The Natural Route to Anti-Ageing Alchemy

It’s never too early to start your anti-aging skincare routine, says Irene Forte. Having built an eponymous brand famed for unique formulas of organic, natural ingredients, Julia O’Driscoll speaks to Irene to discover the best natural way to care for mature skin. 


My mum applies sun screen religiously. Even in the depths of December she uses sun cream and swears it’s what has kept her skin healthy and relatively wrinkle-free as she nears the big 6-0. Though I’ve had my doubts, I’m surprised to hear her advice echoed by skincare expert Irene Forte who knows more than a thing or two about protecting your skin from the sun. 

Spending much time in Sicily throughout her life, Irene has experienced firsthand the benefits that a Mediterannean lifestyle can have on your health. But what can fresh, local and quality ingredients offer your skin in addition to the more apparent physical benefits? “What is special about the Mediterranean lifestyle is that it’s all about high quality ingredients and freshness. It’s not about a faddy diet or a quick fix, it’s something that promotes longevity,” she explains. “I think in a very similar way about skincare, in that I don’t believe in ingredients that are particularly harsh, or that are going to completely change the pH of your skin.” Irene’s approach towards beauty is holistic, and she considers a healthy lifestyle an essential part of any skincare routine.

We don’t all take the slow, considered approach to our skincare that underpins Irene’s work. Thinking seasonally seems to be more common, as we readily adjust our skincare requirements to alleviate the impact of a cold winter or the summer’s golden rays – but how likely are we to look beyond the next few months when it comes to looking after our skin?

When it comes to caring for maturing skin, we are perhaps a little more negligent about forward planning, but once you know what your skin’s tendencies are, it’s worth thinking ahead to how this may change through the years. “It really depends on the skin type,” Irene says. “If you’re someone with really oily or combination skin, rich ingredients can make it greasy and more unbalanced. If your skin is dry and dehydrated, I believe you can start from any age.” 

So, where to begin when formulating your bespoke anti-aging alechemy? First, get to know your ingredients. “I like natural, botanical peptides,” says Irene. These chains of amino acids are particularly important in the formulation of proteins like collagen and elastin in the skin. Irene has worked closely with Doctor Francesca Ferri since 2014 to refine her products, and is in the lab with her every month to continue their work. She uses three ingredients that are particularly suited to mature skin. “Dubbed the botox plant for its ability to fill lines,” the first is hibiscus seed, followed by green pea polypeptide and, perhaps surprisingly, an organic white wine; sourced from the Di Giovanna winery in Sicily, the wine’s polyphenols act as antioxidants. 

When it comes to synthetic chemicals, Irene opts for biocompatible ingredients like Acetyl Tetrapeptide-9; “it’s anything we might have in our skin naturally but emulated in a synthetic form,” she explains. With hydration being key to preventing wrinkles and fine lines, Irene recommends a low molecular weight of hyaluronic acid: “It acts like a sponge in the skin’s tissue,” she says. When decoding your labels, look for vegan-sourced hyaluronic acid from the fermentation process of non-genetically modified bacteria.

Applying plant-derived ceramides can help to protect the skin too. Irene opts for olive oil fractions, a part of the oil that’s not typically used in skincare but one that’s rich in antioxidants. “It’s a different molecular weight to olive oil so it actually penetrates into the dermis,” Irene explains. “It’s known for stimulating the fibroblasts, the things in our dermis that produce hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin.”

Next, develop a simple routine that will see you through the years. Start with a light cleanser – “I’d recommend a cream cleanser for mature skin with lots of nice rich oils and active ingredients,” Irene suggests. Follow this with a similarly light toner, perhaps one with Helichrysum, an ingredient that helps to keep the skin firm. When it comes to moisturising, Irene goes for a serum that can deeply penetrate the skins layers. Finish this with a night cream – and to help reduce fine lines, apply this on the eyelid too.  Irene also recommends a scrub and face mask once or twice a week for a more nourishing treat too.

When it comes to spa treatments, Irene admits: “I’m a huge facial fan – the hands can work wonders on the skin.” To give your skin a youthful glow, look for a treatment that energises skin cells through manual massage, bringing oxygen to the surface and stimulating circulation.

Creating a skincare routine that works for you in the long term, incoporating organic, high quality ingredients wherever possible, will help to boost your skins natural properties and protect it as you age. But, as Irene’s approach makes apparent, protecting your skin and health as you age means taking a similarly considered approach to all aspects of your daily life. And, of course, hydration and sun protection will help by doing their bit too! 

Photojournalist Graeme Green shares a photographic essay on ageless beauty.

Read about Irene’s journey in sustainability so far.

Spring cleaning your bathroom? Find out how to recycle your beauty products at home.