Conversations With Old People: Let’s talk to Aunt Jo about skincare basics!

When I was in high school and college, this seemed to be THE routine:

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Cleanser. Toner. Moisturizer.

Some people used Noxzema instead. Maybe an Oxy pad if you had that teen acne? I had some fancy aunts who were using a Bobbi Brown “system.” I sold Estee Lauder for a bit to the rich ladies who couldn’t live without their night creams. Occasionally I heard about a special eye cream. Bit it was still. Cleanser. Toner. Moisturizer. WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED. I love The Ordinary, but what is all this? You can’t shop unless you are an actual scientist? I am, of course, but still. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

To find out, I asked my Aunt Jo! She’s worked in skin care for 30 years and has been THROUGH IT. She got me that job shilling makeup to rich ladies and has since moved on to rep some of the most luxury skincare in the states. So, Aunt Jo, WUT IS UP WITH SKINCARE? Teach me.

Molly: Hey Aunt Jo! Am I crazy or did we all use cleanser, toner, and then some lotion? Where did toner go?

Aunt Jo: Technology! Toner, as we knew it, was really to pick up residue left behind by your cleanser. Most had that very alcoholic bite that we remember. That pulled off the residue left from washing, shrunk pores, and PH balanced your skin (cleansers used to pull your skin too high). Now, cleansers are so much better – they wash away much better and cleaner, most are already PH balanced. The need for the alcohol based toner just disappeared. Now we start at the same place right after cleansing as we did after toning. The remaining issues – pores, firming, etc – got swept into specialty targeted treatments.

M: SERUMS? Right, you’re talking about serums?

AJ: Serums, yes. All your “active” ingredients and their carriers.

M: (Wide, blinky eyes.) Ummm.

AJ: “Special Care” includes all targeted ingredients. You’ll notice skincare companies adding these targeted ingredients to cleansers now, starting it earlier in process. Cleanser, no longer, sits on your skin so I wouldn’t spend a fortune on active ingredient cleansers. The ingredients – your Hyaluronic Acids, Retinols, Salicylic Acids – all those are getting embedded in serums and high efficacy delivery systems to penetrate the epidermis. Do they really get into the epidermis? That’s a matter of debate.

Think of that toner that no one uses. It cleaned up after  your cleanser, yes, but it left people with that tight feeling. What it was really doing was burning the shit out of your top layer. Leaving your face tight, sure, but damaged. Now people are looking for plumpness and glow AND firmness as we age. You get there by cleaning well and adding back moisture. You see the swing in current skin care – a move towards where the Asian market has always been. Water cleansers, adding hydration in step one. Micellar waters, crossing between cleansers and toners, but again – hydration from the start. Firmess is a North America thing, our #1 concern has always been aging. Asia, clarity of skin. As we go to a global market, these begin to merge.

M: Well, now I know why toner died! I’ve got some questions, being in that North American market concerned about aging, about, yeah aging.

AJ: Shoot.

Until next time! This has been Conversations with Old Jo, featuring and ACTUAL EXPERT.

What do you think? Do you still tone? Did you? Do you have any questions for my Aunt Jo?


5 thoughts

  1. WUT indeed! The more you know… I’m definitely a former Clinque 3-stepper and have been trying to find a “system” for my 30’s. The struggle: flaky skin, exfoliate, too dry = redness, compensate with thick creams = clogged pores, try to clear them with pore strips & harsh “pore targeting cleansers”…. repeat. HALP!!


  2. I love your Aunt Jo! She’s loaded with knowledge about what works and today’s products. Find a good serum and it’s a game changer!


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