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Today I'm sharing with you an approach to skincare I've seen highlighted by a number of brands and experts (in some form or another) but wanted to discuss, because I often feel like we lose sight of the fact they're each incredibly important within a skincare routine. I'm going to talk through the purpose of each element, the ingredients I find work best for me on each front and some of the products I like to use...
This is arguably the most important element of your routine because if you protect your skin then theoretically there should be very little to treat and not much repair needed. Obviously protecting your skin entirely, all all times from the day you come out of the womb is all but impossible, however starting today will prevent damage going forwards. Of course, gettin on this early is the best way to go, but it doesn't really matter how old you are; you can start now! It's not just ageing we're talking about either, it's preventing melanoma, so serious stuff even for those not 'into' skincare.
Protecting ingredients I rate include antioxidants such as Vitamin C, niacinamide and, of course, sunscreen. The function of these ingredients are to combat the signs of ageing by protecting the skin from free radicals (pollution, the sun and other environmental factors). Some of these ingredients also have other benefits, which we'll discuss later on in the post.
Sunscreen should be broad spectrum to protect from UVA (A for ageing) and UVB (B for burning) rays and a minimum of SPF 30 for the face. Apply around 1/2 a teaspoon to your face and neck (and to your body, if it's exposed) every morning before sun exposure and reapply regularly. If you aren't doing this, there's honestly not a lot of point in the rest! There's an ongoing debate on whether we should be using mineral sunscreens (containing organically-occurring ingredients) and chemical sunscreens (which absorb them and efficiently convert them into heat, which is then released from the body). Mineral sunscreens are generally less irritating for sensitive skin types, however they almost invariably tend to leave something of a silvery-blue white cast on anyone darker than a light-medium skin tone. Chemical sunscreens tend to be less heavy and can be entirely transparent, though the most commonly-used chemicals in sunscreens (in the US particularly, where very little innovation happens in this space) can contribute towards the bleaching of coral reefs. I personally advocate using whatever makes you comfortable and more likely to wear and consistently re-apply your sunscreen. If you'd like to take additional steps, such as switching to a mineral formula for days at the beach or removing your sunscreen in a way that doesn't involve it getting into the water system; that's another option.
In terms of the products I really rate and what I've been using recently; let's start with Vitamin C. One of my all-time favourite products has to be the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum* | £140 | full review. It comes with a hefty price-tag, so if it's not for you; I totally get that! However, if you're open to investing this much in skincare, I have to say that very few topical products have evened out my skin's tone and texture and helped fine lines in the way this one does! A somewhat more budget-friendly option is the Summer Fridays CC Me Vitamin C Serum | £57 | full review. I honestly wasn't expecting incredible results from this serum, but it's truly a Vitamin C that made me realise why people rave about this ingredient. It really helped me with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. I also recently trialled the Pestle & Mortar 2 Phase Vitamin C Serum* | £68 (15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY) | full review | which is an amazing moisturising option for dry skin types that's helped me maintain smooth, even, glowing skin. Currently on trial are the Oskia Super C Smart Nutrient Beauty Capsules | £62 | which I'll be reviewing soon...
In terms of Vitamin E, there's really only one true love for me: the Alpha-H Vitamin E Serum* | £29 | full review. This is such a beautiful moisturising, hydrating, soothing serum for sensitive or compromised skin. I just got a fresh bottle of it because it really does see me through the winter months.
When it comes to niacinamide, I really do enjoy my budget products. My most long-standing favourite is the Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% | £5 | full review | and I more recently discovered and really enjoyed the Inkey List's Niacinamide* | £6.99. Both of these serums deliver similar benefits and, though I prefer the slightly more pleasant texture of the Inkey List's formula, the Ordinary's serum has the added anti-blemish and anti-redness ingredient of zinc. Niacinamide protects the skin, promotes a healthy skin barrier, reduces redness and helps calm irritation. It may also improve the appearance of fine lines and help regulate oil production in the skin, making it a great all-rounder.
Lastly - and most-importantly - let's talk sunscreen. Anything less than an SPF 30 on the face is likely a waste of time and I strongly recommend SPF 50 during the summer. I personally opt for chemical formulas the majority of the time due to the white cast issue, however one mineral option I can just about get away with on my skin tone is the Murad City Skin Age Defence Broad Spectrum SPF 50 PA ++++* | £60. This has a lovely moisturising texture and sits beautifully under makeup. I like how it melts into the skin but for me, given the price-point, I wouldn't replace it when I've finished this tube due to it still being a tad visible on my skin. Prior to testing the Murad out, I was using a chemical formula in the Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops SPF 50* | £110. That's not a typo; it is really that expensive! This broad spectrum serum-like formula truly is gorgeous, giving my skin a fresh glow, providing amazing moisture and melting in with no white cast, residue or pilling up. I'll be using this up happily but I just can't justify repurchasing it when there are so many great products out there for less.
Speaking of which, an old favourite of mine I recently repurchased is the Coola Classic Face Sport SPF 50 | £30 | full review. This transparent formula has a cream-gel texture that melts in, hydrates and provides broad spectrum protection. Again, it's a chemical formula. Over on the K-Beauty side of things, my ultimate favourite (again, I just got my hands on a fresh tube of this stuff) is the Dr Ceuracle Cica Regen Anti-Dust Gel SPF 50* | £24 (get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY) | full review. This is a moisturising, but not overly-dewy option that critically leaves me with no white cast, doesn't make makeup fussy to apply over the top (despite the broad spectrum SPF 50 protection) and also contains cica to calm redness.
This is the stage of the skincare routine where most people focus the majority of their energy and budget. Whether it's redness, uneven skin tone, skin texture, fine lines, acne, dryness, irritation or whatever else; this is the problem you want an active ingredient to address!
It's a pretty vast category but exfoliating acids definitely fall within it. PHAs and mandelic acid (an AHA) can work well for sensitives skin types due to their larger molecular size and therefore slower absorption into the skin. The acid yardstick is typically glycolic acid for its ability to unstick dead skin cells and reveal brighter, smoother skin, though lactic acid is a great option for dry and more mature skin types, and it can be found synthetically-derived in vegan skincare (both are AHAs). Salicylic acid is a BHA, and derived from willow bark. Its ability to penetrate into the pores means it's fantastic for oily skin because it can help clear up active breakouts as well as improve the appearance of blemish scarring.
I'd also class rosehip oil as more of a treatment oil. It provides deep nourishment to the skin but may also have healing properties and help with uneven skin tone and the appearance of scarring. It's definitely a milder option in this respect, though.
I'm putting hyaluronic acid in with the 'treatment' stage of the skincare routine too, given it's designed to counteract dehydration, though it's not on the intense end of the scale when it comes to active ingredients. It effectively pulls water into the skin, from the atmosphere or even from the skin's own upper layers, so I recommend patting it into damp skin. It should provide an instant hydration boost as well as make skin look plumper and healthier.
Additionally, ingredients such as niacinamide and Vitamin C also fall into this category; niacinamide helps regulate oil production in the skin (so can help treat breakouts) and Vitamin C has brightening properties so can be used to fade areas of hyperpigmentation. Additionally, I've classed retinol as a 'repair' ingredient but it can also treat uneven skin tone and texture, as well as fine lines. A gentler alternative to it, which is also safe for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding is bakuchiol, which has been shown to have a similar skin-smoothing effect.
In terms of my acid picks, I've traditionally been into the usual suspects: glycolic and lactic formulas from the likes of Pixi and REN, however my tastes have changed a little recently. If I want a really intense hit I'll use something like the Herbivore Prism 20% AHA + 5% BHA Exfoliating Glow Facial | £53 | or the Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution | £6.30 | full review | once a week. Or alternatively, 2-3 times a week I'll go in with an intense serum before bed like the Skinceuticals Retexturising Activator* | £90 | full review | with 20% glycolic acid or the Farmacy Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Treatment | £55 | with lactic and salicylic acids. This is a really good way of getting your acids in if you usually use other ingredients that aren't compatible with them, like Vitamin C and retinol. However on an everyday basis, I'm more into the gentle options such as the Ordinary's Mandelic Acid 10% + HA | £5.75 | or, in terms of toners, both the Inkey List's PHA Toner | £9.99 | full review | and PSA Skin Heroine Glow Toner | £28 | are fantastic.
When it comes to rosehip oil; I've been pretty faithful to the Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil* | £24 | full review | for a number of years now. It's intensely moisturising, softening and smoothing. My all-time favourite hyaluronic acid is the Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex* | £25 | full review | because it gives my skin a plump feel, healthier look and that real, deep hydration. A more recently product I've fallen for has been the PSA Skin the Most Hyaluronic Super Nutrient Serum | £34 | which is formulated with hyaluronic acid alongside other moisturising and nourishing ingredients, making it a fantastic powerhouse for skin that's both dry and dehydrated. Finally, I have a couple of bakuchiol product suggestions. The product that really got me into this ingredient was the Inkey List's Bakuchiol | £9.99 | full review | which delivers it in a moisturising night cream formula that really helps smooth my skin. I'm currently trialling the Medik8 Bakuchiol Peptides | £45 | and it's so far, so good with this oil-serum in terms of improving the appearance of fine lines. A full brand review is in the works...
- REPAIR -
This is the part of the skincare routine that really gets forgotten! Whilst there are different way to repair the skin and we'll get into those; it's important to give your skin a break from actives every so often and also to use actives that can help with damage caused to the skin, either via overuse of strong ingredients, environmental factors or ageing.
A critical step for me is to help repair the skin barrier and keep it healthy by replenishing it with the fatty content it's lacking (especially as I get older). This step is also important when it comes to soothing sensitivity and irritation. Oat lipids are fantastic, as are ceramides, which are often called the 'building blocks' of our skin barrier. Squalane is a plant-derived skin-similar oil that can really help with moisture levels in the skin if they've been depleted. Many of these ingredients are also great at preventing transepidermal water loss from the skin.
Over on the more active side; we have retinol and peptides. Retinol is just about the only ingredient that science has proven can not only prevent the signs of ageing, but actually reverse them, which is why it's in the 'repair' category (unlike bakuchiol). It's also great for scarring and skin texture, meaning there's a treatment element with this ingredient. Peptides are less proven however, from personal experience, they've worked really well on my skin and I'll continue to use them. There are a wide variety of options available on the market, most of which claim to repair skin damage and stimulate collagen production in the skin. My personal preference is for copper peptides, though they certainly aren't cheap!
In terms of lipids and ceramides, I'm a huge fan of delivering these ingredients to the skin via a moisturiser, as it's a leave-on product. Night creams, in particular, are great at replenishing the skin overnight. I also tend to opt for fragrance-free options on the whole, as I often reach for these products when my skin is irritated or flaring up, but that's just personal preference. I'm a big fan fan of the Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream* | £69 | full review | which I use overnight during the summer but could totally work as a day cream when it's colder. It's packed full of ceramides, as is my beloved Dr Jart Ceramidin Cream | £35.50 | full review. A fantastic overnight cream I discovered more recently, which is rich in ceramides and squalane is the Medik8 Advanced Night Restore* | £55. I particularly recommend this if you have more combination skin because it's far lighter in its texture than most recovery creams on the market. In terms of oat lipids, I also have a favourite cleanser in the Inkey List's Oat Cleansing Balm | £9.99 | full review | which is simple, moisturising and gentle.
My go-to simple squalane is the Biossance 100% Squalane Oil | £27 | full review. I use this on my face, my body, my hair and even as a scalp treatment; it's just a fantastic all-round moisturiser. For something a little more complex, I absolutely love my Sunday Riley Juno Oil | £27 | full review. This is formulated with omegas and aminos acids to replenish the skin, alongside antioxidants, adding in a bit of protection from free radical damage.
In terms of retinol (or retinal, to refer to the correct retinoid derivative for this specific product), there's only been one for me in recent months and I look forward to doing a full brand review on Medik8 soon! The Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3* | £39 | is one of 4 intensity options the brand offers and it's worked wonders for my skin's overall tone and texture. The results I've seen with this pretty-darn-affordable formula really have been incredible!
When it comes to peptides, my long-term favourite has been the Niod Copper Amino Isolate* | £38 | full review. This blue-tinted serum seriously renews my skin and makes it look fresh, healthy and smooth, however I'm actually loving the Niod Copper Amino Isolate Lipid 1%* | £70 | even more, I think! I've been a fan of this product for years and don't see myself ever not having it in my arsenal in one form or another. A newer discovery has been the Wildsmith Active Repair Copper Peptide Cream* | £100 | which has, so far, seemed to help smooth out my skin, but I'll definitely be trialling it for much longer before deciding if it's worth the price tag!
Which ingredients are essential parts of your routine?