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Delay the Decay: Insights on Entropy

Marie Veronique Nadeau

Quite a few people ask me what my skin care regimen looks like, perhaps with the idea that they might be able to gauge from my routine whether they are doing too much, or perhaps too little. Given my advanced years I am a good person to ask, as age is definitely an important factor when deciding on a routine. As you get older the rubric shifts from ‘less is more’ to ‘more is more.’ Let me explain what I mean by that. 

When you are younger the skin is quite resilient, and it’s very adept at taking care of itself– it has mad skills! In fact, you can irritate the skin and accelerate aging by doing too many of the wrong things, especially exfoliating too aggressively and/or too frequently. Some people go so far as to get Botox treatments to erase wrinkles that have not yet developed.  

Eventually, you arrive at the other side of the age curve (where you’re now embarking on the downward slope) usually around age forty. Starting just about then skin function shifts away from the ideal; cell turnover rate slows down which can lead to patchy, dull skin, lipid production decreases and skin becomes drier, and areas around the cheeks and jowls begin to sag due to a decrease in glycosamineglycans production (which happens at a rate of about 1% per year after age thirty). 

If you have been less than vigilant with sun protection, cumulative Reactive Oxygen Species damage starts to show at this age or even earlier, with wrinkles around the eyes and hyperpigmentation making their first appearances. This is the time to bring in the big guns, especially retinol. It is also the age when you start replacing your ‘less is more’ modus operandi with ‘more is more.’ 

In real time this means there will be more topicals to apply, more steps to follow and your skin care routine will take longer. If you infer from this argument that my skin care routine at age 75 is fairly complicated and takes a bit of time, you would be right. More is more rather begs the question: Is there the potential to err on the side of doing too much, even in one’s seventies and eighties?  

Answer: at the age of 75 the error gap relative to doing too much narrows, at least in some respects. I mean, you can’t do too much retinol, or topical PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), but you CAN do too much exfoliation. In fact, the more you are hitting the retinol the less you want to exfoliate. 

Here is something I’ve noticed over the years that might help you figure out the routine that’s best for you. Your skin, like your pet cat (in my case, Fat Eddy), loves a routine– being consistent makes a big difference in how it responds. At night it can sometimes be very tempting to just skip everything and flop into bed. To avoid that temptation, you may consider starting your routine earlier, before you settle down to binge watch The Sopranos or Breaking Bad for the umpteenth time. Then when you wake up, with a jerk,* to see the credits rolling, you and your skin, already all nicely moisturized and retinolled, can go curl up with the cat for a peaceful night’s sleep.    

*for those of you who don’t sleep alone

— Marie Veronique Nadeau