My Skincare Picks

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I only recently, as in the past month or so, started a “proper” skincare routine. Before starting to train as a makeup artist I wore very little makeup day-to-day, so my night-time cleansing routine consisted of a quick swipe with a damp facecloth, or – worse again – a face wipe. When I started wearing makeup daily I got into the habit of double-cleansing, which involved removing my initial layer of makeup before using a proper cleanser. Again, I would have used a makeup wipe to pre-cleanse. Although this was cleansing my skin, I still wasn’t using the right products or therefore seeing results, so I did some online research and dramatically overhauled my skincare. I invested in a night cream and, after reading Caroline “Skincare Guru” Hiron’s Toner Treatise and praise of Hydraluron, a tube of Hydraluron and two toners. This wasn’t particularly cheap but you only get one face, so I figured I should start treating it properly. After a week or so my skin looked clearer and my complexion brighter. In fact, I hadn’t realised how much better it looked until I forgot to use toner for a couple of days and noticed how dull my skin had become. Once I added it back into my routine, it improved again almost immediately.

I wanted to give an overview of the products I started to use, and why. I am planning a post to detail the ins and outs of The Routine but thought it would be useful to first explain why and how I use the products that I do.

Micellar Waters:

I pre-cleanse with  a micellar water. Micellar waters consist of oil molecules suspended in water, which means that they effectively remove makeup when swiped over the skin on a cotton pad. I have tried a few, but my favourite is Bioderma Crealine H2O. I always have a bottle of this French favourite in my kit as it is great for removing makeup from clients’ skin, as well as cleaning up any mistakes. Very few people are sensitive to it, which takes it a must-have for MUAs. That said, I don’t trust it to remove everything from my skin at night, so I use it as a first step to remove the majority of my makeup. This allows my cream cleanser to properly cleanse my skin and remove every last bit of product. Most skincare brands now make micellar waters, so there is something for every skin type and concern. I personally find Bioderma to be the best – and it won Escentual‘s recently-conducted blind test of micellar waters. The only downside is that it is only – with a few exceptions – available in French pharmacies (luckily for me, my sister au-paired in France for five months so I forced her to be my skincare mule and schlep me back two massive bottles), but you can buy it online. The cheapest supplier that I have found is Cocoon Center (who also conveniently stock lots of other yummy French skincare brands, and shipping is free if you spend €100. S’all I’m sayin’…).

In my opinion, facewipes are the devil and should be used only in cases of absolute emergency or extreme drunkenness. Most wipes contain a lot of alcohol which eventually dries out the skin, and in addition the fabric can be quite rough which easily irritates delicate skin. Swapping facewipes for micellar water on a cotton pad was one of the best things I have done for my face. It is just as quick and easy, and far kinder to your skin.


At night, I cleanse using a cream cleanser. My product of choice is Liz Earle’s Cleanse & Polish which is a thick, creamy emollient that is massaged onto the skin and buffed off with the accompanying muslin cloth or just a plain cotton facecloth. This removes every last trace of makeup and leaves my skin feeling soft as opposed to dry and tight.

It is very important to clean your skin in the morning to remove any oils or sweat that accumulate on the skin overnight. A gentle cleanser is best, and I prefer to use a foaming cleanser in the shower each morning. I’m not a fan of most foaming cleansers, especially those aimed at oily or blemish-prone skin as they can strip the natural oils from the skin, leaving it feeling dry and more oily as a result. I use La Roche Posay Physiological Foaming Water which is formulated for sensitive skin, so it leaves my skin feeling comfortable and not at all dry. You can of course use a cream or gel cleanser instead; it is all down to personal preference. If my skin feels particularly grimy in the morning, I use REN’s Clarifying Clay Cleanser.


Until a couple of months ago, I would have shuddered at the idea of toner and automatically assumed that anybody who recommended the use of one didn’t know anything about skincare. Then I happened upon Caroline Hiron’s blog, read her Toner Treatise and I was converted. Following her lead, I purchased a trial sized bottle of Clarins Toning Lotion with Iris for Combination Skin to use as an exfoliating toner. Conveniently, I had recently received a bottle of Lancome’s Tonique Douceur as a free gift with purchase, so that was my hydrating toner sorted.

Toners sound like a bit of a throwback to Days of Yore, when women cleansed with heavy cream products, and no water. Cleansing has moved on, but so too have toners. They are no longer astringent, skin-blistering lotions – I think back to my teenaged Clean & Clear days and cringe, my poor skin –  but an essential part of any skincare routine. They can both exfoliate and hydrate, as well as removing any remaining cleanser, meaning that any serums and moisturisers which are applied afterwards will be absorbed properly and nourish the skin as they should. Until recently I was prone to getting patches of dry skin which would “catch” my foundation and not amount of manual exfoliation would helpo, but since I started using toners I haven’t had to manually exfoliate as much, and my dry patches have disappeared. As I said above, when I forgot to use toners for a couple of days, my skin looked dull and unrefined, and when I incorporated them back into my routine, it brightened up considerably. If that’s not an argument for using them, I don’t know what is.


I usually only use oils when I feel that my skin is very dehydrated and needs the extra moisture, so usually in the wintertime and only at night. I like Trilogy’s Rosehip Oil, and they also do an Antioxidant Rosehip Oil which contains essential fatty acids along with super antioxidants. Another cult product is Kiehls’ Midnight Recovery Concentrate. I haven’t tried it myself but am very tempted to invest. If using an oil, it should be applied before your serum(s). This is because most serums are silicone-based. Silicone forms a barrier on the skin and doesn’t allow anything to penetrate it. Therefore, if you slap on an oil after a serum, you might as well not apply it all as it will not be able to penetrate the skin and work its magic.


I have just started using Clarins’ Double Serum, which I will review in the coming weeks. I only use this at night as I find that it is quite rich and takes a while to absorb. If you are using more than one serum you need to layer them in order of texture, starting with the lightest and finishing with the heaviest. If you are using an eye serum this should be applied at this stage too.

Eye Creams & Serums:

I used to use Clinique’s All About Eyes eye cream, but found that it wasn’t doing much for my eye area after a couple of years. I did a bit of research and am currently using Vichy’s LiftActiv Yeux. The fine lines around my eyes have definitely improved, but I’m not seeing as dramatic an improvement in the deeper wrinkles. That said, I often forget to apply it, so that hardly helps matters. I use Clinique’s All About Eyes Serum in the mornings which I LOVE. The rollerball dispenses just the right amount of product, and it’s so cooling and soothing on the skin. It dramatically improves any undereye puffiness, so it’s great for travelling or on mornings when you haven’t had enough sleep.

When applying eye cream, make sure not to use too much. A grain of rice-sized amount is enough for both eyes. If you use too much you risk making the eye area even puffier. Eye cream should be applied to the orbital bone (the bone of your eye socket) both above and below your eye, using your ring finger. This is the weakest finger on your hand so by using it you are less likely to pull at the delicate skin around the eye. Use your finger to pat and tap the product onto your eye area. You don’t need to apply the product right up into your lashline; it will travel by itself. This link is very helpful at explaining where eye cream should be applied.


Technically this is a serum, but it should always be applied right before your moisturiser. Hyraluronic acid is produced naturally in the body and is responsible for maintaining water reserves in the skin. As we age, our ability to produce hyraluronic acid reduces, and our skin becomes more dehydrated. Hydraluron contains the purest form of hyraluronic acid of any product on the market which means that when you slap this on before your moisturiser, it acts like a magnet, drawing out all the moisture from the cream and putting it back into your skin. You will need to use less of your moisturiser and it will work better for you. It is not the cheapest at almost €30 for just 30ml of product but you only need to use a pea-sized amount, plus it’s often on 3-for-2 in Boots.  I apply it morning and evening all over my face, concentrating on the areas where I am most prone to dehydration. I will do an in-depth review of this in the coming weeks, but it achieved How-Have-I-Survived-Without-This status within days, so needless to say it’s a keeper. If you were only to make one change to your skincare routine, I would urge you to start using this. Most of us are dehydrated in some way, and this will make a huge difference to your skin’s hydration levels. It is an absolute wonder product.

Night Cream:

After getting a sample of Clarins’ Multi-Active Night Cream I decided to splash out on a full-sized tub. I find it quite thick and luxurious, and I can definitely feel it on my skin, but it doesn’t leave my skin congested, and it smells absolutely gorgeous. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the day cream from the range, but I’ll definitely keep up my night cream habit.

Muslin Cloths/Cotton Face Cloths: 

I use these to remove cream cleansers from my face, as well as the remains of any face masks when I use them. I usually only use them at night, and wash them after they have been used twice. You can buy cotton facecloths in Penneys, and at only €2 for three of them you have no excuses. They are not the most glamourous beauty paraphenelia in the world, but they work. I think I actually prefer them to muslin cloths as they are less scratchy on the skin. I soak them in hand-hot water, wring them out, and use them to buff the product off my skin. The cloth easily removes any residue and gives a slight exfoliating effect at the same time.

These are the main products that I introduced into my skincare routine and it is looking very good at the moment. To be honest, I gave it such a major overhaul that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what did the trick, but if you were only going to slightly tweak your routine I would start by introducing toners and Hydraluron once you have cleansed properly. You can buy 100ml bottles of Clarins toners for €10 if you are trying to keep costs down. Hydraluron is expensive but as I said it is often on 3 for 2 in Boots, so you could ask if any friends are interested in trying it too and split it between a couple of you.


I am not a trained skincare specialist. The advice above is what I have gleaned to be best for me as a result of previous product experience, and from doing my own research online. I’m only two posts into this blog, and I’ve already dropped Caroline Hirons’ name numerous times, but her skincare Cheat Sheet is absolutely invaluable. It is basically amazing pro skincare advice FOR FREE, and it’s what gave me the kick I needed to start a proper skincare routine, for which my skin has thanked me. I would urge you all to read it and learn as I did – I wish I’d known it years ago.

My skin is combination/dehydrated, and the products mentioned above are what work for me. They may not be suitable for everyone so please bear your own skin type, skin concerns and any allergies that you may have in mind when reading or purchasing new products.

What are your skincare favourites? I’d love to know!



2 thoughts on “My Skincare Picks

  1. Well Niamh! This post is brilliant. I am inspired to give my routine an overhaul now! I love natural products – do you have any recommendations? PS had a lurk around Caroline Hiron’s blog – I’m so inspired! Thanks x x x

    • Well Jennie gerl! Glad you like the post, Caroline is amazing isn’t she?

      I started replying to your comment and it turned into a mini-post so I’m going to do a post about natural brands/products later, just for you 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: