Privilege Blog

What I Have Been Doing Wrong With Skincare. I Will Do Better.

Above you see much what of I’ve been using for skin care. I plan to keep on with some of it, but also make some changes, given what I now understand. Here’s what I have done wrong, and what right, in making my choices to date.

1. Get taken in by a saleswoman, albeit one good enough to found her own company
2. Fail to understand the (complicated!) biology behind skin care
3. Let my fear of chemicals trump proven research

1. Use peptides for collagen restoration
2. Follow my nose to lavender
3. Get sensible about the cost of scented body lotion
4. Find the strongest sun screen I can stand to wear
5. Win a giveaway for Perricone skin care hosted by Mary Jo Matsumoto, here

But let’s back up. I’m 53. I have stayed out of direct sunlight most of my life, so I’m not too bad in the sun damage department. Not dry, a tad oily. My skin reddens easily, and I already know I can’t use AHAs or any other chemical exoliants. I tried. Wound up with rosacea, exacerbated by stress. Imagine you’re flying around Europe on a private jet with a newly-minted millionaire, to promote his acquired product for Sun Microsystems, and every night you stare at yourself in a mirror, in Prague, in Hamburg, in London, wishing an ugly red rash would disappear. All glamor out the window. But I digress.

I started using MyChelle products because I liked their premise. Ingredient-based, natural products. No parabens, no scary chemicals. But eventually they irritated my skin. Reading Paula Begoun’s Beautypedia, I see that Ms. Begoun thinks the formulations are less than optimal, and the packaging virtually guarantees ingredients degrading into uselessness. The founder is characterized as a great saleswoman. Ooops. She got me. However, I also use their Honeydew unscented cleanser, and that one Ms. Begoun likes. I’ll keep it.

I started using the Avalon moisturizer because it was for sensitive skin. I see Ms. Begoun doesn’t approve. She thinks the lavender extract will irritate. Here’s the thing. I love lavender. I’ve always loved it. The smell makes me happy, almost ecstatic. As it turns out, maybe there’s a chemical reason for that. It seems to calm my skin down. Sometimes you should ignore the experts. As Maya said in comments yesterday, I’m guessing that your mind can affect your skin.

I started using Perricone a few years ago because I liked his ideas on preventing inflammation. Stopped when I lost my job because, um, expensive. Started again this year, when I won a giveaway on Trust Your Style. His products have a wonderful feel, with a great slip to the fingers that works well under makeup. Temporary tightening, temporary wrinkle filling, all good. Thank you, Mary Jo. Ingredients are pretty high quality, including Ester-C, DMAE, and Alpha Lipoic Acid. No parabens. Paula likes his products, calls their formulation, “elegant.”

Uh-oh. A new voice crying danger enters the fray. Dr. Samuel Epstein says that nanoparticles are dangerous. Perricone uses nanoparticle technology to address the issue of active ingredients penetrating the dermis. No need to panic. I have come to understand that these alarms are first raised with very little data, and I will use and enjoy until I run out. Then reassess.

I started using Kiehl’s moisturizer with SPF15 because one day I was wandering through the mall and thought I’d try, yet again, to find a sunscreen I can stand to have on my face for more than 2 hours. I just hate the way most sunscreens feel. Paula doesn’t rate this one, but the ingredients are known to be effective and the risk factor on the skincare safety site, Skin Deep, 0-10 scale is only 6. The sunscreen stays.

I started using Shikai lotions because you can buy them at Whole Foods and CVS, they are cheap, smell fantastic, and have no parabens. Skin Deep rates Shikai risk somewhere around 5. A keeper. Besides, I’ve tried almost all the fragrances and can’t decide which I like better, Sandalwood or Vanilla. I use their bodywashes too and tell myself I’m layering scents.

What other changes? Maybe I should try Retinol again. With a coupon. Maybe the lavender moisturizer will protect me from redness and scary visions in my mirror. I know I should stop using my son’s leftover ProActiv as an exfoliant. Did I say that? Eek. Begoun says that a washcloth works just as well as most scrubs. No parabens in a washcloth, either. I’ll think about it. Luckily, skin care experimentation is fun, not too expensive (if you stay away from the ReVives of the world), and for the most part consists of patting yourself on the face with something that smells good. Sturdy Gals can do that.

*And yes, that’s me on the sidebar. Seemed only right that if I’m going to talk about skin, I show you the one I’m in. And I can’t hang my skin on a wall or put it in a light box, so there you go.

44 Responses

  1. LPC – I'm the sunscreen queen; skin cancer (the really bad kind) runs in the family. I've tried every sunscreen made and was using the 50+ Anthelios for a while, but just switched to Neutraceuticals 30 SPF and love it.

    Perricone is the only thing that's ever made me break out. Too bad, it's supposed to be good stuff.

    You've really researched this and presented so much good information in these skin care posts. Thank you for that!

  2. thank you SO much for these posts!! i find myself completely overwhelmed with peptides and retinols and spfs and everything in between. this has been so helpful. {hint: try the neutrogena deep wrinkle moisture night for a retinol that won't take your entire face off}

  3. So, I clicked on your link for the Perricone, intrigued by the idea of nanoparticle technology.

    $95 for two ounces???



    I guess I'd better resign myself to having saggy skin on my face – if I bought it, I don't think I'd be able to quit twitching long enough to apply it effectively.

  4. LPC ~ the butterfly has emerged! Lovely! I must do this too. I'm a skincare junkie. My must-have is the Clarisonic by Sonicare. I could not believe there would be such a difference but there is. I used to do Perricone years ago. I love Dr. Denese on QVC and also Dr. Andrew Weil's line through Origins. His philosophy is to address the inflammation as is Perricone's and he does this with mushroom extracts. I am fortunate to have great skin with no wrinkles or lines to speak of but when it comes down to it this probably has nothing to do with whatever I've used for years off and on but mostly due to genetics but now I'm beginning to take a more active role in keeping it that way. I find as I'm becoming more, uh, mature, I'm also becoming more high maintenance and dealing with that realization is one of the toughest things to 'face.' :) xoxo

  5. Ooh, love the picture! strangely, you write with a brunette accent ;-)

    A dermatologist (20+ years ago!) recommended Basis soap and Complex 15 moisturizer. To that, I've added Olay Regenerist, for no good reason, except someone told me to. I think I would be happier if one of them smelled like lavender, althought I do buy handmade scented body soaps and scrubs.

  6. Jan – yeah, expensive, and you know I twitch less about that usually. Belle, I will try that Retinol. Pink – looking forward to your photo. Only took me a year…Patsy, lol! A brunette accent. Now that's something to deconstruct. Regenerist is great. Parabens:( led me to search for something else, but Regenerist is tops. Appreciate all the thank yous for research. Glad to confirm that I was, in fact, never meant to be a scientist.

  7. What are your thoughts on Kiehls products?
    I am getting to the point that my skin needs a dramatic change – there are so many products out there!

    PS…my husband runs a nuclear reactor. :O)

  8. Thanks once again for a great post. I am a huge fan of Kiehls and have been for years.

  9. Another great post. Thank you for sharing the products that you use. As for your picture….it's great. I just knew you would be pretty!

    Margaret, Virginia

  10. Thanks for posting what products you use. I am also a skincare junkie and leery of parabens and phalates.

    I have heard that Anthelios (by La Roche) makes some of the best sunscreen you can get. I use it occasionally, but it doesn't seem to have the anti-oxidants that Ms. Begoun recommends for your daily SPF moisturizer. I stopped using Aveeno Postively Radiant SPF 42, even though my skin found it pretty agreeable, because of the parabens, silly girl that I am.

    PS: I agree with Patsy that you write with a brunette accent.

  11. LPC – love your photo.

    I am a big fan of Kiehls ultrafacial cream. Am off to buy the cleanser as I have run out completely of their creamy cleanser.

    I also have high praise for oraganic rose hip oil as a do all miracle serum. I no longer believe in biology, just results and reasonable value for money.

    If I get my act together soon, I will write a bit about what I use.

    Love your work, have a great weekend, for it it Friday am here in Sydney and things can only get better. Except that I am working 15 hours tomorrow. How else to fund the Louboutin family?

    SSG xxx

  12. You have those wonderful sturdy gal high Wasp looks that'll keep you looking healthy and youthful practically forever. You look like the older sister of all those Kappa gals I went to school with, some of whom were actually sturdy hockey players. Naturally very attractive! Good job in choosing your genes.

  13. Several years ago Chief of Dermatology recommended Eucerin products for my sensitive, celtic skin. . The anti aging night cream is the BEST, and I've tried many (expensive) products in my 56 years. I'm hooked and it is so affordable!

  14. Kiehl's has a nice history. Paula likes their cleanser. Seems they are in the process of re-formulating to get rid of parabens. Certainly worth a try. Plus they give lots of free samples so they pay for your experiments:. I have also heard Anthelios is good, the question is always, will I wear it? And I think dermatologists love Eucerin because it really won't irritate. tpp, thank you. Your praise means the world. And Vildy, thanks, thanks to everyone for the kind words about my photo. For full disclosure, I never joined a sorority:).

  15. Would have to agree that a face flannel or wash cloth is a great gentle exfoliator for the face… Great post – thank you.

  16. Love your picture. So nice to have a face with the brilliant writing going on here!

    I'm in the middle of putting together a post on my skincare regimen. I've gotten quite a few requests for it too. There is so much contradicting advice out there. I believe in the end you just have to do what you are comfortable with. For instance I have been taught through many, many classes for Aveda to not use a washcloth for exfoliating. Too severe. Again, personal choice. A lot of people don't feel their skin is clean unless it's squeaky. So to each their own!



  17. I'm slightly (very slightly) younger than you and for over 30 years my skin regime has been Ponds cold cream with a wash cloth (exfoliation) and Ponds moisturizer at night. In the morning I use Neutrogena moisturizer and always wear a hat/avoid sun during the day. About 7 years ago I started adding baking soda to my cleanser in the morning (exfoliation) but only about 3 times a week. Don't need too much of a good thing. I'm damned (can I say that on a blog?) proud of my skin and that I don't think it gives my age away. I'm not a cheap-skate by any means,(just ask my husband), but all the cosmetic hype really gets my dander up and I refuse to pay for something that won't deliver. I'm quite satisfied with my results so far. I also have been using Nexcare Flexible clear tape on my brow for about twenty years. I tried those Frownies so touted by the celebrities, but I'd always find them in bed the next morning as they had no staying power and the oil on my face would cause them to fall off. After lots of trial by error, I discovered that Nexcare did the trick. Botox scares the hell (can I say that???) out of me.

  18. I too have rosacea( Celtic and Norwegian and Danish descendents are prime candidates for this…that's me) my case the dermatologist I went to prescribed antibiotics and metrodiazanole cream..(Spelling?) That was back in the 80's…didn't like the idea of antibiotics for a skin condition so I didn't fill the prescription and the cream which I did try dried my skin out something fierce and I was freaked out by the chemicals…enter a naturopath who said add more stomach acid to aid in digestion and the skin will clear…sounds crazy but it worked! Apple cider vinegar with meals for a month or digestive enzymes…I redden in a wind, where a kiss is planted on my cheek and is I use a washcloth it's like I've rubbed my skin with sandpaper.
    Good luck in your continued exploration of skin care…
    Nice to see your picture on the blog!

  19. I've been using Kiehl's lately, and it's very neutral and nice, although Paula says that it is boring. What makes a moisturizer boring, exactly? I finally ran out of Decleor, which I used for years, and it's very hard to find. Paula says that it's full of irritants, weird odors, and a lot of malarky…who knew? I've used Perricone on and off, but it's so very complicated and expensive; I just can't stick with it. The only thing that I'm devoted to is my little tube of Retinol – we'll be friends for life.

  20. umm…. totally random: did you go to Antigua over the winter holidays? Waiting to board the plane home to SFO, I saw a woman who looked exactly as you appeared in my imagination. And just like the lovely photo you've posted today. Congrats on the debut.

  21. Paula Begoun is a treasure. Love the Beautypedia site.

    I also have Rosacea and my dermatologist prescribed Finacea cream to stop the red bumps. You have to apply twice a day. At first it stings like crazy, but that stops once you are regularly using it twice a day. It does not eliminate the red bumps, but it cuts them down drastically.

    Then there's the redness. Nothing really stops the redness, but he suggested I try taking a Zinc tablet. It does cut down on redness a lot.

    It can make you nauseous, so best to swallow it before bedtime. I take 30 mg., but some people take 50 mg.

    Also best to use the least amount of products possible when you have Rosacea and avoid scrubbing your skin. I use Purpose liquid cleanser for washing.

  22. Begoun likes bicarb for an exfoliant too.

    Everyone's skin is different, you have to work out what works for you. I get all sorts of nasty reactions to lots of stuff. Zinc tablets have worked for me too cutting out the red skin conditions.

  23. I'm a big believer in finding the skincare that works for YOU. My miracle products are likely someone else's nightmare. Follow that nose indeed!

  24. As a woman addicted to experimenting with skin care products, I devoured this thoughtful post. I am easily influenced by saleswomen in department stores and by articles in magazines touting the latest "must have" product.

    I am very fair, but did not do a good job in my youth of protecting my skin from the sun. Like you I have found Kiehl's moisturizer to be an effective and gentle solution for daily use.

    So pleased to have discovered your wonderful blog!

  25. Tish- I am finding these posts so useful- have to admit I have never considered the safety of well known cosmetic products. And you are reminding me again of the necessity of sunscreen. Thank you. M

  26. Another thing that I have to be really important (and I imagine that I am preaching to the choir) is diet. I swear that after eating an avocado, my skin looks fantastic. Which is why guacamole and whole wheat tortillas can make for an acceptable dinner some nights.

    I take fish oil for this (and other) reasons, and *try* to avoid sugar.

    LPC–you really do not look like your age, so whatever you have been doing is clearly working, especially as you have appear to have the trademark Northern European fair complexion.

    Love this post. More, please!

  27. Now you've got me rethinking everything I use. Gotta go check out the ingredients. As for lavender, it's one of those miracle ingredients; lavender oil can even be appllied neat to burns on skin. I've used it on my kids for years.
    Love your photo. So nice to see your beautiful face!

  28. Like Syndey Shop Girl, I'm a fan of (natural! essential!) rose hip or petal oil, reputed to be good for rosacea and skin circulation. I have the former and am always looking to boost the latter.

    If you like lavender, you may love the rose. It's in the spendy Dr Hauschka line (1 oz/$42) –though I have it added to my Vit AED body/face moisturizer (16 oz/$15).

    ps Washcloths exacerbate my rosacea, but microfiber cloths are a go.

  29. You have a face infused with character and loveliness, whatever you do to your skin is gilding a sturdy lily.

    I'm the Dove/Aveeno type. And those microfiber cloths are genius.

  30. I want to rush and reassure you, we all look young in a little bitty black and white photo:). I want to redesign the blog soon, and will post the color version of the photo at that point. In which many more trials and travails are visible. But, we all hope it's character, right? Thank you so so much. You have been so nice to me here. I had tears in my eyes. To say nothing of showing new things to explore, if only because it's fun. Rose oil sounds lovely.

  31. Re the rose hip oil – it delivers very big bang for buck.

    Oh I am In Despair.

    Kiehls is to discontinue their lycopene cream. Why??? Apparently to make way for the organix asahi (spelling?) range. My SA at DJs is on to it and is helping me stockpile.

  32. LPC,
    How do you make a post on skin care sound so interesting. Like everyone else here, you photo is lovely – and not just because it's a little B&W! I like to cut open Vitamin A and E vitamins and squeeze it into my favorite moisturizer.
    Bon weekend!

  33. How exciting to see your face! I had a secret hope that I would recognize you from my own years in high tech in Silicon Valley. But, I don't. Oh well. Your writing still feels as familiar as that of an old friend…

  34. I like Anthelios La Roche Possay 45 and Shisiedo's 45. I think I actually like Shisiedo's the best. I then use Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer over that, I think it has a 20 spf. The only Kiehl's product I buy again and again is their micorderm product. It is really nice and much cheaper than Dr. Brandt's. The only lavender product I use is Trader Joe's body scrub, I love that stuff.
    And, I am really enjoying this series.

  35. I love retinol. I know Eve Lom says to avoid moisturisers, and that some people swear by that. This is an excellent post. I am going to add you to my blogroll, if that's ok with you.

  36. Great post. Learning from the blogger and readers — my dermatologist years ago recommended Complex 15 and suncreen. Now I'm looking for a change. Wear to buy the micro wash cloths? Don't forget sunscreen for your hands. What about Cepaphil? I lean more towards natural products–so these may be on the way out of the medicine cabinet.

  37. Hello
    Try LA CLINICA FOR SKIN & BODY, a certified organic manufacturer of skin care from Australia for all skin types. I couldn't imagine life, let alone my skin, without these products.

  38. Bonjour – so glad this was fun. I can't write it if I can't make it a little fun, so there you go:). Louise, thank you for saying my writing feels like an old friend. I think we grow into this writing for an audience stuff. Belette, I will try Kiehl's microderm product. Fuschia, I'm honored to be on your blogroll – I love your blog. And Barbara, Cetaphil isn't paraben-free etc. I do recommend the MyChelle Honeydew Cleaner if you skin is, as they say, mature…

  39. I live in Miami so sunscreen is more than a must in here it's actually a regimen… have a nice sunday!

  40. Thanks for the wonderful post, LPC!

    I thought I'd mention a new product by Kiehl's (I do not work for them…promise!). Midnight Recovery Concentrate is a light blend of oils that you can use alone or under other cream/lotion at night (though I have used it during the daytime, too). It smells of lavender and is very soothing.

    The copy is, I think, an interesting mix of Faery and Science: promises a more rested visage while you sleep, and paraben free :)
    While it does come in a lovely dark blue bottle, they do give generous samples. Recently, I did buy the full size, but the samples lasted me a long time first.


  41. Again, thanks for this series.

    It can get so overwhelming doing this type of research – one site says something is completely fine, whereas another says it is entirely toxic, etc. I probably err too much on the side of what western medicine says is ok vs. the faeries – am currently going off of what my preg books & doctor says are fine, for example – but your balanced approach to this whole thing is commendable and something I need to do as well.

  42. From a former aesthetician: easy and cheap from the drugstore, "Amlactin Lotion". Avoid all contact around eyes, and stop using a few days before any facial waxing. Should not irritate skin, does daily exfoliating, and costs $12. I love it, and my skin glows more at 51 years old than at 31.

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