Busy Philipps Gets Real About Her Patchy Past With Retinol

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Busy Philipps is in a happy, committed relationship with retinol—but it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows for the pair. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the powerhouse ingredient, we chatted with the Olay Brand Ambassador and Girls5eva star about very-real retinol reactions, beauty memories and the power of self care.

How were you first introduced to Olay?

“Olay was always something my mother had in her beauty routine. Now that I’m a mom, you see the difference between your kids. My older sister was not like this but I was constantly in my mother’s bathroom, digging through her products, trying things, and Olay was always there, it was always part of her routine.

I think as I got older and I was working in the industry, I thought you had to spend a ton of money on skin care in order for it to work. I was introduced to Olay seven or eight years ago on Cougar Town at work. It was a moisturizer that one of the makeup artists has had and I used it one day, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, wait, I love this.’ And then I ended up working with them a couple years after that. The biggest takeaway for me was that I had spent so many years wasting money. Because especially with a product like the Collagen Peptides 24 Moisturizer ($40), it honestly works as well as any $100, $200, $150 cream and you’re spending a lot less. I’ve just loved working with the brand because I’ve learned so much behind the science of it. You know, it’s the 75th anniversary of retinol.”

It is! What has your experience with retinol been?

“I remember years ago when I was in my 20s on a television show, and a dermatologist gave me retinol and my face turned bright red and was trying to peel itself away from the bone. And I was like, ‘Oh, this is not for me. I’m never going to be the person that can do that.’ I have very sensitive skin. Historically speaking, I’ve had to be just really careful about the kinds of products that I put on my skin because I will break out, I’ll get a rash or I’ll have a reaction. And so I have to say, throughout my 30s I really didn’t use retinol products that much because I was so freaked out by that experience.

When I started working with Olay and they came out with the Retinol 24 and Peptide Night Moisturizer, they sent it to me to try. I remember having this conversation with one of the women that works on a brand where I was like, ‘I’m going to try it because I really enjoy working with Olay and because I really like the products, but I am just going to warn you, I’m sorry that this is going to be too harsh.’ And not only was it not too harsh, my skin was glowy and hydrated and visibly different in a week and absorbed really quickly. For me a big thing with my sensitivity is the fragrance, and it’s fragrance-free, there’s no mineral oil or set of dyes, or any of the stuff that you don’t want. I have been using it consistently for the last couple of years and I love it. I purchase them myself when I run out. I reach out to the team, but if I need to, I’ll stop by the drugstore and buy some Olay.”

I need to get my hands on that.

“You’ve tried the red, peel-y retinol before right?”

Unfortunately I have.

“It’s just such a bummer. Because you hear consistency is key with retinol. Who are these ladies that can consistently do this and walk around with red flaky skin? I just don’t get it, it’s just not for me. So, you know, the fact that Olay has come up with this incredible formula that you can literally use nightly and I don’t have that reaction is amazing. My mom is using it now and my mother, you know she’s a life-long Olay user, my mom has beautiful skin. I don’t want to reveal her age, but her skin is just incredible. And, you know, it’s always a mix of things. You work in beauty industry so you know that. It’s good habits, the genetics and the right products.”

Taking care of yourself is key. What is your ultimate self care indulgence?

“Therapy. Really committing time to making sure I have a weekly check in with my therapist is probably one of the biggest self care things I do. I go weekly and I notice the difference when I don’t do that and when I don’t make the time for it.”

Is there anything ‘out of the box’ you do for self care?

“I’m from LA. I live in New York now, so some of my things have been a bit ‘broken’ just because you don’t have access to all the weird things that you do in LA, to be completely honest with you [laughs]. I do have an incredible energy healer that I found in New York. Her name is Val. She works out of The Well. She does Reiki energy healing and she makes people flower textures. Especially last year, when we were moving from the west coast to the east coast and everything that was sort of going on in the world, and everything felt like it was very much, you know, in upheaval, she gave me this grounding flower texture to take to daily. And I have to say, I don’t know whether it’s placebo or just power of thought maybe, but it really did work. I felt like every time I would have a session with her, I would feel physically different when I left.”

You’re a big traveler. Have you found anything beauty- or wellness-wise overseas that you love?

“I can’t say enough about the Swedish sauna life. I’m just like, ‘Why we aren’t all doing saunas all the time, especially in the winter?’ Saunas should be on every corner, we should all have them in our homes. I feel like I’m so obsessed with saunas. But also that sauna-cold plunge combo—your body and skin just feel alive. I really love that. Maybe I’ll try to integrate that more into my life.”

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