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Today I wanted to share some of the questions I get a lot and have answered individually but I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts more publicly for those who wanted to know them!

Can you make me a skincare routine?

No. And I say that with love! I'm actually getting a little firmer on this these days; whilst I'd happily do this for a friend or family member, I'm not a dermatologist or esthetician looking at your skin in person and that's not really what I'm here to do. I review skincare products based on what's in them and my own personal experiences with the aim of being one of several voices you get to hear when you research a potential purchase. I'm not comfortable giving personal advice and any general guidelines I give come with caveats. I can only really say what's worked for me and what I do. If you'd like to know my thoughts on a product or what my favourite in a category is: please check out the blog. There's a search bar and everything is categorised pretty clearly. If there's anything I've not reviewed and that would add value for you then definitely let me know!

Can I use x-ingredient with y-ingredient?

The advent of single-ingredient active products has really created a lot of confusion. And the answer is 'it depends'. Sorry! It's very personal based on you and your skin, and if you don't know your skin: err on the side of caution until you get an understanding of what works and what doesn't. It also depends on the form and concentration of the ingredients you’re using; would I layer a 10% niacinamide on top of a 20% ascorbic acid? No. Would I use a Vitamin C derivative that's oil-based like Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate then a moisturiser containing 2% niacinamide? Yes. I can definitely write a post on how to layer for beginner, intermediate and advanced skincare users, but I tend to be mindful about my choices, even though I've used strong actives every day and evening for ages. I'm not someone who uses glycolic acid then tretinoin, though that's fine for a minority of people. However, I would use a gentle exfoliating toner like a PHA followed by my slow-release encapsulated retinal a few times a week.

Additionally, the answer to this question has changed over time. Testing, encapsulation technology and increased stability of formulations as a whole mean that most ingredients can be used together these days without cancelling one another out (a notable exception being leave-on benzyl peroxide) but outdated information still circulates on the internet. Whether you should is a different question that’s more down to irritation and I personally favour serums that combine actives in a single step (so they can work synergistically) over laying single ingredient products. 

Sunscreen irritates my skin / burns my eyes - what do I do?

I do honestly believe there's a sunscreen out there for everyone, so don't give up your search for the One! The main sunscreen filters that tend to irritate the skin and the delicate eye area are avobenzone, oxybenzone and other 'old school' ingredients. Use a website like INCI Decoder and you can copy and paste the ingredients from the brand's website to find what filters are in there. From this you can work out by process of elimination what causes irritation and what doesn't. I would personally start by going with products using chemical filters like the Uvinal and Tinosorb variations that are more modern and less likely to cause problems. If they don't work, try a hybrid mineral and chemical formula or a mineral-only formula (with zinc oxide and possibly also titanium dioxide). There's so much choice out there and I think a lot of people don't pay attention to the filters used or realise that we have so many options to try! 

Do I have to double cleanse?

Honestly, this isn't supposed to be a rigid, prescriptive thing, it's just a tip for people who are using face wipes, waking up with panda eyes or get breakouts from going to bed with makeup residue still on their face. Traditionally, a double cleanse involves using an oil-based cleanser to break down makeup and sunscreen then going in with a water-based cleanser to wash your skin underneath so you're totally fresh and there's no excess or scraps of makeup lingering around. If you have drier skin or it's winter, a cream cleanser might feel nicer for a second cleanse. If you find a foaming cleanser can remove your makeup and sunscreen without stripping your skin and you like that: go for it! If you want to use the same oil cleanser twice and your skin is clear and happy as a result: do it! Even if you use a micellar water or old-style dual-phase makeup remover as a first cleanse, as long as the makeup is coming off without tugging the eye area (ideally you want to soak a cotton pad with the liquid and then press it against your eyes to dissolve the makeup) then that's fine. I trust you to do what works for you if you know your skin! It's more a piece of advice for total skincare beginners.

How do you reapply sunscreen over makeup?

There are a number of ways in which you can do this (I demoed a couple of them here). You can use an SPF face powder, though I personally don't do this because I have quite dry skin so don't really powder during the day and definitely wouldn't want to put on enough powder all over my face to get the proper coverage. You can use a damp beauty sponge with a very fluid sunscreen to gently tap the product over the top of makeup without disturbing it. My personal preference is to use a mist designed for reapplication like the one I demoed in that video and in this one. They're super-light and don't disturb the makeup at all? Is it a perfect solution? No, but it's better than not reapplying! And the quick and easy method and leaving a spray in my handbag means I actually do it. My logic tends to be: if I was going to be out in the heat exercising or hiking, I won't be wearing makeup and I'll be reapplying my liquid sunscreen properly. Makeup is for days at the office, lunches out with friends, the occasional picnic in the park and so on, so the amount of direct sunlight I'm getting isn't that intense.

Can you recommend something for acne or oily skin?

Honestly, not really! I'm not a professional out there working with lots of different skin types, I'm just trying products out on my own normal-to-dry skin. If some of the concerns I have are similar to yours; definitely take my opinion on products and ingredients in respect of that area, but maybe follow some creators with your skin type to recommend cleansers, moisturisers and sunscreens you're more likely to enjoy. And there are lots of acne journey / positivity accounts that share what's working for them (including what they use alongside prescription-strength topicals or oral medications, if you're on those).

Do I have to use retinol?

Look, no one has to do anything! I'm not your mum! As a class of ingredients retinoids have been studied extensively and we know they stimulate collagen production, help with acne and scarring and can actually reverse the signs of photoageing and skin damage. Whilst many other things can prevent, this family of ingredients can actually forgive your past sins, so it just seems to me like common sense to include this in your skincare routine from your 20s, as it might help you avoid more costly and intrusive procedures further down the line. Tretinoin might not be for you, retinal might not be for you, but I feel there's a form of this ingredient out there for almost everyone and - with something as amazing as this being available for us to purchase - as a skincare blogger I'm obviously going to recommend you get on that!

I hope these answers are helpful and let me know - is there anything else you'd like to know?

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Read more posts from this series here!


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