I used to think it was just my bathroom cabinet that was out of control. Recently though, a friend, despairing about her ever-expanding lockdown beauty routine, showed me her bathroom shelves via Zoom and she has almost as much stock as Space NK.

The trend for layering hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, niacinamide, vitamin C, plus peels and masks, means we’re bombarding our faces and our skin is suffering. But how do you reset when there are thousands of products promising startling results? 

Enter GetHarley, a new online consultation service that links clients to appropriate skin experts. Whether your problem is acne, eczema, dark circles or you just want a no-BS beauty routine, GetHarley will find your match. Mine was Dr Fiona McCarthy, an oncologist who moved into aesthetics in 2015, after experiencing skin pigmentation during her pregnancies. She also, according to her biog, has ‘a holistic and preventative approach to ageing’. Excellent.

I could ask her where she stands on the ‘clean versus science’ argument and whether the two are mutually exclusive. ‘It’s actually quite straightforward,’ Dr McCarthy says encouragingly. There are three main scientifically proven ingredients that keep skin youthful: vitamin A (or retinol as it’s commonly known), SPF and antioxidants, of which vitamin C is the best.

She doesn’t use toners, praises inexpensive moisturisers (save your money for products with active ingredients), explodes the idea we should stick to one brand for everything (‘no brand excels at every product’), and recommends creamy cleansers as we age. ‘Most cleansers work, so the key is choosing the right formulation for your skin type.’

Cream-based cleansers are better for sensitive or rosacea-prone skin – try Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser, or CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser – while foamers are better for oily skins. She considers many eye-creams a waste of time as most don’t contain ingredients that make a long-term difference to skin quality, although she rates Medik8 r-Retinoate Eye Serum.

‘It has a high-strength, novel form OF retinol, which is formulated in a way that won’t dry skin but achieves results.’ Although she suggests using it twice a week initially, rather than the daily application recommended on the product.

Dr McCarthy treated melanomas for years and believes that using a daily SPF, separate from your moisturiser, is the single best thing you can do for your skin. ‘If you hate the idea of chemicals penetrating your skin, opt for a mineral one, which provides a physical barrier. It must contain UVA and UVB. If you’re worried about blue light, the combination of SPF with vitamin C will ensure you’re fully protected.’

She recommends Heliocare Oil-Free Gel, which leaves skin hydrated and dewy. She loves vitamin C because as well as brightening skin, it stimulates collagen production. But don’t use it more than once a day. Skinbetter Science Alto Defence Serum, which contains vitamins C, E and 19 and other antioxidants, is the one – it’s a cream rather than a serum, and particularly popular for mature skin. It is expensive, but she says it’s worth it. As for hyaluronic acid, her choice is Vichy Minéral 89, which can replace thicker moisturisers in the summer. ‘It’s lightweight yet intensely hydrating. Apply it before your SPF.’ 

Best skincare producsts, tried & verified

1. Minéral 89 Hyaluronic  Acid Booster,  £30, Vichy