I have worked in the beauty industry as a journalist for over six years. I spend my days absorbing information from any expert who is willing to have me chew their ear off. I hear from product formulators most days, get unfiltered access to some of the world’s top dermatologists and have a whole bunch of celebrity facialists on speed dial. It is through these relationships (and a ton of reading and researching) that I am able to weigh up all of the differing opinions out there and attempt to make sense of it all through my writing. It’s safe to say, therefore, that after years of listening, I have become a bit of a walking encyclopedia when it comes to skincare.
Sure, I might be considered an expert in all things beauty, but a skin expert, I am not. Yes, I absorb information and try hundreds of products, but fully understanding the ins and outs of skincare takes years of medical training. If you ask me, any advice from a beauty editor that claims to have the answers to your skincare woes (unless they have the scientific qualifications to back it up), should be taken with a pinch (read: handful) of salt. We can help decipher the beauty industry jargon, lie out what certain ingredients should do and warn you off products that will no doubt be bad news, but we can’t cure acne, we can’t tell you with absolute certainty that a product will work and we definitely can’t give you all of the answers.
Sadly, though, it’s very easy to get caught up in the details. In fact, I spent the first half of my career obsessed with the right and wrong things to do when it comes to skin. I preached that makeup should never be slept in, face scrubs should be avoided at all costs and that not wearing SPF rain or shine was the biggest sin out there. And while there is some truth to all of the above statements, experience and wisdom have taught me that a one-rule-fits-all approach can be just as damaging.
If the events of the past year have taught me anything, it’s that our beauty routines come in all different shapes and sizes, and shaming others for not adhering to beauty’s insanely high standards is not the way forward. As a result, I sat down and thought long and hard about how I want to proceed with the way I do my job. I reflected on all of the countless skincare lessons I have been taught over the years and realised that the majority were either conflicting, debatable or downright unattainable and draining. In reality, only a handful of tips have been simple, sensical and easy enough to really make an impact on me. Keep scrolling for the five simple skincare tips I think everyone should be aware of.
Out of all of the skincare lessons I have learned, this remains perhaps the most controversial. You see, this is something I have sort of figured out for myself and I want you to hear me out. I grew up during a time when St. Ives Apricot Face Scrub was the skincare product to own. I used it once a week throughout my teens and loved the way it made my skin feel so smooth and soft. And then, the beauty world decided that all face scrubs were basically the devil, and we should be using acid exfoliants instead (like glycolic acid). In my early twenties, I binned all of my much-loved scrubs and started incorporating acids into my routine whenever I could (2–3 times a week, in the evenings).
During those years, I battled redness, sensitivity, breakouts and even a bout of perioral dermatitis. Even as a beauty journalist, I struggled to strike a balance between strong acid exfoliants and the necessary moisture my skin would require after treatment. After speaking to a number of dermatologists, they insisted that the right acid is likely out there for me, but if trying to find it is causing my skin trauma, there is a place in most routines for a scrub too. Now, I like to use both, just in moderation. The key, I have learned, to a great face scrub that isn’t too abrasive is looking for a gentle formula designed for weekly use (at a maximum) and knowing when to lay off if the skin turns red and irritated.
Finally, this is the most important skincare tip of them all. While some experts will scare you off using face wipes (I personally don’t advocate using any single-use beauty product for waste reasons) and tell you that mixing retinol with acids is the worst thing you can do, the truth is, if you’ve found products that keep your skin happy, make sure you cherish them.
The most important thing when it comes to skincare is to listen to what your own skin is telling you, not what a skinfluencer or beauty editor wants to preach to you on Instagram. Of course, there are things that we can all do to help safeguard our skin against future damage (and making additions and tweaks off the back of expert recommendations should always be encouraged) but if you’ve already got something good, never feel shamed out of it.