I have written and rewritten this post so many times while testing out new products for my skincare regimen. The truth of the matter is, the simplest solution is usually the right one, and after several breakouts and skincare mishaps, I’ve decided to strip it down to the bare essentials that were working for me all along. Every time I try to mess with the program or add something new to my routine, all hell breaks loose, so here’s the full breakdown of my skincare basics, supplemental products, and weekly treatments.
First you should know that, in addition to some hormonal/cystic acne, I have normal-to-dry skin, but also very dehydrated skin – which means my skin can actually overproduce oil to compensate so even my dry spots look oily at times. I have yet to figure out if this means I have dehydrated, dry skin everywhere all the time or if something else is at play, but treating it that way seems to be working so that’s what I’m going to keep doing for now. (Please note that it is possible to have dehydrated skin regardless of your skin type).
After testing dozens of products, those listed below are what seem to work best for me. These may not be the best options for you, some may not work for you at all, but if any of the skincare issues I deal with sound familiar to you then these products may be worth trying.
Cleanser – Lush Ultrabland (lushusa.com, $29.95/3.5oz) – Oh oil-based cleanser, how I love thee, let me count the ways… I can’t remember who recommended this cleanser to me, I’m sure it was something I saw on Reddit, but I have never looked back. I have tried several other cleansers – both cheaper and more expensive – and I always come back to the Ultrabland. This creamy oil-based cleanser is super gentle, but does not mess around. I use it every night, both as a makeup remover and regular cleanser. It removes all of my makeup with minimal effort (certain mascaras with some effort) but is gentle enough to use daily, even when I’m not wearing makeup. This stuff leaves my skin feeling fresh and soft, not tight or dry like some other products have. I’m not sure it has done much to aid in battling hormonal breakouts, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be contributing to them. Actually, with all the great ingredients like almond oil, beeswax, and honey, it may be keeping any dehydrated-skin-related breakouts at bay.
Cleanser – Tatcha PURE One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil (sephora.com, $12/0.8oz) – This product is still in testing phase for me, but so far I am loving it! I picked this up as an alternative option to my HG-status Ultrabland (above) as it’s a little less involved and a bit easier for traveling or a time-crunch. This literally “melts away” all my makeup, even stubborn mascara, and easily washes off without a washcloth without leaving any residue on my face. This liquid oil leaves my skin feeling fresh and clean without that stripped or “squeaky” sensation. Apply to dry face with dry hands, rub it in to break down makeup and grime, and rinse away with water – so unbelievably low maintenance, definitely a new addition to my daily and travel essentials. Bonus: despite the luxury brand name, the price per ounce is only about $0.90 more than my favorite from Lush. I’m hooked already, so you may see a full size of this in my collection in the future! Full size: $48/5.1oz.
Moisturizer – CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion (amazon.com, $8/12oz) – A pretty basic but popular moisturizer, this is the largest (in size) skincare item I have ever actually finished. The lotion is a thinner, creamy texture that absorbs quickly enough to not interfere with any makeup application. With ceramides and hyaluronic acid, it’s a great option for those with normal to dry skin. Plus it’s unscented and non-comedogenic too which makes it a safe bet for those with sensitive skin.
Note: As much as I love this lotion, it does not have SPF in it, which is why I only use it at night or for evening events. For daytime use, I generally prefer the Supergoop City Serum with SPF30 and also use an SPF30 foundation.
Hydrating Mask – GlamGlow Thirsty Mud Hydrating Treatment (sephora.com, $22/0.5oz) – A dry skin essential, this treatment/mask from GlamGlow is a lifesaver for long flights and chilly weather. You can use it for 10-20 min as a mask before washing off, or apply in a thin layer as an overnight or long-haul-flight treatment! It’s a super smooth and creamy texture that feels amazing on the skin and really helps to combat any dry patches or dehydration. I use this as needed, as opposed to using on a weekly basis, and definitely step up frequency surrounding long flights or high winds.
Exfoliating Mask – SkinFood Black Sugar Honey Wash Off Mask (amazon.com, ~$11/100g) – A bit of an accidental discovery, I fell in love with this mask after getting a sample from the SkinFood shop while in San Jose last year… and then immediately purchased the full size online. This sugar-and-honey mask works wonders: the grit from the sugar and the creaminess of the honey combine for a mask that is simultaneously exfoliating and softening. My skin always feels amazing afterwards and I think the honey really gives the mask great balance to prevent over-exfoliating. I apply this all over my face with very light pressure (so as not to irritate my skin) and let sit for about 20 minutes. When it comes time to rinse, I slowly incorporate water and gently rub in circular motions to exfoliate for about 30 seconds, then just add more warm water to rinse off any remaining product.
Facial Oil – Tarte Maracuja Oil (Sephora, $15/0.5oz) – I say this is supplemental, but I use it pretty much every day. This Maracuja oil (Portuguese for passion fruit) has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which means it helps keep my skin clear in addition to making it wonderfully soft. I put about half the dropper worth of oil into the palm of my hand, then use one finger to apply all over my face before working it into the skin with both hands – this helps a little go a long way with facial oils (unlike a traditional moisturizing lotion, you lose a lot of product if you just rub your hands together and have at it). For more in-depth information about this product and about facial oils in general, check out my Product Highlight: Facial Oils post.
Restorative – Sunday Riley LUNA Sleeping Night Oil (Sephora, $105/1oz) – A little obsession for me right now, I got a deluxe sample of this gorgeous blue oil from a Sephora Favorites set around the holidays. With trans-retinol-esters and “miracle worker” Blue Tansy, this oil is meant to help fight wrinkles and damage from sun/time/pollution as well as reduce the appearance of large pores, all while keeping skin calm and moisturized. One of my weekly bedtime products, instructions recommend using 3-5 drops only, and then massaging it into the skin until the blue tint disappears. With dehydrated skin, I have a hard time massaging this in with only 3-5 drops so I tend to mix it with a few drops of the Tarte Maracuja Oil (above) to give me a bit more to work with – probably not necessary for most people, but it’s working for me. Even using this just once/week, I immediately feel a difference in my skin the next day – it is softer, firmer, and brighter and I think this is a really great supplement in conjunction with daily use of the Maracuja oil. Note: I only use this once/week – on Saturdays – to prevent drying out my skin too much. It is often recommend to gradually work up to more frequent use of retinol products rather than starting daily use immediately.
Anti-Aging – Anthony Glycolic Exfoliating & Resurfacing Wipes (Sephora, $18/30 wipes) – Another accidental discovery, I scooped up the full size package of these glycolic-acid-enriched wipes after trying a sample I received from a previous order. These awesome AHA wipes are double sided: use the textured side first and then the smooth side, to help clear away dirt, grime, and dead skin cells. These leave my skin feeling really smooth and soft, and help clear up stubborn dry patches – even on my arms (I get some serious lizard skin in the winter). I currently only use these once/week (on Wednesdays) to help keep my skin young, healthy, and fresh without exacerbating dryness that could occur from using daily. Note: If you have sensitive skin or have never used an AHA before, it is often recommend to gradually work up to more frequent use of AHA’s rather than starting daily use immediately. Also note that this product should only be used at night due to increased photo-sensitivity, and that you should absolutely wear sunscreen daily if glycolic acid or other AHA products are in your skincare routine.
Acne – Hydrocolloid Bandages (amazon.com, ~$6/36 count) – I don’t use these little guys that often, but they are great to have in a pinch and I always bring them with me when I travel (because vacation is always the best time for a giant crater on my face). This next bit is a bit gross so if acne extractions make you queasy, stop reading here…
Basically, if you have a large pimple that has come to a head, you can lance it (with a sterilized tool) and then place one of these bandages on top. As you wear it overnight, it essentially acts as a sponge and will extract anything remaining in the pores and bring it to the surface. They are as equally gross as they are satisfying.