Caroline Hirons on the problem with retinol, her new skincare line and anger at the ‘moneypause’

·4-min read
 (Nicky Johnston)
(Nicky Johnston)

When beauty blogger-turned-skincare supremo Caroline Hirons raves about a product, it usually sells out within hours.

For the uninitiated, the aesthetician, who began her career on beauty counters and has worked in-house with some of the world’s top skincare brands, started her blog in 2010 and it has since racked up over 125 million views.

Her straight-talking approach to the industry has earned her legions of loyal followers, or “Freaks” as she affectionately terms them. There are more than 100,000 members of her Skincare Freaks Facebook group, where her fans are evangelical about Hiron’s advice, and she has amassed over 650,000 followers on the ‘gram — a figure that has almost doubled in the last year.

Hirons released her debut book, Skincare, last June and it quickly became the UK’s best-selling title of that category of all time. She has just released an updated version, Skincare: The New Edit, and is launching her own line of products, Skin Rocks, next year.

 (Skincare: The New Edit)
(Skincare: The New Edit)

“It’s a bit like updating a reference book,” Hirons says of the new title, which features updated brand and product recommendations — but you won’t find any viral TikTok hacks in this beauty bible. “I don’t follow trends at all,” she says. Rather, it’s a detailed guide on skincare written in a “blog post-style” on things like SPF, the correct order for your skincare routine and exactly how much of each product to use within it. It also features an “elongated” When Life Happens section, she explains, which has advice for dealing with the impact of hormonal changes on the skin, from puberty to the menopause.

 (Nicky Johnston)
(Nicky Johnston)

The book is as much about what not to invest in — see: sheet masks, gold-infused skincare and beauty fridges. “You know what I hear all the time? ‘My skin is so shit,’” she tells me over the phone. “And I’m like your skin is not! It’s gorgeous! I spend my time trying to encourage people to love the skin they’re in. Obviously if you have a skin complaint and need to see a dermatologist that’s different but it’s still your skin, you have to love yourself.”

At 51, while she doesn’t advocate tweakments, Hirons is open about her own use of fillers and botox, though says a facelift is one step too far for her. Hers is very much a ‘you do you’ approach to ageing. “No amount of skincare will actually stop you ageing or change the structure of your face,” she writes in the book. “It’s about managing expectations,” she elaborates over the phone. “When your oestrogen has gone on holiday and isn’t coming back, and your collagen is so depleted that it’s almost lying on the floor like an empty potato sack, no product is going to ‘stimulate it’.”

Her book features advice on how to care for peri/menopausal skin, with recommendations on how to repair the skin barrier and manage hormonal breakouts, for example. But her lastest gripe is what she likes to call the “moneypause,” or the wave of brands now preying on vulnerable women who are approaching this stage in their lives to push targeted skincare lines, some of whom, she says, make “false promises.”

“We’re a new demographic they can chase, people see a dollar and they chase it and that just pains me. Sometimes you really have to be in an experience to really see it from the other side,” says Hirons, who began taking hormone replacement therapy about two years ago.

Hirons is a big proponent of the power of retinol — considered the holy grail for anti-ageing — when used correctly. So what are we all getting wrong about it? “Everyone thinks they’re a cosmetic scientist when it comes to retinol,” she says. “A lot of the time they go too high and then peel, blame the retinoid, and then never try it again because they’re scared. And sometimes it’s more about what it’s mixed with that makes it so effective.” Second? Consistency (or lack of). “Vitamin A is something you have to use consistently. You’re not going to use it once and see a difference,” she says. If you’re trialling a new product, stick with it to give it a chance to work.

So what can we expect from her skincare line? For now, Hirons is remaining button-lipped about the range. “Because my Freaks remember everything!” Though she says she has now signed off most of the formulations and is currently making final decisions about packaging. “It’s a constant battle between sustainability and efficacy, what will actually be good for the product and what does the consumer actually want? It’s a challenge!” Skin Rocks will launch in the final quarter of 2022, she hopes. So watch this space.

Skincare: The New Edit by Caroline Hirons out now (HQ, HarperCollins)

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