What to use to care for my skin?
November 15, 2018 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Seeking recommendations on products that will help take care of my skin, especially on my face and collarbone area.

I want to start caring for my skin so that it will look good and be healthy in the future. I am requesting recommendations on products to offset the creeping lusterlessness I see as a person in her mid-thirties. I especially need help with sunscreen recs, because I hate wearing it. It makes me feel like I have a greasy film on my face, and I exercise a lot, so it gets into my eyes and burns. But I also would like to hear just generally what works for people, whether or not their suggestions fit my preferred parameters, because I've been surprised before by products I'd never have tried on my own.

Please recommend to me your favorite skin products for the face and collarbone area that are available in the US, are preferably cruelty-free, and if they are expensive, tell me why they are worth the money.

I have "normal" skin, meaning I don't wake up with my face too oily or too dry. I don't smoke. I drink a lot of water. Now and then I get pimples and blackheads, but not too often.

posted by Crystal Fox to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would suggest giving a vitamin C product a try. There are basically three categories of products for which there is at least some science to back up claims of improving a complexion beyond moisturizing (i.e., a non-bribed derm might recommend them)--retinol, AHAs/BHAs, and C. Anything else is pretty much hype and nice smells (*). C brightens the complexion. Products with a meaningful amount of any of these will run more expensive, because they're actually formulating a solution with the promised amount and in a base that has the correct pH. (I'm sure there's still a SOLID markup, though; I'm just saying that the price is a BIT less arbitrary in this context.) The nice thing is that some of the major brands (Sunday Riley, Drunk Elephant) sell "minis" which, while not cheap-cheap, mean you don't have to take the leap of faith of spending $80-$90 on something you don't know if you'll like. Rather it's ~$25 for a few weeks' supply.

(*) Don't yell at me, people. If it smells and feels nice and makes you feel good and you can afford it, put whatever you want on your face.
posted by praemunire at 9:42 AM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is an expensive-for-a-drugstore-product SPF 30 moisturizer. I am really happy with it after several uses - unlike other SPF30 moisturizers it is not especially chalky (at least on a white person with a visibly pink face) and it sinks in very well. It doesn't seem to move too much. I've tried a bunch of others and either they're non-chalky but only SPF 15 or SPF 30 and chalky or a sheer sunscreen and kind of drying. Or else they're only available via environment-ruining, working-exploiting, anti-union tax-sucker Amazon.
posted by Frowner at 9:44 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

(With Cerave you can often find deals at CVS, for some reason.)
posted by praemunire at 9:45 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know it's controversial and unpopular but I've given up on sunblock; there is just no extant one that works for me wrt not getting sweated into my eyes, not causing horrible oozing breakouts, and not causing severe sensory issues as a thick dirty-feeling coating on my skin. My eye doctor lent me an umbrella to deal with the sun after an eye exam dilation last summer and I will never go back, I am Team Parasols for life.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:07 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Let me preface this by saying I hate sunscreen, I hate the way it feels, I hate the way it smells, I hate the way so many break me out, I hate that I sweat so much with it and it wears off, etc. But I have pale skin, I burn easily, and I'm at risk for skin cancer, I know that, so I'm working on finding ones I will use.

Body sunscreen, pool/beach days: I use the Neutrogena ultra sheer dry touch lotion. This is relatively cheap, but it is not cruelty free. It is easy to find.

Body sunscreen, every day: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Lotion Spray. This is more expensive, so I mostly use it on my arms on an everyday basis, but I also don't think this is cruelty free.

Face sunscreen: Supergoop unseen sunscreen. This stuff is my favorite. It feels like a silicone makeup primer, clear, no smell, doesn't break me out, and I'll actually wear it every day, so it's worth it to me. Yes expensive. Yes cruelty free. I got it at sephora when I walked in and told them I needed a face sunscreen with my picky needs taken into consideration. One tube lasts me about 6 months; now that I'm writing that, I'm realizing I should probably be using more of it.

Other skin care: I tried DIY'ing it for a long time and just ended up with breakouts and scars and redness and reactions and problems. Now I get a facial about once a quarter, and I follow my esthetician's advice in between - which means mostly using micellar water instead of foaming face wash (garnier blue top for makeup removal, simple for last step before moisturizer), not picking, not using my clarisonic very often, etc. My skin looks better than it has in a while.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:13 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sunscreen: I use this Japanese sunscreen (pretty sure I first heard of it through AskMe; it's popular and I'm sure someone else will be along to recommend it shortly). It has a really light texture that's totally unlike any other sunscreen I've tried, which is partly due to alcohol in the formula - I do kind of wonder about that, but I've had no negative effects so far and it's definitely worth a try. I also loved this Coola sunscreen when I got a sample in a subscription box - it has quite a different feel from the Biore, but is also much lighter than regular sunscreen - but I haven't yet been able to bring myself to justify the price.

praemunire is right about your three categories. I use this retinol which is very affordable.

One other thing I've been experimenting with lately is oil, which definitely sprang to mind when you used the word "lusterlessness" - if your skin can handle it without breaking out, it gives a nice glowy look. Argan oil is lightweight (shouldn't cause breakouts on normal skin) and available at Trader Joe's for $6.99, though I find theirs smells a bit like natto... If that puts you off, Josie Maran is another brand that I got in a sample pack and loved but won't buy for myself because I am cheap.
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:27 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, my derm told me that the most protective sunscreen is available due to some legal complications (an interesting story for someone like me, probably not for anyone else reading this) in the U.S. only as La Roche Posay--it's the "SX" label that says it has "ecamsule" or "Mexoryl." However, in Canada, and elsewhere, it's available in drugstore brands like Ombrelle.
posted by praemunire at 10:27 AM on November 15, 2018

Sunscreen - kiss my face! Antioxidant moisturizer SPF30 that is totes not greasy.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:36 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The things that make my skin look old are:

1. Lack of exfoliation.
2. Lack of moisture.
3. Increasing presence of fine lines.
4. Sun damage.

For the first, I use the Ordinary's Azaleic Acid twice a week. I started with lactic acid, and worked my way up.

For the second, which is my biggest problem, THANKS CHILDHOOD ECZEMA, I use Peach and Lily's Glass Skin, followed by spraying myself in the face with water (I know, it's weird, but apparently a thing in France, and I swear it works with the hyaluronic acid to help hydrate my skin), followed by something else that has hyaluronic acid in it and/or addresses No. 3 below, all applied while wet, followed by mild occlusive face oil to seal it in. These days, the occlusive is the Ordinary's rose hip oil, because I love the way it smells, and how it's just oily enough to seal, but not so oily it breaks me out. Rose hip oil also helps with No. 4. A couple nights a week, I lie around under a sheet mask that's full of glycerin because that helps my skin stay hydrated like nothing else.

For the third -- niacinamide is my go to for this, usually the Ordinary's niacinamide. I also use their retinol at night a few times a week, and their Vitamin C from time to time. (The Vitamin C was what initially got me started on skincare stuff that's focused on active ingredients, because a friend mentioned it, the price was outstandingly low so what the hey, and one night I tried it, and then looked in the mirror and had skin that looked as good as if I were wearing foundation as an 18 year old again, but it was middle-aged me in a t-shirt in my bathroom. It was wild.)

For the fourth, to fix past damage, I use the Ordinary's alpha arbutin and rose hip oil most nights.

To prevent future damage, on office days, I use a moisturizer with SPF and then, once that's dry and before I put on my shoes and prepare for final exit from the house, a top layer of Algenist's Sun defense applied carefully around the eyes and not on the forehead because that'll sting in the eyes. I used to use the La Roche Posay mentioned above, but didn't like how greasy it felt on my skin without moisturizing.

On non-office days, I slather on the Anthelios Kids Sunscreen because it doesn't hurt when it runs into my eyes, and who cares about a white cast at the beach, and I wear a big ol' hat.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:41 AM on November 15, 2018 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I never use a regular sunscreen on my face unless I'm actually at the beach or something, because I can't deal with the burning in my contacts. I've used a ton of different moisturizers with sunscreen but lately I really love L'Oreal Futur-E. It dries quickly and makeup seems to look better over it than other moisturizers.
posted by jabes at 10:41 AM on November 15, 2018

Seconding the Biore sunscreen linked above, and Japanese/Asian sunscreens in general. The SPF providing ingredient in those sunscreens isn’t available in the US for some FDA reason- it hasn’t gone through the approval process here but it has in Japan and fwiw, I trust their drug approval process at least as much if not more than I trust ours here in the US.
posted by MadamM at 10:43 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I try to just keep things as simple as possible and use the Face the Day Daily SPF 30 moisturizer. The downside is it is expensive and difficult to get the last bits of product out of the bottle!

Prior to using Face the Day I used a DIY shea butter moisturizer then followed it with the Everyday Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, which worked great. After I finish up the Face the Day I am going to go back to using this combo for sure.
posted by rokabiri at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2018

Wear sunscreen every day. It is the single most important thing you can do for your skin to reduce signs of aging and preserve its health.

I'm a runner and a wearer of contacts, and I have never had any issues with this stuff. Nthing that the Japanese and Korean products just plain work better than what we have here! This sunscreen is super light and has a nice smell. I hate the consistency and smell of sunscreens here, even nice stuff like SuperGoop. Give this and/or the Biore stuff a try, I think you will love it. It's perfect for day to day (I'd wear something grosser/heavier for a day at the beach.)
posted by cakelite at 10:55 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only face sunscreen I can use is a stick formulation; anything else slides into my eyes eventually and causes a reaction. I love the Trader Joe's spf50 stick--it doesn't feel too greasy and it never migrates into my eyes.
posted by assenav at 10:56 AM on November 15, 2018

Best answer: There are three key parts to an effective skincare routine: exfoliation, something to protect/maintain your moisture barrier, and sunscreen.

I think you'll find exfoliation is the key to lacklustreness, and by exfoliation I don't mean physical exfoliants, aka scrubs like St Ives. Physical scrubby exfoliants irritate the heck out of your skin. What you're after are chemical exfoliants, acids basically, that gently dissolve dead skin cells. There are two basic kinds of acids: BHAs, or salicylic acid, which work to break down dead skin cells within the pore and are therefore great for acne and blackheads, and AHAs, which include a wide range of acids like lactic and glycolic acids, which exfoliate the surface of the skin. The market for chemical exfoliants is exploding. The Ordinary has tons of options, but I *personally* haven't had a great experience with The Ordinary products (other people have, though!) I have had great luck with Paula's Choice. Their .com gives a pretty comprehensive guide to their products, and I've been through countless bottles of the 5% BHA liquid over the years. My favourite AHA, though, comes from an affordable and reasonably accessible Korean brand called CosRX.

Vitamin C is another pretty effective exfoliant, but it can be STRONG and it also oxidizes pretty quickly. I've been through quite a few bottles of this vitamin C liquid, keeping it in the fridge and using it every other day on freshly cleansed skin. If I'm using a vitamin C then I'll skip using acids that day.

Next you want something to keep your moisture barrier going. Hyaluronic acid is your friend! I've been through countless countless bottles of Hadalabo Gokujun Lotion. It's basically a very light hyaluronic acid serum in a huge bottle. I shake a bit into my palms and pat it all over my face after cleansing and using whatever acid or treatment I'm going to use. It plays well under basically everything.

For sunscreen - a lot of people are extremely put off by the alcohol smell of Biore Watery Essence, but I've never had an issue with it. My daily driver, though, is Biore Perfect Milk. It leaves a more matte finish than Biore Watery Essence and is VERY sweat proof. It does leave a slight white cast, though. I've heard great things about Rohto Skin Aqua as a sport sunscreen, but I've yet to try it.

The most important thing about sunscreen is to USE A TON OF IT. Most people use way too little sunscreen. For my face, I draw lines of sunscreen on my index, middle and ring finger to measure out the appropriate amount.
posted by nerdfish at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to do what I always do and give a big caveat about the Biore stuff that everyone loves. The reason it absorbs so well is that it's full of alcohol, which is not great for your skin, to put it mildly. I opened the tube the first time I got it and got a huge blast of rubbing alcohol scent -- not something I want on my face every single day.

My favorite is the Elta MD Broad-Spectrum SPF 47. It doesn't sting because it contains zinc oxide instead of avobenzone. I won't use avobenzone on my face because it makes me miserable for the entire day when it gets in my eyes. (People who won't wear sunscreens because they sting have probably tried exclusively avobenzone sunscreens.) Elta has a lot of excellent options apart from that one, too; a lot of people adore this one.
posted by holborne at 11:06 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have been using this at night recently Lumene, and I really like it. its available from Target for only about $15!!!
posted by supermedusa at 11:07 AM on November 15, 2018

if you decide you want to spend serious money Jan Marini products are well worth it in my opinion, I have used several for many years and only been very happy with the results.
posted by supermedusa at 11:14 AM on November 15, 2018

Best answer: this is a mineral powder sunscreen!! I have used it for years (I am very pale and dont tan at all) if you are going to be in serious sun I would say be liberal in your application, but you will not be shiny or slimy with this!
posted by supermedusa at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2018

Nthing The Ordinary. Their stuff is cheap, so you can try things out and not feel like you've wasted a ton of money if your skin reacts badly or it doesn't work out. Follow one of their recommended regimens for your skin type and see if it works for you. Paula's Choice is pricier, but I love their AHA and BHA products. I find that those make the biggest difference in terms of skin texture and that lack of lustre for me.

I will also nth the Cerave AM for a daily facial moisturizer with SPF. It does not lead to burning or stinging in the eyes for me, and I don't think it feels greasy either. I liked the Trader Joes facial moisturizer too, but alas, it did sting in my eyes after sweating, and same for the Oil of Olay. Either way, all of these are drug store brands, so it's reasonably inexpensive to try them out.
posted by yasaman at 11:23 AM on November 15, 2018

I will also throw a vote in for The Ordinary, and for Paula's Choice when you want to upgrade. PC's BHA exfoliating liquid legitimately reduced redness in my skin almost immediately. I'm also a huge fan of Clinique's Super Cityblock sunscreen. Doesn't clog, feels super lightweight, doesn't really have that gross sunscreen smell, and works great as a makeup primer.
posted by thebots at 11:35 AM on November 15, 2018

Daytime: I use Oil of Olay Age Repair sunscreen (spf 30) on my face and upper chest, with Vina Vera resveratrol eye cream, plus Revlon Colorstay foundation (spf 6).

At night, I use a vitamin C serum, L'Oreal Cell renewal night cream, and Vina Vera eye serum.

I use Vina Vera cellular peel once or twice a week, which is the best thing I've ever used on my face, hands down.

I also use a variety of Korean sheet masks and undereye patches (Pack Your Bags by Tarte are amazing) a few times a month as needed. And whenever I order Sephora I always get the skincare samples, though I haven't found anything that does a better job than what I use now.

So the Vina Vera stuff is hugely expensive, but I went to one of their stores and I got all three of those products for $250. They give discounts and free stuff to new customers, apparently. It's been over a year and I'm still only halfway through these products so I feel like it was worth it.

I've also heard great things about silicone chest patches to heal wrinkles, I actually just ordered some today.
posted by ananci at 11:52 AM on November 15, 2018

Best answer: Came here to nth the Japanese sunscreens others have mentioned.

Also - you can smother on as much sunscreen and vit c/retinol as you want, but if you're not taking care of your insides it wont do much. Your skin is your largest organ and also responsible for moving 'old stuff' out of your body (along with your digestive system), so put good stuff in your body. ie, WATER, drink at least 80 oz a day to keep your skin youthful. Get a rainbow of veggies, healthy fats, hearty grains, quality meats if you want. Low sugar. dont munch all day, eat 3 solid meals and get a long break overnight (12 hours is ideal). the time when you're NOT digesting is when your body has to do all its other work. if you're always grazing you are always digesting and there for a lot of the other important functions get shoved to the side and one of those important functions that gets delayed is skin cell turnover.

(i'm totally over simplifying the processes here, but the point is, take care of your body and it will take care of you)
posted by vividvoltage at 12:03 PM on November 15, 2018

My shit is expensive but as praemunire says, it’s all stuff that has at least some scientific basis.

Sunscreen: Dr. Jart Sun Fluid is excellent but seems to be out of stock everywhere; if you can find it it truly is a barely-there, non noticeable formula. My replacement while waiting on it’s uncertain future is La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 AOX Daily Antioxidant Face Serum. The SPF is higher, but it does sting if you rub it in your eyes. However, the texture is light and dries to a matte finish.

Vitamin C: really liking OLEHENRICKSON Truth Serum lately. Seems to work when I put it on the morning and it’s not as sticky as the Sunday Riley stuff. Brightens up my puffy morning face.

AHAs: Sunday Riley Luna is my holy grail. Gentle chemical exfoliants, moisturizing, etc. I use it as a night cream.

BHAs: “Stridex in the red box,” i.e. Stridex pads. Too much of this gives me weird dry skin so I use as needed (i.e., breakouts). There’s also the Drunk Elephant night serum, but much pricier. Combines AHAs and BHAs.

Unfortunately I have no retinol suggestions as I haven’t found the right one for my skin so far. But what I’ve listed so far keeps my skin plump and healthy without being too heavy or inconvenient.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:12 PM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I occasionally use some ridiculous luxury product like the Fresh rose mask (so overpriced!!!) and it’s meant to “tone,” which in my case seems to mean create a slightly malevolent chemical reaction on my skin that makes it feel tighter, i.e. mildly burnt. None of the products I listed above seem to be that insane.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2018

Oops, sorry— Sunday Riley TIDAL, Not Luna!
posted by stoneandstar at 12:25 PM on November 15, 2018

I used to rely on my dermatologist and Sephora for my skincare products but somehow, I’ve discovered some Asian products work better for my sensitive skin. Somebody already mentioned the HadaLabo Gokujun lotion. Hydrating toners SAVED my skin while on Epiduo and now, I’m never without it. It really makes a difference if I layer it under a moisturizer(I learned this the hard way after forgetting to bring some with me on a trip back home to Toronto.). They’re not like traditional cleansing “toners”, which I avoid because they literally make my skin hurt/sting. Hydrating toners’ purpose is just to help hydrate and moisturize skin.

Speaking of moisturizers, I also like the Hada Labo gel cream (Target has the US version). When my skin feels EXTRA needy, I also pile on CosRx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture cream. My skin somehow likes these products better and bonus for me, they’re less expensive than the ones I used to get from Sephora, etc.
posted by theappleonatree at 3:34 PM on November 15, 2018

Best answer: I have been using Paula's Choice Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense every day for years, and it is by far the best sunscreen I've found for daily use so far. As mentioned above, you need to be generous with sunscreen application for it to work properly, and with this product I can slather it on and it just disappears into my skin. Also, it contains no alcohol and is not tested on animals. It's not cheap, but you can buy sample sizes to check if it works with your skin.
posted by mydonkeybenjamin at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2018

This is the only sunscreen I've ever found that works, isn't greasy, doesn't give me painful breakouts, and NEVER burns/runs in my eyes. Its expensive, I hate that, but it does all the things its supposed to. It is very minorly tinted so if you have a deeper than medium complexion it might not work for you. A very very irritating co-worker kept telling me I was glowing when I was pregnant, but he only said it on the days that I used this awesome stuff.

Everything else about actives and such above is great, but this is the holy grail as far as sunscreen goes in my book.
posted by stormygrey at 5:46 PM on November 15, 2018

Best answer: Vindaloo’s wife here. Echoing all the recs for Paula’s Choice above. I’ve used their Ultra Sheer sunscreen for several years, after trying and hating what seemed like all sorts of sunscreens from L’Oreal, Neutrogena, Olay, La Roche Posay, Shiseido, Cerave, Clinique, etc. The Paula’s Choice sunscreen absorbs quickly, isn’t greasy at all and doesn’t cause breakouts.

Also a fan of the Paula’s Choice bha liquid for gentle exfoliation. And Cerave pm lotion as a moisturizer, sometimes with the Ordinary’s rosehip oil on top. Daily sunscreen, chemical exfoliation and a good moisturizer should go a long way to bring some glow back. Layer in a serum if you are ok with an extra step. I’m 43, and my skin looks great with this routine.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:16 PM on November 15, 2018

Best answer: I too really like the Elta MD Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 and the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence mentioned above. I've been enjoying getting into skincare lately and it's so true that the Korean and Japanese skincare world is a wealth of information and great products!

Some things I've tried (both western and Asian brands) that make my skin feel and look nice:
Hadalabo Gokujun Lotion - light and hydrating, makes my skin feel plump
Cosrx products, especially the Good Morning Low Ph Gel Cleanser and the Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask
Stratia products, especially Rewind and Liquid Gold (especially love that one)
Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid (I haven't compared this to other BHAs, this was the first one I tried and I liked it. There are cheaper ones out there that are also supposed to be good)

I'm a little meh on the Ordinary products I've tried, but they are super cheap and so not too much of an investment to check out.

If you want to really dive into a world full of specific product reviews and recs, here are some resources I've enjoyed:
- LabMuffin blog
- Fifty Shades of Snail blog
- Archives of Snow White and the Asian Pear
- fanserviced-b blog
- Skin Full of Seoul blog
- Skincareaddiction sub on reddit
- Asianbeauty sub on reddit
posted by aka burlap at 7:14 PM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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