Despite getting to test the latest launches, Stylist’s senior beauty writer Hanna Ibraheem finds herself turning to the same products time and time again. Here, she runs through the skincare routine that works for her combination skin.
I’m very lucky. Due to the nature of my job as Stylist’s senior beauty writer, I’m fortunate enough to test a lot of new beauty products, from the latest cleansers and high-strength serums to exfoliators and SPFs. But along the way, I’ve come to learn what my skin agrees and (sometimes, strongly) disagrees with.
While I’m constantly trying new launches, I always find myself turning back to the same line-up of products in between or whenever I’m going away. Of course, what works in skincare differs from person to person but this specific routine is what works for me and my combination skin type (which has recently become prone to breakouts and has hyperpigmentation).
While I’m sure I’ll chop and change bits in the future, here are the products that are currently keeping my skin looking and feeling healthy.
Cleanse: CeraVe Smoothing Cleanser
My dry cheeks can often feel bumpy and slightly rough, which is why this cleanser is perfect. It contains ceramides to help strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and keep moisture locked in, salicylic acid for a gentle chemical exfoliation and hyaluronic acid to maintain healthy, hydrated skin. I massage it onto wet skin and wipe it off with a damp muslin cloth.
Antioxidant serum: Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum
Ever since hearing that vitamin C is one of the few ingredients proven to make a genuine difference to skin, it’s been a staple part of my skincare routine. This Murad serum targets hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, while glycolic acid gently sloughs away the dead skin cells to leave skin look healthier and brighter. It also protects skin against damaging environmental factors, including indoor pollution.
Serum: Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte's Magic Serum Crystal Elixir
Formulated with ingredient powerhitters, such as 5% niacinamide and polyglutamic acid, this Charlotte Tilbury serum boosts skin health, improves the appearance of pores and leaves skin feeling firmer. I dispense four drops into the palm of my hand and massage it into my face, taking it down my neck, too.
SPF: Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50
In the spirit of honesty, I didn’t really bother with SPF a couple of years ago, unless I was on holiday or it was a particularly hot day. But as I learned about the importance of proper sun protection all year round – mostly from working alongside beauty editor Lucy Partington, a firm advocate for SPF – it has become as integral a part of my routine as brushing my teeth. This SPF from Kiehl’s has a lightweight gel texture that feels comfortable to wear, which is important seeing as sun protection always sits on top of your morning skincare. A doesn’t leave my skin greasy or with a white cast.
Double cleanse: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm and CeraVe Smoothing Cleanser
If you’ve ever read a Stylist article related to cleansing, you’ll have no doubt come across the concept of double cleansing. Just like the name suggests, it’s the process of cleansing your face twice – once to remove SPF, make-up and dirt sitting on the skin’s surface and again for a deeper clean. For my first cleanse, I love Clinique’s Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm. I scoop a small amount of the balm into my hands and massage it onto my face. The formula transforms into an oil and breaks down any signs of make-up and SPF. Then, I cleanse with CeraVe’s SA Smoothing Cleanser. It contains salicylic acid for a very gentle exfoliation but doesn’t leave my skin feeling stripped or tight.
Toner: Q+A Niacinamide Daily Toner
I’ve never really been fully convinced by the need for a toner but I’m really enjoying using this one. It contains niacinamide to help even out skin tone, hyaluronic acid for hydration and aloe vera to keep skin soothed. I dispense a bit onto a reusable cotton pad and sweep it around my face.
Treatment: La Roche-Posay Retinol 0.3% + Vitamin B3 Serum
Skincare experts wax lyrical about the effects of retinol but alongside its benefits, it can lead to skin irritation. While I don’t have sensitive skin, I have noticed it has been prone to some irritation recently (maybe the drying effects of cold outdoors and intense central heating), which is why this retinol option is perfect. Alongside 0.3% retinol, it contains niacinamide and glycerin to keep skin soothed and moisturised. I’ve seen a genuinely brighter difference in my skin from using this.
Moisturise: Biossane Squalane + Omega Repair Cream
If my skin feels a bit tight or in need for extra hydration, I’ll reach for this little pot of comfort. It contains squalane and ceramides to help seal in moisture, as well as a hydration power duo in the form of hyaluronic acid and shea butter. One little dollop slathered onto skin leaves it feeling calmer, softer and plumper in an instant.
Eye cream: CeraVe Eye Repair Cream
Despite excessively oily eyelids, my under eyes are incredibly dry. To the point where they used to flake up. But then, I found this. CeraVe’s Eye Repair Cream is packed with three types of ceramides, hyaluronic acid and glycerin to restore the skin’s moisture barrier. My dark circles are hereditary and I haven’t noticed them getting any brighter with this, however, this fast-absorbing balm-cream has definitely helped to hydrate the delicate eye area and keep flakiness at bay.
There are a few products in my skincare routine that I use every other week. While they’re not part of my daily routine, I find they make a big difference when my skin needs an extra boost.
To treat blemishes when they appear: ZitSticka Killa Spot Clarifying Patch Kit
I don’t usually get breakouts but between spending more time at home, stress and wearing a mask, my face has been prone to a few. These handy spot stickers are laced with salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide and each one has been designed with 24 microdarts (you don’t even feel them) to allow ingredients to penetrate deeper. Plus, they’re semi-sheer, meaning I can wear them on video meetings and they stop me from touching or picking at my spots.
After a breakout: Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum
When I do get a breakout, my spots tend to leave behind dark marks and that’s when I reach for this serum. It has an impressive blend of 11% mandelic, lactic and salicylic acid that work together to improve signs of pigmentation, large pores, uneven texture and blackheads. It also contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, organic rosehip oil and ramanu oil to maintain healthy skin. As this formula contains high-strength active ingredients, I use it at night and skip retinol to avoid irritating and overloading my skin.
To double mask fortnightly: Plenaire Skin Frosting and Erno Laszlo Pore Cleansing Clay Mask
During lockdown, I used face masks quite often but now, it’s something I do once a fortnightly (sometimes even monthly, mostly due to sheer laziness). I have found that double masking (using more than one mask to target specific skin concerns on different areas of the face) works best for my combination skin type. My favourite combination is Plenaire’s Skin Frosting on my cheeks, chin and upper lip for hydration and Erno Laszlo’s Pore Cleansing Clay Mask on my oily T-zone, paying particular attention to the sides of my nose.
To exfoliate lips: Lanolips Lemonaid Scrubba Balm
Some days, my lips feel extremely dry – to the point where they are cracked or flaking. As well as diligent lip balm application, I aim to exfoliate my lips every week/sometimes a couple of times a week. I first used this Lanolips scrub in the back of a cab after a (very long and drying) 13-hour flight. It buffed away dead skin, left my lips soft and the handy stick packaging meant there was zero mess. I’ve been using it ever since.
Main image: designed by Matt Phare