A few weeks ago my buddy Sam over at the blog Pretty Thoughtful posted her skincare routine and I was shocked. Somehow she really only uses 4 or 5 products to keep her skin nice! But I’m sure it could go both ways, and she’ll wind up shocked by the extensive list I’m about to detail below. But first, let’s have a little chat about my skin and its history.
This is my skin, plain and clean. It’s not perfect (check out that red mark on my cheek from where I picked at a zit!) but lately I’ve honestly been having the best skin I’ve had since I hit puberty. Ever since my lovely female hormones first kicked into gear when I was in middle school, I’ve struggled with oily skin and breakouts. For contrast/reference, here’s a photo of me from summer 2009, just after graduating high school. It’s pretty representative of my most common acne locations over my life, although now the breakouts mostly just hangout around my chin.
At this point in my life I had at least some vague concept of skincare — I do recall using an actual acne facewash from the drugstore and not just plain soap, but I didn’t moisturize yet, and when I did start doing that, I just used body lotion, which surely did not help either the acne or oil situations. But even once I started to get my head on straight when it came to my skin, it was still often a battle (although I know there are people with waaay bigger acne struggles than me).
However, this past year my skin has been SO well behaved (although still oilier than I’d like). I know this is partly because of some good habits I’ve developed, like drinking more water or washing my pillowcase when I wash clothes every week since I only change my sheets about once a month. But I know those two little things probably can’t have done it on their own, so I have a few other ideas how this might have happened:
- I’ll be 27 in January so maybe I’m finally aging out? (Please, please, please.)
- I take a hormonal birth control pill, and this spring I switched to a new one because the one I was on had been giving me problems. After my doctor put me on Apri, I looked up reviews, and saw people saying it had really helped their skin, so maybe that’s happened here?
- Or have I finally put together a skincare routine that actually works?
So now after that very long preamble, let’s actually get into the nitty gritty of what I’ve been doing for my skin!
Let’s start with washing! I wash my face twice a day — once when I first get up, and again at some point in the evening. If I’ve been wearing makeup, I do a two step cleanse, first with the Dissolve Gel to Oil Cleanser from Sonia Kashuk. It comes out of the tube as a gel, then when you rub it onto your skin it turns into an oil, and then when you add water, it emulsifies and washes everything away. I can hear you all now saying, “But Krys, you just said you have oily skin? And yet you put an oil on it?” Yes, but I also put a lot of waterproof makeup on my eyes, and heavy powder to keep my makeup matte, and this stuff breaks it down way more gently than makeup wipes do. Although try not to open your eyes if you’re using it, because it will sting a bit. (Clinique’s Take the Day Off Balm is also just as nice for makeup removal, and doesn’t sting the eyes, but it’s twice as expensive as this Sonia Kashuk gel. So.)
My general cleanser is the Noxzema Classic Clean (and this is also the second step of my two step makeup removal cleanse). Whenever I’d complained about my acne over the years my aunt said, “Well have you tried Noxzema?” and I kind of brushed her off. But finally last October I said fuck it, and gave it a try, and I quite like it! It doesn’t make my skin feel tight afterwards like other cleansers I’ve tried, and it’s got menthol so it feels refreshing and tingly. I like that you can apply it to a wet or dry face — I’ll usually start rubbing it into my face while I’m waiting for the sink water to get warm. And it’s kind of solid, so it’s easy to put into a little travel pot and bring on a trip without worrying about it spilling everywhere. I found out this summer that it does kind of break down and get more liquid-y in the heat, but it doesn’t ruin the cleansing power.
Garnier’s Micellar Water is my “lazy” cleanser (and also great on a q-tip for fixing little makeup mistakes). I most frequently use this if I come home very late on a no makeup day, and know that I should wash my face before going to bed, but don’t have the energy. I’ll put some on a cotton pad and apply it to my face. It’s amazing how much stuff it picks up off of a bare face! Also, make sure you shake this before you use it or only the oil on top will come out. When I first bought it, I didn’t like it because I thought it was more oily than the only other micellar water I’d tried, but it grew on me once I realized it needed to be shaken.
Behold! My morning skincare! First up, we have toner — I’m not actually using Lush’s Tea Tree Toner right now (although I do like it a lot). That bottle’s actually filled with Thayer’s Witch Hazel toner in the Rose variety. I don’t have the actual bottle for it anymore, because I like using it better with this spray bottle. I just spray it on a cotton pad and swipe it over my skin. I haven’t tried too many toners, because the ones I had tried were really drying and I just assumed that’s how they all were (but it’s probably because I’d somehow only tried ones with alcohol in them, which is a big no-no for happy skin). But years ago Joseph Birdsong did a video about his skincare routine, and Thayer’s toner was in it. Joe has killer skin, so I figured it was worth a try, and even though I keep trying other things, I always come back to this. Witch Hazel is good for keeping skin clear, and Rose is soothing, so it’s a no brainer why this works. I definitely find my skin isn’t as good if I stop using toner.
Next we have my one single nod to the overly elaborate Korean skincare trend: Origins’ Original Skin Essence Lotion with Dual Ferment Complex. I’m pretty sure the whole essence lotion thing started with K-beauty and then migrated to Western brands. This product from Origins is supposed to hydrate the skin and help with pores and uneven texture. I think that this is one of the things that’s behind my acne clearing up faster than it used to once it’s appears. I’m not sure how much it’s actually doing all of the things it says it should be, but I like the way my skin is when I use this, versus when I use something else, or use nothing for this step, so you know, that’s good enough for me.
And then for my moisturizer — Garnier’s Moisture Bomb from their SkinActive range. I tend to stick to gel cream / water based moisturizers because using an oil based facial moisturizer is just asking for trouble with my oily skin. My go-to is the Ginzing moisturizer from Origins, but the last time I ran low, I picked this up because YouTuber Laura Lee suggested it. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, but I’m not sure I’d repurchase it once I finish it because yes, it does make my skin feel nice and soft and isn’t overly moisturizing, but it’s got a fragrance I’m not too crazy about.
Also, if I apply too much by accident or rub too hard when I put it on, it kind of pills up like some silicone based makeup primers I’ve tried (Dr. Brandt’s Pores No More or Benefit’s Porefessional, for instance). I’ve just looked it up, because I was curious and had a hunch, and dimethicone (which is in the silicone family) is the third ingredient in it! So that explains why it does almost feel like I’ve applied one of those primers when I put it on, and why it acts like them. (Although for the record, I did just check on the ingredients of the Ginzing as well, and it’s got one of those pesky “-cone”s in it, but it doesn’t feel like it when I use it, and that’s what matters to me.)
At this point I can hear the record scratch to a halt in your head — “Again, I thought you had oily skin? Why are you going on about all this moisturizing stuff?” Well, there’s this weird thing with skin where if it thinks it’s not receiving enough moisture, it will produce more oil to kind of compensate for its dryness. So even if you have oily skin, you still have to moisturize! Very important thing to know and do!
And finally for this post, my evening skincare. At night instead of the rose toner, I use one of these Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads. I just swipe one of these bad boys over my face after I wash it at night. I’m awful at remembering to use physical exfoliators, so using a chemical/acidic one like this is very helpful to my skin. These pads have Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids in them (and salicylic, lactic, hyaluronic, and glycolic acids as well [Or are those the AHAs and BHAs? Not fully sure.]). Basically the acids weaken the bonds between your skin cells to speed up the natural exfoliation / renewal of the skin. I’m pretty sure these bad boys have been instrumental in my acne not sticking around as long as it used to, and also for the marks clearing up more quickly after I pick at them (which I know you shouldn’t do, but I often can’t help myself).
Since the pads are pretty well-saturated with product, when I use one I also swipe it over my upper chest area (aka, the decolletage) and also the backs of my arms (because I’ve got those pesky little bumps known as keratosis pilaris) to get the same benefits there. I’m not sure I should be using these every night, but nothing really bad has happened and I’ve been using them for months. So. These are kind of a pain for me to get my hands on — in my area I basically have to go out of my way to stop CVS or Ulta, neither of which are stores I go to often. So if I’m running low, and I’m making my weekly-ish trip to Target I’ll pick up a bottle of the Pixi Glow Tonic to use instead. But I don’t like it as much, mainly because of the scent. (I’m very particular about scents).
Anyway, so after I use a Nip + Fab pad, I use the Origins Essence Lotion from my morning routine. And then instead of my moisturizer, we have the pièce de résistance, my one item of truly luxury skincare, the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask. I spotted this one day in the K-beauty section of Sephora, and what drew me to it at first was the scent — it straight up smells like watermelon candy. And the gel texture was kind of cool and fun. But it’s $45 so instead of buying it right off the bat, I went home and did research and when I still wanted it, I splurged. I knew I’d made a good pick / felt super validated in my life choices when one of the Sephora employees spotted me picking it off the shelf to buy it and told me how much she loved it.
Its main ingredients are watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid, and AHAs, so it gently chemically exfoliates the skin while you sleep and also provide hydration. And yes, it is a little pricey, but they give you a tiny little spoon in the box it comes in, and you’re only supposed to use one or two scoops at a time, so one jar really lasts quite awhile. I bought my first jar sometime in late spring and only bought my second jar in October. This is another one that I’m not sure I’m meant to be using every night but that, again, hasn’t hurt me yet.
So that’s the end of this post! Thanks for sticking along to the end! I was going to include face scrubs as well, but then this post got quite out of control because I felt the need to explain each item in such detail, so I’ll do another post of scrubs (and also masks!) at some point in the future.
Tell me about your skincare routines in the comments! I always get super curious and nosy about that kind of stuff. I’d love to hear what you do.