Here’s a confession: up until about a year ago, I had no idea what to do with my skin, or makeup, or appearance generally. I was raised by a mom whose idea of dressing up was wearing the fancy Tevas. I was also blessed with clear, smooth skin, so I never had a compelling reason to figure that stuff out on my own.
From middle school until last year, here was my skincare routine:
- Wash my face with body wash on one of those mesh shower poufs every other day or so.
- …That’s it.
In high school, probably due to a Hans Christian Andersen-style deal with a witch, my skin was absolutely flawless. I actually recommended the above routine to my friends. I was a monster.
Over the years, my skin became less tolerant of my abuse. My face was dry, flaky, red, and unhappy. I started using the St. Ives Apricot Scrub to get rid of the flakes and whatever body moisturizer was on hand. Like I said: I was a monster.
Then, last year, I got the Mirena. The Mirena is a hormonal IUD that continually releases a small amount of progesterone for years. While it’s extremely effective at what it promises to do (exactly zero babies so far!), at the age of 27, my face cratered.
I suddenly had awful, awful hormonal cystic acne; because my body had a steady stream of progesterone (the hormone that’s released right before your period and is responsible for PMS face), my particular brand of hormonal acne was 24/7.
So, I figured my shit out.
I started slow, with new cleansers and moisturizers, but the full Asian skincare routine grabbed me and grabbed me hard. I also dove deep into the science and medicine of skincare – I have a minor in Chemistry and when I had the chicken pox in fifth grade, I chose to spend my time memorizing a textbook about dinosaurs, so the science angle is what’s cemented my love for (obsession with?) skincare. Asian beauty products and routines in particular lend themselves easily to science, with a focus on ingredients, formulation, and efficacy.
So, without further ado, my current skincare routine for my dry, aging, prone-to-redness skin:
I know. I know. I’m bonkers. It’s fine.
- Rinse with water, with or without a konjac sponge: although the physical exfoliation offered by konjac sponges is super gentle, I do so much chemical exfoliation that I try to only use the sponge once a day. I use this one from Amazon and I like it a lot, but there are a million konjacs around the web.
- Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner: I use this with a cotton pad to remove residue from my crazy-hard water and lower my skin’s pH to make my pH-dependent actives (vitamin C, AHA, and BHA) more effective.
- Vitamin C (homemade): Since Skinceuticals has a patent on Vitamin C serums formulated with L-Ascorbic Acid, vitamin E, and ferulic acid (aka the dream team) at a pH of 2.5-3.0, I go all Rage Against The Machine FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME and make my own. (I wait 15-20 minutes after applying this to move onto my next step.)
- Goodal Waterest First Essence: I love the idea of first essences, which are watery essences that utilize fermented ingredients to brighten and provide light moisture, but this one is really underwhelming. I’ve used it for about a month with no discernible effect. (Spoiler alert: my first review will be another first essence, Lirikos Marine Triple Treatment, which I’m starting tomorrow.)
- Scinic Honey All-In-One Ampoule: Honey is my current ingredient obsession. It’s moisturizing, it reduces redness, and it’s crazy soothing. This is one of my all-time favorite honey products that packs a serious moisture punch.
- Comfort Food (homemade): I’ve been getting really into DIY. Like, Amazon-keeps-recommending-industrial-centrifuges-to-me into DIY. This is a serum starring raw honey, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. It’s soothing, moisturizing, and has made some serious inroads in evening my skin tone.
- Either Skin Ceramic Donkey Milk Yogurt All-In-One Gel Cream or Cerave PM: For my cream step, I’ll go Skin Ceramic if my skin’s a little drier, because it’s a better occlusive and will seal everything in. It’s pretty sticky, though, so if the rest of my routine provided enough moisture (or if the Comfort Food isn’t soaking in well), I’ll go with my soulmate Cerave PM.
- Banila Co Miss Flower and Mr. Honey Oil: God damn I love this stuff. It’s pretty heavy so I’ll skip it if it’s humid, but 1 drop in the morning gives me that glow. You know? And I chase that glow.
- Shiseido Senka Mineral Water UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++: This sunscreen is completely non-greasy and leaves a gorgeous, slightly dewy, almost powdery finish, but doesn’t dry me out like a lot of Japanese sunscreens do.
- Evening Primrose Oil supplements: I take a 1300mg pill in the morning, and another at night. These stopped my awful hormonal cystic acne in its tracks. I will preach these supplements to anyone who mistakenly makes eye contact with me.
- Either Skinfood Black Sugar Cleansing Oil (if I’m feeling lazy) or Banila Co Clean It Zero Radiance Cleansing Balm (if I’m feeling luxurious). These are both very effective first cleansers: they remove all my makeup and sunscreen easily and they emulsify and rinse off cleanly. The Skinfood is much lighter, so I can get in and out quickly, while the CIZ is very rich and perfect for a facial massage.
- Hada Labo Tokyo Hydrating Cleanser, maybe with a konjac sponge: The second cleanser step is one of the trickiest spots in my routine. My skin is so dry that most cleansers strip off way too much oil and leave me with serious tight-face. This Hada Labo cleanser is really gentle and non-stripping, but doesn’t leave a film like some other hydrating cleansers (looking at you, Cerave Hydrating Cleanser).
- Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner: for serious, guys, my water is hard.
- Either Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Skin Perfecting Toner or Silk Naturals 8% AHA: Listen, my blog name isn’t just because I listened to way too much The Who in high school. My skin loves acids. I alternate nights with these chemical exfoliants (I’m not in love with either of them and can’t wait until I finish their bottles so I can try some shiny new acids) and then wait about 20 minutes before my next step.
- Goodal Waterest First Essence: again, bleh.
- Scinic Honey All-In-One Ampoule: again, hnnngggg.
- Sheet masks: I sheet mask most nights. I have a lot of favorite parts of skincare, but sheet masks are definitely up there.
- Pocketderm Anti-Aging (0.02% tretinoin, 4% niacinamide, 5% vitamin C): I loooove retinoids. This has made such a difference in my skin’s texture and appearance. Since it’s formulated with fatty alcohols and is pretty creamy, I put it later in my routine.
- Comfort Food (homemade): this is a heavier serum, so while it could probably go before the Pocketderm, I don’t want anything to interfere with the magic of tretinoin, so I hedge my bets and use this here.
- Cerave PM mixed with 2 drops of Banila Co Miss Flower and Mr. Honey Oil: my two soulmates, combined to create something even greater than the sum of their parts.
- Either Laneige Water Sleeping Mask EX (if my routine provided enough moisture) or Sulwhasoo Overnight Sleeping Mask (if my skin’s still thirsty): These are probably the two most famous Korean sleeping packs, and for good reason. They both help me wake up to bouncy, plump, even skin. Plus, the Sulwhasoo has an amazing fresh ginseng/herby smell, and has become this Pavlovian association for me where just the smell makes me sleepy and relaxed.
- Evening Primrose Oil supplements: forever and ever, amen.
And here’s what my skin looks like today, with zero makeup:
I love everything about my skincare routine, including (especially?) how crazy it makes me look when I type it all out. I’m so excited to finally unleash my crazy on the internet. Welcome to my blog, y’all.
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