How I Adjust My Cleansing Routine Depending On My Combination Skin's Mood

My skin oscillates between oily and scaly, so I have a rotation of oils, cleansers and toners to keep more my as clear as possible.
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Olivia S.
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My skin oscillates between oily and scaly, so I have a rotation of oils, cleansers and toners to keep more my as clear as possible.

Cleaning one’s face is not the most glamorous topic to write an article on: fact. There’s no sassy photos to accompany, no fabulous colors for me to get all over my fingertips. But let’s be real: If you don’t clean your face properly, there is no amount of maquillage that is going to leave you looking good.

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Cleansing and toning are the absolute basics in maintaining healthy, radiant skin and reducing the nervous breakdowns that manifest whenever I get breakouts. Seriously, I don’t deal well with that stuff, and prevention is better than cure.

I don’t know what it is that gives me such a fixation on my pores, what drives my compulsion towards magnifying mirrors and strip lighting, disgustingly damaging home extractions and trying to peel off dry skin. It is probably something to address therapeutically or whatever, but my therapist is on holiday and y’all might not have one (weeeeird); so in the meanwhile, I am going to manage that malarkey with effective at-home cleansing to avoid even the faintest indication of a blackhead.

My skin oscillates between oily and scaly depending on about a million factors, from my hormonal cycle to my stress level, so I have a fair few long-term favorites.

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CLEANSING OIL

I work in beauty, so I obviously wear a decent amount of makeup a decent amount of the time, which requires a decent makeup remover. The only, only thing I have found to sluice off a Lip Tar luminous cream shadow is facial oil. Scrubbing at your face isn’t good for it, so it’s important to find a makeup remover that allows you to gently wipe off whatever you’ve wiped on.

For me, this is MAC Cleanse Off Oil, which is a combination of fruit oils, flower oils and wheat germ oils. I squirt a little bit into my hands (you only need one or two pumps) and then gently massage over my face with my palms, using my fingertips on the delicate eye area. It is, obviously, oily, but it is a light, thin oil that is easy to remove.

Now, this oil doesn’t cleanse your pores, but it does give you a clean base upon which to apply a cleanser, which, for me, is often a pretty hard task. By the way, I know that olive oil and coconut oils are often touted as the dream alternative for this sort of product, but they give me crazy breakouts. Crazy. Olive and castor oil blend, you are not my friend. For those of you for whom they work, I am deeply jealous.

CREAM CLEANSER

When I have not been wearing much makeup, I am a fan of a cream cleanser. At the moment, I am into Algenist, which is an anti-aging line using alguronic acid.

Now, claims around alguronic acid are a little hard to prove scientifically as it hasn’t been around for that long (and it is a mysterious microalgae compound), so clinical studies are likely to be brand-funded and a little biased. However, what I have deduced from an independent laboratory review and a few scientists who have looked into it all is that, whilst alguronic acid itself is not naturally present in our skin (nor is it used by the skin), it inhibits the production of enzymes that degrade hyaluronic acid (which plays a fabulous role in the skin’s ability to retain moisture and regenerate) and elastin (which makes skin, y’know, elastic).

Anyway, algae, regeneration, blah blah--this is an incredibly gentle cleanser that lightly lathers and doesn’t leave skin feeling tight. It seems to be doing wonders for my remnants of acne scarring; it is really important for my skin to regenerate in any way it can (which is why I’m down with anti-aging stuff) and I’m looking pretty clear and fabulous right now.

FOAMING CLEANSERS

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After I remove makeup, I like to use a foaming cleanser with my Clarisonic (the best £100 I ever spent was on a Clarisonic Mia, forreal) to make sure that I get any bits of grime out of the way. I love a foaming cleanser because they tend to combat oiliness better, and once a dermatologist told me to use one. I forget why, but it has made me kind of biased anyway.

I alternate between three (is that crazy?) for slightly different reasons.

As a basic, I use Kiehl’s Acai Damage-Minimizing Cleanser. This Kiehl’s range is amazing and has hugely helped repair my skin since my traumatic period of acne, so if I don’t have any noticeable breakouts or dryness, I use this to work on residual scarring.

However, if I am breaking out, I want something slightly more intensive: Dr Sebagh's Breakout Foaming Cleanser, which makes a startlingly noticeable improvement on my skin when it’s oily. It uses oleanolic acid, which works both as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and helps regulate sebum production.

When my skin is flaky (seriously, I take combination skin to the next level), I want to use something really gentle without the addition of the Clarisonic, so I use Fresh’s Rose Cleansing Foam, which is the most delicious-smelling, cooling and hydrating thing I’ve found in a long time. It is incredibly gentle and calming, and helps balance my face when it gets a little scaly. Gross.

TONERS

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Finally, I tone. I used to just use icy cold water to help close my pores before I realized that this narrative around pores opening and closing is kind of insane, because they don’t have muscles and they aren’t windows. Whilst steam and hot water can help loosen dirt trapped in your skin or clogged sebum (which stretch the pore and make it look more noticeable), cold water merely restricts blood flow and collapses skin around the follicle to make the pore appear smaller.

For longer-term results, I have turned to toners.

Sisley's Botanical Floral Toning Lotion is a lovely one. I splash a little onto a cotton wool pad and swoosh all over my face and eyes. It is alcohol-free, so it doesn’t dehydrate, plus it smells deliciously rosy and calms and refreshes skin. I use this when my skin is dry, so it is perfect for summer. It means that any traces of makeup left after my intensive removal are completely vanished, leaving my skin perfectly prepared for a moisturizer.

When I am a little oilier, I use Dr Hauschka Clarifying Toner, which has witch hazel, echinacea and daisy to help balance my skin. I really deeply love Dr Hauschka products; when my baby sister had terrible eczema, the only products that didn’t cause complete havoc with her ridiculously delicate skin were Dr Hauschka's, so it proved itself as a legitimate natural range that works.

Also, it comes in a little spray bottle so you just spray it at your face, which is super-handy when you can’t be bothered to use cotton wool, which I often can’t. How lazy is that? But it’s so handy!

Sooooo that’s how I do it. How do you cleanse your face? Also: Does anyone else have like fifty different skin types depending on what day of the week it is and what planet is in alignment with my rising sign or whatever it depends on?