Product Reviews

Choosing your first face cream

Choosing your first face cream
When do you need to start worrying about using a skin cream?

What age should you start using a face cream?  Is it a good idea to start looking after your skin at an early age so as to keep it in better condition later?  Which is the best face cream?

Unfortunately it is simply a fact of life that as we age the quality of our skin goes down.  There are some things you can do to fight back a bit but ultimately time always wins.  There are a few ways some of the effects of time can be somewhat reversed, but in general your skin will betray how long you have been in it.  When you get to the stage that you can see something is wrong is the time to consider looking around for a product to help.

The main thing that happens to your skin is that  it starts to get drier.  This happens because the barrier the skin forms between you and the outside world weakens and you start to lose water across your skin more quickly.

The biggest benefit you get from using a face cream is moisturisation.  Most people under the age of about 30 don’t need to even think about moisturising their face.  Moisturising is a short term process and if your skin isn’t dry you don’t need to use a moisturiser.  You won’t get any benefit years later.  Or even months later.   With most products the effects will have worn off in twenty four hours.  So no there isn’t any point in using a face cream before you appear to need it.  If you are a parent don’t encourage children to use face creams.  You don’t want  to encourage body image insecurities at an early age.  There is plenty of time for the marketing departments of big cosmetics companies to do that later.

You basically need to pick a moisturising cream that restores the balance of water loss to what it used to be.  This varies enormously from person to person.  If you aren’t losing much a light lotion might be far and away the best choice.  If you are losing a lot then you might be in the market for something like Nivea or Attrixo – or even E45, Oilatum Cream or straight vaseline if it is really bad.  You can tell pretty quickly if it is working. If you aren’t getting a noticeable benefit in about a week or less, change the amount you are using or change your product. It is possible to overdo it. You don’t want to put so much on that it blocks your pores.

The other thing that happens over time is that the collagen that gives your skin its elasticity starts to break down.  As it does, your skin becomes less tight and more prone to wrinkles.  This is an inevitable natural process and very little can be done to slow it down and even less to reverse it.  But it does start happening basically as soon as you mature, so this is something that is worth bearing in mind even if your skin is in top condition now.

Is it possible to slow this process down?  There are a few things you can do.
The biggest factor in the loss of collagen is light.  The more you go out in bright sun the worse it will be.  Stay out of the Sun as far as you can.  A sunscreen product will help a bit.  My personal preference is for physical sun blocks such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, but any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen if you are likely to be out in direct sunlight. I don’t recommend any particular SPF value, and in fact I think a low one is probably as good as a high one in the long run.   The trick is to keep an eye on your skin and make sure you are using enough to stop your skin changing colour. A bit of observation and experimenting will be more helpful than reading what it says on the packet.

Moisturisers also help a bit in this battle.  The body is equipped with a set of defences and these work best in well moisturised skin.  But I wouldn’t want to make any huge claims there.

There are a couple of minor points you might want to keep in mind. If you have sensitive skin you might want to avoid vegetable oils and go for products which contain mineral oil instead.  On the other hand, if you don’t have sensitive skin vegetable oil based formulations can give good results.  Materials like olive oil and shea butter have some skin benefits that mineral oil doesn’t.  I would also steer clear of products where propylene glycol is too near the top of the ingredient list.  Glycerin is a better choice.

Some face creams, well quite a lot of face creams when I think about it, will have one or more ‘active’ ingredients that are often what the marketing story is built around.  It isn’t fair to say that all these ingredients are totally useless.   It is fair to say to that a lot of them are totally useless.  Some of them can make a positive contribution to what the face cream is doing for you.  But I think it is fair to say that the bulk of the work is being done by the base cream with the wonder ingredient maybe just helping it along a bit.  I will probably blog more about individual ingredients in the future.

How much should you pay?  My advice is to completely ignore the price tag.  If your skin happens to need a very expensive product, well that is just the kind of high maintenance person you are.  If you find a cheap one that suits – lucky you.  At the end of the day even a very expensive skin cream doesn’t cost very much per application so I don’t see any great virtue in buying cheap stuff just because it is cheap.  But equally can’t see any reason why a budget brand won’t work just as well as a premium one.  It is largely a question of matching the amount of oil in the formulation to how dry your skin is.  In an ideal world the oil content would be marked on the pack to make selection easier, but the marketing guys would have me assassinated before they let me demystify the products that they sell to that extent.

But the best advice is to just keep trying different things until you find one that suits you.  Use moisturises to keep your skin dry.  Use a sun screen to keep your skin its original colour.  Use whatever works whatever it costs – if it keeps your skin in good condition the price is worth paying.  But equally don’t assume that high cost products will necessarily work better for you.  A cheap one might be perfectly suited to your particular skin physiology.  A product’s value is measured by the effects that you can actually see it having on your skin.


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