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The Futility of Battling Age

category_bug_journal2.gif Back in the 1970s when I was producing morning television programs, I did several shows with dermatologists about skin care, wrinkles and the best methods to maintain healthy skin.

To a man (or woman), they said the same the thing: wash with soap and water; no moisturizer at any price is any better than Vaseline; use a sunscreen every day no matter what the weather. They also said that drinking water is a better way to keep skin moisturized than any cream or lotion, although the latter are useful as a base for cosmetics.

I have used their advice (except for Vaseline, which I find too heavy and shiny) for 30-odd years and you would be hard-pressed to find wrinkles in my face - when I’m not smiling - even now at age 65. However, I ascribe that more to facial chubbiness than to the regimen and, anyway, I have come to like my wrinkles.

Now comes The New York Times with a report [available only to Times Select customers] on a “new” back-to-basics movement among dermatologists:

“They are prescribing simplified skin-care routines requiring at most three steps: soap; sunscreen every day, no matter the weather or season; and, if necessary, a product tailored to specific skin needs, whether a cream for pimples or pigmented spots, or a vitamin-enriched moisturizer for aging skin. Each product, they say, can be bought at drugstores for $30 or less.”

Manhattan dermatologist, Fran E. Cook-Bolden, is even more minimalist, advising only two products:

“…a gentle cleanser and a good sunscreen are enough daily skin care for most people, and you can buy those at a drugstore or grocery store.”

The Times story comes on the heels of a recent Consumer Reports study which

“…found, for example, that a three-step regimen of Olay Regenerist products costing $57 was slightly more effective at reducing the appearance of wrinkles than a $135 tube of StriVectin-SD or a $355 combination of two La Prairie Cellular lotions.”


“’People are spending $450 on a jar of cream just because it’s made out of something exotic like salmon eggs or cocoons,’ said Dr. [Mary Ellen] Brademas [a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Medical Center]. ‘But the cheapest products work just as well as the more expensive ones.’”

It’s important to remember that the FDA does not regulate topical cosmetic products, requires no proof of their efficacy or even that their products contain the ingredients that are listed on the label. Consider this from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Nonprescription wrinkle creams contain lower concentrations of active ingredients than do prescription creams. Therefore results, if any, are limited and usually short-lived.
  • Research suggests that certain ingredients may improve wrinkles. However, most anti-wrinkle creams haven't been subjected to the comprehensive, objective research required to prove this benefit.
  • Cost has no relationship to effectiveness. Just because a wrinkle cream is expensive, doesn't mean it's more effective than a cheaper product.
  • You'll likely need to use the wrinkle cream once or twice a day for many weeks before noticing any improvements. And once you discontinue using the product, your skin will likely return to its original appearance.
  • Some products may cause skin irritation, rashes, burning or redness. Be sure to read and follow the product instructions to limit possible side effects.

Everyone wants to look their best and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we’re being hoodwinked by cosmetic companies who have no proof that anything they sell works and they’re making billions of dollars on ineffective products by preying on the near-universal fear of growing old.

But here’s something worth pondering from Morrie [in Tuesdays With Morrie]:

“If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy because it will happen anyhow.”


Fantastic post! Well, and Germaine Greer has been saying all this for decades! So I am in total agreement here.

I adore the last quote from My "Tuesdays with Morrie," and might have to borrow it for my Quotes of the Day one of these days.

It has taken me several years to accept "it will happen anyway" but
you know the mirror leaves no choice. What I've done is indulge myself in hobbies--photography, audio books, the PC etc.--spending money on them instead of things to remove the inevitable. At last I feel like I have achieved a peace at
nearly 63 even though the havoc seems to be coming faster each day.
I think I am blessed to be alive
and to experience the joys of not working.

For years I have used Cetaphil as my skin cleanser as it is the only thing that both doesn't dry it out and cleans it. I am a major fan of Oil of Olay products (couldn't use Vaseline even now without having my skin break out) and have written before about having FotoFacials a couple of times a year which have gotten rid of the 'age' spots that I had and seem to be good for collagen production.

Cetaphil is great stuff. Fortunately for me, my daughter works for Alcon, and I get it cheap!

As to my face, well I usually just grab whatever hand/body lotion is nearby in the cabinet and smear a little on before makeup. I really like Aveeno for Babies soothing moisture cream.

Oh, it has happened anyhow. Thanks for the laugh. I had barely two wrinkles until this year. Now I am a maze of freeways and canyons.....and laughing about it thanks to you.

Great post Ronni! Shelter from the sun,good genes -chances are if your mother had lots of wrinkles, so will you and soap and antisolar cream.
And no matter what we do, we might as well spend our money on other things than beauty creams as we will get old no matter what!

My dermatologists are ahead of the crowd, because they have been saying this for 20 years or more.

Cetaphil cleanser was mentioned in the NYT article on skin care. I have been using Cetaphil for years on my dermatologist's recommendation and I love it. It is gentle, cleanses well and even removes eye makeup.

At 77 I have barely any wrinkles. I use a sun screen every day, rain or shine. Also for a long time I have been using .......................................are you ready for this

Premarin Vaginal Cream as a nite cream. This also on dermatologists recommendation.

And I would add, don't smoke.

I use Nivea moisturizer with CoQ10, just because I like it. Seems to work just fine, and it's fairly cheap.

My dermatologist recommended only Dove soap for cleansing & it has worked very well for me.
You did a post about a year ago on Vital Radiance cosmetics for "mature" skin. I tried them & really loved them. Now I find Revlon is discontinuing the line. BOO Revlon!

Great post, Ronni.

For what my thirtsyomething opinion is worth in this discussion, I went to a high school reunion last year and one of my classmates asked her sister (not me!) who promptly asked me sister-in-law, who promptly told me (some things don't change!) that this classmate had asked her sister to find out what expensive skin care product I use because after 20 years, my skin is "flawless" (her words, not mine!!). The funny thing is I use cheap a cheap cleanser and toner from the supermarket and vitamin E oil from the health store around my eyes. The only thing I splash out on is Estee Lauder moisturiser because the sunscreen is excellent. I put this "flawlessness" (hahaha!) down to using some form of cleanser and moisturiser every single night since I was 13, and twice a day since I was 25. I also think I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have gone to bed without taking off my make-up.

I think that habitual, cheap skincare is the secret to good skin, not creams made from larks' tongues and crushed pearls! That, and being happy with yourself. And good genes! ;-)

I'm glad the 'experts' are saying what most of us have known all along: fancy skin products are specially formulated to nourish our egoes, exfoliate our purses and plump out corporate bank accounts.
However, I don't go along with the 'buy from the drugstore' approach. I don't want to absorb petro-chemicals, synthetic fragrances, harmful stuff like parabens etc., thank you very much. I don't want anything that's been tested on animals, either. So I read labels very carefully.
There are plenty of safe, Nature-based products. One bar of pure soap (or an organic cleanser) and a jar of good quality, fair trade shea butter and my face is taken care of for the next six months at least. Don't use sunscreen 'cos I live in England and we don't get much sun (and I don't believe the hype anyway) but if I did I'd look for one at Whole Foods because I know they only stock cruelty-free products. I'm 70 and it works for me. My skin feels good and so does my wallet. I can look at my reflection and feel pleased with what I see and I can also look a rabbit in the eye with a clear conscience.

I was a reporter in Baltimore, home of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, around the same time you were working, Ronni, and I got the same advice from dermatologists who were sources for articles.

I was never able to wear sunscreen as advised, because it makes my skin feel itchy and burning, but I have kept to low-cost moisturizers. I use an ayurvedic soap -- Chandrika -- that is gentle and prevents skin, especially on those pesky skin eruptions that never seem to come to a head.

It's tempting to fall for the hype for expensive youth ointments, but the price we pay is the marketers' salaries for coming up with those fantasies of rejuvenation. At the point where it comes to reach for my purse, my pragmatism and common sense kick in. The timeworn phrase, "A fool and her money are soon parted" almost always runs through my mind.

It's interesting to learn that although decades have passed, there are no major improvements in skin care.

This is a subject near to my heart -- the skin products foisted on women. I think basically makeup is designed for when you're on the stage, TV, when you're out at night (lighting, etc.) I recently began tinting my very light-colored eyebrows, but for the most part I long ago jettisoned for daily use all those products we've been brain-washed to believe we need which have been designed to "skin" us financially.

I've always used only mild soap and water -- Jergens and only Keri Lotion daily for thirty years or so, now. Just purchased some Ti-Silc Sunblock SPF 60+ at my Dermatologist's office though she didn't direct me to it specifically -- verdict is out as haven't yet used it, but figured if she sells it I'd give it a try.

Just yesterday a nurse friend of many years talked about being older than she looked, revealed she was now in her mid-fifties, observed part of our link was because we were about the same age, was genuinely shocked when I told her I was 72. I must be doing something right with my skin.

I have been a "nozema" girl since I was in middle school...no soap touches this face, and I have never had skin problems (until now since I started Premarin). My Granny used only Dove soap and had beautiful skin.

But the prettiest skin I have seen on a woman was that of my 82 year-young Auntie Lois, she used Vaseline every night.

You didn't dare give her a kiss after 8:00 pm or you would be tasting vaseline all night long.

I am having a hard time finding things for my skin. I have lots of wrinkles. I am 69. Is it too late to start using Vaseline. Don't know what else t try

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