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

Red - - CONTENTS - Pho­to­graphs CHRIS CRAYMER Styling SO­PHIE HOOPER

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

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