It's a jarring moment when you look in the mirror and can actually see that you've aged. It doesn't occur to you gradually; it just hits you like a ton of bricks one day out of the blue. For me, this moment happened shortly after my 27th birthday. At one moment, I was being asked what college I attended, and the next, a stranger had assumed we were both entering our 30s. Perhaps this could be chalked up to long-term sun exposure or frequent makeup-clad snoozes, or maybe this is just the reality of a face of a 28-year-old, and I need to, well, face it.
Statistically speaking, if I'd chosen to get Botox to temper the fine lines and sullen skin that was staring back at me in the mirror, I'd be among a large grouping of millennial men and women. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Botox procedures have seen a 28% increase since 2010 while dermal fillers have seen a 32% increase since 2010 among the age group 20 to 29. As a preventative measure, Botox positions the muscle underneath the injection site upright so that you're unable to contort your face in such a way that causes depressions in the skin; though, if it's done conservatively, you'll be able to maintain natural movement. There are no known side effects, save for swelling. Arguably the only downside is the steep cost: $500 to $1000 per year or upkeep session.
I'm certainly not against Botox—several of my friends and colleagues have been injected and were met with smooth, line-free foreheads and lifted complexions. But after a frightening personal encounter with filler, I'm not emotionally ready to tango with needles in my face again just yet. And while I truly feel that an in-office visit yields better results than products, I've found a routine that's made a marked difference in my skin, no appointment necessary. I'm considering this my preventative measure before gravity renders itself enemy number one and I need to take a more invasive measure. Ahead, find my Botox-alternative routine.
Your skin's barrier is made up of lipids (or fatty acids and oils) that hold in moisture and fend off bacteria and environmental aggressors. When the barrier is damaged by things like extreme temperatures or irritants, it begins to crack, and that moisture seeps out as bacteria seeps in. A healthy barrier allows the skin to be juicy and plump, but when your first line of defense is compromised, your skin becomes dry, flaky, and prone to fine lines and wrinkles.
To help keep my own barrier intact, I use celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau's Moisture Protecting Cleanser, a gentle gel-to-milk formula that nourishes my skin while removing even the thickest coats of mascara. I'm never left with that dry, tight feeling I get from harsher formulas.
While my skin is still damp after cleansing (if you leave your skin bare for more than a minute, it'll start to dehydrate), I soak a cotton pad with this calming toner and really drench my skin in it while simultaneously wiping off any foundation that was left behind. The elderberry component provides antioxidants to protect the skin as well as reduce inflammation. It's also super moisturizing to provide a lush base for the rest of my products.
I'm all about intensely hydrated skin, and dehydrated skin leads to premature aging. As such, I love layering on this ultra-moisturizing serum with hyaluronic acid encapsulated in Japanese seaweed to help drive the ingredients deep into the skin.
While it's a hefty price for a small bottle, this serum is the Rolls-Royce of serums. Epidermal growth factors derived from plants help to boost collagen and elastin while hyaluronic acid provides intense hydration. Just one small droplet covers my entire face (it's got a bit of a viscous consistency, so it spreads nicely). I've noticed the fine lines in my forehead diminish. It's my desert-island product.
This at-home peel is one of those products I can't ever see myself quitting. By using acids to exfoliate dead skin cells, you're encouraging increased cell turnover and collagen production, which then helps minimize the look of fine lines. It also imparts a healthy glow, which is much needed on days when my skin could use a bit of a revival.
This has been one of It Cosmetics' hero products for ages, and I'd only recently rediscovered it and made it a staple in my routine. It's rich, but not in a way that feels heavy on your skin or causes breakouts. Instead, my skin is super soft and bouncy each morning after applying it the night before. It's also an incredible base for makeup thanks to smoothing dimethicone, an ingredient found in many primers.
I used this retinol cream every other night leading up to my wedding, and my skin was incredibly smooth and (dare I say) lifted on the day and well into my honeymoon. I appreciate retinol even more when it comes from a dermatologist-developed medical-grade brand and trust that it'll do what it claims (read: boosted collagen and fewer lines), which, so far, it has.
Unlike other charcoal masks, this particular variation comes packed with an impressive blend of exfoliating acids (glycolic, salicylic acid, lactic, mandelic, pyruvic, and tartaric acid) to brighten the skin and remove dullness and congestion. I use this as an SOS when my skin is being taken over by my hormones each month, and the result is that of an instant facial.