What sparked my interest on this occasion was a post by the ethereally beautiful Dee on BOTOblog about her make-up regime, in which she explained that the condition of her skin (flawless, luminous, porcelain-like!) was largely down to her regular use of prescription retinoids, a derivative of Vitamin A. There is a fair body of scientific evidence to suggest that retinoids do indeed 'minimise the appearance of wrinkles, bolster the skin's thickness and elasticity, slow the breakdown of collagen, and lighten brown spots caused by sun exposure'. I was intrigued, but further research led me to conclude that prescription strength might not be for me, as the retinoid products are so much more potent than the OTC ones based around retinol.
|Danielle de Medeiros - major lid love and socket envy!
I figured that as Dee has 20 years on me, her skin is doubtless more resilient, while mine is older, thinner, dogged by acne and rosacea, and susceptible to allergic reactions at the drop of a drop of tea tree oil, or a smidge of zit-busting benzyl peroxide. There was also the possibility that I had neglected my skin for so long that it was in fact too late to perform anti-aging interventions - as I wrote in a comment on Dee's post, it might turn out to be a case of 'closing the stable pores after the collagen has bolted'. This sorry state of affairs is attributable to decades of blithely ignorant sunbathing abuse, compounded by no regular moisturising regime whatsoever till I was knocking on 40. The eye creams on the market for much of that time seemed to migrate into your eyes at night and sting like blazes, plus my vegan lodger prompted me to abort my brief flirtation with one of the major brands by claiming that its face creams contained minced deers' hoo-has, which must have been an apocryphal story that I should really have challenged.
|Source: wallpapersdb.org - female deer unwittingly kiboshing my early skincare regime
Though the jury was out as regards the chances of improving my skin tone at this late stage, I decided to chat to Tara of Olfactoria's Travels about her own preferences in this field of anti-aging skincare. She was also leaning towards a gentler approach involving OTC products, specifically Trilogy Rosehip Oil, which had garnered a lot of favourable reviews, and was available in Boots. So on the shopping list it went, and the other weekend I set off for Boots to pick up a bottle. As it turned out though, my local branch was too small to carry it, so instead my eye was drawn to another product from the Indeed Labs range - my dalliance with their Nanoblur cream is documented here.
Indeed Labs Retinol Reface seemed like the milder form of retinol treatment I was looking for - it promised to be 'moisturising as well as non-irritating, with no peeling, dryness or redness'. Moreover, Retinol Reface apparently contained not one but 3 types of retinol: a 'Rapid Action' form, a slower release form where the retinol is encapsulated into plant micro-spheres, and a retinol-like peptide, which mimics the behaviour of retinol, but is kinder to skin. Okay, so two types of retinol then, and a gentle interloper.
|Tara of Olfactoria's Travels, also looking radiant!
That night I eagerly applied what I took to be a small amount of the Reface cream to my whole face, though it is very hard to know what exactly is the correct amount - some of the blogs I read spoke of a pea-sized blob, but that doesn't seem to go very far - or even two. I took care to include the problem areas of age spots on my cheeks, lines above and either side of my mouth, plus the generally crepe-y bits above my eyes. Big mistake! The next morning I woke up to find the skin above my eyes had swelled up - not as badly as the time I went to sleep in the sun that I mentioned in my interview on Olfactoria's Travels, but enough to look angry, as though I had been bitten by a mosquito or something (which has also been known). Not bad enough to resort to shades but enough to make me self-conscious.
|Source: Wikipedia - collagen helix
The next night I applied the cream everywhere except near my eyes, and the night after that I chickened out completely and didn't apply it at all. My reading on the Internet suggests that puffiness of sensitive areas is not an uncommon side effect, and that the whole business of finding your skin's level of tolerance to these anti-aging products is a bit of a 'suck it and see' process.
Oh, and you are meant to wear 50 SPF sun cream during the day, all the while that you are applying the retinol product at night. Which meant a trip to Asda to find anything with that high a factor. Ambre Solaire came up trumps but it was very greasy - classic suncream rather than moisturiser - such that I didn't want to go out looking that shiny, on top of having the puffy eyes! But because I only applied the cream twice, I ended up only wearing the sun cream for one day. It felt counter-intuitive on an overcast day in mid-October, I have to say.
So anyway, having stopped using the retinol cream for the moment, I concentrated on trying to reduce the puffiness above my eyes, and tried eye baths and compresses of hot and cold tea bags to little effect. Two and a half weeks on, the eyelids are still a bit puffier than I remember them as being, but it just looks as though I have aged slightly. Which is of course rather ironic, but there you go!
I do plan to have another bash with the Reface cream, keeping clear of the eyes next time, obviously. After all, I got pretty good results with Indeed Labs' sister product, Nanoblur, especially on the fine lines above my top lip.
And meanwhile I have invested in another product that Tara tipped me off about - Dermalogica gentle cream exfoliant, but haven't had a chance to use it yet. I have never exfoliated my face before, and the rest of me only about once every couple of years. I vividly remember Mr Bonkers complaining about the state of the bath afterwards. I guess I am part of the 'pot of Nivea and ChapStick generation', tending to moisturise only when skin starts to resemble a cracked delta or actually sloughs off. But as with pensions, so with skincare, it is something best started young when the idea seems almost incongruous. Yes, it really is a case of a stitch in time saves nine. Or a splodge or a slather, if you will.
And meanwhile, if I can't quite manage to peel back the years, I can always hide behind my hair.
UPDATE - December 2013
Right, so I have had another tentative dabble with the Retinol Reface product, being most careful to avoid the eye area, and have had no problems with sensitivity elsewhere on my face - am putting it on my forehead (major ploughed field zone!), cheeks and chin. I get a slight tingling at best, but I reckon my skin has now grown accustomed to the product. I have been using Retinol Reface on and off for about two weeks now - I don't do consistent regimes where beauty products are concerned ;) - and have the impression that my forehead looks a bit smoother, and maybe also the grooves either side of my mouth. Not sure the vertical lip lines directly above my mouth are improved - if anything they look longer than I remember, but maybe I just haven't noticed their inexorable march! But I will keep going, as I think the peptides part of the formulation may be helping plump out my deep frown lines at least.