How to even define your skin type is a challenge in itself. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the sheer level of often contradictory information and the amount of products being sold to us. Newbie or skincare junkie, it’s difficult to find what will work for you.
While the demand for make-up has plummeted during the pandemic, skincare interest is on the rise. Just three-months into staying at home during the first lockdown, Google Trends saw searches for skincare rise by 100 per cent. Not to mention the dreaded maskne – mask acne – sweeping our chins. In other words: it’s clear we’re prioritising our faces right now.
It’s no wonder then, that skincare guru Caroline Hirons has also continued to rise in popularity. Hirons is a qualified aesthetician and a real authority in the skincare industry thanks to her increasingly popular blog (which now has over 120 million views), large social following and campaigns to support the beauty industry during Covid-19.
When Hirons released her book, Skincare: The Ultimate No Nonsense Guide, in the summer of 2020, it became the first beauty title to top the Sunday Times Best Seller chart in 18 years. Amazon also revealed it was one of their most sold books of the year. A timely accomplice while our skincare obsession hits the roof.
The book aims to equip you with all the knowledge you could ever need about skincare. Hirons looks to put straight what works, and what doesn’t – in a brilliantly frank way – explaining what you need, what you certainly don’t (cough cough, wipes) while putting questionable “hacks” to bed, all without the complicated jargon.
Whether you’re looking for advice on what skincare to use while you’re pregnant, need something to salve sensitive skin or are looking to treat acne, there’s advice to suit, regardless of skin type, issue or age.
While flicking through her allegedly fail-safe routine for 20s-30s, I wanted to put her expert guidance into practice. While the steps of my current routine were the same, the techniques and products weren’t. So, I enlisted the help of her instructions and top product recommendations to add to my kit to see if I noticed a difference.
I’d put myself in the category of beauty buff, but also ashamed spot-squeezer. I turned to Hirons’s book for a reset, going back to basics to gain a real understanding of ingredients and methods. I have combination skin (oily but dry in some areas) that is prone to breakouts, so I’m always on high alert for ways to better my skin’s health. Read on to find out how my routine changed.
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Step one: Cleanse
The most important stage of my routine, and the one I made the most changes to. With instruction from Hirons’s Skincare: The Ultimate No Nonsense Guide (£10, Amazon), micellar water for make-up removal was banished with immediate effect. “If using micellar water is ‘quicker’ than washing your face, you’re using it wrong,” Hirons says – discounting micellar and wipes as a “proper” cleanse.
I also swapped my softer microfibre cloths for white flannels (so you see the muck coming off). Flannels are "far more effective at removing dirt, and help exfoliate the skin, too,” she says. I had previously opted for fluffier cloths on other advice – so I think this step depends on what your face can handle. Sensitive skins may find flannels a bit too harsh.
Onto the next lesson: keep your face out the shower. The water is too hot and tepid water should be used when cleansing. From Hirons’s guidance, I switched my foaming cleansers for a balm, cream, milk or gel formula too.
A firm campaigner against anything that claims to give you “squeaky clean skin”, Hirons says that foaming cleansers can often be very drying, noting sodium lauryl sulphate/sodium laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES) as the skin-stripping culprit.
With this in mind, I swapped to Oskia’s Renaissance cleanser (£36, Cult Beauty) as my first step in the morning. This pink gel-to-oil formula turns the job into a luxury experience and smells like a spa to match. This is suited to all skins, formulated with vitamins A, C and E to help strengthen and brighten by ever so gently resurfacing.
Come evening, I took Beauty Pie’s plantastic apricot butter cleansing balm (£50, or £13.93 for members, Beauty Pie) from the book as the first of my double cleanse to remove make-up. Paired with my new flannels, this melted everything seamlessly. My skin already felt so soft after just step one. The butter texture is like velvet. Before, I was a repeat foam user but these softer cleanses have converted me.
The first myth disproved is the “pat dry” chestnut. In the book, Hirons explain that there’s no need to dry your face after cleansing; go straight onto the next step and seal in moisture with your following products. This was a step that I was definitely guilty of. “Marketing departments regurgitate the same advice,” she says, when ideally we want to work with a damp face.
Step two: Exfoliate
While acid exfoliation can sound daunting, we’re all familiar with toning, which is why Hirons originally coined the phrase “acid toning” to allow readers to easily identify where it goes in their routine.
“Using acid toners is like taking your face to the gym,” she says. Acids are recommended to remove dead skin cells and force your skin into action. There’s even a whole guide dedicated to helping you decide which is best for you to use.
Hirons suggests having three exfoliators in your kit: “A strong one for evenings, a lighter one for daytime and one more to mix it up." Different acids have different effects, so it’s best to adapt depending on how your skin feels and what it needs.
My exfoliants of choice? In the evening, I went with her recommended and cult favourite, Dr Dennis Gross’ alpha beta universal daily peels (£19, SpaceNK) which contains five potent AHAs and BHAs including salicylic, lactic and glycolic acids in a simple wipe. My newly smooth skin texture has these to thank – and for the reduction in blackheads.
My milder option is Pixi’s rose tonic (£18, Boots). It soothes and calms the skin while feeling more like a classic “toner” with a hit of hydration. Just what we need in the morning. Think of it like a rest-day for your face.
Thirdly, I also dabbled Pixi’s vitamin C tonic (£18, Boots) in mornings occasionally. This uses ferulic acid to gently exfoliate and protect against free radicals. Gliding this over my face in the mornings both felt and smelled refreshing. Was this a slightly unnecessary addition? Probably, with the other rose tonic as my daytime option.
Accoridng to Hirons, you should apply your hydrating mist and eye cream after exfoliating, if you’re using. However, a mist everyday isn’t for my skin. I started out following the book’s advice to “spray hydrated” but my oily skin just didn’t need it as often as suggested. It felt nice for non-make-up days, but was too much underneath. So, I cut it out and only sprayed when I felt necessary.
Step three: Serums and oils
This is the time to really cater to your skin’s needs. Serums are designed to deliver a concentration of active ingredients. “The active ingredient you want will depend on the condition that you want to treat,” Hirons says. In winter or if you have dry skin, you might want to add an oil after your serum.
I deployed Hirons’s “therapist hands” technique to apply products evenly. This involves putting product into your palm, turning your hands into an “X” before twisting. She argues that we can ignore the “warm in hands before use” packaging advice too, as “no professional would put expensive product on their hands and spend time rubbing it into their palms before applying it.”
Hirons’s second application rule is TITTT. In true Caroline Hirons style, this means “take it to the tits”. Still lost? It’s a reminder not to neglect neck and upper-chest areas, as these areas are part of your facial skincare too, something I have lazily neglected.
On instruction for my age, I aded a high quality hyaluronic acid to my routine, choosing the Medik8 Hydr8 B5 (£40, Medik8) as per the book’s recommendation. This applies silky-smooth and sinks in quickly, with no sticky feeling. My face definitely feels more hydrated for longer after each use.
My prescribed routine also includes an antioxidant serum – with vitamin C and niacinamide being the top suggestions. The Ordinary’s niacinamide 10 per cent + zinc 1 per cent (£5, Beauty Bay) is a great option for my oily skin. It may be cheap, but it remains a core piece of kit as it helps monitor oil levels and prevent congestion. As the first page of the book says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Step four: Moisturiser
Hirons describes moisturiser as your coat, adding that overlooking it is like “leaving the house butt naked”. She also says moisturiser should be chosen according to your skin type – but don’t go for anything mattifying, as “our skin is not designed to be 'matte’.” Though you might feel like your serums are enough to lock in moisture if you’re excessively oily, Hirons also stresses that oily skins shouldn’t avoid moisturiser.
My current go-to is the AlumierMd hydraclarite moisturiser (£52, AlumierMd), for both AM and PM. Curated for my skin type, its lightweight formula is unequaled for my combination skin and alleviates redness on my cheeks. Job done.
Step five: SPF
“SPF should always be the last product you apply to your skin,” says Hirons. Don’t be tempted by a moisturiser with SPF in it; you’re being lured into a false sense of security. Come rain or shine, you should apply a sunscreen everyday.
Hirons advises nothing lower than SPF 30, favouring a factor 50, broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both types of rays. “UVA rays damage your skin’s elasticity, and UVB rays cause skin damage,” she explains.
The Ren clean screen mineral SPF30 (£32, Cult Beauty) has been a favourite of mine for a while. Offering UVA and UVB protection without the white cast, it absorbs quickly but is still easy to rub in and doesn’t appear shiny.
The verdict: Caroline Hirons’s skincare routine
If you’re a skincare novice, Hirons’s book is a great place to start as it makes solid routines accessible without feeling intimidating. If you’re better versed in your skincare, it will repeat a lot you already know. With complete advice on how much product to use, the order, products for each skin type and professional treatments for you, it’s packed full of information. And there’s so many prompts and lifestyle pointers you can take from this. I never thought to leave my skin damp after cleansing, but now I’ll never bother to pat dry again.
This technically-focused book proves to all interest levels that routines don’t need to be complicated, or include an excessive amount of products. I’ll certainly be keeping Hirons’s recommendations of Medik8’s Hyr8 serum, Beauty Pie’s butter cleanser and the alpha beta peel pads from Dr Dennis Gross in my skincare arsenal.
After using these products paired with Hirons’s techniques, I’ve noticed a smoother skin texture, reduced appearance of red marks from breakouts and a more hydrated base. So, I guess they’re here to stay, and micellar water isn’t. But I won’t be throwing my foaming cleansers or microfibre cloths out just yet.
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