Saturday, May 21, 2011

Taking good care of your skin

Originally posted on La Vie En Fifi, 29 November 2009

I have my Mother to thank for having a smooth complexion at 40. From about the age of 12 or 13, Mum bought me good, basic skincare to use twice a day. I think first it was Simple soap and Simple moisturiser, trying different brands along the way. I remember a Revlon foaming cleanser and moisturiser and after that the famous three step Clinique soap, toner and yellow moisturiser.

I progressed to Estee Lauder in my 20s and loved that. It kept me broke but I didn’t care. Then, I put expensive skincare as a priority above hair products and even clothing. After working for Parfums Christian Dior (skincare, makeup, fragrance) I got to try their wonderful and pricey products and for the first time used serums under my moisturiser, day and night.

Even though I spent a lot on skincare I always secretly wondered if serums were a have. I don’t have an answer for you even now sorry. I think if you can afford them they are lovely to use and do seem to sink in straight away, and your skin feels extra lovely after you put the night cream or daytime moisturiser over top.

The funny thing is, I always had problems with oiliness and also acne for a while when in my late teens and early 20s, so it’s quite novel for someone to come up to me and say ‘You have beautiful skin’ or my husband to remark on it looking nice. I heard a long time ago that if you have oily skin when younger it will age well, as opposed to people who have less oily, less troublesome skin as a teenager (are they drying out like an Autumn leaf as they get older?).

I realise now you don’t need to spend a fortune on skincare. Or perhaps there are just more and better budget options these days. I have heard that because L’oreal is owned by Lancome, the L’oreal products are much the same as Lancome products without a few of the more expensive ingredients.

I prefer to go down the more local route. There are wonderful New Zealand and Australian made skincare lines which just offer good, basic products without the many chemicals that big brands seem to list on their packaging.

No matter the brand, the main ingredients you want to avoid are petro-chemicals. Petrolatum and mineral oil (or ‘huile minerale’) are dreadful for your skin. I found that I had tiny bumps all over my skin which disappeared when I read labels and avoided anything with these ingredients.

I am currently enjoying Australian brand Natio products. The packaging is all white, with simple containers and tubes and plain yet chic labeling. The products are scented with essential oils so they smell pretty yet fresh. I love a nice light fragrance in my beauty products. 'Fragrance free' is not a selling point to me! Prices range from around $14-$30. Quite different to brands I have used in the past.

Another favourite is New Zealand brand Skinfood. I buy their cleanser and facial/body moisturisers from the supermarket and they are around $13. They do not have parabens or horrid ingredients and I love the refreshing scent from orange and lavender oils.

Here is my regime.

In the morning I wash my face in the shower. I use a tiny amount of foaming cleanser as my face can be quite shiny when I wake up. Then I mist or pat an alcohol-free toner over my face to moisten and apply my serum and SPF moisturizer. A light eye cream patted underneath my eyes rounds off my skincare routine for the morning.

I let this all soak in while I have my breakfast (a poached egg on Vogels original wholegrain toast, no butter – an egg a day must be making my skin happy too).
In the evening I put a white towelling headband on to hold my hair out of my eyes and apply a thick, creamy cleansing cream massaging it into my skin and removing with a large size facial tissue. Rubbing the cream gently around my eyes removes all mascara and eye makeup too (I don’t wear waterproof mascara though).

Then I apply my alcohol free toner to a flat cotton pad and refresh my face, making sure all makeup is gone from around my eyes. When my toner runs out I plan to try making my own toner. One simple recipe I read is to make a strong green tea brew and when cool decant into your toner bottle. I have purchased rose water and glycerin, and witch hazel from chemist shops before, but they seem to have not good ingredients listed on the label as well so haven’t used those again.

After toning I apply my serum, a rich and creamy night cream and richer eye cream than the morning.

Doing your cleanse, tone, moisturise, two times a day, every day for more than 25 years, that is how you keep your skin looking as nice as it can, for as long as you can. Genes play a part but environment is so important.

I read a terrible statistic about how aging going to bed with your makeup on is. I can’t remember the numbers but it made me vow never to do it. I can remember a handful of times in the past 10 years I have done this. It’s not good the next day. My poor skin felt like sandpaper crossed with a dried out piece of driftwood crossed with gravel.

That combined with a hangover, which, lets face it is the reason why we fall asleep with our makeup on, do not for a fresh complexion make. I don’t have any at the moment, but have found a pack of moist facial wipes and a thick night cream in my bedside drawer to be very useful for late nights. Definitely better than nothing.

And while I’m on skincare, remember your neck and décolletage. In the morning I apply an SPF30 sunblock to neck and chest, and in the evening before retiring (this is also in my bedside drawer) I apply a body butter or body cream to the same area. I live in fear of finding myself with a crepey and lined decolletage one day. My morning and night routine allays these fears somewhat.

Basically the top drawer in my bedside table is full of skincare for hands, elbows, décolletage, face and lips. And a notepad and pen to empty my head.

I can’t believe I almost forgot my favourite part of le regime. Twice a week when I’m in the groove, or twice a month when I’m not, a gentle exfoliation and then facial mask, both washed off with a face cloth and warm water. Lovely.

And to finish: my favourite skincare quotes:

Nature gives you the face you have at 20, it is up to you to merit the face you have at 50.’ – Coco Chanel

There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.’ – Helena Rubenstein

Beauty is an attitude. There's no secret. Why are all brides beautiful? Because on their wedding day they care about how they look. There are no ugly women – only women who don't care or who don't believe they're attractive.’ – Estee Lauder

Image of the fabulous spa at George V Four Seasons Hotel in Paris


  1. Lovely post, Fiona. I have always taken good care of my skin too and I never go to bed with my make-up on. I try to keep thing simple with L'Occitane facial soap to cleanse at night followed by almond oil as a moisturizer. In the morning I splash with cold water, use a Vitamin C sermum and a SPF tinted moisturizer, almond oil lightly patted around the eyes. I exfoliate 2x a week (currently also L'Occitane product). C'est tout. I need to pay better attention to my neck and decolletage--they get moisture through the almond oil but not SPF. I also agree that eggs are good for the skin as well as salmon and fruits/veggies. I once did the Perricone Promise and couldn't believe how nice my skin looked. xxBliss

  2. I agree!
    Skin care products and a regular regime are far more important to me than buying the latest fashion item.

    Diet and genetics factor here too but one can alter what nature has given you with the correct products...

    great post Fiona!

    What sunscreen do you use?

  3. Hostess, for my body I don't have a specific brand of sunscreen, I just try and get a light-weight non-greasy one. An 'every day' type one.

  4. My skin care regime is quite basic. Wash with organic soap, apply serum, then organic day creme by Pharmos Natur.

    This has aloe and avocado. I eat grapefruit for a shot of Vitamin C and A for the skin.

  5. Another excellent way is to care for the skin from within. Taking the right oils could be a better skin option than drinking water for example, or a facial scrub.

    By boosting and protecting the oily cell membrane, one stops dehydration in the first place.

  6. I have definitely noticed a difference since I started using serums. But I think the biggest factor in my improved skin is due to exfoliation (mild acid skin peels, to be exact). Getting rid of that extra top layer of dead skin has really helped my skin to get clear and better absorb all the good nutrients and moisture from the serums and creams.

    My treatments and sunscreens are all pretty high-tech, but my cleansers are simple. I use Burt's Bees liquid soaps. (All their body washes, and hand soaps are pretty much the same formulation.) And I also love almond oil as a body moisturizer.

  7. I use a mixture of oats and honey as an exfoliant - the oats for the roughness and the honey is a natural antibacterial agent. Then I use mashed avocado as a mask and my skin is so soft. It's messy but better than anything I have ever bought. Also, now it's coming into winter, don't use a chap stick on your lips, just a tiny drop of olive oil - works wonders! Love your blog :)

  8. Thank you for sharing your skin care regime, Fiona! Your diligence certainly shows in your glowing complexion. Aren't you glad that you started early in taking care of your skin? Unfortunately I only started to wear sunscreen in my late teens, and am now seeing some sunspots, but better late than never, yes?

    I use a concoction of gentle oils that my Mother jokingly calls "Youth Elixir" because people think she has gotten botoxed since she started using it!

    A Bientot,

  9. Jeanne, surely you're not going to leave us hanging are you? Do you combine the oils yourself? What are they? We're all waiting so we can look more youthful too.

  10. Hi Fiona,

    Yes, I combine the oils for "Youth Elixir" myself: it's a combination of peanut & olive oil, rosewater and a little dissolved lanolin. Be sure to use light-smelling peanut oil, as some organic kinds are super peanutty and make it unpleasant to smell. When you use light peanut oil it will smell like the rosewater - divine.

    I use it at night as a serum, sometimes under my moisturiser, sometime over. My Mum's friends - and my uncles - are still convinced that she has had Botox!
    Also, when she and a friend were undergoing chemotherapy (they are both healthy again, thank God), their skin stayed supple and soft thanks to Youth Elixir.

    Myself, whenever I use it, the next day at work I get compliments on my 'glowing' skin - from men!!! Far cry from the peeling acne of my youth! :)

    If you'd like the recipe, I can e-mail it to you.

    A bientot,

  11. Thank you Jeanne, and I would love the recipe. Feel free to leave it in the comments here so everyone can see it, or email me - howtobechic at gmail dot com. Merci! It sounds wonderful, a real treat for the senses, and the skin of course.

  12. My Dermatologist turned me on to the French line Avène. I love their Thermal Spring Water and Diacnéal Skincare Lotion.

  13. We gotta stay away from beauty products that have harsh chemicals in them. They'll definitely do your skin a great deal of bad things. Sometimes, we may need to try on a handful of products so that we'll know which ones will really work. Aging is inevitable, but keeping our skin younger-looking, through a strict regimen like you've shared here, really works wonders!

  14. Excellent post. I agree with the exception of deep cleaning in the morning since we really don't have a dirty face (unless, of course, our pillow is filthy). For me a simple rinse then moisturize (and SPF unless I'm not going to be outside that day) keeps my skin in line. At the age I am, it works beautifully at keeping my skin youthful. I rarely use foundation except an occasional foundation-moisturizer combo since I don't need it (thank God). The less we mess with our face, the better, according to a lot of health-based cosmetologists!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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