Like a lot of moms in the trenches, for years my skin-care routine was pretty scattershot. In my most head-down phase of intensive motherhood, I was happy if I managed to quickly wipe the day’s grime off my face (usually with some kind of disposable, and often irritating, wipe) and smear a moisturizing product on before falling exhausted into bed. In my mid-30s, I started experimenting with serums and specialty products, but my efforts were all over the place: I really didn’t understand how the different products I used worked together, and I wasn’t very consistent in using them.
Enter Midlife Skin.
In my 40s, skin changes like lines and pigmentation that had started in my 30s seemed to speed up, and I figured midlife was a good time to get it together in the skincare department. I started learning how to layer products correctly, and I also started to become choosier about what I put on my face and why, which has slowly led me toward a more “monogamous” skincare approach that’s centered mostly around a single, clean line of cleansers, moisturizers, and serums.
The routines I’m sharing below have taken some trial and error but have finally jelled into restorative, nurturing rituals that I feel good about – and my skin feels pretty great, too. Read on for the routines themselves, and then some thoughts about choosing skincare, why I went “all in” on one brand, how much I spend on skincare products, and the best places to save money on your skincare routine.
Lately I have been trying to concentrate my sweatiest tasks into the early hours, and I find that I enjoy going from dewy to dirty (and back again.) So my first skin-care routine of the morning is simply getting my face feeling fresh-enough for the tasks at hand: driving kids around, chores, exercise – without spending a ton of time or using much product that will just be sweated or wiped off later. I save my longer cleanse-tone-serum-moisturize routine for later, after I care for the chickens, do a yoga class/work out, etc and am ready to get cleaned up to start the day. This sequence takes at most 5 minutes (often more like 3) and usually happens while I’m waiting for my morning tea to brew.
Note: Everything I do to my face, I do to my neck and chest as well.
Step 1: Gentle rinse with warm water. Sometimes I use few drops of face oil as a cleanser – especially during the dry winter months, or if my skin feels particularly grimy when I wake up.
Step 2: Apply a few drops of my own blend of carrot, rosehip, and lavender oils. I use an inexpensive homemade oil for my morning routine because I will be rinsing a lot of it off within minutes! (I’ll share this recipe soon.) I follow this immediately with my morning facial massage (gua sha) ritual. I’ll share more about this in another post but it’s easy to find tutorials online and I love how it makes my face feel. Note: it’s much easier and nicer to do gua sha with a slippery face, hence the oil.
Step 3: After gua sha, it’s a quick splash of tepid water and a pat with a towel, plus sunscreen if I’m going to be outside at all, and I start my day – usually no additional moisturizer needed.
This routine happens after my shower or bath, when I’m ready to get dressed and put on my “public-facing face.”
- Cleanser. I start with OSEA Ocean Cleanser. Just a small dab and a rinse with tepid water gets the job done. Like all of OSEA’s products, a little goes a long way.
- Toner. Check out the Sea Vitamin Boost Spray – I used to be on the fence about toners, but this spray feels and smells so good going on. It’s a nice way to lock in moisture or refresh your face any time. My camping skincare routine is pretty stripped down, but I carry a small bottle of Sea Vitamin Boost Spray in my go bag because it’s so refreshing after a trip to the beach or a hike. Note: while I do love OSEA’s spray, if you’re looking to save money this is one area where I think you can easily look around at other brands. There are a lot of good, inexpensive facial sprays on the market – in fact, Sarah from The Mom Hour once gave me a rosewater spray from Trader Joe’s that smells amazing and costs around $4.
- Serum. Hyaluronic Sea Serum is the product that originally sold me on OSEA. It’s an ultra-hydrating serum that feels amazing going on. It really locks in the hydration so I only need to use a dab of moisturizer afterward and my skin feels soft for hours.
- Moisturize. I use Atmosphere Protection Cream – A light, quick-absorbing moisturizer that works well with sunscreen or foundation.
- SPF. It would be negligent not to mention that I wear sunscreen of some sort almost every single day. I often just wear Sun Bum Tinted Mineral Skin Primer – it goes on silky and light with a great matte finish and I wear it in place of foundation – but if I’m going to be out in the sun for a long time, I often up the ante with an additional sunscreen, especially in the summer.
1 & 2: Cleanse & Tone this process looks the same in the P.M. as the A.M. – I use OSEA Ocean Cleanser and Sea Vitamin Boost Spray.
3. Eye Care. Firming Eye Cream is my go-to here. I have historically had a love it/forget it relationship with eye creams. I love using them and love how they feel going on, but they are the first thing I forget about when I’m in a hurry. Making this step a staple in my evening routine seems to be helping, since I tend to go at a more leisurely pace than I do in the morning and am less likely to leave a step out.
4. Serum. In the PM, I switch to the Anti-Aging Overnight Serum – This stuff goes on silky smooth and contains Vitamin C, which is really good for evening out skin tone and is one of the ingredients I notice deliver the biggest immediate impact.
5. Moisturize. The Advanced Protection Cream is amazing. I use just the teeniest dab of this cream – it’s magical, but pricey! A jar of it lasts me nearly 3 months, and it smells and feels so good going on.
6. Finish & Prep for Facial Massage. For this, I am currently using a few drops of Essential Hydrating Oil. This is definitely a splurge product: after all, it’s “just” oil, and I know how to mix up blends myself. This product smells soooo good, and is a pleasure to use as the final step before gua sha. But I could just as easily swap this out with my own oil or a cheaper substitute. (See my note below about product prices and where to save.)
While the above is my skincare routine most of the week, I have a couple of products I use more occasionally:
- Vitamin C Enzyme Face Polish – I keep this in the shower and use it about once a week, mixed with cleanser (it comes as a dry powder). I like that the polish is a fine, even grit that evenly exfoliates, and my face always feels amazing after using it.
- Seaglow Overnight Serum AHA Treatment. This stuff makes my face feel dewy and look radiant, and I was ready to make it part of my nightly routine until I read that you’re only supposed to use it once or twice a week! I should note that I actually did use it every night for 4-5 days in a row before I read that, and no harm done, but I now only use it on Sunday nights.
- Retinol – for now. I’ve been using a high-quality retinol product for a few years, and (after some experimentation with frequency) have generally liked it. However, my fair, freckled skin is prone to redness and precancerous lesions – I had to use a prescription cream to “melt off” some actinic keratosis spots last year, and it wasn’t pleasant – and in general, I wonder about the wisdom of using a synthetic ingredient on my face that is known to increase sensitivity to the sun. In addition, while I like the way my skin looks when I’m using retinol regularly, the results haven’t been so mind-blowing that they outweigh other, gentler products.
Bottom line: when it comes to ingredients like retinol, I find myself weighing the short-term benefits against my larger philosophy of choosing products that are a pleasure to use, help me simplify my routine, and won’t do harm. I also recognize that I am still “only” 45 and that soon enough I may decide the wrinkle-fighting benefits of harsher ingredients may outweigh the downsides in my mind! I’m just being honest that, right now, my mental jury is still out on whether retinol is worth the process, price tag, or potential side effects.
About My Skincare Products
While I’ve experimented with a lot of skincare products over the years, I’ve recently found myself wanting to simplify my routine by going “all in” on one brand. 95% of the products I use on my face these days are made by OSEA, a southern Californian line of clean skincare. I had the opportunity to try OSEA as part of a podcast advertising campaign in 2020, and while those first samples were free, I have since purchased my own OSEA products many times over, slowly replacing the other brands scattered across my countertop with OSEA’s cleansers, serums, and creams. I know there are a lot of high-quality skincare lines out there at a variety of price points, and that a consistent skincare routine is at least as important as the products you use. But if you’re in the market for a clean, botanical skincare line that’s a pleasure to use and looks great on your countertop, check out OSEA – and use the code MEAGAN for 10% off your first order.
About The Price
“But Meagan, this is, like, hundreds of dollars’ worth of skincare products.” Yep. It’s true! I did some quick math and I’ve recommended well over $500 worth of product above. If that feels totally out of reach (or just out of character!) for you, believe me, I get it. A couple of caveats: first, the OSEA products I’m recommending really are long-lasting if you don’t over-use them, and a little goes a long way. When I look at how I actually use these products, I’m actually using more like $75/mo worth. That’s still a significant amount, but I didn’t get there all at once. Like I shared in my “skincare monogamy” post, for years I have used the best BOGO deal at the drugstore, and only fairly recently started dabbling in higher-quality, cleaner skincare. For me, it’s been worth it to cut back in some other areas, like drinks out and a few streaming subscriptions I wasn’t really using – but I do realize that’s totally a personal choice and that budgets are tightening right now.
One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s relatively easy to find gentle, effective cleansers, toners, and facial oils at a lower price, but really good, effective moisturizers and serums are harder to find – and, in my experience, worth the splurge. So if you’re curious about upping your skincare game but just want to dip a toe in the OSEA waters (pun totally intended), I’d recommend starting with a serum and moisturizer (you can’t go wrong with the Hyaluronic Sea Serum and Atmosphere Protection Cream) and see what you think.
Either way, if you do purchase from OSEA be sure to use my code MEAGAN for 10% off your first order (and yes, I’ll earn a commission if you buy.) Bottom line: what’s made the biggest difference for me in both how my skin looks and feels AND how much I enjoy caring for it, is creating a consistent routine and sticking to it. You can do that with whatever products you love best or are at your preferred price point.
So if nothing else, I hope you’ll feel inspired to hone in your personal routine and reap the benefits. The nice thing is: you can start right now, with whatever you have in your bathroom cabinet.