I never used to worry much about my skin. Well, that's not strictly true, when I turned 13 I suddenly developed (with hindsight) the most minuscule slightly enlarged pores on my nose, promptly lost the plot whilst weeping in front of the mirror and proceeded to nuke my skin for about about a year in a vain attempt to get them to shrink back to eight-year-old standards. Which of course, made my skin react in fury, resulting in the beginning of a long battle with reactive, sensitive skin.
For a short period I was obsessed with Clearasil, Biome pore strips and Oxy 10, and some weird toner/paint-stripper called 10-0-6. Not sure what happened to that, but I remember it had a jazzy bottle, was fluorescent, called itself a 'deep pore cleanser' and basically ruined my skin. It could probably get limescale off your taps, but I'm not sure it was a good idea to scrub my delicate teenage face with it twice a day.
My mum saved me, however, taking pity on me and packing me off for facials at the tender age of 15. I then became a Clinique devotee, following their 3-step system for years. And years. Without ever thinking about it again.
Until I turned 31. I don't know why that age was the trigger - I've always been told I look pretty young, which I used to hate but am now very grateful for. Perhaps it was because I had just had laser eye surgery and could suddenly see myself properly (!), but I started to notice the beginnings of lines around my eyes, which made me think about anti-ageing products. And it snowballed from there.
Last year, I spent a quite frankly disgusting amount of money on skincare. I was earning quite a lot last summer, and I remember one month my skincare/make up expenditure was in the region of £400. I know. I'm sorry. I'm disgusted with myself too. It was like the 13-year-old me had unleashed herself once again, armed with a bigger budget and the benefit/curse of beauty blogs promising great things from products.
It was a long year of experimentation anyway, with most of the products I tried not really doing much at all. The process sort of went like this:
1) I read about some miracle product on a blog/in a magazine 2) I marched off to Elys or Selfridges to purchase said product 3) I used product for about a week (often in conjunction with other new products I got talked into trying at the same time) 4) Product had barely noticeable but slightly positive effect on skin for a few days 5) I raved about brilliantness of product to everyone and anyone 6) A week later I got a spot 7) I blamed said product and angrily shouted at it as I shoved it to the back of my make-up drawer 8) Rinse and repeat
However, there were a few gems among the tons of products that basically didn't do... anything. So I thought they'd be worth a quick run down here. Like I said, I was obsessed with beauty blogs last year (and the wonderful vlogs - especially the US ones!) and it was always interesting reading how others got on with a product.
So here are the only ones I would, and have, repurchased. A few of these have become my new 'HGs' (that's holy grails, to those not initiated with beauty blog terminology).
REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask
This is amazing! It smells of fruit and is quite sticky and weird - you basically slather it on and wash off after 15 minutes. The fruit acids chomp away at all your dead skin cells and the next day your skin is beautifully soft and your make up glides on much more easily. I love it.
The Sanctuary Polishing Hot Cloth Cleanser
I think this has been discontinued as I can't find it on The Sanctuary website, which is a real shame. It's similar to Liz Earle's much-lauded Cleanse & Polish (which I found too drying for my skin) but less astrigent and really moisturising too.
Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Cream Gel
When I'm tired, I put a tiny bit of this on in the mornings if I don't want to look dead that day. And it works. It gives you a really, really subtle tan - more of a glow really.
Trilogy Rosehip Oil
I was completely obsessed with this last year and slathered it on my face every night instead of a night cream. Mistake. After a few months' use, I realised that, although it really does help fade spot scars and keep your face plump and soft, it also clogs pores. I'm now only using it around my eyes and making sure I only use the tiniest amount. It's beautifully gentle, so won't break you out, but it is very heavy and brings out the blackheads.
Opi Avoplex & Opi Nail Envy
Not strictly skincare and this is a bit gross, but my nails really dry out when I use polish on them (especially my toenails). I've been using cuticle oil to moisturise them and it's really helped. And Nail Envy is a revelation - it makes your nails look healthy and shiny, and 'polished' even without having a colour on them. The only weird thing is that it definitely makes your nails grow more slowly. And I cannot fathom why. Odd.
I think brushes count as skincare as they have such a big impact on your skin! I've used Bare Minerals foundation for ages now but always used to use their brushes. Which are really scratchy and caused little bumps to appear on my cheeks. Ecotools brushes are just brilliantly soft and eco-friendly too. My favourite is the retractable kabuki brush, because it's hygienic and portable with the perfect size head for powder foundation.
Clarins Multi-Active Skin Renewal Serum
I've been really impressed with lots of Clarins products I've tried this year, and am also using their day cream at the moment. This is expensive, but the only serum out of loads of serums I've tried that actually really really made a difference. It plumps your skin out and makes you look all healthy and glowing. And like all Clarins products, it smells beautiful. I love it so much. I just don't love the price tag or the tiny bottle.
L'Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil
I think this is meant for pregnancy bumps but I've been using it on my arms and legs! I bought it at Bicester as a two-for-one experiment and at first thought it was too sweet and sickly smelling. But it fades really quickly and leaves your skin with a lovely protective sheen. Also pricey sadly.
Other than that, I'm still searching for the perfect cleanser... Sigh. I've just bought Clarins' Cleansing Milk with Gentian so will be giving that a go once the one I'm using at the moment is finished. Cleansers are really really hard I find - either massively drying or massively cloggy. The search continues...
What about you? I'm genuinely dying to chat skincare with anyone reading this - let me know which products you can't live without!