I’ve had quite the skincare journey from being a little girl playing with my mother’s products to being a woman in my forties who has learned a lot along the way. Left image supplied by my mum, right image (unretouched) by James Yang.
Ever since I was little girl playing with my mother’s beauty products in our bathroom at home I’ve had a fascination with skincare. There was something about all the colourful tubes and bottles that intrigued me not to mention how nice they smelled. My mother has always looked after her skin, which is something she inherited from her own mother and passed on to me and my sister. At the age of 11, nearly 12, my mother noticed that my skin was starting to show the first oily signs of puberty and decided it was time for me to begin a gentle skincare routine.
A trip to The Body Shop for a cleanser, toner and moisturiser was an exciting and curious one for me, while it’s changed a bit since then, back in 1991 (The Body Shop opened in New Zealand in 1989) the brand’s products were very natural and a good place to start for a skincare beginner. I still vividly remember the milky cleanser, toner that smelled kind of like cucumber and my own green labelled moisturiser which I proudly lined up on the bathroom counter at home, ready for their first use. Those three little bottles were my go-to products for a few years until my teenage skin required something better suited for tackling unruly acne.
Fast forward to the age of 41, and I’ve tried countless skincare products over the past 30 years, and one of the joys of being in the fashion industry for the past 13 years has been the opportunity to try lots of new beauty products. The past five years in particular of being editor of FashioNZ, I’ve attended many beauty product launches and learned a great deal about the science of skincare as well as how some of these products are made. It’s been a fascinating experience and I thought I’d share my best tips from my skincare journey with you. This is not intended to be expert advice, more learnings from someone who has probably tried more beauty products than most people.
Consistency is key
This one sounds pretty obvious but one of the things that has really stuck with me is the importance of consistency with skincare. Unless you make it part of your morning and evening routine and stick to it, you’re not going to get the most benefit from it. It’s not enough to just do it once a day or skip days, much like brushing your teeth. The morning is about cleansing and applying what you need to protect your skin for the day (especially SPF) and the evening is about washing off the day’s sweat and dirt and using richer products that absorb into your skin while you sleep. If you commit to a routine, no matter how simple, you’ll definitely notice the results long term.
Always use sunscreen
We hear a lot about the importance of using sunscreen in New Zealand and it’s true, our sun is particularly harsh and it’s very easy to damage your skin if you’re not consistent with sunscreen. Our skin cancer rates are also really high in New Zealand, and as a fair-skinned person I’m particularly aware of the risks but any person of any skin tone can get skin cancer. As a child I vividly remember visiting my father in the hospital after he’d had skin cancer treatment and seeing the painful lesions that he suffered with it. My seven year old self has never forgotten that experience and I’ve been pretty vigilant with using sunscreen after my moisturiser every morning. For the past few years I’ve used Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser SPF 30 Hydrating every single day. Check out our five must-know sunscreen facts story for more information about sunscreen.
Ask an expert
While there are many things we can deduce from some internet sleuthing when it comes to your skin it’s always a good idea to get expert advice from someone you trust. Whether that’s a beauty therapist, dermatologist, beauty editor or the in-store expert from your favourite beauty brand. Getting your skin assessed is always a good place to start too and for any serious issues make sure you see a medical professional. That especially applies to things like painful, cystic acne which may need medical help, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to suffer as most skin issues can be managed through the right treatment.
Start using an eye cream
The skin around your eyes is some of the thinnest and most delicate skin on your body so looking after it is important. When I was 24 a friend of mine that was a beauty therapist recommended I start using a gentle eye cream and I’ll forever be grateful for that advice. Your eye area is the first area on your face to start showing signs of tiredness and aging (not that aging is a bad thing at all) and if you use a good eye cream that treats puffiness and keeps the area hydrated that skin will age better over time. You’ve probably noticed on many moisturiser bottles that there is a warning to avoid your eye area, that’s because they often contain ingredients that you really don’t want near, or worse, in your eyes. Eye creams are formulated not to irritate your eyes, although I still don’t recommend putting any in your eye, and are specially designed to look after that area.
Teenage skin definitely made me grumpy and in my early twenties putting my hands on those acne scars became a habit in photos. Images writer’s own.
It’s not about the price tag it’s about whether it works for you
Over the years I’ve used everything from products you can buy in the supermarket to really expensive (gifted) products that make all kinds of claims on what they can do for your skin. What I’ve discovered is it’s less about the price tag and more about the quality of the ingredients and whether the products actually work for you. Our skins are all different and the result of so many factors so what works for me may not be what works for you. Like many things in life there can be a lot of trial and error in finding the right skincare, even a product with the best reviews on the internet may not be the one that works for you. Don’t write something off because it’s a cheaper product but also don’t assume that expensive products are inherently better. Ethique is a great example of a beauty brand available at supermarkets that has long-lasting products, that does what they say it does and at an accessible price. It’s all natural too which leads on to my next point.
Minimise the nasty stuff
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase clean beauty by now which means skincare that is formulated with non-toxic ingredients and doesn’t harm human health. For a long time we consumers weren’t aware of the effects of some chemicals on our bodies and as we absorb products through our skin, what we put on it is of great importance. You’ll notice more labels now which say the products are formulated without Parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Phthalates and more. How did toxic ingredients even get into beauty products in the first place I hear you asking? Well, there have been very few regulations in the cosmetics industry over the years but we’re now more aware than ever of the serious effects that some of these chemicals can cause. I encourage you to do some reading on clean beauty so next time you’re buying beauty products you’re better informed on the ingredients that are best avoided and can make the best choice for your skin.
Be careful with harsh products
So this one I definitely learned the hard way, as I’m sure some of you have too. There are some amazing products out there but some are best used by professionals and others you should probably patch test first before you use. About a decade ago I had a nasty acne flare-up that just didn’t want to settle so I bought some reasonably strong acne products without asking any advice and started using them. Within a few days my face felt really painful and had a weird orange glow, so I took myself to a beauty therapist who told me those acne products had burnt my top layers of skin and damaged the skin’s barrier. It took a few weeks of super gentle products for my skin to settle down again and unsurprisingly I haven’t done anything like it since.
Acne comes and goes
I used to think that by the time I was a fully grown adult I wouldn’t get acne anymore as I really suffered from it in my teens and early twenties. While proper flare ups don’t happy very often these days, at 41 I still get spots sometimes, usually either when my hormones are out of balance or I’ve been particularly stressed. A few years ago I was diagnosed with the acne kind of rosacea after noticing tiny little white bumps on my cheeks accompanied by redness that comes and goes. Thankfully I can manage it by being consistent with my skincare routine and using gentle products that help minimise redness and keep my skin hydrated. Acne in all it’s different forms is very common and nothing to be ashamed of but if you’re having trouble managing it then definitely get expert advice.
Don’t use too many things at once
Some people swear by complicated beauty routines that involve lots of different products from different brands but in my experience using products that are designed to complement each other and not using too many of them works best. My skincare routine has been a variation of the same thing for a long time; I use a cleanser, serum, moisturiser sunscreen and eye cream in the morning and a cleanser, serum, moisturiser, facial oil and eye cream in the evening. Each time it takes me around five minutes and at the moment the cleanser, serum, moisturiser and facial oil I use are from Emma Lewisham, the sunscreen is from Ultraceuticals and the eye cream is from Trilogy. I also use a gentle exfoliant from Emma Lewisham once or twice a week. I find my routine simple, easy and it works for me which is the main thing. I’ve been particularly impressed with Emma Lewisham’s clean beauty products which I was gifted to try about six months ago now. Out of the many brands I’ve tried these products rate highly for me as they’re effective, gentle and my skin is looking the best it has in years. They’re products I’ll definitely continue to buy myself too.
Get professional treatments
The best way to complement your skincare routine is getting professional treatments if and when you can. I’m not going to claim I get regular facials or light therapy treatments, as some years I’ve gone every couple of months and sometimes it’s been a year or more between treatments but I do notice the difference when I go. The best thing about getting a professional treatment (aside from the relaxing me time) is the immediate difference in your skin but going to a beauty therapist who tailors treatments to your skin concerns is fantastic too. My sister introduced me to Mood Skin Clinic owner and beauty therapist Bridget Crone a few years ago, and her incredible knowledge and transformative treatments have helped make a noticeable difference in my skin – thanks Bridget. Check out our beauty editor’s advice on how to choose a good beauty therapist.