Earlier this week, I read a bizarre viral article entitled The Skincare Con. The writer of this article claims that “most skincare is a waste of money”, skincare products are a “scam”, and that anyone who spends money on looking after their skin is basically a horribly shallow person who can’t see past their outermost layer.
This seemed so obviously written to provoke a response (which it already had in the hundreds on social media by the time I’d read the article) that I just rolled my eyes and carried on with my day. Then, yesterday, I read Hadley Freeman’s response to the article in the Guardian, about how she loves skincare because she enjoys how it feels. I nodded. I smiled at the funny bits. I agreed with the general gist of the article. Then I committed the cardinal sin of scrolling past the end of the column to… the comments.
Dear lord. I’m not sure why I was expecting to see lots of supportive ‘right on, sister!’-type comments. But I was, and so I was at first slightly perturbed and then downright angry to read comment after comment along the lines of ‘what’s wrong with soap and water?’, ‘all women are mugs’, ‘no one needs skincare’, ‘why on earth would you spend money on that when you could spend it on X?’, ‘I’m a man and my skin is much better than my wife and daughter’s skin because I don’t use anything’, and so on and so forth until my blood was actually boiling from the ridiculousness of it all.
So here I am, doing what I thought I wasn’t going to do when I first read the original article: making a response.
I use a lot of skincare products. This hasn’t always been the case; my primary beauty passion was always for make-up, and I scraped by with the basics for my skin (facewash, cheap moisturiser, wipes to remove make-up) while I went wild in the make-up aisles of Boots and Superdrug. My skin has always been a bit temperamental due to hormone imbalances, and it seemed like nothing I could do would sort it out, so I just concentrated on covering it up instead.
But then I started reading articles by people with a genuine passion for skincare who recommended certain things that could help specific skin problems. I realised that maybe I could do something for my weird skin and feel a bit more confident in it.
There were two things that really changed the game for me: forgoing wipes in favour of having a proper night-time wash with a decent cleanser and a flannel, and using serums to target specific problems (especially those containing hyaluronic acid to tackle dehydrated skin). I could see after quite a short period of time that doing these two things had a positive effect on my skin. I was delighted. So I read more articles, started talking about beauty with like-minded women online, and bought more products based on recommendations from those with similar problems.
That was perhaps 7 years ago. Now I use all sorts of products (although not as many as I should be using, according to the Koreans!). I have some products that I’ve been using for ages, and others that I’m trying for the first time to see if they work. I have a particular order that I put things on in, both in the morning and evening (I’ll post my routines at the end of this blog for anyone who’s interested!). I mix and match bargain products with more expensive items while keeping an eye out for any discounts. I follow various beauty writers and bloggers to see what else is out there. Most of all, I love doing all of this.
Yes, not everything works. Yes, a lot of skincare and make-up advertising is, to be quite honest, bullshit. Yes, there are some stupidly expensive products out there. Yes, there are some truly pointless things being sold that I will never understand (glittery hand cream: why?). Yes, I probably could just wash my face with soap and water and never use make-up again, but my skin would be a horrific mess and I would be miserable.
Yes, others may think otherwise, but you know what? I don’t care what they think. I use skincare – and make-up – for myself, and no one else. I spend the money that I earn on the things that I give me pleasure. I do this while saving money each month, giving to charity and never getting into debt.
And I’m doing all of this while other people are spending vast amounts of money and time on their hobbies – clothes, football, beer, fine art, pets, sports cars. You don’t see me getting all offended about them. I am not rooting around the depths of the internet for an article on collectible vintage toy cars from the 1940s so I can get in there with a sneering comment about what a waste of money they are and how sad the blokes with thousands of these cars must be.
There’s something about the combination of women + spending money on themselves + spending money on their appearance that brings out the worst in those who just don’t like to see other people enjoying themselves. You see it in the endless debates over women ‘should’ wear make-up, or whether women over 40 ‘should’ still be wearing miniskirts or brightly coloured tights or low-cut tops, or whether women of any age ‘should’ turn to plastic surgery/Botox/whatever they want to do to make themselves good.
I’m just getting on with what I like to do, and – guess what? – you can too.
What I use
The specific products I’m using at the moment are in brackets, but I change up some of these quite regularly.
My skin type is combination – a bit shiny/prone to spots around the T-zone and jawline, and slightly dry on the cheeks – and dehydrated, with the occasional very dry patch (read about the difference between dehydrated and dry skin).
I also have some acne scarring and significant hyperpigmentation, or dark patches, on my cheeks. This can be caused by sun damage, but in my case it’s mostly been those pesky hormones and my Asian heritage, which makes me more prone to it. To add to the joy, I also go through phases of being very spotty/very dry all over the face for no apparent reason.
This is what suits me and my budget – I am of course not saying that everyone should use all of this too (except maybe the last product in the list because it’s so brilliant!). We’re all different, so go with whatever you want.
- Cleanser (Bobbi Brown Soothing Cleansing Milk) – I always use non-foaming cleansers to avoid drying out the skin.
- Exfoliator (First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads) – to slough away dead skin cells and even out skin texture. I don’t use scrub-type exfoliators – they’re too harsh. Acid exfoliators definitely work better for me.
- Serum (mixture of The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA and Superdrug Vitamin C Invigorating Skin Booster) – HA to rehydrate the skin, alpha arbutin to tackle dark patches, weak vitamin C for radiance.
- Eye cream (Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream) – this is a free sample I’m trying. I normally use whatever moisturiser I’m using under the eyes.
- Sun protection (Vichy Idéal Soleil Velvety Cream SPF 50+) – I never go out without sun cream on, even in winter, because exposure to any amount of sunlight exacerbates my hyperpigmentation. And you should always wear sun protection if you’re going out after using an exfoliator or vitamin C, as they can weaken the skin’s defences.
- Moisturiser (Clinique Moisture Surge Intense Skin Fortifying Hydrator, or Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief on oilier days)
- Primer for make-up days (Laura Mercier Hydrating Primer)
- Eye make-up remover (ASDA The Skin System Dual Phase Eye Make-Up Remover)
- First cleanse (Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil) – with a damp flannel to remove make-up.
- Second cleanse (same as morning cleanser) – to ensure skin is properly clean, as the first cleanse partly moves make-up around my face! If I didn’t wear any make-up that day, it’s just straight to the second cleanse for me.
Then either one of the following – I rotate between them, as using both at the same time would be too harsh on the skin:
- Exfoliator (REN Wake Wonderful Night-Time Facial) – again, to get rid of dead skin cells.
- Vitamin C treatment (The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%) – to tackle dark patches.
- Serum (same as morning but without the alpha arbutin)
- Eye cream (L’Oreal Revitalift Anti-wrinkle and Firming Eye Cream) – this is different to my lighter daytime eye cream because I’m not wearing any make-up that will slip off it, and I need extra hydration under the eyes.
- Oil (The Ordinary Rose Hip Seed Oil) – to tackle dark patches and soften skin.
- Masks for bath time – I’m currently rotating between NSPA Skin Glow Mud Mask (for blemishes), Superdrug Vitamin E Moisture Mask and samples of Clarins HydraQuench Cream Mask and Bobbi Brown Radiance Boost Mask.
- Night cream (Superdrug Naturally Radiant Renewing Night Cream, or Nivea Pure & Natural Regenerating Night Cream when my skin is feeling particularly dry)
- Superdrug B. Confident Hyaluronic Acid Spritz – this is handy to spray on whenever my skin feels a bit meh, and to cool my face in the summer.
- Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream – to target stubborn dry/irritated patches.
- Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask – I use this in place of oil and night cream once a week. It. Is. AMAZING. I wake up with visibly plumper, smoother skin every time I use it. It’s expensive, but you get a massive tube for the money and it lasts for ages, because you don’t need to use much each time. I’m on my second tube in the space of a couple of years. It’s so, SO good.