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An expert guide to building a personalised a skincare routine that actually works

Feeling overwhelmed by how to use acids, antioxidants and serums? Emma Hoareau, a skincare influencer, is here to give you the tools and knowledge to make streamlining your skincare routine much easier.

Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.

Skincare is something that most people will have experimented with but, although you might know your skin type and try to buy the products that will work best for you, often, it can be a bit of a guessing game. Coupled with research that found skincare product sales skyrocketed in 2020 (significantly overtaking make-up sales in the process), we want to make sure you have the tools and knowledge to make the right purchases.  

Tailoring your skincare routine to your skin’s needs is really important. “It’s knowing how to create the perfect cocktail of mixes of products that will be perfect for your skin and really tailored because our skin is as different as is any part of our body to someone else’s,” explains Emma Hoareau, an influencer and skincare expert.

It’s not only important to tailor your routine to your skin type but to the time of day too, as your skin requires different things in the morning compared to the evening. “In a nutshell, the skincare you use in the morning is going to protect the skin and the skincare you use at night is going to really nourish it and help it regenerate.”

With Emma’s advice, building a skincare routine personalised to your skin’s needs is a simple process and one that will allow you to take a little bit more time for yourself every day too.

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How to work out your skin type

Emma identifies the three main skin types as dry, oily and normal but explains that some people have combination skin, meaning they have both dry and oily skin. 

If you don’t already know your skin type, Emma suggests cleansing your face and not applying any other skincare products for 30 minutes afterwards. “If it feels a bit tight, then it’s dehydrated. If it looks flaky or it feels dry and it’s kind of rough to the touch, then it’s dry. If it’s oily, you can see a bit of shine. And then normal skin would just appear ‘normal’.”

Your skin type can change as you get older and women’s skin is particularly affected by hormonal changes too. “We get a different set of hormones every day,” Emma explains.

If you notice your skin type changing – for example, if you initially had dry skin but it starts to become oily – it’s no reason to panic. But it might mean it’s time to reassess your skincare routine. 

Deciding which order to apply skincare products

“For me, it’s always thinnest to thickest,” says Emma. “I don’t care what ingredients are in what, if you put a cream on first and a serum on top, the serum just isn’t going to absorb. So even if your cream has got the most active ingredients, it’s still going to go last.”

Active ingredients are products that are particularly potent and usually have a shorter use-by date than most skincare products. They tend to be exfoliants or antioxidants, like vitamin C, and if you work with Emma’s ‘thinnest to thickest’ approach, it’s good to apply these towards the beginning of your skincare routine.

How to build a morning skincare routine

Emma suggests you use the following routine as a basis for your morning skincare routine:

1. Cleanser

“Some people say you don’t need to cleanse in the morning because your skin hasn’t got dirty overnight,” she says. “But we actually sweat quite a lot [while we sleep].”

Emma, personally, uses a foaming cleanser but you can also use a gel or milk cleanser if you prefer, as long as you’re doing something to remove the dirt from your face. “If you don’t cleanse your skin properly, you’re just putting skincare ingredients on bacteria and that’s kind of gross because you’re kind of locking in bacteria,” Emma explains.

2. Antioxidant

Emma recommends using an antioxidant like vitamin C or niacinamide next; “I think they’re the best for the morning because they’re going to protect us from free radicals. They’re basically going to be like the kind of bodyguards to your skin for the day and they’re going to fight off pollution and fight off stress - they’re looking after your skin.”

3. Eye cream (optional)

“I started using eye cream at 23,” Emma explains, adding that you don’t need to start using eye cream until you’re starting to reach your mid-20s. Eye cream helps with reducing under-eye bags, often caused by staring at screens.

4. Hydrating serum

“All skin types need hydration,” Emma explains, recommending hyaluronic acid as your serum because “it acts as a big glass of water for the skin and will help your skin feel hydrated for the entire day.”

5. Moisturiser (optional)

If you have dry skin, you can add in a moisturiser here. Emma explains moisturiser isn’t totally necessary for people with normal and oily skin types because you will be wearing SPF anyway, which is also a cream consistency.

“The cream is just something that locks everything in – it’s thicker, it’s going to form a little barrier over your skin.”

6. SPF

“Wearing SPF every day is not just going to protect us from dark spots but also protect our skin from potential melanoma,” Emma explains. “I think often people don’t want to wear daily SPF because they’re worried it’s going to clog their pores but most SPF these days have a lovely consistency and they’re not that kind of beachy heavy, slap it on product.”

Emma’s morning skincare product recommendations

La Roche Posay Effaclar Cleansing Gel

La Roche-Posay / £18.50

Effaclar Cleansing Gel

Estee Lauder Perfectionist Pro Rapid Brightening Treatment with Ferment² + Vitamin C

Estee Lauder / £63

Perfectionist Pro Rapid Brightening Treatment with Ferment² + Vitamin C

BIOSSANCE Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel

Biossance / £46

Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel

Elizabeth Arden Exclusive Hyaluronic Acid Ceramide Capsules Hydra-Plumping Serum

Elizabeth Arden / £45

Exclusive Hyaluronic Acid Ceramide Capsules Hydra-Plumping Serum

Dermalogica Skin Smoothing Cream

Dermalogica / £58.50

Skin Smoothing Cream

Tan Luxe Super Glow Serum SPF 30

Tan-Luxe / £39

Super Glow Face Serum SPF30

This is just a small selection of Emma’s preferred products. Nothing here feel right for you? Head over to Emma’s blog to find a full list of recommendations.

How to build an evening skincare routine

Emma suggests you use the following routine as a basis for your evening skincare routine:

1. Double cleanse

Emma explains that you need to double cleanse even if you haven’t been wearing makeup on a certain day, in order to ensure your SPF has been removed properly. “You don’t want to be applying your skincare over dirt or bacteria, whether that’s from your makeup, your SPF or touching your face, the masks that we have to wear or pollution, even.”

“I like to start with an oil balm cleanser, which I put on to dry skin,” Emma says, explaining that you should then wash that cleanser off with a warm flannel or cloth. “That really is key because just the same way if you put a few drops of water into some oil, they’re not going to mix. So using the cloth as the kind of physical remover and then going in with either a milk or a gel second cleanse.”

Emma says that your second cleanse can be the same cleanser you used in your morning skincare routine.

2. Exfoliate

“Personally, I love to exfoliate at night,” Emma says. “The reason being that our skin regenerates really well at night so it actually responds a lot better to exfoliating before sleep.”

Emma recommends using an exfoliating acid rather than a traditional exfoliating scrub. You can use AHAs, BHAs or enzymes but Emma suggests sticking to one acid product per night. It’s okay to use one product with multiple acids in it but Emma is against layering different acids in order not to overdo it.

The benefit of acids is that they remove dead skin cells, Emma explains. “This is going to really help the efficiency of the products you use after exfoliating because it can absorb really well into the skin.”

3. Eye cream (optional)

If you’re using an eye cream in the morning, you should be using one in the evening too, “You’re not going to see results if you’re not using it consistently,” Emma says.

4. Hydrating serum

You can use the same hydrating serum from your morning routine here in order to optimise your skin’s hydration, which is beneficial for all skin types, Emma explains.

5. Oil

Emma recommends using an oil next in your routine in order to help nourish your skin barrier. “When you have a healthy skin barrier, the skin underneath can actually take the time to repair itself, especially whilst you’re sleeping.

“If the oil absorbs really quickly, pop another layer on because if it’s drunk up that first layer, it might just need a few layers of it,” Emma advises.

6. Moisturise

You won’t be using an SPF at night so Emma does suggest using a moisturiser here to lock everything in and ensure your skincare products have time to work their magic overnight.

Emma’s evening skincare product recommendations

Elemis pro-collagen cleansing balm

Elemis / £44

Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

Biossance Squlane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil

Biossance / £25

Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil

Bare Minerals Exfoliating Essence

Bare Minerals / £22

Poreless Exfoliating Essence

Caudalie vinopure perfecting serum

Caudalie / £29

Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum

The Ordinary 100% organic cold pressed rose hip seed oil

The Ordinary / £9.05

100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel Wash

La Roche-Posay / £14.50

Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel Wash

This is just a small selection of Emma’s preferred products. Nothing here feel right for you? Head over to Emma’s blog to find a full list of her recommendations.

How to tailor your routine to your skin type

For dry skin, Emma recommends incorporating AHAs into your routine. “They’re going to really remove that kind of flakiness from the top layer of the skin,” she says. Emma also recommends a powder exfoliant for dry skin.

Emma explains that oily skin is actually craving oil: “If you give your skin the oil that it really wants, then it will produce less.” You can therefore add an oil into your morning routine if you have oily skin in order to help balance your own skin’s oil production.

For people with combination skin, Emma recommends a more intuitive approach. “When you wake up, ask yourself, is my skin feeling a bit oily today? Or is it feeling more dehydrated?” You can then adjust your skincare routine based on that. For combination skin, Emma also recommends lactic acid, which can help to balance out the skin via exfoliation. She also recommends adding an oil into your morning routine as both dry and oily skin types benefit from oil.

What skincare products should you use weekly or bi-weekly? 

Emma explains that face masks are useful for all skin types but different people will benefit from different kinds of masks. “Dehydrated skin is going to be great with a sheet mask,” Emma says. Sheet masks are very potent with whatever ingredients they contain and the consistency of the mask means the skin can really absorb it.

If you have oily skin, a clay mask will work better to help draw out oil. Emma emphasises the importance of not leaving both sheet and clay masks on for too long, however. If you leave a sheet mask on for too long, the mask will start to absorb the product back out of your skin and if you use a clay mask for too long, it will draw out too much oil which will lead to your skin overproducing oil.

If you have combination skin, you can use both sheet masks and clay masks. Emma recommends using them one after another rather than dividing your skin up and applying both at the same time because all of your skin will benefit from the balance of both.

If you are using a mask, you can use it in place of a certain product in your skincare routine. For example, if you are using a hydrating mask, you can apply that instead of a hydrating serum. Or if you use an exfoliating mask, you can use that in place of an exfoliator.

Emma’s face mask recommendations

This is just a small selection of Emma’s preferred products. Nothing here feel right for you? Head over to Emma’s blog to find a full list of her recommendations.

Skincare shouldn’t be stressful and you don’t have to revamp your skincare routine straight away to incorporate all of these products if it sounds overwhelming. Make it a gradual process and that way, you can see which products in particular are really benefiting you.

For more information about skincare, head to Emma’s Instagram or read more dedicated skincare content at

  • Emma Hoareau, skincare influencer

    Emma Hoareau - golden hour selfie glowy skin

    Emma Hoareau has been running her beauty blog, Lolita Says So, for over 10 years and having spoken to almost every brand founder and skincare professional has become an expert herself, sharing her findings on her Instagram page. She has worked with the likes of Estée Lauder, Avene, Chanel, Kate Somerville and Neutrogena.


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