I think this is the perfect time to let you in on my winter skincare routine, since now that I can look back and really hone in on the products and steps that kept my skin going for the past few months.
my skin is combination, I’ve had severe acne from 12 to 23, then mild acne from 25 onwards up until recently (about 1 to 2 years ago my acne started subsiding), and I still have the odd breakout and maskne. I’m very prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that then turns into dark spots that outstay their welcome for years.
I’m 41 and life has naturally happened to my skin up until now: loss of elasticity, sagging, wrinkles, fine lines, textural issues.
my goals are keeping my skin barrier safe, help it as much as I can to stay as elastic, responsive and smooth as possible, tackle the blemishes that still come to visit, and tone down and prevent further hyperpigmentation.
I can’t say this enough: what works for me may not work for you, it’s all a game of listening to your skin and understanding what jives with it, being patient and willing to adapt.
skincare has its limitations to what can be achieved – it’s only creams and serums, not scalpels nor needles –, and severe issues will definitely need a specialist. we need to manage our expectations regarding skincare (and brands need to back the hell up on the wild claims).
but, with good science-based information, I believe many people can safely go beyond the “cleanser-moisturiser-spf” essentials and help their skin stay in the best shape it can be, and even tackle some minor issues.
let’s start with the PM routine:
I keep rotating products on this step because I love my cleansers, but the basis of it is always the same:
an oil-based cleanser (balm, gel or oil) to melt makeup and spf with the minimum effort possible, and a cream or foaming cleanser as a second cleanser, to balance out the skin, depending on its needs.
- Heimish All Clean Balm
- Jordan Samuel After Show Treatment Cleanser for Sensitive Skin
- Paula’s Choice Defence Hydrating Gel to Cream Cleanser (oilier/normal days)
- Paula’s Choice Resist Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser (sensitive skin days)
- Cerave Hydrating Cleanser (sensitive skin days)
I really wanted to give these a good test-run — I’d heard enough about them to know about all the collagen and elasticity boosting to be curious, but this podcast episode by The Eco Well really spiked my interest.
I knew the most studied peptides are the ones in Matryxil, Matryxil 3000, and Argireline (these are the commercial names, the official ones are a bit more complicated, but you can look it up easily), but I needed to start with some of the most intriguing ones: Niod Copper Amino Isolate Activator 2.1. These copper peptides are less backed but have some promising wild claims (and some people I trust swear by them). I’ll report back when I have finished the bottle ;)
word of warning: these copper peptides shouldn’t be used with exfoliating acids nor vitamin C.
if I had to strip it to the essential, it would be double cleanse and this.
retinaldehyde is a Vitamin A derivative that is only one conversion stage from becoming tretinoin (the active that does all the good resurfacing deeds). Despite being so up there, it supposedly causes less side effects and irritation than other retinoids. my skin did react to actual tretinoin – even if I only used it twice a week sandwiched in lots of buffering products and moisturisers.
for me, Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6 caused no irritation whatsoever, and I was able to quickly start using it every evening. I’ve now used up a whole bottle and bumped to Crystal Retinal 10. my skin has been visibly smoother and firmer, as a result of team work of all the moving parts of my routine, but this product has definitely been a very important one.
I do sometimes feel the need to use a moisturiser, but it’s because this cream is not moisturising in itself and sometimes my skin needs that extra occlusivity.
niacinamide + moisturiser
most skincare products already contain niacinamide, but funnily enough my nighttime products didn’t, and I wasn’t going to pass on the fact that the combination of niacinamide with a retinoid is great for hyperpigmentation (and it’s also great on its own for so many reasons, like deflating inflammation, strengthening the skin barrier, tighten the pores, improving skin tone, regulating sebum production, etc.).
I mix a few drops of Geek and Gorgeous 101 B-Bomb with the moisturiser I’m using that evening:
- Paula’s Choice Omega + Complex Serum (it’s a serum with a light lotion cream texture. it’s the most lightweight option, but it’s unbeatable in terms of barrier repair ingredients)
- COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream (it’s a comfortable soothing cream with ceramides)
- Hada Labo Perfect Gel Koi-Gokujyun (this looks like those lightweight gel moisturisers but it’s actually SUPER hydrating and makes your skin glow for hours)
once or twice a week
Double cleanse + Exfoliating Acid (+ Moisturiser or oil if needed)
- Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid for overnight exfoliated and glowing skin
- Alpha H Beauty Sleep Power Peel (glycolic + retinol) when I’m more prone to breakouts