Privilege Blog

Building Attractive: The Skin You’re In

The next step in building attractive, since we seem to be moving from inside out, takes us to skin. On the Darwinian side, clear skin usually signals health. Indulgently, taking care of your skin means stroking your cheeks while  inhaling perfumed lotions at will. What’s not to like?

You guys, I don’t know. I did my research, I read science, I posted this, back in 2010. The information is still skin care reality, or at least my best efforts in that direction. I understand that acne, and other medical syndromes of type, are outside my scope.

But skin must be the least generalizable domain of building attractive. Everyone’s different. So many variables – age, diet, pigmentation, culture, geography. You just have to experiment. So rather than speak to principles, I’ll review my specific story. Use it as you will.

Let’s move rapidly through Department Store Days, Drugstore Decades, and the Whole Food Years. We arrive, enlotioned, at Kiehl’s. In other words, as a young woman, I fell for Prescriptives. All that science, or the promise thereof. Cycled, over the years, through NARS, Laura Mercier, et. alia, buying this-and-that as collateral fallout from makeup buys. What? You don’t do that out of debt to store makeup artists? Good for you.

During lean times, I relied on drugstores purchases of Olay, or Neutrogena, or L’Oreal. In later years, increasingly on Whole Foods Whole Body organics.

But I have found that skincare formulated without possible toxins is also often manufactured without real quality assurance. Whoops. Commercial-grade batch processing matters. Fortunately, the venerable house of Kiehl’s is transitioning to no-paraben, no-silicone formulas, and I’ve adopted many of their products.

1. While I still wash my face with this, because it’s non-toxic and makes oily skin feel clean and calm,

2. I will now slide on this Vitamin C in the morning.

3a. Moisturize with this if I want sunscreen,

3b. This if not. It’s often foggy in San Francisco and I hate the feel of sunscreen. I avoid it if I can. Here’s how I feel about “rare flowers,” 33 years after my first fancy skin care purchase.


4. I use an eye cream from Dr. Hauschka. Smells a little like roses, doesn’t hurt my eyes, easy application. My how one’s expectations adjust, over the years.

5. Nights, I use this. It smells really good, and doesn’t feel oily, even though it’s oil. Did I say skincare was logical?

6. And this for dark spots. I think it works, a little bit. Hasn’t gotten rid of the dark spots on my cheekbones, does seem to make them lighter if I use it every day.

7. Not to forget this for exfoliation, couple times a week. What? Glycolic acid is glycolic acid. This is left over from the used-t0-suffer-from-acne child, who used to be a teen and used to live in my house. Things change.

Finally, I had a Clairisonic Mia, but it broke, and I haven’t replaced it. I may do so yet.

Does this regime work? Well enough. I have brown spots on my cheekbones. Around the edges of my face, I believe because of my hair, I get bumps. Not milia, just, um, bumps. On the other hand, I’m not too wrinkled for my age. I suspect that the only material improvement I could make about now would be physical intervention, i.e. lasers, or IPL. Maybe I’ll try it out.

Maybe not.

Returning to the universal skin, if you will, attractive is only partially determined by your line count, sag percentage, or discoloration index. Skin care, like so much else in this evolving theory of Attractive, manifests intent. I think you just need to look like you mean well by yourself, whatever the outcome.

Consider the face seamed by sun. Who hasn’t admired an older, woman, deeply wrinkled by her happy life outdoors? Sun that shone while someone farmed or hiked or sailed builds attractive. As long as you protect yourself from skin cancer, of course, you’re manifesting benign intent.

On the other end of the spectrum, consider the horrifying Tanning Mom, Although I have a hard time even believing she’s real, the woman is addicted to tanning bed endorphins. An extreme example of malignancy towards self.

In the end, I vote yes on skin rituals. We’ve been unguenting, as a species, as long as we’ve been cooking. Slather on, in good health and with a smile.

48 Responses

  1. You’ve pulled together some interesting products for your personalized skin care routine, yet, you sound like it’s not exactly working the way you would like. I am older than you, a SoCal former surfer girl with all the same skin issues you are experiencing. The age spots are ugly, as is the sagging skin – it all just appears one day! I use a three acid peel and home beauty gadget that has gotten rid of my age spots and given me the face lift I was looking for. Your face is your identity and you want it to look as beautiful as possible – naturally!! Let me know if you would like to try something new – I want you to be able to say “”I LOVE how my skin feels and looks!” as an esthetician just emailed me. You are a beautiful lady!

    1. Candace, I’d be happy to discuss changing my routine. Why don’t you email me and we can talk? And if it works I will let everyone here know:).

  2. Can I tell you how tickled I am that I use both product 3a and product 5? Since we’ve established you have such fine taste and sound judgement, I will definitely check out some of your other suggestions.

    I am blessed with decent skin, most of the time, anyway. But the number one “beauty secret” I’ve realized over the years is that the simple act of drinking enough water — always a chore — significantly improves my skin more than any product I’ve ever purchased.

  3. Your timing is perfect, I am online with Neimans as I type, ordering refills on several Kiehl’s products including the Creamy Eye Treatment that I *love*. Of course, I am now at that stage in life where I wish I had paid a little more attention when admonished about sun/wind and the damage they can do!

    Sending you a smile,

  4. I remember when I was younger, I used to deeply admire our neighbor across the way, a lady of a certain age who had been ranching all her life, and never wore anything but tank tops all summer. Her skin was like leather, but that deeply, beautifully aged leather that certain very expensive shoe makers and men’s attaches aspire to. Bronzed, wrinkled, but glowing from the inside, with the warmth and cheer of a working saint.

    Sadly, though, I am not slated for sainthood, and I inherited a very Scottish paleness from both sides of my family, so must wear sunscreen religiously. I love the Paula’s Choice sheer foundations with sunscreen, they’re not as sticky and cloying as most sunscreens, so I’m much more likely to wear them frequently. I do have to back then up with a concealer, though, for those extra-spotty days.

  5. You have to use sunscreen everyday if you want to be rid of dark spots! sunny or not.

  6. I use only the cheap stuff (Complex 15 moisturizer, soap (!) and some kind of CVS brand serum) while my mom is a Clarins kind of gal.

    Although I did get a sample of Chanel moisturizer in a gift bag once, it smelled like a lot of money.

    I do like Kiehls, but tend to forget about them when I’m not in NYC.

  7. I tend to switch up my routine periodically. The last year I’ve used Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler (available through at an inflated price or in Europe). I have a large melasma on my right cheek, nothing topical has seemed to fade it except IPL. I seem to be lucky in the wrinkle department, but have used sunscreen daily since my early 30’s. Heck, I think most of it boils down to genetics, and SPF.

  8. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I’m too lazy for regular skin care.

    I try, I really do, but the only thing I’ve ever worried about that’s had a real affect is using moisturizer (Clinique is my poison). A lot of this is youth, I think. My skin is young, and in decent shape and doesn’t need “improving” in any particular way.

    What I try to remind myself is that I need to put in a little more effort now for payoff later. Right now, that means I’m happy if I remember to moisturize every other day and exfoliate when I think of it. Later, I’m sure it will mean more potions and creams.

  9. I’ve suffered from mild to moderate milia all my life. I’ve found the older I get, the more commercial products like makeup and lotions aggravate it, sometimes a great deal. My only skin care now is washing with mild soap and wearing clothes made from all-natural fibers as much as I can.

  10. You are so right it is important to take care of your skin and follow rituals. Never go to bed with a dirty face.

    One of my first careers was in the beauty industry with one of the big houses. I was also a cosmetic buyer and have tried more product lines than most people have an opportunity to. If a product works for you, then stick with it. Your advice is right on. I also lived in the tropics for ten years and know that sunscreen is your very best friend.

    Thank you for this great post about how important skin care rituals are.

  11. To be honest, I get so overwhelmed by all that is available and all of the claims and all of the reviews…

    I have no idea what to use. I end up slapping on whatever I’ve been given in gift bags. I’m pathetic.

  12. Kiehl´s products are unknown to me.
    You have quite an arsenal of skin products! I only have a wash-lotion from the pharmacies ( for the whole body ), an eye cream, a face cream ( Helena Rubinstein ) and a body lotion from the groceries.
    Am I missing something ; )?

  13. I think you are exactly right, Lisa. A regimen, this is what’s important in skin care. I am a devoted caretaker of my skin, since I was 18. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can dissuade me from cleaning my skin every evening and applying tons of creams. The proof is that it works, my skin is flawless (maybe good genetics, I don’t know). Young women, hear this! Don’t smoke, don’t over-serve yourself (well, not too often). I love Kiehl’s too. Come by and enter my jewelry giveaway, I think it’s time for you to win.

  14. I will ask – there is a middle ground between drug store and Kiehls. It is called Origins. And I love their stuff. Have you tried them before? Wonderful products.

    Also this quote: “Here’s how I feel about “rare flowers,” 33 years after my first fancy skin care purchase.


    Made my day!

    Love you Twitter Mom!


  15. I have never subjected myself to a tanning bed but in my need for vitamin D, I willingly work in the garden or lay by the pool with a book, sans sunscreen. I have the brown age spots to prove it.
    On occasion I wear a hat.
    Unfortunately, I now have to save up for the laser. I have avoided laser because I knew that it would mean the end of my careless sun exposure, but now the age spots are just too overwhelming. It will have to be done.
    Does anyone know anything about coconut oil-cream?
    I’ve heard rumors that it is both good to eat and to slather on your skin.

    1. Coconut oil is great for your skin, very hydrating. Yep, after laser investment, you don’t want to be laying by the pool without sunscreen.

  16. I’m 60 years old now and I am rumored to have very good skin for my age (even my dermatologist says so). I think the secret (besides good genes) is staying OUT Of the sun. I’ve stayed out of it for years and only in the last 10 years or so have I religiously worn sunscreen daily (unless some was in my foundation makeup). I DO vote for color corrector–and use it.

    I LOVE Kiehls and we are lucky to have a stand alone store in Dallas that is close to our house.

  17. I tend to switch around products as I’ve found my skin responds well to that.
    I’m about at the end of my skinceutical regime, and was thinking of trying Kiehl’s next. I do wear sunblock daily – don’t like the feel of it either, but I have done a few Fraxel lasers to even out my skin tone, and as Belle de Ville said, once you’ve done the laser, you need to stay out of the sun, or the brown spots reappear. Thanks for all the good recommendations.

  18. I’m a bit of a tart when it comes to skincare tempted to try out the latest thing. Sometimes thinking organic natural is best and sometimes the latest technology. It might be better if I stuck to 1 band. SPF 50 is non negotiable at the moment, Roche posay is current as I am having treatment for a recurrent Bcc on my nose.

  19. About 30 years ago, during the “Dallas” days of TV, I read an article in which Linda Evans said that she used a Buff Puff to exfoliate every day. I really liked Linda Evans and thought that she was lovely. I have used a Buff puff (for sensitive skin) every day in the shower since then and I really do think that is the secret to my very good skin. (At least that is what my dermatologist thinks.) After the shower, I use a thin film of Eucerin on my face and almond oil on my body. Simple. And cheap.

    P.S. I hate sunscreen and I have my concerns about how we as a culture are shutting off our natural access to Vitamin D (anyone else here a fan of Dr. Mercola?), but I do not try to tan my skin on purpose.

  20. I too am very lazy, I wear sunblock and that’s it, no moisturiser, nothing, a bit of aquaphor if I get crusty.

  21. Wow you do use a lot of products! Roche posay SPF 50,cremine cleanser thick and gloupy but suits my sensitive skin.

    Just starting to use a UK made natural skin care range. Linda Anousta. Ida

  22. I wanted to add (but see Tabitha beat me to it) that Aquaphor is amazing. Whenever I get very dry, I slather it all over, especially over slightly damp skin.
    I even use it on my face about once a week. A great and inexpensive product.

  23. Finally got a skincare routine together after 40 years of samples and wine-with-lunch purchases: Boots No7 Protect and Perfect kits with a three-product routine, any more makes me forget all of it.

  24. I wish someone had told me that my neck and the backs of my hands were part of my skincare regimen. Oh, well.

    I do love Kiehl’s, and I keep my skincare really simple. The fewer things I put on top, the happier my skin. In fact, I will often cleanse my face at night with just water and Jane Iredale Magic Mitt. Because it’s just water, I don’t need to add any extra moisturizer. Otherwise, I use Basis Sensitive soap or Caudalie products.

    Skincare is one area where I swing wildly between department and drugstore, depending on the mood. I have no expectation that more money means better results or higher quality, and I totally agree with you that natural/organic isn’t always better. Unless I am paying for a prescription, everything else is purely topical and benefits are fleeting. That said a good BHA/AHA combo can’t be beat for clearing up pore congesting and helping fade the brown bits.

    My skin always looks its best when I steer clear of carbage, and drink enough water. Dehydration immediately shows up in my face.

    I grew up on the ocean where the moms wore minimal makeup and all spent a huge amount of time outdoors, gardening, sailing, whatever. Since they weren’t purposely tanning, no one wore sunscreen, but they did wear hats. Thinking back on all of these women in their 40s, they were definitely more photaged than 40+ yo women I see nowadays, but they were beautiful. Happy, healthy, vigorous, involved in life. Completely unfussy and just gorgeous.

    I would rather end up a winkled, happy old prune and feel the salt air on my face than have skin like a hardboiled egg and nothing but bitterness inside me. Not that it’s an either/or proposition, but oh well. Carry on. :^)

  25. I think skin care products have improved greatly in the past 10 years or so. I use a mix of natural, drugstore, and pricey stuff, but I think the most important elements are sunscreen and exfoliation. I’m religious about both.

    My routine: A.M.– water rinse, Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha-Beta Peel, La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 60 sunscreen, Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream lip balm SPF 15. P.M.–Burt’s Bees body wash (on face), Perricone moisturizer, Burt’s Bees lip balm. Body– Any gentle soap or body wash, almond or coconut oil from the food store, Aveeno baby sunscreen during the day.

    All my face products are applied to the neck and exposed areas of the chest. I can honestly say I have seen a difference since adopting this regimen. My rule for beauty products is that I must see an improvement, or it doesn’t get repurchased!

  26. It looks like you have a comprehensive skin care routine. Kiehl’s makes good products. I think I’ll check out the Abyssine SPF 15 lotion since I haven’t been able to find a sunscreen that I like.

  27. This is an interesting post for me. I’ve been thinking about getting into some skin care regimen for a while, mostly to deal with dark circles under my eyes that most people say aren’t there, but have yet to really try anything…other than attempting to get more sleep. :)

    I used to try product after product to make my skin look beautiful. When I got to the end of my rope and couldn’t make the random one or two blemishes go away, I gave up on products entirely. And you know what happened? My skin cleared up and is the most beautiful it has ever been! I’ve all but sworn off skincare products since then and encourage anyone having difficulty with them to give au natural a try.

  28. My Clarisonic brush also broke, after only a few months of use! Oh well. I’ve since been using little scrub pads for exfoliation instead, and haven’t noticed much of a difference.

  29. I wash using the Clarisonic with a mild soap then lather on Hope in a Jar. My biggest skin issue is sun exposure — just a wee bit and my face gets red. Sometimes I get hives. Lately we’ve been doing a lot of bicycle riding and the repeated exposure seems to be helping.

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