Skin & Tonics

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

My Skin Care Routine Part 1: Morning

You would think that someone who has a blog dedicated to skin care products would be able to answer the question, “What’s your skin care routine?” without becoming disoriented enough to require a two hour nap to regain her strength, but it’s really not that simple. The answer to that question is complicated for a couple of reasons: 1. I am constantly trying new things for review,so I’m very rarely using the same product lineup for more than 4 weeks at a time, and 2. I’ve now discovered enough favorites that I have more than one ideal item for many product categories. In the past, my skin care routine posts have been solely focused on what I call my “baseline routine,” which are the steps and products I consider to be essentials for repairing skin damage, and what I return to if I have any major skin freak-outs. My baseline routine consists of products that are gentle, effective, and that I know I don’t have any negative reactions to. I also use my baseline routine products when I’m trying an all new skin care line – I’ll switch out my baseline products one at a time, a week or two apart, until I’m using all new products. This way, I’m able to more accurately observe what each new product is doing for my skin, and if I do have a reaction to something new, I’m able to pinpoint which product is the culprit.

This time, I’m approaching the breakdown of my skin care routine a little differently. For one thing, I am dividing my routine into 3 posts: one for my morning routine, one for my evening routine, and one for my weekly masks and treatments. Also, instead of simply outlining my baseline routine this time around, I’m going to break down how I assemble my skin care routine, regardless of what I’m testing or favoring at any given time. I’ll be including product types, order, and the ideology behind them. I’ll also be including some of my favorite go-to products for each category. The products marked with an asterisk (*) indicate the products that are part of my baseline routine. Please note that I’m only using one product for each category at any given time, with the exception of serums and pH dependent treatments. I’m often using a couple of those at a time – and I would probably use more, if only I had more faces to slather them on.

I’m also dividing up my routine into 3 parts:

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

I haven’t had the chance to do a full review for many of the products listed, but I’ll be reviewing most of them once my skin care routine series is complete.

My Skin Type & Concerns

My skin type is naturally 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.

I don’t want to advertise my exact age on the internet, but I will say that I am closer to 40 than I am to 30 at this point. 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 Morning Routine

My 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. For each step, I’ll be listing some of my favorite products for that category. Baseline routine products will be marked with an asterisk (*).

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.

One thing I want to emphasize is 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 probably 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).

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 one of the lowest pH values of any of any of my cleansers. I would describe it as moisturizing, but it also rinses really clean 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 3: Acids & pH Dependent Treatments

If I’m using an L-Ascorbic Acid based vitamin C serum, which requires a pH of less than 3.5 to perform as it should, this is when I apply it. There are also times when I am using a BHA treatment twice a day instead of once a day (most of the time I only use BHA at night), which performs optimally at a pH around 3.5. For this step, I’ll apply my pH dependent products (with my hands), then wait for around 10 minutes before moving on with my skin care routine.

There is some debate about whether or not wait times matter for pH dependent 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/AHA 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. In the morning, I don’t have the luxury of time, so 10 minutes is about all I can handle.

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 Vitamin C Serums are:

OST Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum*

OST

I’ve tried several L-Ascorbic Acid based serums, and so far, this one remains my favorite. It’s effective, it absorbs quickly, it makes my skin glow, and it smells like citrus. For more information, check out my full review.

Where to Buy: You can find OST Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum on Wishtrend.com, where it retails for $20.

You can also get it from eBay seller I am Love Shop, which carries it for $20 as well.

Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster

pc_c15booster

I liked the performance of the Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster, but unfragranced vitamin C serums smell like hot dog water to me, and this one falls into that category. I may just be really sensitive about hot dog smells though – no one else seems to mention this phenomenon. If you prefer your vitamin C serum unfragranced, or just really love hot dogs, C15 Super Booster might be your new favorite thing.

Where to Buy: I bought my Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster 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.

My favorite BHA product 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.

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 a lot 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 5: Serum

I always have some sort of morning serum in my routine, but what it is depends largely on what my skin’s needs are at the time. The only morning serum I’ve bought repeatedly for morning use is the Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence (full review here), which does a good job keeping any irritation or inflammation away, and also seems to speed the lightening of my PIH. I’ve been trying a lot of other spot lightening serums in the past few months. There are a lot that I like, but I don’t know that I would call any one of them a baseline product or an HG. Once I have more favorite morning serums, I’ll list them here.

snailbeebottle

Where to Buy: Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence is available from eBay seller BluePrint21 for $17.

You can also find it at W2Beauty for $19. First time W2Beauty customers can get a $5 W2Beauty voucher by entering my sponsor code at sign-up: 025605.

EDIT (06/18/2014): I’ve heard two separate reports this week about a contaminated batch of Benton Snail Bee Essence. The contaminated product has visible bits of mold in it. I’ve written to Benton to ask about it – Mr.Lee promptly replied, and assured me that he is taking the matter very seriously.  The contamination is confined to product manufactured on 3-5-2014 (March 5, 2014)

Mr.Lee is currently investigating the matter in order to prevent it from happening again. If you have any product from this batch, he encourages you to contact him. He will ensure that your product is promptly replaced at no charge. If you have photos, please include them in the email. Please also let the seller you bought it from know that you received contaminated product.

Here is Benton’s contact email address: bentonkorea@naver.com

UPDATE (06/21/2014): Mr.Lee, the owner of Benton Cosmetic, has written a personal message for all customers affected by the contaminated product. The company is offering a refund in addition to the replacement product, and is working with their manufacturer to ensure this never happens again. I’m really impressed with how promptly and professionally Benton has handled this incident. You can find the official message along with instructions for receiving your replacement and refund on my Facebook page here

 

Step 6: Face Oil

dayoils

I like my morning face oil to be light and full of antioxidants. I apply a few drops after immediately after my serum. These are my favorites for morning use:

Garden of Wisdom Passionfruit Seed Oil / Tarte Maracuja Oil*

This anti-inflammatory, antibacterial oil is loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Potassium, and essential fatty acids. It’s especially high in linoleic acid, which makes it a good option for acne-prone skin. It’s also very light, which is why it’s great for daytime use.

The popular makeup brand, Tarte, offers an expensive version of this oil that has caused its popularity to surge. Ulta will have a crazy sale for it once or twice a year, and I always pick up a bottle when that happens. The rest of the time, I’m using a far less expensive Passionfruit oil from Garden of Wisdom. Having used both, I can tell you that there is absolutely no difference in quality. However, I like the Tarte packaging more, so I usually just refill my Tarte bottle with the Garden of Wisdom oil.

Where to Buy: Tarte Maracuja Oil is available at Sephora, where it retails for $46 / 2 ozs.

The Garden of Wisdom Passionfruit Seed Oil is available on the Garden of Wisdom website, where it retails for $17/ 4 ozs.

Shea Terra Rosehip Seed Oil

Rosehip Seed is one of my new all time favorites. It’s really high in Vitamin A and other antioxidants, and can actually help lighten PIH a bit. There’s a bit of an ugly rumor going around that Rosehip Seed Oil is too rich for acne prone skin – this rumor is false. Rosehip seed oil is very high in linoleic acid, which is the essential fatty acid that acne prone skin often lacks. Rosehip oil is considered a “dry oil,” so it absorbs quickly. Additionally, I was unable to find any peer reviewed scientific evidence that Rosehip oil is bad for acne prone skin. I suspect that an individual had a bad experience with it, and assumed it must be universally bad for acne. I’ve used this oil when my acne was at its worst, and it was wonderful.

Where to Buy: My favorite brand of Rosehip Seed Oil is made by Shea Terra Organics. It retails for $28, 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.

Sunday Riley Juno Hydroactive Cellular Face Oil

This is definitely a luxury purchase, but I really love it for daytime wear because it contains so many antioxidants. It moisturizes well without being too greasy, and the moisture it provides lasts through the day. For more information about this oil, check out my full review.

Where to Buy: You can find Juno 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.

Step 7: Emulsion / Milk

I used to use a moisturizing cream for both day and evening, but since I’m now getting so much moisture from my Hada Labo hydrating toner/lotion, I find that an emulsion does the trick.

This is my favorite emulsion:

Rohto Hada-Labo Shirojyun Arbutin Milk*

hadalabo_shirojen

I’ve tried several emulsions, and of all of them, Hada-Labo Shirojyun Arbutin Milk is my favorite one. It’s a great source of humectant moisture thanks to its hyaluronic acid and glycerin content. It contains arbutin, which is a naturally occurring spot lightening and skin brightening ingredient, as well as Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, a type of vitamin C. I use a pea sized amount for my entire face, and the moisture lasts throughout the day.

Where to Buy: You can find this emulsion on Amazon, where it ships Prime for around $17.

You can also find it on eBay from seller RainbowJapan, who offers it for $19.

You can also find it on Drugstore.com, where it retails for $20.

For an emulsion without the brightening effects, I like:

Rohto Hada-Labo Gokujun Hyaluronic Acid Milk

This milky emulsion has all the wonderful humectant benefits of the Shirojyun version, but without the brightening ingredients.

Where to Buy: This emulsion is available on Amazon for $16.

It’s also available from eBay seller Rainbow Japan for $19.

You can also find it on Drugstore.com, where it retails for $20.

Step 8: Sunscreen

Let it be known that I don’t even get out of bed for less than SPF 30/PA ++, but if a sunscreen really wants to romance me, I will accept nothing short of SPF 50/ PA +++. PA ++++ is even better. If Japan ever adds more pluses to their PA rating system for UVA protection, I’ll take those too. I’ll also say that Japan makes the best sunscreen in the world, as far as I’m concerned. There are some good Korean sunscreens, and many decent European ones. American sunscreens leave a lot to be desired (though my favorite mineral sunscreen is an American one). But Japan? They just get it. They get that sunscreen is important, they get that UVA protection is just as essential as UVB protection, and they understand that this stuff is going on our face, along with the rest of our makeup and skin care products, and we don’t want to look like ghostly, greased-up weirdos.

My absolute favorite sunscreen right now is:

* Rohto Hada-Labo UV Creamy Gel SPF 50/PA ++++

Rohto Hada-Labo UV Creamy Gel SPF 50/PA ++++

This sunscreen is moisturizing but not greasy, absorbs quickly, and makes an amazing makeup primer. For more information about this sunscreen, you can find my detailed review of it here.

Where to Buy: You can get it from eBay seller Jaipfe for $13.

It’s also available from Amazon seller Japan Stream for $15.

I also love:

Rohto Hada-Labo UV Moist Emulsion SPF 50/PA +++

hadalabo_uv_emulsion

This is also a fast absorbing, moisturizing Japanese sunscreen formula. Occasionally, I think I might even like it better than the UV Creamy Gel. I do think this one is great for all skin types, and oily types will probably have better luck with this sunscreen than the UV Creamy Gel.

Where to buy: This sunscreen is available from eBay seller Katbeauty for $18.

If you’re a US resident and are looking for an easily accessible, American sunscreen, I like:

Elta MD Clear UV SPF 46

eltamd_clearuv

This sunscreen leaves behind a minimal white cast. It doesn’t contain any fragrance, but it does contain niacinamide, which is one of my favorite anti-aging actives.

Where to Buy: This sunscreen is available on Amazon for $23, and is available for Prime shipping.

Morning Baseline Routine Summary

Here’s a summary of my morning routine with only my baseline products:

Step 1: Low pH Cleanser
Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick ($26)

Step 2: Acid Toner
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 ($59)

Step 3: Acids & pH Dependent Products
OST Pure Vitamin C20 Serum ($20)
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid ($23)

Step 4: Hydrating Toner
Rohto Hada-Labo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion ($17)

Step 5: Serum
Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence ($13)

Step 6: Face Oil
Garden of Wisdom Passionfruit Seed Oil ($17)
Tarte Maracuja Oil ($46)

Step 7: Emulsion/Milk
Hada-Labo Shirojyun Arbutin Milk ($18)

Step 8: Sunscreen
Hada-Labo UV Creamy Gel SPF50 / PA ++++ ($14)

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123 comments onMy Skin Care Routine Part 1: Morning

  1. Your skin looks AMAZING. I would have guessed you were in between mid twenties to early thirties! Thanks for sharing your routine, I like all the explanations for why you’ve chosen these particular products. I need to retest my cleanser – it’s the Avene Cleanance Gel Cleanser, their website claims it has a ph of 7.2. I tested it on some cheapie ph strips and it was definitely not showing as 7 with those, so I’ve ordered some higher quality ones to do testing with.

    • Kerry

      Thanks, Lexie! I wish I could say my wrinkle free ways were 100% a result of my elaborate skin care routine, but in the end I think it all comes down to two things: sunscreen and genetics!

  2. S

    Hi,

    If I were to follow your skin care routine, could I substitute a BHA for the AHA step? Or do I layer the BHA over the AHA? Do they perform differently?

    • Kerry

      Hi S! I’m using an AHA toner in addition to a BHA treatment, but you could easily just use an AHA if you have one you already like! :)

  3. Paulas choice is on my to do list & super curious about the Biologique lotion after your review!

    Question, where can I find some ph strips to test my products. I’m now paranoid to make sure I’m not using something that will affect my face negatively. Ebay?

  4. RJ

    Do you ever go to the derm for peels etc? I would like to hear about any treatments (chemical peels, botox, etc) that you may get too. I’m amazed you have no age spots. How long have you been wearing SPF?

    • Kerry

      Hi RJ! I have never had any clinical peels or injectables, at least not yet. I’m not opposed to the idea though – I would definitely consider Juvederm or some similar type of filler around my eyes and lips once my lines get a little deeper and more obvious.

      As for SPF, I’ve been wearing it since my late teens. I wore SPF 15 until I was about 30, and then stepped it up. :)

  5. Very helpful post! One question: How do you find out about the ingredients in the products, when there is no information on the web site (something which I find is almost always the case, both on ebay and Korean webshops like Jolse and Wishtrend)?

  6. Kerli

    Please tell me how do you feel about Clarisonic?
    I have very clogged pores (under skin bumps and blackheads) and I have tried so much exfoliants and since they have not worked, I am thinking about buying a Clarisonic.
    Is it worth the money and will it clean clogged pores?

    • Kerry

      Hi Kerli! Which exfoliants have you tried so far?

      I think the Clarisonic is okay, as long as you buy one of the extra sensitive brush heads. The regular brush heads are far too abrasive to me, and it was impossible not to over exfoliate. I have one now but haven’t used it in well over a year. I get better results from regular use of chemical exfoliants and the occasional sugar scrub on flaky days. I also used to use muslin cloths for my face, which I liked better than my Clarisonic, but even daily muslin cloths were a bit too much for me.

      • charlotte

        At Kerli…just wanted to chip in here if don’t mind cos I did have the same issue but now I have cured it. I tried the clarisonic, regular face brush and muslin cloth though I dont have sensitive skin…I think muslin cloth is better as well. The clarisonic did nothing for my pores.
        So long story short after tons of testing what decloged the bumps and pores was a combination of a Aha and Bha the same time. I use paula choice 2% bha acid toner and apply a 10% glycolic gel to the congested area at night.

        • Kerry

          Charlotte, what is the brand/product name for the glycolic gel you like? It sounds interesting!

          • charlotte

            Hi Kerry, I used Perter Thomas Ross 10% Glycolic Hydrating gel…I got it from Sephora but I have seen it on Amazon.

  7. charlotte

    Hey Kerry, great post and informative, thats why I love your blog…facts and no BS :-). Your skin is amazing and you look likr you are in your early 20s for sure. I am closer to my 40s too :-), I had some frown lines but its 80% reduced since I started using tsubuki oil. I get carded all
    the time, but I wore sunscreen daily from when I was 18.
    Now I test the ph of all my products, thanks to you. But the best advice I got from you was using the P50 twice a day, I though it would be too much but I tried it and boy my skin just did a 360 degree change, I keep staring at my skin, can’t believe. I take it round my eyes too.
    I did get the rose cleansing stick from amazon…it is more expensive though, should I send you the link.

  8. Niya

    Such an interesting post! I can’t wait to try out several of the products you mentioned. I also cannot believe you are 30+, I thought you were in your twenties! Your skin looks AMAZING!

  9. This was highly informative, thank you. I’ve been using a BHA for a while (the Paula’s Choice liquid, actually) and recently started with an AHA toner as well, but wasn’t quite sure where to squeeze in vitamin C. But now I know. Thanks.

    PS I got a sample of that Paula’s Choice C15 in a beauty box and it totes smells like burnt ham, not hot dog water. But it’s not any worse than my AHA toner (which smells sort of like cat pee). Oh, the things we do for our skin.
    Rebecca B. Bird recently posted…Weekly Poll: Retro RoadshowMy Profile

    • Kerry

      I can totally smell the ham notes now that you mention it, Rebecca. There also seems to be some bologna top notes in there too.

      Is it bad that I would choose cat pee smell over ham/bologna/hot dog water smell?

  10. Katie D.

    Hi Kerry!
    I’m a new follower, we have a similar skin type and I absolutely love your informative reviews. I had no idea you were in your 30s (definitely though somewhere in the mid-late 20s), I hope I have skin like yours when I reach my 30s!
    One question, I have had extremely sensitive skin all my life. How did you get yours to become less sensitive? Was it from continuous use of the AHA BHA products? Or from other products/factors?

    • Kerry

      Hi Katie! A lot of skin sensitivity is difficult or impossible to overcome, unfortunately.

      I was able to build up my tolerance for BHA and AHA over time – I started slow and low, and then built up my tolerance for them over many months. Two things I think helped a lot was switching to a time release version of Tretinoin (regular Tretinoin increased my sensitivity exponentially), and stopping the use of any cleanser with a pH higher than 6.0. My skin is still somewhat sensitive in general, and I suspect it always will be. :)

  11. sophie

    hi, Kerry, nice to read your articles and i am really interested in the product of lotion p50. i just wonder about the product you used in your step 2. Lotion p50 is a kind of toner, right? and i remember that you said it will burn your skin, will it hurt the skin actually? My skin is very thin and easily got little pimples; these little pimples has brought me lots of worries, however, your articles brought me a good news. Even if many of the products you mentioned above seems very nice, some of the products might not be found in Hong Kong; >< i am struggling for searching any other substitutes. Thank you for your updates, many thanks.

    • Kerry

      Hi Sophie! :) You’re correct – P50 is a kind of toner. It comes in different formulas and strengths – the formula I use does not burn because it does not contain phenol. The phenol formula with its trademark “burn” is now called Lotion P50 1970 Orignal Formula, and is only available as an option in the US. There is a seller in Hong Kong that carries the Biologique Recherche line. If you’re interested in the P50, I would recommend contacting them and asking which strength is best for your skin type:

      Life Balance Limited
      Suites 908-909, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, 5 Canton Road, Tsims
      Kowloon
      Hong Kong

      (852) 2111-9998 Fa
      info@lifebalance.com.hk
      http://www.biologique-recherche.hk

      • LHTEXAS

        Sophie, I will say that I just started using the P50V 1970 w/ phenol and I have not experienced any sort of burning sensation, just the smell of throat spray. In fact I feel more tingling w/ my alpha h liquid gold (which i love btw) than the P50. I am not sure if this is due to the fact that it is the P50V versus the full P50, but I just wanted to let you know.

  12. Melissa

    Yayyy! I was looking forward to this post. We have almost the exact same skin type so your blog has been such a good resource for me! I’ve been retooling my regimen after clicking around on here and I’ve seen improvement in only a week. Thanks Kerry! xo

  13. Erin W

    Thanks for the amazing post! So many new goodies on the wishlist. Also, I got a glorious message yesterday that an auction for the miracle rose cleansing stick had been re-listed on eBay. There’s now two sellers (that I can find) that have about a dozen available between them. I guess I can stop hiding it from my boyfriend now… :-)

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NEW-su-m37-Miracle-Rose-Cleansing-Stick-80g-LG-Household-Health-Care-/131206609525?pt=US_Skin_Care&hash=item1e8c85fa75

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Korean-Cosmetics-LG-Su-m-37-Miracle-Rose-Cleansing-Stick-80g-/191199340066?pt=US_Skin_Care&hash=item2c845e6622

    • Kerry

      That’s so awesome, but dang, the markup on the eBay cleansing sticks has really gone up! It’s still nice to have options though. I’m looking forward to the day when the manufacturing for the cleansing sticks has finally caught up with demand! :)

      • Erin W

        It is steep, but I’m sure they’re aware that some of us will cave anyway ;) And I guess a stock shortage like this can only be expected when for possibly the first time in history a product labelled as a miracle-anything isn’t just a marketing catchphrase…! :)

  14. June

    Hi Kerry!

    I discovered your blog recently and sat for hours reading through all your posts lol. I really appreciate the detail and research that goes into your reviews and advice. Thank you! I’m actually using a few of the products you’ve mentioned as your favorites as they have good reviews and also work for me. I read about the P50 through Caroline Hirons, but she didn’t give enough info for me to be convinced (AND she prefers the phenol version which kinda scared me tbh!). Anyway I think I’m convinced now. Just a few questions if you could kindly help:

    – OST serum: mine started changing color (turning yellow) within 1-2 weeks even though I keep it in a dark corner in my bathroom cabinet. Do you have this problem too? Does it affect the efficacy of the Vit C? I read that some people keep the serum in the fridge – would you recommend that? Seems like a hassle! My PC Resist C15 serum has no such issue; neither did my Dr Gross Ferulic serum.

    – P50: I saw that the spa websites sell a 1.7oz version but even if I combined that with the Lait cleanser, I still have to pay for shipping. So I’m tempted to just get the larger version of the P50 just to save on shipping. haha. I’ve mid-30s dryish skin that gets dehydrated during winter and is easily clogged. My skin tolerates acids pretty well (PC 10% AHA, BHAs, Alpha-H) and these seem to be clearing up the clogged pores. My skin has only reacted badly to organic stuff! How odd. So would you say that chance of me reacting to the P50 is very low, going by your experience?

    Lastly, I wanted to let you and your readers know that drugstore.com sells Hada Labo! Hada Labo also has a US site with ecommerce http://hadalabousa.com/ so there’s no need to buy from ebay and wait for shipping! Yay!

    I’m off to get my super hyaluronic acid lotion =)

    thanks!

    • Kerry

      Hi June!

      Thanks so much for the tip about Hada-Labo at drugstore.com. I’ll update my post in just a bit – that’s great news!

      Concerning the OST serum – I didn’t have any issues with mine changing color. Do you know what the date of manufacture is for the one you have? I’d be curious if you were sent old stock somehow?

      About the Lotion P50 – it’s hard for me to say, but my personal opinion is that if you tolerate acids well, the odds are in your favor. Go for the big one!

      • June

        Hmm…I got the OST serum in Feb/March and I remember it was manufactured in Jan 2014. =/ I guess maybe I’ll store my next bottle in my bedroom and see how that goes. I just did a chat with Rescue Spa and was advised that the P50 would be fine since my skin has been responding well to AHAs and BHAs. Yay! Thanks, Kerry!

        • June

          Oh I should add – drugstore and the Hada Labo US site don’t have the sunscreen products.

          • charlotte

            Thanks June for the drugstore tip. I love Habo Labo products.

          • kelly

            To add onto what June has mentioned. You can also get most Hada Labo products except the sunscreens at Walgreens.com. Just do a search on there site. It’s not sold in there brick and mortar stores though.

            June, in regards to Biologique Recherche and free shipping. Have you tried the Aida Bicaj spa in Manhattan? They have free shipping there. Here’s the website.

            http://www.aidabicaj.com

    • Ami

      I just order the travel size from http://www.vickimorav.com and it has free shipping :)

      • LHTEXAS

        I second Vicki Morav her shipping is so beyond fast its amazing. Also I directly contacted them via email and asked for sample of certain products and she was more than willing to just mail them to me for free. Her customer service is superb. I too ordered the travel version of the cleanser on Tuesday night and it arrives tomorrow. Cant wait to try it

  15. Ami

    Hey Kerry, did any of the oils that you used ever give you blackhead? I tried argan oil for a few days and it gave me so many blackhead that I stop right away. From then I haven’t try any face oil. I know everyone is all rave about facial oil. Maybe I’ll give Passionfruit Seed Oil a try.

    • Kerry

      You know, I’ve actually had great luck with Argan oil, but I do know of some people who have broken out from it. Argan oil is higher in oleic acid than oils such as Passionfruit Seed, Rosehip, or Hemp oil – oleic acid can sometimes be problematic for acne prone skin. I think you’d have much better luck with Passionfruit Seed, Rosehip, or Hemp oil – it’s definitely worth a try!

  16. I have been using the Silk Naturals AHA toner and like it, but I don’t think I’d repurchase. I just ordered the Paula’s Choice C15, I’m looking forward to see how it performs, but I’ll have to be wary of it’s smell! I love rosehip oil – I’m currently using one from a NZ brand called Trilogy, but I think I’ll buy a cheaper one in the future, as it sells for around $30. I’m looking at getting something with hyaluronic acid – Indeed Labs’ Hyaluron gel thing is the only one I’ve seen in stores here in NZ so I’ll have a look online, perhaps at the ones you’ve linked in this post. Thanks for such a comprehensive post.

    • Kerry

      Good to know about the Silk Naturals AHA, Lena. I used it for a couple of days, but it was so much weaker than the P50, I couldn’t bring myself to keep going. Still, it might be a good option for super sensitive types or someone who is just starting out with AHAs.

      I’d love to know what you think of the PC C15 – I’m particularly curious about what you think it smells like! :)

  17. I was so excited to see Hada Labo products in this post! I currently live in Japan and HL has never done me wrong. I love their sunscreen especially, I wore it traveling through Southeast Asia and never was sunburned even though I didn’t reapply. I also currently use their AHA and BHA foaming cleanser, which has made a notable difference in my hormonal acne. Thanks for more HL recommendations!

    • Kerry

      Hi Grace! I’m really curious about the AHA/BHA foaming cleanser! Do you happen to know what the pH for that is? My hope is that since the pH is too high for my old favorite Asian foaming cleansers that one with AHA would bring the pH down to a usable level. I’d also be curious to know how it compares to other foaming cleansers – is the consistency similar to others you’ve tried?

  18. Lina

    Oh wow, lovely informative post! I recently found your blog and saw your previous baseline routine and I end up buying everything there (you were very convincing), though now I see a lot of your baseline have changed, though they are still your favourites. Anyway, I’m still very keen to try them.
    For the new list, some steps I’m still not sure about is the acid toner, the face oil and the emulsion/milk. Right now, I’m going through a severe acne breakout (hence how I stumbled on to your blog), but I was a bit scared to try the acid toner (it sound very very strong on my current fragile skin) and I’ve tried face oils in the past that broke me out completely. So I think I might skip them for now and stick with your previous baseline routine until my skins clears up. Do you think that’s alright, or will the acid toner/face oil actually help with the breakout as well?
    As for the emulsion/milk (which to be honest sound very lovely, might try it later), I’m currently using the Benton smoothing Gel, would that be a good substitute?

    Thank you so much for this great blog! Learnt so much in the past few weeks! Can’t actually wait to try the sunscreen actually, the SPF in the western brands are quite low and definitely not enough for where I’m living.

    p.s Your skin is absolutely lovely!

    • Kerry

      Hi Lina! Yes, I still love everything in my previous baseline routine. I think all of them are worth trying, especially for troubled, sensitive skin. What’s your skin type Lina? Would you say you’re normal, dry, combination, oily, or dehydrated/oily?

      • Lina

        Hi Kerry (wow fast reply!) That’s good to hear, I just got all the Benton products few days ago so I’ve been very excited (still waiting for Paula’s Choice which I’m also very very excited about).
        I would say my skin is combination, very oily in the T-zone. I usually have to blot twice a day. However, I do get dry flaky spots as well (from my cheek to my nose and sometime my chin). It’s very very confusing to be honest. I tried a rose hip oil before and it was just too oily but I heard a lot of great things about face oil but still a bit scared to try one again.
        P.s for a oily/combination skin type, which sunscreen you mentioned above will be the best? I would definitely prefer a non-greasy feel.

        • Kerry

          Hi Lina! You should give hemp oil a try if you decide give face oils another chance. A lot of folks with more oily skin types have had excellent luck with that one.

          As for sunscreen – of the ones mentioned in my post, the Hada-Labo UV Moist Emulsion is the best one for oily/combination skin. However, I actually think you might like Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence better than the Hada-Labo because it’s so matte: http://www.skinandtonics.com/review-biore-uv-aqua-rich-watery-essence-face-sunscreen-spf-50-pa/

          • Lina

            Thanks Kerry! I will take a trip to my local drugstore and see if they have any hemp oil :) Really hope it works!
            And omg, don’t know how I missed that sunscreen review! I was about to try Hada-Labo but I might give Biore a try. Though really hope I won’t be sensitive to the ingredients *fingers crossed*
            By the way, just started on the Benton products (few days now) and I have to say I’m really happy with it! Haven’t had any new breakouts (which omg, has been so rare since I’ve been breaking out like crazy for the past 3 months) and my skin is slowly clearing up! Can’t wait to see more of the results!
            Quick question, I just received my Paula’s Choice BHA liquid today and I’m trying to figure out where to include it in my routine. I know you apply an acid toner and the the Paula’s choice and then a hydrating toner (I will probably use the Benton one), but is it okay for my to skip the acid toner and apply Paula’s choice straight away, wait 20-25 mins, then apply the Benton toner? I’m just not sure since the instructions for Paula’s choice says I should apply a toner beforehand, but I think the pH between the Benton toner and Paula’s choice is quite different?

  19. Simone

    Thank you so much for (again,) validating my love of certain products. Do you have a baseline body care list? I have ultra dry skin that leads doctors to do blood tests and mine is intense. I always feel like a crazy person when I explain it.

    • Kerry

      Hi Simone! I don’t have a baseline body care list, but I think I probably need one. What have you tried for your dry skin in the past? Anything that’s actually helped?

  20. LHTEXAS

    Kerry,

    I havent event finished reading this post, but already it is so so helpful. Your skin is gorgeous. I hope mine can get to that point when I am your age. I am going to try to incorporate your thought process into my skincare to get it in the right track. I also am prone to hyperpigmentation on the jaw area. Some marks have been there for quite a while already but are slowly getting better. Hopefully over time they will go away.Thanks again for taking the time to give out your knowledge and insight.

  21. Kimberly

    Hi! Thanks to your site, I have included a number of new products to my regimen and and I’m happy with the results so far. I’d like to get your advice about my post-swimming routine. I don’t want to carry around 5-6 products in my gym bag–what essentials do you think I should apply immediately? I usually go straight home after applying just sunscreen–do you think I should wash my face and start over again or can I apply, let’s say, exfoliating liquid on top of my sunscreen?

    • Kerry

      Hi Kimberly! How does your skin feel just after swimming? Does it feel any drier or different than after you get out of the shower?

      • Kimberly

        After I swim, my skin feels the same as when I get out of the shower.

      • Maggi

        Hi Kimberly,

        I’m nor Kerry but I thought I would respond as I have a similar situation to yours. I teach yoga and sometimes I end up taking 3 showers a day. I do my full skincare routine in the morning if I know that it is going to be at least 3hours till my next shower. Then after class, I cleanse, mist my face with something nice like heritage rosewater and glycerin or innisfree green tea mist, and then either tamanu oil (for acne prevention) or a nice mid weight moisturizer with skin benefits like nuxe creme fraiche if you don’t like oils, then a good sunscreen bb. I have been enjoying the biore aqua riche watery essence bb (they have another bb with more coverage which I haven’t tried). It’s not so many products and it feels much nicer than doing something slapdash.

        • Maggi

          Also, wanted to add that muji has great travel containers for the face mist and for depotting face cream so it’s not so heavy. I’ve spent many a contented hour organizing my portable skincare bag :-).

  22. Your skin looks so, so gorgeous. I would NEVER have guessed your age — ever since discovering your blog a few weeks back, I’ve always thought you were in your mid-twenties at most based on your skin conditions. I am in my mid-twenties, and my skin isn’t half as good as yours. This makes me so very tempted to buy every single product you’ve mentioned here in hopes of improving my skin! :)

  23. Could you please check the pH of the Hado Labo Lotion (toner)? I was sent this as part of a giveaway and I haven’t opened it yet. I was wary of Japanese products atually because of the all the high pH’s I keep hearing about!

    I actually read all of your post, sorry it took me so long to comment. >…< I'd love to try some Paula's choice products I think…have you tried any BHA toners from PC?

    • Kerry

      Hey Tiffany! The pH for the Hado-Labo lotion is exactly 5.0, so it’s all clear. :)

      I’ve tried all 3 of the BHA toners from PC – but I’ve only used the newest one a couple of times (it just got here last week), but I really like it so far. I also really like the Clear Regular Strength Acne Exfoliant though!

  24. Eileen

    Hi Kerry!

    From all that I have read, I’m thinking that part of the purpose of the acid toner in your regime is to provide as best as possible an environment for the BHAs to work. So the thing is, I just bought PC’s BHA liquid, which I’m absolutely thrilled to try out tonight (it just arrived!), but I don’t have an acid toner and will likely not be able to get one for the next few months. So I’m wondering when should I be using PC’s BHA liquid to get the most out of it? AM/PM? Right after cleansing or after toning?

    These are my routines for AM/PM –

    Cleansing – Philosophy Purity
    Toner/Skin – Benton Aloe BHA (AM) / Benton High Content Skin w/ OST C20 (PM)
    Essence/Serum – Innisfree Green Tea seed serum (AM) / Innisfree Soybean Energy Essence (PM)
    Emulsion/Lotion – Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
    Treatment – Innisfree Bija anti-trouble spot essence
    Eye Cream – Laneige waterbank eye gel
    Moisturiser – Benton Steam Cream

    Thank you in advance!

    • Kerry

      Hi Eileen! I would apply the BHA liquid just after cleansing. You could apply the OST C20 serum at the same time, since it also functions best at a lower pH. After your BHA/C serum, wait 10-20 minutes before applying either of your Benton toners.

      Your routine sounds fabulous, by the way!

  25. Mariella

    Love your site! You do a brilliant job of elucidating the basics. My question: Step (2) seems good enough for exfoliating/fading PIH, presuming you wait a bit before applying anything else, why do you need to do Step (3)? Isn’t it redundant?

    • Kerry

      Hey Mariella! Excellent question. I think step 3 could be redundant for many people, particularly if they aren’t suffering from any sort of chronic acne, or if their PIH isn’t very severe. For me, step 3 is crucial for keeping my hormonal acne away and getting rid of any active spots that might appear. I also see accelerated lightening of my PIH when I add the extra acid/vitamin C step, and my PIH needs all the help it can get! :)

  26. Lily

    Hi Kerry! I took your advice and ordered the Lait U cleanser :) my question to you now is do you wait after applying the P50 lotion to apply a vitamin C serum? And if you do, for how long? The vitamin C serum I have is more on the creamy side and has a pH of around 5. I’m sorry if this is a redundant question but I’m just slightly confused.

    Thanks in advance,
    Lily.

    • Kerry

      Hi Lily! Just curious – is your Vit. C serum the Caudalie one? I just tried that one and recently and really liked it. :) It’s also on the creamy side and has a pH of 5 or so.

      Anyway, if your acid toner is your only acid step, you could probably get away with just a couple of minutes of wait time. But if you want, you could give it a full 10 minutes, then apply that Vit. C with your serum step. That’s how I used my Caudalie serum and it worked great that way!

  27. Ariana

    Regarding the acid toners, do you use a cotton round because the acids burn your hands? I apply my 2% BHA from Paula’s Choice with my hands but didn’t know if there a plus in using a cotton round instead. Thanks for the in-depth reviews!

    • Kerry

      Hi Ariana! I apply my Paula’s Choice BHA with my hands too. I use a cotton round for the acid toner because it’s very watery as well as strong, and the cotton round is the best way to make sure I get even distribution. :)

  28. oh….i have been using the vitamin C serum AFTER my benton aloe toner! I wonder if there would be a difference if i switched it around..hmmm….guess what I’ll be doing tonight? =D

    thank you so much for the breakout!

  29. Aya

    Hello! I just wanna ask , do you apply the BHA right away after the acid toner then apply Vit. c serum?or wait for 10 mins to apply the Vit. c serum?I love your blog by the way,it’s very helpful.

    • Kerry

      Hi Aya! I apply the acid toner, BHA, and Vitamin C serum one right after the other, then wait. All three of those products work optimally at the same low pH, so there’s only a need for one wait time! :)

      • Aya

        Thanks Kerry! I have sensitive, oily and acne prone skin, very prone to hormonal acne and it leaves a nasty red marks that last a long time…..it’s been my 3 days using the Silk Natural toner , BHA and Vit C serum and so far my skin improve a lot! I wanted to try the Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 but scared that it might be too strong for my sensitive skin, it’s been 3 days since I started using Silk Natural and my skin isn’t as red every time I use the toner. Do you think I should skip toner and apply my maracuja oil that I mix with my benton soothing gel and apply my moisturizer after? Thanks!

  30. Cathy

    I was at a small Japanese grocery the other day and they had the Hada Labo Shirojyun Milk so I tried it out. Wow this stuff is awesome. So hard finding a summer moisturizer that isn’t too heavy but will really hydrate my dry skin. I love it! So affordable too!

  31. Maggi

    Hi Kerry,

    I was hoping you could help me with some information.

    1) from what you have posted it seems you are saying that as ascorbic acid is degraded by sunlight so best to use c serums at night

    2) I read elsewhere that BHA actually has sun protective qualities

    3) niacinimide and vitamin c cancel each other out, but if I wait a few minutes between my vitamin c and the missha FTE it should be ok?

    Would it then make sense then for me to use the bha in the morning and vitamin c at night?

    Thank you!

  32. Amy

    Hi Kerry,

    I really love your blog, and I appreciate that a lot of the sellers/companies you link to provide international shipping as well – as a New Zealander there are a lot of products that I just can’t get my hands on!

    I am looking at adding a BHA and Vitamin C into my routine. I see you use yours in the morning due to using tretoinin at night – if I am not using tretoinin does it matter whether they are used at night or in the morning?

    My current routine looks like this, would I add the acid products in between the toner and the essence steps?

    PM – eye makeup remover

    AM/PM:
    Cleanse – Nivea replenishing cleansing milk
    Toner – alcohol free witchhazel
    Essence – Benton Snail Bee Essence
    Face oil – Antipodes avocado & rosehip oil
    Emulsion – Benton aloe gel (not really an emulsion I guess, but it works nicely for me here)

    AM – Suncreen – Biore perfect milk (SPF50, PA+++ I think)
    PM – Benton Snail Bee Steam Cream

  33. Amber

    Im so glad you included Rohto Hada-Labo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion! I recently received this as a sample and had NO idea what it was! I’m looking forward to trying it now. Really enjoy reading your blog; I’m a big fan of Asian skin care and I love your reviews thanks!

  34. Rya

    I Love my PC C15 serum but now all I can smell is hot dog water when I apply it. Which is hilarious because that is exactly what it smells like… can you recommend a yummy smelling one that is just as if not more effective?

  35. Hey there~ I am so confused about the retinol + exfoliants issue. I read the article you linked, and tried to look at the research *they* linked, but I’m afraid my scientific knowledge is far, far too limited to make any sense of it. Reading this article at Beautypedia, though, makes me suspicious of those claims: http://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/beauty-buzz/_/six-retinol-myths-busted

    What made you decide to come down one way or the other on the issue? How do you decide who to trust?

    • Kerry

      Hi Tiffani! This is such a great question. I really struggled with it myself when I first started reading up on it. Ultimately, there were a couple of factors that made me come down on the FutureDerm side. One factor is Nicki’s background – she comes from a medical dermatology background, while Paula does not, so I tend to side with Nicki’s analysis of the research when given a choice. The other factor is that in this article (http://www.futurederm.com/2012/06/28/how-do-retinoids-work/), the explanation of the optimal pH conditions needed for retinol to convert to all-trans retinoic acid was very compelling. Basically, the article states that it’s not that retinol won’t work at all when applied with a low pH product such as BHA, but that it needs a higher pH to work optimally. If I’m spending that kind of cash on a good OTC retinol product, I definitely want to get the most out of it, so I’d just as soon not use it at the same time of day as my BHA. :)

      • Thank you! It can’t hurt to separate them, anyway :D The Paula’s Choice 1% retinol serum just came out in Korea and I know I can only use that once a day (probably less) anyway so I’ll just skip my BHA at that time!

      • Melissa

        From what I understand, tretinoin *is* ATRA, so logically you wouldn’t need an optimal pH for it to convert since it’s already been converted. It’s not really clarified in the article though, so I could be wrong. :P

  36. Em

    Regarding the passionfruit seed oil from GoW–do you order the non-deodorized or the deodorized kind? Thanks!

    • Kerry

      Hi Em! Last time I ordered this oil from GoW they only had one kind and it didn’t specify whether or not it was deodorized. If I had to guess though, I’d say it’s deodorized – it really doesn’t smell like anything. :)

  37. Nicole

    Hi!
    I stumbled onto your blog and have been utterly fixated for days. I’m a total slacker in skin care and make up; most cleansers make me flaky and I keep trying to solve all my problems from the inside out.. So lots of supplements and dietary changing here n there, which works but, for some issues I think your methods will be more effective! Retin a is the only exception to my lack of effort :) I’m a little overwhelmed with how extensive your regiment is.. What would be your condensed version for newbies?

    Also, Pure encapsularions DIM cleared most of my hormonal acne, I’m hoping I can kick the rest with topical treatments.

    Thanks for your super informative post!

  38. Jennifer

    Hi Kerry, I just wanted to let you know that the link for the Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence is linked to the Lotion instead. Just figured I’d give you the heads up as I followed it through to try and make a purchase.

    Thank You!

  39. Lisha

    Hi Kerry,

    Do you still use your O.S.T? Or do you just use it when you don’t use your BHA twice?
    I’m wanting to get a BHA for my oily skin but I still would like to be able to use my O.S.T serums.

  40. Lucas

    Hi,

    Been reading through pretty much all of your posts and really like your approach (!). EltaMD Clear UV SPF 46 is not all-mineral though; it’s an in-part zinc oxide sunscreen, but it also has octinoxate.

    Best,
    Lucas.

    • Kerry

      I just rechecked the ingredient list to be sure, and you’re absolutely right, Lucas. I’ve updated the post to reflect this information. Thank you! :)

      • Renee

        HiKerry, i bought yhe benton aloe bha toner aftrr readind yr review as i have some acne scar on my cheek from teenage acne period that i wish they can fade away.i applythe toner in the morning right after i clean my face but while waiting it to dry my cheek both feel sting.Is that because my skin is too dry?i have dry skin too i think. I been using hadalabo moisturising toner and it never sting me. Is this mean i m not suitable for this benton toner? Btw i applied benton snail bee high content essence,aloe soothing gel and hadalabo moisturising milk after this.i use to put on paula choice 2% bha lotion in between toner and essence but i stopped to test if its the bha lotion itritating myskin.it ended its this benton toner.

  41. J Lee

    Thank you SO MUCH for this extensive summary of your regimen. I have combo skin leaning more on the dry side and I was intrigued by your review of the Primera Cresswhite foaming cleanser. I noticed that it didn’t make your skincare routine posts though. Do you still like it/recommend it?

    P.S. Thank you also for your Sum37 cleansing stick review. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I bought it and love it!

  42. Susan

    I recently found your site and have been reading your articles and reviews. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and products you prefer! I am adjusting my skin care routine based on your recommendations of products and the order to use them (and taking into consideration my skin.. I am 50 something). Today I ordered some bologna water, lol (Resist C15 Super Booster) from Paula’s Choice using your first time order coupon (thank you). I almost ordered an AHA but I still have Olay Regenerist Night Resurfacing elixir that I have been using for that step.

    I have (had) been using mostly Olay Regenerist products for my skin care routine (cleansers, serums,creams) but I have recently starting replacing with other items to try. I ordered the Hada Labo anti-aging hydrator, lotion, and gel to replace some other items I have almost finished. I am looking forward to trying out some Benton and Missha products and adding them to my routine.

    Thanks again for your informative reviews and for sharing the products you like too!

    PS- I picked up Eclos Daily Facial Cleansing Oil the other day at Ulta on a whim… and I think I like it!

  43. Rox

    Hi! I recently started to use Paula’s choice bha liquid 2x a day alongside the c serum from the same brand, I’m a little unclear of the order.. It seems like the liquid is thinner so should go before the serum, but I see you put the serum ahead of the liquid. I’m rather new to these products so your insight as to why would be much appreciated. Also, in the two weeks I’ve been using these products I’ve noticed that while my skin looks healthier overall, my blackheads appear worse. I know that it’s probably because it’s unclogging ickiness that was invisible to me, but it’s still not pleasant. Do you think in time this wil subside with regular use, or do I need some other method to improve my pore/blackhead situation? Thanks!

  44. AnitA

    Hi! I’m new to your website and I am really enjoying all the information. Thank you!

    I had a question about the Garden of Wisdom oil you use. Do you use the refined or unrefined version ? Does it make a difference ?

    Thanks.

    • Jean

      ^ I have a similar question and would appreciate any input:

      Could you lead me to any conclusion on the difference in skin results between a refined and unrefined oil?

      I am hoping to purchase Tarte’s Maracuja Oil at the end of the month (1/2 off deal at Ulta), but I have read that Tarte’s oil may be refined (because it is colorless and odorless). Not sure if I should purchase.

      I happen to have acneic, dehydrated skin on my cheeks and chin. (The great news is that my skin has improved immensely since I discovered your advice on cleansers, acid treatments, and hyaluronic acid. Thank you so much for sharing, Kerry!)

  45. Melina

    Dear Kerry, which cream/serum do u recommend for wrinkels around eyes for day or/and night? Tnx :)

  46. clara

    Dear Kerry,
    I’ve only just found out about your blog, and I’m completely addicted to it! It really does show how much knowledge you actually have AND how much you care about your readers; so thank you for sharing all that amazing info with us! :)

    I’m only just starting with the whole asian skin care routine, and it’s a blast! (Though also too many steps involved and I’m a little lost) Sorry for the big comment, but I’ve found myself a bit troubled when it comes to assembling a functional order! And you are probably the most advised person I know to answer these questions :)

    So here’s the list of products I’m currently using:

    – Innisfree Apple Juicy Cleansing Oil
    – Missha Super Aqua Fresh Cleansing Milk
    – HadaLabo GOKUJYUN Super Hyaluronic Lotion
    – OST Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum
    – Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence

    These are it! (and also my regular facial mosturizer). What do you think would be a clever order of usage for these products? I obviously start off with the cleansers, but then I’m usually in doubt about what follows… I’m constantly switching to applying either the vitaminc c or the essence next! But maybe I should really just follow with the lotion? (oh god)

    * ps: I’m completly obsessed about redness fading and evening out skin tone products! I’m not surre if maybe I should add something specific for this matter or maybe these products will do? (I’ve a few red spots around the face that really bother me; and oh, my skin is mostly dry!)

    And also, you think its effective to use the same daily and nightly routine? If I were to use these same products during the day, I’d probably just go for the same order, but omit the vitamin c and add some sunscreen. You think thats ok? Or I’d be better off changing products for the day? I’d love to hear yout toughts whenever you get a chance!

    Thank you so so so much, (sorry for any trouble, it feels like I’m giving you too much to think about),

    Clara

  47. Annabelle

    Hey Kerry!

    Thanks for breaking down your skin care routine so perfectly, I already see some affordable products that I’d like to introduce into my skin care routine! I just have a couple questions:

    1) With the CeraVe Foaming Cleanser formulated for normal to oily skin types, do you find that the cleanser ever strips your skin?
    2) I am also a customer of Silk Naturals and have seen a 2% BHA product that is offered. Have you ever tried this product, and if you have, how did you find it in comparison to the Paula’s choice AHA that you used?

    Thanks so much for your help! :)

  48. AAA

    Hello, love this site! I have a quick question: Are the Hada Labo products that are sold at Ulta the exact same?

  49. Horie

    Hi Ms.Kerry, I’m new to your blog and I’ve gotta thank you a lot for your helpful information. I’ve recently started to add low pH products in my skincare routine. I wonder in step 3 you use both vitamin c and BHA together, don’t you? If yes then which one you apply first and for the vitamin c serum alone do I have to wait for a few minutes before applying other pH neutral products?

  50. Nhan

    Hi, just discovered your wonderful website after I decided to give Korean cosmetics a try. My skin is acne prone and oily. Dermatologist just prescribed me Mandelic acid (AHA), 7% concentration. She told me to apply after toner. However, the toner that I plan to use is Benton BHA Toner as I heard great review of them. I’m not sure if the combination of these two is irritating to my skin. I know you mentioned you used AHA toner with BHA acid treatment. What do you think about this combination? Is it too strong?

    Also, I used Missha First essence too. But you listed Missha First essence and Benton BHA toner under same category. Does that mean I should use only one?

    Thanks for sharing info with me.

    Nhan

  51. Chel

    I just bought some P50 and some C20 (this does not even sound like skincare products lol), and I noticed that you apply them one right after the other. The P50 has niacinamide in it – does that cancel out the LAA in the C20? I undertand that the C20 has a small amount of niacinamide as well, but seems to work fine on its own. Do you do a wait time?

  52. […] hier sind die Links, aber Achtung – wir reden von zehn (in Worten: zehn) Pflegeschritten (Link Morgen, Link […]

  53. Lou

    How do you apply sunscreen over so many products? I have dryish skin myself, but my sunscreen (Hada Labo emulsion or Sunplay Super Block). would not absorb properly over an oil. Paula’s Choice Resist Replenishing toner is the only thing that I can fit in to my morning routine between cleansing and ss.