Get your skincare routine off to a great start with our favourite cleansing, toning and moisturising products
A good skincare routine will help your skin look and feel its best. The best skincare products will help tight, dry skin feel more comfortable, rebalance oily skin, reduce fine lines and boost natural radiance. Whether you’re prepping your face for colour cosmetics or going with a more minimal makeup look, healthy and glowing skin is the foundation of beauty, and a daily skincare routine can also be a small ritual of self-care that marks the beginning and end of the day.
In recent years we’ve seen the Instagram-powered growth of multi-step, multi-product skincare regimes that can look intimidating to skincare newcomers. If you want to follow a 10-step process then by all means go ahead, but the most important skincare principles to follow simply come down to cleansing, toning and moisturising. We’ve broken these fundamental steps down in more detail below.
We’ve also picked our favourite products to build a simple but effective skincare routine, including options for different skin types and budgets.
READ NEXT: The best face serums for any skin type
How to choose the best skincare products for you
What products do I need in my skincare routine?
The first and most important part of your skincare routine is cleansing, which breaks down into two further stages: gently removing makeup, then cleansing the skin once makeup has been removed from the surface. Your evening skincare routine should start with a makeup remover designed to break down the oils, waxes and pigments present in foundation and colour cosmetics. Options include:
- Cleansing balms – thick, emollient creams that gently melt off makeup and are great for drier skins.
- Micellar water – purified water containing glycerine and other surfactants to dissolve makeup effectively.
- Oil-based makeup removers – these are especially good at breaking down long-wear makeup products.
- Makeup remover wipes – these tend to be less effective for daily cleansing but are good for makeup fixes on-the-go.
Look for biodegradable brands to keep your wipes as green as they are clean.
Once you’ve removed makeup, it’s time to cleanse the skin itself (you may see this two-step process referred to as “double cleansing”). Rather than dissolving and wiping away makeup, skin cleansers are designed to remove dirt, grime and excess sebum from the skin itself. Depending on your skin type, you may prefer one option over another; different cleansing methods include:
- Cleansing soaps or foaming facial washes used with water – these can be great for oily skins.
- Cream cleansers designed to be used with warm water and a cloth or muslin, which can be more comfortable for dryer skins.
- Classic water or oil-based lotions applied and removed with a cotton wool ball.
- Cleansing oils are fantastic for drier or more mature skins, and can also help rebalance oily and combination skin.
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Follow your cleanser with a refreshing toner suitable for your skin type. A toner sweeps away the last traces of dirt and gently exfoliates the very top layer to help reveal fresh, glowing skin. Modern toners also add hydrating, calming and radiance-boosting ingredients to the skin, preparing the face and neck for your choice of moisturiser.
READ NEXT: Best toner
Now it’s time to moisturise. This stage optionally begins with a serum designed to deeply penetrate the skin with a potent dose of nourishing ingredients. Finish off with a layer of moisturiser suitable for your skin type to hydrate and lock moisture into skin. Even oily skins benefit from a light moisturiser. In fact, when deprived of moisture, oily skins will tend to produce excess sebum to counteract dryness, so a good moisturiser will help keep that overproduction in check. Dry skins will enjoy a thicker, richer cream, especially at bedtime. A dedicated eye cream is the best choice for the delicate skin around your eyes.
How do I check my skin type?
We’ve talked above about products that suit certain skin types, but how do you check what kind of skin you have? One easy way is to press a tissue over your face and take a look: if the tissue shows oily marks all over, you have oily skin; if there is little to no oil then your skin is dry; and if your nose and forehead have left an oily T-zone then you have combination skin.
Another way is to gently press a strip of sellotape across the nose and cheeks and carefully peel off. Tiny white flakes of skin on the tape mean you have a dry skin type, while oily skin will leave a slight sheen and no flakes. Flakes on the sides of the tape and a sheen in the middle indicate combination skin.
Dry skin can feel tight after washing with water and may become irritated by harsh cleansing products. Oily skin (whether on the T-zone or all over the face) typically begins to look shiny about half an hour after washing and may be more prone to blackheads and breakouts. Sensitive skin may become red and irritated when it meets products it doesn’t play well with, such as astringents like alcohol, or artificial colours and fragrance.
The goal with any skincare regime is to balance your skin, whatever its underlying type, ensuring it feels hydrated and comfortable throughout the day without drying out or becoming too greasy.
Here’s our pick of favourite products for looking after your skin.
The best skincare products to buy
1. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing balm: Best luxury cleansing balm
Price: £44 | Buy now from Amazon
A luxurious, rich cleansing balm that brings together moisturising almond and shea oils and the healing power of collagen, with soothing starflower, elderberry rose and mimosa. The balm gently dissolves makeup, leaving skin soft, clean and smelling wonderful. To use, massage over the face and neck with a little water, and remove with a muslin or cleansing cloth. The balm is so rich it can also be used on its own as a hydrating face mask by spreading on a thicker layer, then relaxing before wiping off. A gently powerful cleanser and skin treatment all in one.
Key specs – Pack size: 100g
2. Body Shop camomile cleansing butter: Best budget cleansing balm
Price: £11 | Buy now from The Body Shop
With moisturising olive oil, shea butter and calming camomile, this buttery cleansing balm has a light, pleasant, natural fragrance and is particularly suitable for dry and sensitive skins. The cleansing butter simply melts away even full-coverage makeup and leaves skin soft and clean, so it’s perfect for a nighttime skincare routine. This is part of Body Shop’s range of gentle cleansing and moisturising products with soothing camomile extract.
Key specs – Pack size: 90ml
3. Eve Lom Cleanser: Best luxury hot cloth cleanser
Price: £55 | Buy now from Amazon
Facialist Eve Lom’s deep-cleansing balm single-handedly kicked off the hot cloth cleansing trend when it launched a decade ago, and this cleaner has been described by no less an authority than Vogue as “probably the best in the world”. Combining cocoa butter with chamomile, clove, eucalyptus and hop oils, this rich cleanser brings together a luxurious product with a skin-pampering ritual: warm it in your hand before massaging into the skin for one minute, then dampen a muslin cloth in warm water and hold the cloth against the skin before sweeping the cleanser away. The cleanser is so rich and buttery some skins may not feel the need for a moisturiser afterwards, and dry skins in particular will love it.
Key specs – Pack size: 100ml
4. Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening Hot Cloth Cleanser: Best budget hot cloth cleanser
Price: £3.50 | Buy now from Superdrug
If you’re in the market for a hot cloth cleanser but looking for something a little more budget-friendly than Eve Lom’s luxury cleanser above, Superdrug offers this very serviceable cleanser as part of its Naturally Radiant range of skincare products. Like the Eve Lom, this cleanser has a base of nourishing cocoa butter, combined with skin-freshening kiwi fruit and mulberry extracts to gently exfoliate and boost radiance. Vegan and cruelty-free, this is a great alternative hot-cleansing ritual on a budget.
Key specs – Pack size: 150 ml
5. Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner: Best toner for dry skin
Price: £18 | Buy now from Space NK
This alcohol-free toner with avocado oil, squalene and vitamin E is suitable for all skin types, and particularly for dry skins that will love the hydrating ingredients. The milky toner won’t dry the skin or strip out natural oils as more astringent toners can do, instead helping gently sweep away the last traces of dirt and makeup from the face to allow the skin to better absorb your choice of moisturiser. Simply apply to the face with a cotton pad after cleansing and before moisturising, to freshen and hydrate.
Key specs – Pack size: 250ml
6. Glossier Solution exfoliating skin perfector: Best toner for oily skin
Price: £19 | Buy now from Glossier
If your skin is oily, you may find it “clings” more to flakes of dead skin that in turn block up pores and lead to blackheads and breakouts. What you need is a product that will gently but effectively remove flakes and unblock pores, without unbalancing your skin’s natural oils and leading to excessive oil production. Glossier’s exfoliating skin toner contains three different gentle acids known for their skin-clearing properties: Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), and Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA). Great for oily and combination skin, Glossier’s Solution is clinically proven to smooth and brighten skin in just four weeks.
Key specs – Pack size: 130ml
7. La Roche-Posay Nutritic Intense Rich: Best moisturiser for dry skin
Price: £18 | Buy now from Look Fantastic
This is a gentle, nourishing and extra-rich cream suitable for dry and very dry skins. Hypoallergenic and paraben-free, Nutritic Intense Rich cream is made with glycerin and hydrating thermal spring water, and very few extra ingredients, making it ideal for sensitive skins. The thick cream is especially good at night; if used as a day cream, it’s best to give this time to sink in before applying makeup. A great no-nonsense option for dry skin.
Key specs – Pack size: 50ml
8. Best moisturiser for oily skin: Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Clearing Jelly
Price: £20 | Buy now from Clinique
Oily skin needs hydration that doesn’t add extra oils into the mix. Clinique’s water-based hydrating jelly offers just that: a lightweight, non-greasy gel that sinks beautifully into the skin, moisturising without adding shine or slip. The clearing formula also contains salicylic acid to help unblock pores and keep skin clear, while hyaluronic acid keeps moisture where it needs to be. This is a hero product for oily skins, and suitable for use on sensitive and combination skins, too.
Key specs – Pack size: 100ml