I Tested 15,000 Beauty Products In 5 Years & Learned These 7 Crucial Lessons

by Sophie Cullen
Sophie Cullen

Having been a beauty editor for the last five years, and worked on a number of glossy magazines, I’ve seen and attended some of the most amazing beauty events, from the newest spa openings to cult product launches and everything in between. I’ve been sent the latest and greatest beauty products to try and test and have been lucky enough to meet some of the industry’s top make-up artists, hair stylists, doctors, dermatologists and facialists (here’s looking at you Nicola Joss — that's Megan Markle’s personal facialist, just in case you want to get a Duchess of Sussex-approved glow all of your own!) With all of these perks, it’s my job to put everything to the test and find out what works, what doesn’t, and, of course, to report back to the consumer so they can know what's actually worth investing in. Needless to say, I take it very seriously (and also love every minute of it).

From the brilliant budget cleansers that do the job just as well as their pricier counterparts, to the payday beauty treatments you should be booking yourself in for regularly, here's everything I've learned from 5 years and 15,000 beauty products' worth of experience.


Don’t Buy Expensive Cleansers

I absolutely swear by micellar waters when it comes to cleansing. It’s partly because they’re easy and don’t require 10 different steps and, most importantly, don’t overload the skin. Nothing is more of an irritant for skin than using thick heavy cleansers that block your pores. These light-weight waters are great for all types of skin; I suffer with dry dehydrated skin (attractive, I know) and these are perfect at getting rid of all the impurities, thanks to the microscopic oil spheres. If you’re not already, I guarantee you’ll become addicted. My personal faves include:


Don't Overcomplicate Your Skincare Routine

Woman is applying sheet mask on her face in the bathroomShutterstock

Using more products doesn't always mean your skin will be better. I’ve met beautiful glowing women and men who have had everything from one step (a face wipe) to 10-steps in their morning and evening regimes. It’s about finding what works for you and addressing your areas of concern. When I’ve spoken to dermatologists in the past, they made a very good point in that you’re probably repeating a step twice or even three times without realising. For instance, you don’t always need to double cleanse every day, instead try cutting it back to three times a week. Also swap cleansing brushes for a good exfoliator — they can work just as well at removing dead skin cells. It's much better to streamline your skincare regime and invest in a couple of hero products such as:


Buy A Mist

Natural organic spa ingredients with lemon, rosemary branches, balm jar, face mist spray bottle, cotton towel with cotton buds Shutterstock

I promise, they’ll be your new beauty best friends and your secret new weapon. Whether you’re looking to set, prep, hydrate or give your make-up a new lease of life, facial mists can do it all. To get the best out of them, hold approximately 5cm away from your face and spritz between three to five times. Some come in handy purse sizes which are perfect for on the day touch ups or when travelling and in need of a hit of hydration. My top tip — pop in the fridge and thank me later.


Book In Regular Facials

If you’re already happy with your skin, then you may ask why you should get a facial? The truth is, consistent upkeep of your skin prevents future concerns i.e. breakouts, ageing or fine lines. It’s also a great excuse to give yourself a break and have an indulgent hour to yourself. One of the best facials I’ve ever had is the Sunday Riley Fire and Ice facial at Hershesons in London. The first (and only) signature facial from the brand worldwide. It starts off like any other normal facial with cleansing, extraction, toning and massaging, but then the cool bit (literally) is that it includes cryotherapy, which blasts freezing cold air around your face that helps reduce inflammation and remove redness. Then comes the fire aka the LED light which destroys any bacteria on the skin and prevents further breakouts and infection. For something a little more relaxing – book yourself in for a Smooth & Glow facial at Decleor. All facials have been curated by Nicholas Joss, the woman behind Meghan Markle’s perfect skin, so you know they’re going to be good.


SPF Is Not A Myth

Woman applying sunscreen on her hands from a bottle on the beach with the sea in the background. SPF sunblock protection concept.selective focusShutterstock

Protecting your skin is important every day of the year. One of the biggest reasons many people forego SPF is because of the so called thick white textures and photography flash back. Confused? Let me explain. The SPF technology that protects you from the sun is built to reflect light. So, when a camera flash goes off directly in your face, the result (flashback) can make you look like you’ve dipped in a pot of baby powder. This is never a good look but, on the flipside, neither are sun-scorched cheeks. Dr Marko Lens, of skincare brand Zelens says: "You can avoid flashback by avoiding sunscreens containing physical (aka mineral) sunblocks, the most common being zinc oxide and titanium dioxide." As well as stopping you looking ghostly in your photos, these formulas won’t clog your pores or cause your make-up to slide off, making them ideal for every day.


Blusher Is A Great Contour

If you’re loving the ‘no make-up, make-up look’ (who isn’t) then try using a little blusher to carve out your cheek bones instead of the usual heavy contour products. A gel blush is great for blending and adding a subtle sheen. Try warming the product up on your fingers so it melts onto skin when applying.