Thursday, February 08, 2007

Skin Care

As I may have mentioned, the big 4-0 is looming large for me. It's not this year, but way too soon nevertheless! And of course, hitting your 40s is a big milestone in your financial life, especially for women. Is it because your children are growing up? Is it because you're hitting the peak of your career? Is it because it's a make-or-break time for your retirement funds? Well, it could be, but that's not what I'm talking about-- it's because it suddenly seems completely reasonable to spend $20 on this:

And you somehow have to fit it into your medicine cabinet along with all this:

My mother has beautiful skin, and looks much younger than she is. Great, I thought, we have good genes! And when my mother prodded me to use moisturizer, I just thought, bah, all these crazy potions...
Fast forward 20 years: I'm suddenly noticing every little line and wondering "Do I already have more wrinkles than my own mother! Holy shit, she was right! Those last few summers of sun-worshipping at Coney Island have been my undoing! Better slather on some moisturizer, FAST! Is it working yet?! Better put on some more!!"
This is the point in life where if you didn't already, you now actually read all the L'Oreal, RoC, Lancôme, and Neutrogena ads in magazines. You start to think that if they can get away with charging $80 an ounce for face cream, surely it must be effective! You find yourself thinking you may really need an eye-wrinkle filler plus a cheek-line-smoother plus a daytime Enhancing Cream and a nighttime Regenerating Lotion. And if that sets you back $400 a month, so be it!
For me, this is still a struggle. I've never been into wearing a lot of cosmetics, so I've actually spent very little money up til now on makeup and skincare. I'd buy the occasional bottle of whatever the cheapest nice-smelling moisturizer was, and between that and hotel mini-bottles and Christmas stocking gifts from my mother, I'd be fine. A few years ago, my cousin spied a bottle of lotion my mom had given me and said "oh, you use that lotion too?" I shrugged, and said "I guess I do now..." My cousin, a few years older than me, seemed to find such insouciance hilarious. Now, I understand why, because now, I actually care about moisturizer! But I still struggle with the idea of spending a lot of money just to ward off the inevitable. So the question is, does it really matter if you spend a lot of money on skin care? And fortunately a few recent articles I've read seem to say NO.
The latest, and to me, most likely to be reliable article is in ShopSmart, a magazine put out by Consumer Reports. Their recent car-seat debacle notwithstanding, Consumer Reports is a source of information that I trust. They tested a number of face creams and discovered that you don't necessarily get what you pay for. The anti-wrinkle products they found most effective were Olay Regenerist Enhancing Lotion, Perfecting Cream, and Daily Regenerating Serum. Although these sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, you can get them at drugstores and supermarkets nationwide, for a total of $57 for all three. (Amazon turned up 2 of the 3 products, for about $46.)
2nd place went to Lancôme Paris Renergie, $176 for day and night creams. RoC Retin-Ox+ was third, and cost $135 for day and night creams. One of the products they found least effective was the most expensive: La Prairie Cellular, which cost $335 for a day and night cream set.
Those with keen eyes and heightened skincare sensibilities will notice that the Olay Regenerist products are not currently in my skin care armory. I'm not so far gone that I can't wait until I've exhausted my other supplies to try the good stuff. And as many other sources (including my mom) will tell you, the best thing you can do to prevent wrinkles in the first place is to use plenty of sunscreen and moisturizer, as well as a face cleaner that keeps your pores clear. A recent New York Times article recommended the Cetaphil lotions I use as one of the better low-cost choices, though that was based just on interviews with dermatologists rather than any rigorous testing.
But looks aren't everything, you say! Everyone ages, it's only natural. True, of course, and personally, I feel no need to dye my grey hairs, and if the best wrinkle creams doesn't work and I look like a hag in 5 years, I'll accept it rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery so I can look as good as Jocelyn Wildenstein. At least that is my plan at the moment... let's hope I never have that fateful gaze in the mirror that changes my mind!


Anonymous said...

It kills me that "not spending a lot of money" on skin care products means "only" spending $57.

I read the Consumer Reports article too, and I've been debating whether to start buying them, since I'm getting more and more lines myself. I have to admit that something in me doesn't want to pay more than $20 for stuff like that. On the other hand, while Lucinda Williams has a great song about the "lines around your eyes," the lines around my eyes don't look that charming when I see them in the mirror.

Madame X said...

I meant to say that they don't tell you how long $57 worth of those products are supposed to last-- is it $1 a day? 50 cents a day? Who knows.

Madame X said...

...IS supposed to last. I'm slipping.

English Major said...

You might want to check out Paula's Choice for recommendations, with in-depth articles on the worth or lack thereof of particular ingredients.

And, for what it's worth, I second the Times's recommendation on Cetaphil. It's great stuff, and a bottle of it lasts nigh-on forever. I use their lotion and their face wash.

Anonymous said...

I am 40 this year and I have the same exact dilemma. The only problem is, I lack the discipline to apply the stuff. I have friends who use hand-cream every time they come back from the ladies room. Few years ago, I had this expensive night cream which I constantly forgot to use. When I opened it one night, I realized it was all gone. That was when I decided to hire a different cleaning lady. Apparently she was using it as hand-cream. How do I know? Every time after she cleaned the apartment, whenever I wanted to use the phone, it would be oily and I thought she was using my hand-lotion which was OK. She probably will never have wrinkles on her hands:)

Well Heeled Blog said...

Check out a prescription retinoid like Retin-A ... NY Times did an article on it a while ago about it being the only scientifically proven product to reduce wrinkles and actually generate new cell growth, and repair sun damage. Your insurance should cover it, with a minimal co-pay. I think it's much better to pay for the prescription stuff than to try over-the-counter, especially since the prices are similar.

Escape Brooklyn said...

I like the Body Shop skin care products, especially the Vitamin E day cream and eye cream because it has SPF 15 in it. And Body Shop is pretty affordable, especially if you have the "Love Your Body" card and get the 10% discount. But I'll also check out the Consumer Reports recommendations; they're always good!

My mom was just saying that Oprah had a show on yesterday with women who looked fantastic for their ages. Moisturizing, diet and exercise seemed to be the key. (I'd just add sunscreen if they didn't talk about it.)

Ryan said...

Hi Madame X,

Great blog and great post on skin care - very interesting.

I tried to find your email address to contact you about this, but couldn't find it :)

I run - we carry a line of 8 facial skin care products that combine pure aloe vera and probiotics from milk enzymes.

I would be willing to send you a product of your choice, for free, to try out and review. I'd send you a full version of the product, not a trial sample.

If you're interested, please fill out the contact form on with your name and address. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume you're going to pass.

In any event, I've bookmarked your blog and will check back often!

Keep up the good work,

Anonymous said...

I'm in my mid-50s and have no wrinkles. Preventing wrinkles is not about expensive creams. It's about behavior, as your mother said.

1) Do you scrunch up your face when you think or talk? Those horizontal lines on the forehead are an example of wrinkles by behavior. Also, the vertical lines between the brow. Those are all preventable.

2) Avoid the sun. Always. That's where crow's feet make their appearance.

3) Wear suntan lotion (No-Ad is fine) daily. I mix mine with moisturizing cream 1:1. Half bottle cream, half bottle suntan lotion. Put that lotion on every morning after shower. Matters not what the lotion is.

4) Drink water - 32oz + per day.

5) Little to no alcohol. Dries out the skin.

6) Smile, a lot. Even sitting by yourself anywhere. Help to fight the gravitational pull on jowls.

7) Wear sunglasses, visor, hat at all times when outside until it gets dark.

PREVENTING wrinkles is not about a product with the exception of suntan lotion. Fixing wrinkles once they're there, that's a different problem. But I can vouch for the fact that wrinkles are preventable by behavior and not products.


Anonymous said...

the way i see it, products you see on sites like these aren't really meant to help you out. Best bet is always still moisturizer, and some diets out there are designed to help promote skin development.

Anonymous said...

I use Neutrogena Pore Miniziming Cleanser (which I love, it's got the glycolic and salylic acid) and my moisturizer is NV Perricone Face Firming Activator, my eye cream is Aveda.

Who knows whether it's the right combination? I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

I agree, drink water. Also have good sleep cause if you don't sleep enough you soon become a mummy.

Anonymous said...

There is not an ultimate advice because everyone interprets odors in their own way, and the same fragrance can smell totally different considering type of skin, hair color, temperament and even the season of a year. There are important nuances if you do not want to seem vulgar or lacking of taste.

Unknown said...

hi my name is tanyas and my friend, we were ugly becouse for all the acne and you know all the troubles that we had, you know no boyfriend o partys nothings becouse the acne so tired of this we looked into many sites and
where you can find more of the drug and cream for acne and other skin problems go there and see for yourselft
byeeeeeeeeee and luck

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about the cost of skin care! I lucked into a little blesssing though, my soon to be mother-in-law works part time at a pharmacy. Once a month they clean the selves and restock for "new" items. They sell her all the name brand skin care prodocts (olay, loreal, etc) for 25cents each! Can you believe that?!?! My skin care budget has dropped to just about neal! =) Thank you Jesus! I suggest you try to luck into a friend with a perk like this at work!