• Erin Marsh

Face at 40: Affordable Skincare Products to Slow Down Aging


First day of 40, fresh-faced with no makeup or filters. Eyebrows by MBrowz.

I turned 40 last week, and the subtle but strong anti-aging messages, especially geared toward women, have not eluded me. Female celebrities reveal ageless, immobile faces over the decades while their male counterparts unabashedly age, looking ruggedly handsome with their salt-and-pepper beards and smiley eye wrinkles.


While I’m a big proponent of women being able to do whatever they want with their bodies, I can’t help but wonder why men are allowed--even encouraged--to grow old while women must fight aging tooth and nail.


All of that being said, I do care about aging as gracefully and naturally as possible. For me, that means eating healthy (but allowing for the occasional cheat meal), exercising regularly, drinking lots of water and taking care of my skin.


While I was lucky enough to have only the occasional breakout during puberty, my skin made up for it post-babies. My hormonal acne became so bad that I went to a dermatologist for the first time, which ended up being a literal lifesaver as she found a precancerous spot on my back (which hadn’t seen the sun since I was 14). While the adult acne journey was no fun, I credit that hurdle with helping me develop an effective skincare regimen in my early 30s that has helped me over the last decade.


My must-follow skincare rules:

  1. Consistent face washing: morning, after exercising, and evening.

  2. Sun protection, i.e. sunscreen and hats. All the time.

  3. Daily moisturizing.

  4. Regular exfoliation.

  5. Brightening and wrinkle-fighting skincare products.


I have combination skin (oily in the t-zone and on my chest; dry on my cheeks and throat), so finding skincare products that work has been tricky. I will list some of my favorites so you can see which works best for you.



FACE WASH

  1. Micellar water: Perfect for when you need to wash your face but don’t want to do the whole soap/water thing. For those with dry skin, a swipe of this in the morning and/or at night may be all you need. My favorite products are Garnier Micellar Water for all skin types (available on Amazon and at most drugstores for around $7) and Kirkland Micellar Water wipes (available at Costco for $16 for multiple packages).

  2. Cetaphil face wash: A good basic back-up, but my oily skin often needs a bit more. $5-$7.

  3. Oil of Olay Regenerist Cleansing Whip: The tiny beads in this cleansing whip help exfoliate and cleanse thoroughly. $7-$11.

  4. Differin Daily Deep Cleanser with Benzoyl Peroxide: If you have acne-prone skin, this is for you. If you don’t, it still helps exfoliate the skin with chemical agents, which will reveal fresh, new skin.

  5. Glossier Milk Jelly Cleanser: I was gifted this as an early 40th birthday present, and so far I really like it. My skin feels clean without being dried out and I don’t feel like I have a film on my face after washing. In general, I like Glossier products because they are lightweight and natural-looking. I despise being able to feel products on my face and I prefer the natural makeup look for me. $9 mini; $18 full size. The package deal has 3 great products and saves you $13.


Fellow fair-skinned friend, Allison Kuhr, also rockin' the pool hat!

MULTI-USE SUN PROTECTION:

  1. Cetaphil Oil Control Moisturizer with SPF 30: This lightweight, oil controlling moisturizer doubles as my SPF. I use it every day, even in our grey, Midwestern winters.

  2. SuperGoop Bright-Eyed Mineral Eye Cream SPF 40: Another combo moisturizer + sunscreen that I use daily. It’s one of the few brands that doesn’t irritate my eyes. $36 but lasts for months.

  3. SuperGoop Shimmershade Eyeshadow: Makeup plus sunscreen! I love this for summertime when I want a little bit of sparkle to my bare face. Eyes are one of the most sensitive areas and need extra protection. $24.

  4. Cotz Sheer Matte Mineral Sunscreen: Finding a heavy-duty, water resistant face lotion with SPF for pool days that did NOT immediately make me break out was tough. This was my top pick, although SuperGoop Unseen Sunscreen came in at a close second.

  5. Hats: This all depends on your personal fashion. For walks and the pool, I wear a visor so my bun has somewhere to go. When I’m trying to look cute, I wear a wide-brimmed floppy hat, and I usually get those at Target.

  6. Lip balm with SPF: Any drugstore brand will do, but I especially like the vegan brand Hurraw! $5.


MOISTURIZING:

  1. Daytime: Cetaphil Oil Control Moisturizer with SPF 30 is my go-to.

  2. Nighttime with makeup: Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance. It’s lightweight and doesn’t make me feel oily and if/when I wear makeup over it, I don’t feel like I have layer upon layer on my skin.

  3. Bedtime: Cetaphil rich hydrating cream with hyaluronic acid. This is literally the only nighttime cream I’ve found that doesn’t make me break out. Even better that you can find it at any drugstore and most grocery stores!


EXFOLIATION and ZITS :

  1. Face brush: I’ve been through about five different kinds of cheap face brushes from Amazon that all break after about a year, but any brush will do for exfoliation. I’d recommend finding something that is waterproof so you can bring it in the shower. Because I have oily skin and a tendency to get little bumps under my skin, as well as whiteheads, I use the face brush in the morning and at night.

  2. Razor: I still remember my hairdresser, Jennifer House, raving about the wonders of shaving your face. At the time, I gawked at the idea. Fast forward a decade and I’m devoted to shaving my face with these Tinkle eyebrow razors. And no, shaving your face won’t cause your facial hair to grow back thicker or darker. It’s essentially the same as microdermabrasion...but for $1. Ideally, you’d do this once a week, but I often forget and do it about once a month. For a tutorial on how to do it, check out YouTube, like this video by Alexa.

  3. I may be 40, but I still get zits. These pimple patches by Cosrx speed up the healing process. $3-$4/pack.


Smile wrinkles aren't so bad...right??

ANTI-AGING PRODUCTS:

  1. Vitamin C in the morning: My two favorite vitamin C products are IMAGE Vital C Hydrating Serum ($72) and Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum ($62). While they are both the most expensive skincare items I buy, they last for approximately 6 months, so it’s worth it. Try Biossance first.

  2. Epiduo at night: My dermatologist, the wonderful Dr. Deborah Thaler, prescribed this for my acne, but it also has anti-aging benefits. You can ask your dermatologist for a prescription, and if it isn’t covered by insurance (mine isn’t), you can find it for around $40 with GoodRx. Again, this lasts for months. Don’t want to get a prescription? You can instead buy the ingredients separately--adapalene and benzoyl peroxide--over the counter, although that combo didn’t work as well for me.

  3. Jade roller: This has been touted as a miracle roller, but really it’s like giving your face a massage. For me, it helps with my morning puffiness, and the coolness of the jade feels nice on my skin. It’s a nice little addition for those at-home spa days when I want to do something a little extra. $7+

Side note: If you haven’t been to a dermatologist, GO. I am not a sun goddess, I live in one of the cloudiest/gray states in the US, and I always use sunscreen. Yet Dr. Thaler found pre-cancer cells on a part of my body that has almost never seen the sun. Melanoma does not discriminate.


You may be thinking, “Holy crap that’s a lot of products!” Here is a sample daily routine:


  1. Wake up, clean my face with micellar water, teach yoga.

  2. Shower after yoga and wash face with Oil of Olay, Cetaphil or Glossier (depending on how my skin is feeling or what’s on my shelf) and use my face brush. If I’m going to use the jade roller, it would be after the shower on dry skin (before applying anything).

  3. Apply vitamin C serum, followed by Cetapil oil control lotion, SuperGoop eye lotion, and Hurraw lip balm.

  4. Wash my face at night before bed with Differin or Glossier face wash and the face brush, followed by Epiduo, eye cream and Cetaphil rich hydrating cream. If I’m going to shave my face, I would do it after washing my face and drying it.


What are your favorite products? What works for you? Trying and reviewing skincare products makes me irrationally excited, so share away!


*My eyebrows were microbladed by MBrowz, which makes going sans makeup as a blonde so much easier!


Sunscreen (and no makeup, of course) even when it's cold and gray! We are a pale family.