Welcome to Skin Deep with Louise McSharry, my opportunity to put years of obsessing over beauty products and techniques to good use. I won’t tell you something is good if it’s not. I won’t recommend products I haven’t actually tried. As the magical sitar in Moulin Rouge said, I only speak the truth.
As I mentioned last week, it’s party season. For many people December means lots of dressing up, late nights and rotten hangovers. However, it isn’t that way for everyone. I remember a time in my life when I found the whole concept extremely isolating. I wasn’t working, and as a result was feeling pretty down and had withdrawn a lot from my friends. Invitations weren’t exactly flying in the door, and the idea that everyone else was rockin’ around the proverbial Christmas tree did nothing for my mood.
The fact is, of course, that of course everyone else wasn’t rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Lots of people have just one or two special events in December, and some people just aren’t into parties. So, today I thought I would give you a delicious alternative to a night out on the batter. A night in on the sauce. The skincare sauce. (Does that sound gross? Just go with it.)
We bandy around the term ‘self-care’ a lot these days, but I truly believe that time dedicated to taking care of your skin is a perfect example it. There’s something about the simple processes of applying product to your skin which is centering and calming, and the feeling of having done something good for yourself is hard to beat. And, of course, from a purely materialistic perspective, it’s bloody nice to lash on gorgeous creams and oils from beautiful containers.
So, what does it mean to dedicate a night to skincare? Well, you’re obviously not dedicating an entire night to it, unless you’re the kind of person who likes to examine and assess each and every individual pore (and if you are I would encourage you to stop, that can’t be good for you). The process can take fifteen minutes, or it can take a couple of hours, depending on how many products you choose to use, and what kind of gaps you want to leave between each step. For me, it means a couple of hours of telly watching with intermittent product application.
I start by removing all my makeup, and then do a thorough hot cloth cleanse. If you aren’t someone who does this, I’d like to encourage you to start. All you need is a cleanser (I’d recommend something creamy for winter, along the lines of Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish or Aldi’s Lacura Hot Cloth Cleanser) and a face cloth. It doesn’t have to be a fancy muslin, or something designed specifically with skincare in mind, and old face cloth will do as long as it’s clean. Apply the cleanser to your dry face, then rinse your face cloth in hot water (as hot as you can handle - I like it really really hot because in my mind that really opens my pores up). Place the cloth over your face for a moment – I like it to be a long moment – and then use the cloth to remove all the cleanser. Not only will your skin be properly clean, but it will also have been gently exfoliated by the face cloth.
Next, I move on to the next step which is exfoliation via facial acids. I know that for some people the idea of using acid to exfoliate your face might sound mad, but it is exactly what skincare experts recommend we do these days. The old method of using a rough cream with microbeads in it is frowned upon these days for being overly harsh on the skin and also bad for the environment (most microbeads don’t biodegrade and cause major problems when they end up in Earth’s bodies of water, if you watched the most recent series of Blue Planet you know what I’m talking about).
Facial acids do a better job anyway, and will leave you with clearer, more even skin. All it takes is soaking a cotton pad (ok, cotton pads are also not so good for the environment, but baby steps, eh?) and lashing it all over your face. My favourite exfoliating acids are Pixi Glow Tonic and Alpha-H Liquid Gold (Liquid Gold being the more intense of the two). If you can (and we can, we’re having a luxury night in) take a break after this step. At the very least, wait until your skin is touch dry before you move on. The longer you leave your exfoliating acid to sink in on its own, the more it’ll do.
After exfoliating, I like to use a toner, although this step can absolutely be skipped. The jury is out on the benefits of toner. Some people think it’s pointless, others swear by it. I like to use it because it makes my skin feel extra clean and prepped for anti-aging products. My current favourite is The Body Shop Chinese Ginseng and Rice Clarifying Milky Toner. It leaves my skin feeling really fresh which makes me believe that it also looks brighter. Is this true? Who can say. If we’re honest, all of this could be placebo, couldn’t it? BUT IT FEELS GOOD, AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERS.
Next come the serums. Yes, that’s right, the serums. I use a couple, taking a break in between each one of ten or fifteen minutes to let them soak in. (I keep them beside me on the couch so I don’t have to keep going in and out to apply.) As I’ve written here before, the idea of a serum cocktail was a new one to me this year, but it makes perfect sense. Why just use an anti-aging serum when you can also use a hydrating one too? Obviously check the ingredients to make sure you’re getting different benefits. My current combination is Penneys Restoring Night Serum and Clarins Double Serum.
Now, the real treat. The sheet mask. There is so much to enjoy about a sheet mask. The cool refreshing feeling of it on your face. The potential benefits for your skin. The chance to give whoever you live with an awful fright. What’s not to love?
I’m not going to tell you that a sheet mask is going to transform your skin, because I really don’t think it will. However, I do believe that they can leave you looking brighter and certainly more hydrated. It also feels fancy, and who doesn’t want to feel fancy? Garnier Moisture Bomb is a perfectly decent mask, and only costs a few euro (less if you get it in Boots when it’s on special, which happens regularly). I also like Kiss NY Professional’s extensive range of masks which range in price from €2.95 to €6.50 and are available in Penneys, Dunnes Stores and pharmacies nationwide. Most masks recommend that you keep them on for around ten to fifteen minutes, but I like to keep mine on for a good while. I know some skincare experts even sleep in them! Once I’m sick of it I take it off, and massage any residual product into my face.
We’re on the home straight now, and it’s time for eye cream. Why do we need eye cream? Well, the skin around our eyes is significantly thinner than the skin on the rest of our face, and as a result is especially prone to dehydration. What does dehydration mean? Wrinkles. Do we want wrinkles? Probably not, although if we get them it’s totally fine because it’s a natural sign of time passing and us having used our face for the purpose it’s intended. Right? Right?! Anyway, apply your eye cream gently using your ring finger, gently rolling it outward as you go (lymphatic drainage, dontcha know, will hopefully reduce puffiness). My favourites are Pestle and Mortar’s new Recover Eye Cream and Penneys Hydration Boost Eye Gel which is delightfully cooling on application.
Finally, it’s time for oils and night cream. There is some debate over where oils should come in the process. Some believe they should be applied before moisturiser so that they can be easily absorbed, others argue that they should be applied last to provide a protective layer which will prevent any loss of hydration. Then of course there are those who suggest you drop the oil directly into your moisturiser and put it all on together. There are arguments for each position, so I reckon you should just do what you want. For me, it depends on what kind of oil I’m using. If I’m using a light oil, like Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate, I apply it before my night cream. If I’m using a heavier oil, like Pestle and Mortar Superstar Retinol Night Oil, I don’t use a night cream at all. Do what works for you.
And that, as they say, is that. My formula for a delightful, lazy, cosy, self-caring, skincare night in. This is also the guts of my nighttime skincare routine, in case you were curious about that or the order in which to use various products. Enjoy!
This week’s bit of news isn’t a product, but a class. One thing I prioritise while writing this column is making it accessible to everyone, whether you’re a beauty obsessive or someone who’s a bit scared of makeup. Those of you who are a bit scared of makeup may be interested in a one day class being offered by leading Irish makeup artist Paula Callan in February. Paula has worked with everyone from Ireland’s biggest names to the likes of Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum. There aren’t many people I would let do my makeup, but I would let Paula do it any day. Details here.
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