My Current Routine

For the sake of documenting a moment in time, and perhaps to reflect in five years to ask myself “why on Earth did I use that?”, I wanted to list some of my current skincare favorites. I recently went on a short trip, which is always great for forcing yourself to decide on which products are truly must-haves (and also useful in those moments where you think to yourself, “why did I forget to pack that?!).

Now, of course, I don’t use all of these every single day, but everything listed is in heavy rotation. All of these products have been in my routines for a minimum of five months — some have been in my routine for over six years. I can say that all of these have maintained or improved my sensitive, acne-prone skin. Everyone’s reactions are different, but if I had to recommend products to someone with skin issues, these would all be included in that list.

AM Routine

  • COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
  • Mario Badescu Rosewater Spray
  • Melano CC Gel (although I’m not 100% sold on this one yet…)
  • Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
  • Rohto Skin Aqua Super Moisture Milk SPF50

PM Routine

  • COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (I obviously love this)
  • Mario Badescu Rosewater Spray (same with this, I would spritz this every hour on the hour if I could)
  • Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner

PM Exfoliant Options:

  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA
  • The Ordinary 5% Lactic Acid
  • Epiduo
  • Derma-E Anti Wrinkle Eye Cream

PM Moisturizer Options

  • Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
  • Cerave PM

PM Heavy Moisturizers — “Last Step”:

  • Bio-Oil
  • CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream
  • HadaLabo Gokujun Hyaluronic Solution

Makeup

  • IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Illumination – Medium
  • Maybelline Stick Corrector Concealer (under eyes, and on/around eyelids with careful blending)
  • NYX Tinted Brow Mascara in Brown
  • L’oreal Lash Paradise
  • Physicians Formula Eye Booster Pencil Eyeliner
  • Physicians Formula Mineral Glow Pearls in Bronze (used as bronzer)
  • Maybelline Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter in Molten Rose Gold
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Aquaphor

There’s a lot of talk in the skincare community about “slug life” — wherein a skincare aficionado ends their routine with the most occlusive product possible, and ceases any social activity for the remainder of the day (since drowning your face in Vaseline/oil/Aquaphor has the tendency to make you look a tad bit, well, slimy). Of course, by doing all of this, you run the risk of blocking your pores and causing more breakouts if you wind up picking the wrong product.

The ingredient listing in Aquaphor is relatively simple — mineral oil, lanolin alcohol, paraffin, panethenol and glycerin. But mineral oil is a tricky thing. It’s not inherantly evil — it’s in a ton of makeup products, and probably a lot of skincare products that don’t tout themselves as oil-free. Unfortunately, it absolutely has a tendency to clog pores.

I rotated between Cerave in a Tub, Aquaphor, and Vaseline when I first started using Epiduo — since Epiduo’s primary function is to turn over skin cells, my face was burning like crazy. The three aforementioned heavy-layers were intended to decrease the burning. Of the three, Vaseline was the best for this, and Cerave was the worst. Aquaphor landed squarely in the middle. However, of the three, Aquaphor lead to the highest tendency of me waking up in the morning and saying, “Ah, look, new break outs!” (Vaseline did this as well, but not to the same extent)

What I did find Aquaphor was best for was lips! I use the Aquaphor Healing Ointment in the smaller tube as my go-to chapstick. Most chapsticks have more drying components in their ingredient listing (like peppermint) that cancel out anything you’re trying to accomplish, which is generally to retain moisture in your lips. The paraffin and mineral oil, and otherwise short ingredient listing in Aquaphor will help to keep them hydrated.

If you’re not sensitive to mineral oil and you’re looking for a good “last step” in your routine — particularly if you have very dry, irritated skin (in fact, I think this is a holy grail for a lot of eczema sufferers) — I’d say give this a shot. It goes on easily and the gel is clear — you should start feeling some relief moments after you apply it. No, no one is going to win any beauty contents by slathering petroleum all over their face, but that’s the price you pay for being a believer in slug life! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5 as chapstick; 2/5 for face

Recommended for sensitive skin: If sensitive to mineral oil, no.

Hada Labo Goku-Jyun Premium Hyaluronic Acid



I REALLY like this product a lot. I just don’t think it quite delivers much in the way of long-term results.

For the price of $14 this plastic bottle has a TON of product. It can be a pain to wait for this to ship from Japan, but you shouldn’t need to re-order it too often just because there is quite a bit of product. You really don’t need a ton of this for application on your face, either.

I’m impressed by the contents and the ingredients overall. Alcohol-free, fragrance-free, oil free, and five types of hyaluronic acid. This has NEVER aggravated my skin in the four months I’ve been using it. This watery gel is colorless, so you won’t have to worry about any white cast.

But… well, the watery gel composition is just the problem. Everytime I read a review that says, “this goes great under makeup!”, I think to myself “what?” Sure, the gel will fully absorb after 30 minutes or so; it’s not going to persist the same way that something like Bio Oil would. But if you wanted a product that was going to make just about anything over or under it pill up, then this is the product to do it. Initially, I thought this lotion was simply removing grit, but no, it just likes to roll off your other products.

So that’s what makes this lotion a little confusing. Where does it go in your routine? It seems like you could use it in place of a regular moisturizer, but if you had an extra emolliant to layer over that moisturizer, well, forget it. And while this lotion IS incredibly hydrating, I don’t find that it quite cuts it in the winter on it’s own. So I’ve been using it as an additive: If my skin dries out after my regular night-time routine, I will very carefully apply this on my skin for an extra layer of hydration.

Probably because I am most likely using it incorrectly, I haven’t seen any noticeable results. It is super hydrating — I think someone with a minimalist skin routine, and normal to oily skin type could probably get by on just using this. But it doesn’t create the effect of “bounciness” in my skin as some of my Cerave products do. Still, the fact that this has never caused any irritation puts this lotion in high regard for me, despite how finicky it can be during application. ~A

Buy Hada Labo Goku-jyun HA Lotion here:https://amzn.to/2DeqM23

Perceived efficacy: 3/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Derma-E Vitamin C Renewing Moisturizer

I’ve always heard anecdotes about Vitamin C serums being far more effective than moisturizers, since the type and the percentage of vit C is higher in the serum. Be that as it may, my skin is still crazy sensitive, and sometimes these serums simply don’t dry in time before I need to leave for work. So this was my first ever Vitamin C creme moisturizer.

It comes in a pump bottle — this is relevant because it keeps the Vitamin C stable, since exposure to air will cause it to break down. So if you learn anything from this review, don’t buy anything Vit C related that’s in a jar or tub. I digress. There’s quite a bit of product in here and it’s another case of one or two pumps going a long way.

The cream is white but absorbs quickly and colorlessly, although some white residue might cling a little bit to peach fuzz you might have on your face (been there…), so be careful of that. Don’t use this as your only moisturizer, it’s not at all heavy enough — use something over it. Probably one of the bigger selling points of this product, for me, is the scent: It’s AMAZING!! If you like Fruit Loops. Which I do.

There’s essentially no dry time, so it can go under any of your other products without any pilling issues. Make sure you wear sunscreen with this product, as Vitamin C will increase your sun sensitivity. Now, speaking of skin issues, you might encounter a break out or two initially, because Vit C is an exfoliant, but you shouldn’t expect to see anything terribly uncouth. Unless, of course, you have sensitivities to oils, in which case stay away. This has a few of them. Other than that, though, the ingredient listing is largely naturals, and has no drying alcohols.

As for the overall effect, I noticed my skin was “brighter” for the first hour or two of wearing this — longer term, it seemed my pores had shrunk in size, and some of my skin tone had evened out. As for deeper icepick scarring, ehh — this product didn’t help much.

Considering moisturizers are not as powerful as serums, I think this product is shockingly effective and fast-moving: If you have any spots that are in the process of healing, this moisturizer will speed up the process tenfold of turning the skin over. I had a bad patch of skin with superficial scarring that I thought would take weeks to heal, and using this product did it in about 3 days. Unfortunately that meant my skin was quite literally flaking off in the middle of work. Not my best look.

All in all, though, I would repurchase this $17 bottle. It works, it smells good, it’s lightweight, and it’s pretty darn effective. ~A

Buy this powerhouse Vitamin C moisturizer here:https://amzn.to/2UcNSAE

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Mizon Snail Recovery Gel

This snail gel has a pretty huge following, for good reason: It’s inexpensive, mimics the redness-reducing properties of aloe vera, and it works well as an occlusive or moisturizer. Unfortunately, my acne-prone skin does not love this product.

This comes in a cute, pink plastic bottle — small, but, a little squeeze of this colorless, odorless gel-cream goes a long way. From personal experience, this product is great to travel with — it’s small enough to chuck in your bag without taking too much room, and could also, hypothetically, replace a larger-sized occlusive or moisturizer product in your routine while you’re out of the house.

I used this, typically, as the last step in my routine — primarily when my heavier oils or occlusives weren’t in reach. I’ve used it as just a moisturizer as well, and put other products over it. However, this product is NOT heavy. You should absolutely stack other products with it because it’s not super moisturizing on it’s own. My word of caution is that it does still have a slightly longer dry time and it’s a bit tacky even after drying, so try to leave some time in between adding the other layer.

As for overall effect… I stand by what I wrote in the first paragraph, it works “well”, but it’s not GREAT. It’s definitely better to use it than to not use anything at all. My skin felt some relief immediately after use, and it might have retained a bit of moisture overnight. But I wasn’t wowed by the effects over a long period of time.

While I feel like this made my overall skin condition, at minimum, “ok”, I think it was also causing break outs. Nothing major, but after using the product for 3 days in a row, I noticed an increase in whiteheads and pore congestion. Like anything else, there could have been a myriad of other factors influencing this, but all other products remaining the same in my routine and the snail gel being the addition, I would suspect the snail gel. I had a similar reaction to CosRX’s snail gel. Is there such thing as being sensitive to snail secretion filtrate? Or perhaps it’s the olive oil. At any rate, there’s no drying alcohol in this product, so I know it’s not that.

For sensitive skin users, I ultimately wouldn’t recommend this, but only due to my own reaction. It may be worth a shot regardless, because it is a decent, portable “extra layer” you can add in. It’s also pretty cheap ($6, although it looks like Mizon’s either raised the price or price gouging is in play. I see it for $10 or $11 today!). I might be doomed to never experiencing the skin benefits of… a snail. Although if I’m being honest, I never envisioned putting anything related to a snail on my face until last year, so I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing… ~A

Still want to give this snail gel a shot? Click here: https://amzn.to/2JRDzx8

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer

Pretty upset at this product and at myself. I tried this a few years ago when I was bored of my go-to niacinamide standby Cerave PM (I know, I know, again, this is blasphemy… I learned my lesson). I forgot why I stopped using it and trashed it in the first place, and repurchased just a month or two ago to try it again. So, here’s my big ol’ posting to remind myself why I should never buy this again.

Right off the bat, this is expensive. $32. For me, absolutely not worth it.

This white gel-cream comes out of a push-tube, and it’s odorless. All well and fine. When attempting to spread this on your face, you’ll find you have to keep going back for more product. For a lightweight moisturizer, it’s pretty hard to push around. It seems to absorb fine without leaving any product behind, but within five minutes you’ll notice… PILLING!

That’s right. Pils galore. Want to put on your sunscreen, or perhaps another moisturizer over this? Forget it. What about your foundation? Ha! Laughable! I’ve never seen a product pill so badly. I feel like I am missing something, because I had the same conundrum with The Ordinary’s Niacinamide product. These two products have crazy high reviews and the consumers love them. But every so often I run across a review that’s like, “This product pills up into little balls on my skin” and I want to scream Yes!!! That’s me!! Is there a specific skintype that forcibly pills up product you put onto it, for no real reason? I’d like to form a club for me and those people.

This product is hugely popular for being oil-free and thus tending to be good for acneic skin. I didn’t break out from using this (although to be fair my testing period was only four days), and people really love this product for being tolerant with skin sensitivities. But… what’s the point if it’s just going to roll off of your skin? This is a hard no from me. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Clinique Moisture Surge 72 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator

On today’s episode of buyer beware and Fake Stuff on Amazon…

I purchased this several times as it’s older iteration, prior to the upgraded title of 72-hour hydrator. I loved that stuff. It made my skin very bouncy, it didn’t pill, and had a very subtle fresh fragrance to it. It was comparable to Clinique’s Dramatically Different, maybe just a bit heavier. I used it day and night, and felt like it truly made a difference in my skin texture. It was an absolute dream to apply.

When the product changed names to tack on five more words, I jumped on Amazon to repurchase the new product. Seemed like the moisturizer had the same intended effect after all, and checked off all my moisturizer needs: “bad” alcohol and oil free. A little pricier, sure, ($39, ugh) but so was it’s predecessor.

A week passes and my package shows up. The jar looks identical to what was shown on Amazon’s website — the seller’s name was listed as “Clinique”, after all, why would it be any different? I open up the jar and woof… a strong smell of paint thinner. And, the gel-cream was white. It’s not supposed to be white! It should be light pink, for both the old and the new versions.

But like the idiot I am, I pressed on. “Perhaps this is the smell of fragrance free?”, I thought. “Perhaps alongside changing the product’s name, they changed the color of the gel?” The end of this story ended in a breakout, two days after stupidly slapping this stuff onto my face. So my assumption is that a fake had slipped into whatever warehouse it was being shipped from. As I went to contact the seller, I noticed a few reviews had recently appeared on the listing with similar complaints. Not the first, and won’t be the last time that will happen to me on Amazon, I presume.

So the second time around I popped into Macy’s to pick this up, as that seemed slightly less risky. This time around, the gel-cream was actually pink and devoid of that… wonderful paint thinner smell. It seemed to me I was finally holding the real deal.

But it didn’t perform the same way the old version had. This moisturizer does not play well with any other moisturizer or foundation. It’s very tacky feeling, and it pills like crazy! For all that tackiness, you would think it was retaining more moisture, but my skin didn’t look or feel “bouncy” at any point while using this.

“Use it as a night cream”, I thought, but while the product is still oil and drying-alcohol free, I noticed it causes my pores to clog up and I’ve broken out from it. The ingredient list is a bit lengthier than the original, but I can’t seem to pinpoint the new addition that could be causing this.

It really stinks that this is no longer a super-great moisture. I love the texture of this stuff still; it’s really satisfying to apply. If only the results were still as satisfying… (oh, and if Amazon would stop shipping out fakes, that would be great, too ūüėČ ) ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1.5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

I’ve been really into trying rosehip products, since I’ve heard they’re beneficial for scarring. It will be close to a full year of having “clear” skin, free of cystic acne, but unfortunately the scarring from that persists for me, big time.

I use this product as an occlusive at night, long after all of the other products have dried on my face, otherwise it will pill those products up and remove them from your skin. I drop this oil directly on my face with the dropper, but despite this being a “heavier” oil, the product still moves pretty quickly down my skin, so I have to be careful that it doesn’t roll off onto the floor! The liquid itself is bright yellow. This will mostly fade out when you rub it in.

My biggest gripe with this product is the smell. At first it smells awesome — standard rose-hip smell, which I absolutely love — but as time goes on with the oil sitting on your face, it starts to reek badly of fish. It’s so weird. Maybe it’s just me…

I think that this oil is mainly good for the moisturizing properties. The air in my house is relatively dry, and without some type of occlusive I usually wake up with dry and tight skin. But having this on overnight is a good preventative measure from that — my skin feels bouncy when I wake up. I don’t personally break out from this, but it is an oil, so I would caution sensitive skin users to tread carefully.

As for scarring… I can’t really say that it’s done anything at all to improve that. I’ve been using this for about five months now and can’t say that I’ve seen any noticeable difference if I’m using it any more or less.

For $15, this is not too bad of a product if you need a moisturizing oil, although I’m not really seeing any added benefit for scarring. ~A

If you’d like to try this rosehip oil out for yourself, click here: https://amzn.to/2Mo2Cpq

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Skincare “Restart” Tips

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Since I think all of my readers are amazing and I want you all to have perfect skin, I wanted to write a quick little post about some self-care items, regarding starting your skincare routine when it becomes a little too much.

Your skin changes — over seasons, months, and years. Sensitivities change. And sometimes that means the products you’re using, no matter how well they were working before, simply will not comply. Or sometimes, you’re just plain ol’ doing too much! 

Product overload: I personally tend to go a little crazy when I’ve ordered a bunch of new skincare products. Somehow convinced that every single one of them is a miracle item and that they’re all 100% going to play well with one another and that…. well, that just doesn’t happen. Recently I did this with Derma E Vitamin C (acids usually induce an initial breakout) and CosRX Galactomyces (clogs my pores, personally). Bad idea. Solution: Slow down. Go back to basics with your skincare routine, and add the products in slowly, one at a time! 

Skin Sensitivities Changing Naturally: There doesn’t even need to be a trigger, or even a “known sensitive ingredient” that causes sensitivities in a very large population. Currently, I’m having the weirdest problem with Neutrogena’s Hydroboost. This is normally my go-to HG moisturizer. But lately? It’s not hydrating enough, in fact, my skin’s been itching a bit after application. Weird, right? Am I allergic to dimethicone now, or something? I have no idea what’s going on. Maybe it’s just winter, and my skin needs something a little thicker. But I’m not ready to give up on it just yet. Solution: if you were using a product before with success, shelf it for awhile (or throw it out and buy another one later). See if it works after 3-4 months. If it’s still not working, it might be time to find another product.

Acid or Antiseptic Overload: Be wary of your acid, retinoid and benzoyl peroxide usage. These are all great and the exfoliation can give you visible results quickly, but it can turn on you just as fast. Your skin can become dried out, irritated, burn, or break out. I have a tough time with BP, because I think it works the best for reducing or preventing breakouts entirely, but I’ve discovered that my skin really isn’t interested in tolerating it more than “every other night”.
Solution: Build up your acid usage slowly. If your skin becomes irritated, decrease usage, and add in extra emulsifiers/heavy moisturizers to add moisture back into your skin. 

My ultimate “back to basics” routine:

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! ‚̧ ~A

Elta MD Intense Moisturizer

Elta MD Intense Moisturizer

This is a weird one. During my cystic acne phase, I used this as an occlusive, and continued to use it for the first five months of treatment. I didn’t have any issues breaking out “more” than I already was. Using it now, though, now that I’m back to combination skin, I’ve noticed it’s congestive to my pores. This seems weird to me as the ingredient list is simplistic — petroleum, and paraffin — both of which are in other products I currently use. So, for all you sensitive skin/acne sufferers: I would actually suggest giving this a try first and see how you react. I really liked this in the beginning and thought it worked great. I’m guessing as my skin recovered, my sensitivities changed.

Onto the review! There is quite a lot of product in this tube, and you don’t need very much at all. The only smell is really the mineral-y, waxy smell of the petroleum. This moisturizer does, as they advertise, “melt” — it comes out as a thick line of waxy product, but starts to disintegrate into water when it makes contact with the heat of your skin. That makes this product best as a last step/occlusive, after you’ve put all your other products on for the night (just be careful not to sleep with your face on the pillow…). It’s awesome particularly in the winter when you feel like you honestly could never get enough moisture in your skin — this moisturizer will provide it!

A full eight hours is about the time it takes for this product to fully break down, but the end result is that you wake up feeling that your skin is bouncy and soft. As I mentioned before, I used to not really find that I had any “new” breakouts (that were caused by this, anyway).

I’m kind of bummed out that I don’t have great results with this anymore like I used to. I think it’s the most moisturized I’ve been from using one product, and the price point of $10 is great for the amount of product and overall effect. I’ll give it the review I would have given it when I had bad acne though, because I think it could definitely be a holy grail for acne sufferers, so long as they don’t have any sensitivities to petroleum. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe