My Skin Care Routine
People ask me about my skin care routine a lot. The answer is a little convoluted because I test out so many different products and techniques. However, I do have a “baseline” routine. My baseline routine is one that I know works well, doesn’t irritate my skin, and heals anything that may have gone awry while testing a new product. I use this routine when I’m in between product testing, recovering from a skin reaction, and any other time I feel like my face needs a break.
I also use this regimen during product testing. When trying new products, I only introduce one new product at a time to my baseline routine. For example, if I’m trying a new moisturizer, I’ll replace my Cerave moisturizer with the new one, but everything else in my routine will stay the same. When I’m testing a whole new skin care line, I’ll replace one product at a time, each spaced a week or two apart, until I’ve completely switched over to all new products. This way, I know exactly what each product is doing for my skin, and if I have a reaction, I know exactly which product is causing it.
Below is a detailed breakdown of my skin care routine. My skin type is dry, sensitive, and acenic, although this routine really made my acne disappear. I did not have acne as a teen – it sprung up the moment I turned 30 and manifested as cysts and whiteheads that worsened during that time of the month. I still have a few marks left over from it, but they are disappearing as well. If you have oily/acenic skin, this regimen will work for you too, but I’ll be noting some adjustments you’ll want to make. Keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different, so a product that works perfectly for me might not work the same for someone else. This routine is very affordable – you can spend as little as $100 for about a year’s supply of everything. If you opt for a Clarisonic and a retinol serum, your total will be about $200 for the first year, then around $120 a year to maintain.
I’ve broken this down into five parts:
Cleanse: Cerave Foaming Cleanser (or Cerave Hydrating Cleanser)
Cerave cleansers (12 oz. / $10) are gentle, fragrance-free, and contain all kinds of exciting ingredients that are great for strengthening your skin’s moisture barrier such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid. I usually prefer the foaming cleanser, but when I’m dealing with extra dry patches I reach for the hydrating cleanser, which has a more lotion-like consistency. I buy mine from Amazon.com because it’s less expensive, but it can also be found at most major drug stores.
Oily skin tip: Stick with the foaming cleanser.
Tone: Witch Hazel
Did you know that those fancy toners in the department store are all 90% witch hazel? The other ingredients are mostly comprised of alcohol, menthol, and trace amounts of essential oil. Witch hazel is the ingredient that’s actually doing the work. It’s also really inexpensive. It’s very easy to find – I will often purchase the cheap store brand at Target or the grocery store (12 oz. / $3). However, my favorite witch hazel is Thayer’s alcohol-free version, which is available at Whole Foods and on Amazon.com ( 12 oz. / $9).
Nourish: 100% Passion Fruit (Maracuja) Oil
This anti-inflammatory, antibacterial oil is loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Potassium, and essential fatty acids. It’s also very light, which is why it’s great for daytime use. I only use a couple of drops, and it soaks into my skin pretty quickly. It doesn’t take much to moisturize and brighten your complexion.
The popular makeup brand, Tarte, offers a very expensive version of this oil that has caused its popularity to surge. However, having used the Tarte oil as well as many others, I can tell you that there are far less expensive passion fruit oil options available that are just as good, if not better, than Tarte’s offering. My personal favorite is from Garden of Wisdom, where I can purchase twice the amount of oil (4 oz./$16) for far less than half the price of Tarte’s (1.7 oz/$46). The packaging for Garden of Wisdom is nowhere near as fancy, but the oil itself is identical in quality and effectiveness.
I’m also a fan of My Natural Bliss’s product (4 oz./$25), although I wish she’d package them in bottles that weren’t clear glass. Because of the Vitamin C content of this oil, it oxidizes with light exposure. When I purchase oil from My Natural Bliss, I decant the oil into a dark amber bottle with a pump to prevent oxidation.
Oily skin tip: Skip this step and go straight to moisturizing
Moisturize: Cerave Moisturizing Cream or Lotion
Again, Cerave makes some amazing skin care products. Their moisturizers are good for both face and body. They’re often stocked in the body care section, but don’t be put off by this. The ceramides and hyaluronic acid content make this one of the best moisturizers on the market, even when matched against its more expensive department store counterparts. I prefer to use the lotion (12 oz. / $11) in warmer, more humid months and the cream (16 oz. / $13) during colder months. I buy mine on Amazon.com because it’s cheaper and more convenient, but again, it’s also available in most drug stores.
Protect: Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 Sunscreen
I like to use a sunscreen that’s separate from my moisturizer for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the SPF 15 found in most sunscreen/moisturizer combinations isn’t enough to give you all day sun protection. Adding products on top of your SPF moisturizer actually reduces the SPF strength. For example, if you have a moisturizer that’s SPF 15, and you add foundation on top of that, the SPF is reduced by half. Add a powder to that foundation, and your SPF 15 is suddenly SPF 5. Another reason to keep it separate is that I like to use the same moisturizer in the morning and at night, but I definitely don’t want any SPF chemicals on my face while I’m sleeping. Why? Because SPF clogs pores and wearing it at night while your skin is trying to repair itself is just asking for zits.
Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 ($21) is a fantastic sunscreen. It has a high SPF, doesn’t interfere with my other skin care products, and it doesn’t have any weird ingredients that will irritate sensitive skin. Elta MD is actually the sun care line my dermatologist carries in his office, but thankfully, you don’t have to see a dermatologist to get this sunscreen. I buy mine from Amazon.com because it’s more convenient and less expensive.
Remove Makeup / Pre-Cleanse: Pond’s Cold Cream
Yes, makeup removal is a seperate step from cleansing. Washing your face without taking off your makeup first is like jumping in the shower with your undies on. Pre-cleansing is the only way to ensure that you’re removing all your makeup and cleaning your pores. I actually rotate through a variety of makeup removers – oil cleansers, makeup towelettes – but Pond’s Cold Cream ($5) is a great, accessible option. Just massage it in and tissue it off. If you’d rather go the towelette route, Neutrogena makes a nice one.
Oily skin tip: Stick with makeup towelettes or an oil cleanser.
Oily skin tip: Stick with the foaming cleanser.
Tone: Witch Hazel
Same as above.
Nourish: 100% Argan Oil
Argan oil is another oil that has enjoyed a lot of popularity over the past couple of years. It really is as wonderful as they say it is. It’s loaded with Vitamins A & E, Squalene, antioxidants, and fatty acids. It’s extremely moisturizing, and especially great for maturing, damaged, and dry skin. However, it’s also great for acne, even though it seems counter-intuitive. Its linoleic acid content helps promote healthy cell turnover, which means less excess dead skin cells clogging your pores. The oleic acid content balances sebum production, while the Vitamin E helps with inflammation.
The first Argan oil I tried was by Josie Maran (2 oz./ $48), which is available at Sephora. It’s a great Argan oil, but very expensive. My favorite Argan oil is by Shea Terra Organics (2 oz. / $24), and it’s less than half the price of the Josie Maran oil. Shea Terra Argan oil is 100% pure and organic, and comes from a North African women’s cooperative.
Oily skin tip: Skip this step (but don’t forget your Argan oil!)
Treat: Tretinoin 0.25% (Generic Retin-A)
Tretinoin is a generic version of Retin-A, a prescription anti-acne product that also has anti-aging benefits. This stuff has made such a remarkable difference in my hormonal acne and overall skin condition. I put it on last because it’s very strong – the moisturizers I apply before the Retin-A act as a buffer and reduce the dryness that often comes with this product’s use. 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 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. My favorite over-the-counter retinoid is the retinol serum by Makeup Artist’s Choice (.5 oz. / $26). It’s very effective, and it comes in two strengths, .10% and .30%. 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 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 skin 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 oils and Cerave products will help ensure your skin heals properly. It’s worth noting that the Cerave Hydrating Cleanser, and not the foaming cleanser, is the best thing to use if you’re dealing with a damaged moisture barrier.
I like to use a Clarisonic for a “deep” cleaning every couple of days. The Clarisonic is an electric brush that uses a sonic frequency to loosen and remove the dirt and oil trapped in your skin. It claims to remove 6x more than manual cleansing. I find that my skin is much cleaner and less reactive when I use it regularly. Some people like to use it daily, however, I find it too intense for every day use.
Here are some tips for using it:
• Don’t push down on your skin with the brush. You don’t want to scrub – this can damage your skin’s moisture barrier over time. The sonic frequency is actually loosening up the debris in your skin so you really just need to move the brush lightly over the surface of your skin to reap the benefits.
• Change your brush heads every 3 months, and clean them regularly with facial cleanser.
• Use the “delicate” brush heads. The default brush head is very harsh, and I found that even the “sensitive” brush head was too much. The delicate brush head is just as effective, and reduces the risk of damaging the outer layers of your skin.
You can get a Clarisonic at Sephora, on Amazon.com, and pretty much any department store. I bought mine from QVC, where they often have sales, package deals with extra attachments, and some flexible payment options. The price ranges from $100-$235 depending on what model you buy and where you get it from. The Clarisonic Mia is the least expensive model and cleans just as well as the Clarisonic Plus. The only difference is that the Mia is smaller and doesn’t have the option for a body brush attachment.
If you can’t afford to pick one up, but really want to try brush cleansing, the Olay Pro-X brush gets really positive reviews. I haven’t personally tried it, but people rave about it, and at only $22, it’s definitely worth a shot. Bear in mind that this brush doesn’t use sonic technology to loosen dirt, so it’s really just assisting you with the physical scrubbing of your face.
EDIT 03/05/2013: I did a little more research on the Olay Pro X brush, and I can’t recommend trying it. It’s very harsh on your face, and there are a slew of reports that it breaks capillaries and stretches pores. However, there is still a cheaper alternative to using a Clarisonic, and it’s very simple- muslin face cloths! I’ve been using them for the past two weeks to see how I like them, and they’re fantastic. They do exfoliate, but very gently, so they’re fine for daily use. At this point, I might even like them better than my Clarisonic. The Eve Lom face cloths are very popular, but expensive at around $22 for three cloths. I opted to pick up this pack of eight cloths for $10.50, and have been extremely happy with them.
You really don’t need to spend more than $75 to get the core elements for this routine for yourself. Here’s how it breaks down:
If you add retinol serum, your total goes up to $123. A Clarisonic will put you right around $220 total, but the following years you’ll only be paying about $120 to maintain.
Opting for the $22 Olay Pro-X Brush will bring your initial investment down to $143. EDIT 03/05/2013: Opting for the muslin face cloths at $11 will bring your initial investment down to $132.
That’s my skin care routine. Obviously it changes a lot because I’m constantly testing out new skin care products. When I find a product that works exceptionally well, it gets added to the baseline routine. The passion fruit oil and Argan oil are good examples of that – they were only added about a year ago.
I also have products that are favorite “extras” that I use often because I like what they do, but I don’t consider them “essentials.” Examples of these products are Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair and Shea Terra Organics Black Soap.
If you have any questions about any of this, or about your own skin care, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will do my best to help.
I’ll be keeping this page updated as my skin care changes.
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