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I don't know if it's the changing season, mental strain in general, hormones or some combination of factors, but my face hasn't been particularly happy with me lately. These are the products calming things back down...
I'm sure these cleansers won't surprise the regulars! For removing makeup and sunscreen, I use the Ordinary's Squalane Cleanser | £14.20 (supersize). It has a cream-balm consistency that's not obviously oily until you massage it into dry skin, then it kind of melts down. Squalane is a plant-derived, skin-similar oil so it's not too heavy or rich and it's great for skin that's having a bit of a wobble. As mentioned, you can use this as your first cleanse in the evening or it's also a great morning cleanse for dry, dull, lacklustre skin. As a morning or second cleanse, I really like the Kate Somerville DeliKate Soothing Cleanser* | £34. If you're new here: I don't really do foam; a gentle lather, I can take, but when my skin isn't happy I definitely just want something that doesn't contain any of those traditional surfactants. This is totally non-foaming and non-drying but gently cleanses the skin. It has a sort of emulsion texture and is formulated with peptides (to hydrate, plump and repair the skin), ceramides (which form an important part of your skin barrier, helping retain moisture in the skin and keep sensitivity at bay) and non-fragrant plant oils to soften and nourish the skin.
If you love a face mist but your skin is feeling reactive and can't tolerate fragrance, one of the few great options I've found that doesn't contain any is the Honest Beauty Calm & Go Face Mist | £20. This feels light but it actually provides lasting hydration, as opposed to being one of those mists that just evaporates into the aether. It's formulated with lots of good stuff like hyaluronic acid (drawing water into the skin), shea butter extract, squalane and panthenol (which helps retain water in the skin and strengthen its barrier). It's basically a calming spritz of all the good stuff! If you're more of an essence person and you're suffering from dehydration, I recommend the Apothaka Skin Quenching Essence* | £32. This is formulated with panthenol again, natural moisturising factors (to replenish components that already occur in the skin) and also soothing cucumber extract. I love how lightweight but hydrating it is; I get an instant plumping effect and calms any irritation right down. Is it a toner? Is it a serum? I'm not sure, apparently it's a lotion! The brand recommends using is before your moisturiser, so I just go with this in the evening then lock it in with my night cream. The Curel Moisture Facial Lotion Enrich* | £17.50 | is a great, calming, moisturising layer for lacklustre skin. It's not active and it just keeps my skin happy. This is formulated with glycerin (a humectant to attract water), moisturising castor oil, replenishing amino acids, calming allantoin and succinic acid which can be microbial (to help keep breakouts at bay).
Let's talk serums. The product that really helped me through the winter is the Dr Dennis Gross B3Adaptive Superfood Stress Rescue Serum* | £75. This is a lightweight, milky, hydrating serum formulated with lots of moisturising and antioxidant-rich plant and fruit extracts alongside niacinamide. This contains a lower concentration, which is actually proven to still work really well without the potential irritation associated with high-percentage formulas. Niacinamide is beneficial for a lot of reasons: it helps regulate oil production in the skin, it can even out the skin's tone if you suffer with hyperpigmentation and it really benefits the skin barrier. A cheaper alternative that's great for sensitive skin is the PSA Skin Liquid Panacea* | £27. This is a light melting gel-cream that I personally use as a serum. It's formulated with antioxidants and skin-soothers like centella asiatica, bisabolol and kombucha extract. It's a lovely all-round skin booster when my face feels a bit rubbish. I'll be reviewing it in more depth alongside some more PSA new launches soon. Lastly for serums is a product I originally loved years ago. It's definitely had a bit of a packaging change and it's probably been reformulated slightly but the Avene Intense Rehydration Serum* | £20 | is just as good as I remember it being. This is basically a cocktail of humectants, which draw water into the skin. I apply it to damp skin so it has something to pull on and it works a treat; my skin is soft, smooth, plump and hydrated. It does contain fragrance, so if you find that your skin gets irritated by it when your barrier is compromised, then the PSA might be better. This has never irritated me though, it's actually pretty soothing on my skin when it's red and stressed-out.
Chemical sunscreens can be a bit irritating for compromised skin and a rare mineral sunscreen I actually enjoyed using is the Skingredients Skin Shield SPF 50 PA +++* | £38 | and it doubles as a light moisturiser. This sunscreen never pills on me and doesn't leave a white cast on my skin. It has a slightly peachy tint to it which also helps to even out the skin tone. It contains other great ingredients like niacinamide, allantoin and Vitamin E. Overnight, I've found myself reaching for the new Murad Intense Recovery Cream* | £68. If you've ever used a cream and just felt like it wasn't thick enough to deal with your dry, tired skin: try this! It's formulated with shea butter and macadamia oil for nourishment, fatty alcohols to soften and smooth the skin and lots of antioxidant fruit and plant extracts (there are some fragrant essential oils in there too, just to give the pre-warning). I melt it a little between my fingers before applying it, so it forms this occlusive layer that really locks in the moisture. It softens, smooths and nourishes my skin even when it's at its driest.
Lastly, there are two products I reach for as and when my skin wants them. The first is the Dermalogica Barrier Repair | £45. I picked this up when Caroline Hirons was explaining its inclusion in her winter kits and everyone on her Live was saying 'is it like x?' 'is it like y?' and she said it's not like any of the other product she's ever tried. So, I decided it was worth checking out... And, indeed, it is really hard to compare to anything else I've used! It's a light, clear, waterless gel that has a kind of smoothing effect on the skin, which means it actually works really well under makeup. I use this on its own on any affected areas (for me, it's going to be around my mouth) and it really helps protect, calm and soothe, getting things back on track. It kind of helps insulate the skin against environmental damage too. I'm liking this a lot! If I'm getting a stress breakout then my first port of call is the Sunday Riley UFO Ultra-Clarifying Facial Oil* | £68. The combination of a drier skin type and a breakout can be a bit of a nightmare, so UFO is a favourite of mine because it's an oil with salicylic acid (a pore-exfoliator that can also help with scarring, alongside diffusing the active breakout). This is great for general congestion and it clears things up within a couple of nights when I have lots of little red spots that haven't actually got a head.
Does your skin often feel stressed? How do you combat it?