Mature Skincare on a Budget

Firstly, I’m trying on this “mature” label… unsure of the fit… wondering if I can make it sound sassy in context… perhaps during the 6th decade as I tailor it to suit. Secondly and more on topic, I’ve searched for skin care to meet my basic needs since I was 13. While pimples have been elbowed out by fine lines and discoloration, a non harmful skin care routine remained my unicorn for over 36 years. Red, embarrassing, and painful reactions followed my use of many popular skin care lines sold in the U.S. Can you imagine the amount of $$$ I’ve wasted on products that landed in a waste bin after just a few uses? A few years ago I settled on Aveeno Ultra Calming foaming cleanser and moisturizer as the least harmful (yet still stripping), most affordable option, until my skin changed again, perhaps due to autoimmune issues, hormonal issues, age, or a combination of all those things and a couple that haven’t occurred to me. I tried everything from diet to dermatology and found corticosteroid cream the only effective treatment, which is when I began researching products again. I knew I reacted to chemicals and needed more natural ingredients in my skin care, AND I needed my face clean to avoid breakouts, AND I needed to retain and add moisture.

Red and Reactive, Dry Beyond Belief

Our universe finally smiled on my skin care quest in November 2017, and took pity on my worsening irritation and painful skin. I hate trying new skin care products, and once again I was justified.

When I stumbled upon Renee on her YouTube channel Gothamista

during a search for low Ph facial cleansers, I had a raw itchy reaction across my cheeks and forehead that lasted for 2 weeks following use of CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, which is lauded by 90% of users as the best thing since coconut oil and matcha tea. Renee’s minimalist style and my-sort-of-girlfriend demeanor made me watch a whole eight minute video about pH levels and 2-step cleansing. Add free and engaging skin care education, and I may be a loyal follower. To cross the moat of my cynicism, the products she recommended needed to pass a 30-day trial, but I was willing to take a risk based on reviews across multiple platforms.

I have hypersensitive combination skin, at times with extreme dryness/dehydration, which is dependant on weather and skin care products. Low pH cleansers were the next logical step for me, however as my CeraVe trial proved, ingredients also played a role. 7 is a neutral pH level, or the level of water/tears, and I wanted to trial a cleanser with a pH level of 5-5.5, between weak coffee and normal rainwater. Our skin’s pH is approximately 5 and the goal is not to disrupt our natural moisture production by cleansing with higher pH products.  Cleansers and toners with a pH between human blood (7.5 pH) and seawater (8 pH) stripped my skin, which in turn reacted with an overproduction of sebum. It was a perfect  skin care nightmare with few low pH products available in stores.

This low pH cleanser changed my skin and made me very happy: 

60 Days Using COSRX Cleanser with No Reaction

Toners with humectants played supporting roles

I went with a local seller of natural matcha green tea cleansing cream for 1st step removal of makeup and sebum, but not until I used the COSRX cleanser for more than 30 days because our skin cells turn over every 28 days and I wanted a true trial (I don’t wear makeup 5 days/wk). I also added moisturizing toners, a departure from the drying alcohol-based toners I grew up with and believed were necessary to oust that pesky sebum.

Moisturizing Toners that I pat on my skin with my fingers

I enjoy my skin care routine (finally!) and haven’t reacted to one product recommended by Renee at Gothamista, however I must warn you–skin care can be addicting.

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Ditching Shampoo, Tales of a Greasy Head

Michigan winters are especially cruel to 5th decade skin, so along with stocking our pantry and medicine cabinet, my winter prep routine includes stocking up on shower oil, body cream, sugar scrub in oil, and tea tree shampoo.  In a quest to retain dissipating moisture, I shampoo my hair every other day and can slip in a third pin-up day if I don’t have anywhere to go, but still, I fight dry scalp all winter.

Driven by this quest to keep the scales and itchy urges at bay, I decided to try cleansing conditioner in lieu of shampoo.  At one week in, doubt has taken root as I pin-up the hair I “washed” with cleansing conditioner yesterday, complete with a headband to keep the heavy greasy mass away from my face.

I wonder… is this yet another failed beauty experiment, the first of which took place early in the 2nd decade.  There is a sweet spot in the 3rd and 4th decades when our hair and skin is as healthy as it will ever be and the same products work for a long while.  Then the time to pay for our youth in the sun begins and hormones once again go wild, unsure if they are coming or going.   And again, the experiments begin, not as stupid as those of the teen years (I once steamed my face beet red), but more expensive.

The cleansing conditioner may work better on thicker, curly hair.  Frustrated with my greasy pin-up, I am now off to shampoo my hair, probably twice.  Maybe if I wear hats I can use up the rest of the bottle.

Wanted: Moisture

Of all the changes I have experienced in my 40’s, moisture has been one of the most evident and dramatic losses.  Dry patches on my cheeks and forehead surprised me in my 40th winter and announced an immediate necessity to change my approach to skin care.  I had been here before with acne in my teens and cringed at the memories of trialing a multitude of remedies, many of which I was allergic to.  Now I needed to go in the opposite direction and the products cost much more than Clearasil.   I know from experimenting with anti-aging creams in my 30’s that my hypersensitive skin doesn’t tolerate what is touted as the best drug-store brand facial moisturizer and my budget cannot withstand purchasing even a few top-of-the-line products that do not work.

My daily self-care ritual has become tediously time-consuming, but at least I have more time in the mornings now that sleeping in is not physically possible.  Similar to a growing myriad of tasks now essential to my health and well-being, I meet any momentary urge to skip moisturizer with thoughts of undeniable itching.

I began consoling the dry patches by trying facial washes that touted “gentle” and “sensitive skin” on their labels, avoiding brands that had not been the least bit gentle to me in the past.  An allergic reaction does not reveal itself until I have used a product for about a week and then it takes two weeks to get over it.  If I use another new product before it has resolved it may exacerbate an initial reaction.  I can use an anti-aging product once a week as long as it does not promise “cell renewal”.  I approached my quest armed with this hard-won historical perspective, which saved me a lot of time, itching, and redness.  A solution came in the form of an “ultra calming” facial wash for dry and sensitive skin that let me keep the bit of moisture I have.  Fortunately, the
partner moisturizer was also truly calming.  My quest turned out to be very different from the acne battle of my teen years.  Although I am drier with many more lines and marks on my skin, it seems I am also wiser and realize that a battle is often not necessary.