Don’t put another product on your face until you read this.

Revisiting 90s fashion trends yesterday got me thinking about how simple our skincare routines were back then.

Cleanse, tone, moisturise: 3 steps. That. Was. It.

You might have flirted with exfoliator (St Ives Apricot Facial Scrub, anyone?) but that was it. There were no primers, illuminators, serums, BB creams, CC creams, pre-cleansers, or brightening products to be baffled by.

Hell, we didn’t even wear sunscreen.

In 2014, heading to a beauty counter is not only intimidating it’s more confusing than the Opening Ceremony at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Bears, orange biscuits, teapots, bulls, and pirates, was anyone following what was happening?

Since we’re all jack of wasting money on yet another beauty product that ends up gathering dust in our bathroom cabinet, let’s have a refresher on what face products do what, and in what order we’re supposed to use them.

Oil cleanser/pre-cleanser.

So many people I know are scared of oil cleansers. Don’t be. It’s made from oils but that doesn’t mean it will make your skin oily. They are particularly excellent if you regularly use sunscreen, primers, powders and mineral makeup as they’ll shift more product build-up than your regular cream cleanser.

Try: Shu Uemura Whitefficient Clear Brightening Gentle Cleansing Oil is the cats pyjamas – if I could have this stuff on tap I would. I’m also quite partial to Aesop’s Parsley Seed Cleansing Oil, MV Organic Skincare’s 9-Oil Energizing Cleanser, Dermalogica’s PreCleanse (now comes in wipes), and Jojoba oil, which you can get reasonably cheaply from the chemist and health food shops.

Facial mist.

Fact: The Mamamia Editorial Team witness me ‘misting’ my face like an overzealous department store perfume spritzer on a daily basis.

And as someone with a raging caffeine addiction and prone to rosacea I’m in love with this stuff. Ridiculous, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.

Just like Rescue Remedy for your face, the best versions have calming essential oils, which are great for stress relief, but are also hydrating, add radiance and calm redness and irritation.

If you can’t get behind shelling out clams for what is essentially water for your face, fair enough, but you should know that it can take you from looking zapped to wide awake in seconds. SECONDS. You don’t even need any skills to apply it. Just a finger and a face.


Try: Dermalogica UltraCalming Mist, Be Genki Serenity Facial Mist, Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief and Avene Thermal Spring Water.


One of the most confusing things about serums is not so much what they do but where they fit into your skincare routine. An ideal not-too-drunk-or-tired-to-take-off-makeup nightly routine would look something like this: remove makeup and cleanse, exfoliate (2-3 times a week), apply serum, a night cream, eye cream.

As for what they do, if a serum could win an Oscar it’d be for the Best Supporting role. Like a skin booster they address concerns like dryness, anti-ageing, redness, or pigmentation where your moisturiser falls short.

Try: an all-rounder like Rosehip Oil, or for anti-ageing concerns try Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate, Yves Saint Laurent Youth Liberator Serum or Ultraceuticals Ultra A Smoothing Complex. For pigmentation try Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector.


Since I’m on a roll with the Oscars analogies, consider primer to nab a Best Production Award. It’s there in the background (under your foundation) working hard to make you look good. An excellent choice if you want your makeup to last well into the night, and they now come in mattifying (non-shiny face) and correcting (non-red face) versions.

Try: Napoleon Auto Pilot, Revlon PhotoReady™ Color Correcting Primer, Almay Smart Shade Perfect & Correct Primer, and Laura Mercier’s Mattifiying Secret Finish.

What order to use what:









You don’t need to use all of these, this is just a guide. The Cancer Council recommends you apply sunscreen on cleansed skin, under your makeup. If you’re not going to be out in the sun all day, you can use a moisturiser with a high SPF instead two separate products.


Remove makeup (pre-cleanse)


Exfoliate (2-3 times a week)

Facial mist/tone


Night cream

Eye cream

Again, this is just a guide. If you don’t wear much makeup you don’t need to pre-cleanse. If you do wear sunscreen, primers and mineral makeup on a regular basis, an oil cleanser will cancel out the need for two cleansing applications.

Follow Nicky on Twitter at @nickychamp.

What skincare products do you get bamboozled by?

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