Help me develop a skin care routine!
February 28, 2020 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Aging and moving to a different climate has completely changed my skin care needs. Help me develop a new skin care routine, and please assume I am starting from very basic knowledge!

In younger days, I could get away with just sunscreen or a bb cream and my skin would be makeup ready.

Now that I am older and live in a harsher climate, I'm trying to figure out how to use moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation, and makeup at the same time and it's not working. Either my skin feels too dry, or I have either too much or not enough coverage by the end of the day.

In an ideal world, someone could tell me what products to use, and in what order to use them, but I find places like Sephora or Mac geared to younger women who are fighting oily skin and that's not helpful anymore.

I want to learn how to better care for my skin, but not fall into a 20-step, very expensive or time consuming new hobby.

What are your holy grail products and brands that work to moisturize and treat older skin? How did you learn about things like serums and acids and how and when to use them?

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by Space Kitty to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
What are your exact concerns, beyond dryness?
posted by praemunire at 9:52 AM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am very sensitive to the feeling of makeup being on my face (maybe because I struggle with dryness too?). One of my holy grail products is my combined sunscreen and foundation - bareMinerals Complexion Rescue. It has good coverage but I can’t feel it sitting on top of my skin.

I love Weleda Skin Food for night cream, but some people hate it. It is unpleasantly sticky/waxy when it goes on (you have to pat it in, not rub it) which puts some people off. But it really wards off dryness.
posted by sallybrown at 10:10 AM on February 28, 2020

Cerave Cerave Cerave all the way with a japanese sunscreen. Cerave face wash and then the body lotion on the face. Its the only thing that keeps my skin hydrated.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 10:25 AM on February 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have been using Tree of Life Beauty products and love them. Inexpensive and make my skin glow.
posted by poppunkcat at 10:26 AM on February 28, 2020

I have super dry skin and this stuff is my ideal daytime moisturizer. I use it every day. Before I put it on I splash some water on my face then a little of this magical essence. Hylaronic acid is a good thing to look into for dry skin, but you need to apply to wet skin for it to work properly.

If you want to get fancy with it, this cream makes my skin look amazing. I use it at night occasionally and I see the benefits well into the next day. The most common thing I use at night is this this old standby from Clinque, it always leaves my (again) super dry skin feeling nice and comfy for bed.

If you want to dip your toes into potions and serums and things, maybe start with this really affordable line. I alternate between the Vitamin C (with a few drops of the hylaronic acid) and the lactic acid a few nights a week and it's made a real difference with my skin. Remember to moisturize after! I also wash my face with a cotton washcloth every night for gentle exfoliation.

The Japanese sunscreens are a gamechanger. Maybe try something like this?
posted by cakelite at 10:40 AM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My concerns are that I am moving from multiuse products to single use products and not sure what works well together and in what order you put them on.

I love a good BB cream, but it's no longer moisturizing enough. I also love Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream, but it doesn't have SPF and sadly, it's also not moisturizing. (I moved up to the Super Multi-Corrective Cream and it also doesn't feel effective? I'll break out but still have dry skin.)

So I'm looking for products that work together to clean, hydrate, provide sun protection and have enough coverage to even out my skin tone - but don't make lines more visible.

Basically, the holy grail.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:00 AM on February 28, 2020

I actually think Sephora reps have done a great job with dry skin issues - my husband has extremely dry, flaky skin and detests using more than one product, and they worked with me to test different cleansers/exfoliators/moisturizers to get a winning combination.

Oh and they WILL give you samples (3 per visit), so you can test a given set of products without the financial investment of buying anything. (There are some things they can't do samples, generally fluids/sprays). And they will discuss what did/didn't work, that's actually the best for them, when you can say "I love Dr. Kiehl's but I would like something with SPF that is otherwise very similar".

For my skin, I have been dealing with dry pregnancy skin (ick), and found that using Belif hydrating toner after cleansing and before moisturizing helps a lot. I'm still looking for the perfect moisturizer though.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2020

If you have dry skin, you should probably forget about bb cream providing any kind of benefits as a moisturizer. I use bb cream too but I really just think of it as being for light coverage, the SPF and moisturizing properties it has are negligible, I have to use a regular SPF and moisturizer with it and the bb cream goes on last.
posted by cakelite at 11:10 AM on February 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

I use Clinique's Superdefense daily moisturizer because I have combination skin and it has an SPF. It's a great product. But since your question is about being 'makeup ready', I think in addition to skincare you might also want a primer! I use Smashbox Photo Finish.
posted by capricorn at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2020

When layering multiple products, go in order of thin to thick.
posted by spilon at 11:40 AM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been a fan of Paula's Choice products for a long time, and their site has an extensive collection of expert skincare advice that's backed up by research.

There's an entire section, with multiple articles, about dry skin and how to care for it. This article, How to Care for Very Dry Skin, has recommendations for a handful of skincare steps to replenish skin moisture that you might find helpful in building a new routine.

Additionally, all the products on the site include information on when to include them in your routine (ie: after cleansing, before sunscreen, etc). Even if you don't use PC products, that information is helpful for figuring out what order to use the products you do have.
posted by burntflowers at 11:42 AM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding Cerave. I use the hydrating cleansing facial wash and it's wonderful. I only need a tiny dab of it and it foams up beautifully and leaves my skin very soft.

For daytime I use a moisturiser from Aldi which unfortunately is not available in the USA but it's an almost exact copy of Clinique's Moisture Surge. And over that, a LaRoche Posay sunscreen. (There are lots of options, including tinted sunscreens.)

At night, after cleansing with the Cerave, I use Marula Oil, which is deeply hydrating.

I am 60 years old and get lots of compliments on my skin. Here I am - make-up free - three months ago.
posted by essexjan at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2020 [8 favorites]

i also really lie paula's choice, and i do not like smells, nor feeling things on my face. i'm about to turn 40 and have dryer skin than i used to. i also don't wear makeup anymore.

at 36 (so late!) i started wearing daily spf. here are my PC recommendations for that:

RESIST Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50: tried this on a whim. it is VERY thin. it goes on easily, but is not as moisturizing as those listed below.
RESIST Skin Restoring Moisturizer with SPF 50: goes on very nicely, not gooey. not thick, but not thin either. i feel moisturized after putting it on.
RESIST Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30: feels very nice going on and is tinted so i wear that when i need to pretend i'm wearing makeup of some kind.

i also really like PC's niacinamide booster.

honestly, i like almost all their products that i've tried, except the ones in the red packaging. those were sticky.

i don't work for PC, but am very picky, and their products both work well for me and aren't too fussy.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2020

Wow, essexjan, your skin does indeed look great!

My dermatologist told me that there's a particular sunscreen (Mexoryl/ecamsule) which he deems most protective and which L'Oreal actually went to getting the trouble of FDA exclusivity on in the US, so it's only in some of their "higher-end" La Roche-Posay products (you have to check, some of them have "cell-ox" instead). However, it's in a drugstore brand in Canada, Ombrelle. I pick some up whenever I'm in Canada. Cerave dry-skin wash + some of that Kiehl's cream + the Ombrelle facial lotion + a tinted moisturizer = reasonably non-dry facial skin, though this year my skin overall has definitely crossed some Rubicon of dryness (before, I wouldn't have used the Kiehl's). At night, I use the Cerave PM (another more recent addition). Unfortunately, I think it's very much trial and error as to what gets your skin "not dry, but not greasy" by your own personal standards.

There is a whoooooole lot of hokum out there about serums and the like, but fortunately also several AskMe discussions of them!
posted by praemunire at 12:34 PM on February 28, 2020

In terms of order I apply a light moisturiser, light SpF and then a mattifying primer and a high coverage BB cream. Without the primer that particular make up would just slide off my oily skin. With primer it stays put nicely. They also have primers that are a lot more moisturising than what I use.

In your shoes I’d start with finding a moisturiser that works for you. My aim would be something that works most of the time and I can apply a lot less on less dry days and add a drop of face oil on very dry days. I like The Ordinary’s squalene oil. Once you skin feels nice see what that does to your trusted BB cream. Explore from there.

Unfortunately not all products play nicely so your trusted BB cream may no longer work over your preferred moisturiser. The good news is that there are many light coverage foundation type products out there. Testers are your friend until you find one that works for you. You can also try to sheer out a product with more coverage by mixing it with the moisturiser.

Some SPFs are very light and some feel much more moisturising. Again, you won’t know until you try. I despise how all but the lightest SPFs feel on my face under makeup. Paula’s choice has nice light SPF as do a lot of the Asian brands and some of the la Roche Posay ones are nice as well. Again not all play nicely with all makeup. There is also tinted SPF so this could replace your BB cream from a makeup perspective. Cerave, MD Solaris and Heliocare do nice ones.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:37 PM on February 28, 2020

(I should add that the Kiehl's is because I got a deal on it from Sephora and I only use a little. There's nothing particularly special about it. Indeed, there's generally little to nothing in higher-end moisturizers to distinguish them from cheaper versions, speaking scientifically. Just more pleasing textures and scents. Of course, since it is trial-and-error, if you happen to find a higher-end brand that works for you...)
posted by praemunire at 12:37 PM on February 28, 2020

The big thing is allowing time between application steps, in my experience. Here, in arid southern California, I'm putting a "moisturizer" (really a moisture sealant) on my face while my skin is still damp from the shower: Desert Essence or Trader Joe's jojoba oil, or lotion with hyaluronic acid, or ____. That needs time to soak in; after 10 minutes, if it's necessary I'm blotting off any excess. Then I'm using a sunblock (lately it's Nivea Sun Super Water Gel, as I also became pro-Japanese sunblock once I found a few that didn't prune me), by itself, or with drops of foundation mixed in. The sunblock needs time to calm its **** too, maybe another 10 minutes.

Lastly, any makeup goes on: I'm filling in my eyebrows, I'm still trying to master liner, sometimes I wear concealer and rouge, etc. If I compress the timeline at any point, the makeup products either won't blend (adhere) to begin with, or they practically evaporate within a couple of hours. If I think of this process as stages, that's not the case. And I suspect it's the SPF; an evening date-night makeup routine, applied after the moisturizer course alone, can hang on like grim death.

[BB/CC creams were difficult for me; shades were off, and coverage was bound to look streaky sooner or later. Foundation either settles into my wrinkles Baby-Jane style (and I can't carry that off) or, in having enough silicone to avoid that fate, causes break-outs. The bit of liquid foundation added to sunblock evens skin tone enough for my purposes. Rice-powder blotting paper is neat, as is face powder on a big brush to 'set' makeup. Cetaphil/CeraVe were acne-sowers, unfortunately. A certain great-skin-having Presidential candidate is on the record as a Pond's Dry Skin Cream devotee, and normally I would be all over that because hope is a be-deviler, but the mineral oil in it is already a red flag for me. Maybe not for you?]

"Double-cleansing" (Face Shop bright/light cleansing oil, then a mild lotion-y cleanser; right now it's Lacura Hydrating Facial Cleanser from Aldi's) removes sunblock and makeup.

What else? Retinols and acids... if your skin is already dry, like mine, I'll tell you I can't use products like these more than once or twice a week, tops, because the flaking cycle that can ensue with more frequent use isn't worth it. If I'm using that lotion with the hyaluronic acid post-morning shower, my evening appointment with Dr. Dennis Gross's alpha beta wipes (Friend, cut each one in half, fold the packets, secure with mini-binder clip; also, Sephora and other retailers sell kits and hold sales throughout the year) followed by his ferulic brightening serum (again, look for sales, and it's two drops at a time, at most 2x/week) is pushed off a good three days.

I'm not sure what "older skin" is, by your reckoning; I started with a RoC retinol night cream (again, not every night) in my 30s, but at 46 it's the (stronger) stuff I listed above. The two-step cleansing in the evening is also a recent adoption that you may not need, depending on your skin and your climate. A decade ago, my routine was high-SPF American sunblock, an Oil of Olay face wash, and the RoC (which used to be a great multi-pack buy at Costco, back in the day). "Older skin" sometimes really takes to silicone-laden makeup products, too (see: most primers). If you don't have a sensitivity to that ingredient, an easy entrée is Revlon's Colorstay line (ex. - foundation for normal/dry skin).

My skincare advice is courtesy of this joint (sincerely: thank you, everyone - past, present, & future), and MakeupAlley reviews. Good luck, and have fun experimenting!

{on preview, Jeez Louise essexjan!}
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:42 PM on February 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm putting a "moisturizer" (really a moisture sealant) on my face while my skin is still damp from the shower.

I'm not going to overwhelm you with more product recommendations, but I came here to say this exact thing. This is really key.
posted by thebots at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2020

Response by poster: Because essexjan gave me courage, this is my 53 year old face.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:31 PM on February 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

girl you do not look 53 and essexjan does not look 60! i hope i look as good a both of you in 13-20 years! tho i do have a lot of acne scarring and some mild sun damage.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:35 PM on February 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Gentle face wash. Cera Ve do a great moisturising one.

Chemical Exfoliant to remove the dry surface skin so the moisturisers can penetrate. I'd suggest a lactic acid but The Ordinary has a large range if you want to try. Start once a week & move up to a couple of times a week as your skin get's used to it.

If you want a little extra boost. Hyaluronic acid on your skin straight out the shower (do not add to your skin if your skin isn't damp).

Slap your moisturiser over the top. I love Cera Ve Day lotion, though it takes some rubbing in, they have a range of great of products, this time of year I'm putting on their thickest lotion onto my face at night to fight the dry air & the effects of my Tretinonin and it work a treat.

Treat yourself to a moisturizing face mask. I am loving Laniege Water Sleeping mask. It feels very light but I put it on over the top of my evening skincare routine & my skin feels so soft & plump in the morning. I will use it nightly if needed with no ill effects.

The trick to a multi step routine & then wearing make up is practice & time, you have to give every thing time to soak in & dry a little, so I'll do part of my routine, straight out the shower, then put on my under garments & pick my outfit, then next stage skincare, then get dressed etc. Also people use way too much product, more isn't always more, the only thing you have to make sure to apply generously is sunscreen.

I use a lot of products though as I am fighting severe sun damage I have severe sun damage from a childhood under the hole in the Ozone layer before anyone thought sunscreen was important. But what I've suggested here is what I'd call the basics for helping stop dry skin.

If you do nothing else find a sunscreen you can wear everyday & wear it. This is my preferred choice, it works great a primer and plays nice with every foundation I've thrown at it, and is nice & emollient without feeling heavy, so helps trap all the moisture in your skin.

And before I forget BB Cream wise I suggest Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue, it's actually just a tinted moisturizer but it's lovely & moisturising.
posted by wwax at 1:49 PM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Can someone please give me a few drams from the Mefi Fountain of Youth, geez. (Also love the hair color.)
posted by praemunire at 3:21 PM on February 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

My skin got a lot drier and my rosacea got worse when I moved to Denver.

I have settled on the following routine (I'm leaving out my rosacea-specific medications):
Wash face with CeraVe gentle wash
apply CeraVe PM moisturizer
apply Elta MD sunscreen (I also liked LaRoche Posay Anthelios Mineral Sunscreen)
apply makeup (I like Dior Nude Air foundation but YMMV on this)

Wash face with CeraVe gentle wash
apply CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream

If I weren't planning IPL later this month for the rosacea I would also use some kind of retinoid, either Differin (OTC) or Retin-A.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 5:28 PM on February 28, 2020

My routine since I was 16:

1. Exfoliate every morning and night with a gentle face cleanser like an apricot scrub. I use a generic.
2. In the morning use a light dab of vitamin e oil to cover my face and Purpose brand daily face lotion.
3. Exfoliate at night and use vitamin e oil and Ponds dry skin cream. I use Bio Oil sometimes as well if I have a break out.

That’s it. Skin stays super soft and healthy.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:05 PM on February 28, 2020

I am cheap and had to change some of my routine recently due to breakouts, this is my dry-ass sensitive skin routine:
1. Wash my face with: Dove DermaSeries Dry Skin Relief Face Bar (I think this was $4/2 bars)
2. Apply: Trader Joe's Hyaluronic Moisturizing Serum (I have no idea if this is working, but I keep using it) ($)
3. Apply CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($10ish?)
4. Apply Eucerin Daily Protection Face Lotion & Sunscreen (SPF30) (10$ish)
5. Apply Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation (you were with my when I first bought it! it is hella light coverage, which is all I can handle in a foundation). ($25ish?)

I've used the Eucerin sunscreen forever, always over regular/heavier moisturizer. Spread evenly and give it a chance to soak in. I'm still on my first bottle of the serum, not sure if I'll continue that.

Other heavy moisturizers I have used: Trader Joe's Midsummer Nights Cream is kind of amazing for its price and usefulness as a facial moisturizer, a few of the No 7 night moisturizers from Target (they were still like $20, but seemed like dupes of Lancome type stuff). My face started to not like No 7 so I stopped, but they were nice while they lasted. I also have tried the Ultra Hydrating Gel Moisturizer from Trader Joes and it's a little too light for my taste.

My mother swears by Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base, which costs $60 for a wee jar, but she says it's the only one that works for her. It is concentrated as hell imo. Worth stopping by a Nordstrom to try?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:31 PM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also recommend Paula’s Choice. There is a wide range of products for every skin type, everything is unscented, and not tested on animals. Everything is also available in a sample size so you can try before committing!
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 7:28 AM on February 29, 2020

Essex Jan and Space Kitty - holy cow. You guys look amazing.

If you are in the US or the UK you can check out the Beauty Pie buyers club where you pay a monthly subscription and can buy their skincare and make-up at members' prices - i.e. fairly cheap. They claim that all their stuff is made by luxury labs who make products for premium brands so the idea is you pay a monthly payment to access luxury goods at low prices. Make of that what you will but I really like everything by them that I have used and I am now on a pretty exclusively Beauty Pie skincare routine in order to get the most out of having to pay a subscription. They are given good reviews by skincare people like Caroline Hirons and Trinny Woodall, nothing is tested on animals and a lot of the stuff is vegan as well.

I don't know if, at 38, I count as having older skin but I'll just tell you my routine anyway since I'm here. My skin is oily and acne-prone.
Gentle facewash - right now I am using something by La Roche Posay for oily skin
Hyaluronic acid - a drop or two straight out of the shower (I learned this the hard way; but since making sure to put it on a soaking wet face, it's done my skin a lot of good). I use the Beauty Pie serum.
Vitamin C serum - also Beauty Pie
Retinol eye cream - Beauty Pie
Vitamin C moisturiser - Beauty Pie
SPF - Beauty Pie

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser - even though I have oily skin, this is a great cleanser. Even better, I would imagine, for dryer skins.
Beauty Pie retinol eye cream
The Ordinary Niacinamide and Zinc serum
A heavier moisturiser for night time

They have a cream called Plantastic which is too rich for my face (gives me breakouts) but brilliant for use on hands at night. Worth trying for facial use if you have dry skin. It's really moisturising and has done miracles for the rough, dry skin on my hands.
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:15 AM on March 2, 2020

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