Getting your skincare system working all-out is a team effort. Each step may serve a different process but doesn't go it alone; in fact, it's more like a relay, with each product supporting and setting up the next. And, while you may have a stellar line-up in your kit, something as simple as adding in an extra player could take you from bronze to skincare gold – doubling-down on clarity, radiance and a healthy, hydrated complexion.
A common misconception is that skin hydration and moisturisation are the same thing, but, "they are very different," explains top facialist, Su-Man. "Both are needed, but often people don't consider the hydration element. It is hydration that keeps the skin plump, while the moisturisation prevents the water being evaporated from the skin's surface, keeping the skin soft and smooth and holding all the skincare elements together."
Despite using a good moisturiser, if skin still feels dull or tight, the tendency is usually to blame the moisturiser. It may actually be working perfectly to deliver moisturisation, but if the skin beneath that layer of cream is dehydrated, the complexion can still appear lacklustre and uncomfortable, no matter how much cream you apply. Conversely, hydrated skin that's not adequately moisturised can still be flaky and rough. The trick here is balance: your skin needs to be both hydrated and moisturised, and for this, you need to assess your current regime.
There’s no disputing that cleansing – or even double-cleansing for those of us so inclined – is a vital step in all morning and evening skincare rituals, necessary to purge the complexion of make-up residue, pollution build-up, SPF and to slough away dead surface skin cells. "Like brushing your teeth, it should be compulsory," explains Omorovicza founder Margaret de Heinrich. "Daily cleansing will help to avoid accelerated skin-ageing, acne and irritation," she adds.
Toners and essences are key players in this, not only in rebalancing the complexion after cleansing, but most importantly, also ensuring that subsequent steps can do their thing. Look to Suqqu, Natura Bissé and 111Skin for their refreshing, soothing and de-stressing take on toning.
If you think of cleansing more as your daily moisture maintenance, getting deeper into the dermis calls for something a little more heavy-hitting. Step forward the purifiers, more targeted treatments and exfoliants, delivering active ingredients that can penetrate lower layers to unclog and detox pores, clarifying and re-energising skin cells, and, enabling other ingredients to be better absorbed by the skin.
Adding in a treatment once or twice a week, depending on your skin, can really power-up your subsequent steps. "Clay and moor mud are naturally rich in minerals known to have healing, detoxifying and nourishing properties," says Margaret, with the Omorovicza Ultramoor Mud Mask being a cult product. "Moor mud acts like a hoover for the skin, it helps to draw out any impurities and absorbs excess oils. It’s good for treating acne, oily skin, congestion, open pores, blackheads, improving circulation and refining skin texture."
For stressed, dull or congested skin, the Eve Lom Rescue Mask is another bestseller, using a combination of almond to exfoliate and honey-infused clay to absorb oils and condition. As well as purifying, of course, there are also hydration-focused masks such as Dr Sebagh's luxurious Rose De Vie Hydrating Mask to soothe and restore. If in doubt, multi-masking can help tackle multiple concerns in one-go – try clay on the T-zone and hydration under eyes, on cheeks and temples.
"Hydration is the key to skincare," explains Dr. Barbara Sturm founder of her eponymous brand. "But so is balance. Don’t overload your skin. Look to the seasons; for example, in winter you have to add valuable lipids and fats to your skin because sebum production goes down and skin can dry out, in summer you need to focus more on excess grease due to sweating."
Tackling hydration issues, head-on, hyaluronic acid – an ingredient championed by Dr. Sturm in both her Serum and individual Ampoules – is a go-to. "Hyaluronic acid has long chain and short chain molecules. The short chain molecules restore hyaluronic acid qualities in deeper layers, even after six to eight weeks, so it has a long-term effect. The long chain molecules stay on top and gives that instant kick of moisturisation, to hydrate the skin and prep before make-up," she adds.
Other hydrating goodies include AHAs (or alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic) – often found in exfoliating peels at high strength, or low dose in moisturisers to aid moisture retention, along with aloe, glycerin, seaweed, algae and honey (all known as humectants) to deliver hydration to the epidermis and absorb water from the air and bind it to the skin. Although many moisturisers may contain some humectants, you can turbo-charge your regime using any of these in a targeted essence, serum or facial oil depending on your preference.
Hydration done, lock it all in with richer textures in your moisturiser such as shea or cocoa butter and jojoba oil. For dry to normal skin, try cream formulations, while if you have combination or oily skin, the lighter texture of gels and lotions help avoid over-saturation and breakouts.
Order Of Play
Application order also plays its part too in ensuring all the products work to their best. "Additional moisturising benefits can be achieved by layering products with different textures as each is able to deliver different moisture-active ingredients to the skin," explains Regine Barr, Director of Product at Eve Lom.
"Always apply the thinnest product first, such as hyaluronic based essences or serums, as this will absorb faster than oils and creams," adds Margaret. "You can layer oils and creams on top to add extra benefits. This is what we call 'layering' skincare products to feed, hydrate and nourish."