The fact that I’m a magazine editor and often write about beauty and style has over the years prompted readers, friends, family and colleagues to ask on occasion for skincare and makeup tips. Sometimes it’s a pointed question about how to combat oily skin. Other times, I’m asked how I care for my skin. I joke that it’s all smoke and mirrors, but truth be told I do have a solid routine. Also, I have what I think is an extremely realistic outlook on aging, weight and other beauty matters, which is half the battle. Today, I’m going to share my skincare routine with you, dear readers, not because I think I’m an ageless goddess, but rather because unfortunately not everyone has an older sister or French grandmother from whom they’ve inherited a legacy of tried-and-true beauty secrets.

Like many people, I too was deprived of an older sister and am woefully lacking in the French grandmother department. C’est la vie, no? I was however blessed with an age-obsessed mother who, while she couldn’t iron a shirt or fold a sheet—fitted or otherwise—to save her life (I learned that from Martha Stewart, thank you very much), she did pass along a thing or two about skincare. Thanks, Mom!   

I’ll be 42 in a month. Those insidious little lines my mother spent years waging war against have breached the outer regions of my eyes and mouth, launching their gradual wrinkle invasion of the fair isle of my face. And while unlike Mom, I haven’t quite declared war on the interlopers, I have spent 20 years fortifying the castle as it were and building up my arsenal. Which is perhaps why I don’t feel quite so put upon by the laugh lines; I assume they could be worse. Frankly, I think it has a lot to do with good genes, as I come from at least three generations of fair-skinned women who aged profoundly well. Fingers crossed I take after them! That plus, when I was in my early 20s, Mom advised me to begin a beauty routine. She told me that if I started using moisturizer and eye cream early, it would pay off later and to this day I believe she was correct.

 

Cleanse, moisturize and use sunscreen

My regime began those many years ago with a day lotion with sunscreen, eye cream and a nighttime moisturizer. A year or so later, I added an exfoliator and in my 30s an anti-aging serum moseyed into the mix. Many of the over-the-counter products will get the job done quite well, so buy the brand that fits your budget. L’Oreal, Olay, Neutrogena and for those with sensitive skin, Cetaphil, are all good choices. Most importantly, use sunscreen. Use sunscreen every single day. Aim for 30 SPF and don’t skimp on it or skip it. It helps prevent skin cancer and is a magnificent wrinkle prevention tool. Your 40-year-old self will thank you.

 

Get thee to an aesthetician 

If your budget permits, start getting professional monthly facials. If not, exfoliate once (if you have dry skin) or twice a week (for oily skin) and use a clay mask. St. Ives is a good, inexpensive exfoliator and Queen Helen Mint Julep is a refreshing mask. If you have more to spend, consider Eminence Pear & Poppy Seed Microderm Polisher. AT $46, it’s the best at-home exfoliator I’ve ever used.

 

Nighttime is the right time

I religiously cleanse and moisturize not only in the morning, but also at night before going to bed. Washing your face at night is crucial for clean, healthy pores and even skin tone. It also is good for warding off free radicals, colds and other viruses. Most importantly, it primes the skin for optimal absorption, thereby increases the effectiveness of your nighttime products. So, even if you have been tippling in the French Quarter for hours and wouldn’t be able to pick yourself out of a lineup, crack open that one barely functioning eyeball, teeter into the bathroom and wash your face.

 

The magic potion

Once I hit 41, my tried-and-true L’Oreal products just weren’t getting the job done. When I looked in the mirror, my skin just wasn’t as fresh and glowing. As we age, skin doesn’t produce as much collagen, the cell turnover isn’t as fast and it loses elasticity. After experimenting with more powerful drugstore brands to no avail, my aesthetician recommended a retinol treatment. You guys, it has changed my life. I use DermAware Vital Retinol Gel. It’s $49 to $50 for 1 ounce and worth every penny. I wish I had started using it in my 30s. Talk to your dermatologist or aesthetician before starting on a retinol product, as it may not be right for your skin. They come in various strengths, so you want to get it right, because with the correct dose it’s a game changer.

 

Water, water and more water

Next to a great skincare routine, the single most important thing you can do for your epidermis is drink water. The standard rule of eight glasses a day is a great starting point. Note however that you must add one glass of H20 for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you drink. So, drink a glass when you wake up, since you are dehydrated from sleep. Then drink one for each cup of coffee. Therefore, two cups of Joe, equals two extra glasses of water, bringing you to 10 total. If you hit the 10-glass goal by the end of your workday, but then have two cocktails at happy hour, you now have to have a total of 12 for the day. It’s a worthwhile balancing act for glowing, plump, hydrated skin.

 

Sleeping beauty

I wrote about this at length here, so I’m just going to say lack of sleep will age you. It’s so important to revitalizing and rejuvenating your body, mind and skin. Click on the link and do everything you can to make sleep a priority.

 

You are what you eat

Eating fresh, whole, nutritious food will help both your figure and your skin.  Fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and Omega-3 fats will help your skin ward off those free radicals. Processed food on the other hand is loaded with sodium, fat and sugar. None of those are great for your skin.

 

Put down the cigarettes and back away slowly

Smoking makes your skin sallow, it yellows your fingers and around your mouth and it causes wrinkles. Oh yeah, and it causes cancer. Seriously, just don’t smoke.

 

Move it!

Finally, move your body. Take the stairs, go for long walks, ride a bike, go for a swim, run like someone is chasing you — just move. It increases circulation and oxygenates your skin. Researchers are learning that the fitness is one of the No. 1 ways to slow aging. Find a variety of physical activities that you think are fun or at least bearable, rinse and repeat.

 

That’s enough for today. Next time, we’ll tackle makeup. I’ll leave you with a quote I love by Coco Chanel, “Nature gives you the face you have at 20; It’s up to you to merit the face you have at 50.”