You may want to read this before you feel like you need to!
Fashion magazines, beauty blogs, influencers, and major skincare companies tend to talk about aging in a way that suggests that there is something wrong with getting older, that it is a disease that must be controlled or managed, or that if we just buy the right products or get the right treatments, then it can be prevented.
Here we present some of the typical questions that facialists are asked about aging, grouped by decade. Emma, Brooklyn Herborium’s co-founder and lead aesthetician, answers each question by guiding the reader to look more holistically at the process of growing older.
Why does perimenopausal skin get oily, with hormonal breakouts? What do you recommend for combating oily skin and blemishes?
Hormonal shifts are usually responsible for the oiliness and breakouts that may accompany the perimenopausal years. Rather than trying to combat them (waging war on your skin) with harsh cleansers or topical blemish potions (which really only serve to dry out the skin or suppress what the body is trying to do to remedy the situation), nourish your body holistically to help it work through metabolic changes with grace.
In addition to our Blessed Recovery Tea, which assists the body in all sorts of hormonal shifts, slight nudges to your food habits, along with embracing your changing hormones, can reduce skin troubles. First, find order in your food. Eat real, varied, ample (though not always perfect!) meals, leaving enough time for good digestion between them when possible.
If you currently snack all day or deprive yourself for most of the day and then binge later on, see what happens if you sit down and eat three complete meals (or possibly even four, if you feel it necessary). If you are past the childbearing years and only want two meals a day, that’s probably fine, but don’t do it because you feel pressured by society to eat less. If you have spent the last two (or even three) decades trying to control your food intake, it may take some time to learn to trust your body to tell you how much you need.
If this is hard to do, either because you are a grazer or because you have trained your body not to feel hungry, start nudging yourself toward these meals by increasing the amount of energy-giving foods (read: calories) in each meal until you aren’t hungry between meals. The nuances of this process may vary from person to person, and if you need more guidance, there are many professionals who look at food from this nourishing perspective, including Brooklyn Herborium’s holistic practitioners.
Why do dark spots start to look more prominent in our 40s?
Environmental exposure really starts to catch up with us in our 40s. Much of the time, hyperpigmentation is the result of the sun’s rays beating down on damaged skin, as well as the chemical constitution of our skin’s natural secretions (sweat, hormones, quality of oil production, etc.).
Sunscreen is not enough! To prevent damage from exposure to all of the UV rays, you need to physically block the light with a hat, and get inside or in the shade when your time is up.
Also, stop breaking down the skin’s natural protective barrier by overexfoliating (see our article on exfoliation) or cleansing every morning, which can strip away the skin’s natural protective oils (see our article on the control cycle).
What at-home tips do you have for brightening up or correcting hyperpigmentation?
Gentle self-massage for lymphatic movement is incredible for getting those secretions moving out through the lymphatic system. Most of the time, I just use my hands (but you could use a crystal tool if you feel called to), and gently (very gently!) massage the uppermost surface of the skin, moving downward toward the neck, clavicles, and armpits. It can be done whenever you feel like it, and it is so helpful for reducing puffiness as well. Most of our consultations include one-on-one instruction on the optimal way for you to include self-massage in your daily care.
Can you talk about how crow's feet worsen in our 40s? And are there any ingredients that work best to diminish them, especially since skin around the eyes can be more sensitive/delicate?
My opinion is not the popular one, but I think that the best way to keep the eyes free from crow’s feet (other than teaching your face not to squint, and wearing big sunglasses when you are out) is to avoid creams and other products that “do something” around the eyes at night. Yep, no eye cream. Let the skin renew itself without the input and hindrance of a skincare product.
What we do offer, however, is a form of “Cinderella magic” called DMAE Firming Eye Gel. Made with cucumbers and aloe, it soothes and refreshes the skin around the eyes, and the DMAE (considered a “vitamin additive”) gives the temporary appearance of firmer skin. This is not something you put on before bed in hopes of preventing wrinkles or making them magically disappear; rather, it’s something you use in the morning as a pick-me-up, or before you go out in the evening, to keep from looking sleepy as you dance all night.
What are the reasons for wrinkles going from dynamic in our 40s to more static in our 50s? What at-home tips do you have for smoother-looking skin?
Like all cells/organs in the body, the skin has a cycle of moving from being a baby to the outer skin that we see and slough off. In young skin, that is 28 days, but as we get older, the time the cells take to mature gets longer. We were told in our 30s and 40s to exfoliate (take these cells off!) so that the younger skin would show through all the time. Now, after years of doing this, the skin is renewing itself harder — almost like a protective measure against all the assault we have given it in the past!
Well, we can’t go back in time and tell our younger selves to put down the acids and scrubs, to remember that they are for special occasions only, and that too much instant gratification in your younger years will lead to degraded skin down the road. But we can give the skin the “idea” to start renewing itself as if it were younger.
How do we do this? First, we make sure the skin is strong and healthy by caring for it well with nourishing, non-controlling products. Then, we make it a little “nervous” by giving it a small amount of “stress” so that it responds by upping its game. We can do this with a product; using a vitamin-C product for short bursts of time is one of my favorite ways of doing it. Facial massage is another way. Once a month, add a more intense facial massage that reaches down into the fascia (there are many such massages to choose from, including a popular one based on traditional Chinese medicine called gua sha) for a similar rebooting response. Don’t do this too often; the key is to make the skin “slightly nervous, slightly excited,” but not scared.
For thinner lips: What causes the pout to look deflated? While I know fillers are a common way to revolumize lips, is there anything more affordable, or an ingredient that can help plump the pout?
Getting ample moisture to the lips is necessary, especially if you have been using balms and lipsticks on your lips for many years. This is easy: Moisturize your lips. Yes. Put on moisturizer first (something with a lot of hydration to it), then a lipstick, if that is what you desire.
In addition to the actual skin of the lips, there is something else you can do to improve the shape of your mouth and make your lips look more luscious: Simply train yourself to stick your tongue on the roof of your mouth when you are not talking. This does a few things: It pushes your lips forward, slightly turns up the corners of your mouth (giving your face a more pleasant appearance), and forces you to breathe out of your nose, which is great for relaxing your nervous system.
Why does skin begin to look dull and feel drier in our 50s? What do you recommend for your clients when they come in with these concerns? Are there any ingredients that work best for dullness and dryness?
While there are some physiological reasons that our skin gets drier with age (decreased oil production due to hormonal changes, longer skin cycle, etc.), the most common reason I see is that we get ourselves caught in a control struggle with our own oil production! It goes like this: We think we need to up our moisturizer because we are getting older, so we use one that is thicker and richer. Our skin gets the message that there is plenty of oil “up there” on the surface, so it decides to make less of its own. Then you feel drier, so you use more moisturizer.
The best way to get out of this mess? Stop moisturizing at night. Let your skin do the work! Just like how playing with grandchildren keeps the body young, and learning a new language keeps the mind young, letting the skin do the work keeps the skin young!
Can you talk about why pores can start to look enlarged in our 50s? What do you recommend for "shrinking" them temporarily?
Pores start to look enlarged because the underlying glands are trying to push more secretions to the surface to heal the damage we are doing from overuse of harsh products and overconsumption of junk foods. I do not recommend trying to stop this. Drying the skin out with products, undergoing intense laser treatments, and even using pore strips all fall under the category of “quick fixes that usually lead to more damage.” Instead, take gentle, loving care of your skin, avoid too much sun exposure, and get a wide variety of foods, avoiding fake sugars and fake fats whenever possible.
What causes facial hair to become more of an issue as we get older? What's a good at-home method to remove hairs and reduce regrowth?
Once again, hormones are causing our bodies to change what we see in the mirror, and a noticeable increase in facial hair can send many women seeking ways to remove it. Remember that you don’t ever have to remove any hair from your body in order to be respectable and presentable, but if that is what you want to do, and you are going to remove the hairs at home, I suggest tweezing them. Though it is hard to see them, I have found that the gentlest and most effective at-home method for removal of chin hair only takes a magnifying mirror and a good pair of slant-tipped tweezers.
The method: Use one hand to surround the hair, pulling the skin taught. Hold the tweezers in your dominant hand, placing the flat side flush to the skin. As you squeeze the tweezers, pull slowly in the direction of the hair growth (don’t “pluck” upward), and the hair will release in full, with little to no trauma to the skin. Doing it this way will keep you smoother for longer, as there are no blunt tips to contend with, and the hair will not return until it has completed a new growth cycle.
Can you talk about how hands begin to look crepey/wrinkly with age? Are there certain ingredients that work best for hands, and how do they work?
Decades of exposure to harsh chemicals and UV rays can thin and damage the skin. If you didn’t prevent this during your younger years by using unscented, low-damage household-cleaning products, wearing rubber gloves while cleaning, and staying away from manicures that involve putting your hands in a UV box, there is still time to change your ways. Have others do the dishes as you sit back and give yourself a hand treatment with that vitamin-C-based product that you vowed not to overdo when you were in your 50s. Cover it with cotton gloves and leave it on for 20 minutes before removing.
Our Helping Hands Hand Cream has been hugely helpful to our clients, in particular essential workers and others who need to wash their hands or use hand sanitizers often. So use gentle, well-formulated soaps and sanitizers (at the end of this piece, I’ll included links to where you can get the ones we make), and use a couple of pumps of Helping Hands Hand Cream when you need relief.
Why do eyelids begin to droop more in our 60s? Is it the further decline in collagen? What do you advise women to do in order to firm skin back up in this area?
When clients come to us for our popular Energetic Eye Lift treatment, what they’re dealing with is usually not the skin of the eyelids drooping but a generally tired, sunken appearance of the eye, along with the skin of the forehead and cheeks losing elasticity. We have found that other than identifying ways to increase energy and improve sleep, the best way to increase the radiance of the eyes is with a type of facial reflexology or facial-point stimulation that we call the “alignment technique.” In addition to being extraordinarily relaxing, it increases blood flow and stimulates the nervous system to not only immediately enhance the appearance of the skin around the eyes but also entice the body’s cleanup mechanisms to take a closer look at the skin in that area, leading to better, firmer skin in the future.
The technique: At night, after you have removed your cleanser, use your fingertips to press into specific pressure points around the eyes. Use your thumbs, facing upwards, for the three points in the upper lid (inner, middle, outer), and use your middle finger, facing down, for the three corresponding points below the eye. Go slowly, and feel for the spot; you may get a little tingle when you find it. Then breathe into the pressure for three seconds and release. Repeat each point three times.
I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into our attempt at moving the thoughts away from mainstream beauty ideals and into a place that honors and cherishes the wisdom of the elders at the same time as it recognizes that many of the harsh, controlling, mass-manufactured, and mass-marketed products, which are meant to frighten you into purchasing them and using them every day in an attempt to avoid getting older, are the things that could actually be making you “show signs of aging” faster.
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By Emma Graves
Emma, a certified herbalist and highly skilled aesthetician, has been working in natural skin care since 1998. She originally developed the Between You & the Moon product line to serve her clients in finding a method of natural, holistic skin care that provided tangible results. A 4+ generation holistic practitioner, Emma chronicled her love of skin care and holistic methods in her early blog “The Pimple Whisperer,” some of which is still available on this website.