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.
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
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…
I’ve made some quite significant changes to my skincare routine since Christmas and so I thought it might be time for an update. This wasn’t the easiest update video to film, mostly because the issue of the hero product’s price-tag was hanging over me like a spectre the entire time I was talking about it!
But I have had really quite brilliant results from this particular wonder cream and so I managed to get over my fear of being pelted by rotten eggs – or whatever the online equivalent is – over the price. I like my skincare routine updates to be genuine and accurate recordings of the products I’m using and what they seem to be doing to my skin and so it would actually be quite weird for me to not mention a high-performing product just because it’s out of the usual budgetary range…
I’m going to let you watch the video to find out what I’ve been using (strong strong retinol and less of the other types of active ingredient) but before you tune out, thinking, “I don’t want to listen to a video”, hear this: I’ve actually got proper, professional closed captions on this video. I’m trying it out to see whether people find them useful and actually turn them on – Youtube do caption their videos automatically, I think, but the transcriptions can be very hit and miss and are often woefully inaccurate.
So, if you’re in the office/feeding a baby/pretending to be on the toilet and can’t listen aloud, just set the video running with your sound off and click the little CC symbol on the bottom of the screen. That’ll bring up my painstakingly transcribed captions. (Full disclosure: paid someone else to do it, I barely have time to edit the videos let alone caption them. It takes bloody ages.)
Anyway, let me know whether it’s useful – or, should I say, more useful than the standard captioning – if you regularly make use of the subtitle functions. You can find a (spoiler alert) list of the products I’ve been using if you scroll down past the video screen, but please do take a moment to watch, because that’s where the magic happens!
I’ll be back with a full, standalone review of the Medik8 retinol product because the results warrant it and the pricing is sure to be a talking point…
My Current Skincare Routine
Morning – Cleanse, Hydrating Serum, Moisturiser
Cleanse Products I’m Using:
Skinceuticals Cream Cleanser, £31 here*: http://bit.ly/2H6Vw6L
Bioderma Micellar Water, £19.50 here*: http://tidd.ly/e9f2529
Murad Pre-Biotic Cleanser, £38 here*: http://bit.ly/3bo2hPj
Serums I’m Using:
Alpha-H Skincare Hyaluronic 8 Serum, £38 here*: http://bit.ly/2vjOJnK
La Roche-Posay Hyalu-B Serum, £38 here*: http://tidd.ly/16cfb4b1
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid, £5.99 here*: https://amzn.to/3boRJiY
Inkey List Collagen, £8.99 here*: https://amzn.to/3boRHrm
Moisturisers I’m Using:
The Body Shop Carrot Day Cream, £14 here*: http://bit.ly/2Hje7Nb
Dr Sam Bunting Flawless Moisturiser, £25 here: https://drsambunting.com/products/flawless-moisturiser
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Fluid, £16.50 here*: http://tidd.ly/facc95e1
SPF I’m Using:
Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35, RRP £36 but is currently £24 on Amazon here*: https://amzn.to/3bmfd8z
PM – Cleanse, Hydrating Serum, Moisturise
As above but no SPF and a proper balm cleanser, I’ve been using:
Emma Hardie Moringa Light Gel, £34 here*: http://tidd.ly/99e8c9bc
Pestle and Mortar Renew Gel, £38 here*: http://tidd.ly/1c6393b6
Every three or four nights (I’m working my way up to every other night!) I use the R-Retinoate below. Sometimes I follow with a bit of moisturiser, often I just use it alone!
Medik8 R-Retinoate Intense, £210 here: https://www.medik8.com/r-retinoate-intense.html
Medik8 also do the Crystal Retinal in different strengths, the 10 is MEGA! I used the 6 without any fallout (as in my face falling off) whatsoever and thought it was brilliant – it’s £59 here: https://www.medik8.com/crystal-retinal.html
For an incredibly strong retinol (1%!) without the humungous pricetag then do look at PaulasChoiceUK here*: http://bit.ly/2ScPYhn It’s £12 for the smallest bottle or £53 for the 30ml size and it’s really bloody potent.
With all of these, please start off slowly and with a moisturiser first if you’re being extra cautious – the moisturiser acts as a sort of buffer. I use the retinol products above straight onto clean skin, but only once every three nights. Once I want to increase the effect I will use every other night but with a hyaluronic acid serum beforehand or even a moisturiser beforehand!
Here are my 2019 favourites for skincare and haircare, including the latest shampoo discovery that actually changes the entire feel of my hair and the skincare that’ll make a proper difference to your beauty routine.
I was going to do a bodycare version of this 2019 roundup, as well as a “best books” video, but I’ve left it too late and all of a sudden the whole “best of last year” thing seems very outdated. It’s the video equivalent of being that person who’s still saying Happy New Year! to people they haven’t seen for a while – I mean when do you stop saying it? February? Move on.
I’m listing the products beneath each video pane for ease, but please do give them a click and a watch – the haircare one is particularly brief, which will no doubt make some of you ecstatic with joy.
Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35, is usually £36 but at time of writing it’s £24 on Amazon (legit retailer) here*: https://amzn.to/2NCyNmK find it in most department stores and on FeelUnique here*: http://bit.ly/2NDbMA9
Dr Sam’s Flawless Moisturiser, £25 here: https://drsambunting.com/products/flawless-moisturiser
Kate Somerville Retinol Vita C serum, £85 here*: https://bit.ly/30xCK1q
Murad Retinol range, from £25 for a small serum size, here*: http://bit.ly/2TzC7CI
Arden Retinol capsules, from £42 here*: http://bit.ly/369Esas
Inkey list Collagen, £8.99 here*: https://amzn.to/38b9b8e
Hada Labo Lotion, £16.95 here*: https://amzn.to/2TwiwDs
Beauty Pie Plantastic Cleansing Balm, £11.89 + membership here*: http://bit.ly/3694HxL
My Plantastic review: https://www.amodelrecommends.com/skincare-review-beauty-pies-apricot-cleansing-balm/
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser review: https://www.amodelrecommends.com/skincare-review-the-ordinary-squalane-cleanser/
Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Mask, £55 here*: http://bit.ly/38kXjAP
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid, my review: https://www.amodelrecommends.com/the-pmt-skin-saver-and-four-ways-to-use-it/
May Lindstrom Blue Cocoon Balm, £159 here*: https://bit.ly/2sy54E4
Cicaplast Baume B5, £7.50 here*: http://bit.ly/2FZluIS
Olaplex Shampoo, from £13 here*: https://bit.ly/38CdGsM
Olaplex Conditioner, from £13 here*: https://bit.ly/38EW2Vm
Josh Wood Uplifting Shampoo/Conditioner for Blonde Hair, £10 each here*: http://tidd.ly/17c52c40
Virtue Full Shampoo from £14 here*: https://bit.ly/37rauA5
Davines OI Oil, £35 here*: http://bit.ly/30WVS91 (this is the large bottle and it would last for years if you use it as sparingly as I do!)
Tangle Teezer Brush for fragile hair, £12 here*: https://amzn.to/3aGpPif
Colab Dry Shampoo, £3.50 here*: http://bit.ly/2RpALce