Exfoliation has a long history for midlife women. When I was eight, back in 1924 — OK, 1979 — a twentysomething cousin armed me with a Buf-Puf, paint stripper-style toner and dense, old-lady moisturising gunk, and instructed me to scrub.

For the next few decades, I continued to do so. Frankly, it’s a surprise I have any face left.

Buf-Pufs were plate scourers used to improve the complexion. They are still available on Amazon. These tough types may also like those pumice-like, apricot scrubs that rip your face off in the name loveliness.

I see these products as a metaphor of the 1980s. It was a tough decade in which a woman had to shed her soft edges, even as an adolescent.

Hannah Betts shares advice for freshening up your face in midlife by exfoliating (file image)

Hannah Betts shares her tips for refreshing your face in midlife with exfoliating (file photo)

One can see how exfoliation becomes addictive — there’s no quicker way to freshen one’s face, particularly in midlife. Some brands are actually based on the process: check out Paula’s Choice and Kate Somerville Skincare.

Healthy skin naturally sheds its dead cells to make way in new cells. This process slows down as we age, resulting in a dull, dismal appearance. This process is accelerated by exfoliation, whether it’s old-school physical methods (flannels scrubs, bristles and grains) or new-broom chemical ones like glycolic and salicylic acid.

Most dermatologists favour chemical approaches as they tend to be less abrasive, unsticking dead cells from the skin’s surface rather than shunting them away.

But there’s still a place for a bit of a scrub, provided one doesn’t go crazy.

I always have 1990s favourite Origins Never a Dull Moment Skin-brightening Face Polisher (£28.50, origins.co.uk) in my arsenal, the lazy woman’s face enlivener. You can simply slather it on and then lie back. The papaya enzyme will gobble down dead cells Pac-Man-style. You can then swoop its granules around as you take them out. Film stars and models of a certain era use it when they are tired or hungover.

If my skin’s more red and spotty than dead on its feet, I reach for supermarket stalwart Nip + Fab’s Glycolic Fix Scrub (£12.95, nipandfab.com). Its retexturing glycolic acids and zit-busting salticylic acid leave my skin clear and bright when applied to a buffering cleanse oil. It’s also great for old-crone hands.

Some people like a daily corn-fest. Dermalogica’s hugely popular Daily Microfoliant (£55, dermalogica.co.uk) is ideal — a salicylic acid and rice enzyme polisher admired by the glowing actress Cate Blanchett. I’ve recently been toying with Bliss Jelly Glow Gentle Exfoliator Peel (£9.99, boots.com), a mild formula, boasting plant-based fibres that act like micro-lint rollers to whisk away autumnal flakiness.

Hannah Betts (pictured) said every skin will have its exfoliation sweet spot, while revealing she alternates between physical and chemical approaches

Hannah Betts (pictured), stated that every skin will have its exfoliation sweet spots, while revealing that she alternates between chemical or physical methods

Chemical exfoliator advocates claim that their approach improves texture and doesn’t make skin look more rough. Overdoing it can still cause damage, so take it easy.

Lixirskin’s new Ionic Shot Powder to Mousse Clarifying Mask (£27, lixirskin.co.uk) is a new addition to this field. After years of formulating top beauty brands, Colette Haydon, a chemist, created this powder with a negative charge. The paste reacts to the positively-charged epidermis and attracts sebum from pores. It softens and dissolves it to get rid of congestion. Colette, who uses the satisfying term ‘deincrustration’, recommends using this grime magnet for five minutes, thrice weekly. Greasy-skinned lovers will be delighted.

Pixi Glow Tonic (£18, pixibeauty.co.uk) is the cult buy in this category. It contains five percent glycolic acid, which is strong enough to be effective and not irritating. This product is loved by Kim Kardashian, Jourdan Duncan, and Caroline Hirons, skincare gurus.

However, my skin seems to prefer Ren’s Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic (£27, renskin care.com), in which lactic acid breaks up dead cells, rendering skin bright but in no way tight.

Budget buyers note that Superdrug’s Naturally Radiant Glycolic Tonic 5% (£6.95, superdrug.com) is also a winner, while I’ve been enjoying Aldi’s Lacura Healthy Glow Glycolic Toner (£3.49, aldi.co.uk).

Each skin is different. I use a combination of chemical and physical methods to exfoliate my skin. And do use SPF, or you’re exposing your tender new cells to instant damage.


Kevyn Aucoin’s The Sensual Skin Enhancer, a multi-tasking concealer, foundation and contour, is back in new packaging. I use it as a colour corrector and as a base. It’s lightweight and looks natural.





Naomi Campbell (pictured) starts her morning routine with La Roche-Posay¿s mattifying Serozinc Face Toner Mist

Naomi Campbell (pictured) starts her morning routine with La Roche-Posay’s mattifying Serozinc Face Toner Mist

The 51-year-old supermodel was seen out and about in thigh-high splits with plunging necklines, back on the catwalks for Versace and Alexander McQueen. Her morning routine is said to start with La Roche-Posay’s mattifying Serozinc Face Toner Mist (now £8, boots.com). She uses a microneedling device to maximize absorption before applying serums containing vitamin E oil and/or hyaluronic acids, then Pat McGrath Labs cosmetics.


Seasonal Affective Disease is the bane in my life at this time.

So a kind soul de Mamiel-ed me up, with Annee de Mamiel’s award-winning Altitude Oil — a potent pick-me-up and the inhalation remedy carried about by Vogue’s beauty gurus. I have fallen hard for the oil’s spin-off product, de Mamiel Altitude Bath Soak (pictured, £48 for 400g, demamiel.com).

The prospect of surrendering myself to its sublime blend of lavender, eucalyptus, fragonia, peppermint, pine, lemon myrtle and patchouli is what’s been getting me through these dull, damp days.




The toxin-free nail specialists have created a non-chip glitter formula.



A beetroot berry that is succulent and has great staying power.



This purple berry dries super fast to a high-gloss finish.



Limited-edition, highly sought-after aubergine.



A classic black-toned burgundy à la Chanel’s Rouge Noir. This is a great choice for a seasonal spooky talon.