How to be a Savvy Beauty Consumer – How Many £’s to Spend on the 3 Steps of Skincare

In Being Savvy at Skincare by Cheryl WooodmanLeave a Comment

Cleanse – tone – moisturize now sounds like second nature. The first time I remember learning the 3 steps was when Clinique brought out their 3 step skincare regime. You could visit one of their counters, have your skin type assessed and they would give you a little tester pack to try.

There are so many questions that come from the leap of washing your face with water as a kid to a 3 step process. What happens if I miss out 1 step? Can I just tone? Will my toner work as a makeup remover? So why do I need to cleanse too? …And also, its confusing out there, left to your own devices in a drugstore, you can find yourself sinking into the mantra of ‘The more expensive, the better it has to be for my skin’. We know this isn’t true, but where else do you start?

Well I thought for today’s post I would analyze a little further the 3 step method, looking at what, why, who, where and finally it was Mrs.Green in the boardroom with the dagger! Haha.



Purpose: To remove makeup and that general grime of a hard days *cough cough* office work.

Chemistry: This is all about the surfactants which I spoke more about in my last post, ‘What not washing my face for 2 months has done for my skin’. To cut a long story short, these guys will remove both water and oil soluble dirt, so they get rid of anything not anatomically attached to your face!

Example key ingredients: Sodium lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidoproyl Betaine, Lauryl Glycoside, Coco Glucoside.

The discussion: A cleansers job is simple, get rid of anything on your face. The challenge comes when you take into consideration that some of the stuff on your face (your skins natural sebum layer) actually needs to be there.

With sensitive or general complaining skin, you may need to find a cleanser which approaches this in a softer way, using surfactants that are less strong in their action, or one which gives back to your skin – similar to my new oil cleansing regime, you can read about that in my last post too.
The key with a cleanser is to choose a surfactant that’s right for you. Surfactants go from super cheap (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), to cheap (Coco Glucoside). The super cheap ones tend to be more sensitizing, so if you have sensitive skin, you’ll want one with milder surfactants like Coco Glucoside.
A cleanser is not on your skin for long, so even if there are amazing ingredients in there, they have limited time to interact with your skin before they are washed off.

Price range: Cheap



Purpose: To remove left over makeup, cleanser and any excess oil. Depending on the formulation they may also reduce inflammation, and ‘shrink’ pore size.

Chemistry: Key ingredient in toner is what’s called an ‘Astringent’, random fact, the feeling of astringents is also the dry feeling you get in your mouth when you drink red wine or tea high in tannins. That strange ‘fur like’ feeling. If you were to use a true astringent, it would shrink all your pores, in reality these are not suited for our skin, so a bottle of toner-astringent is VERY mild and most active only in removing remaining makeup.

Example key ingredients: Witch hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana), Alcohol, Tea tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) (astringent toners).

The discussion: Toners are polarizing. Dermatologists generally share the view that it is not needed but could lend some benefits, depending on how you cleanse. So if you have a good cleanser, you should be able to get away without a toner.
Some toners have beneficial skin ingredients in them similar to those found in a moisturizer, these could be good as a light moisturizer. Personally I always use moisturizer so I don’t see the point in repeating this twice.
The astringent ingredients themselves are cheap to buy, so when they are bottled up with a pricy label you are paying for the bottle & branding.

Price range: Cheap to ‘maybe not needed’.



Purpose: To help your skin retain moisture and improve its overall condition.

Chemistry: The 3 types of moisturisation are Occlusive, Humectant or Emollient, if you fancy knowing more about these, I wrote about what each of these types bring to the table’ in my 2ndpost of the How to be a savvy beauty consumer’ series.

Example key ingredients: Glycerin, Shea butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), Coco butter (Theobroma cacao), Steric acid, Almond oil (Prunus Dulcis oil), the list could literally go on forever.

The discussion: A moisturizer stays on your skin until absorbed (or rubbed off, hopefully not on the sofa!). It therefore has the maximum time to improve your skin condition. This step ‘gives back’ to your skin.

Occlusive and Humectant moisture ingredients are pretty cheap for companies to buy. Emollients can be cheap, they can also be very expensive, there is a wide range, but generally these are worth the £’s.
Price range: Mid to Expensive. This is where I would spend the £’s.


Do you Cleanse, Tone and Moisturise? How much do you feel is worth spending on each step?