Artfully Aging - My Hobby These Days? Skincare.
I get comments about how it doesn't look like I've aged since high school/college. And you know what, they're not totally off base! I have aged, but I would say I have aged gracefully and my skin/face has fared well. I can assure you it's not by accident. It's a consistent and methodical plan of attack I've been on for a majority of my life.
I suck at full-body skincare. If you're looking for some magical body lotions and potions to make you look younger and more fabulous from the neck down, this isn't the place for you, or this isn't gonna be that at least. I've moved on and do an "ok-to-meh" job in that department, but my A-#1 focus is on my face. That's the thing everyone sees the most, including myself. It is also the body part that gets attacked the most by the sun and free-radicals, and all those other marketing words you already know from the gorgeous ladies in the Ads.
I do believe there are some main contributing factors to my skin's quality at this age and stage of life and that's what we will be covering here.
Thus, this makes up my skincare routine. It isn't just the lotions and the potions, it's the whole shebang. Everything you do affects the quality of your skin.
My Skincare Routine
Quality of Food Intake
I often walk around singing "If I could turn back time" by Cher to my husband as I'm doing whatever step in the skincare process I'm on in that moment... it's always one of them! He thinks I'm fairly ridiculous with all of it, but he also appreciates the results - don't let him fool you.
Let's do this.
This isn't so much a "routine" but it is a main contributing factor to how your skin looks and ages. Your genetics help determine the things you need to avoid and incorporate based on your specific makeup.
This is also the area to seek out advice from your experienced family members with skin you like and want to emulate. For me, my Aunt Nicky was one of those people. She and I resemble one another, so genetically we are assumed to be similar. Growing up I remember how dewy and smooth her skin was. As I recognized early on (late-teens) that facial skincare was going to be important for aging (my HSP trait helped me see the future there) I asked my Aunt what her secret was. It was pretty simple.
"Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize."
So I did. I wasn't the best at washing my face and doing all the things twice a day at that time, but I did make sure my face was moisturized from that day on and adjusted my products accordingly when something would cause dryness. That's the devil of aging, for me at least, dryness. As long as I can keep moisture and plumpness to my face, I'm good. That's what gives you the youthful appearance. Gaining weight plumps your face and thus, if you lose weight, you're gonna have to account for that change in your appearance.
On both sides of my family our genetics tend to be in my favor as far as visible signs of aging go. We don't have Paul Rudd's genetics (it's unfair how youthful that man still looks), but who does, other than Mr. Rudd?
You know what really grinds my gears?
When people talk aging and skincare and don't address the fact that genetics has such a huge role in what you deal with and what you can do about it.
Some people can do minor procedures and that's sufficient for them. Some folks need deeper work just due to how their eye-pad fat ages, as an example.
QUALITY OF FOOD INTAKE
This is a biggie. You can slather all the stuff you want on your face, get all the procedures you can afford, and do all-the-things... it will help, but until you figure out what foods are keeping your skin from being its best, you'll never get the full results you're looking for. Then you'll blame the product or the professional, when it's really what you're fueling yourself with.
That's going to be different for all of us. Some basic principles that apply to most though:
Alcohol & Caffeine cause dryness. Limit your consumption and your skin will thank you.
Eat skin-friendly foods such as, carrots, apricots, avocados, sweet potatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, beans, peas, lentils, salmon/fatty fish, and nuts - and things with high collagen, like beef. I get more of my collage intake from supplements though since eating too much red meat isn't good for the rest of my body.
Fried-foods aren't your friend. It hurts me to say that, cause I'm pretty sure I feel like we're friends when I'm eating it. You've got to limit your intake here though or your skin could look as dull and greasy as that delicious fried pickle.
Juicing can give a nice boost to your skin. Sometimes you can't eat all those veggies, so a small juice boost can help. I also do an occasional 3-day juice cleanse when I need a reset, but mostly I'll just replace lunch here and there with one. Really just adding it in at all is helpful, even if it is a small glass of it with a meal. A veggie boost is never bad.
Gut health is king. If you're having any sort of digestive issues and not having a regular situation happening there, your skin will show it too. The health of your gut controls so much and it's important to know what foods cause skin issues and gut issues, so you can work to eliminate that problem from your life. I do food testing, as well as use some supplements to keep that as regular as I can and I listen to my gut and body constantly to see when I'm out of whack!
Bottom line - Your skin will reflect the health of your internal body. It is our first warning system usually. So, what you put into it is what you'll get out of it.
This is one most people already know has an effect on your overall health, plus how your skin looks. From the improvements to circulation, releasing toxins... all that stuff, exercise is essential to quality skin. It doesn't have to be crazy, but you gotta do something to create some sweat at some point and get the blood pumping to help your skin out.
My current exercise routine is here in a recent blog post:
Once I finish the 80-day program, I'm going to look at adding some sort of dance-style workout to the mix. Maybe I'll love it, maybe I'll hate it. But I'll give it a try, because I have to keep mixing it up or I'll get bored.
This is another area where what you put into your body will be reflected externally. I'm not going to go into big detail here, but you can find my earlier blog post where I do, right here:
Supplements have a solid place in my routine. I can tell a difference when I do and do not take them after a while. I'll take all the help I can get too because I'm not really capable of eating all the nutrients I need in whole food form.
What? Another example of how what you put IN your body matters? Geez. Last soapbox on the input side, I promise. We're going external next!
It's not just antibiotics that dry out your skin. Many of us know about that one. But what about all the other meds we are on, either by need or desire? The hormone meds, mental health meds, heart meds, neuro meds, pain meds, sinus/allergy meds, and even the skin rash/fungus meds... so many medications. Many of those have a drying out effect on people, so you've got to keep that in mind when you are working on designing your personal skincare routine.
You might need more moisture than you did when you were younger, partially because of the medications in your life.
And yes, these meds also exist in the water and food supply, but that's not what this is about. Something to keep in mind too though. It all adds up.
I, like most, didn't take the best care of my skin with proper SPF/etc. applications in my younger years. I played in the sun pretty much all day long when the weather allowed. Riding bikes, playing sports, being out on the water, slathering myself in body oil to hand wash my truck... I was in the sun a lot and didn't wear much SPF, unless mom was there to force it. So yea, I've got lots of sun damage and spots.
However, my intuition told me early on that laying out sunning or going to tanning beds wasn't a good idea for me. I tried a tanning bed a couple of times and I swear I could smell my skin baking/burning so I was out on all that. I've laid out more in the real sun of course, but mostly just on vacations and at events. I didn't make it a point to go out in my backyard and make it happen though. I just never enjoyed "laying out" and taking that time to just do nothing. I was too busy adventuring and not sitting still. I've gotten way better at that relaxing part as I've aged, but not in those younger years.
My main goal now is trying to avoid additional sun damage and to support all my other skincare efforts to the best of my ability - which strongly involves reducing sun exposure.
Weapons in my arsenal:
Sunscreen on the daily. Sunblock if I'm gonna be all up in it. There is a difference.
I use a daily CC cream with 25 SPF in it instead of foundation. I will use foundation on days I need to dress it up, but I mix in my sunscreen with that too.
If I'm hiking, going on the water, or just going to be actively in the sun that day, I bulk up to the Sunblock - there is a difference! I use a 50+ SPF with ZINC OXIDE 'cause I'm not playing games y'all.
All. The. Hats.
I'd have a hat closet if I could. I currently just have a few, go-to hats, which is all you really need anyway. The point is, if I am going to be in the sun, if a hat is an option to have on at the time, I'm wearing one. I'm still keeping the sunscreen on my face too - especially on the water. The suns rays reflect off the water and back up to your face, regardless of your fabulous hat game.
This isn't so much about the face, but I'm adding it anyway. I really try to buy clothing that has SPF in it when I can, dresses included. It all adds up.
I also sit in the shade at every opportunity, plan the times of day I'll be out doing things, and use the visor in my car to try and keep the sun's rays off me there. I'm always evaluating the sun and what adjustments I need to make for it.
Facials and Fillers and Botox - oh my!
Up until this last year, my medical spa life was pretty non-existent. Partially due to not having the desire for doing those things and being concerned I wouldn't look like myself, but mostly because of the cost and time needed for doing them.
Even if I could come up with the funds, how would I get the time off work I needed for recovery, if needed?
So the extent of my "procedures" were HydraFacials I'd pay for with the occasional spa gift card I'd receive until the Fall of 2020 when I was able to start doing the facials regularly (every 4-6 weeks).
COVID and general aging helped me determine how important having "nice" skin was to me at this age and stage. A particular focus came on the eyes due to all the mask-wearing. I was always a "pop of lipstick" gal and I had to seriously rethink my life for a bit there. So, when we were readjusting our lifestyle and budgets along with everyone else in 2020, I decided my skincare would have to be a priority and planned for - not optional. It affects my confidence and thus my mental health eventually. Then, in May 2021 when I transitioned fully to self-employment, my schedule allowed me to accommodate this side of my life better.
So let's talk what procedures I have done and the ones I'm considering in the future.
This one would go on my list of "favorite things". When I had one of these for the first time, many years ago, I knew it was what I needed. My skin has a tendency toward dryness as I've aged, along with pores that like to clog up on me - and don't forget the sun damage. This type of facial is not a relaxing spa facial - this is a real deal medical spa facial. I wouldn't say it's painful, or at least it shouldn't be, but it involves peels and suction, so don't make plans on getting a little nap in on this one - it ain't happening.
How it works:
Cleanse & Peel - they'll cleanse your skin and do a gentle exfoliation and resurfacing.
Extract & Hydrate - they'll use a suction tool to remove debris from your pores and push high-quality moisturizers into your skin.
Fuse & Protect - they top it off with a slathering of antioxidants and peptides to help maximize the glow.
HydraFacials can help you with fine lines, wrinkles, elasticity, firmness, even tone, vibrancy, skin texture, brown spots, oily/congested skin, and enlarged pores. There are different levels of these facials too, depending on your main concerns and needs. There is a more basic one and then you can tack on all the anti-aging fun if you want.
What else to expect:
Cost on these I'd consider to be medium. It's high for a facial, but low for a medical procedure. Prices vary so much, but in my experience you should plan on spending somewhere around $150-300 for the HydraFacial.
Procedure time is pretty quick. The basic one can usually be completed in 30-minutes. For the more advanced version(s) I'd give yourself 45-60 minutes.
Downtime/Recovery is quick to non-existent. I've gone straight to brunch with friends after getting a HydraFacial and they just thought I had applied a crap-ton of moisturizer that day. You will need to reduce your sun exposure for a few days after.
Frequency is, well, frequent. These should be done every 4-6 weeks to maintain results.
These are great for people that want a quick in-office procedure with no real downtime.
Microneedling + PRP - a.k.a. The Vampire Facial
This is basically a HydraFacial on steroids. Same great benefits, just better results and less frequency, but with that comes a higher cost and more downtime.
Yes, this is the one you've heard about for years that the celebs are into. Yes, it does work as well as they say. Yes, it's worth the pain, the money, and the downtime. Yes, I am hooked. Yes to all the things here.
The platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is an optional add on to the Microneedling - and what makes it "vampire". That's them using your own blood mixed with the fun juice for maximum results. Also - I am discussing the Vampire Facial, not the Vampire Face-Lift, which is different.
How it works:
Cleanse & Prep - they'll cleanse your skin and apply a topical anesthetic that sits for 30-minutes before they begin. You're gonna want that stuff to have time to do its thing before they start the show, I promise you that.
Blood Draw & Centrifuge - a small amount of blood is drawn from your arm and is centrifuged so the PRP separates to the top, to be used shortly. It's a super small butterfly needle so it's really not a big deal.
Microneedling - my specific spa uses the SkinPen, not a derma-roller, for reference. Derma-rollers have shorter needles, so less effective. So, just like it sounds, they hit your face with lots and lots of little needles. It's microscopic and not as big of a deal as it sounds, but it is what's happening. This takes about 30-minutes and is the reason for the topical anesthetic from earlier.
PRP Massage - here is where they take that "liquid gold" they separated and massage it* into the newly microneedled areas. You leave this stuff on your face (yes, your own dried blood will be on your face, get over it - this is the big leagues) for a minimum of 6 hours, but overnight is preferred.
*note, if this were the "Face-Lift" they would inject the PRP into your skin instead of just applying it topically.
Vampire Facials can help you with the things a HydraFacial does, but is a collagen and elastic powerhouse, and can help with deeper acne scars. Think smooth, unblemished, glowing skin.
Here are some pics of my 3rd/final treatment in the initial three. In the two sessions prior I already saw reduced wrinkles and lines, plus my skin glows. Redness, bruising, and skin shedding are the main side effects of the procedure. I had a lot of sloughing of the skin after the first two, but this third one doesn't seem to have much to bother taking a picture of.
What else to expect:
Cost on these is high. Depending on your spa, you can expect to spend between $600-750 per treatment.
Procedure time is medium. Go ahead and plan on being there for 1-1.5 hours.
Downtime/Recovery is medium. Downtime is more than a HydraFacial but not a week-long affair like some things. Most people go back to work the next day or at least the day after that. Day of the procedure you'll feel, and look, like you have a deep sunburn. It's not horrible, but it's felt and annoying. Then you'll look like a crazy skin shedding machine, so moisturizer (and solo-time) will be your friend. But after day 3 I'm normal as can be, well, better actually.
It is important to note you will not be allowed to use many of your normal skincare items, cannot sweat, cannot get any sun... all sort of nuances post-procedure that your esthetician will explain. Listen to them! They know what they are doing.
Frequency is medium. You need a minimum of three treatments initially (one every 4-weeks), then it's totally up to you and your skin. Some folks do it every 3-4 months and some folks don't need to go back for 12 months from the first treatment, it is dependent on your skin and other factors (like avoiding sun damage). You'll see full results from each treatment 1-3 months after the treatment - it's the gift that keeps on giving.
My esthetician says I'm responding well to the procedures, so she thinks I'll be able to just get a couple of HydraFacials each year, and do another Vampire Facial or two in May/June of next year (a year after my first one). We will just keep an eye out and make the plan as we go.
These are great for people that want serious results with less visits to the medical spa.
This is the new and not-decided upon path. What I need to do to fix the issue I have with my under-eyes is actually a Lower Eyelid Blepharoplasty, or "bleph". That is the only way to get the uneven bulges and wrinkles out there, because mine is due to my fat pads. Since I'm not at a level financially or mentally where I am ready to let someone take a laser, or knife, or whatever the hell option they go with to my lower eyelid just yet - dermal fillers are on the table.
It's normal for aging to cause that area of the face to lose its magic, especially if you don't carry a lot of weight, or you drop weight as you age. The fillers are not a fix in my case, but an attempt at a cover-up job, if you will. Which, I'm more willing to try right now than a bleph frankly.
In June 2021 I had 1/2 a vial of Restylane added to each under-eye area to see how I felt about it. I've never had a needle pushed in my face, nor did I know how my body would react to the filler, so I played it safe and did the bare minimum they would let me do - a trial run. I knew full well it wouldn't be a "noticeable" amount, just subtle. It was too. If I didn't tell you, you'd just think I had a good nap that day or something - only I could really tell the difference.
Fast forward to the future - in late August I'll be going to a follow-up appointment to see if we are adding any more to help smooth that area out. I will likely give it a shot, knowing they dissolve and I can just not get it done again if I don't like it, or worst case I can have them dissolved early. My biggest fear is coming out looking not like myself - OVERFILL IS OVERKILL.
How it works:
Cleanse & Prep - they'll cleanse your skin and apply a topical anesthetic/numbing cream.
Relax & Fill - It's time to relax that face as best you can - yes while she takes a needle to it! The time it takes depends on what you're having done and how many vials of it you are doing at the time. Your professional will take the needle in and out of your facial tissue and inject the filler in the areas needed. They'll also be "moving" it around to get it where they want it. It feels weird as hell getting all that done, because you can feel and hear it happening, it just doesn't hurt as bad as it seems like it should (thanks numbing cream!)
Then you're headed home like it never happened. You'll have soreness of course, and maybe some bruising (ask your professional about all the pre-prep things you should do to minimize that), but by and large that's the extent of the recovery cycle.
Fillers are intended to add volume where you need it and in some cases, redesign the structure of your face. We all have our own goals. I told them I'm not trying to look 25 again, I'm just seeking to look well rested and have less off-kilter bulging in my lower-eyes when I smile.
What else to expect:
Cost on these is high. Expect to spend $600+ per vial used (depending on the product). So, if you're someone that uses 4 vials in a sitting, that's going to add up.
Procedure time is medium. If you're doing a smaller area or smaller amount of filler, you can be in and out in less than an hour likely. But go ahead and plan on 1.5-2 hours to be sure. Worst part of the procedure for me the first time is I was so bored! Staring at the ceiling for a ridiculous amount of time and not really being able to talk to them sucks. So the thought of being there even longer this next time isn't exciting.
Downtime/Recovery is quick. If you bruise easily or didn't do or avoid the things they said to, then it will be a little more noticeable. The first few days had small amounts of swelling for me, but not bad really. I'd go back to the office the next day after this without concern.
Frequency is infrequent. Depending on the type you get, the location of it, and how your body metabolizes that stuff will depend on how often you do it. The type I am using and its location, we are looking to only do this once a year.
So we shall see how this part goes. I don't know that I'll get it done again, but I'm sure I'll try it once. I'm usually down to try most things once.
Now for the final piece, the one that most people focus on first. I chose to highlight this part last, because I don't believe you'll get the most from your daily skincare products without the other stuff being taken care of as well. No point in spending money on nice skincare products if you aren't going to do the other things to get the best from it - IMHO anyway.
My rule with skincare and the cost is get the best skincare products your budget allows. Figure out how much you can put toward that and then find the best for you from there.
Up until January 2021 really I mostly used skincare from the "drugstore" or natural ship-to-home products. The normal stuff and then adding in the stuff that says "wrinkles" and "anti-aging" on the bottles. But I could tell it wasn't quite cutting it anymore and really I was tired of the self-trial and error which wastes money too. So I decided to get more serious there.
Luckily JLo came out with her new line in January 2021 so I gave it a shot. It's a little pricier than the drugstore but not as pricey as some of the other stuff out there. It promised a moisturized glow - and that's what it did. My skin was very hydrated and my pores visibly reduced. I still had other skin issues like discoloration and clogged pores, but this was a big improvement and I wouldn't hesitate to suggest someone give it a shot if they are having issues with dryness and dullness.
Once I decided to start the Vampire Facial show though, I gave control of my skincare product choices over to my beloved esthetician. At this point, she knows my skin as well as I do and what areas I should really focus on. For me, that is moisture, discoloration, dark undereye circles, and redness/uneven tone of my skin. My pores have a tendency to hold on to stuff, so she made sure everything was non-comedogenic.
Her recommendations worked and addressed what I needed. The products recommended are mostly from SkinCeuticals, which was not a surprise to me in any way. Again, I decided to devote much of my part of the budget to my skincare so I was willing to see if I noticed a real difference. News flash - I did. This change, along with the Vampire Facial, has completely changed my skin. It's still not perfect, but I don't expect it to be. I'm also maxed on the time and money I am willing to spend to age gracefully. Again, not trying to look 25, just trying to not look quite so homeless when I don't have makeup on really. I guess that is my goal at the core.
Okay okay! I'm going to stop messing about and tell you what I use already!
Wash face with CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser - the one with the hyaluronic acid, in the green and white bottle. I assumed I needed a heavier-handed cleanser all these years, but my gal said that's actually hurting/drying out my skin more than it is helping. She said just use a gentle face cleanser and let the rest of the potions do the heavy-lifting.
Apply serums and use the Jade Roller. I currently use SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF with Ferulic Acid. This is the protector and improver of discoloration and skin tone. This has pure vitamin C, phloretin, and ferulic acid. After I apply the serum I pull my jade roller out of the refrigerator and run it over each part of my face three times. It has a great cooling effect and is supposed to increase circulation, improve lymphatic drainage, and get the serum in there deeper. I like the way it feels.
Apply undereye cream. I have to use something with caffeine in it for the dark circles. I apply SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter eye cream on the under, outer, and upper eye lids/brow bone. This has all sorts of stuff in it to help with the thinning and dry/aging skin of the undereye.
Apply moisturizer. I have used lotions and creams most of my life, with creams being the more effective one for me. So when my gal recommended a gel moisturizer, I was skeptical. After I applied it I was even more so because it was so thin. I'm used to having some thick stuff applied so I was certain there was no way this was going to keep my skin moisturized all day long. I was wrong. This stuff is thin, doesn't clog my pores, and hydrates quite well all day. It calms the skin and reduces redness - needed for me. This also contains hyaluronic acid if you're curious.
Apply sunscreen. See the above SPF rant, but I apply a daily CC cream at minimum for protection there.
Wash face with CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser.
Apply serums and use the Jade Roller. Same song second verse.
Apply exfoliator. I use SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight treatment. I currently am only using it every other night, working my way up to nightly if my skin can tolerate it. This is stuff you need to be careful with, same as retinols. Be patient and build your tolerance or you'll wind up with a leather-ish face. This stuff is intended to exfoliate and promote cell turnover. This is potent at 10% glycolic acid and 2% phytic acid. This helps to brighten your skin and keep it looking smooth and glowing.
Apply undereye cream. Again, same.
Apply moisturizer. Mmm hmm. Same green stuff as before.
That's it and that's all. LOL. I do have some acne dots and skin tag dots I use when needed as well. But by and large, that's the daily items applied to my skin directly.
Dang, that's sure seems like a lot of money!
Yep - you're right. The whole show is a lot. It is a lot of money. It is a lot of time. It is a lot. But my appearance seems to directly affect my confidence and overall wellbeing, so that's just the deal at this point. I do wish I didn't have such a concern for my appearance and I've really tried not to. We all get to pick what is important to us and what to spend our time and money on - this is one of my things.
Although I spend a good chunk on my skincare, something I don't spend much on is makeup, makeup brushes, etc. I don't wear much makeup. I don't have to when my skin looks nice enough. When I do wear it, my "canvas" is pretty high quality so the "paint" doesn't have to be the tops of the tops to look good and do its job. So, I do save quite a bit of money and time there.
I also don't get my hair dyed, blown out, extensions put in, or other things like that. I get a haircut every 8-10 weeks. I don't get body waxing, but I do get my eyebrows threaded and dyed every 4-6 weeks. Again, not much time or money spent there.
Some people have sticker shock with my skin care routine, but I tend to have sticker shock with my friends' makeup/hair/beauty routines that I don't have. To each their own. You do you.
I'm always down to hear about what you guys use out there. Lay it on me!