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In Search of a Realistic Post-Baby Skincare Routine

Jan10

by

Hi Amalah!

I’m a first-time mom to a 4-week-old baby girl. I found the pregnancy calendar at about week 22 and from there got hooked on the Advice Smackdown and your blog. However! My problem does not involve baby feeding, sleeping, or potty-training, nor does it involve in-laws or other family drama. Rather, it’s this: I’m 29 years old and I feel like I missed the part of becoming a grown-up where someone told me how to take care of my skin.

Here’s my pre-baby skin-care routine:
Morning: Wake up. Put on foundation and blush. Go to work.
Night: Usually remember to use makeup-remover towelette. Wash face approximately twice a week.

Post-baby, my skin-care routine is…nothing. No makeup, pretty much no face washing. A couple other pertinent details: I usually buy whatever foundation is on sale at Target when I run out. I’ve used powders, liquids, and mousses and have no real preference, except that I don’t like to apply it with my fingers. I just use the basic Neutrogena face wash. I don’t have any major skin issues; my skin is on the slightly oily side of normal (I think. See, I don’t even know!). I get zits once in a while but don’t usually have huge breakouts. I work in patient care in a hospital, so I need to look presentable but not fancy.

The skin-care aisle bewilders me. What products should I be using at this point in my life, and how will that change as I get older? Is there a style of foundation I should or shouldn’t be using, or should I be wearing it at all? Do I need to be getting something more expensive/higher quality?

Basically I feel like my non-routine will backfire at some point and I should start taking better care of my skin now, but have no idea where to start. Help!

HELP IS HERE. WE GOT THIS FOR YOU.

So yes, there are obviously a couple holes in your skincare routine, but they are easy ones to fill, especially since 1) your skin sounds pretty fundamentally excellent and not in some kind of terrible postpartum hormonal crisis, and 2) you are really at the perfect age to start paying attention to your skin and even just a couple small changes now will head off some major issues down the road.

Foundation

So first of all, I don’t give a flying crap what kind of makeup you use. Or if you even use any. Cheap stuff, expensive stuff — as long as what you’re using matches your skin tone, stays relatively put throughout the day, and doesn’t appear to cause issues with dryness or oil production, continue to bounce around the sale aisle in peace. I hate applying foundation with my fingers as well, and find that I waste too much makeup with those sponges, so I use a foundation brush. Check the Sonia Kashuk line at Target for one — her brushes are awesome and really reasonably priced. You will need to use the Neutrogena cleanser on it frequently (or shampoo or other face scrub) to keep it clean, but that little bit of fussiness is worth it, since you’ll look like you had your foundation professionally applied even when you half-ass it.

Skincare

So while I don’t give a crap about makeup brand preference, I do, however, give quite a lot of craps about skincare routines. Again, not so much the price point of the products, but the basic steps. It’s your FACE, and you only get one. Love it! Protect it! The skincare aisles are packed to the gills with a lot of pseudoscience and snake oil, however, so let’s just stick to the bare bones here.

1) I want you to remove your makeup every day. This is a bad habit that you can get away with occasionally (especially when you are young, which you are, BUT STILL), but it will start biting you in the ass (face? assface?) sooner or later. The towelettes and Neutrogena cleanser are just fine, by the way, but you need to use them. Reapplying new coats of makeup without removing the old is just…not good. You want that stuff out of your pores and fine lines.

Personally I need to wash my (combination) face twice a day, with a cleanser and washcloth, morning and night or else I get blackheads and a ton of oily shine. (Plus I wear eye makeup every day and get super raccoon-y.) I hesitate to tell you to go zero to 60 like that since too-frequent washing could trigger dryness or oil production, but washing and exfoliating occasionally is a good thing. You want to remove dead skin cells, old makeup remnants, blemish-causing bacteria, all that sort of stuff. Who knows, you might be able to eradicate those infrequent zits altogether and make us all burn with jealousy. Aim for washing it three times a week to start, okay? Wash in the morning in the shower to get all the gunk the makeup towelette missed the night before.

2) I want you to moisturize. So important, especially as you enter your 30s. Again, I do not care what brand of moisturizer you buy, as long as it’s something labeled for all skin types or “normal skin.” If you want to treat yourself to a Sephora visit, Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar is an excellent choice, and you only need to use a small dab of it so a jar will last you a very long time. But if you have a coupon for Neutrogena or Dove or Cetaphil or whatever, do it. Do it and use it and love it. Moisturizer will help keep your skin healthy and firm and elastic and all that stuff. Put it on both your face and your neck. Stick to the basics, though — steer clear of anything with a ton of squishy anti-aging promises and made-up science-y sounding words with little TM symbols after them. Words/phrases like fragrance-free, paraben-free or non-comedogenic, on the other hand, are good. I apply moisturizer twice a day as well, morning and night. (I also use a more concentrated formula around my eyes.) For you, let’s baby step into moisturizing with a single product at night, after removing your makeup.

(By the way, yes, I’m Internet-diagnosing your skin as normal, not oily. Or even combination, since you don’t mention any issues with dry patches, and your oil issues don’t sound so much like “issues” but more like “hi, this is part of having normal human skin.” EVERYBODY gets the occasional shine or breakout. If you do worry that your skin should be classified as oily or normal/oily combo, go buy a little pack of those blotting papers. Use them on your face at different times throughout the day. If you are consistently blotting enough oil to turn the paper transparent, you have oily skin. If you only absorb that much oil in certain spots (t-zone, usually) and not in others (cheeks, jawline, etc.), then you have combination skin. Zero oil on the paper is dry skin. Anything else is normal, as small amounts of oil production is healthy and okay. If you think you look shiny after a few hours at work, touch up your makeup with some translucent pressed powder or stick with the blotting papers.)

3) I want you to use sunscreen. I mean, there’s that song about it and everything. Use sunscreen, young folks. And no-longer-as-young folks. Sun damage is the worst. THE WORST. Wrinkles, brown spots, skin cancer, yuck. You don’t have to go crazy here with a separate, high-SPF product here, since you aren’t spending huge amounts of time outside. Next time you buy foundation, opt for one with some SPF in it. Same with your moisturizer, provided SPF doesn’t clog your pores. (It does make me break out, unfortunately, so I keep it limited to day-use products only that I can wash off at night.) I used to use a separate sunscreen product so I could add it only on days when I would be outside or when the UV index was high, but honestly? That’s too much mental effort, and probably led to more forgetfulness than anything. I switched to a foundation with SPF 15 in it and use that every day. Then I keep “real” SPF 30 sunscreen in the car and diaper bag to put on if we’re doing outside activities or something.

And that’s…it. As usual, I used too many words to convey a very basic message. Wash the slap off, moisturize, wear sunscreen. It’s not a fancy routine, but it’s a good place to start and (I think) a realistic one for you, while you’re adjusting to life with a newborn. It’s perfectly normal to wake up one day and realize you’ve let your personal grooming and pampering slide down the mountainside in the wake of having a baby, but it’s not vain to try to course-correct on the basics. You’re tired and worn out and overwhelmed and that can show on your face, even a face with the nicest, most low-maintenance skin on earth. You’ve definitely been blessed with some really nice-sounding skin, and if you take even the most basic care of it, it should stick around for a few more decades.

 

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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15 Responses to “In Search of a Realistic Post-Baby Skincare Routine”

  1. Dorothy Jan 11 at 7:47 am Reply Reply

    I found Beautypedia to be excellent as far as figuring out what to buy (it is free, too).  They rate makeup and skincare products based on how good of a product it is (ie mascara doesn’t clump) and how good it is for your skin.  I’m not sold on any particular brand, but this really helps narrow it down.  I’ll typically just buy whatever is highly rated and cheap.  I also don’t wear a lot of makeup (typically only on Sundays, if then).  So I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg figuring out which product is best.  

  2. Jillian Descaro Jan 11 at 9:17 am Reply Reply

    I love hope in a jar, I use it right after I shower in the AM and then I use the night time version which is a bit thicker after I wash my face before bed.  Philosophy sells a favorites kit which includes the purity wash (i love it), a mild scrub, both hope in a jar creams, and some exfoliant I rarely use.  I do have a question for others though.  I hate foundation, I feel icky wearing it and I dont like the look.  Anyway, I dont want to sacrifice on the sunscreen aspect.  Does anyone or Amy recommend something I can put over or under my hope in a jar moisturizer.  I’m 26, but hey why not start now!

    • Dana Jan 11 at 12:02 pm Reply Reply

      I received a sample a while back of a tinted version of the Philosophy Hope in a Lotion and I think it had some SPF in it (I could be wrong about that though!). I found it to be a little too orange for my fair skin, but depending on your skin tone that might work for you. If you have a foundation that matches your skin pretty well already, you might want to try making your own tinted moisturizer by mixing a few drops of foundation into your regular Hope cream. This will dilute the foundation and give really sheer coverage without an extra layer of stuff. Or if you want to skip foundation altogether, maybe switch to an SPF cream for daytime wear (or mix some into your regular Hope cream) and keep using your Hope at night. Hope this helps! :)

  3. Heidi Jan 11 at 5:35 pm Reply Reply

    Regarding tinted moisturizer/foundation, I love Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Enhancer. I do not like foundation and didn’t wear it at all for pretty much all of my adult life, but this stuff feels great and makes me look like me, only better. SPF is 20, though follow Beautypedia’s caution about the sunscreen being effective only if you truly do cover all your facial skin. 

  4. Suzy Q Jan 11 at 6:15 pm Reply Reply

    I will add another bit of advice: Put sunscreen on the backs of your hands, every day. In 20 years, you will thank me.

  5. Helen Jan 12 at 12:18 am Reply Reply

    If you have a Trader Joes near you, their own-brand facial moisturizer is super cheap, and… works. At least, my skin likes it, and it seems to keep it moisturized. Which is what you want, right? It also contains an SPF agent.

  6. Meghan Jan 12 at 12:37 pm Reply Reply

    I love cetaphil products because they are fragrance free and non-comsodermic, they are also reasonably priced (and usually have sunscreen in their moisturizers). I love the philosophy skin care line but I just couldn’t spend that kind of money any more.

    I also like the BB creams (Revlon is my favorite) it works as a moisturizer/light foundation/sunscreen. So 3 steps in one, I apply it with a sponge.

  7. Kat Jan 12 at 2:41 pm Reply Reply

    To add to SuzyQ’s advice about putting on sunscreen on the back of your hands, don’t forget your neck! So much attention is given to moisturizing and SPFing the face, but your neck needs it too.

  8. Alexia Jan 13 at 10:06 am Reply Reply

    On the question of a lightly tinted moisturizer with SPF, I have recently discovered Super Goop. It’s awesome! Light coverage for those who, like myself, don’t like foundation. SPF for… well, everyone. It’s paraben free if I’m remembering correctly. I love it!

  9. Tasterspoon Jan 13 at 3:08 pm Reply Reply

    Not skin care exactly, but in reference to the low-maintenance but presentable part of your question. I find that keeping my eyebrows tidy goes a long way towards looking smart, even sans-makeup (just a pluck here and there, and I fill in the outside arc a little now that I’m older), and I like tinted lip glosses, too (the darker one by Burt’s bees is pretty flattering) because you look like you tried but don’t really have to look in the mirror. I also just got the “nude” lip stain by ELF (it’s just a magic marker) but find that it really does stay and stay so you can set it and forget it.

  10. Tasterspoon Jan 13 at 3:10 pm Reply Reply

    Also clear nail polish. Looks better than nothing, but you can ignore chips for a long while.

  11. karen Jan 13 at 3:53 pm Reply Reply

    Also love Cetaphil products. And thanks for the tip on the Healthy Skin enhancer. Will try. I’ve been using only Physician’s Formula pressed powder put on with a brush (I love you, Stila #21) but I flex between powder and foundation.

  12. Christina Jan 15 at 1:53 pm Reply Reply

    Can I add one? 

    4) I want you to cut yourself a break. My son is 6 months old and being nice to myself had gone so far in making my life more livable. I’m not saying give in or give up but when you wake up and realize you haven’t done some of the things you want to do, take a deep breath and be okay with it. The baby is happy! The baby is healthy! Yay that!

  13. Samantha Jan 15 at 9:18 pm Reply Reply

    I have found myself in the same boat being 29 and having no routine for skin care.  My workout instructor suggested finding a Mary Kay lady because they already know so much about the right lotions and colors of foundation. I did and it is interesting finding how much nicer my skin feels when it’s well taken care of.

  14. Meredith Feb 24 at 4:21 pm Reply Reply

    Mix together oat flour (not oatmeal) and honey, smear it on your face, leave for ten minutes, then rub it into your skin like a scrub and wash off.  It exfoliates very gently, soothes inflammation, and leaves your face feeling and looking amazing!  Everyone, try it!

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