Would you like to know how you make your skin look younger and fresher, while avoiding wasting money on products you don't need?
Alison Young, a beauty therapist who's counted royals and celebs among her clients, has racked up 30 years' experience in the beauty business.
She runs her own website, with regular Q&As and no-nonsense tutorials to help women navigate the confusing world of beauty.
Here's what she thinks women really need to know about buying and using skin care, to get maximum results with minimal spend.
1. Make smart priorities
If you’re on a budget, scale back to the essentials.
‘Cleanser, moisturiser and SPF are key,’ says Alison. ‘Always wear a daily sunscreen, it’s the single best anti-ageing thing you can do. Prioritise that over something like an expensive neck cream.’
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2. It’s OK to ignore the instructions
Product instructions are written for the average user, but that might not give you the best results.
‘For instance, you’re often told to tap eye cream around the orbital bone,’ says Alison. ‘That’s fine if you’re young and mainly have puffiness, but if you’re older it’s like putting a spot cream an inch from your spot! You need to put it where the signs of ageing are, which means up to the lashes and on lids. Then assess how your skin looks and feels. If it looks better, use that technique every time.’
3. Don’t give up too quickly
We’re an impatient lot and easily swayed by products that promise instant anti-ageing effects.
‘You can get a quick difference but it’s superficial,’ says Alison. ‘The most powerful anti-ageing ingredients are the ones that go down to the deeper layers of the skin. They can make a big difference to things like sun damage, but it takes at least a month to start seeing results from those – so persevere.’
4. Use your make-up to figure out your skin type
Many women think their skin is dry (lacking in oil) when it’s actually dehydrated (lacking in water). To help tell the difference, look at how your foundation performs.
‘If your skin is dehydrated, make-up tends to crease and sit in your lines. If it’s dry, make-up tends to fade really quickly,’ says Alison. If it turns out your skin is dry, pick richer, thicker, oil-based creams, and if it’s dehydrated go for ones with a more fluid, gel-like texture with words like “quenching” in the name.’
5. You should only pay for what's proven
Want to see a real difference to wrinkles?
‘Patented, proven anti-ageing ingredients like liposomes, peptides and retinols are worth spending the money on,’ says Alison. ‘But if you just want cushioned, healthy-looking skin, you can get that from a good basic moisturiser.’
6. Get better results by double-dosing
Feel like your undereye area is ageing fast? Don’t invest in an expensive new eye cream quite yet. ‘You might just need to double-dose the products you already have,’ says Alison. ‘Try taking your face serum or moisturiser up to your eye area, then applying your current eye cream over the top. You should see a benefit within three nights. If you don’t, consider buying a richer eye cream next time.’
7. Avoid face products that claim to be for ‘all skin types’
One of Alison’s most hated phrases.
‘It’s OK for cheaper body products but now there are lots of trendy, expensive facial products that claim to be for all skin types,’ she says.
‘I feel in a lot of cases those brands are selling a lifestyle, not results. If you want to see real effects, you need to look beyond the cool label, assess what your skin actually needs and buy products tailored to that.’
8. Check if your skin’s needs are changing
Always assess your skin before you buy something new.
‘If you’ve been treating your skin with effective “dry, sensitive” products, it may well have stopped behaving like it’s dry and sensitive,’ says Alison.
‘You may get better results by buying a lighter, less oil-rich formula next time – especially as we’re coming into spring and skin is less likely to get dried out.’
9. Up exfoliation as you get older
A lot of exfoliators only advise weekly use.
‘That’s good advice for younger skin, because exfoliation can stimulate oil production and cause spots,’ says Alison.
‘For older, drier skin though, more oil is often exactly what’s needed. I often suggest women exfoliate three nights in a row and see if it benefits their skin. If it does, they can carry on exfoliating more regularly.’
10. Be sceptical of ‘sensitive skin’ formulas
Any product can say it’s ‘for sensitive skin’ – there’s no legal definition and no guarantee it won’t cause a reaction.
‘I think a lot of brands say “suitable for sensitive skin” because they want as many people as possible to buy them,’ says Alison.
‘If you have reaction-prone skin, the last thing you should do is swap between “sensitive skin” ranges. Each time you do, you’re putting 20-30 new ingredients on your face. If you’re having flare-ups, cut back to one cleanser and one moisturiser that feels soothing. Or use a 100% natural oil like rosehip, almond or jojoba as both cleanser and moisturiser to give your skin a break and help it calm down.’