In Search of a Realistic Post-Baby Skincare Routine
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.
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.
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.
Published January 10, 2014. Last updated July 17, 2017.