Midlife women have a checkered history with exfoliation. When I was eight, in 1924 — okay, 1979 — a twenty-year-old cousin armed me with a Buf-Puf, paint stripper-style toner and thick, moisturizing gunk from an old lady, and instructed me to scrub.
I did that religiously for the next few years. Honestly, it’s a surprise that I still have a face.
Buf-Pufs were basically record sponges sold for the complexion and seem to still be available on Amazon, which reviewers rave about. Presumably these hardy strains are also fans of those pumice-like apricot scrubs that ripped your face off in the name of beauty.
I see these products as a metaphor for the 1980s itself: a rough decade when a woman had to shed her softer features, even as a tween.
Hannah Betts shares advice for refreshing your face in middle age by exfoliating (file image)
You can see how exfoliating becomes addictive – there’s no quicker way to refresh your face, especially in middle age. Some brands are actually based on the process: check out Paula’s Choice and Kate Somerville Skincare.
Healthy skin naturally sheds dead cells to make way for new ones. As we age, this process slows down, creating a dull and gloomy buildup. Exfoliation stimulates this process, whether through old-fashioned physical methods (washcloths, scrubs, bristles, granules), or new-broom chemical methods (such as glycolic and salicylic acids).
Most dermatologists prefer chemical approaches because they are less abrasive and remove dead cells from the skin’s surface rather than chasing them away.
But there’s still room for a little scrub, provided you don’t go too crazy.
I always have my favorite 90s Origins Never a Doll Moment Skin-brightening Face Polisher (£28.50, origins.co.uk) in my arsenal, the lazy woman who enlivens the face. Just lay on it, sit back, and the papaya enzyme will gobble up dead cells Pac-Man style. Then wave the granules around as you remove them. Movie stars and models of a certain age use it when they’re hungover or haven’t slept.
If my skin is more red and blotchy than dead on its feet, I’ll grab the supermarket’s tough Nip + Fab’s Glycolic Fix Scrub (£12.95, nipandfab.com). Used on top of a buffering cleansing oil, the restructuring glycolic acid and the zit-destroying salicylic acid leave my skin clear and bright. Also works wonders on old fashioned hands.
Some like a daily grain feast. Dermalogica’s hugely popular Daily Microfoliant (£55, dermalogica.co.uk) is ideal – a salicylic acid and rice enzyme polish admired by the glowing actress Cate Blanchett. I recently played with Bliss Jelly Glow Gentle Exfoliator Peel (£9.99, boots.com), a mild formula with plant fibers that act like micro-lint rollers to take away fall flakes.
Hannah Betts (pictured) said every skin will have its exfoliation sweet spot as she reveals she alternates between physical and chemical approaches
The chemical exfoliator brigade states that their approach improves texture without roughing up the complexion. But overdoing it can still be harmful, so take it easy.
Lixirskin’s new Ionic Shot Powder to Mousse Clarifying Mask (£27, lixirskin.co.uk) is a new addition in this area. Chemist Colette Haydon created this negatively charged powder that mixes into any cream cleanser to form a paste, after years of working as a formulator for top beauty brands. The paste reacts with the positively charged epidermis to attract sebum into the pores, softens and dissolves it to eliminate congestion. Colette, who uses the gratifying term “de-incrustation,” recommends using this dirt magnet for five minutes three times a week. Fans with oily skin will be ecstatic.
Pixi Glow Tonic (£18, pixibeauty.co.uk) is the cult buy in this category. A five percent glycolic acid strong enough to be effective, but not irritating, is prized by Kim Kardashian, model Jourdan Dunn, and skincare guru Caroline Hirons.
However, my skin seems to prefer Ren’s Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic (£27, renskin care.com), in which lactic acid breaks down dead cells, leaving skin clear but not tight in any way.
Budget buyers note that Superdrug’s Naturally Radiant Glycolic Tonic 5% (£6.95, superdrug.com) is also a winner, while I’ve enjoyed Aldi’s Lacura Healthy Glow Glycolic Toner (£3.49, aldi.co.uk).
Every skin has its favorite exfoliating spot: I alternate between physical and chemical approaches, nourishing my face in their wake. And use SPF or you’ll expose your soft new cells to immediate damage.
GUESS YOU AT IT!
Kevyn Aucoin’s The Sensual Skin Enhancer, a multi-tasking concealer, foundation and contour, is back in new packaging. I dab it under my eyes as a color corrector and add a few strokes as a base. It is lightweight and natural looking.
MY ICON OF THE WEEK
Naomi Campbell (pictured) kicks off her morning routine with La Roche-Posay’s mattifying Serozinc Face Toner Mist
Back on the runways for Versace, Alexander McQueen and Lanvin, the 51-year-old supermodel has also been seen taking over the city with rocking thigh-high splits and plunging necklines. Her morning routine would start with La Roche-Posay’s mattifying Serozinc Face Toner Mist (now £8, boots.com). To maximize absorption, she uses a microneedling tool before applying serums mixed with vitamin E oil and hyaluronic acid, then Pat McGrath Labs cosmetics.
Seasonal affective disorder is the bane of my life at this time of year.
So a kind soul woke me up with Annee de Mamiel’s award-winning Altitude Oil – a powerful pick-me-up and the inhalation remedy worn by Vogue’s beauty gurus. I’ve fallen hard for the oil’s spin-off product, the Mamiel Altitude Bath Soak (pictured, £48 for 400g, demamiel.com).
The prospect of indulging in the sublime blend of lavender, eucalyptus, fragonia, peppermint, pine, lemon myrtle, and patchouli is what has helped me through these dull, damp days.
MY BEST BERRY NAILS
A non-chip glitter formula from the non-toxic nail specialists.
A juicy beetroot with some serious staying power.
This rich purple berry dries super fast to a high-gloss finish.
Covetable limited edition in a seriously tempting aubergine.
A classic black-toned burgundy à la Chanel’s Rouge Noir. Ideal for a seasonal ghostly claw.