Jump on to YouTube and search “skincare” … go on I dare you. And you will be inundated with hundreds if not thousands of videos about skin care routines. It seems that everyone either has a routine or has an opinion about someone else’s routine.
But as with all things internet, is a routine just fake news or is there evidence for having one?
In answering that there are 2 things to look at:
1) Is there a benefit in using more than one product? (because let’s face it, you can’t call it a “routine” if it is just 1 product). To answer that we need to know:
- Do some products have to be separated by function?
- Are there certain products/ingredients which are better used in the morning and others better used at night?
- Are there certain ingredients that can’t be mixed with others (ie. Need for separate products)?
2) How long should you keep going with a routine? Just till you get the goals you want or longer?
If you don’t have patience to read till the end, the answers are “Yes” and “Longer”. And as with so many things in life, simple and less is probably best. So if your routine has 20 steps and it works for you, that is fine, there is just no evidence that you are getting returns on your additional effort.
If you are looking for the simplest shortest routine, so were we!
In fact when we started ESK, we wanted to have as simple a regime, with as few products as possible. So in an attempt to have as simple and short a skin care routine, these were the questions we asked and the answers, sourced from the evidence in scientific journals, dictated both the products and the routines that we developed.
What should skin care do for you.
Whether it is Ageing, Rosacea, Acne or any other skin condition that you are looking to target, the range of processes by which we target improvements and the ingredients with evidence is quite limited.
The processes and ingredients which have evidence by which we will achieve our skin care aims are Cleansing; Sun Protection; Exfoliation (Hydroxy Acids); Renewal (Vitamin A) and Repair (Vitamins B3, C and 4-n-B).
Factors dictating the minimum number of products
So with that in mind, why can’t we get all of that in one product?
Well cleansers are a little obvious whether they are designed for slightly oilier skin with Hydroxy Acids (Hydroxy Cleanser) or non-foaming, gentle cleansers for more sensitive skin (Calming Cleanse) – they are wash-off products. So they have to be a separate product (That’s ONE).
Sun Protection (Zinc Shade) – it goes without saying that it should be used in the morning, and it can include Repair ingredients (that’s product number TWO) … with the exception of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). Ascorbic Acid is unstable and essentially needs to be in a product all on its own (with very few other ingredients) (Reverse C Serum and C Serum Light) in order not to oxidise too quickly. And given that Vitamin C works synergistically with Sunscreen, it makes sense to use it in the morning too (That’s THREE).
The ingredients with the best evidence for exfoliation are the Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Glycolic and Lactic Acids. And in the case of Glycolic acid, it also increases the effectiveness of Vitamin A. But they potentially increase sun sensitivity and cause irritation in sensitive or Rosacea prone skin. So it makes sense to have them in a stand-alone product (Smooth Serum) for use at night by people with skin that can tolerate them (that’s one more).
And finally skin renewal. Based on the evidence, Vitamin A (Ultimate A and Ultimate A+) is the ingredient with the best evidence for skin renewal which makes it the “go-to” ingredient for premature ageing, acne and rosacea. And at least two of the “repair ingredients” can be used together with Vitamin A. But there is a concern with Vitamin A that when exposed to UV light, it produces free radicals (that’s not good). So the evidence says use them at night.
So depending on whether your skin can tolerate some of the above ingredients that’s either FOUR or FIVE products in an evidence based regime.
And as for whether it makes sense to keep on using them – you know we are going to say “yes”, but only because that’s what the evidence says…. With benefits from use (of for example Vitamin A) being witnessed not only in the first six months, but with some improvements only becoming evident after 6 months of use and improving thereafter (the longest study showed improvements continuing with use over 4 years).
So the evidence is clear, you will get better results with consistent use of a skin routine. But your skin care needs are unique and one size does not fit all. Depending on your age, the level of oiliness (or dryness) of your skin, its sensitivity and any specific skin concerns you have (like pigmentation, spots or rosacea), your skin care routine should be built around your needs. Which is why we developed a Skin Quiz recommendation tool. If you haven’t taken it yet, it’s obligation free and full of useful info, as well as the skin care routine we would recommend for your skin.