It’s a little bit disconcerting when a facialist tells you everything you’ve been doing for more than two decades, the skin care advice your mother imparted to you, the regime you will share soon with your almost 11-year-old daughter, is wrong.
And it wasn’t just my mum’s advice. Just Seventeen in my teens, Elle in my 20s — they all advocated a three-step routine: cleanse, tone and moisturise.
In more recent years, a fourth step, serum, became the norm.
So when Kathryn Revell, one of the faces in skincare in Cork, tells me there is no need to tone, I’m taken aback.
But she really knocks me when she tells me I don’t need a moisturiser either.
She smiles knowingly at my reaction — she’s seen this one hundred times before, she tells me, and when she sends clients off for a 12-week trial, they all come back and tell her, yes, she’s right.
She’s not alone. Other dermatologists, including celebrity-favourite Zein Obagi, agree.
And look at men — usually they just splash water on their faces — why should women be any different?
Bake-Off queen Mary Berry, at 81, says she doesn’t use any face creams at all.
“I don’t have any beauty regime,” she said in an interview.
“I just use one foundation, one powder, one lipstick. Why bother? I don’t use any face creams at all.”
When it’s estimated the average woman will spend over €20,000 on skin care in her lifetime, I figured it was worth going cold turkey.
There were brilliant results when women stopped using shampoo and relied on the hair’s natural oils to cleanse.
Could the same apply to the skin?
The decision was made. For 12 weeks there would be no moisturiser.
I met Kathryn at the end of a quest to find a miracle product to ease sun spots.
Years of living in Sydney and J1 and J2 summers in the states took their toll on my skin.
Add to that three very close consecutive pregnancies and the resulting pigmentation that left a brownish hue under my eyes.
And then there’s the real game changer — I just turned 40.
I read about Skinceuticals for the first time in a piece by India Knight in Style magazine.
It turns out she too was on the quest for a sun spot eliminator. And she had discovered Skinceuticals’ Advanced Pigment Corrector. She claimed it worked.
And so I found myself sitting with the only stockist in Cork for the American-made brand: Kathryn Revell.
A qualified nurse (from Tralee General Hospital), she began working in cosmetic surgery, both surgical and non surgical, in 1999.
She opened in Olivier Plunkett St in 1999, her focus on non surgical facial rejuvenation — botox, peels and anything that doesn’t involve going under the knife.
But back to the moisturiser.
“Moisture abuse is commonplace in today’s society,” Kathryn begins.
“In our youth our skin renews itself every 28 days but as we age, from around 25, this process begins to slow down. Dead cells gather on the skin’s surface making it rough and dull.
"When we first notice this we assume it is caused by dryness and thus we begin our usage of moisturisers.
"But this leads to the accumulation of dead surface skin cells, dryness, large pores, acne and sensitivity.”
Only 15% of us actually need a moisturiser, says Kathryn – those who have genetically dry skin like eczema.
“Our skin has natural moisturising factors, so when we apply moisturiser we disrupt our skin’s normal functioning.”
Moisturisers, Kathryn maintains, make the skin ‘lazy’, so it becomes less able to hydrate itself. And the science behind her theory?
“We store water in the lower levels of the skin in sponge-like structures called glycosaminoglycan’s (GAGs).
"This water is sealed into the skin by the skin barrier – layers of hardened, flattened skin cells, or stratum corneum.
"This top layer is like a brick wall, with cells the bricks, and a mix of water, fats and protein the mortar, keeping everything together and cells hydrated.
“In addition, the upper layer produces vital natural moisturising factors (NMFs) — amino acids, urea and lactic acid.
"These keep skin supple, protect us from UV light, maintain the skin barrier and regulate the skin’s natural exfoliation.
“If you artificially saturate the skin surface with moisture, this sends a signal to cells to stop producing GAGs and NMFs. The epidermis shrivels and thins, and fine lines start to appear.”
So what do we actually need?
Cleanser twice a day, says Kathryn, to remove make-up, excess oil, control sebum production and remove everyday environmental aggressors – morning and evening.
And then Vitamin C.
“It’s a powerful antioxidant, increases collagen production and strengthens existing collagen. It prevents UV immunosuppression, helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
"It also neutralises free radicals. In order for it to be effective it needs to be in the form of L-Ascorbic acid and have a PH of under 5.”
And most important of all, an SPF, especially around the eye area.
“Sunscreen is the first form of defence for our skin. Ireland has one of the highest instances of skin cancer in Europe and it is best practice to use an SPF of at least 30 year-round.
"Seventy-eight percent of all ageing of the skin can be attributed to incidental or daily exposure.”
And finally, night time.
“This is when the skin repairs itself so using night time products with Vitamin B or Retinol Vitamin A can help the skin repair itself.
“Resveratrol helps to reinforce skin’s natural night time renewal, improving density, radiance and elasticity.”
So, according to Kathryn, the old theory of cleanse tone and moisturise has now been replaced with cleanse, protect prevent.
But does it work?
I used all of the products listed above, but with the addition of the Metacell Renewal B3 for pigmentation and sun spots.
Kathryn had warned me that my skin may feel dry as it goes ‘cold turkey’ without any moisturiser.
Mine felt absolutely fine, there was no tightness, no dryness.
Twelve weeks later, I returned to Kathryn. And yes, she was absolutely right.
My skin had never felt better, and looking at the before photo Kathryn had taken, there was a difference. My pigmentation had all but disappeared.
The sun spot that had been driving me crazy for years?
Vanished in a couple of minutes with the cheap, quick and painless Cryopen.
This skin care regime doesn’t come cheap — the day time Vitamin C (CE Ferulic) and night time Resveratrol BE in particular are pricey.
But Kathryn says each little bottle should last a minimum of 12 weeks.
The biggest message of all from my three month trial?
Gentle Cleanser, €32
CE Ferulic, €150
AOX Eye Gel, €82
Mineral Eye UV Defense, SPF 30, €31
Mineral Radiance, SPF 50 €41
Resveratrol BE, €140
AOX Lip Complex, €40
Metacell Renewal B3, €110