Colin Solves Your Problems 22 – Does Everyone Need a Skin Care Regime?


Skin care regime
Do you need a skin care regime?

A question from Yasmin in Sweden

Hello Colin! Recently been trying to wrap my head around the science of skin care. It all started with a free sample from clinque’s ‘3 step skin care’. I love it and it feels great. However I’m always suspicous to whether these things are actually having an affect and if it’s something that is necessary? So in essence my question is really, does everyone need a skin care regime? Do we need to be cleansing, toning, exfoliating and moisturising? What about eye creams? Do we just need a classic bar of soap and sunscreen if anything at all? It’s so frustrating, I just want to know the truth 🙂 Thanks! Kind regards from Yasmine in Stockholm, Sweden

Quite a few questions there Yasmine!

Skin care regimes are certainly a good idea for cosmetic companies.  Rather than selling you one product they can sell you several and you have to buy them regularly.  What’s not to like? The question is whether they are a good idea for you – and that is something only you can tell. It might be a good idea.  For instance, Sweden is a country which is very cold and dry in winter, and so regularly using a moisturiser might be a good idea.  But with the sun low in the sky and short days, a sunscreen might not be necessary at all.

So to look at the components of a skin care regime you ask about.


Cleansing fairly obviously is only necessary when you have dirt on your skin.

There is nothing wrong with a classic bar of soap, but soap does tend to dry the skin out a little.  So if you have skin that is on the dry side it might be an idea to combine it with a lotion. Cleansing wipes are another option, and are quick and convenient.


Despite nearly 30 years working in the cosmetic business I have still not worked out what toners are supposed to do.  When I try them I find that they either dry my skin out or have no effect at all.  But they continue to sell well and so I guess they must have some benefit which has escaped me.  Beauty bloggers often describe their skin as feeling better when they use them but I think it is very much an individual thing.


Exfoliating is a bit oversold by the companies who sell exfoliating products, but I find that a mild exfoliation does give my skin a healthy looking glow and a pleasant warm feeling.  I am not sure it does much if your skin is already in pretty good condition.  I definitely would not do it daily.  It is certainly possible to damage your skin’s barrier function with overenthusiastic exfoliating.


Your skin is moisturised from inside.  Water is continually being lost across your skin.  If the water is being lost at the same rate it is being replaced your skin is in perfect condition.  The skin will both look good and will have a good barrier function to protect itself from all the traumas it might encounter.

If your skin is in good condition, there isn’t much the cosmetics industry and the cosmetic scientists it employs can do to improve it.  But as your skin ages it tends to lose water more quickly and your skin tends to become drier.  You can slow this process down by applying a moisturiser that holds the water in.  One myth is that applying a moisturiser while your skin is still in an optimum condition will slow down the process.  I’d love to be able to say that this was true, but sadly it isn’t.  You will only get a benefit from a moisturiser if your skin is dry in the first place, and you’ll need to keep on applying it.   So if you have dry skin then a daily skin care regime of applying a moisturiser should help.

I hope this quick review helps.  Cosmetic products certainly can help your skin, but they don’t work miracles.   The only thing I should add is that you should be able to see an effect from any product in a week.  If you can’t see it working, it probably isn’t working.

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Further Reading and moisturising thin the skin/




9 thoughts on “Colin Solves Your Problems 22 – Does Everyone Need a Skin Care Regime?”

  1. Bianca McCarthy


    I would like to contribute to your post by providing my basic understanding of toners. As we know, toning is the second step in the skin care regime, after cleansing. A quality toner acts to remove trace amounts of cleanser, as well as other components of the cleanser, from the skin. Next time you cleanse your face, apply toner to a cotton pad and wipe across your face, then inspect the pad. More often than not, it will have picked up some residue (or is this just me?!). Of course, there are many other reasons for toners, such as to freshen the skin. And of course, the nature of the toner plays a significant role in it’s behaviour. But for me, toners are intrinsic to the skin cleansing process and definitely should not be ignored!

  2. I agree with Bianca and would add that the best toner is alcohol-free. A good toner is also great as a skin mist (which is a great little ‘extra hydrating treat’ for skin that spends many hours in dehydrating indoor climes such as one finds in many offices, in airplanes etc).

    What you wrote about toners indicates to me that you have only tried toners containing alcohol. If you’re interested, I’d love to develop a hydrating (manly) toner for you. You have my email – let me know if you want to give it a whirl and we’ll take it from there.

  3. Out of curious you almost don’t use toners in Japan and South Korea. Instead of toner you usually what they call”lotion” (almost everyone use lotions there – even men).

    The concept is different: lotions are very liquid products with a lot of humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to “soft” the dryness caused by the cleansers. Almost all Japanese women do “double cleansing” (oily makeup remover + regular cleanser) daily, so they don’t need any other product to clean the skin.

    According to the Japanese Skincare Theory due the high amount of glycerin and other glycols the lotions also disrupt momently the skin’s barrier, then the “treatment” product that is used after the lotion can penetrates better.

  4. Can my clindamycin phosphate solution be considered a toner? Though I think it’s more like a drug for my acne.

    If the toner doesn’t have actives that I need for my acne problem, I wont bother. (Although, the need to see the cotton pad remain white after makeup removal and ‘toning’ can be addicting)

  5. Phooh, where to begin?

    @Bianca – thanks for that detailed reply. That does make sense. A toner would have different solubility characteristics and so would pick up stuff that a straight cleanser would miss, and also remove cleanser residues.

    @Lise, I have the idea that alcohol based toners are the standard model and alcohol free ones are more niche. I’d be interested in seeing what you can come up with.

    @Pedro, that is very interesting about Japanese skin care routines. It sounds quite logical. How do Brazilian women view this?

    @Rae, I don’t think I’d regard a heavy duty clindamycin solution as any kind of cosmetic let alone a toner. But as you say, it can be a very effective acne cure. I have seen miraculous results with clindamycin, though sadly it doesn’t work for everyone.

  6. About dry skin; I’ve used Neutrogena hand lotion on my face because of the high glycerol content. However, I’ve read that petrolatum is the best thing against TEWL. So are there any studies comparing the effectiveness of simple high glycerin creams against glycerin creams with occlusives like petrolatum?

    1. Hi Chris, I have never seen a study comparing glycerol and petrolatum as moisturisers. My personal experience is that there are some people for whom petrolatum doesn’t help much at all, but high glycerol does. But anecdotes are a poor substitute for data, so I’d love to find some proper work in this area. I have done a previous post on this.

  7. Hi Colin 🙂

    It is nice to hear your opinion about toners. I have dry skin and never ever felt any benefit from any toner. The couple of times I tried some they dried my skin out. So, at least I know I do not need one, ever.
    The only useful thing I could see them doing is functioning as cleansers. But then we would call them cleansers, not toners.

  8. Initially,toners were supposed to restore the pH of the skin after cleansing. Nowadays facial cleansers are much more gentle, thus rendering toners unnecessary. Some people use to remove trace amounts of dirt; that shouldn’t happen after thorough cleansing with a well formulated cleanser. It’s like using a second wash after shampooing, or scrubbing your dishes after the dishwasher cycle. Other people use it to give their skin a fresh feeling: that’s just psychological rather than a visible benefit for the skin. There are toners addressed for a specific purpose: acne fighting, anti aging ingredients etc. Those are a good addition to a skin care routine.

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