beauty lock Subscriber Exclusive

Mia Freedman: My skin's the best it's ever been. Here are the changes I made to my routine in my 40s.

I turned 50 last year and my skin has never been better. 

I don’t mean that I look like I’m 25 or even 35. Do I look 45? Who cares. The truth is that whatever I look like, it’s a version of 50 because that’s my age.

But I have never been happier with my skin, not at any age.

Until the last few years, I wasn’t much interested in skincare. It always seemed like the boring sister in the beauty family. 

Makeup? Yes please. Haircare? Yep. Lots of instant gratification in those categories. But skincare is a longer burn. A slower payoff.

So whenever I walked into Mecca or Sephora, I would turn in the direction of the makeup. Skincare was an afterthought.

A friend who used to work at Mecca and who is now the co-founder of the cult sunscreen brand Ultra Violette, once explained to me that there are certain things that women consider ‘grudge purchases’. 

We buy them because we have to but we feel resentful about having to pay money for something we perceive as obligatory and we derive no joy from using it. It’s a chore.

Sunscreen is a grudge purchase for women and that was the problem, Ava and her co-founder Bec aimed to solve when they decided to start their own company. And by god, they did.

In my teens, my twenties and my thirties, skincare was also a grudge purchase.

Yeah, I bought it. Sometimes I even splurged on something a bit fancy but I would always rather spend my money on makeup or clothes.

Then I turned 40. That’s a lie, actually. I still felt that way up until I was in my late 40s.

It’s only in the past couple of years I've fallen deeply in love with skincare.

For what it’s worth, I have not had Botox, filler or any kind of tweakment.


Maybe I will and no judgement if you already have. I don’t think I’m better than you. I just think it’s helpful for women of all ages to know that Botox doesn’t have to be a given or a baseline, even when you are as vain as I am (I’m so vain).

One more thing: the 11 things I’m about to tell you about do not necessarily involve you buying expensive products or more products. 

Some of them are about things I’ve STOPPED doing or using. Some of them are free. And there are always cheaper options for most products that you can find in the chemist. 

Have a listen to the You Beauty podcast and sign up for the You Beauty Newsletter for expert advice.

You can listen to You Beauty here, by the way. Post continues below.

This is just me, a 50-year-old vain woman, telling you the changes I’ve made that have changed my skin.

1. I fell in love with Caroline Hirons.

This is how it started, really. 

Almost every change I’ve made has been because of her and she’s not let me down once. 

A couple of my friends told me to follow her on Instagram and then I dived deep and buying her book changed my life. Or at least my face.

Before I read Skin Care, I was really intimidated by... skincare. 

I didn’t understand what a chemical exfoliant was or what retinol did and what was a serum really and did I need toner and dear god I feel overwhelmed so maybe I’ll just buy another lipstick because I know what to do with that.

Caroline made it easy. 

She’s a beauty expert, has trained in hundreds of different brands and is the most no-bullshit woman on the planet and she is my guru. 

Order her  book but if you’re too impatient for that, there is so much gold on her website.

Image: Supplied. 

Go for the skincare advice, stay for the lols. And you can hear my No Filter episode with her here.

2. I stopped using cleansing wipes.

Wipes make Caroline very cross. 

She says they should only be used “for festivals, flights and fannies”. By that she means the very rare occasion when you don’t have access to running water and you need to be clean. 

Apart from being terrible for the environment, Caroline points out that only using cleansing wipes on your face is like only using toilet paper and never having a shower. 

And yes, that mental picture will now stay with you as long as it has stayed with me. Enough said.

3. I stopped putting my face in the shower.

I have always preferred cleansing in the shower, morning and night. 

For some reason I don’t like splashing water on my face over a sink. I don’t know why. So until a couple of years ago, I would cleanse my face in the shower and then just rinse the cleanser off by putting my face under the running shower water. 

Terrible idea, apparently. Huge mistake. Hot water is very bad for faces. And it also isn’t very effective at removing all your cleanser, especially if it’s a balm or an oil.

So now I keep a pile of face washers in my bathroom and use one in the shower to remove my cleanser. I wet it under the water, squeeze it out so that it’s not too hot, and then pop it over my face and wipe off all the product which also feels lovely on my skin.

4. I started double cleansing at night.

In the morning, I just use a regular cleanser. 

I love Tatcha Rice wash, oh my god I could write a song about that cleanser. It’s like having an orgasm on your face and I can’t even explain why. Treat yourself some time. 

At night though, I double cleanse. First with a balm or oil to dissolve makeup and sunscreen. 

I like the Clinique Take The Day Off cleansing balm. 

My second cleanse is with either my Tatcha cleanser again or a Sukin one or the Esmi Uncomplicated cleanser... anything, really. 

Just nothing that foams because that’s way too stripping.

5. I stopped using eye cream.

This is my most recent change and I feel liberated. 

I used to think that eye products were more active than normal facial skincare because that’s the place where fine lines are most visible but in fact, the opposite is true. 

Most eye products are more gentle because the skin is thinner and more sensitive. 

I want maximum bang for my skincare buck around my eyes so now I just use my regular skincare all over my face including the eye area.

It’s cheaper and faster and I’m stoked.

6. I bought all the serums.

For a long time I didn’t know the difference between a moisturiser and a serum. Now I do. 

All you need to know is that serums are more active. They do more things. Moisturisers are more about keeping your skin hydrated and sealing in the other stuff underneath. They’re not very... active.

During the pandemic, I numbed my rising panic with serums. All the serums. I would layer my serums, two or three in the morning and the same at night. 

Serums are a great idea for treating specific issues like pigmentation or dehydration or fine lines. I slapped them all over my face like paint. If one serum was good? Six serums must be GREAT.

7... I learned what happens when you use too many serums.

My skin told me to fuck off. 

It became inflamed, itchy, sensitive and sore. 

Sometimes this would happen in patches (my neck was particularly pissed off with me) and it would sometimes get to the point where even a basic moisturiser would hurt. 

This obviously made me sad because it meant that I couldn’t use my serums to soothe my big pandemic feelings. 

That’s when I discovered a few good products to use when your skin loses it or, as my friend and beauty guru Leigh Campbell says, “when you have disrupted your acid mantle”.

Leigh suggested Waleda nappy rash cream which is lovely. Also, the Avene range do some good calming products. 

A better idea, of course, is to not irritate your skin in the first place and resist the temptation to use all of the serums at once. Try that.

The other problem when you overuse serums and your skin reacts badly, you can’t be sure if you’re having a bad reaction to a particular product or whether it’s just a clusterfuck of active ingredients on your face. 

I now limit myself to two serums. Better and also cheaper.

8. I started using vitamin C.

During the first lockdown, my friend Lyndall, who works in the beauty industry, told me I needed to use the La Roche Posay Vitamin C serum

I liked this because I could buy it at the chemist where I had to go regularly to get antibiotics for my pneumonia. It was the only fun purchase in my basket that wasn’t medicinal. I was instantly smitten. 

The smell is sublime but the purpose of Vitamin C as an ingredient is to brighten your skin. I use it every morning after I get out of the shower and then I just put sunscreen over the top.

A few months ago, when I went to see my dermatologist for the first time in 20 years, she told me to use Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. I don’t know what the E or the ferulic are and it’s very expensive but I do what she tells me because she is almost 60 and she hasn’t had Botox or fillers and her skin is magnificent.

Perplexingly, this product smells strongly of ham and I am a vegetarian but I use it religiously every morning under my sunscreen, even around my eyes (she said I could do that) and I love it, even the smell. 

Definitely helped my pigmentation and makes my skin less dull.

9. I started using retinol.

I never used to understand what retinol is and to be honest I still don’t really but I know that I need it and I know it’s made my skin look a lot better. 

Apparently it’s about regenerating something something but again, people much smarter than me say that women should start using retinol around our late thirties so by the time I hit my mid-forties I thought I should probably get my shit together and get on board.

Retinol can be confusing to get your head around because the amount of retinol in a skincare product is not always clear so my dermatologist gave me this advice for someone my age.

Start on a mild one in whatever range you like (I’m using Skinceuticals because she said it was good) and use it every second night, even around your eyes. 

Start to build up to every night and when your skin can handle that (and doesn’t feel get red or irritated) and you run out of the product, the next one you buy can be the next strength up in that same range. 

I’m currently using the Skinceuticals 0.3 every night and I probably have a few more weeks until I need a new tube and graduate to the 0.5.

10. I stopped putting my chest in the sun.

Your face stops at your nipples. 

That’s the beauty wisdom I only learned in my forties and what it means is that you should continue your skincare routine down to your chest.

I don’t think you need to go all the way to the nips because unless you sunbaked topless your whole life, your actual breast skin is probably much less sun damaged than your chest or face. But my upper chest is a bit of a garbage fire. 

The pigmentation and texture is much worse than on my face because I pretty much neglected it until a couple of years ago when I got serious about giving it some TLC. 

Now I exfoliate it a few times a week with something like ALPHA-H Liquid Gold Midnight Reboot Serum or BIOSSANCE Squalane + Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum but I’ve learned the hard way that my chest is much more sturdy than my neck which can’t handle a strong exfoliant or nightly retinol so I pace myself there.

11. I found a sunscreen I love.

This was sparked by another bit of wisdom from Leigh Campbell: the best sunscreen is the one you’ll use every day. 

Only you can say what that is. 

I find that if it’s in any way greasy or leaves a white film on my face, then forget it. 

Fine for the beach but not for everyday. 

I really do think Ultra Violette changed the game on this. It’s no accident that Caroline Hirons named their company her best brand of 2021. 

They have a bunch of different formulations but my favourite is the Supreme Screen, the smell of which I inhale deeply from my hands after I’ve put it on every day. I love the shit out of it. 

Highly commended is another cult sunscreen product, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+.

Think you’re in perimenopause? Hot? Sweaty? Brain fog? Help is on the way! The Very Peri Summit, presented by Mamamia is coming soon. Join the waitlist to be the first to know when discounted early bird tickets go on sale.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Want to have your voice heard? Plus have the chance to win $100? Take our survey now.

Unlock unlimited access to the best content for women