Hindsight is a wonderful thing. As an impressionable 20-year-old, I would live and breathe the advice of YouTubers I loved and blogs I checked religiously (before the Instagram we know today). I’d take the little money I earned as a bartender to buy what felt like every shiny skincare product under the sun. Today, a decade later, I get new products delivered to me to review for work on a weekly basis, and my skincare collection is slimmer than it’s ever been. Don’t get me wrong—there are times when I expand my routine, and I test a lot of products for work so I can make informed recommendations, but whenever my skin freaks out, the first thing I always do is strip my routine right back, ditch the non-essential beauty products and implement just three steps.
I’m talking to you as a person with pretty fuss-free skin. I have eczema with the occasional flare-up on my face, but it’s not severe, and I have combination skin. My skin doesn’t really mind a bit of fragrance, and I get the odd hormonal spot. I’ve never needed prescription skincare, and overall, I’m pretty happy with my skin and how it’s ageing. All of this is to say that you have to do what you feel is right for your skin and its needs. If you have a 12-step routine and it works for you, then perfect. But if you are feeling a bit lost with the number of skincare products out there, I promise you your skin will thrive with just three steps. Everything else can be tagged in and out when you need it according to your skin concerns.
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Healthy skin is clean skin. Cleansing serves as a way to reset your skin back to base when you’ve been out in the world and it’s faced with dirt, grime, pollution, sweat and of course any makeup you’ve applied. In the morning, I use a light cream or gel cleanser to wash off night sweat and oil as well as the products I may have applied during my night-time skincare, even if it’s just a night cream. Some of my fellow beauty journalists use micellar water in the morning as a quick cleanse, so that’s also a good option if you’re a splash-and-go morning person. At night, I double-cleanse. This isn’t for everyone. I see it as removing my makeup and then cleansing my skin. I use an oil or balm and then a gel or cream for a thorough cleanse.
This cleanser from CereVe is a crowd-pleaser for a reason. It is light, and the ingredients are simple, but it cleanses more than efficiently.
There are so many incredible moisturisers on the market now that offer more than just hydration, but hydration is the main benefit of moisturising. Depending on your skin type, you can opt for a richer or more gel-like cream, and you can pick different options for night and day. Nowadays, you’d be pressed to find moisturisers that don’t have multiple benefits, so it’s easier to combine numerous steps into just one. But if you want to simply ensure your skin is hydrated and plump, a moisturiser with ceramides and glycerin is more than enough.
This cream from Kiehl’s is light but hydrating. It sinks in quickly, so SPF sits over it well, and my skin, which is combination, doesn't feel oily or too dry after using it.
I’m going to admit something. Until about three years ago, I skipped SPF most days, even on sunny days at home. I always remembered on holiday, but for some reason, I didn’t think the sun in the UK was as bad. Mind-boggling because now I apply it every day I go outside on my face, neck, chest and ears. I also have SPF hand cream, but that’s beside the point. It is a true non-negotiable now. SPF protects your skin from harmful UV rays and is your best bet for slowing down the process of ageing. I use SPF 30 most days but SPF 50 for super-sunny days. In terms of application, for effective coverage, your SPF needs to be your final skincare step, and if you’re out in the sun for sustained periods of time, pop an SPF spray in your bag to top up.
This SPF from Supergoop! is the one I reach for most often because it leaves my skin looking and feeling plump but not shiny or oily. Plus, I can apply makeup over it without feeling like my skin can't breathe.
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I would say that a hyaluronic acid serum is a suits-all, pleases-all addition to your skincare regime. For very dry skin types, it helps moisture stick around longer, especially if you opt for a serum with hyaluronic at more than one level. Essentially, the size of the hyaluronic molecule in the product dictates how deeply it can penetrate the skin, so I like to use one that has three sizes (it’ll normally say on the product description, like this one from Irene Forte), and this means it’ll work below just the surface of the top layer of skin for super-hydrated skin.
This is a bit of a non-negotiable for me, personally, but it’s down to what you want help with. I can get quite sallow, tired-looking skin, and incorporating vitamin C into my regime daily has helped perk it up. I use anything up to a 20% concentration, and my favourite one from Ole Henriksen is 15%, but if you are dipping your toe in, try 10% at first and gradually increase. It’s really helped me achieve a more even, brighter complexion.
These are often spoken about interchangeably despite working for very different skin types, and that’s because they’re both exfoliating acids. AHAs are good for drier skin types, as they slough away dead skin on the surface, draw moisture to the skin and work within the skin to aid with collagen production. BHAs on the other hand are better for oily, spot- and acne-prone skin types to exfoliate dead skin cells.
This BHA pick from Paula's Choice is a favourite among my beauty-journalist peers thanks to how well it clears skin post-breakout.
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I rarely use toner. It’s usually recommended for removing any dirt from the skin, but if you’re cleansing properly, you shouldn’t need to do this. If you do opt to add BHAs or AHAs to your routine though, the toner formulas are often quick and easy to use.
Refreshing? Yes. Necessary? No. I’ll use a mist as an SPF top-up or sometimes if I’ve left it long between cleansing and moisturising to re-dampen my skin, but other than that, they’ll often sit unloved on my shelf.
I see masks as a fun and indulgent way to treat my skin, but they are by no means vital to a good skincare regimen. If I use them, I’ll do a pre-night-out hydration or brightening mask, or, as someone lucky enough to own an LED mask, I will use this to treat the hyperpigmentation after a spot.
For the most part, I’ll bring my face cream up so my eyelids aren’t neglected, but I rarely remember to use a separate eye cream. As long as you aren’t using a heavy moisturiser, smoothing a little face cream around your eye area will normally suffice.
We have the best tools at our disposal—our hands. I love a tool, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely don’t think they are an essential part of my routine. I often forget to charge my rechargeable ones, and the ones that you don’t have to charge you can mimic with your palms and fingers.
Next up, the nail designs trending on Instagram.