How to build a capsule skincare wardrobe

The skincare staples that will see you through from season to season, as well as help you to navigate different skin conditions

In fashion terms, a capsule wardrobe includes those classic, key pieces that you wear every day, and can tackle almost any situation. In the same way, there are certain skincare products that are your skincare ‘staples’ and will see you through from season to season, as well as helping you to navigate a huge array of skin conditions.

Whilst the specific products that you need to use will depend on your individual skin type and concerns, there are certain types of products that we can all benefit from integrating into our regimes and should form the basis of an effective skincare programme. You can then build on these skincare basics, if necessary, for a more active or targeted approach to treat everything from acne and hyperpigmentation to tackling premature ageing. 

For the best results, it really pays to see a skin professional in person who will be able to thoroughly analyse your skin and build a regime that targets all of your concerns and conditions at the same time. But if you’re after a few essential products to get you started, here are a few skin saviours that we often recommend at KKL.

The exfoliating cleanser

We recommend using an acid or enzyme-based cleanser every morning and evening to deeply cleanse and gently exfoliate the skin to target key concerns. You might be tempted to skip a cleanse in the morning – because what’s the point when you’ve only been sleeping since the last cleanse? – but, don’t skip it! 

Cleansing is one of the most important steps in a regime, due to its ability to regulate the skin’s rate of cell renewal, as well as helping to prepare the skin to receive the active ingredients in your serums.

Acids and enzymes, although quite different, have a similar action in the skin. Acids can be categorised into two groups: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Both dissolve the glue-like substance that binds dead skin cells onto the surface of the skin, allowing them to wash away, which leaves you with smoother, brighter skin, a healthy cell renewal cycle and a complexion that’s prepped for serums to penetrate more deeply and work more effectively. 

Some exfoliating acids have the ability to clear ‘cellular debris’ within the pore, so they work right into the deepest layers of the skin and have an anti-bacterial effect, while others are known to increase hydration, collagen production and improve hyperpigmentation. 

Ingredients to look out for include: 

  • Salicylic acid for acne or rosacea
  • Lactic acid for dry skin
  • Glycolic and lactic acid for ageing skin
  • Mandelic and lactic acid for hyperpigmentation
  • Enzymes such as papain, bromelain and pumpkin

Check out our blog post to find out more about the different types of acids and how they can help to transform your skin.

The exfoliating scrub

We recommend using an exfoliating scrub such as ZO’s Dual Action Scrub or IS Clinical Cleansing Polish every second day and building up to daily exfoliation after cleansing.

Why? Our skin is constantly repairing and replacing itself, which is key for a healthy, glowing complexion. The problem is that skincare and make-up messes with our skin’s natural shedding process as they effectively ‘stick down’ the skin’s cells, leaving us with layers of dead cells that accumulate on the surface.

We need to mimic the skin’s natural shedding process ourselves, by exfoliating. If we don’t, our skin detects a build up of dead skin cells on the surface and sends a message deep down to tell the skin to stop sending up as many skin cells. Our skin cell turnover then slows right down and cell function becomes lazy. 

By exfoliating, we also allow our skincare to penetrate deep within the skin, making them more effective, and we help to keep our skin’s protective barrier strong.

Exfoliating can also help to:

  • Unclog the pores, helping to reduce acne symptoms
  • Soften fine lines and wrinkles
  • Increase cell turnover to brighten the skin
  • Fade age spots
  • Minimise pore size and superficial scars

The antioxidant serum

We recommend using a broad-spectrum, water-based antioxidant serum containing at least two or three antioxidant ingredients every morning to protect your skin from environmental damage.

Antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacinamide, Resveratrol and Coenzyme Q10 to name a few, help to keep the skin healthy by inhibiting what’s called ‘oxidative stress’. To understand the process of oxidation and its effects on the skin, think about what happens when you cut into an apple – it turns brown. 

Similarly, as we age, the skin’s antioxidant defence system weakens, losing its capacity to fight the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This leads to cell damage and the breakdown of healthy tissue, as well as DNA damage, which causes skin cells to act up. 

Collagen and elastin is broken down more quickly, which leads to lines, wrinkles and a loss of elasticity, as well as hyperpigmentation, discolouration, dryness and a rough skin texture. Oxidative stress has also been linked to the onset, or exacerbation, of acne and rosacea.

It’s best to apply your antioxidant serum in the morning – that way your skin is protected against environmental aggressors during the day. Be sure not to use a Vitamin C based antioxidant, at the same time as a retinol as the two ingredients can inactivate one another – that’s why at KKL, we recommend the use of a retinol in the evening and an antioxidant serum in the morning.

The eye cream

It isn’t always necessary to have a specific eye cream; it really depends on the regime you are on. Skin is skin at the end of the day and the cells in the eye area are the same as the rest of the skin. However, you may be experiencing particular symptoms that are very unique to the eye area, which would need addressing with a specialist eye cream. 

The main difference with eye creams is they are normally thinner in texture and have a lower concentration of active ingredients, reducing the chance of irritation, so are better for people who are just beginning to use active skincare and want to avoid any downtime. It’s always important to follow the guidelines on specific products as some are not suitable for the eye area.

During the day, the focus of your eye care should be prevention and protection, with the added benefit of treating any specific symptoms that you might be concerned about, such as under eye circles and puffiness. 

Your eye regime should involve applying an antioxidant serum, followed by a high-factor SPF in the morning. Then in the evening, apply a targeted serum such as ZO Skin Health’s Growth Factor Eye Serum. Its punchy formulation is designed to support the natural ageing process and prevent premature ageing, whilst also alleviating puffiness and dark circles. It even gives a minute botox-like effect due to the inclusion of neuropeptides, which help to minimise neurotransmission and limit fine muscle movement. 

Ingredients to look out for include:

  • Caffeine and Vitamin K for dark circles and puffiness
  • Retinol for plumping and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles
  • Ceramides for dry skin

The retinol

The skincare super star! What does this ingredient not do? Retinol slows the ageing process, whilst also encouraging a healthy glowing skin that’s free of skin conditions. It’s a good idea to start using one from age 25-28 unless pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant. 

Retinol is known for speeding up cell turnover and for helping to thicken the epidermis and dermis for a plumper, younger looking skin. It also helps to refine the stratum corneum (the layer of skin we see) to expose fresher, healthier, plumper cells that reflect the light, giving a brighter and more glowing complexion, as well as a stronger, more resilient barrier for a calmer skin that’s protected.  

The benefits of retinol are endless – it improves hyperpigmentation and acne, minimises large pores, smooths fine lines and wrinkles, increases hyaluronic acid production, plumps the skin and regulates moisture production. 

We recommend retinol in a serum at a percentage of 0.5% and above. It’s best to apply a retinol at night as the skin is more active and in repair mode, making it the prime opportunity to stimulate the skin’s cells. 

Check out our retinol guide to understand how to slowly integrate one into your regime and minimise any side effects. 


Applying an SPF isn’t just essential for reducing your risk of developing skin cancer –  the sun’s harmful rays are responsible for over 80% of all skin ageing, and are either the leading cause, or heavily contribute to the exacerbation of, many skin conditions, from rosacea and acne to hyperpigmentation.

You need to apply a high-factor, broad-spectrum SPF every day, even if it’s cloudy outside and even if you’re staying inside! Don’t think of it as “sunscreen” – it’s a radiation screen, designed to protect you from all forms of light, from UV rays to High Energy Visible (HEV) light. 

HEV is the light that’s emitted from our laptop and mobile screens – it causes just as much damage to the skin, including pigmentation. And you aren’t safe from UV rays indoors either – if there is daylight in your home, then UVA is bouncing around. If you need any more convincing of the damage that UVA can do, just google ‘UVA truck driver’ to see the effects on one side of the face in comparison to natural ageing on the other side!

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of performing your skincare regime first thing in the morning and applying your SPF – then remove it at the end of the day once you’re finished spending time on any devices. If you’re heading outdoors and it’s sunny, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and clothing that helps to block the sunlight. It’s also a good idea to seek shade or avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm. Remember, you also need to reapply SPF every two hours when you’re outside.

Our preferred SPFs at Kate Kerr London are from ZO Skin Health as the formulations are advanced and the addition of melanin is the equivalent of delivering little sun parasols deep within the skin to give hours of protection from UV and HEV light. They also contain a broad range of antioxidants. 

Why I don’t recommend a moisturiser

When we use a moisturiser, our skin’s surface sends a signal down to its water reservoirs telling it that there is plenty of moisture and to halt production. This makes the skin sluggish and lacking in moisture, so we reach for more moisturiser, as well as richer formulations along with balms and oils. 

It’s important to wake up your skin’s natural moisturising mechanisms as this will have a knock on effect and stimulate other processes within the skin such as balancing oil production, brightening the complexion and slowing the rate of skin ageing. 

You need to break that perpetual cycle of reaching for a moisturiser when your skin feels tight. Once you stop moisturising, this cycle is broken and the skin’s ability to moisturise itself increases over a period of 6-12 weeks. Don’t let that time frame put you off; at Kate Kerr London, we normally see our client’s skin turn a corner at around 2-3 weeks. Want to find out more about how to wean yourself off the moisturiser? Check out my blog post all about it.

Interested in a tailored skincare regime?

If you’d like us to help you build a comprehensive skincare regime that’s designed to transform your skin health on a cellular level, along with targeted treatments, book a consultation with one of our clinical facialists today.

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