From "what order should I apply my skincare in?" to prepping skin for a special event, and spilling on Botox, Gemma Watts delves into her DMs to answer your most burning questions.
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Published: August 2022
(I believe this is what is referred to as a “humble brag”) - I am asked a lot of beauty questions on Instagram. A lot.
And I love it! I love that I have an audience of beauty lovers who really trust what I have to say.
But, as you can imagine, a lot of those questions have a bit of an overlap.
There’s a handful, a big handful, of questions that pop up time and time again, which leaves me to type out the same answer… time and time again.
Over the last few months, I’ve been making a note of which questions pop up the most often - my frequently asked questions, if you will.
Here’s a look at what the beauty community wants to know, and the advice I love to share. Here are my ten most frequently asked beauty questions.
This is my number one most frequently asked question by a country mile. A simple rule of thumb to refer to when you’re feeling stuck is to work from thinnest to thickest consistency after cleansing - for example, working from a toning liquid through to a thick night cream.
This is the order most skincare products should be applied in, although exceptions exist based on ingredients. I would absolutely not recommend using all of the below products at once, so simply take this as a “this goes before that” list, rather than a skincare recipe to be followed step by step.
1. Makeup remover/micellar solution
3. Astringent toner
4. Exfoliant or retinol (this includes physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants)
5. Treatment lotion or essence
8. Eye cream
10. SPF (for day time)
There is no such thing as a topical “solution” for cellulite. Firming creams can increase the skin’s ability to hold onto moisture and give it a “firmer” appearance, and rituals like dry body brushing can improve circulation and increase cell turnover, so there are small things you can do at home to “lessen” the appearance of cellulite.
But, honestly, I think the less we talk about it the better. In the words of every Love Island contestant ever, “It is what it is.”
Controversial, but I am not a huge believer in spot treatments!
A spot treatment is typically designed to dry out a pimple and bring it to a head, and from there you have two options - one is let it go away on its own, content in the knowledge that you did what you could to speed up the process, or pop it.
I refuse to pop a pimple. If you’re prone to post-inflammatory erythema (the dark spot that a pimple can leave in its wake for months), then you’ll understand that it’s just not worth it.
If I do want to dry out a pimple, I reach for a clay detoxifying mask and apply that to the spot instead.
My favourite has long been the Grown Alchemist Deep Cleansing Masque.
Often when people complain of sunscreen related breakouts it’s because they aren’t cleansing their skin thoroughly enough and are therefore still wearing a bit of product to bed. The more you know! I recommend double cleansing, first with an oil or balm cleanser and then with a water based solution, to really thoroughly remove any sunscreen remnants of an evening.
If double cleansing isn’t helping, look for a sunscreen specifically formulated for sensitive skin. A fragrance free formula is a really great place to start.
On the “wearing it daily” side of things, the answer is technically no, you don’t have to. A lot of people subscribe to a “UV over 3” way of thinking, using an app to check the UV for the day and then deciding from there if they’ll apply SPF, but I think this leaves far too much room for error.
I also believe, strongly, that just applying the sunscreen takes significantly less time than the rigmarole of checking the UV.
You’re also far more likely to forget to check the UV (and, in turn, apply your sunscreen) than you are if you just make it a daily, non-negotiable part of your routine. Put it next to your toothpaste!
I wasn’t sure whether or not to include this as it is so specific to me (there’s that self indulgence again), but it comes up so often that it would have been remiss of me not to include it.
I have naturally full eyebrows, despite waxing them clean off after a boy told me I had a unibrow in Year 9. I let them grow back, and now they’re probably the best part of my personality.
Every 5 to 6 weeks I have them shaped and tinted with Henna, and I just use a clear brow gel to style them. My biggest piece of advice here is, when it comes to eyebrows - always visit a professional. You can’t do this one yourself. Trust me.
If you’re old enough to be DMing me about retinol on Instagram, then you’re at an age where it can’t hurt.
I’m a pretty big believer that the vast majority of skin types can benefit from retinol use.
The crux of it is that retinol boasts the ability to increase our skin’s rate of cell turnover, helping to treat everything from acne to the visible signs of ageing.
It’s important to work it into your skincare regimen very, very gently though.
This question is so popular that I'm currently putting together an article where I'll delve into the topic in greater depth. Stay tuned!
Don’t trust me? That’s fair! Just keep in mind that every single dermatologist I have ever interviewed has said retinol is their number one recommendation for healthy skin. Equal number one with…
Sunscreen. It’s sunscreen and retinol. Every single dermatologist says the same two things.
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, I recommend using one that is SPF50+ and “broad spectrum,” which means you’re being protected against both UVA and UVB rays. This is particularly important during the winter months, as UVA can penetrate clouds and glass.
My fiancé is pretty good with his skincare now, but what I found to be the most effective (and convincing) way of getting him to build a routine was to just introduce one product at a time.
I started by ensuring he was wearing sunscreen every day, then once he’d made that a non-negotiable, I explained how important it was to ensure that he was removing that sunscreen of an evening - enter cleanser.
The other thing I’ve found really useful is to literally just listen to what he says about his skin.
He complained recently of dry skin as the cold snap hit, so I reminded him that moisturiser and hand creams are the solution. It worked!
I think the reason that men sometimes take a little bit of extra convincing is because having healthy, young-looking skin isn’t something that’s been hammered into them of being really important from a young age, as it is with women.
Explaining that skin health is a part of our overall health is a good place to start.
Fellow Youtimer Rob Povey put together a basics through to levelling up guide to skincare just for the guys, which you can read here.
I absolutely love this question as it allows me to deliver my number one piece of advice - I recommend visiting a dermatologist or dermal clinician.
Clinical and spa skin treatments can be so tricky to recommend, as everyone’s skin has different needs and we each long for different results. Even if I recommend a specific treatment at one salon, the clinician will still adapt and tweak that treatment to suit each client’s needs.
The difficulty here is that visiting a qualified expert, someone with client-facing experience, is an expense, so think of it this way - if you follow a blind recommendation and then undergo a treatment that isn’t right for your skin, you’ll end up wasting money on repeat treatments without seeing the results you’re after.
Visiting a professional for a skin consultation will allow you to learn more about your skin and talk through your own skin goals. Even if you aren’t following that consultation with a treatment, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of your skin and will be able to make more educated purchasing decisions.
Want to learn more about professional skin consultations? Read this article.
Nowhere! I am asked this every single time I do a Q&A on Instagram. I haven’t had any injectables yet, but I’m sure I will one day as there’s a lot that topical skincare simply cannot achieve (despite what marketing tries to convince us of).
To maintain my skin’s elasticity in the meantime, I make sure I’m using retinol and sunscreen (both essential in collagen production and maintenance) and use an LED mask a few nights a week.