When I started to take care of my skin, everything was much more simple. Cleanse, tone, moisturise and done; ready for panstick. Now it feels like there are a billion new steps learn, with a billion new products to get to grips with. So, I’ve put together an easy skin care routine guide and a glossary of skin care products with recommendations.
The Order of Things
Cleanse. You might not look or feel like you need a wash, but eight hours of pillow grime is not a good base for your skin care. Even the best day cream won’t work properly if it can’t sink in properly.
If you have the time and cash, follow up with a mist or toner. More on these later, in the product glossary below.
If you use it, apply eye cream. I’ll probably be killed for saying this (call the police if I’m not all over Snapchat by tonight) but I think most eye creams are just moisturiser, only in smaller tubs.
Next is serum. It’s always put on before moisturiser, even if it’s got colour correcting properties. The only exception here is with oils – you need to put products that are oil based on over anything that’s water based, as water can’t get through oil.
Once it passes that rule, apply your moisturiser last.
Note on SPF – I apply mine after makeup, so didn’t include it as a step here and just mentioned in in the glossary. It’s 100% necessary. Never skip it. Like, ever.
You absolutely can’t cleanse your skin until you take off your makeup. Cosmetics and the contents of your pores don’t come off in one go. You’ll need to remove your makeup with an oil, balm or micellar water first.
After that, your cleanser will be able to do its job without being hindered.
The rest of the routine is the same as the morning, only you might want to switch to a dedicate night cream, treatment or rich oil – they’re great for your skin and, as it’s bedtime, you don’t have to worry about how long they’ll take to soak in or how they’ll sit under makeup.
Types of Products
Cleansing oils and balms are generally formulated to break down makeup. I know that brands give a lot of guff about how they’ll purify and cleanse your skin, but I don’t think they can. The bulk of budget brands (and some brass-necked luxe ones) use mineral oil as a base, and leaving that on your skin too long is a ticket to spot city. Even if the base oil isn’t cheap old mineral oil, it’s still likely to leave a residue, which both feels uncomfortable and inhibits the absorption of your moisturiser.
So, while they feel great and will melt your makeup off quickly, I’d advise against using them alone. For me, they’re firmly in the pre-cleanse category.
- The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter is one of the best and most affordable balm cleansers.
- No7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Oil is dirt cheap and works just as well as luxe oils. Bonus points added for its pump dispenser.
Miceller water is a lazy gal’s best friend. It’s a liquid makeup remover that you use on a cotton pad; no water and standing at the sink required. Its watery base carries tiny little oil molecules that grab makeup and melt it away. It feels just like water when applied, but I find most leave behind a kinda sticky film. Again, I’d consider this a pre-cleanse step.
- YSL Top Secrets Cleansing Water comes with a pump, so it has my heart.
- Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water is about thirty quid cheaper and almost as good. There’s very little in the difference, aside from price and packaging.
Cream, milk and lotion cleansers are on the fence in the best way. A good one won’t strip your skin of the natural oils that it needs, nor will it deposit too much of a residue. In a bind, I’d use one of these to take my makeup off, then cleanse with it again to actually wash my face.
- Una Brennan Superfacialist Rose Calming Creamy Cleanser is a gentle, softening cream cleanser. It’s super cheap but doesn’t feel like a bog standard wash – it’s beautifully scented and has a lovely, thick consistency.
- Aurelia Miracle Cleanser is more expensive, but I think it works harder. It’s mix of essential oils, emollients and probiotics. (review linked)
Gel cleansers have a thicker consistency takes longer to melt into your skin, so they can feel more thorough. If you’re a recovering foam addict, these might convert you. Richer formulations are great for dry skin, as they moisturise while washing. Your face won’t feel tight or dry. You can get formulations that are less heavy on emollients and more focused on purifying, if blemishes are more of a concern than dryness. I tend to use these after a different pre-cleanse, just because gel isn’t as speedy at removing eye makeup.
- Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel is my all-time favourite. It’s very, very nourishing but also exfoliates, so there’s no risk of pore clogging. Get it.
- La Roche Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel is more balancing, so better for warmer months or oiler skins. It’s gentle and very simple. I recommend it to friends with fussy skin all the time.
Makeup wipes have fallen out of favour because they’re useless at best and harmful at worst. Most contain irritants. Even if they don’t, the process of rubbing your face with those half-damp sheets is enough to piss off anyone’s skin.
Foaming Cleansers are another hot issue. Yep, they’ll clean your skin, but so will Fairy Liquid. Anything that foams contains harsh detergents that will strip your skin of its natural oils. You do you, but I think you’re starting out on a damaged canvas if you use a foaming cleanser.
Mists provide another opportunity to stuff more goodness into your skin. Basic water mists are nice for calming down irritated skin, but more and more brands are launching sophisticated blends that do loads. As an added bonus, you can spritz these on after makeup to add hydration or lessen the cakey look of powder.
- La Roche Posay Serozinc – this is moisturising, anti-bacterial and calming. I’ve been telling all my friends to stock up. (review linked)
- Caudalie Beauty Elixir – thicker than most water sprays, it hydrates and feels super refreshing. Gorgeous minty scent too. (review linked)
Serums are more concentrated treatments than moisturisers. They usually contain more active ingredients but feel more lightweight. That’s why most go on before your moisturiser – their fancy formulations can’t get through the thick barrier than face creams create. Think of ’em like an extra boost for your skin, doing work that moisturisers can’t.
- Origins Original Skin Serum – Made for twenty somethings, it’s brilliant for big ole pores, texture issues and combating the environmental effects. (review linked)
- Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum – Your only man for hydration. Very simple but effective, and not expensive either.
- Clarins Double Serum – Proper rich care for more mature skin.
Essences are relatively new to the western market, and their role in skin care has been blurred by their surge in popularity. Now, they’re a bit like toners and a bit like serums. They add more moisture and hydration. If these are big concerns for you, go ahead and buy a bottle. Personally, I think this is a bonus step for those who can afford it.
- Kiehl’s Iris Extract Essence is brand new and getting lots of love. It exfoliates and hydrates.
Toners can hydrate, exfoliate or both. Old-style toners for oily skin probably turned a lot of people away from this step, but new formulations are worlds away from the alcohol washes that we grew up with. I’m using toner to exfoliate. Chemical exfoliation is much kinder and more effective than the kind you get from scrubs. You will need to stay on top of your SPF application, but the extra effort is worth it. There’s a lot to chat about, so I’ll do a full post on chemical exfoliation next week.
Moisturisers are pretty simple – they add moisture. I usually recommend picking a level of richness that suits your skin type and going for a really clean, simple blend. So, if your skin is oily, get a light loition. If your dry as Gandhi’s sandal, get a rich, thick cream. Get one with SPF if you like, but I prefer using a dedicated SPF product.
- MooGoo Full Cream is a very nourishing, natural blend that I push on friends with very dry sensitive skin. It’s a blend of food-grade oils in cream form. I haven’t reviewed it on the blog, but you can check the MooGoo Soothing MSM Cream review to get a feel for the brand.
- Have a look at La Roche Posay. Most moisturisers are around the twenty quid mark and there’s a range for every skin type. Don’t buy in Boots or online – chemists that stock La Roche Posay will have staff on hand who are trained to give skin consultations. They know their stuff (and dish out samples if you ask!).
Oils are an extra step of hydration, anti-oxidents and anti-aging goodness. This is one of the few areas that I really think you’ve got to spend your money. As cheap oils can be full of pore clogging nasties, you’re best off splurging on something fancy or getting a pure oil from the health shop – coconut or rosehip.
- Colbert MD Illumino Face Oil costs as much as a small, crap car. It’s premium, luxury skin care in cost but also performance.
- Trilogy Rosehip Oil is much more affordable but so bloody good. It hydrates, softens and plumps out fine lines.
SPF, when applied properly and often, will protect your skin from sun damage. It’s the best anti-aging product you can buy. It’s imperative that you use it. I’ll put together a post on it next week, as I have way too many recommendations to stuff in here.
I think I’ve hit the limit for waffle, and hopefully explained the most confusing parts of skin care. Like I said, I’ll be doing a full post on chemical exfoliation next week. In the meantime, hit me with any questions!