I talk about skincare enough here that I thought it was about time I took you through my full routine. I do a pretty similar thing in the morning and the evening but with a few key changes, so I thought rather than split this into morning and evening I'd just talk about the different types of products I use for each step and why. Because this post is so long I haven’t gone into treatments or masks, etc so I might save all that for another time.
For some this may seem like a lot of steps, but I really enjoy my skincare routine and rather than feeling like an obligation, I see it as a way of taking care of myself. No matter how late I get home or how settled I am in bed watching something, I’ll still do my routine. I absolutely notice a difference if I don’t – I may not automatically break out, but my skin can look dull, dehydrated, congested, etc. I completely understand this many steps might be too much for some, but it's what works for me.
In the morning I'll start with a gentle creamy cleanser like the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanse and a muslin cloth with warm water just to get off any residual product from the night before as well as any sweat/oil that may have accumulated overnight. Or if I'm feeling lazy I'll use micellar water on a cotton pad which initially I didn't think would be a good enough cleanse but it turns out my skin is completely fine with it, so I guess that’s one shortcut I can get away with.
In the evenings, I’ll start by using Bioderma Micellar Water on a couple of cotton pads to take off the majority of my eye makeup, purely because I don’t like smearing it all over my face during the next step. I’ll always double cleanse at night with warm water, a flannel/face washer and an oil or balm cleanser first, followed by the same creamy cleanser from the morning to make sure I’ve removed all my makeup and properly cleaned my skin. At the moment I’m really enjoying the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel which is actually a balm that melts into an oil on the skin. This cleanser has a mountain of praise and good reviews behind it, and it really doesn’t disappoint. It’s even light enough to use in the morning (which I wouldn’t normally do with a balm/oil) because it leaves your skin feeling soft, plump and hydrated instead of greasy and like you need to do another cleanse to get the rest off. At night I’ll still follow with the creamy cleanser I used in the morning, think of it as one step to remove makeup and another to clean the skin.
The reason I use these two types of cleansers is because oil based cleansers are incredibly good at breaking down all your makeup and SPF and I like cream cleansers because they’re gentle but still effective at removing any residue leftover from the first cleanse. I find cleansing milks too thin and watery and I don’t think they work that well for me, and I steer clear of foaming cleansers with surfactants like sodium laureth sulfate, etc in them because these can strip the skin of its natural oils and upset its pH balance more than a gentler cleanser would.
Some people think the purpose of toner is to remove any leftover makeup after you cleanse, but if there’s still makeup on your face it means you haven’t cleansed properly. At a minimum, toners are a way of restoring the pH balance to your skin after cleansing. No matter how gentle your cleanser is it’ll still have an effect on the skin’s acid mantle, which is the film on the surface of your skin that acts as a barrier to bacteria, etc. When this is upset by a harsh cleanser it can make your skin’s pH alkaline instead of slightly acidic, making it a breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to breakouts. While your skin can reset its pH on its own, this takes a bit of time and the change to the balance is why people experience that uncomfortable tight feeling if they don’t follow their cleanse with anything, or have cleansed with something too stripping.
Aside from balancing, toners these days can do a few other things. I use two toners morning and night, one for exfoliating and one for hydrating. You’ve probably all heard about chemical exfoliants already and I like to use a gentle one like the Pixi Glow Tonic which contains glycolic acid to dissolve sebum and other stuff that holds dead skin cells together, leaving my skin looking brighter and feeling smoother. Although I do use treatments/masks as well, I find that regular use of a gentle exfoliant works for me, and that consistent use has cumulative effects, meaning my skin looks better on a daily basis instead of only after a treatment/mask. Another thing exfoliating does is prep your skin for whatever you put on next - any serum that goes on after exfoliating is going to be able to penetrate better because it doesn't have to work through a build-up of dead skin.
As for a hydrating toner, it should contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin or aloe vera and not just be thermal spring water. Think of these kinds of toners as the first stage of moisturising. I find that if my face is damp from a hydrating toner then it’s easier to spread the rest of my products around my face, meaning I need to use less of them, so in that sense it also helps with the absorption of products that come after it. While I don’t think a hydrating toner will change your life, if you have dry skin or are prone to dehydration it can be a worthwhile step. I prefer them in spray form and I’m currently using the Antipodes Antioxidant-Rich Gentle Toner. While I don’t think antioxidants in a spray are really going to make much of a difference, if nothing else a refreshing spritz is a nice experience.
I think for most people eye cream is a bit of a nothing step. Unless you have particularly dry under-eyes most of us don’t report any noticeable difference between products. Something that has only recently occurred to me is that you can separate most eye products into essentially acting as a moisturiser or a serum. The old “cleanse, tone, moisturise” routine is fine, but as I’m going to address below in the serum & moisturiser steps, it’s kind of the minimum and there’s more you could be doing if you wanted to.
So with that in mind, combined with the fact that my under-eyes aren’t especially dry, it occurred to me that I should be using something more like an eye serum. Enter the Hylamide SubQ Eyes Advanced Serum which one of the few products I’m aware of that deliberately markets itself as a serum for the eyes. Most standard eye creams under a certain budget are just like moisturisers. And it’s not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just that it’s a missed opportunity to use products with really helpful ingredients like antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients like peptides and retinol. The Hyalmide eye serum is loaded with peptides and other active ingredients and best of all it’s available in Priceline and is really reasonably priced, especially compared to everything else on the market. You’d be hard pressed to find anything with as many effective ingredients that’s not up near the $100 mark.
Ah, serums, my clear favourite and what I consider the most exciting part of skincare. As I said above, “cleanse, tone, moisturise” is a missed opportunity to really help your skin fight the signs of ageing and give it what it needs to repair itself and stay looking young and smooth for as long as possible. If you think of whatever you’d like to improve about your skin (texture, pigmentation, fine lines, dullness, dehydration, etc) then you should pick a serum to target those concerns. The serum is the workhorse of your routine while the moisturiser just locks it all in at the end. That’s why serums tend to be expensive, but if you a pick a good one, it’s because they work.
I always have a few serums on the go and I switch it up between them depending on what my skin needs at the time. For the daytime I like using something lightweight that sinks in easily, and is either hydrating or contains antioxidants and/or cell-communicating ingredients like peptides, like the Estee Lauder Perfectionist CP+. I prefer to use retinol or AHA products at night because they encourage skin cell turnover, and the newer skin is more sensitive to the sun. At the moment I’m really enjoying Indeed Labs’ Retinol Reface and REN’s Wake Wonderful Night-Time Facial which contains lactic & glycolic acids, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid for hydration.
As for oils, if I feel like I need an extra boost of hydration at night I might switch out my moisturiser for something like the Antipodes Protein-Rich Night Replenish Serum. I know it’s called a serum but if it’s got an oily texture then it’s an oil to me, plus anything water-based won’t be able to penetrate very well after you use an oil so it would always be my final step. I would also only use an oil at night because I have oily skin and I don’t need to add more of it underneath my makeup. To be honest I could write a whole post on serums alone (and in fact I might) but I’ll leave it there for now.
While I wouldn’t skip it altogether, I think the importance of moisturisers when compared to serums is seriously overstated. Aside from hydrating your skin the affordable options generally don’t do a lot else, and because so many moisturisers are packaged in jars, ingredients like antioxidants and retinol in the more expensive moisturisers are going to break down over time through repeated exposure to light and air every time you open the jar. I wouldn’t consider spending big money on a moisturiser unless hydration is one of your biggest concerns, and even if it is, personally I'd rather put the money into a good serum or oil and opt for a simpler moisturiser. I often use the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+ as my moisturiser, especially in the morning because it’s hydrating enough for me and it contains salycilic acid and niacinamide to help unclog pores and fade pigmentation, which are things that I personally need.
SPF I would obviously only apply in the morning and my favourite is the Mecca To Save Face SPF30. It contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin E so you could definitely use this as your moisturiser by itself, but I like to combine it with the LRP Effaclar Duo+ as the latter addresses different issues for me. And also if you do use a moisturiser with SPF in it you’ll need to also pick up one without SPF for use at night time.