Are Skincare Preferences A Generation Situation?

By Megan Watts
With so many products on the market, and generational preferences, what do people actually use? Photo / Getty Images

Thinking of updating your skincare regime? Well, we have four generations worth of knowledge to assist you in your self-care endeavours. From holy grails to the perfect retinol, take a look inside Gen X, Y, Z and boomers’ skincare collections to guide you in your next beauty purchase.

When it comes to skincare essentials, it’s not surprising each generation has a different array of products in their shopping rotation. But what are they using? And are there any rights and wrongs in the epidermal game?

While skincare has surged in popularity in recent years, the category isn’t new. Different generations have grown up with different products, and beauty standards can impact their choices.

Technology shifts impact everything in life, including the beauty sphere. From product formulations to appearance ideals, the test of time has certainly seen our go-tos and goals shift and morph over the years.

There’s one thing we can take from skincare’s ever-growing presence in the beauty landscape. With so many options, categories and brands to choose from — not to mention marketing spins and social media content — sorting through an overwhelming array of products can prove difficult.

Below, we’ve canvassed a range of Viva friends who share their different outlooks on skincare and what’s in their bathroom cabinets.

Baby Boomers Kath Webster and Baksho Craig, Generation X’s Lorna Riley and Carolyne Meng-Yee, Millennials Jennifer Mortimer and Hannah Wiles, and Generation Z’s Bethany Haverland and Yawynne Yem give us a sneak peek into their skincare regimes, offering a generational guide to skincare from beauty enthusiasts at every stage of life.

Face cleanser

“I really like the smell of this,” says Kath Webster, AA editor. “It’s lime and patchouli and just smells super clean and crisp and wholesome. And it’s not drying; it’s quite soothing, nothing too harsh for morning and night cleansing.”

“I wash my face with Cetaphil,” says Baksho Craig, model and life coach. “After using so many other brands I find this one gentle.”

“At night I use Elizabeth Arden’s Ceramide Replenishing Oil,” says Lorna Riley, host of Coast Days. ”If I’m taking off heavy makeup, I cleanse again with Elizabeth Arden’s Prevage Anti-Aging Treatment Boosting Cleanser (which I also use every morning).”

Carolyne Meng-Yee, New Zealand Herald journalist, opts for Tatcha Rice Wash. “It’s a gentle product that makes my skin feel smooth and silky.”

“This double-duty cleanser is incredible at removing makeup, while not leaving an oily feel on the skin,” says Jennifer Mortimer, New Zealand Herald lifestyle and travel editor (audience). “It’s also great value for money and perfect for all skin types.”

Hannah Wiles, founder of Iris Store and Studio in Wellington, prioritises how a product smells and feels: “I’m a sensorial gal, a lover of luxurious textures and scents and the Medik8 Lipid-Balance Cleansing Oil gives me all of the feels when I’m removing my makeup in the evening.”

“This cleanser has the perfect ratio of gel to foam without being drying and the rosehip oil and aloe vera are a great combo for my sensitive skin,” says Bethany Haverland, New Zealand Herald senior writer.

Yawynne Yem, a freelance creative, has always struggled with cleansers. “I once used one that ruined my skin barrier for about two years,” she says. Yem has been using the Emma Lewisham Illuminating Oil Cleanser for over a year now. “It’s my absolute favourite. I love the consistency (so good with a gua sha too) and have actually noticed a difference in my skin in using it, something I feel like is quite rare for me!”


Webster uses local brand Sans Ceuticals for its feel-good application. “It’s silky and light but still with substance, a bit buttery, and feels good to apply. It suits my skin and is effective; it doesn’t just sink into nothingness like some natural moisturisers too, battling away below the sunscreen and makeup.”

Craig reveals she has two go-to face creams, the first being Biologique Recherche Hydrate Cream, which isn’t available in New Zealand, and Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream.

“Sticking with Elizabeth Arden, I use the Advanced Ceramide Lift and Firm Day Cream,” says Riley.

Meng-Yee likes Emma Lewisham Skin Reset Serum, as it “absorbs easily and brightens my skin”.

Mortimer uses Tatcha. “The ideal partner for parched skin that won’t leave a greasy feel. It’s light, but incredibly hydrating and goes on great under makeup as the perfect base.”

“As a seeker of all things nourishing and plumping for the skin, the Josh Rosebrook Vital Balm Cream is my dream cream,” says Wiles. “The incredible balm texture means you only need a small amount warmed in the hands and pressed into skin to give ultimate comfort.” The oclusive formula locks in moisture, she explains, while protecting from harsh environments.

Haverland uses Kit Good Night Balm: “I’ve gone through multiple pots of this moisturiser, and at this point, it’s a non-negotiable part of my night routine. It feels great and smells amazing — the lavender scent is really soothing.”

“This might be really bad because I saw on TikTok recently that it’s technically not meant to be used as a moisturiser,” Yem says about her preferred product, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo, which works for her. “It literally turned my skin into glass after a few weeks of using it.”

Face mask

“Dr. Hauschka’s clarifying clay mask,” says Webster. “Quite full-on but for an occasional deep clean, it feels good. Like a professional mask, like a solid sorting out.”

“I do my own facials once a month,” Craig says, “using the Dr. Barbara Sturm.”

“I love Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery PowerFoil Mask — but they are pretty pricey so I only buy them as an occasional skin treat,” says Riley. “Bondi Sands makes a very affordable one called Face Glaze which is super hydrating (I have pretty dry skin) and I use it once a week as an overnight treatment.”

Aesop Sublime Replenishing Night Masque is a must for Meng-Yee. “I love Aesop’s philosophy and how clean their products are,” she adds. “This a luxurious product.”

“My skin adores this product and absolutely soaks it up,” says Mortimer. “I use it two to three times a week instead of a night moisturiser and wake up to glowing and hydrated skin. It’s also a real hero for winter skin and combats dryness like nothing else.”

“I’m not great at taking time out for self-care so you won’t often find me taking baths or popping a face mask on,” says Wiles. “However, if it can be done while I’m doing something else, I’m all in. I call this ‘incidental self-care’ and the Active Enzyme Exfoliator, also by Josh Rosebrook, is fantastic for this life as it can be left on the skin for up to an hour. With a base of honey and plant oils, it is intensely nourishing, both physical (the non-scratching walnut shell powder) and enzyme exfoliations leave the skin so very smooth.”

“I often reach for these Patchology Rosé eye gels when my skin needs some extra hydration,” says Haverland. “I keep a stash of them in my fridge, as it’s recommended to keep them chilled and they feel amazing on the skin. They also make a great addition to gifts and care packages.”

Yem, who will soon be travelling overseas, says she isn’t using face masks at the moment in an attempt to simplify her skincare routine and lighten her suitcase.

Retinol / vitamin A

Baby Boomers: Both Webster and Craig told Viva they are not using retinol or vitamin A products.

Riley recently discovered Estée Lauder’s lifting and firming serum, which she says she is really enjoying. “I’m sure my skin looks smoother.”

Meng-Yee tells Viva that she doesn’t use any vitamin A products, at least not ones she’s “aware of”.

Mortimer swears by Emma Lewisham Supernatural Face Oil. “A few drops of this goes a long way and I’m yet to find another vitamin A that my Millennial skin loves as much as this one. It’s helped hugely with fine lines and the appearance of my skin and it’s a gorgeous product to apply,” she says. “Use a skin roller or gua sha after applying this for a dreamy skin massage and to really help push the product into the skin.”

“I’m a massive fan of Medik8′s Crystal Retinal, the gold standard,” says Wiles. “It comes in strengths from one to 20 so you can start low and ladder up as your skin allows. My skin adores it (I’m currently using the six but am moving up to the 10 on my next tube), it keeps the texture noticeably refined and smooth, and supports my efforts to keep my pigmentation at bay.”

“I don’t use retinol every day, but when I do, I often reach for this Glow Lab oil,” says Haverland. “Made with natural bakuchiol, it’s gentler than a typical retinol serum and feels great on the skin. It’s also budget-friendly as you can find it at the supermarket.”

Yem doesn’t use retinol in her skincare routine.

Holy grail product

“Yum. This is just a delicious oil — I use it on my face at night, on hair ends when it’s too clean and won’t stay down, on my limbs,” says Webster of Sans Ceuticals Activator 7 Oil. “Lovely scent, not heavy or sticky and I believe the hype claiming it helps rejuvenate and repair with its high-dose vitamins.”

Craig uses a classic. “If I get dry patches or pigmentation I use good old-fashioned organic coconut oil which I also use for my gua sha sometimes.”

“I have two products I swear by,” Riley says. “REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA tonic (the best toner I’ve ever used), and M.A.C’s Prep and Prime Natural Radiance — I only use it when my skin needs a little pick-me-up and it works every time!”

Meng-Yee uses Naked and Thriving’s Renew Resurfacing Night Serum along with its Rejuvenate Oil. “This combo is low-maintenance,” she adds. “Just apply a couple of drops on a cleansed face every night before you go to bed. Great for skin hydration, pigmentation and reducing wrinkles.”

“If I could only pick one product to use for the rest of my life, this would be it. Skin Reset utterly transformed my skin’s texture and appearance,” Mortimer says. “It goes on like a dream and sinks into the skin, leaving my skin feeling hydrated and glowing all day — the ultimate game changer in a bottle.”

“My skin is overall pretty great but given I spent a lot of my teen years soaking up the sun, I do have pigmentation flaring up on my cheeks,” says Wiles. “I’ve been using Medik8′s Oxy-R Peptides for a couple of months now and it has noticeably brightened the tone of my skin and reduced the visible pigment. It’s now one of my staple morning serums with a very light, almost watery texture.”

“I use this SPF serum daily, and find it’s so much easier to apply than most other facial sunscreens,” Haverland explains. “It’s slightly tinted as well so it’s a great base for foundation, or on its own if I don’t feel like wearing layers of makeup.”

Yem says a lip balm is her holy grail product, specifically Dermal Therapy.

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