Lockdown Lesson 3: Loving the Skin You’re In

I’m afraid my final lesson from Lockdown lacks even the superficial depths of my earlier insights. And almost literally.

I’ve been spending time (and money, though relatively little) on my skin. And do you know what? Despite a scepticism born of years of working on beauty brands and finding out how they justify their claims, I discovered it works. Well if you lavish attention on some part of your body, it is probably bound to get better – which is great news if you have attention to lavish.

Ok. So I’m not exactly a skincare guru. My approach to skincare is pretty much like my approach to most activites, gardening for instance – haphazard, low maintenance and involving random expenditure.

As an older Mutton, I tend to look more witchy than winsome in yesterday’s make up so my skincare regime, such as it is, revolves round the removal of whatever I’ve daubed on my face the day before. My best friend for doing this is Clinique’s “Take the Day Off” Cleansing Balm (£25 for 125ml) which works a treat on the twenty layers of mascara without which I feel naked. Clinique is a brand I have something of a love/hate/love relationship with, having stripped my skin virtually back to the skull with their corruscating 3 Step System back in the 80’s, but this stuff is GREAT.

Then, depending on whichever Influencer I’ve watched recently, I would then add a serum, lotion or potion – Vitamin C, Retinols, Peptides, Hyluaronic Acids – whatever seemed like an instant solve for my current skincare gripe. Next morning I would simply splash some water on my face and stick my makeup back on. In these days of 9 step Korean skincare regimes, double cleansing and product layering, I am ashamed to say I had no strategy at all.

But in Lockdown, which coincided with the last few months of my career change to teaching, I also had no money. So I decided to try not only to streamline my skincare regime and make it more consistent, but also to try to this more economically. Of course I was inconsistent in my search for consistency. Once it was used up, the wonderful Clinique jar seemed a little pricey – I was essentially washing it down the drain – and I was once told by an American cosmetic surgeon I met at a dinner that any old cleanser will do. But then other lotions and potions that stayed on my skin seemed worth a modest investment.

Prepare to be amazed. With a little bit of trial and error, I now have a consistent night and day skincare regime and so far, no break outs or noticeable deterioration. It’s a lazy old woman’s guide to skin care. See if it works for you.

So introductory notes here: I can’t reliably inform you about what kind of skin I have. Before menopause it erred towards combination; during menopause, dessicated. Now, I have ’60 year old’s skin’ skin. It’s a bit porey around the nose; a bit pebbly around the chin and a bit crepey around the cheeks and eyes; and my neck has strange dark rings and a slightly deflated balloon look I can’t say I’m all that keen on. (If you haven’t already, read Nora Ephron’s essay, “I feel bad about my neck” which will actually make you feel better about yours.) My skin isn’t particularly sensitive but I used some old and possibly quite strong Retinol cream a few months ago and it came up in weals.

This regime, such as it is has three steps in the evening and two, sometimes three in the morning. It involves a flannel of your choice – I prefer them in dark colours so they don’t end up looking sad and grey. (We don’t need more sad, grey things in my bathroom).

At nights, I start off with Superdrug Vitamin E Dual Phase Cleansing Oil (£3.99) which I smear all over my face while it’s dry and then take it off with a wet flannel. Eh, it’s grand as owt and it’d get ‘t’ soot off a factory chimney!

If I feel I’ve missed anything I will occasionally re-clean with Superdrug Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser, (£4.99). Then I stick on some peptides in the belief, born of learning that they are used in burns units, that they will ‘heal’ my skin (again the Superdrug B -Restored, is good value at £13.99; but you could also try the Boots Protect and Prevent Advanced Serum (£26) or Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster £48 and I hear great things of the Medik8 liquid peptides).

Perhaps a couple of times a week I use Retinol cream instead. I’m not convinced by Retinols. I joined Beauty Pie last year (more of that experience anon) and so I have a stock of their (beautifully packaged) retinol lotions, varying in strength, and for a while I was diligent in their application. But I have to say I didn’t notice much difference, except when I reused an bottle of some strong stuff (not from Beauty Pie) every day for a week and pop went the weals.

Then I top everything off with some rosehip oil which I pat into my face and neck. Mine came from some random health shop but The Ordinary’s is pretty good and is around a tenner. I find it a little sticky and it doesn’t smell fantastic but when I wake up in the morning, my skin does look rested, plump and it feels very nice indeed.

The biggest change is to my mornings. I am a cold bath person. I will let that sink in for a while, but yes dear reader, for the last four years i have been plunging myself under either a cold shower or into a cold bath pretty much every morning. I do it for its exhilarating mood-boosting qualities which four years in I’m yet to experience, so I’m hoping there’s some other benefit I’m reaping. (Apparantly Darwin found cold bathing very beneficial, so expect a quantum scientific leap from me any minute now).

While I’m girding myself for the icy plunge, I smear Superdrug Vitamin E cleanser all over my face, dowse a flannel in hot water and scrub off the witch’s potion from the night before. Then if my hands aren’t too numb to hold the bottles, I add Vitamin C in some form. Though I’m dubious about Retinol/Vitamin A (which are the same thing, by the way), I really, REALLY rate Vitamin C. (That same American cosmetic surgeon said it is the one skincare ingredient he considers essential). For ages I’ve enjoyed using Lixir’s Vitamin C paste, which really does give your skin a glow, but at £32 it’s for special occasions only. And because I’m being thrifty I want my Vitamin C in a product that does more than one thing: for example an exfoliator or a moisturiser.

To be honest, I’m not much of a scrubber (though some might beg to differ, *comedy cymbal clash). If I’m feeling particularly whey-faced, or I’ve been using retinol, which a bit of exfoliation helps on its way, I may employ the dog ends of one of the Origin scrubs because I simply enjoy the scents they use. For a long time, when I was often in airport Duty Free lounges, I would cycle between their ‘Ginzing’, “Never A Dull Moment” and “Modern Friction”. Yup, I’ve used them all and they are all excellent and they all priced at around £25. Not exactly cheap as chips.

So it’s back to the high street where tons of nice scrub products are available, free of any nasty microbeads to choke up sealife. Superdrug have a nice Vitamin C one from Nip & Tuck, Boots have a good Soap & Glory one – can be had, all for around £7 (I’m using up one from The Body Shop for £18.)

But my favourite Vitamin C product of the moment is a bit of a luxury and comes in at a whacking £60 (but if Mr Mutton reads this – he won’t btw – I did get it on a special deal). It is a moisturising oil Biossance Squalane Vitamin C with Rose Oil.  It smells divine, soaks into your skin and gives your skin a glow. I just pat it into my skin and then, if I’m feeling like time is not of the essence, I might use a massage tool or roller for a little extra glow. It also lasts a long time. I’ve had mine since the end of April and there’s still plenty left. Before it came into my life, however, I was using another lovely product, The Body Shop’s Drops of Youth Cream, a delicious melting, easily absorbed moisturiser which was a fraction of the price at £23.

Because I tend to use a base with SPF – be it Trinny London BFF Skin Perfector, £35 (I use Light); Origins Ginzing Tinted Moisturiser £32 (a bit dark on me so only for Summer); or IT Your Skin But Better CC cream, £32 (pretty much a full cover foundation. Try the Illumination version if you like a less matte finish), I don’t always use a separate sunscreen. I KNOW I SHOULD. But I don’t. So there we are.

When I remember or feel particularly sun-prone, or really don’t want to put anything else on my face I’ve just starter using the Simple Protect and Glow Radiance Booster (£7) which is brilliant. Don’t be put off by the fact it’s an oil, your skin will suck it up like a kid with a straw and the dregs of a milkshake.

My other favourite has a mighty-sounding SPF of 50. It’s the Body Shop Skin Defence Lotion, which is a moisturiser and all round lovely product and sells for £22. A word about SPF’s from my beauty brand marketing days: don’t fetishise the higher numbers. SPF 50 versus SPF 30 definitely offers you more protection ( I seem to remember an SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin, whereas an SPF of 50 allows about 2 percent of those rays through so both are good but there isn’t as huge a difference as the numbers might lead you to believe.) Bearing in mind, I’m no dermatologist but I reckon anything over SPF25 is fine for every day British drizzle.

So there we have it – an easy(ish) regime that seems to keep my skin bouncier, smoother and healthier than it has any right to be. Perhaps I’ll try something similar on the garden! Any tips you’d like to pass on, for face or foliage, do share.

One Response to “Lockdown Lesson 3: Loving the Skin You’re In”

  1. Linda Bell

    Hello Mrs Mutton,
    Thank you for this excellent – and very relatable – piece. In my far-off yoof I was a great one for “regimes” and devotedly embraced the holy trinity of cleansing, toning and moisturising with whichever brand I favoured at the time. For a while in my 20s I was devoted to a completely gorgeous Guerlain range, which cost a king’s ransom and in the whole of Scotland could only be obtained in Jenners in Edinburgh; and like you, I found the Clinique soap, toner and moisturiser thang a crashing disappointment, having ogled the ads in Cosmopolitan and saved up my measly nurses’s wages for ages. Skincare is so much more multi-faceted now and at 60 I have a much more pick ‘n’ mix approach, always trying new things. I’m a great hot cloth cleanser fan but not infrequently (brace yourself) at night I just slap moisturiser on top of my filthy old face and fall into bed, then cleanse properly in the morning. Having read Sali Hughes’ Guardian piece on Saturday I’ve sent off for a bakuchiol serum – Boots, very cheap – and am looking forward to finding out if it is indeed less excoriating than retinol. Anyway, as always I loved reading your blog and I’ll enjoy trying out some of your recommendations. Btw, all the best with your new working life. I became a teacher at 45 and it’s been a wonderful second career. Hope it’s the same for you!


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