I’m no good at sticking to new year’s resolutions, so I haven’t made any for 2018. I have, however, decided that this year will be the year that I nail my skincare routine. My relationship with my face has always been problematic. My teenage acne phase has been and gone, and I’m now at a weird point where I only get spots hormonally, once a month, but my skin still isn’t as good as I know it could be. I’m not expecting miracles – having pore-less, flawless skin is an unreachable goal – but I do want clearer, softer, brighter skin that’s more… consistent.
If you’re also thinking it’s time to freshen up your bathroom cabinet with some skincare treats that are kind to your skin and actually work, then listen up: HTF writer and fellow skincare addict Maddie and I have put together some of our favourite products to head into the new year with. We’re both in our 20s and deal with the same sort of skincare issues on the reg: T-zone oiliness by lunchtime (and, let’s be real, full-face greasiness come bedtime), hormonal breakouts, seemingly endless blackheads and random dry patches during the colder months. Here’s a rundown of what we’re loving at the moment. We’ve tested several products from different categories and tried to cover all skin types.
Best for sensitive skin: Milky Jelly Cleanser – Glossier
I’m not gonna lie: I’m somewhat skeptical about Glossier. It seems to be one of those style-over-substance brands. I went to its London pop-up last November and went home with a deliciously scented Birthday Balm Dot Com, but I wasn’t tempted by the make-up (too wishy-washy) or the skincare (not hardcore enough for me… or so I thought) at the time. I’m a sucker for good packaging, though, so after gawping at it for a bit online and reading some brilliant reviews, I bit the bullet and ordered a Milky Jelly Cleanser. This baby has become my go-to second cleanse, to use after a cleansing balm or oil, as it leaves my skin soft and doesn’t foam up too much. A little goes a long way, too, which is good news for my bank balance. It hasn’t broken me out yet, meaning it deserves a permanent place on my bathroom shelf; so many cleansers give me spots. My only issue is the faint scent. I can’t work out what it is, but I find it unpleasant. Not unpleasant enough or heavy enough to stop me from reaching for this every day, though. – GH
Best cruelty-free option: Cream Cleanser – Sukin
I jumped at the opportunity to try Sukin’s Cream Cleanser. I’ve heard so many good things about this brand, and I love its naturally focused, eco-friendly outlook. This is the sort of cleanser I love, because it’s minimal on ingredients but gives you a proper, full-on, efficient cleanse. It has a very light scent but, obviously, it doesn’t smell synthetic. It doesn’t foam up because it’s not full of SLS, meaning it doesn’t leave your skin feeling stripped of all its moisture afterwards. It didn’t break me out after 2 weeks of consistent use, which is a major win! It’s suggested that you can either wash this off with a warm cloth or cotton wool but I’d recommend that my fellow oily-skinned sisters follow my lead and go for the cloth option… I don’t like the idea of leaving any traces of this behind on my skin. – MSB
Best for sloughing off make-up: Vitamin C+ Brighten Skin Renew Cleansing Oil – Una Brennan
I’ve used this cleansing oil before, but I’ve turned back to it recently; the DHC Cleansing Oil I was using for a few months finally run out, and I couldn’t really justify the cost of replacing it when my local Boots constantly presents me with cheaper options. I only use oils as a first cleanse, after all, so as long as they remove my make-up and don’t break me out (difficult for a first-cleanse product to do) I’m happy. I love the zesty scent of this oil, and I enjoy that it removes my eye make-up without irritating my sensitive eyes. I hate the bottle, though. Please, Una, can we have a pump? – GH
Best for travel: Chamomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter – The Body Shop
Travelling can be annoying when you have a skincare obsession; it’s all a case of dispensing product into impossibly tiny tubes or buying travel-size stuff you don’t really like. Alternatively, you might just end up with your favourite cleanser bursting in your suitcase and ruining your clothes. Not ideal, right? That’s why a cleansing balm’s a great choice for travel. The Body Shop’s Chamomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter is super compact so it’ll slip into your bag with no fuss, and it’s powerful enough to remove my heavy eye make-up after a night out. – MSB
We also love: REN’s ClearCalm Clay Cleanser for thoroughly cleaning up the skin without stripping it of its natural oils, and Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm for the way it just feels expensive… and strips all your make-up off effortlessly and makes your skin looks like you’ve been for a fancy facial.
Best all-rounder: Hydrance Optimale Light – Eau Thermale Avène
I loved trying out this moisturiser! It feels like it’s really moisturising, but it sinks in ever so quickly. While I’m generally very oily, I do have periods during the colder months where I pick up little dry patches around my nose. Adding this to my morning skincare routine seemed to help reduce those dry patches – so I can say goodbye to patchy foundation now. This moisturiser is the ‘light’ (‘légere’ in French) version, recommended for normal to combination and sensitive skins, but there’s an original version that’s better suited to dry skin. I was worried that this would break me out – I normally only ever buy moisturisers for oily/acne-prone skin – but I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t. – MSB
Best budget option: Natural Moisturising Factors + HA – The Ordinary
If you’re running on a budget, The Ordinary’s products, on the whole, are a joy, with most of them coming in at under £6. This moisturiser is a great pick for ‘normal’ skins (by which I mean not too oily, spot-prone or dry), and it contains hyaluronic acid which helps to trap in the existing water in your skin. It goes on smoothly and doesn’t pill under make-up. My only complaint? It doesn’t last very long. Maybe that’s why it’s so cheap, though? If you try it and love it, stock up because everything from The Ordinary tends to sell out very quickly and takes a while to be restocked. – MSB
Best cruelty-free option: Tea Tree & Jojoba Superfood Nutrition Facial Cream – Dr Botanicals
I really enjoyed using this moisturiser. It packs a lot into one package, being cruelty free, full of naturally derived ingredients and great for oily, spot-prone skin. What I loved most about this one, alongside the fact that it didn’t break me out, was the texture. The formula’s more gel-like than most other moisturisers I’ve tried, and I found that this made it feel super smooth and lightweight when I applied it. It sinks in quickly, making it a perfect morning moisturiser to slip on before my make-up, but it didn’t feel unsubstantial – by this, I mean it did feel like it was giving me a good hit of moisture as it sank in. The fact that it comes in a sturdy glass jar, rather than a plastic tube, rings true to the brand’s eco-friendly ethos… and it looks good on my dressing table! – MSB
Best for super-dry skin: Skin Food – Weleda
This one’s a classic for a reason, but I’d never actually tried it before until this winter. A few dry patches appeared around my jawline on one side of my face – I’m guessing because of the weather – so I decided to give Skin Food a try. It worked like a charm after only one application, sloughing away plenty of my flakiness and leaving me with softer, smoother skin. It didn’t break me out either, but I would be reluctant to slap it all over my T-zone. My only real quibble is that it takes a while to fully sink into the skin, which can be a pain if you’re putting it on in the morning before your make-up or want to layer it up with other products, but what more can you expect from a heavy-duty moisturiser? – GH
We also love: Neutrogena Oil-Free Grapefruit Moisturiser for being brilliantly cheap, effective and a bit of a nostalgia kick, and Dr Organic’s Skin Clear Oil Control Moisturiser for being gentle on the skin and feeling super refreshing upon application. It’s cruelty-free, too.
The Masks, Serums & Treatments
Best for oily skin: Charcoal Superfood Mattifying Face Mask – Dr Botanicals
Oily skin and charcoal masks go hand in hand, right? Not when my oily skin is concerned, unfortunately, as charcoal masks tend to dry it out way too much. I expected this Dr Botanicals mask to do the same, but I was surprised when it slipped onto my skin smoothly and, after keeping it on for 15-20 minutes, I wasn’t left with a dried-up face afterwards. It felt lovely to apply – there seem to be a few grainy bits in the formula that feel refreshing to scrub gently over the skin, especially after a long day – and afterwards my skin looked brighter, and felt tighter… but not uncomfortably so. This is definitely a keeper. – GH
Best for dehydrated skin: Leave on Water Mask – Superdrug Simply Pure
I’m scared of moisturising masks because I worry they’ll break me out. I decided to buy this because a) I’ve heard good things about Superdrug’s Simply Pure Range, b) it’s supposedly designed for sensitive skin and, c) my skin does get dryer in the winter, and after I’ve over-exfoliated or overdone it with the retinol, I crave something soothing. This does the trick, giving you a little bit of moisture rather than layers of grease. It’s sort of like drinking a big glass of water when you wake up after a night of drinking. Super satisfying. The jelly-like formula is also a highlight if you’re easily amused. I’d recommend keeping it in the fridge for an extra-soothing feel which, admittedly, probably doesn’t have any benefits. – GH
Best for combination skin: Pink Clay Mask – Sand & Sky
I loved having the opportunity to try this mask. It’s one of those cult products that I’ve seen all over Instagram, so even putting it on made me feel like one of those influencer types. I get the hype – it’s very social-media friendly with its bright blue packaging and pale pink formula. Sadly for my bank balance, it also works remarkably well. As mentioned above, I’m a sucker for a clay mask because I love the way they soak up the oiliness on my face. This one was extremely drying – after five minutes, I couldn’t feel or move my face at all (a slightly annoying discovery to make just after I’d made a cuppa, ngl) – but the awkwardness was worth it. It left me with very smooth skin and, dare I say it, a bit of a glow. I’m not sure if it’s helped my acne at all, but I will try it again for that post-mask baby-skin effect. – GH
Best for tired skin: Myrrh Clay – NIOD
It smells and looks a little weird – like a brown cast all over your face – but NIOD’s Myrrh Clay does wonders for making my skin feel tighter. It’s marketed towards those with older skins, but I’ve found that even my 20-something complexion benefits from the brightening, tightening boost it gives you. And the effects are instant! – MSB
We also love: NIOD’s Sanskrit Saponins if you want to look like you’ve been Instagram-filtered for half an hour; Queen Helene’s Mint Julep Masque for the slightly gross but fascinating view of your blackheads while it does its thing, and The Ordinary’s 30% AHA + 2% BHA Peeling Solution for a once-a-week refresh.
Images authors’ own / Header image via @dianagordonofcl / Milky Jelly Clenaser image via @glossier