How do I avoid wrinkly pimples and pimply wrinkles?
March 17, 2012 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Getting older has no visible benefits?

So for the longest time, my skin routine was St Ive's Apricot Scrub in the morning shower, Neutrogena Oil Free Cream Cleanser (or Neutrogena Acne Wash, depending on what was on sale) at night, and moisturizer after each.

After a run-in with a Mary Kay rep who told me Apricot Scrub is terrible for every day use, I got paranoid and switched to some L'Oreal acne wash with a little scrubby pad. I either rinse my face with warm water at night, or use cleanser, depending on the situation. I don't wear makeup; just tinted moisturizer, so there's not a ton of stuff to remove other than the day's grime.

But I feel like I'm looking older (29 1/2 this month!), so I want to hit up the anti-aging stuff a little more. The last time I did that though (a temporary hiatus from anything salicylic or benzoyl peroxide-based) I started getting pimples. Hell, I still get them, though not terribly frequently. It's not the same places over and over again--sometimes it's the tip of my nose, sometimes the bridge, sometimes my chin, sometimes my forehead. It's annoying as crap, and I feel like 6-months-away-from-30 is too old to be worrying about pimples!

So what has worked for you, aging women (or men, if you're so inclined) of AskMe? How do you keep your face youthful, but not pubescent?!
posted by masquesoporfavor to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (34 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Change your diet and leave your skin alone. The more you wash, the worse it will get.
posted by rr at 1:14 PM on March 17, 2012 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: Pretty sure I didn't ask about my diet anywhere in the question. Helpful answers about face-washing routines would be great!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2012 [23 favorites]

I found myself worried about some undereye creases (I'm 27) and bought Olay's anti-aging face scrub/moisturizer/eye cream set, just the basic one at Wal-Mart. Interestingly, the face scrub contains salicylic acid. It works well - after a month, I am noticing significant changes in the youthful glow of my face, and reduction in the little undereye wrinkles. And no acne. Hooray!
posted by woodvine at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Drink lots of water and wear a hat when you think of it. I think the point is that intensive face-scrubbing is the wrong tree to be barking up. These facial scrub products are probably taking needed oil away from your skin and contributing to the irritation that causes acne.
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:27 PM on March 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm 30 with oily skin that's quite acne prone and sort of sensitive with the beginnings of fine lines. For me, diet seems to make no difference to my skin and leaving it alone is a recipe for disaster. A lot of this is genetics and hormones, so what works for one person won't necessarily work for another.

That said, for me the absolute key to skin happiness is retinol. I love Green Cream but I know other people have good results with the Neutrogena Healthy Skin retinol cream (they even do one with salicylic acid in it too).

Seriously, the retinol keeps my pores so much cleaner (and thus smaller looking), reduces all but my worst hormonal breakouts to but a trifle, and makes my skin super glowy.

After much, much experimentation, here's my whole skin care routine, for reference. I don't believe that you need to use expensive products to get good results, but I've tried darn near everything, and here's what works for me.

Wash morning and night with Philosophy Purity Made Simple. In the AM, I use a Clarisonic brush (which has gotten rid of my previous need for daily scrubby exfoliators).

At night, a massage a drop of jojoba oil into my damp face. Once it's dry, I use the Green Cream.

In the morning, I use a tiny bit of Korres Yogurt Cream on my damp skin, then follow with tinted moisturizer with SPF. Sun protection is probably the most important thing to do every day.

When my skin's looking a little pimply (usually when I'm stressed or around my period), I use the Philosophy Microdelivery Peel Kit a about twice a week. It's got a gentle scrub as well as salicylic acid and glycolic acid, and it gives my skin the kick in the pants it needs to get past the breakout.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:31 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's true that Apricot Scrub isn't great for your skin. Mechanical exfoliants (like the pieces of walnut shells in the scrub) are harsher than chemical exfoliants (salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid).

Neither salicylic acid nor benzoyl peroxide are bad if you're into anti-aging stuff. They're both exactly what you need to fight breakouts. Salicylic acid (or alpha hydroxy acid if you find you're sensitive to salicylic) is a chemical exfoliant that removes dead skin cells and acts as an anti-inflammatory and an antibacterial agent. This keeps pores free and clear so oil can escape out onto the surface of the skin like it's supposed to. Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent that penetrates the pore and kills bacteria.

I highly recommend this article by Paula Begoun. Understanding exactly what various ingredients do is super-helpful in determining what your skin needs.
posted by neushoorn at 1:31 PM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree that you might be scrubbing too much. It's nice as a here-and-there treatment, but every day might be stressing out your skin. For example, my forehead HATES being scrubbed and will break out if I do it, no matter how badly I think it needs it. Skin that breaks out randomly all over implies to me that you're using the wrong product, or possibly the wrong quantity. Also the more stuff you start trying, the less idea you have of how stuff works in tandem with other stuff.

You need a simple, non-gritty cleanser, like an unscented Neutrogena bar. You need to moisturize afterward (I've had luck with some of the L'oreal collagen moisturizers). Then you need to drink a lot of water and stop picking on yourself. Maybe get a good night cream if you're interested in the anti-aging thing?
posted by hermitosis at 1:34 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

As for cleaners, I absolutely adore Bliss's Foaming Face Wash. It's got a little bit of exfoliating power, but it's not a full-on scrub, and it's cleared up my combo skin a treat. I got a travel sized freebie at a hotel and liked it so much I actually bought it.

Also I got a sample for Ole Henricksen's Pure Perfection night cream (labeled dry skin/anti-aging) with a Sephora order. I think it's pretty fantastic, but not $48 fantastic. Still, the strategy is fairly sound: order something you needed anyway from Sephora and choose anti-aging samples. I find a lot of them are so rich, a little goes a long way.
posted by smirkette at 1:34 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: For clarification: I don't know that I get what are considered "breakouts". I get a pimple (a painful bump that starts red and grows a whitehead) once a month or so (not necessarily every 28 days, though I guess that'd be easy enough to chart!), and I haven't changed my face routine in a while. Thanks for the info everyone, and keep it comin'!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:37 PM on March 17, 2012

I'm in my 40s. When I had pimples, I put aloe gel on them and it seemed to make them go away and would make them stop hurting. I wash my face with dr. bronners, and use some sort of moisturizer, sometimes expensive, sometimes from trader joe's..

I wish I had used sun screen earlier and more often and a hat.

When I tried acids and other whatever thing was the newest besets thing, it always irritated my skin. I know you don't want to talk about it, but taking in water/veggies/fruits was the best thing I ever did for my skin. Feel free to ignore that bit.
posted by katinka-katinka at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, also! I get better results when I only change one product in regime at a time. When you switch to a whole new slew of products, if something works, you don't know which one it is, and if something breaks you out or irritates you, you don't know that either. If your skin is less reactive than mine, this might not be necessary.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:43 PM on March 17, 2012

Best answer: Getting older has no visible benefits?

Beats the alternative.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:44 PM on March 17, 2012 [19 favorites]

Also again, not to pick a fight, but lots of people (me included) think the whole water thing is a total myth unless you're already dehydrated. I mean, I drink a ton of water a work ever day because I enjoy it, but it doesn't make a bit of difference to my skin.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:45 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I get a pimple (a painful bump that starts red and grows a whitehead) once a month or so (not necessarily every 28 days

To me this sounds fairly normal and nonproblematic. Occasional pimples are a side effect of having a face.
posted by hermitosis at 1:48 PM on March 17, 2012 [15 favorites]

I find that chemical exfoliation is a lot less irritating to my skin than mechanical exfoliation. 1% beta hydroxy acid gel works best for me - I like this stuff from Paula's Choice a lot.
posted by dialetheia at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might be worth going to see a dermatologist and see if they recommend a prescription for Retin-A. For what it's worth, I was reading a magazine (sorry can't remember which one, it was at the hair salon) and there was an article asking a panel of 4 or 5 dermatologists what products they used on their skin; every single one of them used Retin A.

Otherwise, I'd also agree that St. Ives scrub is way too harsh. I've heard that it can actually create small tears in your skin. If you like a really gritty scrub, you might want to try Karin Herog's mild scrub or Bliss's copycat Remede Sweep. Both use marble grains, which are purportedly perfectly spherical and therefor kinder to the skin than something jagged like crushed apricot pits or walnut shells. Although if you go the chemical exfoliant route, adding a physical exfoliant to your routine might be overkill.

If you are interested in finding "greener" chemical free alternatives, you might want to check out the book or the blog No More Dirty Looks. I have been very satisfied with the products that they recommend, but I have a different skin type and they are more expensive than drug store stuff.
posted by kaybdc at 1:51 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm just about your age. I have also found that most anti-wrinkle creams are way too heavy for me and cause breakouts. Now I'm using retinol and am a huge fan. Not only does it improve the texture of my skin and reduce the fine lines that are emerging, it has also helped cut down on breakouts.

At the moment, I'm using Philosophy's On a Clear Day Retinol Clarifying Lotion. It's pricey, so when this tube runs out, I plan to try Retinol ResQ. (MakeupAlley users approve.)

If you decide to use retinol, be aware that it can be kind of harsh at first. Using it daily was too rough for my skin, so I had to back down to once every other day. It also can increase sun sensitivity -- I got sunburnt on a cloudy day after only about an hour.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can clarify what specifically about you is looking older? That will help you get better recommendations - meaning, retinol is good for wrinkles, glycolic or salicylic acid is better if you think your face is looking duller and needs exfoliation, eye cream if you think your under eyes are looking droopy, etc...
posted by echo0720 at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2012

Also, definitely go see a dermatologist, they'll have good recommendations both prescription and OTC. The last time I was regularly seeing a dermatologist, for the six months leading up to my wedding, she gave me a great combination of stuff to use and my face was flawless. Like for the two months leading up to my wedding, I didn't need to wear any makeup at all, I was glowing. And most of what she recommended was pretty inexpensive. Of course I haven't kept it up and am now back to dull acne prone skin. :)
posted by echo0720 at 2:07 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

The other great thing to do is make a tour of the department store ladies. All the Clarins and Sisley people will load you up with samples of face wash and moisturizer. They'll have recommendations--some of which will be hit, some which will be a miss. You can try them all and see what you like--for free. Their job is to pimp product, so you know, let yourself be pimped at.

I believe in washing your face morning and night, applying pure aloe twice a day, and moisturizing, moisturizing, moisturizing, as well as using a light sunscreen. Really you shouldn't be using anything intended to exfoliate more than once a week--and nothing too harsh.

I am not a dermatologist but I am 40 and I get carded in bars. ;)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:08 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I started using an Apple Cider Vinegar toner about 10 days ago instead of my usual gentle cleanser. I smell like a salad for a few minutes but the difference is noticeable enough for people to ask what I'm doing differently lately. I've lost the winter dullness/unevenness that I think was making me look older. Does your tinted moisturizer have a built-in SPF?
posted by mochapickle at 2:11 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I guess what is looking older, to me, is my forehead (seems pretty wrinkly!) and around my eyes (from far away they seem fine but in the mirror, I see just older-looking skin, I guess!). Yesterday a coworker said she thought I was 24, though, which was awesome. And I feel terrible that I thought it was awesome, but there you have it.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:12 PM on March 17, 2012

I too have read a bunch of stuff trying to knock down the St. Ives apricot stuff, and I don't really buy it. I mean, don't grind it into the skin around your eyes with all the force you can muster or anything, but simply changing how hard you scrub (I scrub very lightly) can surely prevent the microtears the product is accused of causing. (Also, "microtears" -- I don't know that I believe that's a thing.) My skin doesn't feel any more raw or damaged using the cheap, easy-to-find St. Ives stuff than it does using the ($100+) Clarisonic Mia. I think anyone who slags the scrub is trying to sell you something that costs more than $2.99 at Target. What I'm saying is that if you like it, you don't have to give it up.

I like the Boots Expert Sensitive Hydrating Eye Cream because it really doesn't irritate my eyes at all.

The single best thing I ever did to prevent pimples was change my pillowcase twice a week. It solved my adult-acne problem.
posted by purpleclover at 2:23 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

N-thing the suggestion to see a dermatologist. Over the counter acne treatments and cosmetic company produced skin care products can definitely do more harm than good. I'm not worried yet about aging skin, but I have very dry, finicky, acne prone, Rosacea skin. I'm a big fan of moisturizers and cleansers that sound kind of nerdy, lame, and clinical. You're not paying for glamor or a nice smell, but for an effective product.

-Cetaphil (Gentle skin cleanser, moisturizer)
-Aqua Glycolic (Don't use this if you have Rosacea. But it's a chemical exfoliant - sort of - and much better for your skin than manual exfoliating)
-Retin-A (get the lowest concentration, preferably a cream not a gel)
-Neutrogena's Daily Defense Moisturizer, SPF 50

Anti-aging skin products are, as far as I can tell, over-priced moisturizers. If you really want to combat aging skin, Restylane and Botox are actually effective.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:39 PM on March 17, 2012

I'm 35. I have had annoying combination skin (dry yet zitty) my entire life. This year, on the recommendation of a friend, I quit washing my face entirely. She learned this method from a friend who is 60 and looks decades younger. It took a leap of faith on my part, but I decided to try it and my skin has never been better in my life.

So, I never wash my face. I sometimes let it get wet in the shower after exercising, but I never, ever scrub it with anything or touch it with soap or cleanser of any kind. After the shower, I pat it dry only. No rubbing. I moisturize twice a day with Nivea Creme (the super heavy stuff in the blue tub), lightly in the morning and with a thick layer in the evening that I let absorb into my skin over the course of a couple of hours. Makeup removal is done with a thin layer of moisturizer that I wipe off with a tissue. And that's it.

It feels weird and horrible at first, like you are filthy. I don't know if my skin adapted or I just got used to the feeling, but it feels fine now. Just normal. Even, glowing, almost no blemishes ever. When I do get one, I put some extra moisturizer on there and try not to touch it and it goes away in record time.

Really. I know this sounds crazy, but it has been truly awesome for me. Give it a try!
posted by something something at 2:48 PM on March 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

So if mechanical exfoliation (with a scrub) is working for you, stick with it. If you don't feel like it's working for you, experiment with chemical exfoliation and see if that suits your skin better.

Ultimately you just have to do your own chemistry experiments and find what works for you. I have very dry skin, so don't have a lot of relevant tips for you re: oil control, but many of my friends with oily skin do swear by chemical exfoliation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:07 PM on March 17, 2012

Two things have helped me reduce pimples quite a bit: Changing my pillowcase regularly (some people put a clean towel on it every night) and being mindful of how much I touch my face during the day.* I used to rest my chin on my hand while thinking or rub the bridge of my nose when stressed, and that contributed to blemishes.

As for my routine, I do use St Ives scrub, but the version that has Retinol, and I don't use it every day, only when I feel like I need exfoliating. I don't even wash my face every day. I also use Origins Liquid Clay Foaming Cleanser, but the most important thing I use is Clinique Dramatically Different moisturizing lotion.

* bonus side effect - fewer colds and flus
posted by desjardins at 3:47 PM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm 37, btw.
posted by desjardins at 3:48 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a pale white person, and for me sunscreen every day is the most important anti-aging tool.
posted by Occula at 3:53 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've found that it doesn't matter what I wash my face with (and I use Apricot Scrub, though the version for sensitive skin, 2-3 times a week). What really matters is making sure I use moisturiser for dry skin afterwords, even in summer. The best I've found are Johnson and Johnson for dry skin, the kind in a little pot, and Lush's Cosmetic Lad, which is a softening moisturiser actually meant for men. I prefer the J&J over Lush only because it has SPF 15, but they both work about the same for me.

Another thing I think helps is not wearing a lot of makeup. Everyone I know who wears full face makeup looks so much older.

I'm 27 and I get compliments on my skin at least once a week from strangers; once I complained to a friend about how I'm still getting carded, and she said it's because I have 'glowing, youthful' skin we associate with people in their late teens/early 20s.
posted by toerinishuman at 3:59 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Staying out of the sun and away from cigarette smoke is what works for me. And I am in my fifties.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:17 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Vitamin C lotions (APPS) are gaining recognition lately for it's anti-aging effect, as well as controlling oil secretion and preventing pimples. Moisturizing from the outside and then capping it with an oil-based cream is the basic but the most important idea I think.
posted by snufkin5 at 6:02 AM on March 18, 2012

If you like to use a scrub occasionally, Biore pore cleansing scrub (has a little bit of sacilyic acid in it) is the best one I've found. I only use it once a week, but it helps and otherwise use purpose face wash and a basic moisturizer w/ spf (neutrogena usually; 15-25 in winter 50 in summer). I'm personally thinking of adding a nightime moisturizer and possibly eye cream to my routine. I have found using a good foundation makes my skin much happier overall.
posted by ejaned8 at 6:25 AM on March 18, 2012

I have been using Mary Kay products since I've been 19. I started the Time Wise line when I turned 45 and I am now 50 without a wrinkle in sight and my face is baby butt smooth. I still get an occasional pimple but I figure a pimple is better than a permanent wrinkle.
posted by sybarite09 at 6:27 AM on March 19, 2012

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