It’s not uncommon for people to be surprised when I tell them I am 47. As flattering as it is, it does make me laugh. My skin, which is why people assume I am younger, has been a struggle since I hit puberty. I saw my first dermatologist when I was a freshman in high school and went through two rounds of Accutane, once when I was in college and again when I was in my early 20’s. I have been through every acne prescription, tried every topical (both prescription and OTC), and experimented with more wacky remedies than I care to count. My skin looking the way it does is hard-won and something that takes a lot of management. The rest is good genes and preventative care.
I know I am not the only one who has run around in circles trying to solve their skin concerns, plus don’t we all want to surprise people when we tell them our age? Today, I am sharing my skincare secrets that have helped me age gracefully and keep my skin clear.
MY SKINCARE SECRETS FOR AGING GRACEFULLY
#1 Good Genes
This is a photo of my dad shortly before he died at 46 of Melanoma. He was pretty sick here yet still looked pretty young.
We only have so much control over how we age. Your genes play a big role. When I was a teenager, people often confused my dad for my boyfriend (I know, ew). Between my parents being young when they had me and the fact that my dad’s side of the family all seem to age backward, nobody figured him for my dad so they assumed I was dating him (again, ew). So as much as I want to take all the credit for why my skin has aged well, some of it has been out of my control. Those Raes genes are strong.
#2 Oily Skin
Another thing that keeps my skin youthful is having oily skin, another thing out of my control. When I was younger and complaining about yet another breakout, I was told that one day I would be grateful for it because oily skin isn’t as prone to wrinkles. It was of little consolation when I was a teenager crying over another breakout, but now, it is a blessing. Oily skin also helps preserve. The sebum produced by the skin acts as a special forces team to deliver essential nutrients and fight the effects of environmental pollutants. Additionally, oily skin also boosts the effects of SPF and tends to be a bit thicker, and has a higher natural protection factor than dry skin. There is also evidence that oily skin has less tendency to become over-inflamed and sebum causes you to lose less moisture through evaporation when you sweat, keeping you hydrated.
#3 Staying Out of the Sun
Between having fair skin, western European genes, and a father who died young from Melanoma, the sun and I aren’t friends. I don’t have that skin that burns at the drop of a hat, but it does burn and doesn’t really tan, making spending a lot of time in the sun sort of useless. I also hate the heat, so unless there is a cool breeze, I’m not all that interested in the sun beating down on me. I still get regular skin cancer screenings regardless.
#4 Never ever going to bed without washing my face
I could be fall over drunk when I get home and I would still wash my makeup off. It’s not the end of the world if you fall asleep with your makeup on but it shouldn’t become a habit. Not washing your face prevents your skin from breathing and inhibits the skin’s process of repair and regeneration while you sleep. Your face is exposed to free radicals in the environment during the day — via pollution and UV rays — which can cause the breakdown of collagen and eventually lead to fine lines and wrinkles.
And speaking of washing, I do not wash my face in the morning with soap, just with warm water in the shower. There is no need to if you thoroughly washed it the night before and overwashing can over strip the face of natural oils. Of course, if that is your personal preference, keep washing in the morning, just avoid using overly drying cleansers.
Another tip I got from a dermatologist was not to spend a lot on cleansers because they spend the last amount of time on the face and most of the product goes down the drain. I swear by Ceravé’s SA Cleanser with salicylic acid.
#5 Tretinoin or Retin-A
We all know the benefits of retinol and an anti-aging ingredient in skincare products. I use the prescription form of it and not for wrinkles, it’s also amazing to manage breakouts. For me, I just reap the additional benefit of this product as an anti-aging product. Tretinoin, a form of Vitamin A, works by regulating the speed at which your body replaces old skin cells—a process known as skin cell turnover. By removing dead skin cells from the face and replacing them with new skin cells means the quicker turnover opens the pores, releasing trapped bacteria or irritants that cause acne.
Because I am an acne sufferer, my insurance covers my Tretinoin prescription but anyone can get a prescription for wrinkles from a dermatologist if you are willing to pay for it. Good Rx is a great resource for discounts on prescriptions that aren’t covered by insurance. Being a Tretinoin user, I don’t really bother with a lot of topical OTC skin products.
#6 Skin Medicinals for Rosacea
My skin, sans-makeup
right around when I got my acne under control I developed Rosacea. I mean, COME ON! I got my first flare when I started using a Clairsonic face brush. I got rid of my brush shortly after and went to see my dermatologist who recommended custom compounded medications from a company called Skin Medicinals. Skin Medicinals offers a whole range of products for different types of skincare needs, like acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and more. They are prescription products that your dermatologist has to prescribe, so you must go through a dermatologist who knows about this company. Once Skin Medicinals receives the prescription from your dermatologist, they compound your product and mail it directly to you.
My rosacea medication contains 15% Azelaic Acid, 1% Metronidazole, and 1% Ivermectin and has been a lifesaver that I have now been using for several years. I still get the occasional flare but they are short-lived and nothing compared to what I used to deal with. If your dermatologist isn’t familiars with Skin Medicinals, you can share this link to their site and see if they might be interested in using them as a resource.
This next one is a little more controversial but if your acne is hormonal, it’s worthy of consideration. Hormonal acne is most often caused by an overproduction of testosterone which may lead to excessive sebum production, which, in turn, may increase the risk of inflamed sebaceous glands that can trigger an acne outbreak. Research has shown that people with acne may produce more testosterone than people without acne. Even though women don’t produce as much testosterone as men, testosterone may still play a role in acne flare-ups and women with acne have an excess of androgen hormones, including testosterone. As you probably guessed, my testosterone is on the higher side.
Spironolactone is a prescription medication used to treat high blood pressure and fluid retention but is frequently prescribed off-label for the treatment of acne. It has been one of the most commonly prescribed medications in dermatology and has been used safely for over 60 years to treat acne in adult women. It’s a great option for women who have managed acne with birth control pills but prefer not to take them. Spironolactone slows down the body’s production of androgen and prevents the androgen your body does make from having as much of an effect on acne. This is not a medication to take lightly. I have to get blood work done every six months because spironolactone belongs in a class of diuretics that is potassium-sparing which means it prevents the loss of potassium, so my levels need be checked regularly to make sure they’re not too high.
#7 Gentle, Frangrance-Free Skincare Products
Due to my rosacea and fair sensitive skin, I choose gentle skincare products that don’t have fragrance. I don’t exfoliate with harsh scrubs, they’re unnecessary as a Tretinoin user anyway, and my favorite skincare products are either by Ceravé or Paula’s Choice for this reason. I also don’t stray from my skincare routine. If products work it’s better not to change them up all the time. Skin prefers predictable.
While You’re At It, Shop My Makeup
#8 Everyone should have a dermatologist
For so many reasons everyone should have a dermatologist. First, no matter what your skin type or tone, you should be getting regular skin cancer screenings and, second, there may be some skin issues you have been fighting on your own that are easily fixable with the assistance of a dermatologist. Skincare should be tailored to your needs and there are many skin conditions that can resemble acne that might be something else. Additionally, if you are interested in more cosmetic anti-aging measures, like Botox or fillers, this is an area where most dermatologists are specialists. I have yet to try these types of cosmetic procedures. I’m not opposed to them, I just haven’t needed to consider them. My goal is to be good to my skin and hold out as long as I can before I move to more invasive solutions. I want to look youthful while embracing my age, not like I am trying to erase it.
As you can tell, my skin aging well has some to do with genes and lifestyle, but it also has a lot to do with diligence. My skin is actually extremely high maintenance and takes a lot of work. Good genes can only get you so far and if you’re looking to have skin that doesn’t age you, you need to be an active participant by making the right choices, using the right products and finding the right expert who can help you age as gracefully as possible.