I had to learn how to cleanse my skin properly because early on in my career it would be literally caked in TV make-up by the end of the day – and if I didn’t cleanse, my skin would break out. Happily, my spot days are behind me, but what I’ve learned is that really, the most important thing you can do for your skin is to cleanse, cleanse, cleanse. Because you know what? With skincare, if you aren’t going to put in the work, you’re not going to get the results.
When I was younger it was all about drying out my skin – so I even used soap, as well as an anti-bacterial cleanser that Countess Csasky introduced me to called Phiso-derm, which came in a distinctive green squeezy bottle. (She also used to dilute hydrogen peroxide with water and decant it into a little bottle that I travelled with, to pat onto my spots to dry them out.) But for anyone who’s no longer a teenager, a cleanser absolutely must not over-strip the skin.
The right cleanser does the job in less than a minute, so nobody has an excuse not to cleanse – and there’s absolutely no excuse to fall into bed with your make-up on. Personally, I’ve found that having tiny, micro particles of magnesium crystals in my cleanser makes a huge difference to its effectiveness, buffing away dead skin cells so my skin looks brighter, so they’re a key ingredient in my own cleanser, Take Off Time Cleansing Cream. Find something that does the job. It’s great if you love the texture and fragrance of your cleanser (or the fact it has no fragrance at all), but frankly, I don’t care if you use soap and water. (If you even want to use facial wipes, that’s fine, too – although I’ve never liked them because they leave a residue on the skin). But with cleansers, it’s really a case of Just Do It! Slap your product on. Massage it in a bit. Take it off. It’s that easy. And it can be that fast.
You need a great cleansing product – something with a texture and a fragrance that appeals to you (or no fragrance at all, if that’s what you prefer), and you need to really massage it into skin with clean hands. (That means washing them with soap, first, so that you’re not transferring germs to your face as you cleanse. I’m aware that I touch my face with my hands too often during the day - I can’t help being expressive! – but it’s a bad habit I’m trying to break.) One thing I do know: there’s absolutely no excuse to fall into bed with your make-up on, because the right cleanser does the job in less than a minute. Some people I know use facial wipes because they’re quick and easy, but I’ve never liked them because they leave a residue on the skin.
I know women who don’t believe in moving the skin on their faces around at all because they’re worried that handling it too much will actually give them lines and wrinkles. But my experience is the opposite: massaging skin is just about the biggest favour that you can do to it. Massage gets the circulation going, and the improved blood flow does two things: it gives you instant radiance (and at a certain age, it’s all about radiance), and delivers vital nutrients to the skin.
If you can give it the time, one of the best windows most of us get for massaging our skin is when cleansing, working that product into the complexion so that it binds with any make-up, cellular build-up (those flaky bits, especially around the nose and the cleft of the chin), and the grime from daily modern living. My tip is always to massage the product upwards, because that really works the cleanser into the pores. (And don’t forget the neck and even the chest, which are so easy to overlook. Get right down there beyond the vest-line!)
Then you have to swoosh it all away. I’ve used hot towels, and big flannels, and then returned to good old cotton wool because I found that when I was travelling, the flannels wouldn’t dry out properly, bacteria would build up and they’d get manky, frankly. When I was creating my own Lulu’s Time Bomb skincare line, I wanted something even more efficient, so we came up with gentle skin-polishing pads to use in tandem with my cleanser: the buffing action makes the cleanser even more effective, and helps with exfoliation – which I’m obsessed about, as you’re about to discover…
I do love the feeling of water on my face: I start the day, every day, by splashing water on my face to wake up my skin – and wake me up, too. But in the evening, water can be part of a kind of ritual cleansing at the end of the day that can clear the mind before you go to bed, preparing you for sleep. I’ve found it can be really helpful to literally imagine the stresses of the day, and any negativity, disappearing down the plughole with the water you’ve washed your face with. Bye, bye. Night, night…!