As summer draws to a sultry, overdue end I’ve been taking stock of the skincare products that have really cut the mustard this year – the ones I now use so regularly they’ve become an automatic part of my beauty routine. When spring starts (look at me, optimistically skipping over the cold seasons and welcoming back the warmth!) these are the things I’ll be buying without hesitation – for their efficacy, their ease of use and for their pleasing textures.
I don’t know why I’m even waiting for spring – they’re all the sort of repairing, protective products we can benefit from every day of the year. But I suppose I’ll see much less sun over the winter and so my needs will inevitably change – perhaps less days with an SPF, if I’m holed up inside, and maybe the antioxidant frenzy might go off the boil a bit. (Read here if you need to catch up on why I was on an antioxidant frenzy.)
OK, here are summer’s best bits, in order of how I’d use them in my skincare routine.
The first is the Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line Reducing Vitamin C Eye Serum, £41 here*, which is actually the least serum-like eye product I can think of. In fact, the reason I love it is that it’s so un-serumy – it goes on with that fuzzy-matte feel that you get with a silicone-rich formula, as though you’re smoothing on some sort of liquid velvet. (The texture is very similar to that of the Zelens Triple-Action Eye Cream.)
It sits superbly well beneath makeup, doesn’t irritate my sensitive eye area but has done wondrous things in terms of brightness and tightness, over the summer months. It’s potent, easy to use (just swipe on, no need for lengthy tapping-in or massaging) and the pump-action packaging is so convenient. Fast becoming my favourite packaging type, in fact. I don’t need to dig my nails into a pot so that I get cream underneath them, I don’t need to find those fiddly little tube lids that roll of the shelf and go under the loo…
You can find Kiehl’s Vitamin Eye Serum (Velvety Cream!) here*.
Paula’s Choice Triple Algae Pollution Shield, £31 here*. This is my default choice when it comes to a relatively budget-friendly antioxidant serum. It’s absolutely packed to the rafters with powerful ingredients that will help to protect skin against what the industry often snazzily refers to as “external aggressors”. When I think of external aggressors I always think of angry zombies banging on the windows of a derelict pub in a post-apocalyptic Milton Keynes, a pale and frightened landlord inside. If you’re ahead of me with this analogy you’ll know that the landlord is the skin, the windows are the Triple Algae Pollution Shield and the zombies are the external aggressors (pollution, smoke, light). And there endeth the worst analogy that the beauty world has ever seen. I’ll see myself out.
Anyway, Triple Algae is a great everyday serum that is powerful but reasonably non-irritating, so long as you don’t baste yourself in it twice a day. (Got a bit itchy when I used too much, so take note.) This serum will slip on under any moisturiser/sunscreen and act as a bit of extra protection if you want to help keep your skin even-toned and your skin barrier strengthened. You can use AM and PM but I would usually only use in the morning. Although…
Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum (£85 here*) did manage to sneak into my routine twice-daily for a while. I had some pigmentation creeping in, due to the fact that I had lived in the garden for about six solid months, and I wanted to nip it in the bud. This was the most targeted, effective (according to Skinceuticals’ very good clinical trials) and easily-available product I could lay my hands on and it has definitely worked. It’s lightweight and water-like, absorbing instantly and layering brilliantly under just about anything else. I tend to follow the Defense Serum directly with moisturiser but you could slip on a hydrating serum in between if you fancied it and wanted some extra hydration…
So if dark spots are your niggling skin issue and you want something potent (but not drastic) to use longterm then this is most definitely one to consider. Note that it is expensive but you really should only be using two tiny drops each time, not a dropperful! One bottle has lasted me around six months with very regular use, at least once a day.
Find the Discoloration Defense Serum here*
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluid (£16.50 here*) would have to be my summer moisturiser of choice, if I could only choose one. It’s ultra-hydrating but oil-free and it’s light and smooth and silky and doesn’t weigh heavily on hot skin. For me, it gives the final moisture-boost before I go in with my sunscreen and the fact that it’s formulated for very sensitive skin means that I turn to it after I’ve removed my makeup and SPF at night, too. It’s a perennial favourite, this, and it won’t break the bank.
Sidenote: if you suffer with breakouts but also find your skin dehydrated, this is one of those wonderful face creams (fluids) that will do the trick as a moisturiser without making you feel worried that your skin is getting clagged up.
Find Toleriane at Escentual here*
Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35 (£36 here*) could possibly be my favourite product of the year. It’s just a joy to use; light and fresh and almost undetectable on the skin. So rare for a sunscreen to tickle my fancy quite this much, but there you go – I actually look forward to applying it. Yes it’s fragranced (very, very pleasantly) and no it’s not the highest of factors (50 would be great) but it’s otherwise SPF Perfection.
So much so that it seems to be out of stock pretty much everywhere apart from LookFantastic here*, where it’s £36.
If you’d like to see how all of these products fit into a wider routine then please read – and watch – my latest Skincare Routine post here.
Do any of you have any huge objections if I widen the scope of my monthly favourites round-ups to include stuff other than beauty? I feel it would inject some new and welcome joie de vivre into what is an old – yet surprisingly still very popular – format.
The only problem might be (spoiler alert!) is that some of the items, if I’m let loose completely from my self-imposed constraints, might be a bit random. For example this month, had I been given free rein, I would most probably have included a faux-antique rug in my favourites as well as a vintage BelgoChrom table I picked up (not literally) from Belgium for an absolute steal.
I don’t mean to imply that all of the favourites would be interiors-related – I’ve also had a great love-affair with a new Amazon Prime TV series this month – I’m just throwing some examples out there. So what do you think? Death to the (exclusively) beauty favourites? Bring in a new era? Or are you change-averse?
(If you are incredibly change-averse then I do genuinely feel for you. 2020 is most certainly not your year.)
Let me know in the comments, please – I do love a spot of market research on here! But for now, on with the beauty favourites. I’ve mostly avoided skincare this month despite racking up a fair few new discoveries that were deserving of a big mention, and that’s because I’m judging the Marie Claire skincare awards. It would be slightly disingenuous to go shouting my mouth off about my favourites whilst others are still doing their solemn judging.
So two bodycare items, two makeup favourites and one thing that is skincare but not quite as you know it. Shall we start with that one? It’s called a ZitSticka and it’s a small patch infused with potent spot-fighting ingredients that you stick over an emerging or early-bird blemish. You know when you have that hard swelling beneath the skin and your heart sinks because you know it’ll take long and painful days to erupt into anything you can (illegally) squeeze?
That’s what these ZitStickas are aimed at. I actually did an ad for this product at the very start of the year, having used it over the Christmas zit period, but I’ve had a fairly spot-free spring and summer and so hadn’t needed them since. But boy did last month’s PMT week see a beauty of a boil! The perfect pustule to place a Sticka on and I was delighted to find that it worked just as well as at Christmas. From hard, red skin to…absolutely nothing.
The raised bump didn’t disappear completely overnight, I had to take the patch off in the morning and double-obliterate it with a second one, but after that it simply dispersed. No squeezing necessary, which was good as it’s a very bad thing to do with a hard and horrible spot like that.
And to bodycare, where a Mitchum deodorant stole the show. On closer inspection, a “man’s” deodorant but I’m not really sure what makes it manly. The smell is “Cedarwood” but I find it fresh and figgy, which is why it’s in the faves (a good deodorant smell is hard to find), the formula is creamy, aluminium-free and effective.
True fact: to test efficacy I always do a half-half trial, whether it’s foundation, SPF or an exfoliating body lotion. You need to keep one half of your test area free from the product being tested – in this case it was so that I could gauge that day’s sweatiness with one pit and the sweat-fighting prowess of the anti-perspirant with the other.
It did well. The depths of the underarm were fresh even after a brisk walk down the river on a hot day wearing inadvisable levels of cashmere.
You can find Mitchum’s Natural Power deodorants here at Boots*, they are £4.50.
A seasonal favourite now, in the shape of Weleda’s Pine Bath. I know I’ve mentioned this a fair bit over the years and usually it’s more of a winter staple, but I ran out of Epsom Salts the other day (shock horror! fear not, I have reordered) and bathing just wasn’t bathing without something added to the water.
The Weleda bath milks are excellent – lavender would be my warmer months option but nothing beats pine for a bit of a Christmassy run-up. Again, I know I’m early – I’m not wishing Christmas upon anyone for the moment, the last thing we all need is another bloody school holiday! – but if you’re craving those crisp nights and blustery russetty days, this will be your bag.
Weleda Pine Bath Milk is £14 here*.
My next favourite is actually a whole category and so I’m going to sort of mulch over it – if you want more of an in-depth explanation of it then watch the video below. It’s mascaras. All mascaras. I’ve had a sort of renewed falling-in-love of them and have been testing out loads. I am going to be back with a video of my favourite four new mascara launches in the next week or so, but if you can’t wait that long then know that these are currently “the ones”:
Marc Jacobs At Lash’d Mascara, £25 here*
Charlotte Tilbury Push Up Lashes Mascara, £23 here*
Urban Decay Lash Freak Mascara, £21 here*
Dior Overcurl Mascara, £28 here*
All do things to my puny, barely-there lashes that would definitely win prizes, if there were prizes for lash transformations.
And finally another favourite that I’m not going to explain at length; it’s basically anything from Trinny London that counts as “makeup in pots”. In particular the cream eyeshadow in Truth and the cream blush in Electra. I’ve used both so regularly that it would be disingenuous for them not to make an appearance in the monthly hall of fame. You can read my full review of the eye2eye shadows here and the cream blush is online here*.
And there endeth the beauty sermon: it’s all on video right here if you want to see items up close and personal or find out about the makeup I’m wearing. Any extra details are written below the video pane. Enjoy – and let me know whether you’d like me to expand on my favourites categories!
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation in B30, £40 here*
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow, £49 here*
Pat McGrath Permagel Lipliner, £25 here*
Pat McGrath Lip Balm, £35 here*
Jumper is from Cocoa Cashmere here
Amazing abstract painting in background is by Holly Delaney
My summer skincare routine is here and it’s slightly juicier than usual because a couple of months ago I had to do an almost unprecedented SOS u-turn on my whole beauty routine. I know you’re ready to hear about it. We all love a bit of a disaster.
Actually it wasn’t quite a disaster, but nearly. And anyway it was all the weather’s fault – who knew we’d have a month-long heatwave IN SPRING? There I was, merrily spending all of my time in the garden (from dawn til dusk, almost), not really tweaking my skincare routine to suit my environment because IT WAS STILL SPRING. It simply didn’t occur to me that I should have been shelving all of my usual spring products (that I was using because…it was spring) and adapt a routine more suited to a four week trek through the Sahara. I just don’t really associate my garden with high-high temperatures and dangerous levels of sun exposure (classic Brit mistake, I think) and so although I was always slathered in SPF, something untoward happened: I started getting bits of pigmentation on my upper lip and along my cheekbones.
I realise that was something of an anti-climax for those of you waiting for stories of skin blisters, ice packs and a trip to A&E, but no – just some pesky pigmentation beginning to creep over my face. Which isn’t something that’s ever really happened before. And I was slightly bemused until it occurred to me that I’d been carrying on with my usual retinol-hydrate-retinol-hydrate drill, using a strongish retinoid one night and then giving my skin a real moisture boost the next, without really thinking about what was happening in the daytime.
It’s not like me to overlook this sort of thing, especially when it comes to my face (once a model, always a model: your face is what pays the mortgage) but I have to say that I was a little distracted during lockdown, what with the world ending and supermarket shelves being emptied and the fear of death and also having two small children tearing about the place 24/7 with no relief in sight.
Anyway, as soon as the little freckly patches appeared I did a total 360 on my skincare routine and for the first time used my “big guns” antioxidants twice daily in an attempt to stop the discolouration in its tracks. I pulled back on the retinol, mainly because I can’t cope with thinking about more than one thing at once, and AHAs were temporarily abandoned.
It’s important to note that I didn’t reduce the retinoid usage because of the dark spots – I’m not suggesting that one caused the other – it’s just that it has always been a natural reaction for me to simplify things if I run into any kind of beauty bother. And although I’ve read dozens of articles quoting dermatologists who say that it’s absolutely fine to use retinol during periods of increased sun exposure (aka “summer”), there are others who warn to tread carefully. Who tell you to wear a LOT of sunscreen. (This post by the experts at Medik8 is good.) And if the caveat to using an ingredient is that you need to be really, really careful and slather on your SPF repeatedly and preferably move to a dark cave then it’s my instinct to retreat from it temporarily. I think that I probably play things fairly safe and boring in these days of needle-covered rollers and peels that require fans so that you don’t self-combust and competitive acid percentages and imaginative actives layering. I just really, really don’t enjoy my face falling off.
But back on topic: my antioxidants of choice were from Skinceuticals, a brand well-known for its antioxidant power players. Although their CE Ferulic is perhaps their hero product in this category, I actually chose the Resveratrol BE for nighttime use and the new(ish) Discoloration Defense for the morning. I’ve used the Resveratrol BE before with great results, so it was a natural choice and I’d been meaning to try the Discoloration Defense since its launch, but had never really had any discolouration to test it out on!
(Before I continue, I must say that these serious serums come with a serious price-tag – the Resveratrol BE is £135 here* and the Discoloration Defense is £85 here* – but Skinceuticals always really impress me with their meticulous clinical trials and their ability to formulate ultra-potent stuff without making my skin irritated. And although I have dozens of antioxidants waiting to be tested, I would purchase the Discoloration Defense serum when this one inevitably runs out. Always a good sign. And please note that I have suggested an alternative antioxidant in the product list below.)
So the BE at night at the DD in the morning, although I could have used the DD serum both day and night, which would make the routine a hell of a lot cheaper than adding the Resveratrol in! Did I bring back my skin from the brink? Yes, most certainly. And it looked brighter, more radiant, too. I’ll tell you what I did notice, though, after abandoning my retinol-moisture-retinol habit: my skin didn’t feel quite so bouncy and plumptious and elastic. Glowing, yes. More even-toned, definitely. But there’s a real boing quality to skin that’s loving its retinol products and I must admit I miss it.
Of course the organised person would do antioxidants in the morning, retinol at night and wear a great big hat in the garden. Easier said than done – my hat invariably gets used as a fairy village (filled with soil and weeds and shells), picnic basket (filled with food) and dog’s emergency water bowl in any one day. But once I get into the Antioxidant-Retinol-Hydrate groove this autumn I genuinely think I’ll have hit the skincare sweet spot…
For now, here’s my full skincare routine on video. I’ve also listed the products I’ve been using below, for those who hate video – it’s pretty self-explanatory, but do let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
Curel Foaming Facial Wash*: http://tidd.ly/f83e3054
Inkey List Oat Cleanser*: https://bit.ly/30h50pf
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser*: http://bit.ly/2rjRByY
Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum*: https://bit.ly/3bMhLMV
Paula’s Choice Triple Algae Pollution Shield*: https://bit.ly/3jbO2kP
Skinceuticals Resveratrol BE Serum*: https://bit.ly/32o7NQ1
Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line-Reducing Eye Cream*: https://bit.ly/3gwo9dg
Toleriane Fluid*: https://bit.ly/30iglW4
Dr Roebucks No Worries Face Cream*: https://bit.ly/2Cj42AD
Retinols (occasional) –
Kate Somerville +Retinol Vita C Serum*: https://bit.ly/2DGHDxw
Murad Retinol Serum*: https://bit.ly/30esN9j
Rich Night Creams –
Lumene Nordic Hydracare Rich Day Cream, £26.90 here*: http://bit.ly/2PQ3aqS
REN Overnight Balm*: https://bit.ly/30jxfn1
Kate Somerville Delik8*: https://bit.ly/3hesvWV
Three Favourite Sunscreens Video: https://youtu.be/f4pzGoALxlU
Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35*: https://amzn.to/32sIUTh
Beauty Pie Fruitizyme Five Minute Fix Mask*: https://bit.ly/3j6uCO6
Fancy a quick blast through the beauty things that have wowed me recently? Well buckle up, team, this is going to be quite the ride!
I’m exaggerating, obviously, because it’s just a post about beauty favourites so there are never going to be any significant potholes or humpbacked bridges to throw you out of your proverbial seat. I just feel as though I need an inventive and enticing way to introduce the post because beauty feels so…vanilla after all we’ve been chatting about recently. You know, tick removal and having sex with mermaids. As Mr AMR said to me last week: how do you ever go back to normal content when you’ve written about underwater love with a sequinned penis?
(You can read all about the intricacies of merperson sex here.)
But I take pride in my professionalism and so I’m going to try my hardest to get back to business – exemplary eyeshadows, exclusive perfumes and a conditioner that’ll leave your hair silkier than a mermaid’s. Although NOT a mermaid who’s been in an aqua-aerobical tryst with King Triton.
(In fact why would mermaids even have silky hair? Surely the salt water plays absolute havoc! I bet it’s a full time job just keeping it detangled. You’d be there at your clam shell dressing table all day sorting that mess out and don’t even get me started on the amount of moisturiser you’d need for your shrivelled up skin.)
Anyway, back to the favourites: I’m particularly fond of this little collection. A whisper of lace, a hint of sparkle and a whole bucketful of quality essential oil. Sounds like a recipe for my kind of party!
I don’t even know what I mean by that. Here’s the video, but carry on reading for the full post.
My first favourite of the month: the John Masters Organics Honey & Hibiscus Conditioner, £29 here*. I mentioned a mask from the same range a while back and that’s glorious too, but I actually think that the conditioner pips it to the beauty post. It’s quicker, more convenient and leaves your hair just as smooth and silky as the reconstructor treatment. No residue, easy to rinse off, gorgeous smell. It’s just exemplary.
Then the Aromatherapy Associates Shower Oil, £26 here*. You can’t get better than the original, hero product that this brand makes (confusingly called Aromatherapy Associates Bath and Shower Oil); it’s just aromatherapy perfection. One tiny capful of the concentrated oil blend into a warm bath and you’re transformed into whatever improved state the bottle promises – deeply relaxed, perhaps, or lightly revived, depending on which version you choose.
But for those who don’t have a bath, the original is a bit of a faff. You get around the lack of standing water issue by patting a small amount of the oil onto your chest and “inhaling the scent”, but really. It’s a (literal) booby prize in comparison to the real deal, the instant bath-to-spa experience.
And so the new dedicated shower product is a welcome launch – it cleanses and allows you to enjoy the benefits of the aromatherapy blends all at the same time. There are fewer scent versions but the all important and very best one is present – Deep Relax – and for me that’s the only one that matters!
I think my favourite-favourite this month is the beautiful Quentin Monge x Atelier Cologne launch. Atelier Cologne have done quite a few amazing collaborations but this one has really excited me – Quentin Monge produces some of the most recognisable, iconic illustrations in the world and his design for the Clementine California fragrance is so unbelievably cool. This is a proper collector’s item – I can imagine people in 2065 unboxing their pristine Quentin Monge perfumes and making a video for whatever futuristic video platform that exists in 2065.
“GUYS!” they’ll say. “Oh my God, Granny found this awesome box of beauty stuff from the olden days and look at this bottle! I think the woman in the illustration is, like, lying in the sun? Which is weird, but they used to do weird shit back then. LOL. Like go to these places to all eat together, on the same table, in the same room. I think they were called restrooms. Or restaurants. Whatever.”
The fragrance can be bought alone, as a large bottle, or as a very beautiful gift set including a large 100ml bottle, a 30ml bottle and a leather travel pouch. The gift set is £153 at Selfridges here* and the 100ml fragrance is £98 here*. The scent is, as you can probably imagine, very orangey but in a light and sexy way. Incredibly wearable, utterly delicious.
Talking about incredibly wearable and utterly delicious, this month’s favourites round-up includes a wonderful independent lingerie brand called Attollo. Attollo first got in touch with me a couple of years ago when I was talking about annoying bra sizes on Instagram. I kept getting measured in department stores as 30G (I had just stopped breastfeeding, I think!) or 30FF, yet they had very little to offer me in those sizes. It sort of seemed pointless, really, to tell me I was that size. Why give someone a size that isn’t catered for?
So there wasn’t much out there for me at all – a handful of styles I liked – and when Attollo got in touch to say that they actually specialised in small back sizes with large cups I was delighted to see that their bras were dainty, sexy and didn’t have inch-wide rubber backed shoulder straps.
It’s proper treaty underwear – luxury lace, exquisite detailing and flattering longline cuts that make you feel a million dollars. Go and have a meander around on their website – the range is small but everything it needs to be.
Finally, some cream eyeshadows that wowed me and therefore went straight into my permanent makeup bag. Trinny London’s eye2eye cream shadows are well-pigmented, slide on softly and easily but set well and stay on all day. I’ve tried them before and loved them but I usually steer towards the muted neutral tones; a little line-up of terracotta and peachy shades landed on my desk the other week and they instantly struck me as being perfect for late summer. Burnished, sizzling reddish metallics. Vaguely reminiscent of the sun going down on an exotic beach that most of us are too nervous to visit.
I tried Fortitude, a metallic burgundy and Courage which is a deep pinky copper. Both look outrageously good, even splodged on and smudged with a fingertip. You can find them here* – shadows are £18 each and the cream formula makes lids look fresh and sheeny rather than flat and powdery.
Here endeth my monthly favourites sermon – remember that (if you have a spare hundred hours or so) you can scroll back through all of my favourites over the past DECADE by clicking here.
Here’s a post that will please your purse (Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers!): three brilliant skincare products that form a very good, albeit very basic skincare routine, and the whole thing comes in at less than twenty pounds.
I did film this for IGTV (link here if you want to watch) but here’s the gist of the routine: an effective-yet-gentle cleansing balm, a hydrating serum and a soothing moisturiser that won’t leave a greasy residue. If you’re taking things back to basics then you don’t need much more than this.
(Although a sunscreen is absolutely essential if you’re going to be outside. Can’t stress that enough. I did write about my three favourites recently – here – but I’m trying to test more budget-friendly options as and when I get a chance to.)
If you’re new to skincare routines and haven’t a clue where to begin, what with all of the acids and the peptides and the antioxidants and the emollients and the pre-cleanses and post-peels and the prescription-strengths and the over-the-counter-strengths then I always try to pare things back to this: cleanse properly, moisturise properly and you’re off to a good start.
To be fair, my actual routine isn’t that much more complicated:
AM: Cleanse, Antioxidant Serum, Moisturise/Sunscreen
PM: Cleanse, Retinol Serum, Moisturise or Cleanse, Hydrating Serum, Moisturise
(You can read about my current skincare routine here)
You can see that I’ve just swapped the hydrating serum about a bit, because that’s my “treat” step of my routine and if I want to protect (under the sunscreen) then I use an antioxidant and if I want to prevent (as in lines and wrinkles and loss of tone) then I use my retinol. If I was worried about breakouts then my treatment serum would be a BHA (though the retinol works amazingly well for this too, I find) and if I was feeling dull and lacklustre and generally a bit meh in the skin department then I’d probably plump for a glycolic acid serum or toner.
I realise I’ve just massively complicated what was supposed to be a very basic post, but maybe it will suddenly all make sense! Cleanse properly – to remove dirt and sunscreen and so on – then use a serum to treat whatever concern you have and finish off by sealing it all in with a moisturiser.
Which is the premise of this very cheap and simple routine. So we have the Ordinary Squalane Cleanser which I’ve reviewed before here and you can get online for £5.50 here*. It’s just beautiful. Silky and soft but with enough gutsy hold to survive a few minutes of facial massage. Rinses off absolutely clean with no residue yet is supremely hydrating and excellent for absolutely all skin types.
Next, the Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid (find it online here* for £5.99); hyaluronic helps the skin to hold onto moisture and really gets it looking plump and fresh. There are loads of good, cheap options out there but I like the Inkey List one a lot and it’s so budget-friendly.
Finally, short and sweet, the Calming Moisturiser from Simple, which is £7.99 here*. I love the packaging! It looks like a travel-sized moisturiser but is, in fact, the same volume – 50ml – as most high-end moisturisers on the market. Those huge pots from Clinique? Same amount of stuff inside. I find this bottle very travel-friendly (when travelling was still a thing) and I like that I don’t have to stick my nails into a pot.
And there you go: three steps, basic, quality skincare, all for less than twenty quid. I do very much enjoy finding brilliant budget buys, so please do keep your own recommendations coming. Especially for good, non-chalky sunscreens at affordable prices…
Here’s the skincare routine I’ve been following for most of the season and I have to say that it has kept my face looking quite spectacularly fresh and bouncy, considering the stress levels and overarching sense of fatigue that has dominated the past few months. (And the fact that I’ve been gorging on Mint Magnums with ever-increasing frequency.)
So the tweaks I’ve made seem to have seen me through spring without any significant dramas – though I think it’s also pertinent to note that I’ve been taking my Vitamin D every day, which always makes a huge difference to my skin, hair and nails. (To be more accurate, I took Vitamin D tablets for the first few weeks of lockdown, but when the weather turned glorious and stayed that way, I ended up spending most of my time outdoors and so I haven’t been quite so diligent at taking the supplement. Regardless, I always find the difference remarkable. My default state, in terms of vitamin D levels, seems to be “chronically deficient”.)
Anyway, no more blathering on: here’s my current routine. There’s a product list as long as my arm for this particular update (below the video pane), but not because it’s complex; I just wanted to give a few options for each step – something spendy, something sensible. Favourites old and favourites new.
My Current Skincare Routine: Spring 2020
In a nutshell:
Morning: Cleanse + Antioxidant + Moisturiser/SPF
Evening Night 1: Cleanse + Retinol
Evening Night 2: Cleanse + Hydrating Serum + Rich Moisturiser
My morning routine remains relatively unchanged. In fact I never really do anything funky or different in the morning, mainly because I don’t have the time to spare. Or even the time to think things through properly. As such, it’s usually a cleanser-serum-moisturise situation, although I’ve been outdoors a lot and so you can tag “sunscreen” onto the end of that list.
The cleanser tends to be light and splash-off and I love the Curel Foaming Wash* at the moment. The antioxidant du jour is Paula’s Choice Triple Algae Pollution Shield* and you can find out about my current most-used sunscreens here.
My evening routine alternates between two versions, neither of them very difficult or lengthy. After a thorough cleanse with a balm, usually twice, I’ll either apply my retinol product (see list beneath the video pane) or I’ll go in for the hydration marathon. Well, not really a marathon – just two steps. More of a hydration sprint. In the Dads’ race at school sports day.
The sprint consists of a hydrating serum and then a rich moisturiser, just to get things juicy and plumptious.
That’s it. The odd glycolic peel pad, but not so much at the moment because I’m outside for most of the day, and now and then a face mask, mainly because I’ve started drinking a herbal sleepy tea in the bath before bed and a face mask just feels right.
There’s a lot more in the way of explanation for everything in the video, so you should absolutely watch that. I don’t even waffle, which is nothing short of a miracle, especially as being locked in with two small children has completely melted my mind. Locked in? Locked down!
You can find all my cleanser reviews here
Sunscreen reviews are here
Link to Vitamin C Products featured here
Struggling to find a sunscreen that doesn’t make you want to claw your own face off with one of those plastic spaghetti spoons? My three current favourites might give you some inspiration. They’re all virtually undetectable on the skin with pleasant, lightweight formulas and broad spectrum protection.
And I’ll tell you something else about my favourite face SPFs: you can just about get away with skipping moisturiser underneath them. Unless my skin is very dry indeed, I find that a quick pat-in of hydrating serum is all I need before (liberally) applying my sunscreen.
(Actually, the Lumene serum from my April favourites would be gorgeous beneath sunscreen, if you’re all about trying to minimise your layers. I know I am, when the weather starts to turn warm; I can’t abide the feeling of eighteen different products on my skin and prefer to keep things as simple as possible.)
So here they are: my Holy Grail trilogy. It wasn’t difficult to narrow my favourites down to these, because I simply went along my bathroom shelf and swept off the three I’ve used the most. Because surely if I use them the most then there’s a reason for that? Otherwise I’d be an idiot.
Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35
I’ve done a full review on this marvellous facial sunscreen here but as a recap: this is one of the lightest, freshest, coolest SPFs I’ve ever tried. It’s quick to sink in, there’s absolutely no residue whatsoever and it sits brilliantly beneath makeup.
The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion SPF50
This is a new one to me and a total gem. Much more hydrating than the Arden, but with that comes an extra bit of heft. It’s not nearly as weightless and fresh, but those with dry or very dry skin will appreciate the relative creaminess. If your skin is very dry you’ll want a standalone moisturiser under all of these favourites, so it’s almost by-the-by.
Multi-Protection Lotion has a silky feel and doesn’t leave anything much in the way of residue, at least not after a few minutes, but you definitely feel the effects of the moisturiser even hours later.
Find it at The Body Shop here* – it’s £18 for 40ml or £22 for 60ml.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid
Or “Shaka Fluid” as I seem to be intent on calling it. Maybe because it now has “shaka” emblazoned on the packaging, but I can’t remember whether that’s a new thing or not. Whatever you want to call it, it’s excellent – absolutely light and sheer and without greasiness or chalkiness or any kind of annoying SPF side-effect.
La Roche-Posay are brilliant at formulating for sensitive skin and for spot-prone skin and for skin that is both at the same time – the Anthelios range has something for everyone, pretty much. But this particular version is fragrance free, very water resistant and won’t clog pores. You can’t really go far wrong. Just remember to shake! (Shaka shaka!)
It’s usually £17.50 but is currently £13.50 at LookFantastic here*.
Now, there are two little surprise “extra” sunscreens in this post – perfect for those who have to reapply their sunscreen throughout the day but need to do so over their makeup, without disturbing it.
I’m afraid I’m going to be incredibly irritating and tell you to watch the end of the video I’ve made to find out all about them – there will be a separate post on them quite soon, but I need to go and extract part of Spiderman’s Web Thrower from inside my dog’s mouth before he swallows it. I can’t even imagine what would come out of the other end if he digested that!
For those who absolutely, resolutely refuse to watch moving image, the SPF mists are linked below the video. The rest of you, enjoy the sounds of my springtime garden!
Kate Somerville Uncomplikated SPF50 Mist, £32 but new customers get 15% off and a free gift (see her home page)*: https://bit.ly/3b9x9BR
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible SPF50 Mist – should be £14 but is currently £10.50 here*: https://bit.ly/3caZPfg
My five beauty favourites for the month of April – I’ve gone back to them again and again, enjoyed using them all and will be sad when they finally run out. Although if they’re anything like my Medik-8 R-Retinoate I could be waiting a long time, because I just can’t seem to get to the bottom of the bottle!
Which is probably quite fortunate considering its price.
Anyway, here goes with the April Hit List:
L’Oreal Glow Cherie Glow Enhancer Lotion
I’ve compared this before to Charlotte Tilbury’s Flawless Filter (see my in-depth review here) but in actual fact it’s much more like her Wonder Glow. Lighter, sheerer, with less in the way of a tint. Regardless, the L’Oreal version is an absolute bargain and brilliant for adding low-key dewy glow before applying foundation or concealer.
You can find it online here* – it’s £9.99.
Anne Semonin Gel Mask
This is a very essential-oily mask with quite a tingle. It’s refreshing, reviving and makes you feel as though your face has had a brisk run along a seashore. Which is a weird concept. It’s forty-five quid but the tube is large. Lovely luxury buy for lacklustre, dull skin – I discovered it postpartum after having my first baby and I’ve recently returned to it after something of a hiatus!
Find it at Anne Semonin here.
Lumene Oleo Rich Serum
Well, this is a surprise favourite – I mentioned the rich cream from this Lumene range a few weeks ago and didn’t think that anything else would be as notably excellent, but the serum is just marvellous. It’s more of a light moisturiser than a serum, in a way, because as well as mega-moisturising glycerin it’s packed with nourishing oils.
In fact, if you’ve always wanted to try a face oil but worry about greasiness, this would be a beautiful way of dipping your proverbial toe. Just apply after cleansing and before moisturiser. It’s online here*.
Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum
I’ve been doing lots of stuff out in the garden and (in the UK at least) the sun has been, at times, blazing. As well as a high factor sunscreen I’ve also been upping my antioxidants and pulling out the skintone-brightening big guns. Skinceuticals make quite a few of these “big guns” and the Discoloration Defense Serum is one of the latest launches, promising to dramatically help with dark spots and unevenness of tone. I’ll keep you updated on the results – I use a few drops morning and night before my usual serum.
You can find it (and more detailed info) online here*.
Drunk Elephant WaterFacial Mask
I’ve been using this on my non-retinol nights (current skincare routine seems to be: go in strong with retinol one night, pump face full of moisture the next) and it’s lovely – light and gel-like but not at all sticky. I feel the difference in the morning, let me tell you! I also quite often layer it on over the Lumene serum above for double-whammy effect.
Find the WaterFacial Mask online here*.
All of the above and more are included in this month’s favourite video. Yes, there’s a video! You might be wondering why an earth I’ve taken the time to write it all out as well as filming it: I only exist to serve. And to respond positively and proactively to feedback. So those of you who can’t abide my face/voice/mannerisms can just read my words instead…
Brilliant skincare buys that you can pick up in the supermarket. I won’t dilly-dally about today with silly introductions and off piste distractions because I have limited time: I just hoovered up a load of moths with the Dyson and I don’t want them flying back out of the pipe.
Can that happen? I mean, if the suction isn’t on, can insects climb back out of the hoover? God I hope not. That is the stuff of nightmares, isn’t it? It’s the natural world’s equivalent of that wet-haired girl climbing out of the well in The Ring. You just want to slam a lid down on it and hammer in a few nine inch nails.
Luckily for the insects I empty the Dyson outside, so they are (sort of) freed back out into the wild. Though how long a domesticated, well-fed moth would last in the open I have no idea. Going from a diet of cashmere and merino wool to, I dunno, dandelions. It would be like turfing an aristocrat from his club into the back alley and asking him to fend for himself.
“What? No Lobster Thermidor? And who are you, dare I ask? No, I can absolutely not spare a squid! A … quid? What is this quid you speak of?”
Where was I? Must concentrate. If you’re self-isolating and only getting supermarket deliveries, or if you’re trying to keep deliveries to a minimum, then here are some cracking skincare products you can buy at the supermarket. Both online and instore.
I should add that there are far more options than the ones laid out, but I am working with what I’ve got. Products I use regularly and ones that I’ve previously tested. Once we’re all out of confinement, I promise you that I will continue my much-praised (haha) Supermarket Sweep series. I think I only did ASDA and Sainsbury’s before I got totally distracted.
I’ve concentrated on Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Waitrose here – I’m afraid I’m not so up to speed with Lidl and Aldi – they were on my to-do list but it’s impossible to try stuff at the moment!
Note, also, that I’ve avoided the powerhouse ingredients here; you can get various bits and bobs with vitamin C and retinol, but I haven’t tested them extensively enough to give them a proper thumbs up and so I have kept this post to the basics: cleanse, serum, moisturiser.
The supermarket shelves are awash with cleansing gels and foaming gels and wipes and micellar cleansers: there’s a distinct lack of balm, oil and cream cleansers. But I’ve checked, and pretty much across the board you can find one good, rich, creamy cleanser.
At Sainsbury’s I’d go for the Superfacialist Rose Cleanser (it’s also at Amazon here*) which is just gorgeous. I’m a long-term fan and if Sainsbury’s is your supermarket of choice then you’re in luck, because you also have the delightful Balance Me range.
Pricier than your usual supermarket offering, Balance Me have loads of great products – including a very good vitamin C serum, actually. Which is annoying because I’ve just said I’d avoid the powerhouse ingredients in this post!
Balance Me’s Balm cleanser is a treat – unctious, soft, it melts down to an oil and rinses off clean. It’s £20 at Sainsbury’s or LookFantastic here*.
At Tesco, I like the Cosmeticism Cleansing Cream here and at ASDA I really like the hot cloth polish from NSpa, which I couldn’t find online but sincerely hope they have instore. It’s a great budget cleanser.
At Waitrose, you have about a zillion options. Seriously, they have loads of wonderful brands – my pick would be the Weleda Almond Cleanser, which I’ve reviewed here.
For the serum step I’ve gone for a suit-all crowd-pleaser, good old hyaluronic acid. L’Oreal have a new 1.5% version that has recently launched in the UK, see if you can find it – they definitely have it at Sainsbury’s and at Lookfantastic here*.
The aforementioned Vit C one from Balance Me is great – again, find it at Sainsbury’s, and also online here*.
Olay do a great serum called 3 Point Firming – I tested this extensively a few years ago and it was excellent. Lightweight, non-greasy, plumping, sits well beneath makeup, keep an eye out for it!
My most-used supermarket-available options are below. The Simple moisturisers are a new discovery for me (via Nadine Baggott) and the teeny bottles are deceiving – you get a standard 50ml inside them. Just nifty packaging. I would highly recommend the calming hemp version.
Simple Calming Moisturiser with Hemp, many supermarkets and online at Boots here*.
L’Oreal Revitalift Night Cream-Mask, at Waitrose here* and most supermarkets. I’ve banged on about this one for years and years – it’s my favourite L’Oreal moisturiser and they make a lot. It’s more plumptious and effective than many of the far more expensive “sleep masks” I’ve tried from luxury brands and, with the hyaluronic serum layered beneath, it leaves your face as wibbly and turgid as an overfilled waterbed.
If you’re in a spot dilemma and need something immediately, you could do worse than to throw some Clearasil Rapid Action Pads. I mean you could do a lot better, but we are talking fast fixes here and I’ve tested these out a few times before so I know they don’t burn the bejeezus out of your face. I wouldn’t use them all over, because I find them drying, but use on the spot-prone areas and then just leave them to get to work. They’re saturated in salicylic acid so they help to keep pores clear without being to aggro in the process.
OK, I see a moth head poking out of the pipe (not a euphemism) (would be a strange one) so I must go and empty the dust-catcher. I’ve just realised I did a video on this entire post (amazing that someone could actually forget something so important) and so I’ll paste that in below for your watching pleasure.
Please do leave me your own supermarket skincare heroes in the comments – I will definitely be reinstating my video series and so I need to get testing once I can nip to the shops to research and stock up. Especially give me your Lidl and Aldi recommendations!
It seems a weird time to be filming a beauty favourites video, but what I thought would be even weirder would be for me to have made a big song and a dance last month about my favourites being back in town and then never doing another one! I even made that whole Brokeback Mountain joke about not being able to quit my favourites, etc etc, and so to simply up sticks and leave again wasn’t an option.
Just five favourites, though – it’s not exactly an orgy. Just five things that have really tickled my whistle and that would make a cheery addition to any routine, once things settle down a bit. The handwash favourite is probably the most relevant – very inexpensive, non-drying, good brand that gives back to charity and so on – but I like to think that any of this month’s picks would do a particular service.
A warm and comforting fragrance (it’s like the olfactory equivalent of being hugged in big, safe arms), a cleanser with aromatherapy benefits, an eye cream for tired, staring-at-an-iPhone-screen-twelve-hours-a-day eyes…
I’ll leave you to watch the video in peace. But if you don’t want the video, then – hurrah – a slightly new format for you! Rather than just listing the products below the screen, there’s a mini review. Which makes this more of a blog post than simply a place to announce that there’s a new video in town. Better for those of you who are resolutely video-free? I hope so.
OK, so onto my mini reviews. Some old favourites, here and some new. It’s like a wedding. Except there’s nothing borrowed. Or blue.
Neal’s Yard Remedies Frankincense Cleanser, £21 here*. If you have combination or oily skin and have always been put off by the idea of cream or oil cleansers, then this could be the one to try. It is rich and creamy, but it actually leaves the skin feeling very refined and ever – ever! – so slightly tightened. So if you hate a residue and want that ultra-clean feeling then this is a gorgeous luxury buy.
Neal’s Yard are experts at sourcing and working with frankincense and it really shows in their frankincense ranges. The cleanser is very scented (with frankincense, obviously!) and I find it to be more of a grounding, de-stressing treatment than anything resembling a mundane cleanse. Top marks, I’ve loved this cleanser for many years.
Soaper Duper Handwashes, online here. Soaper Duper do some of the best handwashes around. Wasn’t ever a beauty category that I imagined raving about, but it’s definitely topical and we’re all (hopefully) washing our hands about a billion times a day. So it’s nice to pick out some good ones. (If you’d like me to test a few and report back then I’m totally up for that – plenty of opportunity to compare and contrast!)
Soaper Duper do their washes in lots of scents – this Tuberose one is fresh and green rather than anything too floral – and they are hooked up with some great charities, including Water Aid. Big bottles, non-drying formula, definitely up there with the best of them.
Kiehl’s Line Reducing Eye Serum*, £41 here. Remember eons ago when I reviewed the Vitamin C face serum from Kiehl’s? Well now there’s one specifically for eyes and it’s just as good as the original. If you want a powerful eye cream that feels gutsy and strong, rather than a “light and fresh gel” or a “cooling cream” then this is the business – it has the same thick and dry texture as the serum, which won’t be for everyone, but really will be for those who want a rich cream that’s grease-free.
You can read my original review on the face serum here – I’ve just seen that it was a favourite back in 2015! How time flies. I think the serum – or concentrate as it was called – has actually been reformulated since then. More potent, if I remember correctly.
Charlotte Tilbury Copper Charge Eye Palette, £40 here*. I have an IGTV waiting to be published on this – very informal, just showing how I apply it and how it looks in different lights. I think that the CT eye quads are all fantastic – good pigment but easy to handle, really blendable and cleverly chosen shades that always look flattering and sexy.
The new Copper Charge palette is part of the new range that promises to make your actual eye colour more intense – so there’s a copper one to make blue eyes bluer, and blue one to make (I think) brown eyes browner, and so on. The coppery one could be dicey, if you are prone to looking a little pink-eyed, but used carefully it really enhances blue eyes. Keep a lookout for the IGTV video – I’ll update here with a link for you once it’s up!
Molton Brown Milk Musk, from £65 here*. Not convinced by the name of this new Molton Brown range, but I think that the scent is outrageously good. It’s warm, it’s cocooning, it’s like throwing yourself into (I imagine) a bed that’s been set-dressed for a Hygge interiors shoot. All natural-hued faux furs and giant knits and cashmere throws and those little flickering tealights scattered around the (wooden) floor.
The scent is warm, faintly exotic and with a musky, tonka bean base. Heady top notes that are really quite sexy and rich and then that warm, comforting base. The eau de toilette is fresher, (not surprisingly) and the parfum is deeper with a lovely little sharp, greenish twist right at the bottom. It’s gorgeous. Another winner from Molton Brown, for me – they seem to be ticking all of my boxes recently because my top fragrance love before this one was their Geranium Nefertum!