As I was flipping through my stash of women’s magazines, looking for an article I’d been wanting to read, I couldn’t help but notice that virtually all the ads for anti-aging products touted some form of retinol. Retinol (or Retin-A) is a Vitamin A derivative, available only by prescription, that has been clinically proven to reduce and repair visible signs of aging. This includes all the scary stuff we Boomers see in the mirror every morning. Sagging skin, age spots, wrinkles, uneven texture, and dull, tired skin. Retin-A is the Holy Grail of anti-agers. You want this. You want this bad.

When I first began conducting product seminars in my 20s, pre-existing levels of sun damage a woman already had were forever. Skin care products were formulated to help prevent more damage from occurring. Whatever damage we had already done with our baby oil and space blanket days, or from tanning beds, smoking, drinking, and/or general neglect, well, that was too bad. The best you could hope for was not making it worse.

Then came Retin-A. Huge advance in skin care. Huge. Retin-A helps your skin manufacture collagen. Collagen is what holds everything up and keeps it plump and smooth. Fine lines and wrinkles are reduced, and the skin looks firmer, smoother, and rosier. This is good. Very good.

Prescription Retin-A is intense damage control, in its simplest form. If you’re using it daily, you don’t need retinol in any of your other products, which is going to save you a booty-load of money. OTC retinol creams are expensive, because the cosmetic companies know they work¬†and women will pay more to get them.

With an inexpensive¬†tube of Retin-A from your pharmacist in your beauty stash and a¬†good moisturizing sunscreen from Rite Aid, you’re doing more for your skin than plunking down $100 or more for an anti-aging moisturizer (that contains¬†only a minute amount of a retinol derivative) from any of the department store heavy-hitters like Chanel, Lauder, or Lancome.

The only way to get Retin-A is to get a prescription from your GP. It’s simple, and I’ve never had a doctor turn me down. Prescription-strength retinol is what OTC products wish they could be. Don’t believe the ads for cosmetic-counter creams that claim to be “as effective as prescription Retin-A.” They’re not. If they were, you’d need a prescription for them too.

If you find it a tiny bit drying at the beginning, just apply it with a little moisturizer. Once a day. You should start to see prettier skin in a few weeks. In five years, you’ll thank me. In ten, you’ll invite me to your granddaughter’s wedding. And the guests will think you’re the mother of the bride. You’re welcome.

And now, your questions!

Q. My skin looks dull and tired. I’m 62. Is that just “how it looks now” or is there a way to make it look like it used to?

A. Hell no, it’s never just “how it looks now.” Get a vitamin C cream. Apply to clean dry skin (after your Retin-A) once a day. But not just any ol’ vitamin C cream. Having “With Vitamin C” emblazoned on the box doesn’t mean it’s a good one. The vitamin C needs to be near the top of the ingredients list. Otherwise, the benefits you’re looking for drop dramatically. My current fave is Garnier Clinical Skin Renew Dark Spot Corrector.It’s loaded with Vitamin C, which evens skin tone, fades brown spots, brightens dull skin, and gives you a rosy glow. Think of it as your skin’s wake-up call!

Q. My foundation fades by the mid-afternoon. Is there any way to stop it from doing that?

A.  Absolutely. The easiest way is to apply a primer first. Revlon makes a great one called Photo Ready Perfecting Primer. Apply sparingly under makeup. (A little is good. More is not better.) Makeup goes on more smoothly, pores are less visible, it soften fines lines, and your foundation stays intact virtually all day. Done.

Q. Can I still wear eyeliner at 60?

A. That depends. If you have crepey or droopy eyelids, the short answer would be no. Eyeliner that gets trapped in the folds of our upper eyelids tends to smear during the day and looks awful. If your eyelids are still reasonably firm and smooth, then yes. But be careful. Visible liquid eyeliner can look a little harsh if you’re over 40. Try a sharpened eye pencil, making short strokes at the base of your lashes. Then blend gently. Leave the cat’s eyes to the next generation.

Q. During menopause, I started breaking out for the first time ever in my life. How do I cover them up?

A. You don’t. It’s a bump on your face. A tiny sand dune on the beach. You can’t hide it. We’ve all tried, but none of us have succeeded. The unfortunate, but common approach¬†of packing concealer on it backfires by drawing attention to it. The simplest solution is to use a yellow concealer (Maybelline Yellow Corrector Stickis my go-to) to diminish the redness that makes it stand out like a ship’s beacon. Use a tiny brush and dab on gently. Do not handle the blemish with your fingers. I’ve never seen a woman manipulate a blemish and make it look better. The good news? Retin-A (see above) works beautifully on acne, at whatever age. That was its original purpose. If you’re using it daily, your blemishes should subside naturally.

Q. My daughter says I’m too old for red lipstick. I’ve worn it for years, and I feel like it’s my “statement.” Is there an age where I have to give it up?

A. Absolutely not. You can wear red lipstick until you die of old age, and then take it with you to the afterlife. But you might consider softening the look at little. Traditional red lipstick, from a tube, can look a little bitchy. Try a lip gloss instead. Or check out lip crayons. They’re fun, sheer stains that stay on all day. You can wear them alone or with a lightweight, shimmery red gloss over top for more pop. Available at drugstores everywhere.

Q. Do you recommend a particular cleanser for anti-aging?

A. Not specifically. Anything you like that doesn’t include additional fragrances or weird ingredients that dry or irritate the skin is great. You want your cleanser to gently clean your skin. Nothing else. It’s not about anti-aging, because it’s not absorbed into your skin (nor would you want it to be). Its job is simply to collect all your makeup and environmental junk and get it off your face. I’ve used Dove soap for years because it’s easy, and I don’t like to spend a ton of money on a product I’m going to rinse off. I’ve recently fallen in love with Simple Makeup Remover Towelettes. Lush, silky, and removes it all (even mascara), leaving your skin feeling soft and baby clean.



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