Once I hit the 30 mark, my once near-perfect face took a drastic, and seemingly sudden, turn for the worse. I had been fortunate to boast a clear complexion throughout my teens and twenties but that all changed as I entered my third decade around the sun.
This was also the year that I started to hear things like, “well, age is a factor.” It took me off-guard. I am by no means an “old” mom but I was shocked when, after facing some pregnancy complications and asking why, my OB insisted that I was nearing that geriatric uterus zone. What!? It was really difficult for me to hear because I felt that I, as a person, was minimized by something as trivial as a number.
These habits make women feel like vessels or basic reflections of societal expectations and desires. Welcoming my children into the world was a part of my journey but it’s not everyone’s path. I am much more than my body and my age. I am working on growing and embracing these changes.
Part of this has been learning how to grow and love my changing face. I’ve actually heard this from a lot of people. For most, the general consensus is that our complexions should improve with age but this is not always the case. It started during my second pregnancy. At the time I simply connected it with changing hormones and assumed it would disappear after birth. A year went by postpartum with very little change.
I was prone to breakouts, my skin was constantly dry and was just generally painful. On a quest to discover the cause, I eliminated all other environmental and lifestyle factors including diet, hormonal imbalances, and the pollution that comes from living in a major city.
Once, I realized that these were not the cause of my facial maladies, I did some digging and reflecting and realized the answer was really quite simple. In the last ten plus years, I had not updated or altered my facial skincare routine at all. I was doing the same thing and using the same products, that I started using in my late teens and early 20s.
The difference is, my skin is over ten years older and what worked for me then doesn’t work for me now. I imagine there are a lot of people out there who are like me. I don’t look “old” or feel “old” and products geared toward “mature skin,” aren’t necessarily what I need. At the same time, I don’t want or need the products I was using over a decade ago. Not only that, my skin just can’t take that same amount of abuse.
So here are some lessons I have learned that might help you care for your “middle of the road” skin and retain your glow for all the years to come.
1. Stop washing your face so goddam much.
I know, it’s crazy. When we were younger we were told to wash our faces morning and night. To scrub diligently for a beautiful result. Seriously though, stop it. At the height of my discomfort and blemish outbreak, I was treating it the same way I might have done in the past. It actually made it worse because I was literally ravaging my more sensitive skin. I decided one day that I wasn’t going to wash my face for 48 hours (I wasn’t wearing any makeup and did not do any extraneous activity). It actually gave my skin the break it needed and it looked amazing at the end of the experiment. If you don’t need to wash your face, try skipping it and see what happens.
2. Stop scrubbing lady. Seriously.
Here’s another tip. If you’ve ever read the back of your exfoliating products most of them say to use at a maximum of 3-5 times per week. I’ve learned that most people are like me and frequently exfoliate way more than that. The crazy thing is that many dermatologists only recommend exfoliating once a week (with three being the absolute max). Exfoliation is still important, especially as we age as it helps to slough off dead skin cells and even our complexion, but the type of exfoliator used is just as important. The gritty, apricot scrubs of my youth all of a sudden felt like they were tearing through my skin. The reality: they were. It goes against our natural instincts, but scrubbing less and with a softer product, actually helps your complexion. One of my favorites is Origins Modern Friction. It’s super gentle and lasts forever, especially if you’re only using it once a week.
3. Oil-free is literally for teenagers (or no one).
For some reason, oil has gotten a bad rep over the years. Walk into any high school classroom and they’ll frantically tell you that the only way to a clear complexion is to eliminate all oil-based products. Well, we’re wrong and I’m pretty sure that half of all the oil-free marketing is just geared towards desperate pizza-faced adolescents. When we wash our faces, we strip away natural occurring oils. Our body’s cue then is to produce more in order to make up for the loss. As we age, our skin becomes dryer as it retains less water. Moisturization, and using products that work with our skin rather than against it, is even more important. My sister actually turned me on to the oil-based cleansing trend and swears by Burt’s Bees Oil Cleansing Oil. I’ve personally had a lot of luck with The Body Shop’s Camomile Cleansing Butter. Both are meant to be used without water and then rinsed afterward. It’s helped my skin to feel and look fuller and most importantly, retain moisture.
4. Your makeup routine needs to change too.
All of my adult life I have been using Clinique powder foundation. I’m still a fan but I started to notice that it didn’t have the same effect it used to. Choosing the right makeup products and moisturizers is just as important. As we age, our pores become more visible and collagen and elastin fibers decrease. Powders and other shimmery products tend to highlight these imperfections rather than blur them out.
This tip actually comes from my mom. Instead of using powder-based and heavy foundations, switch to lighter BB creams and mix a small portion of your daily moisturizer with your cream for a flawless look. The secret to aging gracefully includes working with your natural look. BB creams are lighter than typical foundation products and using a lot of foundation actually tends to make you look older. At the end of the day, a sheerer product will brighten you and provide you with a more polished look. Senescence should be celebrated, no need to cover it up.
5. Yes, you really do need to wear sunscreen.
This one might not come as a huge surprise. One of the best pieces of advice, in order to protect your skin as you age, is to wear a daily moisturizer with sunscreen (and don’t forget to apply it to your neck too). You might not be ready for wrinkle-fighting moisturizers just yet, but using products that protect your skin against harmful UV rays helps it stay looking younger and prevents fine lines as you age.
Ultimately, just because you don’t have “mature” skin doesn’t mean you should avoid those products. I get it, it’s hard because you’re caught in this weird middle ground. The thing is, if you recognize that your old routines aren’t working for you, then making the switch toward an aging-friendly regimen isn’t going to hurt you. For me, it was less about preserving my look and more about helping to care for my skin in a way that made me feel good. My skin was hurting and I was hurting it with the products I was using and my daily habits. That needed to change because my body is also changing and that’s okay.
This can be an especially difficult topic for women because there is always a lot of external pressure to look a certain way. Society tends to highlight feminine youth rather than mature beauty. Women’s power is often linked to her external features. Fresh-faced, virginal purity is prized over mature, self-aware, and action-oriented women. Older, feminine matriarchs who embrace their sexuality and demand power for themselves are villanized. Don’t believe me, watch any Disney movie.
The crazy thing is that feminine power grows with age. When I think about the women in my life like my mother, my aunts, my grandmothers, to me, they are each so incredibly beautiful just as they are right now. They have wrinkles and fine lines. Their bodies are a little more impacted by gravity and not perfectly smooth. To me, each has never been more magnificent. Each has never been more glamorous.
They have all lived fascinating and full lives. They have birthed babies, raised children, risen to the top in their professions, and helped to change society. Their lines are full of stories, adventures, and memories. Talking about aging should be a positive experience and something we shouldn’t choose to hide. Maybe if we were more open about how women’s bodies and lives change over the course of her lifetime, I wouldn’t have spent the last year living in facial agony.