Lisa Botwright Takes A Mature Approach
… to skincare for the older woman
Taking care of your skin in later life isn’t about trying to look younger; instead, it’s about a holistic approach to looking and feeling your very best. Eating well, keeping active and wearing sunscreen are simple common sense tips to benefit your complexion that I’m sure we all try to adopt as much as possible.
Harder, though, is navigating your way through the sheer weight of expensive products that are marketed to the ‘mature woman’ on a daily basis. How to choose between a serum and an oil, a lotion or a cream? Do we really need patented technology from a Parisian laboratory, or something homespun and organic? Won’t Pond’s Cold Cream do just as well?
The major factors that conspire against our skin as we age are decreased cell turnover, a slowdown in the production of natural oils and of collagen (the stuff that brings firmness and elasticity) – and all the consequences of a lifetime of sun exposure. Skin feels drier, thinner, looser and more fragile. However, on the upside, there are simple principles we can all follow to cut through the avalanche of mixed messages and to identify what mature skin really needs.
Sunscreen, as mentioned, is absolutely essential – not just for the complexion, but for overall health. The damage caused by UVA and UVB rays speeds up the skin’s ageing process, and leads to spider veins, age spots, wrinkles, and – far more worrying – melanomas. (Yes, even in cloudy and overcast England.) Use a day cream with an SPF of at least 30, every day.
And even though skin becomes thinner with age, an unwelcome outer layer – or ‘roof’ – of dead skin cells becomes thicker. A good exfoliator should be a weekly – at the very least – addition to a good skincare routine. Sloughing off all those lingering, redundant cells brings fresher skin to the surface and allows products to penetrate more deeply into the skin and work more effectively.
As for moisturiser, there’s a ridiculously bewildering choice. It’s often presented as the ultimate panacea for eternal youth – when all you really need is something to make you feel a little less wind-chapped. However… it seems there is some consensus amongst dermatologists about which ingredients to look out for. If firmer, plumper skin is your goal, skincare expert Debbie Thomas swears by the ‘holy trinity’ of hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and retinol.
Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is proven to boost collagen retention, while vitamin C is a critical nutrient involved in its production. The benefits of retinol appear to be firmly backed up by the medical industry. Dr John J Voorhees, Head of Dermatology at the University of Michigan, says: “To my knowledge, [retinol] is the only drug for which there has been crystal-clear demonstration that it works on the molecular level.”
Hyaluronic acid is a wonder-ingredient too, simply because it has an almost miraculous capacity to attract and hold vast amounts of moisture. A couple of drops in your cream or serum ensure that skin stays satisfyingly saturated and protected.
Possibly more confusing is the proliferation of new serums and facial oils on the market – what’s the difference between the two, and are they really necessary, you might ask?
Serums are traditionally water-based and should be applied after cleansing, but before moisturising. Because they are made up of smaller molecules than an oil or cream, they penetrate more deeply into the skin and deliver a very high concentration of active ingredients. They also prep your skin to absorb moisturiser more fully – like a damp sponge absorbing more water than a dry one, for example.
Although facial oils are sometimes marketed as serums, they should actually go on top of the moisturiser because of their bigger molecules. They’re supposed to keep the cream, and whatever you put underneath, moist during the entire day. Some women swear by them; some feel they are an unnecessary expense. Personally, I think they can be a hugely effective addition to your skincare routine, though slightly less important than the fundamental steps of cleansing, exfoliating, moisturising and protecting (sunscreen again!).
Another inevitable fact of ageing is that as circulation slows, eye ligaments weaken, pushing fat forward. Look for an eye cream with ingredients to soothe swelling such as cucumber and/or aloe vera.
Overall, the best creams are those that combine proven, effective ingredients – but in their most natural form and with delicious essential oils that make your daily routine a pleasure.
And take heed of the words of 68 year old Tricia Cusden, whose inspirational blog (lookfabulousforever.com) powerfully challenges the ageist media assumptions that bedevil our society: ‘age is no barrier to looking and being fabulous…’
Pro-collagen Cleansing Balm £40
A heavenly scented blend of geranium, lavender and starflower oils, fused with mimosa and rose wax. Sunday Times beauty columnist and author India Knight loves it: ‘My skin felt deeply, abnormally clean, and super-soft… It’s an exceptional cleanser.’
Hydrating Facial Serum £17.99
Both gentle and nourishing, aloe vera is a widely used natural product, which helps repair and restore damaged or ageing skin.
Gentle Exfoliating Ceanser £15
Contains wax (not nasty plastic!) microbeads that gently lift dead skin cells and then afterwards melt deliciously into the skin. Smells great.
Intensive Age-defying Day Cream SPF30 & Intensive Night Treatment Cream,
both £15.95 • healthspan.co.uk
These day and night creams have been formulated with all the magic ingredients, including high quality pure retinol (avoid less effective retinol derivatives found in other brands), yet are very reasonably priced.
Wonder Eye Cream £20
A gentle, but effective eye cream that contains the potent wonder-ingredient hyaluronic acid, plus cucumber oil to sooth and witch hazel to tighten.