My barber used to say to me ‘this is a pair of scissors not a magic wand’. That’s the kind of morale-boosting honesty I went there for. I only mention this because it always brings a smile to my face but also to inject a dose of reality to today’s post.
We believe skin protection is all that matters when it comes to long-term skin health and, hopefully, better-looking, better-feeling skin. Environmental stressors attack our skin – the body’s first line of defence – on a daily basis. So, if you protect the barrier that protects you from things like bacteria, viruses and other nasties the outside world has to throw at you, you’re starting from a good place. It’s not just about investing in your skin health though. There’s a knock-on effect that impacts your wider health because self-defence is one of the skin’s most important roles.
We don’t do skincare, we do skin protection
It might sound like splitting hairs but we don’t do skincare, we do skin protection.
Skin protection is all that matters. It’s the 80% rather than the marginal gain. If you set yourself up with a skin protection routine that’s simple, easy to maintain and affordable, you’ll see massive benefits. But it requires patience and adherence. Think of it like daily exercise. And going back to my barber’s quip, there’s the reality that it won’t change who you are but it will certainly have an impact on how your skin looks, feels, ages and does the job it’s designed to do.
Routine, routine, routine
Accepting there are hundreds of variables in this type of conversation (genetics, skin type, job, lifestyle and environment to name a few), we wanted to give you the bones of a routine.
Finding products that work best for you within that routine is another subject but this will give you a structure. It’s a structure we feel delivers at least 80% of what your skin needs using as few steps and products as possible.
We appreciate that a 10-step Korean skincare routine is for true aficionados seeking out small percentage enhancements. That’s not us and it never will be. We prefer to divide the day into two and suggest two steps in the morning and two at night, using 2-3 products in total. Doing this will put you ahead of most people but we threw in a couple of bonuses for anybody looking for extra.
The routine is focused on the face in case that isn’t obvious. It’s probably the area of skin that’s most exposed to the environment and most important to people, cosmetically-speaking. For the men reading, these steps all apply post shave (if you’re somebody who shaves).
Morning: wash and protect
Splash your face with water and pat it dry with a towel. Using a cleanser is optional but assuming you’ve been in bed for hours, it’s unlikely the face needs to be washed and cleansers can be drying. Our goal is to extend product usage and get things done quickly but effectively. Cold water and a towel ticks that box.
Bonus step: Vitamin C boosts skin brightness and reduces discolouration and hyperpigmentation (dark spots). Use 3-5 drops of a vitamin C serum (sometimes also called ascorbic acid) and pat onto your face. This is a volatile ingredient that needs to be fresh to work so good ones can be really expensive.
This is the most important step of the entire day.
After rinsing your face with cold water, apply a moisturiser with a minimum of SPF 30 and the UVA circle. Do this before heading outside for the day, every single day of the year. It has the dual benefit of keeping your skin barrier hydrated while protecting you from the most aggressive environmental stressor, ultraviolet light.
UV damage is responsible for 80% of ageing and 90% of melanoma cases. Regardless of season, the level or potency of UVA from the sun (which itself accounts for 95% of UV reaching your skin) remains broadly unchanged all year round. UVA penetrates the deeper layers of the skin and also passes through glass and cloud cover.
Because UVA goes deep into the skin, it contributes to skin ageing and wrinkling. This wavelength of UV ray damages the natural proteins under the skin’s surface. These proteins keep the skin tight and strong. The proteins get damaged and the skin loses its strength, elasticity and support. This is what wrinkling or ageing is. Like strong pillars holding up a tent, the pillars gradually weaken and the tent folds.
For a long time, it was thought that UVA couldn’t cause any lasting damage other than these cosmetic changes but recent studies strongly suggest that UVA enhances the development of skin cancers because the rays also cause DNA damage in the skin.
Evening: cleanse and repair
After a normal day, your skin will need to be cleaned. The ambition is to clear the pores from everything you came into contact with during the course of the day (pollution, smoke, sweat, chemicals, SPF and so on). If pores become blocked or clogged, it can lead to spots and outbreaks.
Use a gentle PH neutral cleanser that isn’t soap-based. Traditional soaps are alkaline which can dry out skin, causing irritation and skin reactions. The goal in this step is to protect the skin barrier from breakouts but also to ensure it doesn’t get dry.
Bonus: Try a cleanser that contains 0.5-2% salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is derived from willow bark and when applied to the skin, helps the skin shed dead cells from the top layer. It also reduces redness and swelling. This decreases the number of pimples that form and speeds up healing to any visible or invisible damage your skin experienced during the day.
If Step 1 was about clearing then Step 2 is about hydrating and repairing. Protecting the skin from drying out is critical in maintaining a healthy skin barrier.
Overnight, our body boots up its regeneration and repair programmes. As we sleep, skin cell turnover increases, replenishing dead and damaged skin cells with new ones, combating damage caused throughout the day by free radicals. According to science, the process of cell mitosis (cell division) peaks between 11pm-12am. This is the process that renews and repairs our skin.
After cleansing and before going to bed, support the natural recovery process and apply a generous layer of moisturiser to your skin. This does not need to contain SPF given you won’t be exposed to UV light during darkness.
Bonus: Look out for moisturisers like our Daily Repair Moisturiser, that can facilitate the overnight repair process, neutralise free radicals and which contain collagen-boosting ingredients. You’ll be able to tell what products do from the claims on their packaging. Another ingredient to look out for in any evening moisturiser is hyaluronic acid. Evidence suggests it can help with soft tissue growth, prompt your body to make more collagen and elastin, keep your skin moisturised, prevent tightness and boost elasticity.
Give it 60 days
That’s it: two steps AM and PM and only three products (a cleanser and two moisturisers).
We think you can easily manage this alongside brushing your teeth every morning and evening.
Give it 60 days and let us know the results. We’d love to hear from you. In the back of your mind, know that you’re investing in your long-term skin health which can also only have a positive impact on how you look and feel.
Hope this helps.