Less is more: why you should pare down your skincare routine
Beauty journalist Anita Bhagwandas explains the importance of a minimal approach when it comes to taking care of your skin
by: Anita Bhagwandas, for The Guardian
Skincare has been catapulted into stardom over the past few years, from something of a low base. Even as little as 10 years ago, many of us still had relatively pared-back skincare routines. A face wash, usually followed by a toner – even though most of us never actually understood what it did – and moisturiser. And, for a really long time, that would have been considered a fairly extensive routine. But things quickly started to change and we realised our skin needed a little more than that.
Fast-forward to now and our bathroom shelves have started to resemble a scientist’s lab with vials and potions everywhere. Skincare, which was once simple, has now become a total minefield.
Even as a beauty journalist for more than 10 years, I feel overwhelmed. Every day I trawl through bags of potions, each one promising to give me an entirely new face. In my work, trips have taken me to skincare labs all over the world, and during a visit to South Korea, known as the skincare capital of the world, I even encountered a 20-step skincare regime. While nothing has taken 10 years off my face, I have learned that it’s not how many products you use, it’s actually what you use that counts. And that the key to healthy skin is all about the foundations.
As with underwear and wall painting, a good base is non-negotiable. Trapped in my flat over lockdown, I’ve had time to really look at my skincare regime and pare it back a little. Now, I cleanse my skin once with a cleansing balm, removing any makeup and giving my skin a massage to wake myself up (sometimes a coffee just doesn’t suffice). Then I’ll use a second cream cleanser just for insurance, you know, to get off any remaining grime. Next, it’s a serum, such as Lancôme’s Advanced Génifique Serum, which is my must-have base coat. It’s a perfect all-rounder and designed for every woman: all ethnicities, ages, and skin types – dry, combination/normal and oily.
Developed after 20 years of research, it’s inspired by microbiome science. We’re now adding kefir and kimchi to our diets, and fermenting anything that stays still long enough – good bacteria is at the top of the healthy-living agenda. So it makes sense that we’d transfer that knowledge to our skincare – after all, the skin is the body’s largest organ. Lancôme’s Advanced Génifique Serum has a formula that is made up of seven prebiotic and probiotic-derived extracts to help the skin’s delicate balance, and it also contains hyaluronic acid – one of my favourite skincare ingredients – which locks moisture into the skin and instantly hydrates.
I follow that with a moisturiser and SPF50. And that’s it – simple. What’s also excellent about Lancôme’s serum is that it helps to improve the skin’s barrier function. Our skin is like a sieve; when the mesh is damaged it lets a lot of things through that it shouldn’t (such as pollution and other free radicals). But when it’s optimal, it keeps intruders out. And any acids, fancy lotions or treatments aside, we have to have that barrier intact in order to maintain the skin’s balance, health and that vibrant glow we’re all chasing. Just as importantly, my routine is now far more compact and simpler to stick to. Working from home should be easy by now, but even as a seasoned self-employed person, I find myself hunched over my desk, blitzed by a fan heater and forgetting to drink water for hours when I’m on deadline. While I should know better, I just think that if my skincare is working hard enough, at least that’s something. That’s a small win. And my skincare routine certainly feels like much-needed self-care at a time when everything is up in the air.
You genuinely don’t need 500 products to have skin that feels and looks healthy – just a few that do their job well.
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*This article was originally published on theguardian.com as part of the Lancôme Génifique and Guardian Labs 'Skincare gets gutsy' campaign.