The Best Basic Skincare Routine
I get a lot of questions sent to me, either via email or through Instagram, and there are always a few things that get asked more than anything else. For the past year or so, that question has been “I’m completely new to skincare, where the hell do I start?”
There are variations on this, but mostly the person sending the message seems to either have a very basic semi-routine (for example, they cleanse properly but don’t do anything else at all), or they have listened to a million different people, take it all in and have shelves filled with things they have bought and don’t know why.
A lot of these people have tried to follow features and articles on skincare, but aren’t really that bothered in finding out about it – they just want to know the absolute skincare basics so that they can tick that particular box and get on with their day. I have at least a dozen people in my life who fit this description – they know that they should be doing something about their skincare routine, which consists of lathering up some soap and following that “cleanse” with some apricot hand lotion (not made up, unfortunately!). They just don’t want to spend any time getting to grips with it all. And they are put off by the acids and the vitamins and the layering and the tonics and the steps – oh my God the steps – and the price of all of this stuff.
So I thought that I would write down the absolute basics when it comes to skincare. Because you truly don’t need much when it comes to buying products. Of course, if you are interested in skincare and enjoy adding things to your routine that are more potent, exciting and miracle-promising, then that is great (I’m definitely in that camp!). But for the people who currently take off their makeup with a baby wipe then use a bit of their boyfriend’s aftershave balm as a moisturiser, here is what you need to do:
You have to get off the makeup, dirt, grease and grime at the end of the day. It is non-negotiable and if you don’t do that, it almost isn’t worth bothering with anything else. So cleanse properly, with formulas that effectively break down the foundation, sunscreen and city dust (or country filth!) and don’t, unless you really have to, resort to quick-style cleansers that promise “one wipe and you are clean” type of thing. If it doesn’t require water and a wash cloth then it probably isn’t going to do the trick, long-term.
We all know what moisturizer is, but which one do we choose? Do we need more than one? I say yes, but only because for daytime I combine my moisturiser with my SPF — or to put it more accurately, I choose an SPF that is moisturising — and I wouldn’t ever sleep in sunscreen. So I have SPF for day and non-SPF for night. Still, pretty simple. For daytime, I like a lightweight but hydrating cream with sunscreen. At night, I like a cream that has long-lasting hydration, but isn’t greasy and is reasonably inert in that it isn’t filled full of funky acids and so on so that I can layer it on over my retinol at night. So to recap, that is cleanse and then moisturise. Job done.
Oh, sorry, were you expecting more? That is about it, if we are talking absolute, ground level, bargain basement beauty. Cleanse your face, then keep it hydrated. Cleanse, hydrate. If you have a good facial moisturiser it will help to strengthen the skin’s barrier so that it can hold in moisture for longer, and it might contain some antioxidants for a bit of extra protection against things like pollution and UV rays. And if you really, really don’t want to invest any more time, energy or mental space to your skincare routine, then that is it.
If you do, and you are worrying about wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots and other things that make you frown at the mirror when you look at it in the morning, I will add one more thing to your list: try retinol. If all of the ingredient names flying about confuse you and send you scuttling back beneath the virtual online rock, just plump for this one. Plump is a choice word in this case, because retinol will – in a good product – help to firm, plump, smooth and even out skintone. It is wondrous stuff.
So, my picks for those keep-it-simple people who also don’t want to spend masses? I have listed some great affordable options below.
Balm: Beauty Pie’s Plantastic Deep Nourishing Moisture Balm is so luxe and beautiful, it smells amzaing and gets off even stubborn makeup. However, Beauty Pie is a strange one; the skincare products are fabulous, but buying them isn’t the most straightforward process. You need to subscribe and then you get a certain amount to spend, depending on which membership level you purchase. Personally I feel it is well worth it. I haven’t had a skincare product I haven’t loved.
Cream: Pixi Rose Cleanser is a relatively affordable cream cleanser with a luxurious edge. If you want a lighter, organic cream cleanser then I love Weleda’s Almond one.
Wash: Cerave’s Hydrating Cleanser would be my pick of the budget bunch, whatever skin type you have. It is light and non-greasy on oily skin and won’t feel tight and uncomfortable for drier and sensitive skin. The bottle is huge, I quite often use a bit for my body in the shower as well as doing my face.
Moisturizer with SPF
Cerave Moisturising Lotion SPF25 is an elegant, velvety broad spectrum sunscreen that doesn’t cost the earth. It stands up to most high-end, luxury products in terms of texture and performance, though it is not the highest of SPF.
Moisturizer without SPF
Oily and/or sensitive: Toleriane Fluider is so light, but has a pleasing, soothing texture and hydrates – non-greasily – incredibly well.
Very, very dry: Weleda Skin Food or Skin Food Light if you don’t need SOS hydration.
Hydrating night treatment mask for pretty much all skin types: L’Oreal Revitalift Night Cream-Mask is bouncy, fresh and you really feel the difference the next morning.
Indeed Labs Retinol Reface performs as well as products that cost multiple times the amount. It is a really lovely, sophisticated formula, and I have never experienced any side-effects with it.
Beauty Pie Super Retinol Night Renewal + C behaves like a product 10 times the price. I can’t rate it enough. It is powerful, but there is no downtime. The added vitamin C means you are ticking more boxes (brightness, antioxidant protection, help with pigmentation) with no extra effort.