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I'm going to say something today: I honestly think that 'rules' can be helpful when you're first getting into skincare, but are they the be-all and end-all? No. Most people don't drive around now exactly as they did to pass their test and it doesn't make them bad drivers. I'm sure I've probably contradicted something I'm saying here in the past (disclaimer! Disclaimer!), but this is my approach when it comes to intermediate-to-advanced skincare users who know their skin pretty well...
Some people like to remove their makeup with micellar water, some people like a dual-phase remover, some people like a creamy hot cloth cleanser: the point is that, as long as your makeup is clean off your face, (I test whether a new first cleanse works properly by using a cotton wool pad soaked in micellar water across my face and seeing if anything comes off on it) and you aren't tugging around the eyes, you should just use whatever formula you prefer. There's no need to be super-prescriptive about this. A lot of people don't like the feel of an oil cleanser on their skin, but the truth is that a double cleanse can be whatever you want it to be! If you're happy going in with the same cleanser twice: do it. I personally don't love foaming cleansers and during the winter prefer creams to water-based formulas, so that's what I use. The concept of an oil cleanse followed by a water-based cleanse is really to provide an alternative for people who are only using face wipes or micellar water then calling it a day, but if you're deviating from it and it's working for you: keep doing what you're doing!
Never combine x-ingredient with y-ingredient
There are plenty of products that combine different actives you wouldn’t necessarily layer yourself - the cosmetic chemist isn’t doing their job if the final product isn’t stable or would cause irritation to the average person. I generally avoid using two strong actives separately in one routine, but different actives going to be present in small quantities in a lot of things. Lots of cleansers have a bit of Vitamin C, a lot of moisturisers have a bit of Niacinamide and using one of these products alongside your retinol likely isn’t going to cause you issues. Likewise, there’s always going to be that person who can use 8% glycolic then go in with tretinoin and be absolutely fine. There aren’t hard and fast rules, it kind of just depends on your skin and how much risk you like to take. Are you putting your life savings into bitcoin or buying up government bonds? It’s kind of like that! You may sometimes learn the hard way what your personal limit is and you need to listen to that and not try to push through it if you have irritation. However, if you can do stuff to your skin that I can't: I won't tell you you're wrong for it! I'm just careful about what I (as someone who is a skincare enthusiast as opposed to an expert) generally endorse because I don't want to expose anyone to irritation.
You must cleanse every morning
If your skin feels irritated or dry when you cleanse in the morning (even with a non-foaming option): just skip the morning cleanse and instead splash your face with lukewarm water and see how you get on. It's all about listening to your skin and no skincare step is 'mandatory' besides sunscreen. So many people are doing it these days and reporting that their skin is far happier.
Exfoliation is essential for everyone
Put it this way: more people suffer from over-exfoliation than because they're not exfoliating enough. For a lot of people, once a week is more than enough, and for some it might not be strictly necessary at all; maybe they only do it when they have dry patches of skin (not everyone has acne scars or uneven skin tone). Listen to your skin and do as much or as little as it wants you to.
You need to use different products for your eye area or neck
This is mostly a marketing ploy to make you buy more products. I enjoy an eye cream but it isn't 100% essential. The only things to consider are that the skin on the neck and around the eyes is thinner. I wouldn't personally take strong actives like Vitamin C, retinol or acids (or creams containing high concentrations of them) around my eyes, so if you want those benefits then I would recommend a dedicated treatment. However, if you don't have specific concerns you want to address around your eyes: just use your bog-standard moisturiser. Likewise, on the neck, some people might want to use a retinol neck cream that's gentler than what you'd use on your face. If not: the bog-standard moisturiser is once again perfectly fine.
You should base all of your product purchases on your skin type
I think it actually warrants a post in and of itself (so keep an eye out for it) but a lot of skincare brands are still very focused on 'skin type' and to me, I actually think skin concerns are more important. Cleansers and moisturisers are usually chosen based on skin type, but the treatments and serums really doing the leg work for your skin should be chosen based on the ingredients they use and the issues they target. One oily-skinned person might really struggle with hyperpigmentation, another might be starting to get fine lines and if they want to see improvements with these issues, using products vaguely aimed at 'oily skin' just isn't going to cut it.
You need a different routine for morning and evening
The only rules to follow are: retinol should be used in the evening as it's not photostable (so - unless specifically designed for daytime use - it will degrade in light and not really work), antioxidants are typically used in the daytime to get those free radical neutralising benefits when you're out in the world and sunscreen is obviously necessary in the day but not at night. Outside of that, you can totally use the same moisturiser in the morning and the evening if you like the texture of it, you can use the same cleanser and hydrating and soothing serums can, of course, be used AM or PM. If you're tight on money: don't feel the need to buy two of everything, just try to pick textures that you can enjoy during the day and before bed.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments or if there are any you'd add.