The Counter: The Post-Product Era

Dec 4, 2023

When I was in my 20s, I bought every trendy nail polish, eye color, and lip gloss.  Sure, I could only wear them on the weekends, but why not wear emerald green liner?  In my 30s, I became enamored with skincare and took every “must-have” product for a spin.  But in my 40s, my skin has passed the place where Sephora can cure what ails me, and my makeup routine is as simple as I can make it.

So what does a beauty counter-loving lady do when her life leaves the need for the latest and greatest products behind?  She still tries new products, but far fewer.  She still watches makeup tutorials, but fewer.  And she still reads Allure, but only sporadically.

If you find yourself in a similar place, The Counter is the post for you.  This feature will be about simplicity and ease in your makeup, skincare, and hair care routine.  But let’s start by talking about where my own routines sit now.  Because while I use to love an all-night personal grooming regimen, that’s just not my life anymore.

My Morning Routine // I wash my face with Joanna Vargas’s Miracle Bar and a silicone exfoliator.  I use the exfoliator as needed.  Then, I apply a Vitamin C serum and a light, gel moisturizer.  If you’re looking for a drugstore-priced C-serum, my aesthetician uses this one from Target.

My Nighttime Routine // I was my face with this gentle cleanser from Target. I apply an eye cream and moisturizer and go to sleep.  I am seeing a dermatologist in a few weeks to get a prescription for Retin-A, but until then, I’m laying off the serums and treatments.

Sunscreen // A few weeks ago, I started following Dr. Ellen Gendler on Instagram.  She recently explained the difference between US sunscreen and European sunscreen.  Essentially, in the US, sunscreen is regulated as a drug by the FDA, and in Europe sunscreen is regulated as a cosmetic.  As a result, the products are not updated regularly in the US and the European products have better technology.

I buy this one on Care to Beauty.com.  And even though these sell a US-version of that product, it’s not the same, sadly.

Nail Polish // For fall, I’m wearing one of three nail polish colors on my toes.  I love Bogota Blackberry, it’s a deep berry with a bit of shimmer.  Squeaker of the House, a mocha brown, is a lovely shade as well.  The other one I’ve been using is Essie Sexy Divide.  As you know, I LOVED NARS Purple Rain, and they have sadly stopped making it (weep) and this is the closest shade that I have found.

Hair // As you know, I started going grey at 31.  Now, from what little of my roots I see in between coloring appointments, things have advanced.  Given that I have a one-year-old, I am just not ready to go grey yet.  But I am interested in this Arey product line, which claims to re-pigment hair.  If anyone has tried it, please leave your thoughts in the comments.  I would love to hear about your experiences.

Beyond that, I just us this gloss conditioner to touch up my color every few washes to keep it looking fresh.  And while I’m usually happy to roll through a set of roots in-between touch ups, if I have an event, I’ve been using this root covering spray to tone down the grey.

Cosmetic Procedures // We have reached the point where skincare requires real intervention by trained professionals.  As I mentioned above, I’m headed to see a dermatologist and plastic surgeon in a few weeks.  I’ve never done Botox or much of anything, so I suppose it’s time.  I will likely be pursuing a few peels for skin texture (the ice pick acne scarring needs to be dealt with) and a laser treatment for the varicose veins I developed while pregnant.

Whether to engage the services of a cosmetic surgeon is something I go back and forth about, but while I’m not ready for surgical procedures, I think there is plenty else that I could do.  And the older I get, and the more things begin to melt, I realize that you have to do what you have to do to maintain your confidence in your appearance.

Next week, I want to talk about makeup and give an update on my switch to Merit makeup.  So where do you find yourself cutting back or toning down your routine?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

{this post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author}

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  1. Sophia says:

    I’ve also cut back on my makeup routine. I’d rather spend my limited time & budget on skincare. Using Retin – A for the past few years has been a game changer for me. The difference it’s made in the texture, firmness and wrinkle reduction has been dramatic and I hope you love it as much as I do. There is an adjustment period. Unfortunately, I never adjusted well to what my derm prescribed. I was finally influenced to try Agency and I’ll never go back. If you’re consistent and use sunscreen it’s like magic, lol

  2. strin012 says:

    I found out earlier this year that I have skin allergies to several cosmetic ingredients, including dyes and fragrances (which includes most plant-based ingredients). I have an app that helps me puzzle out which products are safe to try, but SO many have dyes or fragrance that my universe of possibilities is super narrow. Saves a good bit of money, though!

  3. K says:

    I’ve used Arey for about 6 months. I don’t think there is anything special about it, nor do I think it has a positive impact on slowing down the grey. It’s fine as a typical conditioner and maybe my grey hairs (probably 25-30% of my hair) is beyond help!

  4. Allison says:

    I’m 48 with a 1 year old and quite a bit of (undyed) silver hair and I love it. There are lots of ways to feel beautiful and confident as we age!

    • Katy says:

      +100. That sounds beautiful and I totally agree with the sentiment.

    • Belle says:

      I am the oldest mother in my daughter’s music class by 14 years. I am not ready to be grey. I know exactly one mother of a <2 year old who is over 40 in Spokane. If I lived in DC or a place where it was common to be my age with a baby, I would care a lot less.

  5. Kate says:

    The link to the VitC serum doesn’t link to a specific product for me? (Just to the Blue Mercury one generally.) Looking for a new one and would love your rec!

  6. Lucy says:

    Would love to hear more about your experience with the dpHUE gloss – I’ve been thinking about trying something similar to help with the grays in between hair appointments.

  7. Jordan says:

    Love this post and excited for this series! I would love to get an update to your switch to Merit makeup. I bought a few Merit products at your recommendation but would appreciate any tips you have on how to get the most out of their products. I’ve never covered under eye circles with makeup but I’m starting to feel it might be necessary but I have no idea where to start… But I always value your advice and tips!

  8. Jessica says:

    At your rec, I’ve been using Merit for 2 months – and absolutely love the products. As a mom of 2 elementary kids who get on the bus at 6:50am, I have exactly 10 minutes after they leave to get myself ready. Merit is easy, adjustable, and feels amazing. According to my aesthetician, it’s easier on my pores than my previous products (here’s looking at you, Charlotte Tilbury). Am not ready to conquer the grey hairs yet, as I know once I start there is no going back.

    • Jessica says:

      Am also anxiously awaiting your experience/rec’s for Botox, fillers, etc. My much younger coworkers are obsessed but I’m hesitant.

      • Belle says:

        I won’t be doing filler. An acquaintance is a plastic surgeon. He explained a few weeks ago that it migrates, that when he does surgery on women he often finds filler cms from where it started. He is of the opinion that the industry isn’t interested in studying the real impacts of filler because the money is there. It’s just one doc’s opinion, but it persuaded me.

  9. Cheryl says:

    I’m a woman with a multiple-layered life turning 70 next February. I continue to ranch, now in my 43rd year of it, was a legislative spouse with 24 years of service, I serve on a national livestock board, had my children at 34 and 39, and volunteer. Doesn’t sound like much to some, but it is a very full life.
    Abra, the Western female world needs to take a deep breath and realize that our confidence doesn’t need the embellishment of looks as defined by
    profit-oriented cosmetic and media corporations.
    We, ourselves, as human works in progress. are enough. Our achievements, our works, our thoughts, our goals, are enough. Unrealistic, perfectionistic beauty goals as defined by someone else looking to turn a profit are just plain damaging.
    I do still view makeup and clothing as our ‘armor’ against a sometimes hostile world, also something kind of fun to play with. I thank you from the deep recesses of my being for introducing me to MM LaFleur, M Gemi and The Ordinary. Their products help me to present my ‘armored’ self which reflects the confidence gained by education and work experiences.
    I think plastic surgery, unless to correct true disfigurement from accidents or birth, is a crime against nature. A media world insisting we turn ourselves into plastic (sorry, silicone) versions of ourselves pushes out and out lies onto us, perpetuating the storyline that we as we truly are, are not enough.
    Abra, I have seen you working your butt off at our Legislature juggling the balls in the air, and you are a truly beautiful, talented, polished and accomplished woman. I don’t know where you find the time to do all that you do, but I salute you and every other woman keeping the interlocking gears of family, relationships, work and our society going. And backwards in 5-inch (well-padded) heels. Hear us roar.

  10. Jamie says:

    One light Botox application and you’ll lose your enthusiasm for almost all of these skincare products.

  11. Meaghan says:

    If you like Ellen Gendler, try @mrs.derm. One of my 2 insta subscriptions. She’s married to a derm and provides really great info on skincare, procedures, etc.

  12. Jen says:

    Just wanted to offer a tip: I’ve been using the L’Oreal Magic Root Cover Spray in dark brown between coloring appts for several years now. I use a wire hanger (like a dry cleaning hanger) to cover my side part while spraying. Just take the hanger and bend it to kind of fit your head. Keeps a thin part line from getting covered up. Takes a tiny bit of practice, but orks perfectly every time! I keep my hair color hanger on a hook in my my bathroom cabinet!

  13. Claire says:

    A dermatologist once told me just to do Botox and Retin-A, wear sunscreen and moisturize, and to save my money on anything else. And that the Hollywood elite micro dose with Accutane b/c is actually shrinks pores. I’ll do Retin-A and Botox all day over Accutane- that’s where I draw the line!

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