Note 6/15/2017: This routine is a bit outdated now. While I still enjoy many of these products, my routine looks a but different now. I would still recommend most of the products, but I have found moisturizers and an eye cream that I like better than the ones listed. If you are interested in an update, let me know and I can work on a new post!
My skin has been something that I have struggled with quite a bit over the past year. Before that, I had been pretty lucky in the sense that I had fairly normal skin and only ever dealt with the occasional superficial zit or two…even through my teen years. However, when I made a hormonal birth control change about a year ago, my skin completely freaked out. I got cystic acne on my cheeks for the first time in my life like a revolving door– every time one or two of them would settle down, a new painful one would show up and the old one would leave a lovely reddish-purple mark in its place. On top of that, my skin changed from normal to combination-oily. Hitting my mid-twenties, I also started to see my first fine lines around my eyes. At this point, I started to get serious about skincare.
My teenage skincare routine of acne face wash, apricot scrub, and Cetaphil cream was no longer cutting it and so I sought out dermatological treatment. I tried a prescription tretinoin-antibiotic combination treatment for few months which made my skin extremely dry and sensitive. We are talking about flakes falling off of my skin and onto my laptop during class, dry (sorry for the gross imagery). My skin never quite adjusted to the prescription topical and to be fair, I may not have given it enough of a chance. Though, after three months it didn’t seem to be making any difference in the cystic acne so I stopped using it due to the drying side effects (I’m a bad patient). Since the acne was hormonal in nature, I ended up working with my OB/GYN find a solution.
Now that my acne has mostly subsided (I definitely will still get a zit now and again), I have combination oily-dry skin that is slowly getting back to normal, some hyper-pigmentation from the previous acne, and some general uneven texture that I am always looking to smooth. I am also looking to protect my skin and prevent early signs of aging. So, considering all that, I ended up adopting some of the concepts from the asian skincare world. Now, I don’t have a ton of time to put into my skincare each night, and definitely not in the morning, so it is certainly a pared down version.
I typically cleanse my skin in the mornings with the Purity face wash by Philosophy. I do like this one for morning and evening because it doesn’t overly-dry my skin or leave it feeling super tight, but it also does a good job of taking off makeup (or it did before I started double-cleansing at night). I have a big bottle of it that I got on sale last winter after things were marked down from the holidays and you can see how long this stuff lasts, even using it twice a day since January. I then pat my face dry a typically give it a spritz of the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herb, and Rosewater. To be completely honest, this is a 100% unnecessary step but I do it because I really enjoy it. The spray smells amazing and feels incredibly refreshing on my skin in the morning. It also helps my moisturizer spread on really easily which is a nice added bonus. Its a $7 little luxury and I also use it to take down the powdery look of my makeup or re-wet my makeup sponges.
Then I apply the Ole Henrickson Sheer Transformation moisturizer and an eye cream. I am currently using a Caudalie eye cream sample which I like well enough, but am not sold that it is anything special. The Sheer Transformation on the other hand I LOVE. This moisturizer does a great job of hydrating, but dries down completely smooth for applying makeup nicely over it. It also has Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Licorice in it which help to fade some of the hyperpigmentation that I have from old acne– I love a dual-use product.
I then apply my facial sunscreen. I have been using the EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 all summer and really, really liking it. It feels tacky on application but dries down completely smooth after about four minutes. I really like it because it is formulated for acne-prone skin (it has lactic acid and niacinamide–another hyperpigmentation fader) so I feel like I am also treating my skin when I use it. It is lightly hydrating, so it doesn’t kick up my dry spots like some of the alcohol-heavy sunscreens do.
So my night routine is definitely a little bit more indulgent and time consuming than my morning routine…but I do look at it as a form of relaxation and self-care, something that becomes more important on stressful days.
I always start with a double cleanse. The first cleanse is with an oil cleanser– I am almost done with a full bottle of the Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil— which removes your makeup, sunscreen, and any other remnants of your morning skincare. I love oil cleansing because I was using a “makeup remover” anyways to get off my eye makeup, so now that step is completely unnecessary. Then I do a regular cleanse, just using any foaming type face wash that isn’t too drying (right now my Philosophy Purity).
The next step is the treatment step– it varies night by night for me. My favorite acid treatment right now is the Pixi Overnight Glow Serum. It is a 10% Glycolic Acid serum that you apply after cleansing on dry skin, let it sink in for a few minutes, and then apply your moisturizer. I find it to be not overly harsh, never burns my skin, but always makes my skin look more even in the morning. It is my workhorse, every-other-day chemical exfoliant. I will often pair it with my Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid, which is my go-to acne spot treatment and preventative. I also put the Paula’s Choice on areas of pore congestion. Between the two of those, I am golden for regular chemical exfoliation.
Another way I like to treat is with face masks. To get the most out of my face masks, I like to exfoliate before applying them (so I am masking on “fresh skin”). My favorite exfoliation product for this is the Peter Thomas Roth FirmX Peeling Gel. This stuff is pretty crazy, you apply the gel to your skin and roll it around and dead skin “pills” off and you rinse– very satisfying. I originally got it as a sample and was positive that it was a gimmick but it seemed to make a pretty major difference in the texture of my skin after two uses, so I was sold. I use this once or twice a week, and then will apply a sheet mask, moisture mask, or one of my favorite “spread on masks.” PS– if you want to try this for free, make sure you are signed up for my giveaway which closes on Thursday!
So, if I did a chemical exfoliation with the Pixi Glow Serum or Paula’s Choice BHA, or used a non-moisturizing face mask, then I need to use a moisturizer. I always apply a heavier eye cream at night– I really like the Mario Badescu Glycolic Eye Cream. It could be just me, but I feel like I may have seen a difference in my fine lines in the two months since I have been using this. It definitely moisturizes my undereye area well as it is a very heavy cream that melts with body heat into an almost oily texture. Would definitely not recommend for day use though, as it would interact with makeup. If I am feeling extra-indulgent (and have the time), or my skin is a little inflammed, I will use the CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. It is quite literally 96% snail mucin, and is a silky feeling gel serum that is fantastic for adding an extra laying of soothing hydration all over my face. Extra tip–it feels amazing when you store it in the fridge and then put it on! And then my last step is a regular facial moisturizer. Right now I am using the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream. It does a good job of moisturizing and spreads very smoothly, plus it smells like real roses which is always a bonus.
It seems like a lot, but I really do enjoy the process of taking care of my skin. A lot of times, I will put on a mask and then use the time while it sits to respond to blog comments or watch an episode of Orange is the New Black with the boyfriend. Its perfect study break time 🙂
A lot of people have been asking about my skincare routine lately, so I hope this was helpful! I think the biggest things that have made a difference have been chemical exfoliation and adequate hydration. Let me know if you have any questions about anything I use! I’m definitely not a skincare expert, but I’ve gone through quite a bit of trial and error.