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Stripping back my skincare regime was the best thing I ever did after a ten-step routine ruined my complexion

Easy does it.

22 Aug 2019

Gone are the days of settling for a cleanse, tone, moisturise situation. Now we’re double cleansing, exfoliating, layering up a plethora of different single ingredient serums, slapping on moisturiser, smothering our undereyes in cream and sealing the deal with a spritzing of essence water. But is all of this product actually helping our skin?

As a beauty writer, I get to try out a lot of products. My bathroom cabinet is full to the brim of products to test out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the absolute best, but from time to time my body cries out for a bit of routine. Earlier this year, after a particularly busy period of skincare launches and testing out an average of 10+ products on my face a day, I broke out. My skin had always been fairly resilient to the array of products I subjected it to (the good, the bad and the ugly) and a change in the tide like this was totally out of character. My face was spotty, dry, red and irritated. I turned to my emergency products and slathered my face in the lot in the hope that eventually my skin would return back to normal. Five months later and I was still experiencing issues. The painful tightness had disappeared but I was experiencing redness, peeling and breakouts like never before.

When I put out a cry for help on my social media I was inundated with comments from experts telling me to cut down on the amount of products I was using, but I loved my ritualistic regime and I wasn’t just going to give it up that easily. I enlisted the help of some of the best skin experts in the business. Annoyingly for me, they all said the same thing. Dr Stefanie Williams, Dermatologist and Founder of Eudelo skin clinic says: “I find that people use too many products that contradict one another. They may use a cleansing oil to wash with but then find that their skin is getting more congested. Then they add a salicylic acid toner to find their skin’s getting dry. So next up is a moisture serum to ease their self-induced dry skin. But then a few days later a ‘hormonal’ breakout appears (there’s nothing hormonal about these) and they start using peel pads and so on…”

Sorry, did she just describe me? That’s EXACTLY what I had been doing. Having such a variety of product at my finger tips meant that I could be reactive to whatever my skin was saying, but I had no idea I’d trapped myself into a vicious cycle of skin issues. How did I end up here?

Having all of the confirmation I needed, I looked into cutting down the amount of products I was using and followed the essential skincare regime that that Stefanie advised everyone should adopt:

Morning

1. A cleanser suitable for your skin.
2. A high-grade antioxidant serum such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E or other symbiotic antioxidants.
3. Sun protection moisturiser SPF30-50.

Evening

1. A cleanser suitable for your skin.
2. A matrix stimulating evening repair cream with a retinoid as tolerated. Always start slowly.

After a lot of research, I managed to whittle my collection down to just six products. In the morning I opted to use the Murad Soothing Gel Cleanser, £30 – I’d become prone to redness and this was the perfect non-aggressive wake up call. For the evening I chose to stick to my trusty The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter, £10, for makeup removal to dissolve all traces with minimal irritation. For a second cleanse, I used Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Cleansing Wash, £9, to ease congestion. I settled on Medik8 C-Tetra + Intense Serum, £59, for my antioxidant serum of choice. It contains both vitamins C and E for the antioxidant benefits and also squalane for barrier repair and hydration. For the evening, I was a little dubious about using a retinol everyday on my already irritated skin. I did a tonne of research and discovered Goldfaden MD Wake Up Call Overnight Regenerative Facial Treatment, £75. As well as Retinol, it contains a bunch of nourishing ingredients. Last up came my daily SPF. Know that I absolutely HATE wearing SPF on my face. I do it, but I don’t enjoy it. The least offensive formula that I know of is Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF50, £38, so I stick to what I know.

After a week I started to bore of my routine, but as soon as I started seeing results, I knew it was going to be worth it. The red peeling on my chin began to heal itself after two weeks, and I began to notice that my breakouts were gradually getting less angry and returning more or less to the sort of spots I once knew.

Fast-forward to today and after two months of my stripped-back routine, my skin is almost back to good. I’m gradually starting to incorporate new products back into my routine, but I’m still limiting the amount of products I use to six or seven a day. Is my skin totally back to normal? No. But I’m not sure that it ever will be considering the years of damage I subjected it to with my excessive regimes. For now, it’s better, and that’s all I can ask for.

Please, next time you line up your products on the bathroom shelf ask yourself the following: Do I really know what I’m putting on my skin and what it mean? Do any of the products counteract each other? Does my skin really need this right now? If you’re satisfied, then proceed with caution. However, if you’re unsure, it’s best to stick to a stripped-back routine. Seriously, you’ll thank me for this.