My Current Skincare Routine: Damage Control

My summer skincare routine is here and it’s slightly juicier than usual because a couple of months ago I had to do an almost unprecedented SOS u-turn on my whole beauty routine. I know you’re ready to hear about it. We all love a bit of a disaster.

Actually it wasn’t quite a disaster, but nearly. And anyway it was all the weather’s fault – who knew we’d have a month-long heatwave IN SPRING? There I was, merrily spending all of my time in the garden (from dawn til dusk, almost), not really tweaking my skincare routine to suit my environment because IT WAS STILL SPRING. It simply didn’t occur to me that I should have been shelving all of my usual spring products (that I was using because…it was spring) and adapt a routine more suited to a four week trek through the Sahara. I just don’t really associate my garden with high-high temperatures and dangerous levels of sun exposure (classic Brit mistake, I think) and so although I was always slathered in SPF, something untoward happened: I started getting bits of pigmentation on my upper lip and along my cheekbones.


I realise that was something of an anti-climax for those of you waiting for stories of skin blisters, ice packs and a trip to A&E, but no – just some pesky pigmentation beginning to creep over my face. Which isn’t something that’s ever really happened before. And I was slightly bemused until it occurred to me that I’d been carrying on with my usual retinol-hydrate-retinol-hydrate drill, using a strongish retinoid one night and then giving my skin a real moisture boost the next, without really thinking about what was happening in the daytime.

It’s not like me to overlook this sort of thing, especially when it comes to my face (once a model, always a model: your face is what pays the mortgage) but I have to say that I was a little distracted during lockdown, what with the world ending and supermarket shelves being emptied and the fear of death and also having two small children tearing about the place 24/7 with no relief in sight.

Anyway, as soon as the little freckly patches appeared I did a total 360 on my skincare routine and for the first time used my “big guns” antioxidants twice daily in an attempt to stop the discolouration in its tracks. I pulled back on the retinol, mainly because I can’t cope with thinking about more than one thing at once, and AHAs were temporarily abandoned.

It’s important to note that I didn’t reduce the retinoid usage because of the dark spots – I’m not suggesting that one caused the other – it’s just that it has always been a natural reaction for me to simplify things if I run into any kind of beauty bother. And although I’ve read dozens of articles quoting dermatologists who say that it’s absolutely fine to use retinol during periods of increased sun exposure (aka “summer”), there are others who warn to tread carefully. Who tell you to wear a LOT of sunscreen. (This post by the experts at Medik8 is good.) And if the caveat to using an ingredient is that you need to be really, really careful and slather on your SPF repeatedly and preferably move to a dark cave then it’s my instinct to retreat from it temporarily. I think that I probably play things fairly safe and boring in these days of needle-covered rollers and peels that require fans so that you don’t self-combust and competitive acid percentages and imaginative actives layering. I just really, really don’t enjoy my face falling off.

But back on topic: my antioxidants of choice were from Skinceuticals, a brand well-known for its antioxidant power players. Although their CE Ferulic is perhaps their hero product in this category, I actually chose the Resveratrol BE for nighttime use and the new(ish) Discoloration Defense for the morning. I’ve used the Resveratrol BE before with great results, so it was a natural choice and I’d been meaning to try the Discoloration Defense since its launch, but had never really had any discolouration to test it out on!

(Before I continue, I must say that these serious serums come with a serious price-tag – the Resveratrol BE is £135 here* and the Discoloration Defense is £85 here* – but Skinceuticals always really impress me with their meticulous clinical trials and their ability to formulate ultra-potent stuff without making my skin irritated. And although I have dozens of antioxidants waiting to be tested, I would purchase the Discoloration Defense serum when this one inevitably runs out. Always a good sign. And please note that I have suggested an alternative antioxidant in the product list below.)

Buy Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense*

So the BE at night at the DD in the morning, although I could have used the DD serum both day and night, which would make the routine a hell of a lot cheaper than adding the Resveratrol in! Did I bring back my skin from the brink? Yes, most certainly. And it looked brighter, more radiant, too. I’ll tell you what I did notice, though, after abandoning my retinol-moisture-retinol habit: my skin didn’t feel quite so bouncy and plumptious and elastic. Glowing, yes. More even-toned, definitely. But there’s a real boing quality to skin that’s loving its retinol products and I must admit I miss it.

Of course the organised person would do antioxidants in the morning, retinol at night and wear a great big hat in the garden. Easier said than done – my hat invariably gets used as a fairy village (filled with soil and weeds and shells), picnic basket (filled with food) and dog’s emergency water bowl in any one day. But once I get into the Antioxidant-Retinol-Hydrate groove this autumn I genuinely think I’ll have hit the skincare sweet spot…

For now, here’s my full skincare routine on video. I’ve also listed the products I’ve been using below, for those who hate video – it’s pretty self-explanatory, but do let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Curel Foaming Facial Wash*:

Inkey List Oat Cleanser*:

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser*:

Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum*:

Paula’s Choice Triple Algae Pollution Shield*:

Skinceuticals Resveratrol BE Serum*:

Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line-Reducing Eye Cream*: 

Toleriane Fluid*:

Dr Roebucks No Worries Face Cream*:

Retinols (occasional) – 

Kate Somerville +Retinol Vita C Serum*:

Murad Retinol Serum*:

Rich Night Creams – 

Lumene Nordic Hydracare Rich Day Cream, £26.90 here*:

 REN Overnight Balm*:

Kate Somerville Delik8*:

Three Favourite Sunscreens Video:

Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35*:

Beauty Pie Fruitizyme Five Minute Fix Mask*:

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  1. September 15, 2020 / 11:12 am

    I actually don’t use retinol much on my skin, currently searching for best botanical plants that contain compounds that inhibit pigmentation. Great post, inspirational. Thank you.

  2. August 23, 2020 / 2:03 am

    Between travel and my diet lately I’m sure I’m headed for some sort of disaster myself. I’m actually surprised that my skin isn’t freaking out too bad, but maybe its the calm before the storm. I’m sure I can turn to some of your recommendations in my time of need.

    xoxo Amanda |

  3. AnnT
    August 21, 2020 / 3:06 pm

    Just curious if you feel the same way as me. I tried the medik8 R-retinoate intense and though it smoothens the skin, skin looks more plump and pores smaller…yet somehow, skin looks ‘darker’, kinda dull looking. The previous brightening effect brought about by other products seems to be ‘erased’. Or maybe it’s only me experiencing this? Other retinol products do not seem to have this ‘dulling’ effect on me. :p

    • August 25, 2020 / 11:49 am

      Hmm, no, can’t say I’ve found that! I’ll try and find out whether there could be any reason, but it’s not something I’ve heard of! x

  4. Lauren
    August 19, 2020 / 3:52 pm

    Ruth, just a note to say I really love how you break things down and make what is a science heavy topic so easy to understand. I also love how you provide options for a variety of price points. I literally only buy what you have recommended. Your writing is always so thoughtful. Thank you!

    • August 19, 2020 / 8:46 pm

      Thank you Lauren, that’s so great to hear! Genuinely. Thanks. x

  5. August 19, 2020 / 10:39 am

    I use my Tretionoin for adult acne, so stopping is really not on the cards in summer – no one wants a flare-up when light base weather is around.
    But I AM really careful with hat, sunscreen and antioxidants, you really need to be.

    Anne from Doctor Anne

    • August 19, 2020 / 10:39 am

      *Tretinoin… typed too quickly.

    • September 10, 2020 / 4:02 pm

      Ok Ruth, you were right the Great 8 sunscreen is lovely! I have had such a hard time finding sunscreen I could wear (didn’t keep me from sweating, feel suffocating, or melt and run in my eyes) and this is like wearing nothing at all. Wish I’d found it years ago.

  6. August 18, 2020 / 6:38 pm

    its funny, since i now wear a mask in public, I’ve stopped worrying about sunscreen. it kind of helps! i wear one gardening now.

    • August 19, 2020 / 11:48 am

      A mask? But surely it only does half of your face?! x

      • August 19, 2020 / 2:10 pm

        lol true, but now that i am used to the sensation of wearing one, and have tons around, i just grab one. i sometimes wrap a bandana around instead. i don’t get any of the irritation from sunscreen, and it keeps the bugs away as well. i still try to throw a hat on, and big sunglasses help…

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