Skin & Tonics

American, Asian, & European skin care reviews, guides, cult favorites, & news

My Skin Care Routine Part 2: Evening

Most people reading this have already seen my Morning Skin Care Routine, but for those who are just joining us, I’d like to recap the changes to how my current routine is presented. My skin care routine changes a lot, but these days I use the same ideology to assemble my routine no matter which products I’m trying at the moment. This time I’ve decided to break up my skin care routine description into three parts:

Part 1: My Morning Skin Care Routine
• Part 2: My Evening Skin Care Routine (You’re reading it now!)
Part 3: Masks, Spot Remedies, & Weekly Treatments

Today I’ll be detailing the way I go about assembling my evening skin care routine, including product types, order, and the ideology behind them. I’ll be including some of my favorite “go-to” products for each category. I’ll also be noting my baseline products with an asterisk (*). My baseline products are those that are gentle enough that I can use them even if my skin is freaking out as a result of some sort of reaction or other type of irritation. Please note that I’m only using one product for each category at any given time.

My Skin Type & Concerns

My skin type is dry. I would characterize it as somewhat sensitive, though it’s nowhere near as sensitive as it used to be. A year ago I could barely tolerate any acids (BHA, AHA), and now those are my go-to actives.

I am highly prone to hormonal acne, especially along my jawline, and I am also very prone to hyperpigmentation. I get red marks from even the tiniest closed comedones, and without product assistance, they will linger anywhere from 4 to 12 months.

Without disclosing my precise age online, I will say that I am closer to 40 than I am to 30. I don’t have any issues with wrinkles. I have some fine lines beginning to develop in my eye area. I don’t have any visible sun damage.

A closeup of my skin with no makeup, taken on May 9, 2014.

A closeup of my skin with no makeup, taken on May 9, 2014.

My Goals

My goals for my skin care routine, regardless of what products I’m using, are to maximize the overall health of my skin, achieve an even skin tone and texture, and prevent the effects of aging. I focus heavily on products that have the potential to strengthen my moisture barrier, prevent and/or treat acne and hyperpigmentation, and prevent sun damage and wrinkles.

My skin responds very well to products in a lower pH range – I’ve eliminated use and testing of nearly all skin care products with a pH higher than 6.0, and have seen tremendous improvement in my moisture barrier strength, and consequently, a reduction in my skin sensitivity and an almost complete elimination of my chronic acne. You can check out my post about the moisture barrier, acne, and skin sensitivity for more information about this topic.

My Evening Routine

Much like my morning routine, my evening skin care routine is loosely based on an Asian skin care style routine in the sense that I’m layering a lot of products, double cleansing at night, and many of my skin care favorites are from Korean and Japanese brands. However, I also have favorite products from other parts of the world, and because I’m making considerations for pH dependent items, the exact order of my skin care routine doesn’t line up precisely with the steps in a traditional Asian skin care routine.

I’ll be linking to my full review for products that have them. Those that don’t have reviews yet will have them soon, and I’ll be updating this post as they become available.

It should be noted that everyone’s skin is different, so what works perfectly for me may be an awful combination for someone else. I also want to point out that my tolerance for acids is a bit higher than someone who has never used an AHA and/or BHA regularly. Acids are wonderful actives, but they can be drying or irritating for someone who isn’t used to them, or is simply too sensitive to use them (I couldn’t use them at all when I first started using Tretinoin a couple of years ago).

Be warned: my evening skin care routine involves a lot of waiting. I’m not always a patient person, generally speaking, but I’ve found that the wait times in my routine are a necessity. When I don’t wait, my pH dependent products are less effective, and my Tretinoin winds up in places I don’t want it to be. Have you ever gotten Tretinoin/Retin-A on your lips? It’s a really bizarre and unpleasant experience involving a loss of sensation and dead, peeling, lip skin. It takes several days for my mouth to feel normal again, but waiting the appropriate amount of time between product applications prevents me from needing to deal with a case of what I like to call “dead lips.”

Step 1: Eye Makeup Remover

Sure, I could just take my makeup off with whatever cleansing oil or balm I’m using in step 2 of my routine, but then I get oil in my eyes and everything gets blurry. This forces me to stumble around my bathroom with my arms stretched out, waving them around as I feel around for my shower towel and knocking things off the sink, yelling obscenities with greasy streaks of eye makeup smeared all over my face. I like to avoid that sort of spectacle, so I opt to use a separate eye & lip makeup remover first.

I’ve been wearing eye makeup since I was 11, so I’ve tried a lot of eye makeup removers. Nothing beats a bi-phase remover, which is the type that has a watery layer and a silicone layer (often mistaken for an oil layer) that needs to be shaken together before use.

My all time favorite eye makeup remover is:

Clinique Take the Day Off Remover for Lids, Lashes & Lips*

Clinique Lids, Lips, & Lashes Remover

This is a fragrance free remover that instantly melts away any eye makeup, no matter how waterproof. I shake it up, apply it to a cotton round, hold the round to my eye for about 3 seconds, then wipe everything away.

Where to Buy: You can find this eye makeup remover at Sephora, where it retails for $18.

Lancome Bi-Facil Double Action Eye Makeup Remover

Lancome Bi-facil

This remover was my favorite for years before I discovered the Clinique offering. It performs nearly identically to the Clinique remover, but the Lancome version does contain fragrance.

Where to Buy: You can find this eye makeup remover at Sephora, where it retails for $28.

Innisfree Apply Juicy Eye & Lip Remover

apple_juicy_remover

 

Don’t worry. Despite the product name, this stuff won’t remove your lips and eyes; only your makeup. It performs almost as well as Lancome and Clinique, but it’s considerably cheaper and smells like an apple Jolly Rancher.

Where to Buy: You can find this eye makeup remover on eBay from seller I am Love Shop, where it retails for $8.

You can can also find it at W2Beauty, where it sells for $10. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

Step 2: Oil, Balm, or Cream Cleanser

This is the first step of my double cleansing process. The purpose of this step is to thoroughly remove my makeup and sunscreen before cleansing my face. I’ve been double cleansing for over a decade, though it wasn’t until the past few years that I realized that “double cleansing” was an actual term. Years ago, a sales associate at a beauty counter told me that washing my face while I was still wearing makeup was akin to taking a shower with my clothes on. I’ve had a separate makeup removal step in my routine since.

I used to be loyal to oil cleansers for this step, but I’ve recently been reaching for cream cleansers and balm cleansers to remove my makeup instead. The cream cleansers are rich and creamy, but still contain lots of oils so they’re great for removing makeup without drying out my skin. Balm cleansers are oil solids that liquefy and behave like oil cleansers when they’re spread over the skin. Oil, balm, and cream cleansers all contain ingredients that allow them to emulsify when water is added, so they rinse clean and don’t leave behind a greasy film.

I still think oil cleansers are fantastic, but I love the no-drip experience I get from cream and balm cleansers. I also think they’re much easier to travel with. Here are my favorite cleansers at the moment:

Banila Co. Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm *

banila_cleanit_zeo

This was the first cleansing balm I tried, and I still love it. It melts my make up off completely and effortlessly without any dripping. It emulsifies with water and rinses clean. It smells like cherry blossoms. For more information, see my full review.

Where to Buy: You can find this cleansing balm on eBay from seller I am Love Shop, where it retails for $25.

You can can also find it at W2Beauty, where it sells for $26. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

Skin Food Honey Black Tea Cleansing Cream

cleansingcream

This is rich, luxurious cream cleanser that removes my makeup just as effortlessly as a cleansing oil or balm. Its smooth, lotion texture feels like a facial treatment, then emulsifies with water and rinses away without leaving any residue. It smells lightly of honey and something ambiguously floral.

Where to Buy: This cleansing cream is available from eBay seller BizInside for around $15.

Innisfree Apple Juicy Cleansing Oil

apple_juicy_oil

This is a standard cleansing oil that quickly and easily removes all traces of makeup, except it smells exactly like an apply Jolly Rancher. It emulsifies with water and rinses clean.

Where to Buy: This cleansing oil is available from eBay seller I am Love Shop for $16.

You can can also find it at W2Beauty, where it sells for $20. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

Step 1: Gentle, Low pH Cleanser

I made a decision 6 months ago to stop using cleansers with a pH over 6.0. This is one of two major changes I made to my skin care approach that made a major difference in my skin’s health. It did mean sacrificing my rich, foaming, facial cleansers though – sadly, all of them tested at a pH of 8.0 or higher. It also meant letting go of my Shea Terra cleansers, all of which had a pH of 10.0 or more. The upside is that I was able to hang on to one of my old drugstore favorites, and discover some new cleansers that I liked more than any of my old ones. I now keep no less than 5 different gentle cleansers in rotation at any given moment. I don’t actually need 5 different cleansers. A normal person would fare just fine with one. But, you know, variety is the spice of life, and having a sink and shower lined with an array of amazing cleansers makes me feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury.

Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser 8.31, Biologique Recherche Lait U Cleansing Milk, Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser, Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser

Left to Right: Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser 8.31, Biologique Recherche Lait U Cleansing Milk, Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser, Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser

Here are my favorite cleansers right now:

Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick (pH 5.5) *

This is my Holy Grail (HG) cleanser, in part because it’s such a great cleanser and I love what it does for my skin, but also because it’s a pleasure to use, easy to travel with, and if I need to, I can use it for both steps of my double cleansing routine at night since it removes makeup so well. You can see my full review here.

Where to Buy: It’s sold out almost everywhere at the moment – the manufacturing company is actually having a hard time keeping up with the high demand for this cleanser. You can get on a waiting list at W2Beauty, where it retails for $26. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

When the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick becomes widely available again, I’ll update with more vendor options.

Biologique Recherche Lait U Vegetal Cleansing Milk (pH 5.0)

There are days when I think that maybe Lait U is my HG. It’s creamy and luxurious, and has the lowest pH of any of any of my cleansers. I would describe it as moisturizing, but it also rinses really cleans and doesn’t leave any filmy residue. Like the Su:m37 Cleansing Stick, it removes makeup well enough that it can also be used for both steps of the double cleansing process if needed.

Where to Buy: I get all my Biologique Recherche Products from either Rescue Spa or Vicki Morav. Both retailers have excellent product knowledge, incredibly fast shipping, and send a crazy amount of samples with your order. Vicki Morav also offers a 10% discount for orders of $150 or more with the code Happy2014.

FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser 8.31 (pH 5.0)

This cleanser has the most foaming action of any of my low pH cleansers. The nice thing about it is that despite the lather, it’s totally non-stripping. It also rinses easily and completely without any residue, and contains some nice moisturizing, anti-inflammatory ingredients. When I use this cleanser, I like to massage my dry face with it for a minute or two before lathering up and rinsing it away.

Where to Buy: You can find this cleanser at FutureDerm.com.

Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser (pH 5.5 )

This is the most affordable of my top 5 cleansers, and has been a staple of mine for a very long time. It’s gentle, fragrance-free, and contains all kinds of exciting ingredients that are great for strengthening your skin’s moisture barrier, such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

Where to Buy: You can find Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser at Amazon.com for $10.

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Facial Cleanser (pH 5.0)

This is a clay-based gel cleanser that I reach for if I’ve been sweating a lot or my skin otherwise feels extra gross for any reason. It contains anti-inflammatory ingredients, rinses clean, and some anti-microbial ingredients. It smells really green and herbal, and imparts a mild but pleasant warming sensation when I use it. It’s worth noting that a warming sensation (or any other sensation associated with a product’s use) is a form of irritation, no matter how intentional. I find it really pleasant though, and have never experienced any trouble from it. Those with very sensitive skin my find it to be too much, though.

Where to Buy: You can find this cleanser at Sephora.com, where it retails for $45.

It’s also available at SkinStore.com. It retails for $45 there as well, but you can often find discount codes for SkinStore. Right now you can get 20% off your order with the code CSE20 at checkout.

Step 2: Acid Toner

I use an acid (AHA) toner immediately after cleansing, and I apply it with a cotton round. I find it’s a great way to get a regular dose of AHA into my routine without overdoing it. I get all the benefits of consistent chemical exfoliation without the any of the skin flaking side effects I experience when I try to use an AHA serum on a daily basis.

Moisture Barrier - Acid toners

Left to right: Biologique Recherche Lotion P50, Pixi Glow Tonic Beauty Elixir, Silk Naturals 8% AHA Toner

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 (pH 3.0) *

This lactic acid toner markedly improved the overall texture and health of my skin. Now that I’ve tried it, I won’t be without it. I’ve purchased other acid toners with the intention of testing them for review, but after a day or two away from my Lotion P50, I lose patience and come back to my precious P50. It comes in a variety of strengths, and in the US it’s available with and without phenol (I use the non-phenol formula). I strongly advise talking to a Biologique Recherche product expert to figure out which strength is right for your skin type before purchasing. My full review for this toner can be found here.

Where to Buy: I get all my Biologique Recherche Products from either Rescue Spa or Vicki Morav. Both retailers have excellent product knowledge, incredibly fast shipping, and send a crazy amount of samples with your order. Vicki Morav also offers a 10% discount for orders of $150 or more with the code Happy2014.

There are more affordable acid toner options available, and I’m going to list them here, but I haven’t used either of them enough to call them a “go-to” product:

Pixi Glow Tonic Beauty Elixir (pH 4.0)

People often say this glycolic acid based toner is a dupe for Lotion P50. Having tried both, I don’t think Pixi Glow is nearly as effective. The pH is a bit high for my liking (though it is still within an effective range), and there’s no acid tingle. It could be a great, gentle alternative for those who are very sensitive to AHAs. This toner smells lovely though (like roses and something ambiguously sweet), and it is more affordable than P50.

Where to Buy: Pixi Glow Tonic is available on the Pixi Beauty website, where it retails for $29. There’s usually a Pixi Beauty coupon floating around the internet though. Right now you can save 20% by using the code PIXITWENTY at checkout.

Silk Naturals 8% AHA Toner (pH 4.0)

This is a lactic acid based toner, and perhaps the most affordable alternative to Lotion P50. It contains no alcohol or fragrance, so it’s suitable for very sensitive skin. Again, I don’t find it to perform nearly as well as Lotion P50, but its pH is within an effective range.

Where to Buy: You can find this toner on the Silk Naturals website, where it retails for $9.

Step 5: Acid Treatment

I use a BHA treatment every night, which performs optimally at a pH around 3.5. For this step, I’ll apply BHA with my hands, and then wait for around 10 minutes before moving on with my skin care routine. I always rinse my hands and wipe them thoroughly after applying my BHA – otherwise my fingertips get peely and unpleasantly dry.

There is some debate about whether or not wait times matter BHA products. I actually started off not waiting with my Paula’s Choice BHA, specifically because Paula Begoun has written that wait times don’t make a difference, and that the product will still work as intended. However, a lower pH does allow the acids to work optimally, and adding a higher pH product on top of a lower one does have the potential to interfere with optimal pH levels. As such, many other brands with BHA products recommend waiting.

When I tried adding in wait times myself, I saw a huge difference in product efficacy – it’s not that they don’t work without waiting, but waiting definitely made the most of my acid treatments. I experimented with different wait times in 5 minute intervals, and 20-25 minutes seems to be my sweet spot. It takes about 30 minutes for an acid’s pH to neutralize on its own.

Additionally, waiting is great if you want to make sure two products that have conflicting pH needs don’t react with each other. For example, BHA and niacinamide can cause flushing in some people if the pH of the skin is too low when the niacinamide is applied. The pH of a BHA or AHA is also such that it can interfere with the conversion of non-prescription retinoids to all trans retinoic acid, which is how over the counter retinoids work. FutureDerm actually has a great article concerning the use of BHA and OTC retinoids together that explains this in detail.

My favorite acid treatment is:

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid

bopc_bhaliquid

I’ve tried all of Paula’s BHA formulas at this point. This one remains my favorite – it is extremely effective and has the shortest ingredient list (less potential for irritation or product reactions). You can find my full review of Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid here.

This product was a huge game changer for my skin. It quite possibly made more of a difference in my acne than my prescription Tretinoin. One word of caution – if you are using an over-the-counter retinol, you should know that no acids, including BHA, should be included in the same routine as your retinol product . The acids interfere with the conversion of retinol into all-trans retinoic acid, which makes the retinol ineffective. Instead, you can use BHA with your morning routine and retinol in the evening. This is not an issue with prescription retinoids, since those are already all-trans retinoic acids and do not have to go through an oxidation process. (Source: 11 Things You Never Knew About Retinoids and Retinol – Until Now, by Nicki Zevola at Futurederm.com)

Where to buy: I bought my Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant on the Paula’s Choice website, where it retails for $23. New customers can use my referral link to receive $10 off your first order.

European customers can order from the Paula’s Choice EU site.

Step 6: Tretinoin/Retin-A/Retinoid

tretinoin

Tretinoin is a generic version of Retin-A, which is an all-trans retinoic acid. It’s a prescription anti-acne product that also has anti-aging benefits, and has made such a remarkable difference in my hormonal acne and overall skin condition. I used to use it every night, but thanks so the work of the rest of my skin care routine, I now only use my Tretnoin 2 or 3 times a week. I only use a pea sized amount for my entire face. It’s important to note that I wait at least 45 minutes after applying my other products before using this, giving my other products a chance to be absorbed first. If I don’t wait, the efficacy could be compromised, but my main concern is that the Tretinoin tends to travel if it’s not fully absorbed when I start applying other products. If it travels, I risk a dreaded getting it on my mouth, which results in a case of “dead lips.” Dead Lips is my name for the phenomenon in which the surface skin of my lips becomes unnaturally smooth and numb before peeling like a mofo for the next few days. It’s gross and uncomfortable, so I avoid it at all costs.

I used to use a Tretinoin Cream (0.025%), but made the decision to switch to the Gel Microsphere version in the last half of 2013. Tretinoin Gel Microsphere uses a special delivery system called Microsponge, which is composed of tiny, sphere shaped particles with a porous surface. The porous surface allows for a sustained flow of the Tretinoin out of the sphere, making Tretinoin Gel Microsphere a time-release product. As a result, this formula is much gentler, even though it contains more of the active ingredient. It’s equally if not more effective than the Tretinoin Cream was for me. Additionally, my skin is not nearly as sensitive as it was when I was using the cream, and I can now tolerate other great skin care actives such as AHA and BHA ingredients. For more product information, see my full review.

If you can’t get to a dermatologist for a Retin-A prescription, you can use an over the counter retinol instead. They take longer to start working – about 8-12 weeks – but they are very effective. The difference between retinol and a prescription retinoid is that the prescription retinoid is already an all-trans retinoic acid, while retinol must goes through an oxidation once it’s applied to the skin that converts it to all-trans retinoic acid. There is one drawback – acid actives such as AHA and BHA interfere with the conversion of retinol to all-trans retinoic acid, so should not be used in the same routine with retinol. Using a BHA or an AHA in the morning and the retinol at night is still an option. BHA and AHA do not interfere with prescription retinoids since those don’t have to go through the conversion process.

My favorite over-the-counter retinoid is:

Makeup Artist’s Choice Retinol Serum

It’s very effective, and it comes in three strengths, .10%, .30%, and .50. If you’ve never used a retinol product before, start out with the lower strength. It’s powerful stuff! You should see visible results after 4-8 weeks.

Whatever you do, don’t slather this on. More is not better with this product. You only need a small, pea-sized amount for your entire face. Applying more than this will not make the product work faster. Retinoids are powerful, and applying too much can do some serious damage to your moisture barrier. I’ve made that mistake before. It’s not pretty. A damaged moisture barrier manifests as red, rough, flaky skin that simultaneously itches and burns. If this happens to you, stop using your retinoid for a couple of weeks while your skin repairs itself. Don’t worry – your other skin care products will help ensure your skin heals properly.

Where to Buy: You can find this serum on the Makeup Artist’s Choice website, where it retails for $26.

Step 4: Hydrating Toner

This is not an essential step for everyone (those with oily skin could probably skip it), but it helps with my dry skin immensely. Though I include a hydrating toner in my routine every evening, I only use one in the morning if I feel like my skin needs the extra moisture. This step helps prevent flaking if I go a little too hard on the BHA (which I tend to do around that time of the month). Additionally, I find that applying a hydrating toner helps offset the dryness I get from more alcohol-heavy sunscreens.

Rohto Hada-Labo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion*

hadalabo_lotion

In the world of Japanese skin care, products labeled as “lotion” are actually hydrating toners, and not what we would refer to as lotion here in the US. This particular lotion is a magnificently hydrating hyaluronic acid toner. It’s a godsend for dry skin (and probably a bit too moisturizing for oily skin). This lotion prevents flaking and late day dryness like nothing I’ve ever tried before. It’s also fragrance free and alcohol free, so it’s well tolerated by sensitive skin types. I apply a few drops of this (it really doesn’t take much – a pea sized amount, if that), and then give it a minute to sink in before completing my routine. For more information, you can read my full review of this product here.

Where to Buy: Rohto Hada-Labo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion is available on Amazon, where it ships Prime and retails for around $17.

It’s also available from eBay seller Traveler-com, who offers it for $17.

You can also find it on Drugstore.com, where it retails for $20. (Thanks for the tip, June!)

Su:m37 Secret Programming Essence

sum37_programming_essence

This one is a recent favorite – I really like the Su:m37 Secret Programming Essence because it contains fermented ingredients like the Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence does, but I find it hydrates much more effectively. If you’re an oilier skin type, you might want to stick with the Missha FTE, but anyone with dry skin will be excited about how hydrating this essence is.

Where to Buy: Su:m37 Secret Programming Essence is available from eBay seller Kgoodshop for $80.

Benton Aloe BHA Toner

This is an older photo - the new packaging for this toner no longer has a spray nozzle.

This is an older photo – the new packaging for this toner no longer has a spray nozzle.

This toner is still a winner for me, especially when my skin is irritated. Despite its BHA content, it doesn’t have any exfoliation benefits because the pH is too high for the acid to exfoliate effectively (the pH is around 4.75). However, it still has fantastic anti-inflammatory benefits, and the aloe is hydrating and soothing for any irritation I might be experiencing. For more information about this product, check out my full review here.

Where to Buy: eBay seller Cosmetic Love carries this toner for $16.

You can also find it at W2Beauty for $16. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

Step 8: Serum

Though I will often use the same serum at night as the one I use during the day, I often prefer my night serums to have more hydrating, skin repair, and anti-aging properties. I really like serums that have a hyaluronic acid and/or silicone base, because they provide a little extra moisture and the silicone provides some occlusive properties to keep the moisture from escaping. I rarely buy the same night serum twice, but there are a couple I’ve liked so much that I’ve repurchased them multiple times:

Su:m37 Secret Repair Concentrate*

 

Sometimes you get lucky - you order a bottle of serum, and wind up with an entire gift set (I haven't tried anything else in the gift set yet).

Sometimes you get lucky – you order a bottle of serum, and wind up with an entire gift set (I haven’t tried anything else in the gift set yet).

I only just started using this serum a few weeks ago, but it became a favorite so instantly that I’ve already purchased a backup bottle. This is a moisturizing serum with a highly concentrated amount of antioxidant rich fermented plant extracts, ceramides, and contains niacinamide, one of my all time favorite actives for its ability to prevent wrinkles and lighten hyperpigmentation.

Where to Buy: This serum is available at W2Beauty for $116. This is the lowest price available online for this serum by a long shot. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

This serum is also available from eBay seller Joongmart for $146.

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule

misshanightrepair

This serum was my favorite night serum up until I discovered the Su:m37 Secret Repair Concentrate, and I still believe it’s a solid performer. It contains fermented ingredients, which are believed to increase skin hydration, and the fermentation process also helps increase the concentration of antioxidants and other beneficial components of other plant-based ingredients in the formula. The Missha serum also contains niacinamide. For more information, see my full review.

Where to Buy: This serum is available from eBay seller F2plus1 for $39.

Step 9: Face Oil

It’s probably not necessary for most people to use a different face oil at night than the one they use for daytime, but I like variety, and I also like my nighttime face oils to be a little richer than my day oils. I apply a few drops just after applying my serum.

dayoils

Here are my favorites:

Sunday Riley Artemis Hydroactive Cellular Face Oil*

artemis

This is definitely a luxury purchase, but it is my absolute favorite of all the Sunday Riley face oil blends, and the one I felt was truly unique. It smells like bright, fresh lemons and moisturizes completely without being greasy. It also has clarifying and antibacterial properties. For more information, you can read my full review here.

Where to Buy: You can find Artemis Hydroactive Cellular Face Oil at Sephora, where it retails for $125.

It’s also available at SkinStore.com. It retails for $125 there as well, but you can often find discount codes for SkinStore. Right now you can get 20% off your order with the code CSE20 at checkout.

Shea Terra Organics 100% Organic Moroccan Argan Oil

Argan is one of the first face oils I fell in love with. I’ve tried a lot of Argan oil from many different brands, but Shea Terra is my favorite one. It’s rich in antioxidants and contains a nice balance of skin barrier strengthening oleic and linoleic acids.

Where to Buy: This oil is available on the Shea Terra Organics website, where it retails for $24, but if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll get a monthly 30% off coupon code. This month’s 30% off coupon code is June2014.

Shea Terra Organics 100% Pure African Baobob Oil

This is another favorite night oil – it seems thicker out of the bottle, but it absorbs more quickly than most of my other face oils. Like Argan oil, Baobob is rich in antioxidants and contains a nice balance of skin barrier strengthening oleic and linoleic acids. It has a light, nutty aroma.

Where to Buy: This oil is available on the Shea Terra Organics website, where it retails for $18, but if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll get a monthly 30% off coupon code. This month’s 30% off coupon code is June2014.

Step 10: Moisturizing Cream

An emulsion is fine for me during the day, and I imagine it would be sufficient for nighttime use as well for those with oilier skin types. However, I need my evening moisturizer to have more occlusive properties to seal in all my moisture overnight, especially on nights when I’m using my prescription Tretinoin.

Here are my favorites:

Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream*

snailbee_steamcream

Yep, I still love this stuff, though I haven’t tried any of the newer formula that’s packaged in the tube. I bought a wholesale haul of them just before the tube packaging was released, and still haven’t used them all up. I like it because it does wonders in terms of calming skin irritation, inflammation, and redness, and it helps brighten my complexion and accelerate the healing of active acne spots. You can find my full review of it here.

Where to Buy: You can find Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream from eBay seller Blueprint21 who carries it for $16.

This cream is also available at W2Beauty for $19. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream

sulwhasoo

This is my favorite moisturizer in the universe, but it’s a sadly too cost prohibitive to keep it on hand all the time as a baseline item. It’s richly moisturizing (I would not recommend this for oily skin types), and makes my complexion positively radiant. It’s antioxidant rich, contains many of my favorite skin care actives (including niacinamide), and the closest thing I’ve found to a skin care magic spell. You can find my full review of it here.

Where to Buy: You can find this Sulwhasoo moisturizer on the Neiman Marcus website, where it retails for $220.

This cream is also available at W2Beauty for $214. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

Shea Terra Organics Argan, Zafron, & Camel’s Milk Brightening Lait Cre’me

camelsmilk_jar

This moisturizer has an amazingly smooth texture and is ideal for both normal and oily skin types. Its formula includes both AHA and PHA, and it really helps to brighten dull skin tones and lighten PIH. You can find my full review of it here.

Where to Buy: This oil is available on the Shea Terra Organics website, where it retails for $32, but if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll get a monthly 30% off coupon code. This month’s 30% off coupon code is June2014.

Evening Baseline Routine Summary

Step 1: Eye Makeup Remover
Clinique Take the Day Off Remover for Lids, Lashes & Lips ($18)

Step 2: Oil, Balm, or Cream Cleanser
Banila Co. Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm ($25)

Step 3: Gentle Low pH Cleanser
Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick ($26)

Step 4: Acid Toner
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 ($59)

Step 5: Acid Treatment
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid ($23)

Step 6: Tretinoin/Retin-A/Retinoid
Tretinoin Gel Microsphere, 0.04% (dermatologist prescribed)

Step 7: Hydrating Toner
Rohto Hada-Labo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion ($17)

Step 8: Serum
Su:m37 Secret Repair Concentrate ($116)

Step 9: Face Oil
Sunday Riley Artemis Hydroactive Cellular Face Oil ($125)

Step 10: Moisturizing Cream
Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream ($16)

 

 

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83 comments onMy Skin Care Routine Part 2: Evening

  1. Ellie

    hi! thanks so much for this godsend of a guide. I ordered the Benton high essence snail serum per your recommendation. could you please tell me which step I should insert this product? after the Paula’s choice bha toner? (I ordered via your referral link!) thanks so much

  2. RJ

    I am curious which if these products you take up to your eye/orbital area since you do not use a designated etpye cream.

    • Kerry

      Hi RJ! My hydrating toner, serum, face oil, and moisturizing cream all go around my eyes. A few times a week I’ll pat my acid toner around my eye area as well. :)

      • charlotte

        I was just gonna ask this question. So no need for an eye cream then? How about your neck?

        • Kerry

          Hey Charlotte! I don’t think an eye cream is necessary for everyone. I use one every once in a while, just to see what’s going on with eye creams these days, but I don’t have different needs for my eye area than the rest of my skin. I think someone who has drier or oilier skin around their eyes than the rest of their face might like an eye cream, but otherwise, I don’t think it’s a necessary item.

          I don’t use a different cream for my neck either. At the moment, my feelings about neck creams is that they’re kind of a racket – I mean, there’s really no reason a face treatment wouldn’t work just as well on the neck. The companies producing neck creams have yet to make a scientifically sound justification for the necessity of a separate neck cream, and until they do, I won’t be spending any money on them. :)

          • Ami

            I tried eye cream before and they didn’t seem to do anything much for me. Except one time i got in trouble by trying olay regenerate eye cream. I think it was too much. It gave me two milia seeds. That was awful, i stopped use eye cream since then. Now i still have two white dots that wouldn’t go away!

          • charlotte

            Thanks so much Ami for the information. The same thing happened to me, I got milla bumps, so I stopped using eye creams. I am putting Habo Labo Arbutin Essence under my eyes, I will see that if that can help :-(

        • charlotte

          Kerry, you are so right, I have not been using my eye cream for a while cos funny enough like Ami mentioned, I got 2 milla bumps under one of my eyes. I only one i have used without an issue is tarmine, and that was just to remove the puffiness , but since I started my Asian skin care routine, my eyes aren’t puffy anymore.
          Thanks for the info on neck creams, I will just use the same products i use on my face :-),

  3. Yassssssssssss! Moreeeee please! Can’t wait for part 3! I have been lusting over this Sulwhasoo ginseng cream since you’ve raved about it. Caved & bought a mini set from Amazon!

    What is this wholesale Benton talk? Please share bcuz it’s my ultimate fave & I need to stock up! That p50 is going on my list next month for sure! Also your skin is amazing girl! You are kicking nearly 40s arse!

    • Kerry

      Hey Tiffany! For the wholesale Benton, I will go in on a big Rose Rose Shop hail with my sister and a couple of friends of mine. There’s a huge price break once you buy 10 of the same item, so we’ll get together and restock our Benton supplies at the same time so we can get price breaks across the board. My friend Jill even made a super fancy Google docs spreadsheet that automatically tallies everyone’s individual total w/ shipping! :)

  4. Another great post! I’m definitely going to order the Makeup Artist’s Choice Retinol Serum and I’m already waiting for some samples of Missha Time Revolution (I love getting samples for taking away wth me on holiday). I tried the Benton Aloe BHA Toner, but unfortunately I just had to throw it out, because it would not be absorbed by the skin at all.

    Do you have any thoughts on the Ciracle Red Spot White Serum or the Ciracle Red Spot Healing Cream? I’ve read some good things, and I’m wondering if I should try one or both of them (to get rid acne scars/hyperpigmentation).

    • Kerry

      Hi Ida! I’m glad you asked about the Ciracle Red Spot line – I’ll actually be reviewing those in a couple of weeks! I’m happy to give the short version now though:

      The Red Spot Serum is AMAZING on PIH. I love it and will be repurchasing. The Red Spot Healing Cream is really great for reducing inflammation and irritation on active acne spots. It’s not a miracle spot treatment, but it’s still pretty darn good!

  5. gale

    Kerry, you help so many – maybe desperate, maybe frustrated – people with your detailed guides. Thank you so much!
    Keep up blogging!

  6. charlotte

    Kerry, I loveee your skincare routine posts. The missha serum is really fab for my oily skin I brought it after reading your review. I will definitely trying using a cream cleaner instead of a oil cleanser to see how this work for my skin. I brought the ginseng cream but can’t stand the smell, so I use the Amorepacific Future response cream instead.

    Can’t wait for part 3 :-). Few questions, so I can substitute my glycolic gel into where you use your retinol, right? What is your advice for sleeping masks? Also face oil replaces the emulsion step?

    Also, is layering sunscreens okay? To stop getting a white cast on my face, I had to use a chemical free and a chemical one together.

    • Kerry

      Hi Charlotte!

      You can definitely substitute glycolic gel for the retinol step. I’ll be covering sleeping masks in my posts about masks & weekly treatments. And yes, face oil replaces the emulsion step in this lineup. :)

      As for layering sunscreens – it can be okay, although you’ll want to be careful with sunscreens conatining avobenzone. Avobenzone and many other chemical sunscreens will destabalize each other if used together. It’s also important to keep in mind that you won’t get cumulative protection from layering sunscreens, in the sense that layering an SPF 25 with SPF 30 won’t yield you SPF 55. There’s some debate about how layered sunscreens work – some say you only get the protection from the lower SPF, others say the higher SPF, and others say it’s an average of the two. Nicki at FutureDerm recently wrote an excellent post about layering sunscreens – her stance is that if you’re wearing the correct amount, you’ll get the benefit of the higher SPF. Here the article – it’s definitely worth reading: http://www.futurederm.com/2014/05/26/true-benefit-layering-spf/

      • charlotte

        Hi Kerry, Thanks so much. Is 10% glycolic gel too high while using an acid toner and acid treatment?
        Wow, thanks so much about the info on sunscreens, I guess I will still keep searching for a sunscreen that does not give a white cast and stop the layering.

  7. What do you think about using crealine cleansers as a substitue to oil/balm cleansers? Right now I’m using a bi-phase make up remover (for my whole face) and then following it up with bioderma to really clean off the make up+misc. gunk before I move on to my face wash. I’ve tried oil cleansers and balm cleansers but they never feel very comfortable during that step.

    • Kerry

      Hi Sam!

      You know, I think I might be the last person on earth who hasn’t tried a micellar/crealine cleanser. I don’t know enough about them to make a comparison, but I do plan to pick up some Bioderma in the near future!:)

  8. Greatroutine and lovely products!
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. Melissa

    Another awesome post, Kerry, thanks!

    I also follow wait times and wanted to get your thoughts on waiting between your toner and acid step. I start my night routine early because I like to give everything time to penetrate before bed so I’m not feeding my pillow all these goodies instead of my skin. ;)

    I’m sure you’ve seen this link (http://www.essentialdayspa.com/forum/viewthread.php?tid=18360) but it says to wait 30 minutes after applying a low pH AHA product, then 30 minutes after applying your higher pH BHA product.

    I know this is a lot of waiting. I usually follow my acid toner immediately with a BHA, like you, but I’m wondering if it would be worth it to wait a little in-between. I also use P50 and Paula’s Choice. :)

    Thanks! Melissa xo

    • Kerry

      Hey Melissa! I totally know what you mean about feeding your pillow the good stuff! I have a very similar thought process.

      I think the 30 minute wait time suggestion is a popular one because it takes around 30 minutes for acids to climb to a normal pH if left alone. It’s not a bad rule of thumb, though I personally don’t see any difference in my own results if I wait 30 minutes versus 20 or 25.

      I personally wouldn’t add an extra wait time after the toner – the acid toner and the BHA operate optimally within the same pH range, so you wouldn’t be getting any added benefits. :)

      • Melissa

        Fantastic, thanks! Also, have you tested the pH of the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA? The website says it has a range of 3.2-3.8, which is fairly wide (IMO). My strips are set to arrive today so I can’t wait to test when I get home.

        • Kerry

          Hi Melissa! Wow – 3.2-3.8? That is a wide range! The bottle of 2% BHA I was using a few weeks ago when I first tested it was around 3.5. After reading your comment, I cracked open a fresh bottle (my old one was empty anyway) and tested again. This time I got 3.0-3.2.

  10. elaine

    Have you heard of the TONYMOLY Relaxing Aqua Marine Sherbet Cleanser? I’ve heard it’s a great dupe of the banila co clean it zero cleansing balm? would love to see a comparison or hear your thoughts before purchasing either!

    Thank you for this post btw. I’m gonna be making a few changes to my routine based on yours (:

  11. Ami

    Kerry, thanks for the great guide!

  12. Yuri

    That post was awesome! I love reading about lengthy skin care routines :)
    At the moment I’m trying to find the perfect routine for my skin, but unfortunately I’m still unsure about the order in which I should use the products…
    After double cleansing and a hydrating toner I’m usually using the cream ‘Cleanance K’ from Avène, it’s a daily exfoliator with AHA and BHA. I’d like to add a serum to my routine, do you know if I should use it before or after the Cleanance K? (I guess I should use it before the cream, but I just want to be extra sure.)
    Thanks in advance!

    • Kerry

      Hi Yuri! That’s a tough one – I normally do pH dependent products at the beginning of my routine, but I also like to use products with a thinner consistency first. I don’t think you can go wrong either way – I would personally just try out both methods and see which one gets me the best results!

  13. Sherrie Serrano

    Hello there! I just wanted to drop by to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I have seen your baseline routine change (your first (?) baseline routine/Asian Skin Care Guide, to the addition of Benton products, to your most recent BR P50 addition) and with that my approach/routine to be changing too. While my skin type is mainly oily/combination, I have found your recommendations to really have made a difference in the overall appearance of my skin (most notably, Paula’s Choice BHA). I too am a skincare junkie having suffered from acne for most of my teens to mid 20′s. I finally caved in a went of a round of Accutane and have since then been acne-free. It was definitely without risks but in the end, it really did pay off. After my round of Accutane, I took an active approach to taking care of my skin. It was then that I found your blog. Being Asian, I was somewhat familiar with the Asian approach to skincare but it was truly after reading your blog that I started incorporating Asian products to my regimen and have found the best results. I also appreciate that your reviews are heavily backed up with peer-reviewed journals so I know what each product/ingredient is doing for my skin. I have gotten the nicest comments about my skin and I really cannot thank you enough for your great reviews and product recommendations. While Accutane cleared my skin, the overall health/appearance of my skin greatly improved when I incorporated your approach to skin care.

    As a side note, have you tried getting face oils from Mountainrose Herbs? I find their oils (esp Rosehip Seed Oil) to be of the best quality at great price points.

    I wish you the best in your future endeavors here in the blogging world, and of course in life in general as well..

    Best,
    Sherrie

    • charlotte

      Hi Sherrie, I have oily skin too, what products have really worked for your skin?

      • Sherrie Serrano

        Hello Charlotte!

        Here are some products I use:
        Retin-A/tretinoin (by prescription) is definitely a game changer for me and has been a staple since my late teens to early 20s (I’m now 29). My skin tolerates it pretty well but the key to less irritation is slowly easing into it. My dermatologist told me to use it after moisturizer initially (Cerave PM) and every other day then increased to daily use, I now use it before moisturizer. Anytime I skip this step for more than a few days, I can definitely tell my skin lacks luster.

        Paula’s choice BHA (used in the morning) is another product that I saw really makes a difference specially in conjunction with the Retin A (used only at nights).

        Some other staples are face oils – Rosehip Seed Oil, Argan Oil, Jojoba Oil (works really well as it mimics the skin’s top layer), Avocado oil (use with caution/sparingly as it is a heavier oil but I can’t give it up because it can really see a visible difference with fine lines), I mix my oils with essential oils but that’s definitely controversial since some essential oils are potential skin irritants (I’ve never had any problems) but I’ve also done my fair share of research into which oils I mix and I use it sparingly. Also, I rotate the oils or mix carrier oils depending on my skin needs. But if I had to just choose one, I would definitely pick Rosehip Seed (lots of Vitamin A, plus Miranda Kerr swears by it!).

        Additionally, Iope Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning Treatment or Missha First Treatment Essence are great at overall brightening, I don’t really see that much of a difference with each one except that Iope is more expensive compared to Missha (I get it usually on sale in sets). I’m still on the hunt for a great serum as I’ve used quite a few but never really had any visible difference although on top of my list is Missha’s Night Repair Ampoule. Laneige Water Bank Essence is also good for day time use but again, nothing really spectacular. I find that my face oils suffice for this step.

        Finally, sunscreen, sunscreen and more sunscreen. I use Shiseido Sun Protection as I find it works well with my overall routine. I have typical fair Asian skin and if I miss this step, I burn really bad. Also since I’ve been on prescription Retin A for so many years that I cannot even imagine being without sunscreen. I cannot emphasize enough how important sunscreen is as you might as well skip your entire routine without it. If I skip this step I’d probably do more damage to my skin than if I were to just skip my treatments altogether. I use up sunscreen more than any other item in my regimen, it’s that important.

        For my weekly treatments, I find that the best masks are DIY masks that I make on my own. I use a variety of clays (White Kaolin, or French Green – from Mountain Rose Herbs) mixed with Rose Water or milk. The two best masks that I absolutely love are: mixture of white rice flour and milk, and a turmeric (great anti-inflammatory) mask made of turmeric, garbanzo bean flour, sweet almond oil and milk – used by Indian brides before their wedding day to give skin that ‘glow’, just google for proportions. My Mom swears by the Turmeric mask for its lightening properties (for her hyperpigmentation) and overall brightening effect but be warned that your skin will turn yellow (temporarily). Laneige Water Sleeping Pack also works great for me as a moisture mask. It’s the best moisture mask without being overly greasy for overnight use.

        As a final word (very, very sorry for the lengthy post), while some of the products don’t seem to work at that very instant, I find that the visible difference comes over time. Yes, months and months of consistent use. I started skin care at a very young age at my mother’s advice (she didn’t have this luxury and was a sun worshiper in her early 20′s) also due to circumstance (cystic acne) but as with all good things, patience is key

        I hope this helps you out

        Best,
        Sherrie

        • charlotte

          Hi Sherrie, thanks so much for all the great tips. I promise to always wear sunscreen :-) I have not tried Retin A before but I think I will give it a try at this rate.
          I tried the Jojoba oil and it broke me out. But I so wanna try the Rosehip oil when I restock on my oils. Avocado oil sounds very intriguing, did it break you out? I love the Missha first treatment and serum.
          .So far, I still have not found a sunscreen that does not give me a white cast when i add extra (as I am tan-medium skin tone). I have some Shiseido Sun Protection sample will try it and see if it works.
          I will try the DIY mask you have recommended, I tried a recipe form AMI and I loved it. How long does the skin stay yellow?

          • Ami

            Hey Charlotte, i did try a turmeric mask before. I used fresh turmeric. Just so you aware that the yellow will stay for a lil bit. I made the mistake of doing it during a weekday and no matter how hard i tried to scrub it off i still have a yellow face the next day lol. But i might have left it on a lil too long plus my skin is very fair for asian. You might want to try the mask on a friday night instead ;)

          • charlotte

            Ami, I will try it on a friday then, I am like a MAC NC42 on the lighter side, So i do think the yellow will show through on me. Was the brightening effect any good?

          • Ami

            Bc of all the yellowish i gave up using it :/ so i cnt tell you the results. I think it doesnt give you an immediate glow after like other mask. It take more time i think, since turmeric been known to heal scar. Let me know how it turn out for you! If it work for you i will try it again with your skin tone you should be ok just don’t leave it on for too long!

          • Sherrie Serrano

            Hi Charlotte! The Avocado Oil didn’t break me out. It is definitely a richer oil though so I use only a few drops and I use it mostly during the winter months. As far as sunscreen goes, I find that the Shiseido does leave a white cast but after mineral foundation/liquid foundation, it just evens out. I actually prefer the liquid face/body one to the cream. Have you tried the La Roche Posay Sunscreens? Those are pretty good too. There’s a Loreal sunscreen (orange bottle) that just came out that’s also in liquid form that doesn’t leave a white cast although very siliconey in terms of texture, not quite sure how I feel about it. I’ve yet to venture to other Japanese sunscreens but I just placed an order for one recently.

            With the turmeric mask, yellowing is temporary. Honestly I think the benefits of the mask outweight the effect of yellowing. If I use it as suggested (i.e. right proportions, leave on for about 20 minutes), I’ll notice the yellowing for a day maximum. I also put it on before I take a shower so I don’t really even notice the yellowing until after I use a cotton pad with toner which wipes it off. I have once left it on and fell asleep (never again! lol) and that was the only time that it’s actually very noticeable. My skin is NC 20-30, so if I can get away with it, I don’t think it’ll be that much of an issue

            Here are the proportions (note how little turmeric powder you actually need)

            Turmeric Mask:
            1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
            1 tsp Garbanzo Bean Flour
            1/4 tsp Sweet Almond Oil
            2 1/2 tsps Milk

            There’s a few variations of this mask. I find that this one works best for me.

          • Sherrie Serrano

            Hi Charlotte! The Avocado Oil didn’t break me out. It is definitely a richer oil though so I use only a few drops and I use it mostly during the winter months. As far as sunscreen goes, I find that the Shiseido does leave a white cast but after mineral foundation/liquid foundation, it just evens out. I actually prefer the liquid face/body one to the cream. Have you tried the La Roche Posay Sunscreens? Those are pretty good too. There’s a Loreal sunscreen (orange bottle) that just came out that’s also in liquid form that doesn’t leave a white cast although very siliconey in terms of texture, not quite sure how I feel about it. I’ve yet to venture to other Japanese sunscreens but I just placed an order for one recently.

            With the turmeric mask, yellowing is temporary. Honestly I think the benefits of the mask outweight the effect of yellowing. If I use it as suggested (i.e. right proportions, leave on for about 20 minutes), I’ll notice the yellowing for a day maximum. I also put it on before I take a shower so I don’t really even notice the yellowing until after I use a cotton pad with toner which wipes it off. I have once left it on and fell asleep (never again! lol) and that was the only time that it’s actually very noticeable. My skin is NC 20-30, so if I can get away with it, I don’t think it’ll be that much of an issue

            Here are the proportions (note how little turmeric powder you actually need)

            Turmeric Mask:
            1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
            1 tsp Garbanzo Bean Flour
            1/4 tsp Sweet Almond Oil
            2 1/2 tsps Milk

            There’s a few variations of this mask. I find that this one works best for me.

          • Ami

            Thanks Sherrie! I’ll definitely give turmeric mask another chance with powder this time. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Kerry

      Hi Sherrie! Thank you so much for your comment – it truly made my whole weekend. :D I haven’t tried Mountainrose Herbs oils yet, but I’ve heard great things. I’m almost out of my Rosehip Seed Oil – I’ll give Mountainrose try when I restock!

  14. Ami

    Kerry, how long do you wait after applying tretinoin to apply the rest of your products?

  15. Tasha

    Hello Kerry! I’m a big fan of your website and have read almost all your reviews and posts!

    Just a few questions I’d love to ask you:

    1) When you were still a young adult, did you get loads of these random hormonal pimples coming out of no where? Huge ones too! Do you have any advice on how to deal with them?

    2) I realize from your posted routines that you have many types of the same product, eg: you have more than one type of face oil handy, and definitely more than one type of pH cleanser! How do you decide which ones to use on a certain day? Is it just down to preference/feeling?

    3) How long should you wait in between applying skincare routine steps?

    Thanks so much in advance, Kerry!

    • Kerry

      Hi Tasha! Great questions!

      Regarding acne as a young adult – I started getting random hormonal breakouts right around 30, and they worsened when I turned 33. And yes, they were huge! The best remedy I’ve personally found (for prevention and treating existing breakouts) is a well formulated BHA like the Paul’s Choice 2% liquid, and skin products with a low pH and plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients.

      Regarding having multiple products for a single category – yes, it really just comes down to preference, feeling, and often whimsy. :)

      For wait times – I wait after my BHA/pH dependent products step for 20-25 minutes at night. In the morning I wait for 10 minutes. After my Tretinoin I wait for 45 minutes.

  16. Kathleen

    I love reading this! You mentioned Shea Terra cleansers. I just recently bought the Black African Soap. Do you happen to know how much in pH it ranges?

    • Kerry

      Hi Kathleen! The Shea Terra Black Soap in the liquid form has a pH of 10.0. One reader recently tested the bar soap form, and she got a pH measurement of 6.0 for that one. :)

  17. Yuna

    Dear Kerry,

    Thanks for the helpful routine breakdowns~! I’ve been following your blog sometime and have been trying out some products. I’m very happy to have discovered the Benton line ! I’ve also ordered the Hado Labo UV Moist Emulsion. Hopefully I’m not too late to hop on the sunscreen train ! There has been one very unfortunate incident.. My skin reacts very badly to the Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick. ;____; My heart just shattered when I found out ! My skin gets all itchy and irritated when I use it.. I wonder what triggers it.. So I’ve been trying to calm it down and in the meantime I’m looking to try out another low PH cleanser. I’ve been trying to look up the ingredients list for the Lait U cleanser, but nothing turns up sadly. If it’s not too much of a hassle, could you please tell me what ingredients it contains ?

    • Kerry

      Hi Yuna! That’s such a bummer about the Cleansing Stick. Are you sensitive to essential oils at all? That stick does contain damascus rose essential oil, so it’s possible you were reacting to that.

      I’ll be doing a full review on Lait U next week, but here is the ingredient list to tide you over:

      Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Squalane, Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Corylus Avellana (Hazel) Seed Oil, Pentylene Glycol, Prunus Amygdalas Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Ethyl Oleate Ethyl Linoleate, Peanut Oil (Arachis Hypogaea), Ethyl Linolenate, Tocopherol, Caprylyl Glycol, P-Anisic Acid, BHA, BHT, Polyacrylamide, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Glyceryl Stearate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, P-20 Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth 20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Palmitate, Laureth-7.

      • Yuna

        Thank you so much Kerry~! I’ll look into the Lait U and P50 next time ! Ah, I think I am sensitive to essential oils after this foray ! Thank you for pointing that out~ I didn’t know essential oils could be irritating. I’ve checked the potential irritants on Cos DNA and I’m certain stearic/lauric acid and olive oil are not at fault since I’ve used products with those substances in it without similar irritation. Coconut oil seems an unlikely perpetrator as well.

  18. JDL

    Hello. I’ve been a fan of your blog, but this is the first time I’m commenting. I am currently using Makeup Artist’s Choice Retinol Serum. I have oily, acne-prone skin. From your blog, I understand that I shouldn’t use any acids when using Retinols. So should I go straight from washing my face to the retinol than a serum?

    I love your writing style. Concise and funny. I wish you could rewrite my textbooks. Looking forward to the Masks and Weekly Treatments post.

    • Kerry

      Hi JDL! The main issue with using the two together is that there is some evidence that the pH of the BHA could interfere with the conversion of the retinol into all-trans retinoic acid, which is the state it needs to be in to work. There’s a great article on FutureDerm that explains this more fully: https://www.futurederm.com/2009/06/19/how-do-i-use-a-retinoid-and-aha-together/

      You can wait 30 minutes after your BHA to apply your retinol. The low pH of the acid has normalized by then and shouldn’t interfere with the retinoid. If you want to play it really safe, use the BHA in the morning, and the retinol at night. :)

  19. Ami

    Bc of all the yellowish i gave up using it :/ so i cnt tell you the results. I think it doesnt give you an immediate glow after like other mask. It take more time i think, since turmeric been known to heal scar. Let me know how it turn out for you! If it work for you i will try it again :) with your skin tone you should be ok just don’t leave it on for too long!

    • Sherrie Serrano

      Hi Ami,
      Did you try using turmeric powder? I use very little turmeric and leave it on for about 20 minutes (30 minutes max). I also use it before I take a shower. I’ve never had that much of an issue with it though. I posted the proportions in the thread above so you might want to check that out.

      Best,
      Sherrie

  20. You will always be the ultimate skincare queen. That is all. Ahaha.

  21. JDL

    Cara,

    Thanks for the response! I don’t have a toner yet. I just received Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Lotion, which is already working miracles, on Wednesday. I’m going to buy my toner on the next paycheck. I appreciate the response.

  22. Gillian

    Hi Kerry!
    Love your blog and your product recommendations – you haven’t steered me wrong yet. One question (or a few): if i’m using a retinoid, what does my routine look like? Is it a bad idea to use an acid toner before? and then if i do, and i wait 20-30 mins is it ok to use the retinoid, wait 45 mins and then continue to the hydrating toner? Help! Thanks :)

    • Kerry

      Hi Gillian! That’s a great question. If you’re using an acid toner, wait 30 minutes before applying your retinoid. After 30 minutes, the low pH of the acid has normalized and shouldn’t interfere with the retinoid.

  23. Alexa M

    Thank you for this! I always take in an exorbitant stash of knowledge from your posts, which is especially crucial for me right now since my skin’s moisture barrier is pathetically weak and dehydrated, unbeknownst to me until reading your post about fatty acids and pH. I’m a bit confused about something and hope you can clarify for me. Upon your suggestions, I decided I wanted to include a lactic acid AHA into my regime and since the Biologique Recherche Lotion is out of my graspable reach here in Canada, I decide to give the Silk naturals 8% AHA a go but saw that sodium bicarbonate is listed as one of the ingredients. I remember in your importance of fatty acids, pH and moisture barrier post, you wrote about the negative effects baking soda has when used consistently and wondered if using the Silk naturals would negatively affect my skin’s health since I would be technically applying baking soda consistently? And, side question here, do you think using an AHA or BHA would be too early for someone who is 20?

    • Kerry

      Hi Alexa! The sodium bicarbonate in the Silk Naturals AHA won’t give you the same issues that using straight baking soda on your face would. The main problem with using straight baking soda on your face is that the pH is too high – the high pH is what’s compromising the moisture barrier. In the SN Toner, the baking soda is used as a pH adjuster to prevent the pH from being too low. The overall pH for the toner is 4.0, which is perfectly desirable.

      I don’t think an AHA or BHA at 20 is too early at all! BHA is great for pores and acne; AHA is great for closed comedones and hyperpigmentation. Those things can happen to anyone at any age! :)

  24. Ning

    Thank you for this super helpful blog post! I just found your blog when I was doing some research on what Korean skincare to buy since my BF is going to Korea for two weeks. Like most Americans, I just do the cleanse-tone-moisturize routine, but I’m determined to change that now after finding your and other blogger’s posts on skincare!

    After reading your post I decided to pick up the pH strips lol. I tested my cleansers and my toner and they all come out to be acidic (cleanser – 5.5 and toner – 4.0). The toner isn’t an AHA toner though, so does it being acidic still help? Also, I didn’t know you’re suppose to wait after using an acidic treatment. I use the Paula’s Choice 1% BHA Lotion, but I might try the stronger 2%. I also got the weekly resurfacing treatment after reading your post about weekly treatments. Oh, another question – if I use the acidic toner, can I go straight to the Paula’s choice BHAs? Or should I wait 5-10 minutes between the two part of my routine?

    All questions and long rambling aside! Thanks again for the helpful post!!

    • Kerry

      Hi Ning! If your toner isn’t an AHA toner, you won’t get any exfoliating benefits, but its acidic pH is still a benefit to your skin in terms of keeping your pH balanced.

      Many people don’t wait after their acid treatments, and they do still work if you don’t wait. I just find that they’re more effective when I add a wait time.

      For your acid toner/BHA, you don’t have to wait in between. They both function optimally at the same low pH, so you can do them both together and have a single wait time.

  25. Sarah

    Hi Kerry, I recently discovered your blog and I’m loving it! Thanks for writing such a comprehensive skincare routine series. I thoroughly enjoy reading it so much! I do have a few questions though.

    1) How important do you feel an acid toner is in aiding in the effectiveness of the acid treatment applied after it? I currently use an acid treatment, namely, the Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution. It has 2% salicylic acid as well, but compared to yours, I believe this has a higher pH and it doesn’t contain the same penetration enhancers, so it is more gentle, or less effective, depending on how you interpret it.

    Do you personally see a difference when you use an acid toner before the acid treatment? I’m not sure if I should invest in an acid toner or whether I should use the money to invest in a better serum.

    2) Do you feel that you need to “wet” the skin before applying your hydrating toner? Because you wait 45 minutes after applying Tretinoin to put on the hydrating toner. Do you feel that wetting the skin with say, rose water or Evian will help the rest of the product penetrate a little better? Because isn’t skin the most receptive when it is wet or right after washing?

    3) Are there any waiting period between steps 7 through 10?

    4) Should one always apply facial oils before moisturizers? I am confused. Since most moisturizers have water or some form of liquid listed under the first few ingredients, should we apply moisturizers first?

    I’m sorry for my extremely long post. But I’m really relying on your expertise here. I’m sure we are all beauty junkies and I read every comment from your posts, because I love that I get a sense of community here. THANK YOU VERY MUCH in advance!

    • Lucas

      One of Sarah’s question relates to my doubt about face oil/moisturizes order. My moisturizer is also a “treatment”, and I also apply tretinoin and azelaic acid after moisturizer because my skin can’t handle them otherwise. So I’m wondering, won’t the oil create a barrier and keep (or make it harder for) the actives in the moisturizer to get to the skin? Or depending on the oil, if it is absorbed well, it’s not a problem?

      Thank you,
      Lucas.

      • Kerry

        Hi Lucas! I think if your moisturizer contains skin care actives and you’re using it as a buffer for your retinoid and acid, it would make sense to apply your oil last. :)

    • Kerry

      Hi Sarah! Thank you so much! And please don’t apologize for a long post. That sense of community you mentioned is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. :) I’ll comment on each of your questions in order:

      1) I think an acid toner is important if you tend to have moisture barrier issues and/or use a high pH cleanser. I also think an acid toner is a great way to add an AHA into your routine if you’re already using a BHA product like the PC product you mentioned. A BHA product will do a great job reducing excess sebum and treating acne and blackheads. The AHA works on a surface level to even out texture and treat closed comedones. For me, it makes a huge difference when I use both, but for many people (especially those with a lower acid tolerance), one acid product is probably sufficient.

      2) I think wetting the skin before the hydrating toner comes down to preference. I’ve tried it both ways (I used a Caudalie Grape Water spray when I wet my skin first), and personally didn’t see much of a difference in hyrdration, but this is definitely one area where I think results will vary from person to person.

      3) I don’t do any waiting between steps 7-10.

      4) It depends on how occlusive your moisturizer is. The moisturizers I gravitate toward contain a significant number of occlusive ingredients to help seal in the water and moisture from the previous steps in my routine. Most oils have more emollient properties than occlusive properties, so my moisturizer does a better job sealing in moisture. If you tend to gravitate toward lighter, more gel-like moisturizers than cream based moisturizers, I can see it being beneficial to apply your oil last. :)

      • Sarah

        Thanks so very much for your detailed reply.

        I think your explanation of whether to apply oil first or moisturizer first really makes a lot of sense. However, what do you do when your moisturizer has occlusive, emollient and humectants properties? Then do applying that first or oil first be entirely a personal preference decision? I’ve been applying moisturizer first, but find that my oil (argan) just sits on top of my skin and never sinks in no matter how much patting in I do.

        The moisturizer I’m referring to is the Atopalm Intensive Moisturizing Cream, which has also been covered by FutureDerm. Here are the ingredients:

        Water/Aqua, Glycerin, Propanediol, Myristoyl/palmitoyl Oxostearamide/arachamide MEA, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Polyglyceryl-10 Distearate, Vitis Vinifera (grape) Seed Oil, Sorbitan Stearate, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Olea Europaea (olive) Fruit Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Phytosterols, Carbomer, Caprylyl Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Arginine, Stearic Acid, Allantoin, Fragrance, Tropolone

  26. Ami

    Hey Kerry, have you ever heard of or try MUN Aknari No. 1 Nighttime Dream Youth Serum?

    • Kerry

      Hi Ami! This is the first time I’m hearing about it, but I just looked it up and I am intrigued. Have you tried it before? I’ll be putting this on my list, for sure. Thanks for the rec, Ami!

      • Ami

        Kerry, i haven’t try it yet but i heard many people like it. It’s on my list for a longggg time. I just couldn’t bring myself to spent $95 for an oil since i’m not a big fan of facial oil yet. Maybe ill wait for your review ;) you haven’t stir me wrong yet. I love all your recommendations!

      • Ami

        I just found a promo code for 10% off to use for the oil on their website munskin.com couldn’t control my temptation. Cnt wait to try it! The code is ISLANDFEVERSISMUN

  27. Hi there! How did I not discover your blog till now? I love it and I loved reading the products you use because I too use similar steps if not similar products, especially in the evening! :D I see you’re using the Sulwhasoo cream and I’m quite curious about it. I liked the smell I remember which is very strongly that of ginseng :) I may have a sample lying around somewhere so I’ll try it out first. Will be keeping up with your blog! I love reading about skincare!
    Paris B recently posted…Mochi! Mochi! The Laneige White Plus Renew Capsule Sleeping Pack is too adorable!My Profile

    • Kerry

      Thank you so much, Paris! I’m very flattered – I discovered your blog a couple of months ago and have really been enjoying it. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope I’ll see a review of that Sulwhasoo cream on your blog soon – I’d love to know what you think of it! :)

  28. minimoo

    Hi, I’m just wondering if retin a can be used with a hydrogen peroxide based product like natura bisse’s oxygen cream?

    • Kerry

      That’s a good question, Minimoo! I’m actually not sure, entirely. I know that retinoic acid can specifically inhibit cell death induced by hydrogen peroxide, but the context of that study was that the cell death was not a desired outcome, so the inhibition was a positive thing. Here’s that study: http://ndt.oxfordjournals.org/content/17/suppl_9/84.full.pdf

      Do you recall what the specific benefits of the oxygen cream are? I’d also be interested in an ingredient list if you happen to have it handy! :)

  29. Jamie W

    Hi! First, thank you so much! We have practically identical facial skin issues, so I am following your suggestions very closely. I am tired of the hormonal acne!! (Over the last few weeks, I have incorporated CeraVe, the Rohto hydrating toner, Paula’s Choice 2% BHA, the Paula’s choice spot treatment, and did the Paula’s Choice resurfacing for the first time last night. I hope to order the Biologique Lotion P50 this week as well.) I was AMAZED at how quickly the 2% BHA reduced my redness. Seriously amazed.

    A couple questions. For the last while, I have been using Crunchy Betty’s Exquisite Stuff Cleansing Oil to clean my face at night. I have really liked it (really helped clear up my dryness) and wonder if it is still a good option for the Oil cleanser step of the double cleanse.
    INGREDIENTS: Hexane-free castor oil, sesame oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, argan oil, ylang-ylang essential oil, vitamin E
    (source:https://www.etsy.com/listing/111520169/exquisite-stuff-cleansing-oil-with?ref=listing-0)

    Second, a few questions about Vitamin C Serum. I am not using a retinoid, so I would prefer to use one at night instead of the morning. Where in the night process would I use it.
    Also, I am wondering your opinion on this product: Image Vital C Hydrating Anti-Aging Serum. (http://www.imageskincare.com/products/vital-c-hydrating-anti-aging-serum)
    It was another beauty blogger’s #1 can’t live without product. Based on ingredient list, I am wondering how it would compare it against the products you have used.
    (you can only buy the authentic version through authorized retailers and two online websites. Looks to be around $52)

    Thank you for your help!!