Beautiful Skin Over 40 (and under 40 too!)

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 8.25.23 AMI’ve had multiple requests for a post on my skin care and makeup routine. Which is amazing to me, because my skin has sort of been the bane of my existence since I got my first pimple at age 9. People have asked me to share the products I use, and I will, but want to emphasize that the products are really secondary to the lifestyle stuff that has made the real, fundamental difference in so many areas of my life, including my skin.

A brief history: I have had acne since I was 9. In early adolescence I developed painful cystic acne on my face, chest and back. I know now it was due to hormonal issues (see my PCOS story here), but of course I didn’t know that then, nor did my parents, neither of whom had dealt with acne to that degree as teens. Throughout my teens, I attacked the acne as best I could, first with over the counter products and then with prescription products of escalating potency. It culminated with two courses of Accutane in my late teens that worked, temporarily. The acne came back.

Through my 20’s and early 30’s, I continued to try to deal with my acne with over the counter medications, prescription medications and various diets. It was very frustrating, virtually nothing worked. Except benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide did help a little, reduced oil production, and if I was consistent with it I noticed some improvement in my acne. Over the years I tried different brands, both cheap and expensive, and realized the cheap stuff works just as well as the expensive stuff. So eventually I just stopped messing around with the expensive stuff and stuck with Benzac 5% Benzoyl Peroxide, which is what I still use when I get a minor breakout. It can discolor fabric, so I only use it at night, and stick with white sheets and pillow cases.

The real, profound change came when I started exercising, though. Exercise doesn’t get the press it deserves as an acne remedy. Remember how I said my acne was a hormonal issue? Well, I didn’t know it when I started exercising, but exercise was the key to normalizing my hormones. Regular exercise affects hormone function in many ways. It improves insulin sensitivity and leptin sensitivity (both hormones), it reduces cortisol and adrenalin (stress hormones), it can ease anxiety and depression, probably by positively affecting neurotransmitter levels. It also regulates estrogen and progesterone production. I saw these dynamics play out in my own body. As I established a habit of regular physical activity, my blood sugar issues improved (due to better insulin sensitivity), my anxiety and depression eased, my periods got more regular, most of my symptoms of PCOS resolved…and my acne cleared up. None of this was because of a diet or a medication or a skin care product, it was all due to regular, consistent physical activity. And I’m not a genetic anomaly, these hormonal effects of exercise are well supported by scientific literature. Why we don’t hear more about them is beyond me.

So exercise is the biggest piece of the puzzle. If you’re not exercising regularly, I encourage you to begin! If you’re looking for a very basic beginner program, check out my First 100 Days program, written specifically for those new to exercise or returning after a long time off.

And now, the part I know you’ve been waiting for, the products I use. My breakouts are much more mild now than they’ve ever been, and as I said before, I use inexpensive benzoyl peroxide when (if) necessary. My real skin ‘issues’ at this point are acne scars and dark spots, sun protection, and occasional dryness as I get older. I’m getting wrinkles, but I don’t mind them, they are the evidence life leaves on my face, evidence of smiles and squinting in the sun, evidence of a life well lived. So I don’t ‘fight’ them. They make my face my own.

I try to balance price, quality and mindfulness of ingredients in the products I choose. Most of the products I use are fairly inexpensive and ‘natural’. I wash my face twice a day with Avalon Organics CoQ10 Cleansing Gel. I use Avalon Organics CoQ10 Toner in place of moisturizer most of the time, as my skin is oily enough that I don’t usually need a heavier cream. Once in a while, usually when the seasons change, I’ll have a little patch of dryness, so I keep the moisture cream from the same Avalon line around for those times. Q10 seems to have some scientific support as being beneficial and I can certainly attest that my skin responds well to products that contain it. The Avalon line is lovely, not ridiculously expensive, and more natural than some of the ‘luxury brands’. I especially like that the cleanser and toner give me some of the benefits of a moisturizer without the…you know, moisturizer.

I do have a few splurges that I’m willing to spend a little more money on. These products are also less ‘natural’, though I’ve done some research on their ingredients and feel comfortable using them in the context that I do. I use BB or CC cream in place of foundation. These products provide sun protection, moisturizing properties, and a sheer, light coverage that evens out skin-tone without looking ‘made up’. BB stands for Beauty Balm, and CC stands for Color Correction. BB creams provide basic coverage and protection, CC creams add an element of redness reduction. I have dark spots from acne spots, the CC creams can tone this redness/darkness down. Virtually every cosmetic brand has a BB or CC product, so if you have a brand you especially like, try out it’s BB/CC option. I really like the Stila CC Stick and BB Cream (I’m sort of a Stila whore…) but there are several less expensive brands that offer very good options too.

My main skin issue now is scarring and dark spots from acne. I’ve found two products that really make a difference. I use Murad Pigment Lightening Gel sparingly when needed for hyperpigmentation, then switch to Peter Thomas Roth De-Spot for more general use. These two products have made a major difference in the appearance of dark spots from acne scars, and also just seem to make my skin look brighter in general. ou can get all these products at right now, plus a free extra cool makeup case with really generous samples with your purchase! FREE Daryl K Bag with Samples

I recently discovered DHC Q10 Eye Cream and am sort of obsessed with it. So those are my splurges, and I’ve found them all effective and worth the extra cost.

I keep my foundation minimal, usually just the BB and CC products I linked above. I have fun with eyeshadow and lip color, you can check out my Beauty Over 40 pinterest board to see some of my makeup ideas, or just click on the image here:

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I haven’t found that specific foods make my skin better or worse, but some foods certainly give me better energy, and better energy makes me more active, which DOES make my skin look better. So I prioritize eating in a way that provides me with energy (carbs!) and enough calories and protein to recover well from workouts. I eat to support an active lifestyle, because the active lifestyle is what keeps me healthy. I discuss eating to support activity in my ebook ‘Taking Up Space: A Guide to Eating to Support a Healthy Weight’.

In the end, my recommendations for healthy beautiful skin are pretty simple: stay active (and get active if you aren’t), and eat in a way that supports that activity. Protect from the sun. Use products specific to your needs, and they don’t have to be expensive to be effective. Let your own beauty shine, we are all different and there is beauty in those differences. I want to see your face! :)

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22 thoughts on “Beautiful Skin Over 40 (and under 40 too!)

  1. I was really blessed that when I turned 18, my acne from my teen years went away basically overnight. It was also when I started eating healthy foods (no longer like a teen) and exercising a lot (because of all kinds of cool activities on campus, as well as a lot of dances!).

    Since then, I’ve used amway’s artistry skin care products, which have done me very well, and i use a basic sun screen. I get my brows and lashes tinted, which provides make-up free accent to my eyes. It’s easier for me than doing make up, really. And lip balm. I like Burt’s Bees.

    Most people assert that I look 10 years younger than I am, and I dig that. I’m considering dying my hair — back to it’s original blond — since it’s gone a bit muddy since I had the kiddo. :) That’s pretty common, apparently.

  2. I’ve always had problem skin, too. A few weeks ago I decided to try the oil cleansing method mostly to deal with dry patches due to the change in weather (I’m also 43 so drying skin has started to be an issue). The dry patches cleared up within a week and within two weeks my acne cleared up as well. Any blemishes I do get are tiny and disappear overnight with the application of some tea tree oil. The nice thing about this method is that you can customize it to your individual needs depending on which oils you use. Initially it seemed counter-intuitive (washing your face with oil? Whaaaat?!) but I’m a convert.

    • I tried that once too, I loved the way it felt! I never seemed to get it right though so moved on. Maybe I will experiment again!

      • It can take a little bit of tweaking to get it right, I think. There are so many different options depending on what your needs are. I use a combination of 2 parts jojoba oil to 1 part sweet almond oil. I avoid castor oil because it’s drying. After cleansing with the jojoba oil and sweet almond oil mix I follow up with a light layer of argan oil which is supposed to be good for older skin. If I need it, I will use granulated sugar as an exfoliant. It starts to dissolve as soon as it gets wet so it’s gentle and you get a nice glow afterwards.

  3. I would LOVE to give that bb blur a shot, as I am not a huge fan of a full face of makeup and that stuff sounds so perfect! Does it increase oil at all? I have a smashbox bb cream with SPF 30 but it makes my skin super greasy.

    Also gotta love dr bronners. I’ve decided it really is magic! :)

    • Every time I try something new, I end up back with Dr. Bronners. There’s just no comparison.

      All the Peter Thomas Roth products I’ve tried have been great for my oily skin, I feel like they make stuff just for me. I would probably use nothing BUT PTR is I could afford to. What I mean to say is, I don’t experience greasiness, but I haven’t tried the smashbox to compare. :)

      • Welp, I’m sold. '? I ordered it on amazon yesterday and got a decent enough discount? Thanks so much for the recommendation, I’m excited to try it.

  4. My teens were full of unsuccessfully trying creams and until recently I was taking 1-2 oral medications to combat acne. My brother and my sister have it, too, so it’s clearly in the cards for me genetically. We all battle with it in largely the same way, and it’s not uncommon for us to share tips with one another.

    Recently, however, I found something that worked: not giving a shit. I quit taking the medications and I use the creams on an as-needed basis. If I get a big blemish around my jawline (as is customary for women) I don’t pick it, I put makeup on it, and I go about my day. I eat well, I exercise, I learn to love the way I look and all the imperfections that come with it (undereye bags, acne scars, oily skin). It’s been great!

    • Isn’t obsessive picking a part of OCD/anxiety? I literally can’t let ANYTHING go…. I have scars and such and my scalp especially lately has been picked apart. I generally adopt the same not-give-a-shit-tude but the satisfaction of popping that zip continues to lure me in >.<

      Also, I got that Peter Thomas Roth cream yesterday and am IN LOVE. I've already gotten comments on my skin today! '?

  5. First off, love your blog!

    What’s funny is I’ve had pretty much the opposite experience with my skin since picking up lifting weights seriously. The more advanced/intense my weight training got, the worse my skin seemed to get.

    I had a bit of acne in high school, then would randomly have bouts of it here and there when I got older, but it would usually be a “burst” for a few weeks then be gone for a year or so, and get an occasional blemish.

    Last year, I went through a really bad several month phase of acne. I had no idea what the culprit is. I examined diet, facial products, everything. Eventually went away but never did put my finger on it.

    I’ve now been dealing with acne now for going on 8 months with no breaks. This is the longest my acne has lasted consistently. I get it mostly in the “hormonal” areas in the chin/jawline. It’s constant. Some days I think it may finally be gone and I wake up with more. It’s so disheartening and beginning to hit my self-esteem.

    I started reading everything I could about acne, and primarily hormonal acne. One of the big culprits of hormonal acne is testosterone/DHT etc. hormones. And, alas, lifting can increase these.

    I began to research this more and more, and I found a number of anecdotal stories of other women sharing a similar experience — they found Crossfit, and hormonal acne with it. They started lifting weights, and started breaking out, etc.

    While I do agree for some that this is the recipe, I think there’s also the OTHER flip side of the coin that, well, it can actually wreak havoc on some people’s skin. I’m not going to give up lifting, I love it too much and I know the other benefits far outweigh it, but some days it is hard. I am debating if I should decrease some of my lifting intensity and switch to more LISS and HIIT.

    • Agreed, we’re all different. I think the primary reason exercise helps my skin is it regulates my blood sugar and insulin levels.

    • I’m the same, since I got back into running and started sweating more agian… pimple mania!!! And since my periods etc normalized, I have noticed and increase in pimple on my face (espesh at certain times of the month)!

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  7. Your skin is lovely! Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    My experience was somewhat similar to yours – I had acne and rosacea throughout my 20’s and early 30’s. I can’t tolerate benzoyl peroxide, unfortunately.
    When I was 35 two things happened. I began to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, and less processed food. That helped a whole lot, but I still had some issues. I then discovered a couple of Paula’s Choice products, and finally got around the remainder of the acne problem. I’ve been using it ever since, which is saying a lot since I used to have multiple facial cleansers and had to alternate to try to keep ahead of the too dry/too oily cycle.
    As I moved into my mid-40’s, the acne was gone, but my rosacea was getting worse. My doctor suggested I cut out gluten to help with my achy joints. Much to my surprise, my skin tone really evened out and all of the redness went away within a few days (overall diet was similar). I know that going gluten free is trendy and most people who do it don’t need to do so, but it has made such a huge difference in my skin that it’s worth the extra effort.

  8. I enjoyed this article about your skin, but it also lead me to the article about your battle with PCOS, which was just an amazing read! I am 23 and just recently got diagnosed with it. Over the years, I experienced many symptoms similar to yours, but just like you, I never thought anything was wrong. My doctor also told me to eat proteins and veggies and focus on losing weight, without telling me the actual science behind it. I did not know about metabolic syndrome, but I DID read a lot about insulin resistance. Your story was very eye-opening and while I am working on having better eating habits, I’m definitely going to have to work on my inactivity. You are so inspiring! Thank you!

  9. The link you have given to the Benzac 5% Benzoyl Peroxide takes you to the seller, Thai Tops Supermarket. I purchased this item from them and it never turned up. Looking at the reviews, this has happened to a lot of people. you might wish to link to a different seller! xx


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