Perhaps the most commonly referenced perk of being a beauty editor is that we get to try many exclusive, lusted after products. In particular, I go wild for getting my hands on skincare newness. I'm not alone. The allure of trying the latest formula or buzzy ingredient is widespread, as is the 'more is more' approach to skincare.
2020 saw us refocus our efforts on all things skin. Unsurprisingly, several reports show the self-care sector boomed during lockdown, with sales of skincare increasing as a way to maintain a sense of normality. #Skincare was the top hashtag in beauty on Twitter, according to Sprinklr's "The Beauty In Twitter" report, while others talked about how their elaborate skincare routines helped alleviate COVID-induced stress and anxiety.
While skincare in abundance works for some, many others experienced problems they'd not noticed before, and it's all down to over-experimentation. Case in point: my own skin. Without sounding unbearable, I've always prided myself on my skin and received plenty of compliments on the level of 'glow'. But last year, my jam-packed skincare routine began to work against me. Trying more things and layering on expensive products started to take its toll.
By June, I had full-blown adult acne. A culmination of stress, excessive mask-wearing and a six-step routine resulted in nasty under-the-skin spots all along my cheeks and jawline. I was conscious — even at times embarrassed — of my skin. It was an odd sensation, considering my job is to recommend products to people. To not be able to resolve the exact skincare issues I was writing about was a difficult pill to swallow.
So I decided to visit Dr Stefanie Williams, consultant dermatologist and medical director at Eudelo clinic. I'd never been to a dermatologist's office before but Dr Stefanie's answer was simple: a 'less is more' approach. She tasked me with streamlining my (quite frankly ridiculous) skincare collection full of complicated formulas and encouraged me to stick to a pared back, gentle regime instead. It was time to part ways with my shelfie-worthy collection of products. Of course, I acknowledge that visiting a dermatologist might not be the most accessible route for everyone struggling with their skin. In London, dermatologist appointments can start at £250 and that's before recommended treatment and follow-ups. However, I'm hoping that sharing my routine may help others who are experiencing the same skin issues.
My new morning routine
My new morning routine starts with a simple cleanser which has become a new favourite. La Roche-Posay Effaclar H Hydrating Cleansing Cream is a luxe, creamy formula that feels much more expensive than it is at just under £10.
I follow this with SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF, a vitamin C serum which is best suited to oily or acne-prone skin types. I was unknowingly using the C E Ferulic formula before this, which is best for normal to dry skin. Although I adore this product, it is a major investment. Garden of Wisdom's Vitamin C Serum 23% + Ferulic Acid is a more affordable dupe with a 62% ingredient match, according to skincare comparison site SKINSKOOL.
The next step in my routine is a prescription antibiotic cream called Dalacin T Lotion, which is formulated especially to target acne. This can be obtained via The Independent Pharmacy but you do need to complete an online consultation to determine whether it's right for you. I use this every other morning on alternating days to my evening medicated cream. I finish off my mornings with a layer of Skinceuticals Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF 50; we all know how important sunscreen is, even more so when you are using a retinol-based formula at night.
My new evening routine
Firstly, I remove my makeup with La Roche-Posay Make-Up Remover Micellar Water Gel, which is so easy to use as it literally melts away product with water. Unless you are wearing heavy makeup, there's no need for a flannel or muslin cloth. I follow this with a second cleanse, using my morning cleansing cream.
Next is my retinol, which is another prescription product (Differin 0.1% cream). I have found this to be a bit of a miracle cure for my acne but you can pick up very similar formulas over the counter which tackle spots. Dr Stefanie recommends La Roche-Posay Redermic [R] Anti-Ageing Concentrate, which won't pull on the purse strings too much. I use this retinol every other day and sometimes follow it with La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluid Moisturiser if my skin is feeling dry. Increasingly though, as my skin has become healthier, I find myself needing it less and less. It's a really lightweight formula for when I do need an extra hit of hydration, and is great for spot-prone skin, even when layered over retinol.
A couple of short months after visiting Dr Stefanie, my skin was back on track, looking the best it ever has. The spots were gone, the glow was back and my confidence had finally returned. And I'm not the only one enjoying simplicity right now. 2021 is set to see streamlined skincare take flight and after the 10-step Korean approach to beauty, and all the over-masking and DIY-ing we did in the past year, it's a welcome change.
Experts have actually been advocating a stripped back approach to skincare for years. Skincare consultancy Lion/ne lives by this philosophy. As cofounder Megan Felton explains, overusing ingredients and indulging in overcomplicated routines can cause more harm than good. "The more you use, the higher at risk you are of over-exfoliating and overfeeding, thus potentially compromising the skin," she explains. "By stripping back a client's routine, we tend to see a decrease in breakouts." Dr Stefanie agrees and says that she sees the 'victims' of overloaded skin at Eudelo every day. "My advice is to give your skin more credit and help it to help itself, rather than suffocating it," she says. This means avoiding heavy, overly rich creams and steering clear of over-exfoliating, too.
My experience is a reminder that stripping back your routine doesn't mean it can't be comprehensive and feature some of the best ingredients. Truthfully, I'm not sure I'll ever go back to a complicated regime. I've well and truly ditched many of my old skincare must-haves.
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