Life & Culture

Is middle-aged life taking a toll on your face?

How to step up your skincare routine and restore your zest and glow


Unfair scrutiny: the Princess of Wales at a recent charity event (Photo: Getty Images)

There are many questions that churn over and over in my mind. What is consciousness? Can we really ever know anything? How can Kim Kardashian possibly co-parent with a douchebag like Kanye West? But my chief conundrum is: how is it possible to look less knackered? When you’re at my stage of life (looking after young children and turning 40 in a year’s time), it becomes evident just how tired you are. You only have to look at the recent backlash the Princess of Wales received for looking slightly worn out (not helped by some very dodgy lighting) at a recent event. Because, heaven forbid, a mother of three in her early 40s should look a little tired. (I guess as the previous Princess of Wales never reached middle-age, her daughter-in-law has a hard act to follow.)

If, like me, you’re looking to step up your skincare and look a bit more “awake” for 2024, you really need only two products: retinol and sunscreen. One to reverse dullness and damage and give your skin a glow, the other to shield skin from further damage by sun and pollution etc. I’m always loathe to recommend specific skincare products, as what might work for me may not do it for you. But a new crop of “digital dermatologist” services such as GetHarley can help you navigate the labyrinth that is the skincare world. They pair you with a qualified clinician, who after a Zoom consultation prescribes products specific to your skin type and concerns. It’s a nifty idea, not just if you’re wanting to upgrade your skincare routine, but if you have specific issues such as eczema or acne (without the cost or hassle of schlepping to a dermatologist). I’ve been prescribed Obagi Tretinoin 0.025% (£111 for three months), which is the strongest type of retinol you can buy (hence why it’s prescription-only). It’s great for acne, pigmentation and fine lines, and I’m looking forward to see what it can do for eight months of sleep deprivation.

While my skin needs some serious TLC, my hair is looking the best it’s ever looked. I’ve been road-testing L’Oreal’s new Absolut Repair Molecular range, comprising shampoo, wash-off serum and mask. I’m normally scathing of “hair-repair” products seeing as you can’t really do much to hair that’s already damaged, save cover it in a protective coating of silicone (which then weighs it down and leads to dullness and breakage.) However, L’Oreal’s scientists seem to be on to something with their clever new technology, featuring two per cent peptides and five per cent amino acids, which claim to restore the molecular structure of those frazzled strands. I particularly love the Wash-Off Serum (£28), which shows how much the skincare world is seeping into haircare. Its light texture absorbs more effectively than gloopy conditioner, resulting in news anchor-level shine, which, for a busy working mum, is no mean feat.

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