I have to start this with a disclaimer: I am no skincare expert, I have just tried a lot of products, and I know what works well on my own face.
Now that’s out the way…
When I have a really bad skin day, the issues I tend to have are congestion, rough patches and spots. It tends to feel and look a bit grubby and gross, so the very best thing I can do, is thoroughly cleanse it. I have a number of cleansers I really like (which I have written about here).
It can be tempting to overload your face with super strong products but some potent ingredients can counteract. For example, if you want to use retinol and you mix mix it with glycolic acid, they will diminish the effect of each other. For this reason, it’s good to pick one item which will have a real impact, and then supplement it with complementary products.
I like to start by double-cleansing. Any simple oil or balm cleanser will do. I really like Siskyn Camellia & Safflower Hot Cloth Cleansing Oil. It is fairly pricy, but the ingredients are top notch and the company’s ethics are excellent. This cleanser carries The Vegan Society logo. It only has a shelf life of six months, but it’s a great morning and first cleanse, so even though a little goes a long way, you shouldn’t end up throwing any of it away. This is really good for destroying eye make-up too. I like to use a drop or two, massage it onto dry skin, then rub it off with a flannel soaked in warm water. (I prefer flannel to muslin cloths. Even if you wash them daily, I find muslins start to feel ‘slimy’ after a while – some people do prefer them though. Just a personal choice).
At this point I will use what I find to be the most effect step in this skin fix: Superdrug’s Glycolic Cleansing Peel. This is super reasonably priced at £7.99, but you can very often pick it up on offer, making it a total bargain. Glycolic acid is what’s known as an AHA – an alpha hydroxy acid. According to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: “[Glycoli acid is] a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that, like other ingredients in the category, can act as a water-binding agent and, when properly formulated, as an exfoliant. In its capacity as an exfoliant, it can help shed dead skin to renew skin’s surface, visibly softening the signs of ageing, particularly from sun damage. Glycolic acid is one of the most effective and well-researched forms of AHA.”
You can leave this cleanser on the skin for up to three minutes, then rinse off, again using a flannel. I find that my skin is super clean and super smooth after this step. It instantly seems to melt away the worst of the roughness and congestion. The acids basically slough off the dull (and dead) skin cells, and do it in a much less abrasive way than a traditional ‘scrub’, which I used to use. If you find three minutes is too intense for your skin, you can experiment with shorter times, or even rinse off immediately, and still reap some of the benefits.
It’s fair to say that whenever I need an instant skin fix, this is a holy grail product.
Although I usually follow my cleanser with a fairly mild acid toner, I feel like it would be overload with this face wash, so I like to make sure I have rinsed thoroughly before following with a gentle but effective serum. My current product of choice is the The White Company Advanced Multi-Depth Super Serum. It seems that a lot of people have been pleasantly surprised by this new skincare range. Many weren’t sure what to expect from skincare created by a lifestyle company, but the head honchos at The White Company joined forces with the experts at Deciem (which creates cruelty-free and mostly vegan products). Rave reviews followed – especially for the cleansing balm (which I will write about myself soon). The line isn’t cheap, but so far, so good.
It’s nice to leave the serum to sink in and add eye cream. At this point you can use address any other issues. I personally find that piling too many products on doesn’t work for me, but a non-comedogenic oil (i.e. an oil that won’t cause a breakout in most people) might be a nice additional step if you are prone to dryness. I like Korres Wild Rose Oil, which I’ve written about in more detail here. If you have any particularly brutal spots, a dot of a clay or salicylic-based treatment on problem areas may help, but otherwise I’d leave well alone.
I find this routine always yields instant results and gets rid of the worst of dull, congested skin. Just remember to wear an SPF the following day, as the acid will make you more susceptible to the ageing effects of the sun.