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People often ask me what my skincare regimen is. I am fortunate to have nice skin, and most people think I am about ten years younger than I really am. When asked how it is that I look so young, I usually say one or two things about my skincare, but the full answer is detailed enough to warrant an entire blog post. So here it is: my skincare secrets revealed.

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My current products

1. Moisturize

They say the secret to real estate is location, location, location. In that same vein, the secret to great skin is moisture, moisture, moisture. I am lucky enough to have a mom who also takes good care of her skin, so I began my skincare routine at a fairly young age. When I was in high school my mom sold Mary Kay cosmetics and provided me with the full line-up of skincare products: cleanser, toner, facial mask, and moisturizer. I was probably about 14 when I first started using moisturizer, and I haven’t skipped a day since.

I always use a different daytime and nighttime moisturizer. Immediately after my morning shower, I pat dry my face and apply my daytime moisturizer. It’s important to lock in residual moisture from the shower. Similarly, my nighttime moisturizer goes on immediately after I wash my face before going to bed. My nighttime moisturizer is generally heavier and more emollient than the daytime option. I don’t like a heavy moisturizer under my foundation, especially in the humid summer. But at night, the heavier the better.

Products I’ve used: Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration night cream, Olay Complete All Day moisturizer SPF 15, Olay Regenerist night cream, Olay Total Effects night cream, Yes to Cucumbers night cream, Yes to Cucumbers Complete Care moisturizer, Yes to Tomatoes Facial Hydrating Lotion, Aubrey Organics Age-Defying Therapy moisturizer, Origins VitaZing Energy Boosting Moisturizer.

2. Upward Strokes

Just as important as using moisturizer is how you apply it. Gravity is always doing its part to drag your face down. It doesn’t need your help. When applying product to my face, I always use upward strokes in a circular motion. This approach is like a mini-massage for my face. Facial massage is supposed to be good for increasing circulation and keeping skin looking young.

3. SPF

It is monumentally important to use a product with SPF. Your face is the part of your body most exposed to UV light. Even when it’s not sunny, or it’s winter, or you’re not going outside, you should be wearing SPF. A protection factor of at least 30 is recommended, but sometimes it can be difficult to find inexpensive products with that level of protection. SPF 15 is far more common in drugstore brands, and even a lot of department store brands. But 15 is better than nothing.

You often see magazines quoting dermatologists who say you should stay indoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the most powerful, and wear a wide-brimmed hat when you are outside. Those are fine suggestions, but not terribly practical. If I know I’m going to be wandering around outside most of the day (at a wine festival, or touring a city) I do wear a sun hat. But I don’t wear a hat every time I leave the house. And if I need to go outside between 10 and 2 (like, for lunch!) then I go outside and don’t worry about it. But I never sit outside in the sun for the sole purpose of exposing my skin to UV light. That’s just crazy.

4. Nighttime Cleansing

I always, always wash my face before going to bed. Not doing so would be like putting the dinner dishes back in the cupboard instead of in the dishwasher. Gross. Washing off my makeup is my primary reason for always cleansing before bed, but even on days when I don’t wear any makeup at all (like when I’m sick) I still wash my face. The day has a way of sticking to your face. It’s very refreshing to wash away that grime and have a clean slate for your nighttime moisturizer. It also helps keep your pores clear and your pillowcases clean.

Products I’ve used: Olay Pro-X Exfoliating Cleanser, Olay Total Effects Cream Cleanser, Cetaphil, Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser, Yes to Blueberries Smoothing Daily Cleanser, Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser.

5. Eye Cream

I only started using eye cream a few years ago, as I approached 40. It’s the one thing I wish I had started using earlier, but eye creams are expensive, and I didn’t want to spend the money. Ideally, eye cream should be used both morning and night. Although I have different a.m. and p.m. moisturizers, I can’t bring myself to have separate a.m. and p.m. eye creams. The one I’m currently using is too greasy to use for daytime (Aubrey Organics), so I’m only using it at night. But it’s almost gone, so I can go back to a cream suitable for both (Burt’s Bees).

Products I’ve used: Burt’s Bees Radiance Eye Cream, Aubrey Organics Lumessence Eye Creme.

6. Exfoliation

I exfoliate pretty much every day to varying degrees. I have an Olay Pro-X dermabrasion brush that I use during my evening cleanse once or twice a week. That’s a deep exfoliation that really scrubs your face. On the nights I don’t use the brush, I still use an exfoliating cleanser that I rub into my face (with upward, circular motions) for a minute or two. I also use a facial cleanser each morning in the shower. I alternate between an exfoliating scrub and a non-exfoliating cleanser.

Products I’ve used: Olay Total Effects Refreshing Citrus Scrub, Burt’s Bees Peach & Willow Bark Deep Pore Scrub, Origins Modern Friction Dermabrasion, St. Ives Apricot Scrub.

7. Facial Masks

I use a deep-cleaning facial mask about once a week. I never buy the same product twice in a row. Right now I’m using a moisturizing mask with frankincense and myrrh. Sometimes I use a clarifying mud mask or a vitamin-rich repair mask. One thing I never use is a peeling agent. I’ve never had a professional peel either. It creeps me out.

Products I’ve used: St. Ives Oatmeal Scrub + Mask, Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask, Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Facial Mask.

8. Professional Facials

I had my first facial a few years ago and it was fantastic. My skin felt so soft, moist, and supple for days afterward. Since then, I’ve tried to have facials about twice per year. They are a splurge (the average full price of the ones I’ve had is about $90), but I’ve had good luck finding Groupons that can halve the cost. The aesthetician gives your face a thorough cleansing and massage, then blasts warm steam at your face for several minutes  before applying a facial mask. I’ve been to spas where they let you choose which ingredients you want included in your mask (I used oatmeal, honey, and milk–all of which have intense moisturizing properties). After cleaning off your mask, they usually wrap your face in moist, hot towels before slathering on a rich moisturizer. I also had an oxygen treatment during one of my facials, but I can’t say that it was a better facial than the ones that did not include the oxygen treatment.

9. Drink Water

This is the simplest thing to do for good skin. And it all comes back to moisture. Keep your body hydrated, and your skin will look better. I drink water all day long. Do I drink the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses a day? Almost certainly not. That’s a ridiculous amount of water. I drink out of a pint glass, and I probably drink about two full glasses per day, which is a total of 32 ounces. Plus another 12 ounces of water in my daily cup of tea. Plus whatever residual water there is in the food I eat and the wine I drink. It’s not 64 ounces, but it’s a lot.

10. Good Genes

Okay, this one’s not really something you have any control over, but I needed a 10th item because 10 is a nice, round number. And good genes have definitely helped me. My mom and both my grandmothers have nice skin too, so I got lucky there. But in addition to inheriting their genes, I also learned their habits. Something they all have in common is that they all take care of their skin and have done so their entire lives. I learned by watching them, and I hope to pass on those habits to my nieces.

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