My relationship with my own skin has sure been a complicated one. My problem isn’t solely focused on breakouts, as my breakouts tend to be hormonal and around that special time of the month, but I deal with dehydrated, flakey, and extremely sensitive skin, redness, and eczema. (Yet, somehow, my skin is also oily.)
When I first started to try to encounter my skin woes - I was a product fiend. Anything people tried to sell me, I bought it. I reached for anything that would claim to help me because I needed a confidence booster. Instead, I ended up with even worse skin, lots of $ gone from my bank account, and a sh*t ton of things that didn’t work.
When it comes to skincare, the number one thing to do is research. This past year, I took dedicated time to talking to professional estheticians, reading about the ingredients that go into specific products, and testing/sampling what works best for me before I buy. An important yet forgotten piece was learning how what I put into my body and what I do with my body can also affect my skin. I’m not an expert, but I want to share the things I swear by.
Step 1: Cleanse
For cleansing I stick towards something gentle, my favorites being Fresh’s Soy Face Cleanser ($38), and Bliss’s Rose Gold Rescue Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($10.99). Bliss is a recent brand that I’ve dabbled with, but in the first two weeks of using it I’ve had no issues. (Can Target do any wrong?) Both give a soft cleanse, leaving my face fresh but not too stripped.
Step 2: Tone
Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner ($6.99) has been my favorite for years. I raved about this toner in my last post, because it’s really that good. I learned from skin-exoert and esthetician Renee Rouleau that in toner, ingredients like SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol should be avoided. Alcohol is often put into facial toners, but it can damage your skin barrier, which will make your skin lack the action to keep moisture in. Luckily for us, this toner is alcohol free and less than 10 bucks.
Step 3: Serum
Drunk Elephant’s TLC Glycolic Night Serum ($90) has a heap price, but it has been the one product that I just cannot do without at the end of the day. This AHA/BHA* blend has helped reduce my scarring left from hormonal acne, helping for a smoother complexion.
For morning, I opt for Drunk Elephants C-Firma Day Serum ($80), which gives a punch of Vitamin C, hydration, and brightness, especially helpful for the mornings I wear makeup.
*Let me breakdown the skin terminology for you. Any serum with alpha-hydroxy acids [AHA] or beta-hydroxy acids [BHA] will help reduce the appearance of large pores, brighten dull spots, and resurface dull skin.)
Step 4: Moisturize
I often thought I didn’t need a lot of moisturizer, because I presumed my skin was oily. After going to an esthetician, I learned my skin wasn’t exactly oily, it was dehydrated, and was overproducing oil to compensate. I also deal with eczema on small parts of my face in the winter, so this step is crucial. First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair BarriAIR Cream ($30) does exactly what it said it does. It’s a lightweight moisturizer that strengthens your skin barrier, (less scarring, redness, and dark spots) but still packs in the perfect amount of hydration for combo type skin. At night, and before I apply makeup, I like to spritz a little of Mario Badescu’s Facial Spray ($7) for a little extra skin quench.
Masking: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask
This mask is exactly what my skin needed this winter. I use it about 2-3 time a week, depending on how I feel, and it helps my skin stay calm, and soothed. Because of my eczema, my skin would often flake and turn bright red in spots (especially around my nose, eyes, and forehead.) This mask combats the dryness, soothes my skin.
Steaming: Panasonic Facial Steamer
I heard amazing things about Dr. Dennis Gross’s facial steamer, but I saved $60 by going for this one on Amazon that I read about. I try to steam my face once or twice a week, especially when I apply a mask. It leaves your pores more “open” for a deeper cleanse, and helps increase blood-flow for a more natural glow. Also, it’s just extremely relaxing and you can imagine you’re in your own personal spa.
Exfoliating: Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Peeling Gel
Exfoliating was the one step that I was so negligent of my routine, which explains why I had so many issues with skin texture and build up. This exfoliant isn’t incredibly harsh and abrasive on your skin, but you can visibly see the dead skin rolling off when you apply it. It’s gross yet insanely fascinating. After an application of this, I actually feel the “baby’s butt” texture on my skin, which I didn’t think was even possible.
I know, it sounds like a weird concept. But, I read an article and the next thing you know, there was an ice roller in my Amazon cart, and it was a purchase that I do not regret. It soothes, de-puffs, and firms the skin for those days where you sort of feel like you’re a zombie. It’s a perfect treatment to do before you’re about to go out, or simply give your skin a little TLC.
Sunscreen is Important, always.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that if you have darker skin, you don’t need sunscreen. Another one is that if it’s not a summer month, you don’t need sunscreen. Im here to tell you that those are not true. Even if you don’t get sunburnt, the need for sun protection is real. Wearing SPF slows down signs of aging, protects from harmful UV rays, and of course, helps prevent skin cancer.
Wash Your Pillowcases Often
When it comes to changing out pillowcases, I’m incredibly lazy. I sleep face-down, so when I started to get acne flare-ups all over my cheeks, I knew I had to make the (easy) change. I set an alarm so that at least once a week, I wash all my pillowcases. (Cheek-acne has thus since decreased.)
Wash Your Makeup Brushes
I swear all this cleaning isn’t as much work as it sounds. I use shampoo and a Brush Cleaning Mitt ($5) that I picked up from Ulta, and it leaves them looking brand new. There’s so much bacteria that ends up in your makeup brushes, and cleaning them weekly/biweekly has led to better makeup application and better skin for me.
Don’t Over Do It
Celebrity skincare guru Joanna Vargas told in a Byrdie Beauty article that this is the biggest mistake she sees with clients. "Somehow, women have gotten the impression that the more they use retinols, glycolics, and scrubs, the better. However, we really need to understand that the skin can only take so much of that stuff," Know your boundaries and limits when it comes to exfoliating and treating your skin.
Give Yourself A Massage
With moisturizer or serum, take the 10 seconds to massage your skin during application. Use your finger in circular motions. It increases circulation, and just feels a whole lot better in my opinion.