Secrets of flawless skin
WITH MULTI-STEP SKINCARE AND GIMMICKY TRENDS HITTING OVERLOAD, WHAT IS THE FALLOUT FOR OUR SKIN? ALICE DU PARCQ ASKS WHETHER WE SHOULD START TAKING A MORE MINDFUL APPROACH
Alice du Parcq on why expensive, multi-product regimes could be harming your skin
FOUR MONTHS AGO, MY SKINCARE COST ME £489.50.
My first car was less than that. I cringe – not just at the horrific spend, but because it represents nine – nine! – separate products that
I used on my skin twice a day, every day. For several years now, I have trusted, and promoted, the product-salad the skincare industry has tossed at me:
“You need an essence in your routine!”; “Mix two different serums!”; “Use a heavier eye cream at night!”
I can now categorically tell you that eye creams are, well, let’s just say surplus to
my requirements. The penny dropped when I took a long look at my skin in my snazzy new Simplehuman mirror (it’s magnified and lights up with a sensor), only to realise my skin had never looked worse. There was flaking, blackheads, patches of greasiness, clusters of dryness and even broken capillaries. All that dedicated shovelling on of £100 serums and highintensity active glycolics had resulted in ropey, knackered skin. I felt completely demoralised.
MEANWHILE, AS A BEAUTY JOURNALIST, I WAS RECEIVING DAILY PRESS RELEASES
charting the demise of our country’s skin. Last year a survey revealed there has been a 200% rise in adults in the UK seeking treatment for acne and a 30% increase in perceived skin sensitivity; and 72% of UK women feel their skin is not healthy. What invariably follows these stats are myriad new products and treatments to combat said issues. But couldn’t that be what’s causing the problems?
“We’re going through an epidemic of cell fatigue,” says leading facialist and skin expert Vaishaly Patel. “I’ve seen countless new clients who have overloaded their skin and are now wondering why it’s freaking out.” The recent ‘What’s your skincare routine?’ thread on Mumsnet reads like a beauty fan’s update of the first 17 pages of American Psycho, as it becomes clear that skincare has become a competitive sport. But, says aesthetician Dija Ayodele, who prescribes bespoke but uncluttered routines to her clients, “Given our cells have an in-built mechanism to maintain equilibrium, this is complete overload – and total cell confusion.”
Consumer confusion, meanwhile, is being heartily nourished by the beauty aisles, both real and online. This year has witnessed dozens of fleeting trends and micro-obsessions, from charcoal, vitamin C and seaweed, to dermaplaning (exactly), dry masks, wet masks, spray masks… It’s one big indecipherable fuzz. “The market is flooded,” agrees the facialist Charlotte Connoley, whose 20 hectic years as a catwalk model inspired her to treat her skin (and now others, including Rosie Huntingtonwhiteley’s) with a slow, healing approach. “There are signs everywhere saying, ‘Pick me!’, ‘Try me!’, but who knows which sign to follow?” Connoley says.
BEAUTY DIRECTOR, ANNABEL MEGGESON,
feels just as conflicted. “The category that gives me the most headaches is skincare,” she says. “In my role, I feel obligated to try everything. But I know the simpler my routine, the better it is for my skin, and I know there’s only so much that skin can receive and respond to topically. Still, there’s advice from all directions and I feel caught in the middle.”
The antidote to all this confusion is a movement people are calling mindful beauty, embodied by the stripping back of products to “two, at most three, products applied post-cleanse”, according to Patel. And, reader, it worked for me. A few days after my mirror moment, I received a bottle of a facial oil (Vanderohe No1 Nourishing Face Serum, £88), which is made from organic ingredients and claimed to transform my skin, with no instructions other than to use it on its own. This immediately spoke to my suspicions about overloading my skin
and my subsequent need for simplicity in my daily beauty routine.
After a week of using just the oil, I noticed a freshness radiate from my whole face, and the previously rough skin along my jawline was, for the first time in years, baby-soft. Three months on, my broken capillaries and blackheads had vanished and my crêpey forehead – akin to used cellophane in texture – was smoother and more supple. While this is all wonderful, the one thing that has perhaps delighted me the most is the sheer liberation of my new routine. It’s quick, simple, cheap. And, like
I said, it works.
AS ITS NAME SUGGESTS, HOWEVER, SLOW BEAUTY MAY BE SLOW TO CATCH ON,
especially among people who are exploring beauty for the first time. It’s hard in that case not to be seduced by the stratospheric rise of social media ‘skinfluencers’. Popular beauty Instagrammers have hopped onto the skincare wagon, subsequently releasing a pandemic of unsubstantiated advice camouflaged as ‘hacks’. Case in point: the make-up artist Huda Kattan of @Hudabeauty, pied piper of 21 million fans, posted a video of herself earlier in the year applying a frothy cream made of baking soda and toothpaste to remove blackheads. It hit two million views, but the clip received vitriolic backlash from professional, qualified skin experts. “Dear Huda, don’t do that,” reposted Caroline Hirons, a prominent UK skincare reviewer and qualified facialist. “Skincare is not a ‘hack’. Use baking soda to make a cake and toothpaste to brush your teeth.” Not long afterwards, the Dutch blogger Nikkie De Jager (aka @Nikkietutorials) hit over a million views for her Youtube video featuring her own personal 10-step skincare routine. She’s 23.
It’s a self-fulfilling loop: skincare companies have to sell products and have found eager champions in these ‘influencers’. They post daily and are entirely unedited, thus fostering the cultural shift in skincare’s popularity and cheering on brands to push out more products. “There are too many influencers in the skincare category who are being paid to promote products, accompanied by their own limited understanding of how they even work,” adds Ayodele.
Despite such a powerful and unconditional reach, it’s not all bad on the internet; in fact, it can be a revolutionary prescriptive haven. Just click the hashtag
Dutch BLOGGER Nikkie De Jager hit over a MILLION views for her 10-step skincare routine. She’s 23
#Carolinehironsmademedoit on Twitter to see hundreds of evangelical posts on how the facialist has saved women’s complexions. To find the best insight and news, a good place to start is with those closest to home – ie, British skincare insiders with plenty of experience, such as Hirons and
Abigailjames.com, and, of course,
Annabel Meggeson’s Weekend
Beauty Edit at Redonline.co.uk.
BUT WHAT YOU PERSONALLY SHOULD USE ISN’T THEIR RESPONSIBILITY OR DECISION,
it’s yours – akin to not buying every single item that drops weekly at Asos.
All the independent professionals I spoke to advise a more simplistic, and thus slower, routine that encourages a quality ritual over quantity of steps.
A cleansing balm or oil is a must, they say, used twice or followed by a second cleanse, especially if you wear foundation. The majority also agree a single, nourishing facial oil (it should be plant based, as this is better read by skin and won’t potentially clog pores like mineral-based oil) is the ideal minimalist-yet-modern multitasker. The massage required to work in an oil is itself a means of anti-ageing, as it stimulates and oxygenates the skin.
Plus, it does the job of several products (as I found out), addressing everything from excess sebum to fine lines.
It doesn’t have to be all about an oil though. “If you love a moisturiser, choose a good one and love that, but be aware they contain padding to make them thicker and feel a certain way, and the core ingredient to nourish and smooth your skin is, in fact, an oil,” says Connoley. Then there are the experts who believe that a serum and a low-dose night-time retinol treatment are better at treating global age-related skincare issues.
Still, the general consensus is clear: it’s time to ignore the trend brigade, pare it all back and be much more mindful about what you put on your skin.
What has delighted me most is the sheer LIBERATION of my routine. It’s quick, simple, cheap and it WORKS
Bra, £89, Fleur of England. Earrings, £55, Pandora