetrative and damaging rays. (Of course, I still use sunscreen. We’ll get to that in a minute!)
Remember when your grandma wanted to lighten your freckles with lemon juice? Vitamin C is used in a lot of lightening and evening creams because it is supposed to even skin tone and reduce the appearance of acne scars. I have some lingering dark spots from melasma (thank you, pregnancy), and I feel like they’re fading.
What I use: 40 Carrots Vitamin Serum
I found a bottle at TJMaxx for less than half the Amazon price, but they don’t keep regular stock so it’s hit or miss. My only complaint about this brand is the bottle it came in – it’s clear. Antioxidants are effective because they nab free radicals to oxidize itself, leaving fewer free radicals available to oxidize in your body. So if it’s already oxidized, it won’t work. Light exposure oxidizes it faster, so I keep mine in the fridge. It’s dark in there when closed and the cold helps keep it fresh.
Retinoids are said to smooth and rejuvenate the skin by encouraging cell turnover. Retinoids also get credit for working on sun damage that has already happened.
What I use: My 40 Carrots serum contains retinol, so thumbs up for multitasking action in the morning!
After the 40 Carrots, I’ll go make breakfast for the kiddos to give it time to work. Because the message boards say it needs time to work. Admittedly, I haven’t researched the time thing but it’s not a big deal to go make breakfast, then return to…
Number one piece of advice I’m reading on the message boards from the over 40 cohort?
I wish I had started using daily sunscreen earlier.
Oh, 17-year-old self, skip the tanning bed. Visible bathing suit lines in your homecoming dress is not the end of the world.
Not much I can do about my high school stupidity, but I’m doing what I can now. Also, some of the products I’m using promotes photosensitivity, so let’s protect our faces, shall we?
I understand this formula isn’t distributed in this country. The favorite sunscreens on the message boards generally aren’t sold here, because some of the ingredients aren’t yet FDA approved for sun exposure protection here in the states. I got mine through Amazon, and when it came I found that the packaging was written in Japanese.
I feel like I’m not supposed to have it or something. Maybe I should give some sort of disclaimer: we can’t call this formula sunscreen until the FDA declares its ingredients photoprotective. How’s that?
I like it because it goes on smoothly, dries matte and leaves no white cast. I don’t feel that heavy, greasy feeling that comes with most suncare products, and it doesn’t have that stinky sunblock smell. If I’m feeling dry, I’ll use Cetaphil moisturizing lotion underneath it.
– Evening –
We’re in the elements all day and we have to get the sunscreen off, so a splash of water isn’t going to cut it. My cleanser is gentle, and it gets everything off in one step. If I were a heavy makeup user, I would probably need to remove that first. But I’m not, so I don’t.
What I use: Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser
I learned that physical exfoliants (scrubs) are too harsh most of the time, so I tried chemical exfoliation. This was the turning point, when I really started to notice things were changing.
I don’t get those annoying little bumps anymore. The little lines around my eyes (that I assume nobody notices except me) are shorter and smoother.
What I use: Alpha Hydrox AHA Enhanced Lotion
This formula also happens to be the perfect weight moisturizer for me. (Multitasking, again!) I wake up to noticeably smoother, hydrated skin every time I use it. And it’s cheapy cheap. This bottle is going to last me forever.
You should be aware, alpha hydroxy acids can burn and sting. The Alpha Hydrox lotion gave me some serious tingle for about a minute the first two times I used it, and that’s expected. Now it just feels like normal lotion.
If I need a break from exfoliating, I’ll sub Cetaphil lotion for a day or two.
– All day –
I think I’m just now properly hydrating! I sip on water all day long, and I’m convinced it’s helping.
And that’s it. All of that was wordy, which makes the routine sound high maintenance, but this is me we’re talking about. It takes me about a minute in the morning and a minute at night to smear some stuff on my face.
So don’t give me that busy mom, can’t take care of myself speech. I’ve been talking the talk for years, but it doesn’t apply this time. This is something you can do while your toddler is driving toy cars up your legs.
And yes, it’s mostly drugstore stuff except the serum and the sunscreen. With some trial and error, I would guess you could find some effective drugstore sunscreens and serums. I’m not convinced the high-end potions are anything special. If I end up with a problem that I really want to address, I’ll explore the higher end products, but we’re not there yet.
Drumroll, please! The skincare before and after…
Wai wai wait. Before we move on, I’m going to need your support here. I’m not comfortable taking selfies, let alone no-makeup selfies, and I’m certainly not comfortable pointing out my flaws for the world to see. But here I am doing both at the same time. Please understand the bravery this took. Now you may scroll.
Two weeks, guys. Two weeks. No breakouts, just some small bumps that show up with less and less frequency as I continue my skincare routine. My husband just said I looked “striking” right out of bed. Winning!
Have you nailed down your skincare routine? What would you add or change?