Valentine's Day is upon us! (as if brands, restaurants, gift shops and card makers would let us forget...), and we’re celebrating by honouring some of the most timeless and well-matched products in skincare. We’ll be taking them out for a meal, buying them a rose and letting them know how much we appreciate them. We’re also bigging up a few of our favourite singles- the kinds of products that slay all by themselves and we'd celebrate Galentine's with. Gather round for a love-in.
Moisturiser + SPF
The prime purpose of your SPF is sun protection (most obvious statement of the year award), so cushion skin with hydration first by way of a nourishing moisturiser. This way, you’re helping skin to stay balanced and fortifying its barrier while also shielding it from UV rays. Basically, it’s the eternal and essential great skin double act, and should form the bare minimum of your daytime skincare routine. Try:
Kate Somerville Oil-Free Moisturiser, £55
Facialist Kate Somerville’s skincare range holds well-deserved cult status in the US. Dive into this lightweight hydrator if the thought of moisturiser plus SPF makes you feel a bit sticky- this non greasy, moisture binding lotion keeps shine at bay while a red algae and amino acid complex helps bolster skin’s natural defences.
Match with...Clinique Super City Block SPF 40, £20
One of our team’s most beloved SPFs, this Clinique classic makes for a velvety makeup primer, helps to tone down redness and is suitable for sensitive skin thanks to its fragrance-free , physical filter based formula. It’s got a good dose of antioxidants going on to add to its protective prowess, and alongside Kate’s moisturiser, it’s a non-shiny yet non-chalky option for skin that tends towards the oily or spotty.
Cleanser + Cleanser
Ta da, the double cleanse . If you’re wearing SPF, makeup or putting your face into a smog cloud on the daily , or all of the above, a two stage cleanse is the way forward to ensure a thorough degriming. Think something to cut through surface impurities first, then whisk off with a flannel before a final whip round with a wash-off cleanser of your choice. Go for a two in one by way of the Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse , £24 (it’s fair to say that Hirons is the pioneer of the balm/oil + gel/milk cleansing equation). I also enjoy a good facial rub down with the following power pair…
Dermalogica Precleanse Oil, £12
A no-frills, makeup melting oil that helps to lift away everything from waterproof mascara to heavy foundation from the skin smoothly- there’s no tugging, scrubbing or brillo-padding here, just ultra-satisfying, lipid rich cleansing that exterminates the remains of the day without stripping skin.
Match with...Vichy Pureté Thermale Fresh Cleansing Gel, £12
Really you can go in for your second cleanse with any texture that works for you. This light gel claims to whisk pollutant particles from the surface of the skin, which is a tricky property to measure at home, but the refreshing glycerin-rich fluid does dissolve any residual dirt or makeup and leaves skin soft, not sore. One for combination and oily skins in particular.
Retinol + Vitamin C
If you’re looking to brighten skin and unify skintone, cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting advocates combining antioxidant melanin-regulating retinoids (the skin cell renewal big hitter) with stable, well formulated, pigmentation limiting vitamin C . While they make a great couple, they need their space- Dr Sam advises vitamin C for morning application and retinol in the evening, alternating your use and not going too gung-ho from the get-go in order to reduce your risk of irritation. Try gentle formulations a few times a week max at first.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalene, £4.20
The beginner’s option, this low percentage retinol will get you out of the blocks, but feel free to graduate to the Kim Kardashian endorsed 2% version if you’re skin’s already acclimatised to vitamin A. This budget player is blended with emollient squalene to minimise retinol-induced flaking.
Match with...Zelens Power C High Potency Vitamin C Treatment Drops, £50 for 10ml
Technically a skincare booster, this light yet potent 20 per cent vitamin C elixir can be applied alone or pipetted into your moisturiser of a morning to boost skin’s defences against free-radicals and pollution, with the added back-up of elasticity promoting fatty acids and antioxidant vitamin E. Pricy, but a few drops go far.
Retinol + SPF
ALWAYS. If you’re treating your skin to the most powerful skin rejuvenating ingredient known to man, you need to protect those fresh new skin cells against environmental damage. Dr Sam Bunting actually recommends a two-in-one option on this front. Not all perfect couples are sold separately.
MZ Skin Hydrate and Nourish Age Defence Retinol Day Moisturizer SPF30, £95
Non-irritant retinol suitable for daytime plus SPF 30 means that this broad-spectrum multitasker puts paid to the assumption that vitamin A is limited to the bedroom only.
Acid + Oil
As counterintuitive as it seems, soothing acneic eruptions with certain plant-based oils (never mineral oil) is a technique that facialists and makeup artists swear by, and precursing said calming and sebum-regulating oil with a dead skin cell and bacteria-eating liquid exfoliant clears the way for the oils vitamins and lipids to do their healing thing. For instance, Votary founder Arabella Preston chose to combine both pore-cleansing salicylic acid and antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory rosemary, clary sage, oat and rice bran oil in the one bottle by way of the brand’s Clarifying Facial Oil , £65. This one’s best spot-applied (speaking literally)- for all over exfoliation and zit placating, try fusing the following…
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, £28
Salicylic acid is particularly effective when it comes to treating blackheads and blemishes- it helps skin to shed dead skin cells and has an anti-inflammatory effect to temper angry breakouts. This gentle topical exfoliant can be used daily to help to refine skin texture and put pustules and the like in their place. I get through gallons of this stuff- it’s the BHA bees knees.
Match with...Votary Jasmine and Calendula Oil, £65
Follow up your acid with a light plant oil blend to restore the skin’s barrier and keep your natural acid mantle healthy and thriving- this will hopefully prevent skin going into sebum, and therefore spot, overdrive. Plant oils have an affinity with the skin, so fresh, fatty acid and vitamin rich oils will keep skin supple and healthy rather than sit on top of the skin, and contrary to belief they won’t block pores- they can in fact help to loosen sebum, thus preventing clogging. Clever, and deeply relaxing when you massage them in.
Vitamin C + vitamin E
Don’t just pop your multivitamins with your breakfast- a multivitamin approach to skincare can help you to get the most out of the products you’ve shelled out for. C and E are particularly compatible…
DCL C Scape High Potency Night Booster, £108
As far as vit C goes, this is strong stuff (20 per cent L-Ascorbic acid concentration). Tread carefully if your skin is sensitive or reactive, but boy does it work to smooth skin and reduce your likelihood of pigmentation, plus it revs up collagen synthesis. It’s gritty, it tingles and it’s not an every night option- use sparingly and combine with a soothing tincture such as the following…
Match with...ELEMIS Superfood Facial Oil, £45
Loaded with omegas and vitamin E, this glow-giving plant oil is easily absorbed nutrition for your face, particularly when yours is in need of some TLC. Adding three drops or so to your evening ritual will help skin to defend itself, keep it plump and supple and have the added effect or defrazzling your brain thanks to some delicious facial massage .
Spendy serum + budget moisturiser
While it’s not a given that throwing your overdraft at a skin serum will guarantee results (see The Ordinary for one), the general rule of thumb is that investing in your active dermatological undergarments while saving on barrier-protecting moisturisers is the best way forward in terms of skincare economies.
Skinceuticals H.A Intensifier, £85
To be frank pretty much every Skinceuticals serum is worth your moolah in my opinion, but as we haven’t mentioned key hydrating molecule hyaluronic acid yet, H.A gets a shout-out. Line smoothing, firming and instantly plumping, this serum helps to pep up skin’s natural moisture-binding hyaluronic acid levels, which decline over time.
Match with...Sukin Facial Moisturiser, £7.95
Avocado oil and aloe vera top up hydration levels while vitamin E provides a blanket of antioxidant protection- an organic basic that’s as good as any for daily wear.
Tranexamic + kojic acid
Brightening tranexamic acid is one of the friendliest ingredients out there and pairs especially well with kojic acid, which is also a known pigment brightener and works by blocking the formation of melanin. "Combining tranexamic acid with kojic acid maximises its brightening power, ensuring you get the most out of the ingredient," says aesthetic doctor Dr Pamela Benito.
This brightening overnight mask has a gel-like formula that contains two per cent tranexamic acid to promote even skin tone and two per cent vitamin C derivative for extra brightening and anti-oxidant power.
Match with... Medik8 White Balance Original Serum, £45
This serum with kojic acid is designed to target the seven causes of hyperpigmentation such as dark spots, age spots, blotchiness, sun damage, uneven skin tone and melasma - pairing it with tranexamic makes it even more of a powerhouse product. Interestingly, it comes in two bottles; on first use press down firmly on the bottle lid until it clicks and shake for 30 seconds to activate. Dispose of the lid and replace with the dropper - this keeps the formula fresh and stable.
Buy it online
The lone rangers
Alpha-H Liquid Gold, £33.50
A glycolic based chemical exfoliant, this overnight treatment is intended to act alone to stimulate cellular activity to the max. You can, of course, apply a calming, hydrating night treatment on top if you feel naked without a skincare ‘topcoat’, but give it a whirl once or twice a week if you want to see what all of the fuss is about- it’s been a bestseller for nigh on two decades.
A serum saturated sheet mask
If you’ve got a particularly lotion laded sheet mask, chances are that massaging the excess serum into skin will provide sufficient hydration for your daily/ nightly needs. I’m left with an abundance of lovely jelly-like slime after using Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Powerfoil Mask , £64 for four.
MORE GLOSS: Budget serums that do the business for £20 and under