It’s probably best to start explaining what we mean by clean skin. Clean skin doesn’t mean saying adios to breakouts forever. Instead, it’s about being in control of those breakouts and improving overall skin complexion.
Still sound daunting? Well, there’s no need to worry! We’ve spoken to five experts in their fields to get to the bottom of what exactly it takes to get clean skin. Their insider knowledge has helped us formulate an ultimate dos and don’ts guide.
Below you’ll find top tips, some myth-busting facts, as well as a range of recommended products to set you on the path to clean skin. But first, let’s meet the experts.
Sarah Chapman, founder and CEO of Skinesis
Sarah Chapman (the innovator behind the award-winning cosmeceutical skincare brand Skinesis) is one of the most revered facialists in London and is in constant demand for her treatments — expect a 12-week wait for one of her facial appointments! Due to Chapman’s wealth of knowledge and experience, her brand dominates the beauty industry. The positive results she helps customers achieve has earned her an impressive client base, from A-list celebrities to beauty editors to facial lovers.
Thanks to the quality of both her products and treatments, Chapman has won many awards and accolades. Skinesis was awarded Best New Prestige Skincare Brand at The Cosmetic Executive Women Awards in 2009. The brand also makes an appearance in the esteemed Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible, which is a bestselling book that helps readers feel fabulous using skincare and beauty tips.
Chapman was also named the Best Anti-Ageing Facialist by Harper’s Bazaar in 2015, CEW Achiever in 2016 and Cosmetic Design’s ‘Beauty Industry Woman of the Year: Europe’ in 2017. With rave reviews from the likes of Vogue, Tatler and InStyle, we’ll be incorporating Chapman expert’s advice into our skincare routines ASAP!
Glenise Gomez, regional trainer and aesthetician at Heydey Skincare
Glenise Gomez is a regional trainer and aesthetician at Heyday Skincare, an online brand that is on a mission to simplify skincare while delivering its customers a personalised experience.
As a qualified laser technician, master skincare therapist and an NYS certified aesthetic educator, Gomez knows what she’s talking about. In 2013, she founded brand Skin Ethiks, a multifaceted business that seeks to educate the public and beauty professionals on the importance of ethical skincare for the melanin dominated. The brand exclusively uses organic ingredients and has cultivated such a good reputation that Gomez is often involved in partnerships with celebrity clientele.
During her career, Gomez has worked with companies like Dermalogica, Tru Body and was the Director at Laser Cosmetica. She is also a member of Associated Skincare Professionals, the Medical and Esthetics Association, Esthetician Skin Professionals and the Day Spa Association.
With those impressive credentials, we’re taking Gomez’s advice as gospel!
Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD nutritionist and wellness expert
As a MS, RD, nutritionist and wellness expert, Samantha Cassetty’s credentials and experience are very impressive. She was the previous nutrition director for Good Housekeeping and nutrition correspondent for Drop 5lbs with Good Housekeeping on the USA’s Cooking Channel. In the past, Cassetty has also contributed to the New York Times bestseller ‘7 Years Younger’ and the follow up ‘7 Years Younger: The Anti-Ageing Breakthrough Diet’. She co-authored the book ‘Sugar Shock’, too.
Through her work with health-focused brands and in conducting regular corporate workshops, Cassetty emphasises the importance of the actions we take to achieve clear skin alongside the products we buy and use. For this, she’ll be able to give us a fresh perspective on achieving clear skin.
As if Cassetty’s CV wasn’t impressive enough already, she also writes an illuminating weekly column for TODAY.com and NBC.com. Additionally, she partners with Reserveage, a heritage beauty brand that specialises in selling products that contribute to reserving rather than reversing a woman’s age.
We’re looking forward to hearing Cassetty’s invaluable input on how we can work towards clean skin.
Fatma Gunduz, senior aesthetician at Skin & Sanctuary
Fatma Gunduz is a senior aesthetician at Skin & Sanctuary, an advanced aesthetic and skin wellbeing clinic. She studied hair and beauty at the London College of Fashion and began her career working in a salon based in Knightsbridge. At this salon, Gunduz gained first-hand experience with modern development in facials, injectables and skincare. Meanwhile, she witnessed the astonishing effects that the right skincare and treatments can have on clients.
Essentially, Gunduz’s experience means that there is very little she doesn’t know about beauty and aesthetics. Her experience has also led to two mainstays in her work: it is critical that skincare be personalised to each of clients’ individual needs and that every age group and skin type should be able to access the top advice and treatments they can afford.
For obvious reasons, Gunduz has earned the title of ‘Facial Queen’ at Skin & Sanctuary. Needless to say, we’re all-ears when it comes to the advice she’ll have to offer.
Nalan Aksahin, senior aesthetician at Rejuv Lab
Also a senior aesthetician, Nalan Aksahin works at the Rejuv Lab in London and has more than 15 years of experience in the beauty and medical aesthetics industry. Over the course of her career, Aksahin has worked in premium locations imparting her skincare wisdom to various clients and patients.
Aksahin brings a unique, journey-focused perspective to the table by emphasising the process and encouraging clients to incorporate holistic approaches to their routine to achieve and maintain healthy, glowing skin.
An esteemed employee of Rejuv Lab, Aksahin’s expertise and experience will be priceless as we begin our own journey into the world of reliable skincare.
So, without further ado, let’s launch into our ultimate list of expert-approved dos and don’ts!
Do: Cleanse regularly
According to Chapman, cleansing the skin thoroughly is key to avoiding built-up of oil, dirt and bacteria, ultimately preventing blemishes. Thus, investing in a product that cleanses well is of the utmost importance. She says, ‘An oil-based formula like my Ultimate Cleanse will be most effective at breaking down other oils, like sebum (a naturally occurring waxy oil) and makeup, while respecting the skin’s delicate acid mantle.’ Washing away these kinds of impurities, which sit in the skin’s follicles, helps to keep your pores nice and clean.
When shopping for a new cleanser, Gomez believes that knowing your skin type and choosing one that is appropriate for it is a necessity. ‘You can destroy your protective barrier giving bacteria free entrance to your follicles with compromised weak skin,’ warns Gomez of having the wrong cleanser. Being that cleansers are a major part of achieving clearer skin, she advises anyone who’s unsure of where to start when it comes to their own skin to seek out the advice of a professional.
Like Chapman, Gomez wholeheartedly agrees that cleansing contributes to preventing breakouts. In particular, cleansers that consist of gentle enzymes and astringent properties will successfully digest dead skin and mitigate bacteria. Cleansing at night is highly recommended so that you rid your skin of any makeup worn and built-up grime accumulated during the day before you go to sleep. Two of Gomez’s favourite cleansers are the Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil and the Eminence Stone Crop Gel Wash. Both are effective products that deliver great results without drying or irritating skin at all.
For those of you that regularly wear makeup, even just a light powder, Gunduz recommends double cleansing: ‘For the first cleanse use something that gently removes makeup and then a more active cleanser.’ Lytic Cleanser from Epionce is currently Gunduz’s favourite option for a more active cleanser.
Do: Exfoliate weekly
Gomez believes that exfoliating 2 to 3 times a week (depending on age and skin type) can be a beneficial step on the path to getting clean skin. As we age, our cell turnover rate slows down, so mature skin will benefit from exfoliating a bit more throughout the week. ‘Exfoliating,’ says Gomez, ‘encourages the shedding of the dead cells that give our skin lacklustre appearance, texture and clogged pores.’ She recommends using a gentle acid or scrub to refresh the skin’s radiance while simultaneously assisting product penetration, like the Image Iluma Intense Brightening Exfoliating Powder. Active products, like cleansers, toners, serums and moisturisers all have exfoliating properties already, which is why it is important to seek out more gentle exfoliants. Overdoing the exfoliating is not the aim here!
In terms of your skincare routine, Chapman recommends that her clients exfoliate after using their cleanser. Her gentle but effective acid exfoliator Liquid Facial Resurfacer is strong enough to ensure that the pores are clear without encouraging more breakouts to come to the skin’s surface.
Do: Cultivate a daily skincare routine — and stick to it!
Skincare routines are important but tricky things. We wish there was a magic list of products out there to suit all of our skincare needs or a universal set of steps for each and every one of us to follow, but unfortunately this is not the case. We all have different skin types and needs, and these needs can even change based on the weather, hormones and more. So, where on earth do we begin?!
According to Aksahin, ‘You’ll need a morning routine and an evening routine.’ While there may be some variance between the two regimes, they should both consist of three main elements: cleanse, treat and protect. To do this effectively, she recommends initially investing in four to five products before including more items into your skincare routine as needed. ‘I wouldn’t recommend more than seven or eight overall,’ she says.
Ideally, the first products you invest in will respectively cleanse, treat and protect. Once you’ve got these basics covered and are happy with how your skin copes with these products, you can, after a few weeks, slowly implement more steps into your routine.
Within your routines, moisturiser and SPF are probably two of the most important steps. For more sensitive skin, Gomez recommends using tinted moisturisers like the Image Prevention+SPF 50. Personally, Chapman uses moisturisers that target signs of aging, protect against UV rays and nighttime products to support and enhance the skin’s regeneration process. We really like Estée Lauder’s DayWear Advanced Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant Creme SPF15, it’s a super hydrating moisturiser that contains SPF.
Chapman notes that depending on her skin’s needs at a particular time, she’ll switch up what products she uses to best accommodate the subtle changes in her skin. This serves as a great reminder that your skin goes through changes, too. So, working with your skin’s cycles will yield better results more regularly.
For Cassetty, the most important component of any skincare routine is always SPF, ‘I’m religious about sun protection – including wearing sunscreen and a hat if I’m spending time outside.’ Her favourite sunscreen, which is also dermatologist-recommended, is the EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF. As it’s not tinted, this SPF is great for any skin tone and it doesn’t leave any ashy residue behind.
For a further dive into the best UK skincare products click here!
Do: Take a hard look at your diet
‘I’m a huge believer in food first, and I eat a plant-focused diet with minimal added sugars and refined carbohydrates’ Cassetty disclosed, allowing her background as a dietician to shine through. According to her, supplements and products will always come second to our diet, so skin care begins from within.
Eating better not only affects the skin’s day-to-day appearance, but it can also slow down its aging process. ‘Nutrients in orange-hued foods defend your skin from sun aging,’ Cassetty continued, ‘and lycopene (found in tomato sauce and paste) may boost your skin’s natural sun protection.’ Likewise, healthy fats like omega 3 are great if you are looking to incorporate more foods that positively impact your skin. Think fish, avocadoes, nuts and seeds. All these contribute to protecting your skin from sun damage and promote healthier skin aging.
So, now you know what foods to eat more of, it’s important to also be aware of what foods will speed up the aging process. Eating too many added sugars can lead to something called glycation. This is caused when excess glucose combines with collagen and elastin fibres resulting in a chemical reaction that creates ruinous molecules known as Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). Because of overlapping glucose, the skin’s collagen and elastin fibres become rigid. Weakened collagen unfortunately promotes wrinkles, sagging skin and a duller complexion. Being mindful of your diet can help improve your skin, both in the short and long term, although it’s important not to restrict your diet to the point that it’s causing you misery! Therefore, moderation can be a great place to start in striking a balance between skin care and treating yourself.
Your diet can also be a great way to incorporate the nutrients your skin craves. Instead of using products with collagen, Cassetty opts for collagen supplements. Reserveage’s Collagen Candy is one of her go-tos. It tastes like sweets and has no added sugar. The formula contains collagen peptides, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which combine to stimulate collagen production and improve skin elasticity. Meanwhile, Chapman recommends her Omega+ Booster Supplement if you’re after an added boost of ingredients, like sea buckthorn, collagen-promoting vitamins and anti-inflammatory omega oils.
While supplements can really help your clean skin journey, Cassetty warns us to ‘remember that they’re meant to enhance other healthy behaviours, like eating well and using sunscreen. They’re not a replacement for these practises.’ Likewise, past experience has taught Chapman just how huge of a role diet plays in the skin’s overall health. She has observed that dairy can be a ‘common trigger’ for severe breakouts and recommends noting any personal sensitivities to dairy products.
Do: Shop for your skin’s specific needs
As much as we all want to be in on the buzz of a trending product that all the celebrities have in their makeup bags, there’s no point investing in said product if it doesn’t match your skin’s needs. ‘Gunduz says that it’s important to resist ‘being tempted to use what the latest influencer is using [before considering your] own skin type, skin tone or skin need.’ From oily to dry to combination, we all have different skin types and our experts unanimously agree with Gunduz that when deciding on your next skincare treat, skin type should be your first consideration.
If you’re unsure about what exactly your skin type is you can take this Ask the Scientists Skin Type Quiz or book an appointment with a dermatologist if you’re after professional advice.
With all new formulas, Aksahin explains that ‘the skin might take some time to adjust, but if you find the right products you’ll see results within a few weeks.’ So, how do you find the right products for your skin type? Look past the promises made of the packaging and consider the product’s ingredients. The product best for your skin might not be the flashiest or newest, but when you find the right one, your skin will be happier for it and you’ll be onto your next vital do!
Do: Check product ingredients carefully
The good news is that there are a whole host of great ingredients that have the ability to do wonders for your skin. While each skin type will naturally work better with a particular set of ingredients, Gomez does have a few ingredients that she recommends for any skin type. ‘High antioxidant and omega 3/6 fatty acids ensure cells are resilient and well protected,’ says Gomez. ‘I would suggest nutrient rich options too like:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A/beta carotene
- Zinc and sulphur minerals
- Aloe vera
- Light oils like jojoba, rosehip, tamanu, carrot seed and CBD’
Gunduz’s favourite all-rounder ingredient is glycolic acid. Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is often used in exfoliator formulas. ‘It helps shed dead skin cells,’ says Gunduz, ‘and reveal the newer, brighter layers underneath by acting on the outermost layer of skin.’
If you are interested in adding a boost of glycolic acid to your skincare routine, we particularly like Medik8’s Sleep Glycolic treatment. It can be used bi-weekly and goes to work transforming your skin while you rest!
What about dry skin?
Gunduz encourages those with dry skin to check products for hydrating ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), one of which is lactic acid. ‘All AHAs exfoliate and improve skin texture,’ she says ‘but lactic acid has an extra benefit in that it helps improve the skin’s natural moisture factor, or the way the skin keeps itself hydrated.’ Using products rich in lactic acid ensures the skin stays moisturised and feels less dry.
Moisturising, of course, is a key component in maintaining dry skin, too. ‘When your complexion feels dry and irritated, its barrier is disrupted, leaving it open to infection,’ says Chapman. She suggests keeping an eye out for products that contain hyaluronic acid as it’s an ingredient that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water within the skin. She recommends her 3D Moisture Infusion Mask which ‘is formulated with a concentrated dose of this active, combined with anti-inflammatory rosewater and skin-defence actives, to keep skin comforted, plump and supple.’
What about oily skin?
Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are Gunduz’s top two ingredients for combating oily skin. Helping to dry out the skin, salicylic acid also exfoliates, getting rid of stubborn dead skin cells. Benzoyl peroxide, on the other hand, fights the main types of bacteria that can lead to acne.
For those who like they’re at constant war with oily skin, Aksahin recommends using La Roche Posay as a toner. It’s rich in salicylic acid meaning it will work hard to remove excess oil, but it’s other, gentler ingredients means it won’t aggravate skin in the process.
What about sensitive skin?
For sensitive skin, Gunduz recommends another AHA called mandelic acid, which is derived from bitter almonds. Although more gentle on the skin, mandelic acid is still an effective exfoliator. It removes dead skin ‘by breaking the bonds between cells to reveal brighter, clearer skin,’ explains Gunduz, noting that ‘it also helps to clear pores and create a more even tone.’
If you’re looking to invest in something better suited to your sensitive skin, we highly recommend The Ordinary’s Mandelic Acid 10% + HA. It will exfoliate without irritating or drying out the skin. However, if you’re still worried about how your skin will handle the serum, simply dilute some of the product with water until you feel confident your skin has built up a tolerance to the formula.
And what ingredients should we be avoiding?
A lot of our experts did not have a steadfast list of ingredients that we should be weary of. As we’ve learned, what to avoid will ultimately depend on skin type and what works best for each user.
There are, though some tips our experts offered concerning what might be best avoided in general. ‘I wouldn’t suggest cleansing with coconut oil or pumpkin flesh, or even just milk,’ Gunduz said. She explained saying that ‘things like these might be natural but they just don’t contain the level of ingredients that could benefit our skin.’ She went on to add that ‘some may even add to the skin’s congestion’ rather than give you the desired clean skin we’re all here for. Yikes!
Gomez also advises avoiding ‘highly comedogenic ingredients like petroleum and mineral oil, synthetic fragrances and harsh sulphates.’ Comedogenic ingredients like these have the propensity to clog pores which in turn leads to acne.
Knowing what to avoid can be just as difficult and confusing as knowing what to choose. If you continually find yourself paralysed by what’s best for your skin, it’s best to consult an aesthetician who’ll be able to further help you decode your skin’s needs.
Do: Switch up products to tackle maskne
For more than a year now, face masks have become part of our everyday outfits. While we love that they help keep us and the people around us safe, we’re not such big fans of the newfound maskne that they cause.
Chapman was able to explain to us why exactly face masks cause breakouts along the jawline, chin and cheek area. ‘When you wear a mask, the area beneath the fabric can become warm and damp – conditions that are unfortunately ideal for bacteria, and can contribute to blemishes forming.’ The mask will likely continue to rub against your breakout areas and, if not carefully monitored, could potentially lead to contact dermatitis or an allergic reaction.
If maskne is really getting you down, Chapman has some great solutions! One suggestion is treating your skin in zones by using different types of moisturisers to support different problem areas. ‘Try using a lightweight formula under your mask,’ offers Chapman, ‘and a richer day cream in exposed areas.’ Moisturisers that contain hyaluronic acid or rosewater are also good for use on the areas commonly covered by face masks. The L’Oreal Paris Hydra Genius Aloe Moisturiser is a great option to combat maskne as it delivers pure moisture without weighing the skin down at all.
Your choice of mask can also play a role in unwanted maskne. Aksahin recommends making sure your masks are the right size for your face and, if they’re reusable, that you wash them using cleaning products that won’t irritate your skin. Changing your mask throughout the day can prove beneficial too. Aksahin believes that ‘masks are here to stay for the near future – long enough to invest in a few decent ones and warrants treating yourself to a good product or two.’
Don’t: Squeeze those breakouts!
Breakouts are the bane of all our lives. It can feel like they appear out of nowhere and take forever to fade. When we spoke to our experts about blemishes, they all came back to us with the same exact response: keep your hands away.
‘Leave it alone!’ says Gunduz. ‘Do not touch it or play around with it. It’s hard I know, but constantly touching your face with dirty hands could lead to making the situation worse and DIY popping of the zit could even lead to infections.’ She advises all her clients to leave breakouts alone and just treat them with a reliable spot treatment. If you’re experiencing particularly stubborn or even painful breakouts, Gunduz recommends seeking a professional opinion to figure out what treatments or products will be most effective for your skin.
If you find resisting squeezing a blemish an impossible task, using Chapman’s SOS Stickers could be the way forward as you won’t be able to get at the spot in the first place! Otherwise, Chapman suggests you ‘look for a spot treatment that contains salicylic acid – this active is oil-soluble, meaning it can penetrate into pores to break down any blockages.’
As well as salicylic acid, Gomez has a few other key ingredients that she looks out for in spot treatments that help minimise redness and swelling. ‘Willowbark and essential oils such as tea tree and even lavender are also great options.’ However, she does advise diluting these with water before applying to skin to avoid burns.
You can also fight breakouts from inside with the help of supplements, like zinc. Gomez, who’s a big fan of zinc supplements, says ‘It’s a great addition to diets since acneic clients have been scientifically found to be deficient in zinc which assists with strengthening cell structure.’
As mentioned before, benzoyl peroxide works to clear skin of acne-causing bacteria. For that, Aksahin suggests using an overnight cream that contains [Acnecide Gel](https://www.healthline.com/health/benzoyl-peroxide-for-acne”>benzoyl peroxide. And, of course, try to make sure your hands are clean before you apply any kinds of spot treatments.
But what actually causes breakouts?
As annoying as it is, and say it with us, there isn’t one sole thing that causes breakouts.
All spots begin as an inflammation of the hair follicles, usually caused by an overproduction of oil. Excess oil can combine with sebum and debris resulting in blocked follicles and disruption of the surrounding tissue. As the blemish comes to the skin’s surface, the area around it becomes inflamed, causing what we refer to as a breakout. This is also how white heads and black heads are caused.
‘Hormones, stress, diet and even certain medications’ can all cause an excess of oil in the skin,’ says Gomez. So sometimes, the start of a breakout can be beyond our control. It’s important to be mindful of genetics, age and the weather too, as they are all factors that can impact the amount of oil our skin produces.
How do I prevent breakouts?
Want to know how to halt the overproduction of oil in the first place? Don’t worry, Aksahin’s got us covered! ‘Start with a good cleansing product to remove build-up and clean out the pores. Use warm water and work each cleanse for about 30 seconds in upward and outward small circular motions. Pat dry.’
However, be weary of cleansers that leave your skin feeling uncomfortably tight and dry. It’s likely that the ingredients in those cleansers aren’t right for your skin type and have actually stripped your skin of its natural protective barrier. It’s advisable to stick to using clean fingers when massaging cleanser into the face, too. Things like cloth mitts or flannels can damage the skin and, in worst case scenarios, can contribute to the spread of a breakout.
CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser is a great option for almost all skin types. It’s powerful and nourishing while still being gentle on skin.
Don’t: Forget to keep your everyday products clean
The idea of the things we use and touch everyday contributing negatively to our skin is one that’s been around for a while now. You might be wondering if it’s actually true. Well, yes! Objects like dirty pillowcases and unclean phones contribute to breakouts big time. There is a ton of microscopic bacteria that are constantly breeding on these surfaces. ‘Bacteria thrive in dark, damp, moist and oxygen depleted areas which makes our oil ridden follicles the perfect environment to breed,’ says Gomez. Even going to sleep with unwashed hair can cause bacteria to multiply exponentially.
It’s possible to get a handle on the pesky bacteria by doing simple things like using alcohol wipes to clean your phone’s screen and changing your pillowcases every few days or so. Keeping your hands clean and sanitised is something we all do in 2021, and is a great thing to keep up post pandemic.
There’s a small amount of research that suggests sleeping on a silk pillowcase could help reduce the amount of bacteria on your skin which could then of course lead to a decrease in breakouts. Cassetty says, ‘More studies are needed, but if you suffer from acne, it’s worth a try.’
Don’t: Assume a higher price guarantees better quality
There are times when we’re all guilty of assuming that a high price or chic packaging means the product inside will work complete and utter magic. However, Gomez is on hand to give us the lowdown on why exactly certain skincare items are priced higher than others. ‘Expensive products may have rarer ingredients or more expensive packaging and marketing,’ says Gomez, but, ‘They may not necessarily be better for skin.’ She went on to tell us that if you’re still keen to invest in a more costly product it’s best to go for serums or moisturisers. That’s because these are the two products that have the biggest effect on your skin. They also sink into the face and stay there for the whole day as opposed to a cleanser that you rinse away in a few minutes.
Our favourite splurge-worthy serum is SkinCeuticals Blemish and Age Defense Corrective Serum. It’s pricey but the multi-tasking formula means it’s one of the top serums out there for tackling things like spots, ageing and dullness all at the same time.
Don’t: Overuse products
Out of all the no nos our experts warned us about, overusing products was the one that they found was the most common mistake among their clients.
Too much cleansing, scrubbing, exfoliating and treating can be detrimental to the skin. ‘Too many actives do not bring results,’ says Gomez. ‘They just deplete the skin of beneficial protectants such as ceramides and good bacteria, making the skin prone to invasion and infection.’
Chapman has seen a lot of her clients overuse products too and they come to her with various skin issues. She sees quite a few cases of people scrubbing too much when using things like exfoliants, ‘tearing the skin with crystals, micro-beads and sharp granules has a thinning effect.’ This tearing can destroy your skin’s natural protection against the environment.
Prices updated on 21/04/2021. We are not responsible for any changes on the prices mentioned above.