No one has ever advised me on how I should look after my skin. If I'm lucky, a magazine might tell me that "black skin needs a lot of moisture", or some other equally vague instruction. As a result, my skincare routine is born out of trial and error, with a few catastrophes along the way - such as the time I tried Bioré strips, only to spend the rest of the afternoon trying to scrape the white, gluey residue off my nose.
It's this lack of information and curiosity about the actual state of my skin that led me to the Shiseido counter, where the assistants will analyse your skin, free of charge, and then advise you on a skincare regime. To start, counter manager Theresa Hopkins takes me through an in-depth consultation, and asks me about my regime and the products I favour.
That I don't use soap on my face goes down well, but Theresa fixes me with a death stare when I admit to occasionally going to sleep with my make-up on (even beauty columnists are lazy).
Theresa cleans my left cheek, picks up what looks like a Geiger counter and holds it up to the area. It takes an electronic picture of my skin, which is enlarged on a screen. The picture is pretty horrific - a map of lines, crossing to form a triangular pattern, interrupted only by previously unseen blemishes, thick black hairs and the odd crater (read: blocked pores). Seeing my dismay, Theresa assures me that no one's skin looks good under a microscope.
So what's the verdict? Well, my skin type is normal and not the oily/dry combination I'd always thought. It is slightly dehydrated, however, which is probably due to my skincare regime (as opposed to me having combination skin). The tightness I feel on my face after washing (which I always thought was a sign of it being squeaky clean) means I'm using too harsh a cleanser, which dehydrates my skin. And the reason I haven't found the right moisturiser is because I've been reaching for the wrong ones, making the common mistake of going on what my top layer of skin feels like (combination), rather than what it is like underneath all those dead cells (normal). I'm packed off with an array of products, and told to come back in six weeks. I'll keep you posted.