For as long as I can remember, I have always used the 3 main steps of a skincare routine.
1. Cleanse. 2. Tone. 3. Moisturise.
Yes, even using toner. I always tried products from Mum’s beauty stash, and since I always read the word “Toner” somewhere in her selection, I assumed I needed it. I thought it was for extra cleansing. You know, wiping that cotton pad over your face and still seeing that dirt (gross). Why didn’t double-cleansing ever come to mind? I mean, it makes sense!
My Relationship with Skincare
Up until a year or so ago, I would’ve said my skin was dry, uneven in tone and dehydrated. I still get dehydrated in the colder months. I’ve accepted this will always be the case but now I know how to manage it.
A real focus on my skin, came from a nudge my parents gave me when I first started uni. They bought me some Neutrogena & Oil of Olay products to help with the dryness and uneven skin tone. I think the products helped a little, but nothing permanent. What I got most from this nudge was learning how to take care of my skin, recognise concerns and what feels good to put on it. I can’t remember if it was before or after, but I also tried the Clinique 3-Step Skincare. All I can say is that it felt like patches of my skin had burnt off. It also looked that way. Not cool.
The first proper investment I made was at 23 and one I still dearly miss; Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil - the green one! . I think it was the anti/oxi clarifying one which was brightening, hydrating and vitalising. I loved it. It was a whopping £60 (250ml) but it would last me months and did wonders for my skin. I wouldn’t have known what to call it back then, but it made my skin “glow” lol. It also introduced me to Space NK (and the burning hole in my wallet) since they were they only stockists I had access to.
The majority of my routine in my 20’s consisted of Shu Uemura, and dozens of moisturisers. I even tried getting fancy with overnight facial oils (Khiels Midnight Recovery, Caudalie Overnight Detox) but these didn’t do much for me to be honest. Of all the moisturisers I tried, none of them really stand out in my memory apart from Khiels Ultra Facial Cream or Lotion which I found myself going back to, and still do sometimes.
Kicking it up a notch (or 2!)
Before I started to improve my routine, during the make-up ban, I was using the Murad Environmental range (the main ingredient is Vitamin C). It covered the 3-steps pretty well (at an expensive price point). I wasn’t breaking out as much travelling into London (it’s a thing. I break out after using the underground. A post will include more info in the future!). The idea that the Vitamin C was working as an anti-oxidant sparked an interest. It was also brightening my skin. What other ingredients could help me? This interest, and being bare faced everyday, led me to focus and research more. Why was my skin still uneven? How can I help get rid of blemishes? How on earth could I manage that tight feeling? Drinking water wasn’t really cutting it for me….so, I took my skincare to the next level. I found out that treating my skin, and nourishing it, using specific ingredients was what I needed to do. This changed my skincare game and, dare I say it, my life. Now, every morning and night, I have at least 10 minutes of pure self-care, no matter what, and that “me” time is very important to me. It’s been a ritual so long now, and I love it.
Learning about different formulations and how science is a huge part of it all helped with how to incorporate products into my routine. I stumbled upon The Ordinary and their range of serums (grouped as follows: direct acids, antioxidants, hyrdrators and oils, molecules). Their concept, in short, is science driven. Its pure focus is to create formulations formed mostly by the main ingredient. It strips out extra ingredients that make products feel/smell luxurious and more pleasant upon application. That might sound unattractive, but these extra ingredients tend to be the reason why products are pricey. Does our skin actually need the pretty colour, or the gorgeous scent? My skin doesn’t. The Ordinary’s concept means their formulations are simple. Simple, but beyond suitable for use. No unnecessary fanciness, just products that provide an impact. As a result the cost of production allows a cheaper retail price. What’s there to complain about?! I won’t delve into it further but check out their website to learn more if you’re interested. You’ll see that under the brand umbrella “Deciem”, there are a few product lines. NIOD is similar to The Ordinary, but the higher price point is due to a more advanced technical / scientific process.
Putting My Routine Together
For my concerns, I researched affordable ingredients/products (mostly The Ordinary), read articles, watched tons of YouTube reviews and then made my own choices. For further understanding on their effectiveness, I would look out for reviews by people with different skin types/concerns to mine, and also investigated pricier products (think 20x more pricey) to see any differences in the results.
Below is a photo of some of my research and what my skincare routine looked like for a while. It’s intense, I know, but it did wonders for my knowledge...and more importantly for my skin. (Apologies! The photo isn’t the best but it shows exactly what I wrote down. I no longer have it but fortunately I kept this in my iPhone Notes).
I want to mention that The Ordinary were VERY helpful with replying to my queries on how to use the products i.e. where would they sit in my routine, the order of use**.
Brands like The Ordinary, essentially, forced me to learn what I needed to know. I mean, ACIDS? On my face*? It sounds intimidating, they’re actually great for our skin if we use them correctly! There’s AHA’s and BHA’s… See the photos up top? Those are some notes from my research. #skingeekwannabe
I now feel I understand the purpose of products. If I have a problem, at least I know the basics. I no longer need to solely rely on reviews or what a salesperson tells me - which I have learned, isn’t always accurate! I have personal experience of using ingredients myself and know what works with me. The responsibility of my skin and researching for its needs, is mine.
SO, where am I now
Overall, I am happy with the state of my skin and my relationship with caring for it. My skin is far from perfect but I love that I understand what it needs and what products to reach for. When it comes to experimenting with what’s on the market, I feel more equipped to take a leap with investing. I love my routine, morning and night. I love helping out family and friends, and being able to share what I have learned.
How can you get started?
If you want to take your skincare up a notch, do some research. Proper research. Don’t just buy products because it’s a trendy brand, or because it looks pretty. What are your concerns? What’s your budget?
Incorporate products slowly into your routine especially if you are sensitive. Don’t spend uncomfortably. Very often there are affordable dupes that are as impactful.
I recommend starting out with brands like The Ordinary whose products are super affordable and, I’ve found, effective. Such brands have grown in numbers and can help teach you what your skin wants you to feed it without breaking the bank. Every person I’ve recommended The Ordinary to, all different skin types, have loved the products they tried. I will share some of these experiences in future content.
Most importantly, as I was once advised “Listen to your Skin!”*** It’s so true. Give yourself those 10 minutes, morning and night, and make it a comforting ritual.
Happy Skin = Happy You.
*Slight pang of guilt when I remember Mum trying to convince me to put Salicylic Acid on my spots. In your typical moody teenager tone, “MUUUM! Why on EARTH would you even try to make me put ACIDS ON MY FACE!!!!!”. Poor Ma. She did know best.
** Never be shy to get in touch with the brands / brand owners. That’s the beauty of platforms like Instagram. Not all will reply, but many do. May Lindstrom, for example, is one of those. I don’t know if it’s actually her… but regardless, my queries are always answered, and I like to believe it’s her (#fangirl).
***By May Lindstrom #screamingfaceemoji