Loose ends are enough to drive me round the bend, so in a bid to polish my worktop and enter the weekend light of heart & mind, I'm rounding up all the nitty gritties in a single post, which I hope will help the many readers who've been emailing me this month. As ever, thank you so much for reading & reaching out & getting in touch & asking me lots of big, important and interesting questions.
THE BIG - AND ONLY - BEAUTY QUESTION...
" I'm 38 and recently I've noticed fine lines around my mouth. I've always just slapped on some moisturiser and headed out the door but I think more is needed these days. The woman at the Clinique counter said my skin was basically oily but dehydrated where the fine lines are. Now, what do you think about expensive anti ageing products? Should I go to Space NK and throw money at my lines or do cheaper products work just as well? And is it moisture that you need to plump up fine lines or should I be looking for retinol in a product?"
OKAY, so do you want the cold hard truth?
There isn't a cream on the market that will rid you entirely or permanently of a real wrinkle.
Some will make it look less noticeable; others will fade it away a little over time; the best might even plump it up a touch... but there is no topical high-street treatment that will erase your wrinkles ENTIRELY, FOREVER.
Pass the tissues!
Now, if you're happy with your skin in general then I'd suggest adding a moisture-boosting serum into your routine (use post-cleanse & before moisturising) to see if the increase in hydration will fill out those fine lines. I get them on my forehead & one by the side of my mouth when I've skipped my serum for a few weeks (I use ESPA Cellular Hydrating Complex), but once I go back to it, nada, nice & smooth again. At 29, however, I do not yet have any wrinkles (a microscope analysis confirmed this last week, phew!) so I don't want to recommend something that works for me which may not deliver for you.
There is a difference between a fine line and a dehydration line though - but if the latter is left untreated for long enough it will soon become the former.
I was once a big fan of Dermalogica's Hydrating Booster until I realised that it made no long term difference to the moisture levels in my skin. I've had this problem with other Hyaluronic Acid products too in the past - they get sucked up and you think your skin's drinking its daily dose only to wake up the next morning flaky & dry as ever. If you think of your skin as a rock formation, these lightweight serums are essentially a drip-feed of groundwater, but they're not penetrating the surface to reach the soil beneath. I know I bang on about ESPA all the bloody time (and am sorry that I do, because I hate to seem biased), but my skin's moisture levels were never truly balanced until I tried ESPA Cellular Hydrating Complex. Just love that stuff - if only it weren't so dastardly expensive!!
Anyway, back to you. If your lines do not disappear entirely when they're hydrated then you probably need something a bit more serious then a moisturising serum - and this is when companies want to sell you that special something to resurface and plump up the skin's collagen and elastin stores and restore that cushion-soft complexion of your youth.'
There are SO many products on the market nowadays that promise these sort of results (you know the ones; they come in syringe-shaped tubes with tag-lines that promise they're better than botox), but the results are rarely worth the price tag.
L'Oreal's Wrinkle Decrease Collagen Filler, for example, is consistently voted a top product by magazines, but it scored a poor 54% on the ever trustworthy WWW.MAKEUPALLEY.COM with half of 70 users saying they would not buy it again. Common complaints were 'the effect didn't last more than a couple of hours. I don't think it really plumps your skin, the way they claim' and 'it has more of a light-diffusing effect because it is semi-opaque than a wrinkle-filling effect. There are no active ingredients in this that could stimulate collagen production and the "boswelox" is a marketing thing.'
RoC's Wrinkle Correction Serum fared better, as did Olay's Regenerist Wrinkle Filler - and both are beloved by beauty eds for promising serious results, and carrying out exhaustive trial-and-testing on their new launches. In fact, a word to the wise - the affordable Olay has become something of a cult cosmetic surprise among the snobbier set - it's good, honest stuff, and from the Definity range to the Touch of Sun products, it's building an entirely new base of devoted followers. But - and this is where I get cuttingly REAL again, there were lots of users of both product who did not see as great an improvement as they had hoped. And this is where the old science comes in again - a craggy face will not turn cherubic overnight, and no pot will ever deliver on a line-less promise - [well, perhaps one of gold, if traded in for something far more invasive]. But, here's where I suggest that we ladies pay more attention to the fine print - do any face creams actually promise to eradicate our wrinkles forever? No, of course not. Improvements are not to be sniffed at though.
BUT, the fact remains that the serums and creams that sell themselves on an immediate filling or smoothing of lines will often make very little (if any) long-term difference. They're usually loaded with silicon & light diffusing particles (most often mica) - so the change is superficial, not structural. A good rule of thumb is to plump (excuse the pun) for products that don't purport to work overnight, and take as long as the skin cells' own cycle would take (which makes sense if you've been promised lots of spongy new cells from your latest serum)... rule of thumb, 6-8 weeks for a real visible difference.
But in my experience a great resurfacing peel followed by a regenerating mask (or a professional laser or intense pulsed light treatment) will make more difference to fine lines than a year's worth of shop-bought skin solutions. So sometimes it's worth paying to see a professional before you fork out on lots of broken promises in pots.
As an aside, I'm not a big fan of Clinique's cut & dry approach. They just don't understand skin in an holistic way. While they're regularly introducing more high-tech formulas & some great foundations, they're also pushing a 3-step-system that ignores all the new skincare breakthroughs & antioxidants across the rest of the line, and does not bother itself with protecting skin from the sun or pollution or stress; does not take into account age or race or lifestyle & the toner (which is actually an exfoliator) is my own personal bugbear because it gets women to slough away dead skin twice a day, but the moisturiser does not come with any sun protection. Any woman using this twice a day for ten years (and not having bought SPF on top) would be in for a unpleasant reflection come middle age. TRUE.
Then, onto retinol, which is another tricky issue...
Retinol is essentially an antioxidant (derived from Vitamin A) and, in layman's terms, helps the skin create healthier skin cells. It also helps shed the dead and regenerate the new, but it's not without its problems. Several of my beauty insiders have confided that their clients (who have been using retinol for upward of 10 years thanks to dermatologist prescriptions) now have very dry and thin skin - it may be clear and poreless and unlined, but it isn't very robust. Of course modern advancements in retinol production (including encapsulating it in non-irritating nano-sized ingredients that can penetrate the dermal layer) are steadily doing away with these issues - and new formulas are less likely to leave skin red-raw (skinceuticals and Medik8 are good examples of brands making smart upgrades to their formulas).
The problem for me remains that I'm a big believer in letting oily skin be oily - and would rather have a midday shine than retinol-regulated pore secretions which dry up by the time I hit 50. This thinking is unfortunately hugely at odds with a lot of leading dermatologists, many of whom think retinol is the Holy Grail of modern skincare. The Americans adore it too - and even women like Paula Begoun, who has made a living of telling the truth about what does & doesn't work, is a big fan (www.cosmeticscop.com).
If you're a retinol fan, bear in mind her interesting point though:
"Packaging is still a key issue [with retinol], so any container that lets in air (like jar packaging) or sunlight (clear containers) just won't cut it, something that applies to most state-of-the-art skin-care ingredients. Lots of retinol products come in unacceptable packaging."
And finally, you didn't mention slapping on SPF with your moisturiser? I have to say that I don't think it's worth spending a penny on anti-ageing unless you're protecting skin on top - and if you did ever start on the retinol that would have to become a key part of your regime.
I hope this has been of some help! The truth is so often painfully convoluted and when it comes to beauty, very very rarely black and white.
And in the end:
As a favour to my blogoshpere pals 'Anonymous' & 'Ellen' I wondered whether any MM readers had ever used Sjal products OR Erno Laszlo and if so, what's the consensus? Answers tagged onto this post would be greatly appreciated.
There! All tied up & somewhere to go.
10 hours ago