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Oily (characterised by excess sebum, shine and often breakouts) through to dry (rough in texture and sometimes flaky and red), there are multiple categories which help experts work out which products and ingredients will benefit your skin. Nailing an actual routine, though, can be confusing.
Determining your skin type is one thing but cutting through the noise of new beauty brands and shiny product launches is overwhelming to say the least. But it doesn't really need to be. If you have no idea where to start or simply want to switch things up, there is a handful of very simple steps you can take to help you achieve your best skin.
Ahead, experts break down how to find the perfect simple skincare routine for your skin type.
The best skincare routine for oily or acne-prone skin
"Oily skin tends to produce more sebum (oil) and can have a shiny appearance," explains Dr Parisha Acharya, skin expert and aesthetic doctor at Waterhouse Young Clinic. "You may also find redness or pigmentation from inflammation (such as spots) as well as scarring. Types of acne can manifest in different ways from blackheads and whiteheads to pimples, some of which may be pus-filled, large painful cysts and even deep-seated nodules."
Dr Acharya says that helpful skincare ingredients to look out for are salicylic acid for deep-cleaning blocked pores and alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic, lactic and mandelic acid, which are all great for brightening the skin and fading pigmentation. "I recommend using these a few times a week in the evening, and always advise my patients to be cautious in the sun as they can predispose you to sunburn," says Dr Acharya. She also recommends benzoyl peroxide as a targeted spot treatment, but this must be prescribed by a GP or skin specialist.
Simple morning skincare routine for oily or acne-prone skin
"Cleanse with an exfoliating cleanser and then use an antioxidant serum," says Dr Acharya. This should ideally contain vitamin C to protect against pollution and other environmental aggressors. The next step is a leave-on exfoliator, such as Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Pads, £40, simply swiped on to the skin. "Follow with SPF, which protects your skin from UV light," says Dr Acharya. If your routine contains retinol and acids, which this one does, SPF is a must during the day.
Simple evening skincare routine for oily & acne-prone skin
"Double cleansing is important as we have makeup, pollution and dirt on our skin from the day," says Dr Acharya. Cleanse twice with CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Cleanser, £9.50, to eradicate impurities. "Then I like to use an exfoliator, such as PCA Skin Blemish Bar, £43, as it contains salicylic acid. Once rinsed off, follow with a retinol serum. Retinol should always be the last step in your evening regime and I would not recommend layering any products over it."
The best skincare routine for combination skin
"Combination skin is probably one of the most common skin types which tends to have few problems," says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at Skin55. "It is not too oily or too dry, so the skin tends not to be shiny or flaky, but a slightly oilier T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) is common. In the winter months, it may be drier than the summer. Most products are tolerated well without any problems such as burning or stinging."
Simple morning skincare routine for combination skin
"Ensure skin is clean to provide a base for the application of further products," says Dr Mahto, who likes La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel, £12.50. Follow with an antioxidant serum, such as vitamin C, which provides protection against environmental damage that can lead to skin bugbears such as pigmentation. "Most combination skin types tend not to have issues with sensitivity and a high percentage of L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is likely to be tolerated," adds Dr Mahto. For moisturiser, opt for something that is labelled 'non-comedogenic'. "This is not too thick or creamy in texture. Then, follow with a light textured gel sunscreen with broad-spectrum cover and minimum SPF 30." Dr Mahto likes Jan Marini Physical Protectant SPF 45, £53.
Simple evening skincare routine for combination skin
"Always do an initial cleanse and remove makeup and sunscreen from the skin's surface before moving on to a foaming gel cleanser to remove any residue," says Dr Mahto, who uses Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water, £15.80. "Once or twice weekly an exfoliating face wash containing AHA/BHAs (exfoliating acids) can be used if the skin is more on the oily side." Then, apply a vitamin A or retinol-based product to help boost collagen production and improve cell turnover. "You can follow with a moisturiser to reduce irritation which may be caused by vitamin A," adds Dr Mahto. SPF is a must in the daytime if you are using these ingredients.
The best skincare routine for sensitive or reactive skin
"Those with sensitive or reactive skin often describe a burning and stinging sensation," says consultant dermatologist Dr Zainab Laftah at Omniya Clinic in Knightsbridge. "When associated with redness and scaling, an underlying skin condition, for example rosacea, contact dermatitis or eczema may be present, but there is a group of individuals who have sensitised skin often due to a weakened skin barrier. In some, it is caused by an environmental trigger or over-exfoliation." Your first port of call? Strip things back to basics with fragrance-free skincare to repair and restore the skin barrier. "Ingredients such as ceramides and fatty acids will help replenish the lipid barrier, while humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin will help retain moisture in the skin," says Dr Laftah.
Simple morning skincare routine for sensitive or reactive skin
"A morning skincare routine should include a gentle cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen," says Dr Laftah. She recommends La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser, £12.50, which is a simple cleansing milk designed for sensitive skin, followed by CeraVe Moisturising Lotion, £9.50, which contains ceramides, fatty acids and hyaluronic acid to help repair skin. Finish with La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid SPF 30, £17.50. "This is a non-perfumed, high sun protection sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin," says Dr Laftah.
Simple evening skincare routine for sensitive or reactive skin
"An evening skincare routine would include a cleanser and moisturiser, with introduction of an active ingredient when skin barrier function has improved," says Dr Laftah, so when your skin is less reactive and red. Start with Avène Tolérance Extrême Cleansing Lotion, £15, which contains glycerin to soothe reactive skin. Dr Laftah recommends following with the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Lotion, £13, to help reduce redness. "I would introduce The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension, £5.50, only once the skin irritation has settled to help with redness, blemishes or pigmentation if present," adds Dr Laftah.
The best skincare routine for dry skin
Dry skin is one of the most common skin conditions according to Dylan Griffiths, skin expert and Eucerin medical manager. It can be exacerbated by harsh weather conditions, seasonal changes and increased sun exposure to name a handful of factors, and it is caused by the evaporation of moisture and a lack of natural moisturising factors such as lipids aka fats. Dry skin feels tight, rough and can sometimes be scaly, flaky and itchy. In terms of skincare, Dylan suggests looking out for emollients, which are ingredients that create a layer on the skin to stop water from escaping. They usually contain humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides or urea, which hold moisture in the skin and repair the skin's barrier.
Simple morning skincare routine for dry skin
Opt for a gentle, nourishing cleanser that won't strip the skin barrier further, such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, £9.49. While your skin is still damp, you might want to follow with a hyaluronic acid serum, like Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, £40. Dylan suggests an emollient-based moisturiser, such as Eucerin AtoControl Face Care Cream, £12. The final step is SPF. To avoid overloading the skin, choose something lightweight but moisturising, for example Ultrasun Extreme SPF50, £19.99.
Simple evening skincare routine for dry skin
Once again, reach for your soothing cleanser and give skin a double cleanse to remove makeup, dirt and all traces of SPF before gently patting dry with a clean towel. If you want to use something different in the evening, try Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturising Cleanser, £32. Follow up with a serum which contains moisturising vitamin E. R29 rates The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum, £16. To lock in moisture, choose a non-pore-clogging moisturiser, such as Eucerin Dry Skin Replenishing Face Cream Night 5% Urea with Lactate, £11.50, and take it up to the eye area.
The best skincare routine for 'normal' skin
"This skin type is referred to as well-balanced skin that is neither too oily nor too dry," says Dr Laftah. "Small, fine pores may exist in the T-zone and the risk of breakouts is low. The skin barrier is intact and the skin has a soft, smooth texture. As a result, those with 'normal' skin can introduce active ingredients into their skincare routine," such as retinol.
Simple morning skincare routine for 'normal' skin
A morning skincare routine should include a cleanser, vitamin C serum for environmental protection, moisturiser and sunscreen, according to Dr Laftah. She rates Paula's Choice Calm Nourishing Cleanser, £20. "This is a gentle cleanser that contains aloe vera and glycerin to help calm any skin redness from use of an overnight retinol." Follow with Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, £140, an antioxidant serum which protects against pollution and subsequently pigmentation. "Add Bioderma Sebium Hydra, £11.10, as a non-comedogenic moisturiser, then a high, broad spectrum sunscreen."
Simple evening skincare routine for 'normal' skin
"An evening routine should include a cleanser and an active," such as retinol, says Dr Laftah. "I like the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, £9.50, as it contains ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to help cleanse the skin and maintain the skin barrier." Dr Laftah mentions Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3, £45, as a gentle starting point which can be gradually built up. If your skin starts to peel or flake, which is normal when using retinol, Dr Laftah recommends applying a layer of the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Lotion, £13, to counteract irritation. R29 also rates Glossier Priming Moisturiser Balance, £23, which is very similar in texture. If irritation occurs, you might want to reduce retinol usage down to two or three nights a week.