Building a Skincare Routine

Daily skincare maintenance may seem like an obvious step to some, but in my experience a lot of people are unaware of either the importance of a thorough and regular routine, or of the steps which need to be undertaken to ensure healthy and happy skin. Skin is not only our largest organ but also the only one which is constantly visible to the rest of the world - enough to warrant a little TLC don't you think? A good skincare regime will not only brighten, clarify, and hydrate the skin, but improve the appearance and last of makeup, and delay the most visible signs of ageing. If you think you don't have the time, then make time. It's as simple and obvious a step as showering or brushing your teeth, takes five minutes twice a day, and (in my opinion) is very much a relaxing and de-stressing experience.

I know a lot of people who will only pay attention to their skin when they have an obvious problem, be that dryness, a breakout, or  the first signs of ageing.  In my opinion, good skincare is a preventative and not a curative measure. Your skin may appear poreless and smooth with the help of just face wipes and tap water, but a laissez-faire attitude never pays off in the long-run. Binning the face wipes and investing in just a handful of (decent) products will make a world of difference. I've marked the most essential (read: bare minimum!) steps below with an **.

Today's post is a step by step guide to a skincare routine which (with some tweaks and few exceptions) will work for everyone. I'm by no means an expert and have no experience in dermatology, but what is detailed below works for me and a lot of people I know. It follows a very basic structure of skincare so as far as starting points go, it's a good one. I also think that at the end of the day good skincare practice is just common sense, and once you know your skin well it comes very easily to you. Whether you're the type of person who relies solely on face wipes or you have a bathroom full of products that you have no idea to use, then I hope that this feature will shed a little light on the ins and outs of basic skincare.

Step 1: PREPARE Morning Cleanser** My skin favours a quick, light, and refreshing AM cleanse in order to remove product residue and buildup from the night before. I reach for (non-foaming) gel and cream cleansers which won't strip my skin but also don't go overboard on the oily/balmy side of things. A clean, matte surface is essential for good makeup application and last. Massage a little all over the face, leave for a minute and then gently rinse of with warm water. If you have an electronic facial cleanser then use this with your morning cleanser every other day on its gentlest setting.

My picks : La Roche-Posay Effaclar Gel Cleanser*, Dead Sea Spa Magik Gentle Cleansing Face Wash, Eucerin Purifying Cleanser, Aesop Parsley Seed Cleanser*, La Roche-Posay Physiological Cleansing Gel, DHC Pore Face Wash*.

Serum/Spot Treatment I very rarely use a liquid serum in the morning - anything oil-based won't go down well under makeup so look for gel-like products which sink in fast and leave the surface of your skin smooth and non-sticky. If you're blemish prone then now's the time to use a preventative spot-treatment and a spot-on treatment to reduce existing blemishes.

My picks : La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo +, La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I., Eve Lom Intense Hydration Serum*, Aesop B Triple C Facial Balancing Gel*, Avene Soothing Hydrating SerumAesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum*.

Day Cream/SPF Most people tend to think of moisturiser as a product for the evening, but it's equally essential to keep your skin hydrated throughout the day. I also can't do without day cream when I wear makeup and find that my foundation lasts and looks much better over well-moisturised skin. In the warmer months I also apply an SPF, but in the winter I find that a moisturiser which includes SPF will suffice. More people seem to be becoming aware of the need to wear SPF on a daily basis and I definitely think it's set to be one of the next big 'trends' in skincare. Swipe rather than rub cream/SPF in in order to prevent balling/redness.

My picks : Raccine Ultimate Aqua Blanc Boost*, Aesop Sage & Zinc Facial Hydrating Cream*, Bioderma Photoderm AKN Mat SPF 30, Antipodes Rejoice Light Facial Moisturiser, Eve Lom Daily Protection SPF 50*, Eve Lom TLC Radiance Cream*.

Step 2: REMOVE Makeup Remover** A good makeup remover will remove the majority of your makeup without leaving your skin feeling tight or greasy. I favour micellar solutions for quick and effective removal minus the stinging/drying sensation of most standard makeup removers. Perfect if you suffer from sensitive skin/eyes. Unless you're travelling or in a rush then avoid wipes - they simply don't cut it. 2-4 cotton pads soaked in micellar solution does. Wipe rather than rub the cotton pads over your face. For your eyes, hold the pad over your lids for 30 seconds before gently wiping away to the side. No rubbing.

My picks : Bioderma Sensibo H20, Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water.

Second Cleanser** No makeup remover (not even the best of micellar solutions) will remove every trace of makeup so a second cleanse is absolutely 100% non-negotiable. I favour hot cloth cleansers, oils, and balms over gel cleansers as these will remove the very last remnants of your makeup without being harsh, stripping, or drying. There's also nothing more zen after a long day than five minutes spent indulging in a luxurious cleansing ritual. Take the time to massage your cleanser into every nook and cranny of your face then allow it to sink in for few minutes and 'do its thing'. Soak a muslin cloth or flannel in warm water and lay over your face for a moment before re-soaking and using it to gently remove the product from your skin.

My picks : RMK Cleansing Balm*, Eve Lom Cleanser*, REN Rosa Centifolia Hot Cloth Cleanser, The Body Shop Chamomile Cleansing Oil, Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, Soap & Glory The Ultimelt, Antipodes Grace Cream Cleanser*, DHC Cleansing Oil*, Sarah Chapman Skinesis Ultimate Cleanse*, No7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Balm.

Step 3: TREAT Evening Cleanser This step is designed to gently cleanse your skin and prepare it for your evening products, so don't opt for anything too strong in any way. Some people prefer to skip/don't require this step but I find it essential to have a freshly clean face before applying my evening skincare. I also think that if you find a cleanser mild enough then there's really nothing to loose, the opportunity to give your face a quick massage and keep it clean will always pay off. A gentle lotion or cleansing milk will do the trick, and will suffice in place of a micellar solution/cleansing balm combo after a non-makeup day. Apply and massage in with your fingertips before removing after a few minutes with a toner-soaked cotton pad.

My picks : Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser, No7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing LotionLush 9 to 5 Cleansing Lotion.

Toner Considered a dated step by some, I still find a toner to be the most effective way to remove a cleansing milk/lotion. A standard toner will do little for your skin so look for one with a specific purpose and avoid any which claim solely to 'tighten pores' - this is nonsense. If you suffer from blemishes/scarring/dullness/enlarged pores etc. then use a liquid exfoliant. Look for a formula of AHAs and BHA's (e.g. salicylic, glycolic, lactic, and citric acids) and avoid anything with alcohol within the first half of the ingredients list. Soak a cotton pad and sweep gently over the face (avoiding the delicate eye area).

My picks : PIXI Glow Tonic, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Lotion*, The Organic Pharmacy Herbal Toner*, Lush Tea Tree Water.

Serum/Oil No one sees/cares about the appearance of your face when you're in bed (and if they do then you need to remove them from your bed) - so take the opportunity to layer on the oils and creams, and make your face shine. I save my richest creams, oils, and serums for evening application and an intensive moisture boost. If your skin is especially dehydrated then a serum like Hydraluron is a useful extra step post-cleanse/tone. It's formula of hyaluronic acid will increase the benefits of any products applied on top. Don't be scared to apply an oil to your skin, even if you have oily skin. It doesn't work for everyone, but I've found that ever since introducing an oil to my routine my skin is much more balanced and (ironically) less oily.

My picks : Hydraluron, Aesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Treatment*, Antipodes Divine Face Oil*, Trilogy Rosehip Oil, Lush Full of Grace Serum Bar.

Night Cream** Night creams don't need to do anything fancy other than provide moisture and lock in your oil/serum - but at the same time it doesn't hurt to pick one out with 'extra' benefits. I favour thick ones which sit on the skin for some time before sinking in. Allow a few moments after applying your oil/serum before you add your moisturiser to the mix (I usually brush my teeth in between the steps). I like to think of my night cream as a mask so I always apply a good thick layer - especially if I'm not going to bed immediately.

My picks : Verso Night Cream*, Aesop Mandarin Facial Hydrating Cream*, Origins Drink-Up Intensive Overnight Mask, Eucerin Even Brighter Night Cream, No7 Essential Moisture Day Cream.

Eye Cream Not an essential step for everyone but one I've adopted early on as more of a preventative measure than a curative one. I'm not really a fan of the term 'anti-aging' but I also believe that once you've got lines/wrinkles, there's no way to get rid of them. Taking care of your skin whilst you're young will pay off, so I don't really see the harm in taking care of the most delicate skin on my face. Apply only a little (too much will cause puffiness) using your ring fingers to gently follow the curve of your eye sockets then pat on at the corners. If your eyes/skin aren't overly sensitive then use your night cream in place of a specific eye product.

My picks : Verso Super Eye Serum*, Dead Sea Spa Magik Eye Cream.

Step 4: EXTRAS Exfoliants To be used in moderation. Exfoliating every day will do nothing good for your skin, at all. I use a manual exfoliant twice a week/whenever I'm using a mask. They serve to get into your pores and dig out all of the deep-rooted grime and buildup which results after a week's worth of makeup and environmental pollutants (read: life). This will allow your mask/treatment products better penetration and increase their effectiveness. I use a liquid exfoliant (mentioned above) on a daily basis as it's a much gentler form of exfoliation, and one of the most effective ways to reduce the appearance of blemish marks and scars.

My picks : Aesop Purifying Facial Exfoliant*, The Body Shop Vitamin C Microdermabrasion, Soap & Glory Scrubatomic, Aesop Tea Tree Exfoliant Powder*, PIXI Glow Tonic.

Masks My favourite skincare products, and those which I have no issue splashing my cash on. There are some great affordable masks out there but the best I've used have all been over the £20 mark (this is entirely personal). If you have skincare troubles then a good mask (specifically suited to your concern) is one of the best skincare investments you can make. I also think that the cost per use works out better if you invest in an expensive mask instead of picking up packet masks on a weekly basis. I apply them generously to clean, exfoliated skin and usually leave them on for a little longer than suggested. Some of the best anti-blemish masks also work wonders as spot-on overnight blemish treatments.

My picks : Aesop Parsley Seed Mask, Aesop Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Mask*, Sisley Radiant Glow Mask*, Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask, REN Invisible Pores Detox Mask, Lush Catastrophe Cosmetic Face Mask, Aesop Primrose Facial Cleansing Mask*, Eve Lom Rescue Mask*, Raccine Gentle Refining Scrub Mask*.

Tools Introducing facial tools/massage into my routine has made the world of difference to my skin. I'm devoted to my Clarisonic - after trying a number of cheaper facial brushes I can wholeheartedly say that it is worth the extra money (although the Magnitone brushes are a great (and more affordable) alternative). I use mine with my morning cleanser every other day, and also like to pair it with a cleansing balm or oil for a bi-weekly luxe and effective pre-facial treat. There are plenty of great facial massaging tools available on the high-street as well which serve the same purpose as some VERY expensive ones. I use mine on a daily basis for about twenty minutes to gently massage my evening skincare products into my skin. I also like to make the time to do a Lisa Eldridge style facial massage a few times a week with a cleansing balm or treatment oil. Regular massage really pays off - you'll notice a difference in your skin within a matter of weeks.

My picks : Clarisonic Aria*, Magnitone Lucid Facial Brush, The Body Shop Facial Massager.

I'll be posting my skincare tips, tricks, and rules VERY soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that follow up!

What are your skincare routine tips and essentials?

G x

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