So it's a good while now since I spoke about skincare and my goodness, have things changed. This is going to be a hefty blog post, so please sit yourself down with a cuppa! However, I want to try and string it all together because I wish I had read something coherent, like I hope this is going to be, when I started becoming more aware of what I was putting on my face. I would have saved myself - and my skin - a lot of time, aggro and money. By no means am I any kind of expert and of course this is not definitive, it won't suit everyone. But after doing a lot of research, this is the current structure of my skincare routine and I really cannot sing its praises enough.
So having established 'the taking off of make up' and 'actually cleaning my skin' as two very different parts of cleansing, this is the first part of my regime that I've divided into two. To kick off, I still use my Garnier Micellar water to remove stubborn eye make up, and then my beloved Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser to break down the rest of the product left on my face.
But then when I actually want to cleanse my skin, I'm using Ultrabland from Lush. First of all, it's oil based, which was big for me. Despite being *blessed* with an oily T-Zone, I'm now not afraid to use oil based products on my skin. Part of the problem for those who face breakouts or even acne, is not the production of excess sebum alone, but also ridding the skin of its natural oils. Also, Ultrabland is deliciously simple. It is 100% natural, soft and calming, so I feel happy that it isn't stripping my skin its own defences.
FACT: One of the most important lessons I have learnt at this stage, is not to use a foaming or a gel cleanser, especially if you have a dry complexion. These products dehydrate and alkalise the surface of the skin, which then becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
So this is the other part of my routine that has been divided into two. After removing my Ultrabland with a warm cloth, I then go to Pixi Glow Tonic. This is an infamous acid toner that took the beauty world by storm last year - it exfoliates and raises the pH of your skin, stimulating cell renewal.
Acid toners have the upper hand at this stage in your routine as opposed to using an exfoliator with beads, which can often lead to broken capillaries, or if you do have a spot will very easily spread the infection. You can spend a lot of money on a good acid toner, or pre-soaked acid toner pads. However, the Pixie Glow Tonic is at the reasonable end of the scale at £18 and can be used much more frequently than some of the more concentrated products on the market. It's also available on ASOS now, so very easy to get hold of!
Secondly, I use a more traditional hydrating, nourishing toner. This is purely for another layer of nutrients and moisture before you go in with a serum. So for this, I still use my much-loved and aloe vera-packed Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic.
So this is what needs to be the the real star of the show. If you're thinking of spending some pennies on skincare, then they're going to need to go on your serum.
When I am no longer on a student budget and can bear to spend unruly amounts on a serum, this section will one day read Sunday Riley, Good Genes. But for now, I'm using REN Omega 3 Optimum Skin Oil which is jam packed full of nutrients and hydration. It also contains many of the same ingredients as some of the more luxe serums on the market, so its very good value for £23.
I do just quickly want to talk about what you might think of using at this point if you have more troublesome skin. At the beginning of this year, my skin went awol. So this is what I've found really WORKS when hormones go on the rampage. Firstly, my ever faithful La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+. If you suffer with problem skin, this guy contains a small amount of the anti-inflammatory agent benzoyl peroxide. So I would apply this in place of my serum in the morning and then in the evening, use Avène Triacneal. This is your preventative, as it contains a retinoid. Retinoids unclog and minimise the appearance of pores, boost collagen production, even out skin tone and discolouration and smooth the skin. As I said above, by no means am I a dermatologist but I really recommend trying the science behind these two products if you are someone that has trouble keeping breakouts at bay. It's a winning combination.
Caroline Hirons is the guru I go to when I'm looking at 'what to buy' in terms of skincare. She says that your moisturiser is merely the coat to your favourite outfit - in other words, don't get too hung up about what covers it all up. This was very refreshing for me, as I always thought the moisturiser was the big gun.
At the moment I am using the same moisturiser morning and night, which is the Kate Somerville Nourish Daily Moisturiser. It's an absolutely beautiful consistency, really light and fresh so perfect for summer. But most importantly, its so hydrating and has become a bit of a hero product for me. It's unfortunately not very easy to get hold of in the UK at the moment *grimace* however you can order it from the Kate Somerville website. I recently however was given a sample of the Clarins Hydraquench, which has really blown my socks off. It's incredibly hydrating and not at all greasy - I've noticed a big difference in my skin since I've been using it as my night cream. And, it's cheaper.
A couple of nights a week, I will use Liquid Gold by Apha-H. This product has one of the highest concentrations of glycolic acid you can get in a skincare product without a prescription. Sounds scary, but it's amazing. If you like something that gives real and immediate results, this is something you might think of trying.
It's a leap of faith product. It's not a toner, you cleanse and then wipe this over your skin and leave bare. If you'd have asked me a year ago to wipe acid over my face and forego a moisturiser I'd have thought you were mad. There is so much to read online about it, but essentially Liquid Gold drops the pH of your skin overnight, so it has to work harder to regain its natural levels. This leaves it tighter and firmer, as well as exfoliating dead skin cells to leave your complexion looking instantly brighter and more radiant. It also increases your skin's natural production collagen and hyaluronic acid, which traps moisture. The proof is in the pudding with this one, but *hint* there is a reason it's called Liquid Gold.
And finally, just a quick word about SPF.
If you're getting up in the morning, going to work, spending the entire day indoors and then travelling home again, then you're not going to be overly exposed to UV. It makes sense to get your SPF from your make up. However, it's being said now that on days you need it, you want to use an SPF as totally a separate entity from your moisturiser - ie. using a moisturiser with no SPF and then having a more specific SPF to layer on afterwards. For example, if you have money to spend, undoubtably one of the best on the market comes from Dr. Marko Lens who is the one of the leading specialists in skin cancer and skin ageing: Zelens Daily Defence SPF 30. If you want some colour on your face, try Clarins Liquid Bronze. It's a very light lotion you apply after your day cream, which will give you a gorgeous, golden glow and won't break you out, like many facial fake tans tend to.
Don't be in a hurry to reach for a packet of face wipes at the end of a long day and slap on a moisturiser jam pack with mineral oil. Your face will not thank you for it. Take your time to find out what your skin needs, and enjoy it. Some people may buy designer hand bags and shoes, but I would really encourage anyone to make skincare their crack as well, especially if you're like me and can't get away with throwing on any old lotion and potion. And what is the point of spending a lot of money on luxe, high-end make up if it is merely in an endeavour to hide the skin underneath that you don't want to show? Value what you wake up to and see every day in the mirror, do your research, and invest in what you're putting on your face. It really will thank you in the long run.