Monday, February 19, 2007

Olympics...or Treadmill?

**CURMUDGEON ALERT** Generally I try to be positive, but I'm feeling awfully grumpy about this skincare stuff.

I decided to try Liz Earle skincare after I read about it in February Vogue. Mainly they focused on SuperBalm, but I was impressed enough by the article to check out her basic skincare. I ordered a trial set for dry skin and some muslin cloths.

The cleanser is thick and smells amazing. In fact, that's the best thing about these products: the smell. I applied the cleanser and used the hot muslin cloth (the "hot" and "polish" in the "Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser") to remove makeup. My skin got a bit red and splotchy (this is touted as "safe" for sensitive skin), but not itchy. I used the toner and the moisturizer. Lovely smell, red but not itchy. Over several weeks my skin was more moisturized, smooth and soft, but the redness never really calmed down.

And then the pimples came. I don't get pimples. Ever. But I got two using this Liz Earle, the kind that don't really show but that you can feel every time you move a muscle in your face. The kind that hurt. Grr.

Red as a stop sign and covered in pimples--not my idea of a good time, really. And that wasn't the only thing that bothered me about Liz Earle skincare. The moisturizer didn't have an SPF. On the one hand, this does streamline one's beauty routine. I see the logic. But when I went to her site to see if she offered an alternative with SPF, I found this little quote that really set me off:

"Sunscreens are unnecessary in most skincare, including cleansers, toners, night-time moisturisers and treatments such as face masks. Sunscreens are also not necessary during the daytime in winter, but in warmer months it is important to protect skin from the sun’s rays."

People! In this day and age, how responsible is it to make the claim that you don't need sunscreen year-round? And even if it turned out to be true, even if scientists announced tomorrow that you didn't need sunscreen during winter, how could you have hurt yourself by wearing it?

Liz Earle is not a doctor, not a dermatologist, not a scientist. She's a "specialist in botanical ingredients." And I dare say, I trust my dermatologist much more than a woman touting botanical skincare.

Since the Vogue article, I've seen several reviews of this skincare pop up on beauty blogs, and it garners raves. While I think it has its pluses, I don't think it's rave worthy. It really wasn't any better than anything else I've used. The cleanser cleansed, the toner made my face wet and made me feel better about prepping for moisture, and the moisturizer...moisturized. Nothing wrong with that at all (not everyone will turn red and get zits from these products), but what's so great about it?


And finally, I'm not going to tell you to buy skincare from someone who gives such awful "expert" advice as "don't wear sunscreen in winter."

I set out in search of something else. I started to cruise the Internet for trial skincare sets. I found no less than twenty-two (22!) trial skin-care sets for dry and/or sensitive skin. Actually, I found more than that--these were the ones under $80. Mind you, if you're in the market for new skin care, expensive or otherwise, kits are the best way to go. Not all kits, particularly the more expensive ones, are trial-sized. Many have full-sized products that last for months. But as I surveryed my findings, I started to wonder: How many of these are just a cleanser, a toner, and a moisturizer? How many of these kits will just do the same basic thing for your face?

Granted, we all have things we like and dislike. We like gel cleansers better than creamy cleansers, or bars better than liquid, or toners with alcohol better than toners without alcohol. I'm not trying to dictate here what people should and should not like. But I am asking people everywhere to stop and think: How are any of these basic products any different from each other?

I decided to go to the expert. I decided to go to the dermatologist. My dermatologist does not have her own skincare line. She gave me a printout with recommended products, as follows:

Moisturel (lotion)

That's the same information I got from a dermatologist in Texas over 15 years ago. Could it be a vast conspiracy, or is this simple common sense?

I had a few more questions this time around, too. After all, I'm 15 years older.

What about wrinkles? For me (37, minimal facial sun damage, never smoked), an over-the-counter retinol, such as Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream. In five to ten years, I may want to consider prescription Retin-A. (Mind you, I'm not surgically inclined.) In fact, she said prescription creams are just about the only thing you can use to see dramatic results, if that's what you need.

What about an eye cream? Well, she says SPF is good, but a special cream for the eye area isn't necessarily warranted. WHAT? I was inclined to disagree. She said it certainly wouldn't hurt, and she approved the copper peptide ingredients in my Neutrogena Visibly Firm as safe for my sensitive skin.

SPF IS GOOD. I asked her if I needed to wear SPF in winter, just to see her reaction to such stupid advice. I thought she might knock me off the exam table. The answer was a resounding YES.

How about toner? I love a good toner. She said toner is unnecessary, but like the eye cream, it can't hurt...unless you have dry, sensitive skin and you use a toner with a high percentage of alcohol.

The point of all this? (This isn't me talking to the dermatologist anymore...this is me talking to you.) I love a pretty package and an expensive cream as much as the next person. I love Clarins, and their stuff isn't cheap. I've tried La Mer, and considered buying a full jar. I'm not going to get up on my high horse and demand that everyone stop spending money, stop having any fun. But ask yourselves: At what point does it stop? When I was looking at my list of all those skincare kits, I became overwhelmed. I kept thinking, "What if it doesn't work?" And then, "How many of these things am I going to have to buy?"

I'm as easily duped by articles and rave reviews as the next person. My dupe could be someone else's winner, but I'm sticking with science this time.

*photo from