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A Doctor Compared My Skin Routine To My Mum’s & We Learned A Lot

We inherit a lot from our mothers. Mine passed on her freckles, a sweet tooth, and the tendency to ramble. But one thing I didn't get from her was a love of skincare — I had to pursue that for myself.
Mum has just never been interested. She does the basics but will chop and change her skincare routine depending on what anti-ageing product is on special at the shops. On the flip side, I'm a #SkinTok diehard who meticulously searches for each ingredient I'm adding to my overpriced routine.
My writing career began in beauty, so with armfuls of skincare products and a lot of enthusiasm, I tried to make a dent in mum's set ways — but nothing really stuck. So, when the opportunity came up for us to get our skincare routines assessed by an expert, I jumped on it.
Mum took me through her bathroom and showed me her step-by-step skincare process, which featured a new moisturiser that her sister happened to give her. We took stock of these products, noted down each of our routines and then sent it all to Dr Matt Vickers, a GP with a sub-speciality in skin cancer medicine. As the Clinical Director of Software Skincare — a prescription skincare company that sends you custom products depending on your skin goals and needs — Dr Vickers is one of the experts on deck to review customers' skin and select customised formulations for them.
Before we get a verdict from Dr Vickers, let's run through our routines.

Ellie - Age 26

After years of trialling harsh actives and committing to 10-step nonsense in the beauty world, I've scaled back my skincare. This is now my simplified routine:

AM Routine:

1. Cleanse with a hydrating cream cleanser.

2. Apply an oil-free moisturiser that’s formulated with three ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
3. Apply a vitamin C serum.
4. Apply an SPF50+ oxybenzone-free sunscreen.

PM Routine:

1. First cleanse with a cleansing balm.
2. Second cleanse with a hydrating cream cleanser.
3. Apply a hyaluronic acid serum.
4. Alternate final step each night: either a squalane oil or a face cream formulated with CoQ10 and antioxidants.
I felt confident about my routine but was a little worried that it might just be good on paper. After all, I wanted to see some changes in my skin. Severe acne in my late teens and early 20s have left me with scarring on my T-zone. I get regular breakouts on my jawline, and have visible pores and dullness. I voiced these concerns to Dr Vickers. So how does my routine stack up?
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“Ellie, you have chosen some great options that are highly effective but simple and appropriate for acne-prone skin,” says Dr Vickers. I was patting myself on the back at this point. A little too soon...
“The squalene oil might be too oily for your skin if you are continuing to get breakouts. Applying an oil at night is great if you have dry or sensitive skin but if not, it could be blocking pores and increasing the likelihood of a breakout,” explains Dr Vickers. He suggests that I opt for a light moisturiser at night instead.
Dr Vickers also says that my routine could likely benefit from the addition of some prescription ingredients such as a retinoid, to target acne and scarring. Lastly, he recommends swapping the squalane oil out for a niacinamide serum at night. Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that works to reduce hyper-pigmented spots, blotchiness and sallowness.
Now, mum's turn in the hot seat:

Maria - Age 54

AM Routine:

1. Cleanse with a hydrating cream cleanser.
2. Apply a fragrance-free, anti-ageing day cream for sensitive skin.
3. Apply zinc when going outside.

PM Routine:

1. Use a face cloth to cleanse with a hydrating cream cleanser.
2. Apply a hyaluronic acid serum (0.5% macro hyaluronic acid and 1% of micro hyaluronic acid).
3. Apply a Q10 eye cream with goat's milk.
4. Apply the same anti-ageing day cream from this morning.
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While mum is concerned about dryness and dullness and would like her skin to look plumper, she has very sensitive skin and bad dermatitis on her hands, so this minimises the range of ingredients she applies to her face as they often irritate the delicate skin on her fingers.
Noting all of mum's concerns, Dr Vickers explains that she's done well in making her routine appropriate for her sensitive skin. Go mum!
“Again, a niacinamide or vitamin C serum would be great for your dullness and adding a thicker moisturiser at night, such as a ceramide balm would be a great idea too for dry skin concerns," says Dr Vickers.
Given that mum doesn't care for lengthy routines, she asked if it was possible to streamline hers while still addressing her concerns. Dr Vickers suggested ditching the eye cream altogether, advising that she could get better results around the eyes with a moisturiser and the hyaluronic acid she's already using.
“I would continue to use the same ingredients, but look to combination products such as hyaluronic acid moisturising creams to reduce some steps in your routine," he says.
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While I would love to morph into my mum as I get older, there are some things I’d prefer not to inherit. She’s had skin cancer — a basal cell carcinoma on her nose. I already have her pale skin, so am I likely to be facing the same concerns when I'm 54?
Dr Vickers says yes, to a degree, but it's unlikely. "The benefits of sunscreen, both from a skin cancer perspective in addition to the enormous anti-ageing benefit it provides, were largely unknown until relatively recently. As a result, most of our parents' skin outcomes were largely impacted by UV damage. As more and more young people wear daily sunscreen and protect their skin, photodamage and ageing are likely to be significantly delayed compared to our parents," he says. Either way, I'm getting regular skin checks and keeping up my SPF50+.
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After getting Dr Vickers' feedback, I realised I've probably been a touch bossy with mum and her skincare, especially given that my expertise is limited to hyped-up products and trends — not her specific skin type and concerns.
While we're both keen to test our new routines, the best bit of this experience has been chatting to mum about ageing. As she analysed her face in the mirror and voiced a couple of gripes about wrinkles, she looked at me in the reflection and said, "I love the lines around my eyes. They show all my years of smiling." I can only hope to age into the woman my mother is.
Individual results may vary. For best results consult your GP. The skincare range mentioned in this article is only available on prescription.
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