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Skincare: 12 things I've learnt

(126 Posts)
oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 18:11:23

Like many of you on here, I am a huge skincare addict. Over the last few years I really got into the whole skincare blog /Caroline Hirons et al. world of balm cleansers, exfoliating toners, and £100 serums.

I am genuinely mortified to admit this but I have probably spent £1000+ on skincare these last few years, and I am by no means well-off. I have honestly tried 100s of products and brands and feel like I've had a decent insight into the whole skincare industry after months and months of 'research' on mumsnet, makeupalley, dermatology journals, and skincare blogs. My cupboards are now filled with lotions and potions, most of which are completely neglected.

So, before everyone else rushes out and does the same thing (and it seems like the popularity of these elaborate routines and skincare blogs is on the rise) I want to lay out 12 things that I've learnt.

1. Excellent products come with all price tags - from the very cheap to the very expensive. Don't let anyone tell you that the more you spend, the better you'll get. From my experience this is not true. That said, on the whole I've found that being prepared to spend, say, £10-20 for a cleanser or a moisturiser will get you a better product than spending £4-6, as a general rule. This is not to say that great products can't be found in the cheaper range, just that there are fewer of them. The difference between a £10-20 product and a £140 product is ZERO. Once products start to get really expensive, invariably you can find a cheaper, just as good alternative, so never feel you need to spend hundreds.

2. When choosing a product, try and see beyond the 'added extras', the nice smell and the fancy packaging. Ask yourself whether it's actually performing a function. I was smitten by lots of lovely smells and luxurious feeling creams, but they often did nothing more for my skin that a basic cream half the price and without the expensive extra ingredients.

3. The simpler the better. Choose products without large amounts of alcohol, fragrance, essential oils. Go back to basics. Certain ingredients just work - glycerin, lactic acid etc - they have been clinically proved to do X, Y or Z, and have probably been around for years. Google around, look at ingredients lists, find out what the absolute staples of decent mositurisers/toners/cleansers are and then make sure you're choosing products with these ingredients in them, and not too many added extras. *Don't be fooled by marketing spiel*: there is no evidence that, say, triple-milled pearl oil or blue lotus flower extract have any benefits. You're just paying for a company trying to woo you with a fancy sounding ingredient.

4. Be wary about trusting blogger recommendations or products endorsed in magazines or newspapers. Chances are they're in some sort of financial or mutually beneficially arrangement with the company they're promoting, so think twice before believing what they write.

5. Simple routines work best for most skins - dry, combination and oily. I've had all of these three different skin conditions over the last five years and found that in each case, the simpler the better. Perhaps if you have a genuinely 'normal' skin type (lucky you!) then you can have an 8 product routine, but for most of us this really isn't helping. So: Get a decent cleanser and a decent moisturiser. Focus on these, first and foremost, and then add in (one by one so you can see whether they make a difference) a toner or a serum or any other extras that might target any particular skin complaints.

6. Double-cleansing, in the sense of one cleanse to remove makeup, one to wash your actual face, makes a lot of sense. You don't need it if you're not wearing makeup or SPF, but if you only cleanse once with makeup on your face wont actually be properly cleansed. Some cleansers might be better suited to taking off makeup and others to washing your face, but work out what works for you as there is no hard and fast rule. You might find you can use the same cleanser for both steps.

7. Face wipes/micellar waters are NOT the devil, although they shouldn't be your only cleanse. I frequently use face wipes or micellar waters for the 'first cleanse' at night and then wash my face properly with water. They're practical and cheap. Balm cleansing can be a lovely, effective and luxurious step in a skin-care routine, but more the time or cash poor - I've honestly found that there is no visible difference when I use Garnier Micellar Water (£4) than when I use Emma Hardie (£35) as the first step in my cleansing ritual.

8. Pharmacy brands (like Eucerin, Vichy and La Roche-Posay) are better formulated and more functional/'to the point' than many more expensive brands. They conduct more research before formulating products, and don't waste much time going for swanky packaging, advertising and smells and bells. That said, I've tried bad products by all these brands, so they're by no means the definitive answer, just a general good option to explore.

9. Learn to 'read' your own skin, to assess whether its dehydrated/sensitive/spotty etc, and then tweak your routine accordingly. Do what feels right for your skin - if something is working for you but has terrible reviews online or loads of alcohol or other such maligned ingredients - stick with it! Why change it if it's working for you?

10. Think holistically. Often it's not the products that are the problem. Before chucking your old moisturiser and going out to buy a new one, ask whether there are lifestyle changes you can make that will have more of an impact: hot baths, diet, air conditioning, exercise, fluid consumption, general health. Address your skin more holistically before looking for the miracle cure in your products.

11. Don't waste products - pass things on. If you've bought something and it hasn't worked out for you - why not pass it on to a friend, daughter, mother etc. and see if it works for them. Alternatively, repurpose your products - if an eye cream does nothing for you, use it up on your hands. In the long run you'll save money, and you'll feel less regret about splashing money on useless products.

12. If you have acne/dermatitis/psoarosis go to a GP or dermatologist. You wouldn't trust Clarins to sort out a throat infection or any other medical condition, so why would you expect a beauty brand to provide expert medical advice on a skin condition. Go to the GP and get a prescription or recommendation for medically-tested, tailored products. These will contain the same ingredients that you might find in beauty brands, but without the frilly extras.

And finally, these things were true for me personally (but wont necessarily be true for you):

- I love the idea of me sitting in a facemask on a Sunday evening. In reality I'm cleaning the kitchen, catching up on work/emails and spending time with my family. I never use masks or peels or any of the 'one off' type products i bought. They sit gathering dust on the shelf. In fact, beyond face moisturiser, cleanser, hydrating toner and lip balm, I don't really use any of the skincare extras I bought - no liquid gold, no over-night treatments, no oils (although some might use them in lieu of a moisturiser).
- I don't need a 'day' and 'night' cream but have just the one which I use for both. I do see the argument for having two, but personally I don't.
- Eye creams are just more expensive, smaller pots of exactly the same bunch of ingredients in a face cream. I have repurposed all my eye creams on my neck and won't ever buy an eye cream again.
- acid toners seemed to exacerbate my spots and I now avoid them altogether. Friends have found the same thing.
- Most hydrating toners are useless, but find a cheapish one that doesn't irritate your skin and it can be a useful makeup base
- water sprays are nonsense and completely useless (e.g. Vichy/Avene Eau thermal etc.)
- no targeted spot cream made any difference to the size or speed of disappearance of my spots. And trust me, I tried EVERYTHING. See point 15 above - if spots are really bothering you, go to the GP.

AND, here is an initial list of 'raved about' products that I tried and didn't rate:

Caudalie Eau de beauté
Dior rose lip balm
The Body Shop camomile cleansing balm and oil
Most Omorovicza products (apart from the charcoal cleansing balm which was nice but £££)
Sunday Riley active eye cream
Clinique 3 step program (most of the skincare is rubbish imho)
Zelens - fine but overpriced
Most expensive brands from Cult Beauty/ Space NK e.g. Revive, Algenist, Goldfaden, Strivectin
Eve Lom cleansing balm
Oskia renaissance cleansing balm (meh)
All the Diptyque skincare range I tried
REN glycolic mask; Oskia renaissance mask
Clarins lotion cleansers (so many better alternatives for a fraction of the price)
ALL expensive cleansing wipes
Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream
Any/all creams designed for stretch marks/cellulite/fat - none of them work and its frankly immoral that brands play on women's insecurities to tout bs products that evidently don't work. At best, some moisturiser might help the appearance of your skin, and keeping your skin in a decent condition will help with the natural fading process of stretch marks, but for that you only need a basic, budget moisturiser.

I could go on for days... (Sorry for the already mammoth post!)

Let me know if you disagree with this (I'm sure many of you will!) Clearly these are my own personal findings and won't be true for everyone.

Likewise, feel free to ask about specific products - chances are I've probably I tried it and have an opinion on it!

FLAMBOLA Sun 21-Feb-16 18:27:52

I LOVE The Body Shop Chamomile Cleansing Butter. grin

Destinysdaughter Sun 21-Feb-16 18:38:25

Great post and some good advice. Would like to know which products you did like though! I have dry, sensitive skin so always looking for effective products that won't make my skin burn/ redden.

Destinysdaughter Sun 21-Feb-16 18:39:40

I've actually used Boots No7 products for years and had no problems with them. I look younger than my age mainly as I don't sunbathe. That's v ageing!

squoosh Sun 21-Feb-16 18:41:24

I love the Camomile cleansers and the REN mask.

lilydaisyrose Sun 21-Feb-16 18:41:40

I'd love to know what you now use & love!

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 19:12:29

I really rate Eucerin moisturisers - esp. for dry or sensitive skin. I really liked their dry skin replenishing cream, their aquaporin rich moisturiser (the one for dry skin - the one for combination skin was a bit 'meh'), and their 5% urea cream. I didn't like their eye cream, lip balm or any of their acne-targeted range (dermopurifyer). I'm just starting a very drying acne medication and have stocked up on Eucerin moisturisers in anticipation - they really are the best heavy-duty ones.

There are tons of great cleansers - I'm currently using the Elemis Tri-Enzyme cleanser. I liked the Korres white tea gel one, and I think the Simple basic gel cleanser is good too (and cheap!)

In terms of balm cleansers I do really like the Emma Hardie one, although it's v. expensive, so I tend to have a pot in my cupboard to use as a bit of a luxury and then alternate this with Simple/Garnier cleansing wipes or a micellar water (tons of good ones). I think if The Body Shop took out all the camomile scent then their balm cleanser would be a great, functional and cheaper alternative. If your skin isn't sensitive then perhaps it would work for you, but for me personally, I'd rather use Garnier/Bioderma/Vichy/Eucerin micellar waters which I know don't irritate my skin.

I don't currently use this because I can't combine my acne medication with certain skincare treatments, but I loved Vichy Normaderm Anti-Age Anti-Imperfection Resurfacing care (a night moisturiser). Nothing is a miracle worker, but it is excellent for oily/spot prone skins, and makes you wake up with plump/smooth looking skin. Genuinely just as good as all the posh Sunday Riley, Clarins ones I tried. I also never heard it mentioned once by any bloggers - so clearly Vichy doesn't work with bloggers on campaigns!

Other products I really liked (more expensive ones):
Pai Rosehip oil (amazing - one of the best oils I tried and £20 rather than £100 like many of the others!)
Sunday Riley Good Genes (horrifically expensive, but did have a noticeable difference the next day. Although, as I say, Vichy Normaderm one was pretty much just as good - both acid based - one more lactic acid, the other glycolic)
Claris face oils (again, expensive and the Pai one was just as good for me, but these were decent, and much better than the Clarins moisturisers I tried)
Neals Yard Wild Rose Balm (another Caroline Hirons recommendation - I really liked it, but for the price wouldn't repurchase.)
Kate Somerville goat milk (basically just a good lactic acid based moisturiser, good for oilier skins, although again, for the price, I won't repurchase)
Clinique moisture surge spray (I don't like Clinique moisturisers, but the spray is a great base for makeup.)
La Roche-Posay serozinc (likewise, good base for makeup, good for spot-prone skin)

I'll do another post in a minute with more products I didn't rate! And I'll have a look in my cupboards later on for other products I got on well with (esp. cheaper ones)...

cressetmama Sun 21-Feb-16 19:39:04

Interesting post. I like Bioderma's Atoderm and Hydrabio ranges.

DS is working his way though the LRP Effaclar products, but likes the Serozinc especially. Sam Farmer is a good bet for teenagers, and not £, but have never heard an adult's take on it.

RayFuckingPurchase Sun 21-Feb-16 19:52:31

Ooh, fun.

I will add (oily skin):

Cleansers - double cleanse, off with a clean flannel
Bioderma Sensibio foaming something or other
Waitrose Pure - so cheap

Acid toners
FAB pads in the morning
Paula's Choice 2% BHA lotion at night

Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating in the morning
Paula's Choice Resist Antioxidant at night

Paula's Choice Resist Antioxidant SPF 30 (the super light version, light blue tube) for daytime
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Night (contains retinol) most nights.

Of all those products I would say the PC and Neutrogena ones have made the most difference to my skin.

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 20:16:30

So, here's a list of products I liked (will add when I remember more!):

Eucerin Aquaporin Riche for dry skin
Eucerin dry skin replenishing cream
Eucerin 5% urea cream (normal not night version)
Clarins beauty repair concentrate
Clarins fake-tan drops (the ones you add to moisturiser)
REN rosa centifolio micellar water (although I buy the bargain ones which are cheaper and just as good, this was nice)
La Roche-Posay aftersun (not sure if available in UK, bought in Europe, in any case - it’s really good)
Vichy Normaderm micellar water - v. good for oily skins
La Roche-Posay Effacer Mat
Balance Me Radiance Fce Oil
NIP+FAB glycolic fix pads (if you’re into an acid tone, I thought these were better, and cheaper, than Pixi, Clarins etc.)
Elemis tri-enzyme wash
Simple moisturising face wash
Koreas white tea face wash
Emma Hardie moringa balm
Garnier/Vichy/Eucerin/Bioderma micellar waters
Vichy normaderm anti-age resurfacing care
Pai rosehip oil
Sunday Riley good genes
Neals Yard wild rose balm
Kate Somerville goats milk
Clinique moisture spray
La Roche-Posay serozinc

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 20:16:58

Products I actively disliked:

Balance Me eye cream
Strivectin anti-ageing cream
Kate Somerville anti-dark circles eye cream (simply didn’t work - and I don’t believe eye creams can get rid of dark circles so it’s dishonest that they suggest they can)
Bioderma Sebium micellar water (the one targeted at acne-prone skins)
The Body Shop Vit C spray
La Roche-Posay astringent toner
Clinique moisture surge moisturiser
Clinique all about the eyes
Lanolips lemon lip balm
Kiehls mango lip balm
Biologique recherche p50 toner
Clinique take the day off makeup remover for eyes
Omorovicza plumping cream
Omorovicza queen of hungary mist
Eucerin 5% urea - the night cream version - way too think- normal version is great
Omorovicza illuminating moisturiser
Soap and Glory face mask
The Body Shop Vit. C and Vit. E serums
The Body Shop Vit. E oil
Clarins Daily energiser moisturiser
Clarins hydraquench - whole range
Lush ultrabland
Nuxe rose face wash and micellar water
La Roche-Posay AI
La Roche-Posay Effaclar duo
Eucerin dermopurifyer range
Malin+Goetz lip moisturizer
Elemis papaya enzyme mask

(more to follow!)

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 20:17:14

And then 'meh' products:

Alpha H liquid gold (to be fair I think this is actually quite good but I just don’t use it…And there are cheaper products that do the same basic job)
Caudalie anti-age eye and lip cream - quite nice, way too expensive
Clarins beauty flash balm
MV Organics rose protecting moisturiser
Sunday Riley ceramic slip cleanser (good for oily/non-senstive skins, too drying/irritating for me)
Kate Somerville nourish and oil free moisturisers
Zelens 3t anti-aging (decent enough, but £95 for 50ml - really?!)
Hydraluron serum (no noticeable difference for me - so not worth the price)
Eucerin SPF 15 day cream
Zelens Z-22 oil
Pai pomegranate and pumpkin seed stretch mark creme
Pixi Glow tonic
Eucerin Hyaluron-filler
Hydraluron masks
Clarins gentle exfoliator
Clarins one step facial cleanser
Clarins pure melt cleanser
Clarins one step cleanser with mint
Origins No Puffery eye gel
La Roche-Posay ceralip
Sarah Chapman skinesis cleanser

Destinysdaughter Sun 21-Feb-16 20:19:59

Wow you really have tried everything haven't you? What are you going to do with the products you don't like? There is a way to donate stuff to women's refuges if you're interested, as pp often turn up with literally nothing.

SewSlapdash Sun 21-Feb-16 20:25:45

Interesting, thanks OP. While I disagree about some of your product likes/dislikes (and it sounds like your skin is different to mine, so that would make sense!) I certainly agree with your 12 essential points.

I've been considering ditching my acid toner, I might go back to basics for a bit. But I'm also pg, so who knows what's going on with my skin at the moment!

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 20:27:26

Destinysdaughter that's precisely what I've done over the years- it's a great cause and a stark reminder of how much we have compared to others who are not so lucky. I've also given things to friends and family/repurposed them (see original post).

Skincare became my hobby I suppose and I spent money on face creams rather than clothes/holidays. But, in short, I want to share my opinions on here to stop other people needlessly wasting money on products that seem really overpriced and overhyped.

ihatethecold Sun 21-Feb-16 20:34:58

I love 8 hour cream.
Interesting op though and I do agree with your 12 steps but I have very different skin to yours so what you like and dislike isn't relevant

FrustratedFrugal Sun 21-Feb-16 20:45:45

What I have learned is really simple - the less I put on my face, the better I look.

My staples: micellar water, black soap, sunscreen, beeswax lip balm.

Occasionally: Eucerin 5% urea cream (the best for flaky winter skin), Korean sheet masks (plumping and cooling and refleshing) and sleeping masks (they seal the moisture in).

Never: oils on my face (they trigger cystic acne). I also avoid foaming cleansers (I had perioral eczema) and eye creams (milia).

I'm 43 and people frequently think I'm 10-15 years younger.

FrustratedFrugal Sun 21-Feb-16 20:48:33

Adding, dry, acne/rosacea/perioral prone skin. I also like glycolic fix pads.

Destinysdaughter Sun 21-Feb-16 21:03:48

Agree that Eucerin/LRP/Vichy are all quality products ( and good for sensitive skin ). I've stayed away from high end products due to the amount of fragrance in a lot of them.

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 21:13:43

ihatethecold Absolutely... As you say, my likes/dislikes are only going to be relevant to people with a similar skin type, so I'm putting it on here for anyone who happens to be dealing with the same sensitivity/dryness/spots issues.

As this thread demonstrates already, some people love certain products - others hate them. However, in blogs/magazines reviews tend to be predominantly positive and you don't often get the chance to hear a normal person saying, 'actually, I spent a lot of hard-earned money on this serum that everyone raved about, and it was really not worth it'. So that in itself is a good thing I think... Likewise, because of the way bloggers and PR companies work, loads of excellent brands don't get spoken about/promoted, and places like mumsnet is a great opportunity to swap notes with fellow skincare enthusiasts!

Im interested in hearing other people's thoughts on skincare - and what they love/don't like...

Also, following Destinysdaughter's comment above, here is a link to the Give and Makeup programme that I'd recommend for any fellow skincare hoarders: I think I'm going to do another box this week as the shelves have filled up again and I'm going to be pairing down my routine while I start this new medication.

Lottapianos Sun 21-Feb-16 21:14:22

Thanks for sharing so much info OP. Youve been seriously busy!

You recommend spending £10-20 on a moisturiser - could you recommend a product for dry and dehydrated skin in this price range? Thanks

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 21:18:27

Agreed re: fragrance in high end products. I think they do it so the products seem more luxurious/smell nice and fancy, but they certainly don't contribute to the actual function and can be irritating. For the same reasons I think higher end brands are more likely to tout completely fanciful ingredients e.g. 'blue tansy oil' 'pearl extract' 'cold pressed blackberry' which aren't proven to do anything skin-wise. High end brands have to justify their price with gimmicks like these, whereas cheaper brands less so.

FellOutOfBedTwice Sun 21-Feb-16 21:26:39

Agree with everything except the nothing works on spots. For me Clinique fight the blemish targeted gel does work. It's the one thing that does though.

oOJJOo Sun 21-Feb-16 21:26:39

Lottapianos Yes, for dry or dehydrated skin I would definitely try a Eucerin one - either the Aquaporin Riche for dry skin or the Dry Skin Replenishing one. If you can I would try them in store and see if you like the smell/texture first. I have a little tip for trying out moisturisers. I often pop into my local Boots, apply a small blob of cream from the tester to my neck (where my skin is most sensitive) and then wander around while I do other errands so I've given it time to sink in. I can then decide on the basis of how well its sunk in/whether its irritated my skin/how it feels etc. whether I want to pop back in and buy it.

Incidentally, I've just stoked up on Eucerin products on LookFantastic - the Aquaporin one was c. £10 and the skin replenish only about £6 after I'd found a 15% off voucher online. Given the relatively affordable price range I think these are real bargains.

Destinysdaughter Sun 21-Feb-16 21:29:37

Thanks for that link, I've got some stuff I've been meaning to send so will get on it!

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