Here’s my tips and advice on how to build a simple skincare routine. Some of my favourite products that have worked for my skin, and I continue to re-purchase. I want to start by saying I’m not a qualified GP, aesthetician, dermatologist or beauty therapist. So please consult a professional when it comes to your own skin concerns. Do your research and always patch test! This is just what I use and have found works best for my skin and what works for me, may not work for you.
AD | This post is sponsored by Look Fantastic. I’ve been purchasing most of my hair care and skincare products from them for years. I work with Look Fantastic on an ongoing basis, and you can get 15% off using code CURLYCAILINLF. However, this hasn’t influenced the way I’ve written about Look Fantastic, the brands or products featured in this post.
Simple & Effective
This post is intended to be a starting point, for those new to skincare or feeling a little overwhelmed and want a simple but effective routine. Over the coming months, I’ll expand into each of these areas in more depth. With blog posts on my favourite products, tips and advice that I’ve found most effective for things like acne and breakouts, redness and pigmentation. Sensitive, combination and dehydrated skin, as well anti-ageing.
Let me know in the comments if there’s something in particular you’d like me to cover. But for now, I’m going to keep it simple. Although I’m wearing makeup in the images throughout this post, none of them have been edited, brightened or altered in any way. They were taken in natural daylight, stood in front of a large window… during covid-19 quarantine. So there’s a lot of upper lip, lockdown-realness going on.
My Skin Story
I’ve always had extremely sensitive skin since I was a child. Both my children have very sensitive skin too. I’ve had to look for good quality brands and formulas that don’t irritate or cause a reaction. Which can be very hard to find and I haven’t always been successful. When I was 12, I ran through a glass door. I had loads of tiny pieces of glass embedded into my face, which caused scarring. Most are gone now, except for one right on the crease of my eyelid.
As a teenager right through to my mid-20’s, not only did I have extremely sensitive skin, but I also had really bad acne. Spots and scars that would stay for months! I never had “clear skin.” I’ve been on all sorts of prescription medication, potions, lotions and creams over the years. There’s literally nothing I haven’t tried! Either over the counter, prescribed from doctors and dermatologists and DIY, home made remedies.
20’s – 30’s
Eventually in my mid-20’s, I went on Roaccutane, but didn’t get to finish the course. So I’ve had to continue my search for products that cater to my sensitive skin, prevent breakouts and reduce scarring. And in more recent years, incorporate anti-ageing too. Apart from the occasional hormonal breakout around that time of the month, or I’ve eaten too much chocolate. My skin is the best and clearest it’s ever been! No texture, minimal scarring and pigmentation. Smooth, clear skin!
Products & Ingredients
As I discussed in my CG Beauty post, I try to go for clean and green skincare products. Along the same principles as the curly girl method. So no silicone, harsh drying alcohols, sulfates or anything that foams, aka anything that dries and strips the skin. Admittedly, I have quite a lot of skincare products. Partly due to trying out new products, seeing what works and what doesn’t. But it’s also a reflection of the industry and how product formulations (and marketing strategies) have changed over the years.
In recent years, brands have focused on individual-ingredient products, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin c, ceramides and niacinamide products – to name just a few. This gives us the freedom to build our own custom routine, suited to our individual needs. But it also means brands have profited from selling us multiple products and multi-step routines. Instead of a few good, multi-tasking products and a more simple routine.
How to Build a Simple Skincare Routine
Just like my haircare, I try to keep a consistent routine using good quality products. Formulas that really work, made using good quality ingredients. I’ll rotate certain products, depending on what my skin needs. For example, if I’ve got some breakouts, or if my skin is particularly sensitive or dehydrated. This is how I manage my skincare routine, and have done since my late 20’s.
In hair care, I advise five key products, or steps, you need in your routine: Clarify. Cleanse. Condition. Style and Hold. When it comes to skincare, and how to build a simple and effective skincare routine, my advice is the same. Cleanse. Hydrate. Treat. Nourish and Protect. 5 steps, 5 products that will work for any skin type, at any age. You can of course have more, like most things. But if you want the most basic, simple but effective skincare routine, one product for each of these five steps will be sufficient.
I cleanse my face every evening. I use, love, adore and continually re-purchase Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm. It’s my absolute favourite cleanser of all time! I’ve lost count of the amount of jars I’ve bought, I always stock up on the supersize. Or when it’s discounted, as it’s quite pricey, but definitely worth every penny! It’s one of the very few cleansers I can use on my eyes, that doesn’t cause any irritation.
As well as Clinique’s Take The Day Off, which is almost half the price and a great alternative, just not as luxurious. Pestle & Mortar Erase Cleansing Balm is the perfect in-between. All three of these cleansers are available at Look Fantastic. Get 15% off using code CURLYCAILINLF. I massage the cleansing balm into dry skin to remove all the makeup, dirt and grime from the day, as well as my SPF. And then I use warm water to wet a face cloth and wipe it all off. My favourites are the double-sided, muslin and microfibre ones from Emma Hardie.
Then I cleanse my face again, aka “Double-Cleansing”, you can read more about it here. My favourites are Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser, which is a mild exfoliating cleanser that’s completely clean and green: CG Beauty approved! And Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel – an absolute cult-favourite product. I love how light, gentle and nourishing it is.
Emma Hardie Moringa Light Cleansing Gel and Pestle & Mortar Renew Cleansing Gel are also great. You can get 15% off at Look Fantastic using code CURLYCAILNLF. If you’re on a budget or want to reduce the amount of products you have in your routine, then just use your cleansing balm from the first cleanse, twice. I use the other, clean side of the face cloth to wipe my face again after the second cleanse, and then put it straight in the wash.
This is such an important step for me as my skin is often dehydrated. Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin and Squalane are all great products/ingredients to use if you have dry and/or dehydrated skin. Instead of patting my face dry with a towel after cleansing, I apply Pestle & Mortar’s Pure Hyaluronic Serum to my face straight away, to hydrate and lock in the excess water. I’ve got a blog post coming up on all the benefits of hyaluronic acid so stay tuned for that!
Hydraluron is a great, more affordable version which is slightly thicker in consistency. For when I want a subtle bronzed glow and gradual tan. But with all the benefits of hyaluronic acid on my face, I use Tan Luxe Super Glow Serum. This was my skincare product of the year last year! Again, you can get 15% off all of these products at Look Fantastic using code CURLYCAILINLF.
This is the part of my routine where I invest the most money in, and that’s serums and face masks. I have a few different options for both, depending on what my skin needs. I have two staple serums I use every day, both in the morning. The first is the First Aid Beauty Resurfacing Liquid. It’s a 10% acid serum, and hands down the best thing for rough, textured skin! I’ve been using it every morning for years, and I swear it’s the reason behind my baby-smooth skin. My discount code works on that too, CURLYCAILINLF for 15% off.
The other serum I use every morning is a vitamin C. Great for brightening, reducing redness, scarring, pigmentation and uneven skin tone. I’ve been trying out lots of different vitamin C serums, across all percentages and budgets, for an upcoming blog post. So far, the one that’s given me the most visible, noticeable results is unfortunately the most expensive one, but not the highest percentage one.
If you’ve ever looked into vitamin C products, it’ll come as no surprise that it’s the cult-favourite, the OG and Beauty Editor favourite: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Vitamin C Serum. I know, it’s so expensive! But if you splash the cash on one area of your routine, this is the step to do it. And you can get 15% off using my code CURLYCAILINLF. It’s got 15% vitamin C, and you only need a few drops and yes – it really does smell like hot dogs, but only for the first few seconds.
A much cheaper alternative, a dupe even, is the Paula’s Choice Booster C Serum, which is currently on sale. My advice is to start on a low percentage vitamin C, like this 6% one from Summer Fridays CC Me Serum, which is such a lovely formula! And gradually work your way up, especially if you’re new to vitamin c or have sensitive skin.
The other products in the ‘Treat’ step, are face masks. Not all are the same, each are designed, formulated and marketed to do different things. Such as hydrate, detoxify, exfoliate etc. I’ll do a separate post on face masks, as there’s just too much to cover in this blog post. But my favourite mask is a multi-tasking one that resurfaces, exfoliates, brightens and hydrates.
My favourite mask of all time, Oskia’s Renaissance Cleansing Mask, get 15% off using code CURLYCAILINLF on Look Fantastic. This is another product that I’ve re-purchased time and time again, and always have a backup! The key ingredient is lactic acid, a gentle and hydrating acid perfect for sensitive skin. If you only purchase one face mask, this is a one of the very best!
This step in my routine is where I apply face oils, eye creams and moisturisers. One of my favourite oils is Pai Rosehip Oil. I was first introduced to the magical powers of rosehip oil as a teenager when my skin was oily, yet dehydrated. Which is often the case with oily skin. It’s probably best known for reducing the appearance of scars, blemishes and uneven skin tone, which is how I first found it. I rotate the products I use at night, depending on what my skin needs. But I often apply the Pai Rosehip Oil, or Pestle & Mortar Superstar Oil – more expensive, but amazing! If I’m feeling extra dry, dehydrated or sensitive, and my skin is just a little stressed out, I’ll put some Dr. Jart Ceramidin on top, for the most nourishing, hydrating and moisturising combo!
For day time, I like to use something nourishing and moisturising, but more lightweight. First I apply Pestle & Mortar Recover Eye Cream, the best eye cream I’ve found that’s lightweight, effective and doesn’t contain silicone. My favourite moisturisers are Oskia Nutri-Active Day Cream or Pestle & Mortar Hydrate, another product I have been repurchasing since it launched a few years ago. Get 15% off using code CURLYCAILINLF at Look Fantastic. I layer my moisturiser over my hyaluronic acid and vitamin C serums. I try to avoid silicone in my skincare as much as possible. Finding a good moisturiser that doesn’t contain silicone is hard to find, but both of these are great.
And finally, the last step of my morning skincare routine is ‘Protect’. This is the most important step when it comes to skincare. Especially if anti-ageing is a concern, it’s the single most effective form of anti-ageing skincare. Protection is important, and by protect, I mean SPF, or sunscreen. Every day of the year. Even if you don’t go outside. Even if it’s grey, cloudy and overcast. I spoke about the importance of SPF in my 10 Steps to Healthy, Youthful, Radiant Skin post.
UVB rays are what cause burning, and what we most associate with the sun: sunburn. However, UVA rays are what cause ageing. And those rays are always present, always causing damage and always ageing our skin during daylight hours. Regardless of whether the sun is visible/shining or not. That’s what we have to protect our skin from. UVA rays, which are the biggest cause of visible signs of ageing. A quick and easy way to remember is UVB: B = burning, UVA: A = ageing.
If you have sensitive skin, check out Pai’s Sensitive Sunscreen, and get 15% off using code CURLYCAILINLF at Look Fantastic. I use Dr. Sam’s Flawless Daily Sunscreen. Both are broad spectrum SPF 30, which means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Both are great for sensitive, acne-prone skin, and both are silicone-free. I don’t use or recommend using moisturisers or makeup that contain SPF, because you’d never apply enough to get the full benefits and protection from the SPF.
I really hope you found this post helpful, and not too overwhelming. I’ve been writing about skincare for years, on a previous blog. But I wanted to start with the basics, from the beginning, and then do more in-depth posts in the future. Let me know if that’s something you’re interested in, or what topics or products you’d like me to write more about.
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