I Try Hundreds of Skincare Products a Year, But These 15 Are My Holy Grails

Being a beauty journalist is wonderful for so many reasons. First of all, we get to write about beauty products all day long. Then there’s the fact we get first dibs on all of the new products before they even hit the shelves. And need I even mention all of the advice we get day in, day out from the best experts in the industry?

And while we beauty editors hate to complain about anything to do with our jobs, there is sadly one major downside. You see, testing out products all day long isn’t exactly what one might call a solid routine—and skin really likes routine. Constantly chopping and changing products does not a good skincare routine make, and our skin knows it.

In fact, my skin gets pretty stressed. More often than not, I’m dealing with breakouts, dryness, redness and/or irritation. And stressed skin makes me feel stressed, which subsequently affects my skin even more. And so, I live in a perpetual cycle of stressed-out skin concerns.

As a result, we beauty journalists tend to have a stash of products that we reach for any time our skin starts getting stressed out. We keep cleansers, serums and moisturisers on hand that we know can’t possibly do our skin any further damage, giving it just the right amount of nourishment it needs in order to find its feet again. Whether my complexion is dry and sore or spotty and congested, these are the skincare products I turn to when my skin is stressed.

When my skin is feeling inflamed and angry, this gentle cleanser is pretty much the only thing I want to put on my face. It’s a luxe-feeling balm that soothes the skin, leaving it plump and hydrated, and rids pores of makeup and dirt while it works. It’s gentle enough to use on the eyes, too.

My skin can get seriously dry as a result of a reaction to a product, and when it does, I always use this as a first cleanse. It’s fragrance-free, so it’s perfect for removing all makeup (including mascara) and is jam-packed with skin-restoring ceramides to help rehydrate without leaving a greasy film. It’s simple skincare at its finest.

I know breakouts all too well. My oily, congestion-prone skin really hates overly moisturising products (of which I have to try a lot). When breakouts are on the cards, this stuff sees me through. I first tried it after I saw Who What Wear’s beauty editor, Mica, raving about it, and I wasn’t disappointed. It contains hard-working PHAs to exfoliate without irritation. It’s great for decongesting skin when you don’t want to upset anything else.

When my skin is stressed out from applying too many products at once, it produces oil and a lot of it. This affordable face wash is by far the most effective at tackling oil-related congestion and breakouts that I have ever used. I’ve tried every salicylic acid face wash around, and nothing compares to this.

If you’re not quite sure what exactly is stressing your skin out, but everything bad seems to be happening at once, this is a great first port of call. It’s spendy, yes, but if you like a luxurious beauty splurge, it’s a good one to go for. It’s gentle and creamy but lathers enough to give a satisfying cleanse, too. Whenever I’m at a loss for what to give my skin, this stuff can usually help.

No surprise here. Whenever things go wrong for my skin, I tend to drench my entire face in Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair and hope for the best. It contains a heap of hydrating, skin-loving ingredients that really champion healthy skin. Nine times out of 10, it sorts me out.

For instant skin reactions, look no further than this bottle of miracle juice. I’m not exaggerating. I have extremely reactive skin, and the wrong product can turn it impossibly sore and so red it’s almost purple. This serum, however, takes the reaction down every single time. It’s hydrating, soothing and repairing all at once. In fact, I challenge anyone with super-sensitive skin to try this at least once and not be flabbergasted.

Some of the really good decongesting serums out there are really expensive and go off too quickly for me to justify having one on my shelf at all times. However, this tiny little bottle ticks all the boxes. It contains salicylic acid and bakuchiol to tackle blemishes and congestion and is only 15 millilitres, making it the perfect targeted treatment for when I need it. Come morning, my breakouts are less angry and on their way to recovery.

I feel similar about this stuff as I do about ANR. It just does exactly what you want it to without upsetting skin in any way, shape or form. When things are looking as though they are about to take a turn for the worse, I apply this straight after cleansing, and it just has a way of making everything okay again. It’s nourishing, glow-boosting and smoothing without kicking up any fuss.

I hate that this moisturiser is so expensive as, if you ask me, it really is the best. When skin is feeling dry and looking lacklustre, just one application of this lightweight, thirst-quenching cream will have it feeling healthy and looking its best.

If your skin is sensitive, there’s a high chance its natural moisture barrier is compromised. This rich lotion contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides to build it back up and helps skin prepare to fight its own battles once more. 

When my skin is red, sore or itchy, this soothing cream comes out straight away. It’s rich without being greasy and delivers the sort of soothing nourishment irritated skin craves.

While thick SPFs typically lend themselves to dryness, I believe you’re better off getting your nourishment from a moisturiser first and then layering up with SPF. This stuff is lightweight but also seriously hydrating, meaning it’s great for either layering over moisturiser or wearing on its own after serum. 

Sun cream has a wonderful way of irritating sensitive skin types. However, this SPF essence is one of the only formulas I can use when my skin is stressed and sensitised. It’s lightweight, doesn’t cause a reaction and actually helps provide some soothing nourishment while it protects. Whenever I’m trying out a new SPF, just know I’m rushing the bottle so that I can get back to this old favourite.

This stuff is a beauty-editor favourite for a reason. It’s unbelievably lightweight and gives skin a semi-matte finish that keeps oil and, subsequently, further congestion in check. Next up, the one product you should buy from the buzziest skincare brands.

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