Life is wrinkle free and easy in your teens and twenties. Your skin can put up with a lot of flack and still look pretty good at the end of it – those late nights, early mornings, bad eating habits, even worse drinking habits, face wipes and harsh spot treatments can do their worst and skin will still look relatively radiant and youthful. Beyond those years it becomes far trickier to know what’s going on beneath the surface, as skin starts to lose its elasticity and fullness alongside the fact that every late night seems to appear on your face as yet another fine line. So it’s time to establish a good skincare regime that takes care of your every need, in order to ensure your skin holds on to as much of that glow as possible – no matter your age.
If, like me, your skincare regime prior to 25 consisted of a £2.99 moisturiser and an apricot scrub, an expansive routine may come as quite a big change for you. But it’s worth it. I promise.
I’ve outlined the basic steps and products I believe you should be embracing as you hit those later decades, and the ones that have worked for me. You can add in extra steps if you’re feeling fancy (like a mist, essence, additional manual exfoliator and so on) or double up on toners and treatments both morning and evening – depending what your skin needs. This is by no means a definitive list of every single step and product you should be using, but should act as a good guide and starting point to help you build a routine that works for you.
Step 1: Non-Foaming Cleanser
Overnight our skin sweats, we spend roughly eight hours with our face in a rarely-fresh pillow case, and the rich moisturiser we’ve applied (see below) gets to work; all that build-up needs to come off first thing in the morning, ready for your skin to reach its full potential. Applying a non-foaming (and therefore non-drying) cleanser will help to gently wash away any residue and ensure your complexion is super fresh – the perfect base for the rest of your skincare routine. My current go-to is a combination of Kate Somerville’s Delikate Soothing Cleanser and this Phytomer Radiance Cleansing Cream, but there are also some really great affordable options from brands like Garnier and The Body Shop. Whether you use this in the shower or at the sink is up to you, but just ensure the water isn’t too hot.
Step 2: Exfoliating Acid Toner
Using a (reusable) cotton pad saturated in an exfoliating toner like Pixi Glow Tonic, you should wipe across your face using both the front and back. Powered by Glycolic Acid (which sounds a lot more scary than it is) the treatment will gently help to remove dead and dull skin cells from the surface to reveal the fresher and newer skin beneath; it’s great for encouraging cell renewal, reducing blocked pores and breakouts, plus boosting circulation. Using a gentle toner benefits all skin types in so many ways, so it’s an essential step no matter your age.
Step 3: Targeted Treatments
This is where things get interesting. Depending upon your specific needs (be them fine lines, radiance, breakouts, pigmentation, clarity, redness, under-eye darkness or so on) you can add in some targeted treatments that really focus on those areas. My main concerns are lines and radiance, so I choose to use the Image Skincare The Max Wrinkle Smoother alongside treatments such as ARK Skincare’s Radiance Serum, Strivectin’s Super C Bright & Protect Serum, or the Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules. I also like to add in something like the Murad Vita-C Eyes Dark Circle Corrector, or even the No7 Labs Line Correcting Booster Serum.
The key is to really work out what your concerns are and to find serums or treatments to address them. No two people will be the same, and your needs may change from week to week – sticking to one product for eternity will never benefit your skin, so don’t be afraid to change things up and try new things (taking into consideration a product takes roughly 4-8 weeks to make a difference, due to our natural skin cycle.) Skipping over this step will only ensure you have cleansed and moisturised skin, rather than addressing any of those signs of ageing that may be troubling you in the mirror; this is also the step you should be investing in as much as you can afford, as this is where you’ll benefit from skincare the most.
Step 4: Moisturiser
A moisturiser really helps to lock everything in place with a good boost of hydration and nourishment, while ensuring your complexion remains lubricated and healthy looking throughout the day. It’s not essential to apply a super luxe or expensive moisturiser, but often super cheap ones offer comedogenic (pore blocking) ingredients that could lead to more issues than they solve; my advice is to look in the mid-range area, with brands such as Avon, L’Oreal, No7, The Body Shop, ARK Skincare and Antipodes. I’m also really loving this new range from Phytomer which is enriched with mineral rich algae to deliver some radiance boosting qualities. Be sure to look for a lightweight oil-free moisturiser so it doesn’t deliver too much slip or cause your makeup to move throughout the day; it’s also far easier to layer if it’s not too heavy.
Step 5: Sun Protection
The most essential step in any skincare routine, as exposure to UV rays and pollution can wreak havoc on our skin – right down to its DNA. It’s suggested that 80% of all signs of visible skin ageing are due to environmental aggressors, and therefore preventable (to a certain extent!) so SPF should be a product we all use daily, no matter our age, in order to protect against accelerated ageing and pigmentation issues. It’s also even more vital if you’re using AHAs, Retinol or Vitamin C in your skincare regime, as these ingredients speed up cell turnover so it’s easier for UV rays to penetrate the skin.
Your sun protection should be the last step in your regime, every single day, even if you’re skipping over treatments and moisturisers. It’s far easier to prevent damage than it is to tackle the results! Some of my favourite daily SPFs include the ARK Skincare SPF30 Primer, the Image Skincare Daily Ultimate Protection SPF50, Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF35 and Beauty Pie for a great budget version. This should be the last stage before your makeup.
Step 1: Double Cleanse
One of my favourite steps in my routine is the evening double cleanse; it helps to lift away all the dirt, grime, makeup and skincare that’s been lingering on my face all day, leaving me with glowing and super soft skin that’s ready for some nighttime goodness. An oil or balm cleanser will help melt away all that build-up super easily while helping to soothe the skin, so it’s great as a first step (discover four great affordable favourite cleansing balms here.) Your second cleanse can either be with the same product or with the same non-foaming cleanser you used in the morning, and helps to remove anything deep down in your pores. Think of it like a pre-wash cycle followed by a delicate cycle on your washing machine!
Step 2: Targeted Treatments
Like in the morning, this is an opportunity to boost the skin and apply some targeted ingredients that will get to work as you sleep. Whether your skin is parched and will benefit from a rich facial oil, is in need of Retinol to help with fine lines or pigmentation, or just needs some soothing nourishment, this is where you can apply all that night-specific goodness. If you don’t want to (or don’t need to) invest in night treatments, you could also re-use your daytime ones for an extra boost.
My go-to here is always Retinol, as it really helps with all manner of issues that creep up as we age; it’s not recommended that you use it during the daytime as it can compromise the ability of the skin to protect itself from UV rays, so using it as a night time treatment is definitely the best way forward. I’m currently trying the No7 Advanced Retinol Concentrate, but I also love the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum and the Image Skincare Total Overnight Retinol Masque.
(Read my post on why everyone over 30 should be using Retinol here.)
Step 3: Night Cream
Our skin goes eight hours without any kind of hydration from food or drink, so applying a rich and nourishing night cream will go a long way in helping you to wake up with bright and radiant skin. You can afford to go heavier and apply more generously, as you won’t be applying makeup over the surface, to leave skin feeling truly cared for and pampered. Many night creams now also contain a treatment element and ingredients to help tackle skin concerns, so it may be that your night cream does everything you need in one pot – always an added bonus! If you’re looking for a night treatment then I can thoroughly recommend the ARK Skincare Age Defend Night Treatment, the Bare Minerals Skin Longevity Night Cream or the Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask.
(Read about everything on my bedside table, including some great night treatments and creams, here. Also check out my blog post on the importance of sleep, a great pre-bed ritual, and the difference between day and night creams here.)
Skincare may seem overwhelming and complicated, but once you get a grip on what you need to use and why it becomes an enjoyable experience that you can really embrace. Adding in or removing different steps that work for you is also really important, as only you will know what your skin is telling you and what it needs that specific day; it’s also important to build up slowly (both in steps and concentration) rather than going from zero to twenty stages overnight.
I adore skincare and really see so many benefits from it. It’s become part of my daily self-care routine and something I really enjoy experimenting with, and I know you can learn to do the same too.
If you have any specific questions then do let me know below, but otherwise – enjoy!