Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Eczema-friendly anti-ageing night creams: ouch-proof contenders to suit every budget

Pinky's improvised throne from a box insert

About ten years ago, on the same day in Brussels I had the strange experience of a teenager giving up his seat for me on the Metro, and being kerb crawled in the red light district into which I had inadvertently strayed. I remember joking to friends at the time that I was "on the cusp between cougar and care home". The same was true in dermatological terms, for back then I had acne and wrinkles. To the list I have added a Vitamin E allergy and eyelid eczema / contact dermatitis, about which I wrote a longer post here. (Scary photo alert!)

I haven't been troubled too much by incidents of eczema this summer  - or not since June, say - when there is a confluence of pollens, but one of my eyes has recently gone that way again (wrinkly top and bottom, and sore to the touch). I think this is due to a new serum that has a number of allergens in it, most notably lavender. I should know better really than to put it round my eyes. Hey, I don't even like lavender, but it was heavily discounted!

Now recycled into coasters for pots of cream

There is nothing for it but to desist from using the serum and wait for the reaction to subside, as it usually does. I don't need to alter my night time routine though, as I already have an armoury of benign unguents at my disposal. To be fair the bar is set pretty low in terms of what I look for in a cream, and goes something like this:

1) non-irritating, especially around the eyes

2) a pleasingly hydrating feeling on application, whether the cream is thick or thin

3) anti-ageing ingredients of some kind (ceramides and peptides being the most eczema-friendly)

So for anyone curious, here is a trio of night creams to suit different budgets. I use them on (a very haphazard) rotation. Well, I don't use the Drunk Elephant one anymore as it is used up, and I only kept the pot for photographic purposes, in anticipation of this post. 

Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream (£50 - Cult Beauty)

6 Whipped African Oils & Ceramides

I hadn't heard of any of these African oils, the names of which I will spare you - they seem pretty recherché, and how pray does one whip an oil? I found this product on Beautypedia, where it had garnered a coveted 5 star rating from Paula Begoun. It comes in a beautiful mauve, white and grey box, with a striking monochrome design for the packaging insert. It is an airless jar with a "press-pump action", which I had to watch a YouTube video to figure out, haha. This design is said to be more hygienic and to inhibit the growth of bacteria that you get with pots you can dip your fingers in. Or is it something to do with the degradation of the product's active ingredients through the process of oxidation - or quite possibly both? I know Paula is very hot on pumps, but frankly I don't care too much about this aspect, for as my mother used to say: "You eat a peck of dirt before you die." And by inference apply it to your face too. She herself stuck her fingers in a pot of Pond's Cold Cream all her adult life and it didn't do her any harm. But maybe by the same token the product didn't do her any good, as it had gone rancid on the quiet - oh, I don't know. But speaking for myself, I am not as pump-orientated as is the modern way, even if I should be. Now initially when I tried this cream I had a bad reaction - my whole face felt very hot and burning for several nights in fact, but suddenly all that subsided and my face had obviously adjusted to the novelty of the whipped African oils. Perhaps they whip your skin in fact?? That would explain it. The  product is strikingly unscented - almost bizarrely so, when you think of the price tag - it smells more like something you might be prescribed rather than a high end niche product you have bought with your own money. It has a medium rich texture, and lasts quite a while, though the lid gets hard to press when there is very little left in the pot, which reminded me of trying to keep your balance on one of those wobble board things. 

Would I rebuy? No, not at £50 - I was feeling a bit maudlin during lockdown and wanted to treat myself, and I did enjoy it to the last blob. I have cut up the packaging insert and put a piece on my pinboard, leaving the rest to serve as (very small) coasters.

It is not as mauve as it looks in this photo!

Cerave PM Facial Moisturising Lotion (£18.98 - Amazon UK)

With 3 essential ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid

I have been using this product for years!, and already sang its praises in another dermatitis-themed post. It is another five star product on Beautypedia and I wouldn't need to feature it again only the formulation has changed, as Paula notes in her review:

"One point we do want to address: several people have contacted us saying that the updated formula stings their skin. This might be due to a potentially higher concentration of niacinamide in the formula, but niacinamide typically doesn't cause this reaction and most people tolerate even high amounts of it without incident. Another culprit could be the higher amount of pH-adjusting ingredient sodium hydroxide, which wasn't present in the original formula."

I did indeed find this cream quite stinging to start with, but after avoiding the eye area for a bit (which is where La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Yeux comes in (with thanks to Undina for the introduction!), my skin gradually got accustomed to it, and now I can slather the stuff on with abandon anywhere on my face. Though "slather" isn't quite the right word, as the lotion is correctly described as "Ultra Lightweight" - in texture if not in its ingredients, as you can see.

Would I rebuy? Absolutely. I am on my first bottle of the new version, but must have got through a good half dozen bottles of the old. While holidaying in New York, ex-Mr Bonkers and his girlfriend at the time kindly made a detour to a drugstore to pick up three bottles for me on a "three for two" offer. He Whatsapped me a photo of his girlfriend holding the product aloft in her pink nail polished hand(!) to check they had found the correct one. It is a US brand you see, and is hard to find in UK stores. The price quoted above is from Amazon - you can get other items from the Cerave range in both Boots and Superdrug, but I have only ever found this PM moisturiser online.

Nivea Hyaluron Cellular Filler (£15.75 - Boots)

Pure hyaluronic acid and collagen booster 

Right, so after my Drunk Elephant had finally keeled over, I found myself searching for a slightly richer cream that would make a comforting change from the lightweight Cerave above, especially after acid toning when I don't really want anything too heavy on the anti-ageing ingredients front in case the combined effects might cause a bad reaction. I turned to this budget night cream (which has some pretention of anti-ageing benefits) from Nivea. It is admittedly a finger dipper, but as I mentioned above I am not fazed by this, and even prefer the sensual act of dipping compared to wiping off the paltry dollop dispensed to me by the Drunk Elephant. I realise I am going completely against the tide of current thinking on the matter, so please feel free to shoot me down in flames. This cream is scented, but only gently, in the way that all products from the Nivea stable tend to be - it is a familiar, soothing fragrance that I couldn't really describe. I see Limonene, Linalool, Citronellol and Geraniol - and unspecified Parfum! - are listed, suggesting a citrus, rosy kind of leaning, but it is more elusive than that. Overall, I found this cream to be punching above its price tag in terms of a "luxury" feel.

Would I rebuy? You bet - I just sprung for my second jar, which is accolade indeed, as only a few products make it onto the repeat list. I can't find any reviews of substance on the Net, nor is it on Paula's radar that I can see. I don't know what the collagen booster consists of either, though  Macadamia oil and Magnolia bark are amongst the ingredients, so it might be them.

NB Honourable mention goes to Eucerin Eczema Relief Flare-Up Treatment (Colloidal Oatmeal Skin Protectant Cream / Ceramide 3 Enriched).

Eucerin is a Beiersdorf brand, ie the same stable as Nivea, and is well regarded on the dermatologist circuit. I'd say this product is more for calming angry skin during a flare up than something to be used every day. It has a bit of an anti-ageing angle, but is more about its emollient effects. I include this for any American readers in particular, as it is the very devil to get hold of in Britain - I bought it via Amazon in the end, but it took forever to come from the States. It is currently on a deep discount compared to what I paid though - just £7.30, plus £4 postage - so if your complexion is currently in distress, this will sort it out. I have been prescribed a colloidal oatmeal lotion through the doctor as well, which was similar in texture and general feel, though it lacked any ceramides - AproDerm, in a ginormous tub with a pump mechanism. Now that's more like it...;)


Anonymous said...

Thank you - that's really interesting information, and just what I wanted to read. Lavender isn't the innocent angel everyone thinks it is, and I have sometimes had a reaction to the essential oil. It doesn't always calm one mentally either, I think it depends on an individual's genetic makeup.

I use Cerave, but not that PM version which of course I will now buy.

Hope your eczema clears up soon. The Aveeno range contains non-colloidal oats - have you tried any of those products?


Tara said...

Hi V
With my love of skincare I really enjoyed this. I have the Proteini cream but will investigate the Lala. I have wondered if it might be too heavy.
I know Avene is a French sensitive skin brand but don't know if they do anti-ageing creams.
I currently have a free 30 day free trial of the much hyped Beauty Pie so if you like the look of anything on there let me know and I'll order it for you at the cheap members' price.

Tara said...

I forgot to add that Drunk Elephant consider fragrance to be one of the 'Suspicious Six'. Also that Caroline Hirons says there's nothing wrong with jars these days because preservatives have become so good.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

I think lavender is indeed a very individual thing, as you say. If you order the Cerave PM and find it stings initially, hang on in there for if the stinging subsided on me, it will on everyone. ;) Maybe avoid the eye area just to be safe at the start. It really is packed with good stuff and I haven't found a bad review of it, just that caveat I quoted.

I have tried Aveeno, yes, and it is good, but not really anti-ageing? Good for calming, for sure. It may have Vitamin E (that I try to avoid) in some of the varieties, but I can't quite recall now.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I do look up to you as the skincare queen! The Lala is not too thick - do you remember the Cerave AM or the one in the big tub you sent me a sample of once? I did find that too thick, as I do Creme de la Mer and quite a few of the iconic night creams. The Lala hits the spot for me, texture-wise, as my skin is combination rather than dry. The absence of fragrance is startling though!

I have used some Avene creams and they were all too thick, but calming as billed. I smiled at the thought of the "Suspicious Six" and want to know what the other five are now, though I could probably guess a couple, knowing CH. What good news about tubs coming back into favour, as I use the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm in that way too. I am a happy dipper, basically. ;)

Thanks for the Beauty Pie offer! Will take a look...

Unknown said...

Drunk Elephant's Suspicious Six are -
drying alcohols, silicones, SLS, chemical screens, essential oils and fragrances/dyes.

I know Sali Hughes loves the Lala Retro cream so assumed it was for very dry skin.

Vanessa said...

Thanks Unknown!

I do avoid chemical screens, drying alcohols, SLS and essential oils, but silicones are rather nice on my skin, as in my favourite Olay Regenerist Serum, which glides on because of them.

The Lala cream really isn't too thick - I definitely don't like rich moisturisers and this feels just right.

Vanessa said...

Ah, I misread your comment, T - it is Drunk Elephant who invented the 'Suspicious Six'...though I bet CH has her own selections - possibly a dozen, even!

Undina said...

I have no idea how I missed this post! I think I still don’t recognize your new delivery service (maybe we should look at the settings to see if it’s possible to change what is shown as a sender).

My eye eczema comes and goes. I suspect, I aggravate it by makeup experiments and some of my skincare. When it happens, I go back to the most basic set of everything. Then later I introduce more products - and it repeats :) I’m not patient enough to meticulously include/exclude just 1 product at a time to figure out what causes my reactions. So, today I’m back to a couple of basic products waiting for eyes to calm down.

I use spatulas to get creams out of pots/jars. I blame Paula! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

No worries! I do get notifications myself from, but they are quite slow to come through after the post has gone up.

I had a week-long episode of eczema in France this time, and wondered if it might even be the woodsmoke from all the log fires I was lighting. That is listed in fact as an official irritant. Like you, I normally go back to basics, but I didn't have my basic products out there with me, so I bought some Avene Cicalfate in the chemist only to find it had Vitamin E (tocopherol acetate) in it and it stung quite a bit! ;( My eyes are a lot better now I am home and reunited with my full range of remedies. Like you I am not patient enough to do that elimination test to find the culprit, especially when it could be an allergen in the air in my case.

Paula has a lot to answer for!