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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • How to ‘Read’ Your Skin and Customise Your Skincare Routine

How to ‘Read’ Your Skin and Customise Your Skincare Routine

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Main image – Elle Bramble/culturacreative/adobe

Wouldn’t it be great if you could read your skin like a book? To look in the mirror and be able to scan exactly what it’s trying to tell you, and what it needs.

Because, when you think about it, it has many different areas that might need different ingredients and products. And unfortunately, it isn’t always as simple as applying one all-over product that will magically solve all your skin woes.

But thanks to little-known techniques like ‘face mapping’, reading your skin might be easier than you think. 

Here, Victoria Evans, education manager at Dermalogica tells me all about the brand’s face mapping technique; how to approach applying my products ‘paint-by-numbers’ style (bear with…); and how to actually read my skin.


Image – Irina/Adobe


What is face mapping?

Face mapping is the process of looking at your skin and identifying what’s going on in each different area in order to create your perfect skincare routine.

For example, you might find you have breakouts on your chin but then dry cheeks.  An oily nose but a dehydrated under eye area.

The idea is to treat these different areas of your face specifically to improve the look of your skin overall.

Dermalogica has its own Face Mapping tool, used in facials, making them the perfect people to teach me how to do this myself from home.

But what does their own tool involve? “This technique involves a thorough consultation to uncover lifestyle influences on skin health and an expert skin analysis to determine the best product and treatment prescription for the individual,” explains Evans.

“The client leaves with a good understanding of why their skin is behaving in a certain way and gains the knowledge and advice to achieve their skin goals.”


Image – Dermalogica


How do you ‘read’ your skin?

Ok, but how do I ‘read’ my skin from home to personalise my skincare routine even more than I already do (as a beauty editor of 16 years, I have my routine pretty firmly down)? Evans explains.

She tells me to get in the habit of studying my skin when doing my daily skincare routine. “Take the time to notice the texture and fluctuation of skin conditions so you can tailor what you apply for a customised approach,” she says.

Keep a diary of where on the face it occurs, the time of the month, how long each skin issue lasts and what pattern it usually takes, she explains. Does it happen when you’ve used a certain ingredient? Or perhaps you notice it when you’re having a stressful week at work, or when you’re feeling under the weather.


Image – Anna/Adobe


“When we’re unwell physically and mentally, it will likely show in our skin,” Evans continues. “For example, when stressed skin tends to be more sensitised and on heightened alert, meaning every day products may smart or tingle. We may not tolerate actives such as hydroxy acids [BHA/AHA] and retinoids during this time.”

My GP has always told me that acne around my jawline could be linked to hormonal fluctuations or even stress. “Stress can manifest in breakouts and tends to develop along the jaw line, chin and neck,” agrees Evans.

What we eat can impact skin too. “When our diet is poor, our skin looks sluggish and dull and perhaps congested,” says Evans. So where on the face can this show up? 

“Poor diet, alcohol intake and food intolerances can show on the forehead and chin as bumps and congestion.” Noted. *Puts bottle of wine back onto supermarket shelf*

If you have allergies, this can be seen around the eyes “with dryness and irritation.” And pollution overload? “This can show as irritation or breakouts on the cheek area,” explains Evans


Should we mix and match products for different areas of the face?

It depends on the product and the skin issue, according to the expert. Your whole face will need hydration, for example, whilst other conditions will only occur in patches.

The general rule is that hydrating moisturisers can be applied all over, whilst ‘treatment’ products are usually used on just the areas that need it, she explains.

For example, if it’s acne you’re experiencing, you don’t have to treat your whole face, just the affected area.  “A serum to tackle breakouts and inflammation may only need to be applied to those areas,” says Evans

“Whilst a different serum to support skin hydration or tone can be applied to the other areas.” It might all sound very ‘paint-by-numbers’ but this can really help your skin get the balance it needs.


Image – Alona/Adobe


“It’s best to patchwork different serums to areas of the face that need them, rather than apply 2-3 different serums on top of each other,” adds Evans. Roger that, let the patchwork quilt commence!

Evans also says to not overload the skin with too many active ingredients. “With actives such as retinoids, hydroxy acids and vitamin C, it can be good to use them on alternate days or morning VS evening to avoid overprocessing the skin,” she says.

“If skin is ‘stressed’ dry and irritated, less is more,” she adds. “Pare back your regimen and focus on barrier restoration and hydration before reintroducing other active ingredients.”


The takeaway

Ok so our skin will never have actual words on it to tell you what it needs. Wouldn’t that be game-changing (but also really annoying for a flawless makeup application). 

However, face mapping can help us understand a little better what’s going on with our skin.

Use Evans’s ‘patchwork’ skincare tips by applying treatment products to the affected areas, and hydrating, tone-improving formulas all over. Don’t layer serums on top of serums and remember, less is more when it comes to active ingredients. 


Meet the expert

Victoria Evans is Education Manager at Dermalogica, a brand founded by skin therapist Jane Wurwand, one of the most recognised and respected authorities in professional skin therapy. Under her leadership, Dermalogica has grown to be the leading professional skin care brand, used by more than 100,000 skin therapists in more than 100 countries around the world.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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