You spend a fortune on serums and never go to bed with your makeup on, so why isn’t your skin flawless? Some top doctors talk about some common skincare mistakes and share their top tips.
Most of us probably have a bathroom cupboard stacked full of lotions and potions. In fact, here in the UK we spend more than £2 billion a year on skincare, but are we really making the most of our money? Faced with rows of products promising the earth it can be tricky to pick the right ones, let alone work out how to use them properly.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone, as our doctors attest. They see the same mistakes repeatedly, but are letting us in on how to get skin savvy.
- What we do: Spend too much on products
You get what you pay for right? Well, not necessarily when it comes to skincare.
“To prevent ageing and get better skin you don’t need to spend a fortune on creams and serums,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Penelope Tympanidis from the Dermaperfect Clinic on Harley Street. “There are good products out there like home peels and mineral sunblocks containing hyaluronic acid, but spending £500 on a topical product is nonsense.”
“All you need is a sunscreen in the morning and a prescription strength tretinoin cream in the evening,” says Tympanidis. “This encourages peeling and goes deep into the dermis to triggers collagen production.”
Dr Tympanidis only recommends that you use tretinoin – a Vitamin A derived treatment – from October to April as it makes skin more sensitive to sunlight. From May she advises products containing glycolic acid for more gentle exfoliation.
And to complete the picture she advises three or four chemical peels given by a dermatologist each year.
“This will cost a fraction of what you spend on expensive cosmetics but if you have melasma it will make your complexion even, keep your rosacea at bay and get your acne under control.”
- What we do: Cleanse, tone and moisturise
Do you follow a three-step skin regime – cleanse, tone and moisturise – before turning in for the night? Well, contrary to common belief this might not be the best routine for a glowing complexion after all.
“It is important to cleanse your skin get properly and moisturise but I don’t use toner at all,” admits consultant dermatologist Anjali Mahto. “For a lot of people, especially if you have dry skin, toner can lead to irritation and it is more important to double cleanse all that rubbish off your skin.
“The cleanser you use is down to personal choice. Some people don’t feel clean unless they are all lathered up and I’m a bit like that.
“At night I start with a foaming cleanser and then use a cotton pad and micellar water to remove all traces of makeup, pollution and dirt before applying retinoids [Vitamin A cream].”
- What we do: Stick with what we know
Dr Mahto says our skincare regime should evolve as we go through changes in life but very often we stick with our tried and tested routines.
“If your skincare is working for you it might make sense to stick with it, but your skin changes over the years and so you need to adapt your regime,” she says.
“As you head towards menopause oestrogen levels start to fall and your skin might start to get drier. Or in the first trimester of pregnancy you might have an acne flareup so you need to bear these changes in mind.”
- What we do: Forget to keep things simple
Going hand in hand with the cupboard full of products (and who knows when they expired), do you slather on lots of different products in the belief you are giving your skin the best of everything? Well, you could be causing more problems than you solve, according to Dr Emma Wedgeworth from 152 Harley Street.
Dr Wedgeworth says this is a common mistake.
“I often see people using incredibly complex, multistep skincare regimes without questioning the benefit of each step,” she says.
“Make sure you identify your skin goals – eg clearer skin, less breakouts, anti-ageing and then make each step count.
“For dry skin boost the moisture content of your skin with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and shea butter. If your skin is sensitive avoid harsh toners and stick to unfragranced products, and oily skin benefits from glycolic or salicylic acid products.”
Dr Mahto agrees that layering a bunch of different products isn’t a great idea.
“The more products you layer on your skin the more chance there is of them interacting with each other and causing sensitivity,” she says.
- What we do: Overexfoliate
Exfoliation is great for removing that layer of dead skin which clogs our pores and deadens the complexion, but you can overdo it.
“People with dry flaky skin often head straight for harsh scrubs and exfoliators,” says Dr Wedgeworth. “But these are not useful for this problem as, although they may result in a brightening effect, they won’t get to the root cause which is a reduction in the lipid [fat] content of the skin.”
Dr Mahto adds too much exfoliating can lead to irritation and inflammation and says you should be led by skin type.
“For oily skin an exfoliating scrub once a week is fine but if you have dry or sensitive skin go for a gentler chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid once a fortnight or once a month.”
- What we do: Believe ‘natural’ is most gentle
The hype would have us believe that ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ products are more gentle on the skin, but this isn’t always the case. Dr Mahto says these products can still irritate the skin, especially if they are scented. And the same goes for hypoallergenic products.
“People often buy hypoallergenic products believing these are less likely to cause allergies but ‘hypoallergenic’ is just a marketing term,” says Mahto. “It doesn’t give any guarantees. It just means the product may be less likely to give you an allergic reaction.”
In either case she suggests that people with sensitive skin should always test patch a new product by dabbing on a small amount on the inside of your elbow and waiting 48 hours.
- What we do: Only use sunscreen when it’s sunny
Between October and March the UVB radiation which causes sunburn and skin cancer is minimal in the UK but we should still wear sunscreen to protect us against UVA rays which age our skin and cause wrinkling.
“And don’t forget 80% of UV rays can penetrate cloud cover,” says Mahto. “So we should still wear sunscreen on dull days.”
The British Association of Dermatologists recommends a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 as a satisfactory form of sun protection in addition to protective shade and clothing.