‘Skin does not breathe’: Net-a-porter’s beauty director’s top beauty myths and tips

Newby Hands, who was in Dubai in May, discusses skin peels, serums and why the cleanse-tone-moisturise formula just does not work any longer.

Newby Hands is the global beauty director of Net-a-porter. Courtesy Net-a-porter

“I think this is my spiritual beauty home,” says Newby Hands, Net-a-porter’s global beauty director, as she takes a seat in the Jean-Georges restaurant at The Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. “Dubai is a city of great skin – it’s like glamour central.”

Hands is based in London, and her recent trip to Dubai was a whirlwind one. In between press meetings and beauty events, there wasn’t even time for a quick trip to the beach, she tells me. But if she’s suffering from jet lag or a lack of sleep, it certainly doesn’t show. Her skin is smooth, her lashes coated in just the right amount of mascara, and her lips covered in a subtle nude shade – Penelope Pink by Charlotte Tilbury, she reveals.

Given Hands's demanding schedule, it is crucial for her to have a quick and effective beauty routine. Having spent almost two decades as the beauty director at Harper's Bazaar UK before joining Net-a-porter, she is well aware that this is a universal need. "I literally spend a couple of minutes on beauty," she says. "It's fast, I've got it down to a T, and I've worked out what to invest in." So, while she'll splurge on a few Brazilian blowout treatments a year, she has perfected her at-home self-tanning regime.

While the current beauty industry is laden with cosmetic crazes – from lash extensions to lip plumpers – Hands is more concerned with the basics. “People often don’t think about what really matters, and beauty, aside from make-up and scent and all of that, is about having things like really fresh skin, nice teeth and good health,” she says.

Hands is a big believer in what she calls, “top-to-toe beauty” and a sceptic of the traditional cleanse, tone and moisturise formula. “A hundred years ago, it was all about cleanse, tone and moisturise,” she explains. “Today, our lifestyles are so different, and we have so many different products, so why should we limit ourselves to just these three?”

Instead of conforming our beauty rituals to age-old routines, Hands recommends that women customise their own practices, and “own their own skincare systems”, selecting from what she calls a “wardrobe of skincare”. This involves layering, mixing and combining different products to achieve a desired result. For instance, part of Hands’s daily skincare regimen involves mixing a bit of a scrub into her morning face wash, or adding some products on top of her make-up throughout the day. “I normally keep a hydrating serum with me – at the moment I like the Dr Barbara Sturm one; I’ll just put a bit on my hands and I’ll press it over my make-up because it gives that freshness,” she explains. “I also quite like the By Terry Rose balm, it’s for the lips but I use it on eyebrows and on my cheekbones as a little bit of highlight.”

Net-a-porter’s beauty section was launched only three years ago and today has 10 main categories, with 43 subcategories. From acne-fighting spot stickers to automatic airbrush make-up devices, there’s a huge array of products on offer. But right now, serums are at the top of Hands’s list of beauty must-haves. “You get all the potency of skin cream, but in a lighter texture,” she says, adding that they are especially beneficial for women who have oily skin and are wary of using moisturisers.

Hands is also an advocate of face peels. “I think they’re vastly underestimated,” she says. “But, I would also recommend not over-peeling. As a word of caution, we can get obsessed – like if we peel hard enough we can peel away our blemishes; it doesn’t quite work like that. It doesn’t need to be aggressive or hard; let the product, and not your hands, do the work.”

This isn’t the only beauty-related misconception that Hands highlights. Her favourite myth is that skin needs to breathe and that going product-free is beneficial. “Skin doesn’t breathe, to start with,” she says. “There’s been a lot of research, and there’s so much pollution in major cities, spreading microparticles that are so difficult to remove. I see having something on my skin, even if it’s just a tinted moisturiser, as having a barrier against that,” she explains. “Letting your skin breathe in a major city is a lovely idea, but it’s not quite reality.”

Read this and more stories in Luxury magazine, out with The National on Thursday, June 23.