I was always one of those annoying people with good skin. Throughout my teenage years, when my friends were dealing with hormonal acne and desperately piecing together a skincare routine to rescue them, I smugly escaped pimple-free. I always put it down to good genes and expected my string of good-skin luck to last forever. But when I reached my twenties, I discovered the horrible truth that no one tells you... you can still get bad skin as an adult.
Spots, breakouts, dry patches, floods of oiliness. My previously angelic skin had turned rogue. I tried to combat the problems by trying out every 'miracle' on the market; piling on creams, cleansers, exfoliators, serums (although, being honest, I wasn't really sure what they did), and a million and one other products. Not only did my bad skin continue, but it actually got worse.
I eventually realised my bad skin wasn't the universe getting back at me for my lucky teenage years. Nor was it a punishment for not using the best, most expensive products to magically transform it. It was because I was constantly battering my skin; trowelling on products and stripping them all off, expecting the process to magically calm it down. This was my skin's way of finally telling me to f**k off.
I realised the reason my skin had been so good all the way through my teens wasn't because of luck (although that was part of it). It was because, when I was thirteen, my mam set me on a skincare routine that I had never really strayed from. I was sticking to the same cleanse-tone-moisturise steps day in, day out. I didn't have the money to be wasting on fancy potions and peels, and I also didn't have a blue's clue about skincare. So, when I was gifted my first set of gentle basic products, I stuck with them and never looked back.
The urge to mess around with your skin to achieve the glowing, glass-like complexion of an Instagram goddess is real. We live in a consumer culture, and we're constantly being told that this one product, this magical acid, this illuminating serum, will be the key to happy skin forever-after. We're constantly subjected to ideas of vampire facials and ten-step Korean skincare routines to give us the skin of a young Miranda Kerr. The more we work at our skin, the more it's bound to pay off – right?
The bad news is, none of that is true. Those complexions you lust after are only visible through a layer of makeup and FaceTune. Have you ever noticed what those older women with genuinely wrinkle-free skin and glowing complexions have in common? It's not the years they spent getting acid peels. It's the basics; plenty of water, rich moisturisers and never going to bed with makeup on. Although these are all important tips, what's more likely is that these women are blessed with unbelievable genes – annoying for us normal folk, but also a much-needed dose of reality.
Normal folk's complexions fluctuate. There is no way to ensure you will never get a pimple or an oily T-zone again in your life. Sorry. But there is a way to ensure that your skin is pretty good 99% of the time, and it doesn't involve chemical peels or scrubbing at it with sea salt.
Tips for good skin
It took me a long time to figure out the key to steadily clear and even skin, and I'm finally able to share these nuggets of information with the world:
- Pain and tingling are not your friends. If a product makes your skin feel like it's burning a little, that doesn't mean it's working – it means it's probably damaging your skin.
- Your diet and water intake will do more for your skin than products ever will. If a certain type of food or ingredient makes you break out, a great cleanser isn't going to fix the problem – eating something else will. Also, it's a cliché, but it's true; water is the great saviour for skin. Drink as much of it as possible.
- Be as gentle as possible. Even if you're not using a lot of different products, be careful not to pull, drag and scrub at your skin during your routine (especially around your eyes). The skin is a delicate organ, so be as gentle with it as you can.
- Don't overdo it. Your skincare routine isn't better because it includes 15 steps and 42 products. In reality, you really only need a few key items; a good cleanser, a good moisturiser and a good sunscreen. Nail those down and everything else is just a bonus.
- Consistency is key. You can't start a new skincare routine one night and get angry when your skin doesn't look better by the next morning. As long as a product doesn't immediately irritate your skin, stick at your routine for at least three weeks. Your skin needs time to settle and get used to products, and the longer you keep it up, the better the outcome will be.