All this recent talk about “skincare wardrobes” courtesy of Lisa Armstrong in her GoW article (here) and Gill in last month’s newsletter got me thinking about my own skincare style and how I found it. I get asked all the time about how to curate the perfect set of products, aka a skincare wardrobe and it is something I like to think I have pretty much perfected now, although it wasn’t an easy process. It took a lot of time, a lot of money spent and wasted and a lot of bad skin days before I truly realized what worked for me and why. Knowing this is what allowed me to formulate my current results driven skincare style, which is focused on ingredients and formulas that do the most for my skin.
I went through a lot of different phases before I found my personal skincare style. In the beginning it was non-existent as I only used face wipes and a moisturizer. Then I went overboard and jumped on any new trend, launch and brand I could get my hands on. There was no structure and my skin was not happy. I also copied a lot of what I saw other people using, but that didn’t help either. Neither did using only products from one brand, it just wasn’t for me. Eventually I found my way to green beauty where I primarily used only organic and plant based products, but there was always something missing, which brings me to where I am now.
My product style is focused on ingredients and results. Sounds simple enough and when it comes to results you would think that’s what most people are after, but that isn’t always the case. For example, some people are looking for an “experience” from their products, which I can relate to in terms of self-care and others are more concerned with how a product will look on an Instagram #topshelfie post, which I don’t recommend doing. For me, after struggling with my skin for so long my number one concern is if a product actually works. I don’t care about the price (to a point) or the packaging (as long as it’s functional I’m happy) and I am not “loyal” to any brand. I want results and having a luxurious experience or pretty branding is not a major deciding factor when it comes to what I use.
What I learned over the years is that while no one brand has been able to completely cater to my combination skin, certain ingredients work really well for me and I seek them out in as many products as I can. My skin loves green tea (soothing antioxidant), salicylic and mandelic acids (generally gentle exfoliants), aloe vera (anti-inflammatory), zinc (wound healing), fruit enzymes (natural exfoliants), retinol (anti-ageing and anti-acne) and PHAs (more on this wonder ingredient soon). On the other hand, my skin doesn’t like lactic acid, some forms/strengths of Vit C and too much fragrance – synthetic or naturally occurring, so I try to avoid those. Now I can pretty much tell without even using something if it will work for me or cause a break out. Of course, I still get excited by new launches, but now I find them easier to resist the majority of them as my purchases are much more educated and less hopeful guesses nowadays.
How did I find all this out? Through trial and lots of error and finally playing attention to the information on the back of the product box (the inci list) instead of the claims being made on the front. For the longest time I had no idea what worked for my skin and most importantly, why until I started educating myself. This is also when I started to see the best results and after dealing with acne for so many years that’s really all I care about. Beautiful packaging, gorgeous scents/textures and “all natural” ingredients are meaningless to me if they don’t provide results worth paying extra for (yes extra, because that’s exactly how it works). We pay more for all the bells and whistles, as well as the fantastical claims about purity and wellness, which are usually just a marketing smoke screen for grossly overpriced subpar products. Be warned – expensive doesn’t always mean better.
If you are still struggling to hone in on your own personal skincare style then I have a few pointers that might help. In general, once you have figured out your skin type and/or major concerns you are then free to decide what factors are most important when it comes to choosing your skincare products. It could be refined textures, certain ingredients like me or you can choose to go the more clinical route with cosmeceutical brands or stick to more “natural” products from “green” companies. You can also decide on being a minimalist with just 2-4 steps or going all out with a full Asian skincare inspired 10+ step routine.
You can also take in to account how much you want to spend on skincare. I know that for many buying skincare products is more of a treat than a necessity and not everyone can afford to have multiple cleansers, eye serums and moisturizers (trust me, it’s probably better if you don’t). Luckily the industry has a skincare line to suit every budget and you can spend as little as under £10 on a product all the way up to thousands. Just be sure you’re getting your money’s worth and that being frugal isn’t costing you in the long run. Whether it’s cheap and cheerful or advanced science and luxurious, it has to give results to be worth buying.
When people ask me how to put together a skincare wardrobe I generally recommend mixing it up in a way where the most money is being spent on the most important areas or steps. The high-low approach that Lisa mentioned is a great place to start because it allows you to save on steps like cleansers and toners where you’re not likely to see visible changes (unless you’re using the wrong one) and invest in targeted treatments that will actually make a difference to your skin. Your skin style should be personal to you and your wardrobe should include products that you enjoy using and see results with.
Luckily, like with fashion there’s not really a wrong way to do it. Whether you go all out and spend a small fortune or opt for the budget friendly brands, or even stick to one brand because the products work that well for you, as long as you and your skin are happy then that’s all that matters. The only thing I would be wary of is the changing season as most people will need more hydration during the winter and then lighter layers in the summer, but those are easy to make small tweaks. Definitely pay attention to how your skin responds to what you’re using and try and do as much research as you can before buying (get samples!). This way you should find your skincare style will naturally evolve the more you begin to understand your skin.