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Acids, retinol, vitamin C. Our lotions and potions are increasingly harsh and potent.

Do we really need it all?

While these ingredients can be great for treating spots, reducing the appearance of fine lines, and evening out discolouration, they need to be used in moderation.

The skin barrier needs protecting, and sloughing it away in the name of beauty will only cause more problems in the long run.

There’s where rewilding comes in.

You might have heard the term used in relation to sustainability and the environment. It’s all about returning the planet to a more natural – or wilder – state.

This often means doing nothing and letting nature take over, and take its course.

Dr Catharine Denning, who works with sensitive skin brand Curél, says that skin rewilding is about taking your skincare routine back to basics too.

She explains: ‘Skin rewilding is the removal of all actives from your skincare routine, stripping product use right back to allow for your skin to behave in a way that’s “natural” to it.

‘The school of thought is that by doing so, you are encouraging the skin’s natural microbiome to flourish and restore the barrier function of the skin.

‘Actives, which you’ll find in things like exfoliating acids, retinols, vitamin c should be replaced with products that are of a similar pH to the skin.

‘Typically these are also scent and colourant free, which help restore the skin’s barrier function.’

There are benefits to giving this a try, such as helping reduce sensitivities and restoring ‘the skin’s individual combination of beneficial microorganisms’.

It’s all about making the skin more ‘resilient’, as Dr Catharine puts it.

What ingredients should you use?

Dr Catharine Denning recommends:

  • Ceramides
  • Humectants

‘For those that have perhaps overused their actives or have an impaired barrier function due to sun exposure, weather, stress or being on medication, I always advise to strip back the use of actives and replace this with a skin barrier restoration programme,’ she says. ‘Use very basic skincare that is ceramide protective and hydrating with a ceramide rich moisturiser, always ending with sunscreen in the day.’

How long you choose to do rewilding will depend on the skin concern, but Dr Catharine recommends at least a week or two, or at most six weeks to allow the skin to go through its full cycle.

‘Actives can typically be reintroduced slowly, when the skin feels less sensitive or dry,’ she adds.

Do you need to think about the microbiome

The skin microbiome is an ecosystem of bacteria that lives on the skin’s surface. Currently a big buzz term in skincare, the idea is that ‘balancing’ your microbiome will lead to healthier, more resilient skin.

But Dr Catharine isn’t as sold on many of the products designed to ‘fix’ the microbiome.

She says: ‘Some feel it’s necessary, when rewilding, to use products that contain pro and prebiotic ingredients to speed up the process of restoring the skin microbiome.

‘This is controversial in skincare expert circles, as there’s a lack of regulation of product efficacy, and insufficient evidence of the benefit, considering the cost of these products.

‘Something that should be considered, is that not everyone’s natural microbiome is as balanced for optimal skin health as others might be. An example of this is in acne.

‘The hype around skin microbiome is somewhat overstated currently.

‘Although we know it has some potential for benefit, the science isn’t quite there yet to determine the best way to optimise it for skin health.’

Ready to get rewilding? These are the products to take your skin back to basics.

Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream, £19.50

This brand designs its formulas to replenish the ceramide layer of the epidermis, which is responsible for the barrier function of the skin. 

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid, £11.50

A simple no-frills cleanser.

Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream, £27.20

The popular cream is great for thirsty skin in need of a big gulp of water.

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