Soap and water and cold cream have taken on new appeal with the arrival of skin care that actually works. The topical ingredients that do something - the retinoids, the peptides and their various cosmeceutical cousins - are so confusing that it's tempting to put them into the ''too hard basket'' and stick to what your mother used. But you'd be selling yourself and your complexion short (and wrinkly).
Even people who have worked in the beauty and fashion industries for years grapple with the anti-ageing actives of modern skincare. What does what? What is most important? What order are they supposed to go on? Jo Smith, a British hair stylist who has worked on international runway shows for the past decade, says she's still thrown by skin care. ''I've spent major money on La Prairie but I shy away from the cosmeceuticals because they're so confusing,'' says Jo, who now owns a Toni&Guy salon in Melbourne's CBD. ''I know from the shows that they work but I don't know what I should be using. I've actually given up on it and just bought the Olay cream for 'the seven signs of ageing' so I don't have to worry about it.''
Who can blame her. It's easier to go with what the big marketers tell you that you need - to believe that one jar of cream you can pick up at the supermarket can do the lot. Jo is confused. We're confused. That was obvious from my last blog and we all want to know more. Let's bring in the experts. Maria Zhao, a dermal specialist, says there are four anti-agers we should be seeking for our daily skincare. They are all available over the counter. First (though to be applied last) is full-strength sunblock. But we know that. And the others?
- Vitamin C: Zhao says this brightens the skin and increases its water content. It is best used in the morning, after cleansing, as it functions as a free radical scavenger. However, it is difficult to find a stable, non-irritating Vitamin C product that absorbs well: it oxides very quickly. This may be a case where you get what you pay for. Or to head to a skin clinic. Try Kiehl Dermatologist Solutions Powerful Line-Reducing Concentrate (limited-edition 75ml, $109); Garnier Dark Spot Corrector (50ml, $16.95).
- Vitamin A and fruit acids: These resurface the skin. ''As we age the desquamation (cell turnover rate) is slower so dead skin cells begin to just adhere to one another,'' says Zhao. ''This can cause dullness and pores become congested with debris.'' Resurfacing products come in many strengths and forms. Of course they do. They are best used at night. ''At-home products include cleanser, serum, lotion and cream that contain AHA, BHA (salicylic acid), retinoids and lactic acid in their ingredient list,'' Zhao says. ''Use your resurfacing products mainly at night for normal maintenance. If you want to increase the use to daytime, do it with caution, as they make your skin more prone to sun damage.'' You don't have to look far or pay a lot for products with these ingredients. Try: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo (40ml, $25.95); DermaQuest Skin Therapy Power Acid resurfacer (75ml, $150).
- Peptides: Peptides in skin care creams may help with the production of collagen, says New York dermatologist Dr Fredric Brandt. They may help relax wrinkles. Can be used day or night but use last-thing before sunscreen. Many mainstream products contain peptides. Try: Skin Physics Dragon's Blood Facial Sculpting Gel (50ml, $69); Jane Marini Age Intervention Peptide Extreme (30ml, $110ml).
I hope this helps. Do you look for the anti-ageing ingredients when you choose your skincare? Or do you go by brand? Is it the feel of creams, their cost or their effectiveness that is a priority for you right now?