For a beauty editor (and beauty lover), interviewing Caroline Hirons is a bit like interviewing the pope. Or the queen. Or Beyoncé. You see, Hirons is the most powerful woman in skincare. And while that might not seem like a big statement to those who don’t follow the world of beauty, let me explain.
Before Hirons amassed her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers and YouTube subscribers, we really weren’t entirely sure how to shop for skincare. Thousands of products lined the shelves and a handful of newly established 20-something beauty bloggers were telling us what to buy. But they weren’t skin experts, and Hirons is. Having trained as an aesthetician and consulted for some of beauty’s biggest brands, when Hirons launched her blog in 2010, the skincare landscape changed for good.
Photo:IMAGE COURTESY OF CAROLINE HIRONS
Her no-holds-barred opinions were grounded in science, her straight-to-the-point advice cut through beauty gobbledegook, and her unbiased product recommendations had her followers hanging on her every word. So much so that the “Caroline effect” was born—a term coined by the beauty industry to describe the mass sellout that would ensue after a Hirons’s endorsement. Now, whether it be through her brutally honest reviews or cut-throat approach to fluffy marketing ploys, Hirons has the beauty industry listening intently and learning fast.
And so it should be. Not only has she successfully taken the stress and shame out of shopping for skincare for so many, but she has also spearheaded political campaigns that finally made the nation take the beauty industry seriously.
But despite everything I knew about her, as I sat, sweaty-palmed, waiting for Hirons to enter our virtual room, I had only one question I wanted to ask: What really makes the ultimate skincare routine? It’s beauty’s greatest question, I know, but if there’s anyone who can answer it candidly, it’s Caroline Hirons. This is what she had to say…
Start With a Decent Cleanser, Moisturiser and SPF
"Look for a decent cleanser and a decent SPF (as in, one you will wear). When it comes to cleansing, so many people are obsessed with face wipes, but it’s cutting corners—just wash your face properly. In an emergency, do what you have to do. But in general, a decent cleanser to wash your face with, a decent moisturiser and a decent SPF are the holy trinity. If I do nothing else, I’m still good to go with just those three things."
Invest Time, Not Money, in the Right Product
"You don’t have to spend money on those three things—just invest time in finding the right one. I typically spend the most on an SPF because I want an SPF50 and something that feels nice on my face and isn’t clogging. My favourite SPFs of all time are Ultra Violette. I love Supreme Screen because it’s hydrating and you get a glow with it, but there’s a mattifying one too (it’s my husband’s favourite).
"One of my favourite cleansers of all time is The Ordinary Squalane. You can’t go wrong. A cleanser is a cleanser, but that one is a great cleanser. When it comes to moisturiser, just a plain option from CeraVe is great."
Steer Clear of Single-Ingredient Serums
"Buying single-ingredient treatment serums is really complicated, so if you’re new to skincare, don’t start there. Save your money and buy one sophisticated formula by a skincare brand (i.e., brands created by people who have training in skincare whose ultimate mission is to make your skin better). And when I say a sophisticated serum formula, I don’t mean it has to be expensive. I’d take a serum from Paula’s Choice over a single-ingredient serum any day."
Change Your Moisturiser With the Seasons
"The moisturiser you should use is very much down to your age and skin type. It’s also down to the weather. If it’s sunny out, go with something lighter. If it’s freezing cold outside and your cheeks are getting red, then you want a moisturiser with ceramides. Most moisturisers, unless you’re heavy-handed, will last a season. When the season changes, change your moisturiser.
"When I received Sunday Riley ICE Ceramide Moisturizing Cream, I noticed it smells of marzipan, and I hate marzipan, so I didn’t use it. That was stupid because the smell dissipates really quickly, and it’s a beautiful formula. That one is great for winter, and for summer, Sunday Riley C.E.O. C+E Antioxidant Protect + Repair is great. Having said that, you can buy affordable moisturisers in the pharmacy. You don’t have to go crazy."
Shop Machinery Wisely
"I hate seeing those sucky tools on Instagram. I call them sucky machines because I want them to sound as stupid as they are. I get that people just want to put a machine on their face, but unless you’re in a clinic, look for something that can’t do your skin harm if you overuse it. I don’t believe in buying superfluous things that either do nothing or do damage.
"The Nuface is a good investment. It is a mixture of what we would do in facials and shows what you can achieve if you use electricals in a sophisticated way."
There Is No Must-Use Ingredient
"Other than SPF, of course. If you’re older, you’ll appreciate a cream with ceramides and peptides. If you’re younger and you’re working in an urban environment, you smoke (don’t), you’re partying every weekend or your diet could be better, you could use a vitamin C serum. If you have pigmentation, you can use targeted ingredients for that. But a have-to-have is so personal, and it depends entirely on your skin, your age and the condition of your skin. I’m loath to be prescriptive.
"If you’re new to skincare, my Hall of Fame kits are a good place to start. There’s a Routine one that is great if you’re in doubt. The OGs Kit and The Heroes Kit are better suited to skincare lovers or people who can afford to dabble a bit more and extend their routines."