Can working in beauty actually damage your skin from product fatigue? And should we be taking a ‘less is more’ approach to our skincare routines?
Real talk: being a beauty journalist is a dream come true. Being able to write about products, issues and exciting developments in the industry and connecting with an audience who are just as passionate as you are is undeniably exciting. And then there’s the amount of amazing products we get to try out; from innovative new techy devices to luxe moisturisers and lipstick ranges with 50 new shades, there’s always something new and exciting to test. I love this part of the job, and a day doesn’t go by without me realising how lucky I am. But here’s the thing: it’s easy to fall into a culture of product excess, especially when it comes to skincare.
Something Arabella Preston (founder of skincare brand Votary) said once in a meeting I attended really stuck with me: “beauty is the only industry where you’re expected to experiment on your own body.” Her words made me realise I had become a true product junkie, and one that piled on skincare products like they were going out of fashion. When you’re continuously switching up your routine to incorporate that amazing new cleanser/serum/moisturiser/eye cream, your skin can feel like it never really has time to catch up – and sometimes suffers because of it. Dr Barbara Sturm of Dr. Barbara Sturm skincare is a huge advocate of keeping a simple skincare routine and not overloading your face with products. When I once asked her in an interview who would benefit from a simple routine, she replied, “everyone”. “There’s so much out there[product-wise] and every brand has their own philosophy. Breakouts can be caused by overpowering the skin with product,” she explained.
Unsurprisingly enough, I can completely relate to what Dr Sturm is saying; I’ve definitely noticed how much the constant change-up in my regime has unsettled my skin. From random breakouts to excess oil, the past few years have seen my complexion face a number of challenges that I had never experienced before. And when I think about how many different products I use on my skin, from adding in new releases to swapping out my cleanser each day from boredom, I can understand how these unwanted results have come about. I’m not the only one, either; I was recently reading a piece on Into The Gloss, where interviewee Tatiana Hambro revealed something her facialist Laura Londt had said to her in passing: “You can always tell it’s a Vogue girl because their skin looks so congested from all the stuff they’ve been using.” Many of my industry friends can agree with this off-the-cuff remark; while being able to try new products is an amazing perk of the job, it can take its toll if you go hard and fast on the newness.
This inevitably opens up wider questions about our skin, and not just for us beauty editors: is continuity or change better? And have we been overloading our skin? With all of the varying advice and continuous new innovation in beauty, buying skincare has seemingly never been more complex and confusing for the consumer. Consider the Korean approach to skincare, which features ten steps, from double cleansing to applying products such as essences. This routine has a huge following; with devotees claiming their skin has never looked better after adopting a ‘more is more’ approach. However while this can work for some, many of us are experiencing ‘product fatigue’, and want simpler, more pared-back regimes.
So what exactly should we be putting on our skin? Dr Sturm recommends beginning with a double cleanse and following this with a serum or oil, moisturiser and eye cream. Simples. Additional products such as liquid exfoliators and masks are add-ons that you can use every few days. Getting into an on-going routine with minimal products and less switching up (try to stick to a product for at least a month to see if it works and to give your skin a minute) means skin has time to acclimatise, making it feel – and look – healthier.
With this in mind, despite my product-hoarding, obsessive nature, I’ve decided to take a step back from ten-step routines, product overloading and switching things up too regularly, all in favour of a simple yet results-driven approach to skincare. Or at least, I vow to try until the next big skincare launch…
My favourite ‘no frills’ skincare for pared back perfection
The genius 3-in-1 cleanser
Frances Prescott Tri Balm, £46, Liberty London
This innovative cleansing balm exfoliates and nourishes while washing away any makeup, dirt and impurities, meaning a quick layer of serum then moisturiser afterwards will suffice.
The simple serum
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid, £4.99, Cult Beauty
While I love the DBS Hyaluronic serum, this does what it says on the tin for a hell of a lot cheaper. It can be used morning and night and suits all skin tones, delivering hydration direct to skin.
The versatile oil
Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, £61, Cult Beauty
A bestseller for Drunk Elephant, this soothes dry skin and leaves a noticeable radiance, and marula oil is famous for working on limbs and locks as well.
The suits-all moisturiser
Sisley Moisturiser With Cucumber, £115, Net-a-Porter
Everyone always raves about the Sisley Black Rose cream and while I do rate it, I think this is a far better all-rounder. It’s lightly fragranced and is great as a nourishing day cream but can also be built up for overnight wear.