A Capsule Wardrobe for your Skincare?
In fashion terms the capsule wardrobe is as much of a cult classic as the little black dress.
And because it makes total sense to have a collection of essentials that together can be thrown together and worn every day, why not apply the same concept to our skincare?
But if a capsule wardrobe is a breakdown of the most basic items which together can tackle almost every situation, what would a skincare capsule wardrobe contain?
Here’s my roundup of the skincare essentials that take me from cold winter days to tropical beach holidays, and even the occasional breakout.
The foundation of any routine, perfect for every day and ideally used in pairs…. Yes, my own skincare wardrobe actually calls for two cleansers.
This isn’t because I’m an avid fan of double cleansing though (although I do it occasionally if my skin needs it), simply because I like to have different cleansers depending on what my skin is doing on a particular day.
Different skin types might want to go for different variations on the same theme using alternative cleansers.
For example, sensitive or very dry skin types might want to rotate a cleansing balm and a cleansing milk, while oily or acne types might find a gel and a foaming or acid-based cleanser work well in rotation together.
My own personal preference is to use an oil or balm-based cleanser in combination with a gel. A favourite is Bybi’s non-greasy yet still moisturising Swipe Clean oil cleanser (£22.10 for 100 ml, Feel Unique)* followed by Fresh’s Soy Face Cleanser (from £11.50 for 50 ml, Space NK)
Although I end up using the gel more often than the oil, having both means that when my skin is a little more dry or sensitive I’m not aggravating it further. Plus if I do decide to double cleanse (for example if I’ve been wearing a full face of makeup) they work perfectly together.
For a cleanser which will suit almost all skin types, though- and as an alternative to buying a separate cleanser- consider throwing in one which contains gentle acids.
I have been using this a few times a week for the last six months or so and completely done away with the need for a separate scrub.
A personal favourite is Boscia’s Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser* ($30/£23.99 for 150 ml, Boscia), which contains glycolic acid to gently slough away dead skin cells, as well as licorice root extract and vitamin C to brighten. I have been using this a few times a week for the last six months or so and completely done away with the need for a separate scrub.
Whichever product you use, though, I like to give skin a gentle exfoliation when washing my face by removing cleanser with a damp towel or cleansing cloth.
This helps remove dead skin cells and encourage healthy cell turnover without irritating skin. It also cuts out the need to buy a separate exfoliating product.
As completely personal as finding the perfect dress, getting the right moisturiser to leave skin hydrated and comfortable, but never greasy or tight, can take time.
Coupled with the fact that skin changes throughout the month, during different seasons, and over the years, this step is possibly the hardest to get right.
To save time (and possibly considerable money), do as much research as possible before reaching for the credit card by taking a really good look at your skin and trying to work out which issues affect you the majority of the month and year; whether that’s dehydration, dryness, or oiliness.
For oilier days I’m a huge fan of Fourth Ray’s excellent, oil-free, and reasonably-priced Good Mood Gel Moisturizer
With the exception of oil-free varieties, moisturisers normally contain a combination of humectants or hydrating ingredients (to restore skin’s water levels), and oil-based emollients (to protect the skin’s barrier).
Working out whether your skin needs more hydration or moisture before buying, and then actively seeking out a product which fall more into one camp before buying could ultimately help you find a moisturiser that will suit your skin for years.
For oilier days I’m a huge fan of Fourth Ray’s excellent, oil-free, and reasonably-priced Good Mood Gel Moisturizer ($14/£12 for 50 g, Fourth Ray).
Although it contains some silicone, my skin has never had an issue with this and instead drinks up the hydration from watermelon seed extract, hyaluronic acid and rose water.
Meanwhile for days when my skin is red or sensitive (or if I’ve overdone it with the actives), I also love Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer (£32 for 50 ml, Cult Beauty)*.
Containing a whole host of moisturising and skin soothing goodies like chia and flax seed and essential fatty acids, my skin just drinks this up, leaving it hydrated and comfortable.
For anyone really struggling to find a formula combining the right levels of hydration and moisture for your skin, until you find the perfect fit consider layering a hydrating serum (like hyaluronic acid) with a slightly emollient moisturiser.
That way you still get the benefits of both and can alter the proportions daily according to your skin’s own needs.
Since the skin around the eye contains no oil glands, it needs a helping hand daily to stay hydrated and help prevent pigmentation and fine lines and wrinkle.
And while normal moisturiser can definitely be used around the eyes (as long as it doesn’t contain any sensitising ingredients), to deal with issues like puffiness a specific eye cream containing ingredients like caffeine can help.
Again, I like to be greedy and rotate between two- one for depuffing and brightening and another for a hit of moisture. My current brightening favourite is Drunk Elephant’s C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream (£54 for 15 ml, Space NK).
Meanwhile my moisturising hero is Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado (from £26 for 14 ml, Kiehls).
Again, a separate eye cream isn’t a definite must- but if you do have concerns like puffiness and what to tackle them specifically a targeted product can help.
Just make sure to apply using as little pressure as possible to avoid tugging this delicate area.
Sophisticated and radiance-boosting, vitamin C should be a regular essential for anyone who wants brighter, glowing skin (so everyone then)
Both a strong antioxidant and a gentle exfoliant, vitamin C helps with everything from reducing and preventing pigmentation to improving elasticity and giving skin a glowing, healthy tone.
Most effective in its purest (yet least stable) form- L-Ascorbic acid- vitamin C is notoriously volatile and should be housed in opaque packaging or coloured glass, and stored out of sunlight.
Use daily if your skin can tolerate it and always under SPF 30 or higher. Discard the moment the product changes colour or scent.
While I occasionally use vitamin C serums, my preferred method of using this my favourite ingredient is in a water-activated mask.
Designed for quick use and offering an immediate hit of brightness, I like the immediate results and the fact that because I wash this off it becomes one less product to layer.
This pretty potent Ascorbic Acid-based mask begins tingling (on me anyway) pretty much as soon as I apply it and I barely need to wait until I have brushed my teeth before removing.
Personally, the result has always been brighter, more even looking skin, and I’m a huge fan (just watch out for the scent, though, which isn’t the loveliest- a bit like gone off orange juice).
The other reason I especially like using vitamin C in this way is because it also acts as a face mask before big events etc, meaning it cuts out for a separate product.
The slightly grown-up addition to a skincare routine, retinols boost cell turnover for a whole host of skin benefits- and are generally good news for anyone over around 25/
Despite retinol’s famous potential side effects of flaking skin, retinol isn’t actually an exfoliant, as commonly assumed. Instead, as a vitamin A derivative, retinol is a strong antioxidant.
Its ability to speed up cell turnover means improvements in skin firmness, pigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles, and it also sometimes means some flaking or irritation while skin adjusts and as older cells are driven the surface.
To avoid really stressing skin out (and I mean really), start by using every third night for two weeks, before increasing to every other night for another two.
You can eventually move to every night if your skin can tolerate it, but to avoid any potential dryness you can also ‘buffer’ it by layering over a non-irritating, unscented moisturiser (the Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer is a good choice).
For serious irritation, stop use unless advised by a dermatologist.
I don’t use retinol all throughout the year- mainly easing off in the summer just because my skin appreciates fewer products in the heat- but when I do, one of my absolute favourite is Dr Dennis Gross’s Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery (£88 for 16 treatments, Cult Beauty).
Another one that I have to save for but, again, my skin absolutely loves these. Combining a chemical peel with retinol and ferulic acid, I see an immediate lifting and brightening effect every time I use one of these peel pads- and the results last days and seem to be cumulative.
For my full (and pretty enthusiastic) thoughts, have a look at my Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol review.
If I could afford these I would genuinely use them for months on end. Luckily, although Dr Dennis Gross using two to three times a week, I find I get the same results just twice a week; making this an eight-week supply.
Perfect everyday wear at any age, antioxidants soothe skin whilst protecting it against free radical damage.
Normally derived from fruit and vegetable-based ingredients in skincare, antioxidants neutralise free radicals (found in smoke and other types of pollution), preventing them from harming (read: ageing) skin cells.
For a quick overview of what antioxidants are any how they really help skin, check out Antioxidants: What Are They and Do We Really Need Them?.
Easiest to incorporate into a routine in a serum or moisturiser, my every single day, re-buy all the time favourite is Drunk Elephant’s D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops (£30 for 30 ml, Cult Beauty).
As well as being one of the most-reasonably priced products in Drunk Elephant’s line, this skincare hero combines a cocktail of antioxidants with bronzer- pretty much negating the need for me ever to wear foundation.
SPF is pretty much the biggest support we’ve got in fighting everything from fine lines and wrinkles, to hyperpigmentation, lack of elasticity, and texture problems.
Yes it’s sometimes a hassle. And yes it can definitely be hard to find the right one. But just remember that UV rays can penetrate both clouds and windows, making SPF a must-use even indoors in winter.
Make the whole thing easier on yourself by finding one high quality SPF (at least factor 30) which doesn’t irritate skin and layers well with your other products. My personal choice is Dr Sam’s Flawless Daily Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 (£29 for 50 ml, Dr Sam Bunting).
Non-greasy, unscented, and offering a broad spectrum of chemical and physical sunscreens, this leaves no white cast and never pills with my moisturiser or foundation.
Putting together a skincare routine that keeps you hydrated in winter, non-greasy in summer and breakout-free year round can take a little time.
A combination of a couple of cleansers alongside a soothing moisturiser and some hard-working actives like retinol and vitamin C should be flexible enough to work year-round, while keeping your routine small means less money on products and more in the holiday/decorating/clothes fund (yay!).
And by leaving out potentially irritating ingredients (like acids) while focusing on healthy cell turnover and protecting skin from UV damage, even really sensitive types can help get skin healthy and glowing. A beauty win!