Perfecting your Skincare Routine

I can’t image quarantine life has been kind to anyone, so I thought this week I’d share a little self care routine to keep us all distracted while also doing something good for ourselves. Skincare is something I’ve grown a huge interest in these last few months. Truth be told, I’d always been someone interested in skincare but as my 28th birthday approached, I was starting to get freaked out about aging and wrinkles. This might sound vane but it felt more like an awakening of my own mortality. I began to think that if I wanted to live a long and healthy life, I should start taking better care of myself and my body. These days my skincare routine feels more like a sanity break; something similar to a soothing love and kindness meditation session. It might last all of ten minutes, but I know those tens minutes are dedicated to me and only me, to love myself and treat myself.

How I learned What I Know

I started by watching tons of YouTube videos from the likes of Susan Yara on @mixedmakeup, Hyram from @SkincarebyHyram and my favorite, James Welsh from the self named channel, @JamesWelsh. These folks really helped breakdown the skincare realm and gave be the basic knowledge necessary to build my routine from scratch. If anyone is interested in learning more about the topic, I’d highly recommend any of those to get started. If you are more of the reading type, I also spent a lot of time on sites like The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice learning more about different ingredients; which ones work well together and which ones should be applied separately. After what seemed like forever researching, I finally bought my first set of products back in January.

Fast forward to May and I can’t believe the difference I’ve seen in my skin! I’m actually really disappointed I didn’t document the before and after. In January when I was constructing my routine, I was primarily focused on addressing my dryness, redness and hypersensitivity. I had other issues like some acne and some blackheads but those didn’t seem as prominent in my eyes. To my surprise, the routine really helped with all my target issues, and my acne and blackheads— I’d say it was a miracle but it didn’t happen over night, if anything, it took several months to see these results and I’m so glad I stuck with it!

Before you Build Your Routine

First things first, before you build a routine you need to know a few things that will ultimately help you in selecting products that are right for you, otherwise you will just be spending unnecessary money on products that won’t work.

  1. What is your Skin Type. Is your skin mostly oily? Mostly dry? Combination— some oily parts and some dry? Normal— neither too oily nor too dry? Knowing this will help you determine whether water based products or oil based products are right for you. For example, products with a water based gel consistency are better for people with oily skin and products with an oil based cream consistency tend to be better for people with dry skin.
  2. What are your Skincare Goals. Do you want to get rid of redness? Acne? Dark spots? Is your skin dull? Do you have wrinkles? Understanding what your areas of concern are, will again, help you pick the right products.
  3. What’s your budget? You could buy a hyaluronic acid serum from Dr. Barbara Sturm’s skincare line for $300 or you could get the La Roche-Posay’s hyaluronic acid serum for $30 bucks. It really depends on how much money you have to spend, bearing in mind, more expensive does not always mean better. Chemist Michelle Wong of Lab Muffin told the Huffpost “that the pricing of almost all beauty products are based on marketing and consumer perception.”

My Routine

I’ve found that the simpler my routine is, the more likely I am to stick to it, plus the fewer products I use, the less waste I create, thus saving both wallet and planet. Once I had my routine down, I found that it brought me a sense of peace and internal comfort knowing I am doing something good for myself.

Step 1. Make Up Remover

I usually wear makeup everyday, even if it’s just a small amount of concealer or foundation. To remove my makeup at night I’m currently using Hada Labo’s Cleansing Oil. It feels like a mini spa day every time I massage the oil on my face, and not to mention oil cleansing is very gentle on the skin compared to makeup remover wipes, micellar waters, etc.

To use a cleansing oil, you pump a quarter size amount of oil into your hands, distribute the product evenly in your hands by rubbing them together, then evenly apply to your face in circular motions. If you have tough eye makeup, you can pump more product onto your fingertips and press the product into your eyes (closed obviously!) for 3-5 seconds, helping the makeup breakdown.

Once you feel most of our makeup breakdown, you can rinse your face with water. An emulsifying cleansing oil like Hada Lado’s will turn a milky white color when mixed with water, helping the makeup and oil wash off your face without residue.

Step 2. Cleanse

Once your makeup is off, it’s really important to cleanse your face. So many people take of their makeup, skip cleansing and go straight into applying skincare products. The problem with this is that most makeup removing techniques are not meant to cleanse your face, they are just for removing makeup. Some cleansers, on the other hand, might be able to remove makeup and cleanse your face. I personally find those types of cleansers too harsh for my sensitive skin, so I rather use a gentle makeup remover and a gentle cleanser.

The cleanser I’m currently using is the Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash by Origins. I find this particular cleanser too drying for my skin, but I am going to finish it anyways because it would be wasteful to throw out a perfectly good product and I can’t think of anyone to give it to. Overall I like Origins as a brand and I think they do a lot for the environment so I will be trying their A Perfect World Antioxidant Cleanser with White Tea next. I try to avoid fragrance in my skincare products and unfortunately this brand uses a large amount of fragrance essential oils in their products, so I’m limited to their wash- off products.

I cleanse my face day and night by taking a dime sized amount and lathering in my hands with water, then applying to my face in circular motions.

Optional Steps

After you cleanse, you have the option of either applying a physical exfoliator like a face scrub or a clay mask. I personally don’t like clay masks because I find they are more suited for oily skin types and I don’t like to wait for them to dry. I use a chemical exfoliator twice a week so I don’t feel the need to also have a face scrub since they serve the same function.

You can also apply a toner or essence at this point to help balance your skin’s PH and prep your skin for the next product. From what I’ve researched, toners and essences are optional so I skip them altogether.

Step 3. Serums

After cleansing and before moisturizing, I apply my serums day and night. Sometimes serums are confused with oils because they have the same texture as oils, but the difference is that serums are designed as targeted treatments to address specific skincare concerns, like hyper pigmentation, wrinkles, dull skin, etc, whereas face oils are generally for locking in moisture and cannot absorb into the skin as deeply as serums can. If you are a skincare junkie, you run the risk of overdoing it with products, especially serums. There are so many serums on the market that claim to do all sorts of things, but I’ve found that using one serum day and night has yielded great results for me, and it helps keep my routine simple and easy to follow.

I was using the Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% Zinc 1% when I first built my routine. According to Healthline, “Niacinamide can help build proteins in the skin and lock in moisture to prevent environmental damage.” I actually loved the Niacinamide from the Ordinary and felt that it really helped brighten my skin and reduce hyper pigmentation from acne scars. When I ran out though, I wanted to find a product that was multifunctional and had more active ingredients all in one. Now I’ve switched to IUNIK’s Propolis Vitamin Synergy Serum. So far I’ve been loving IUNIK’s serum. The first two ingredients are Propolis, a sticky substance with antioxidant and antibacterial properties made by bees, and Sea Buckthorn fruit extract, a berry-like fruit high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants and minerals. Not to mention, this serum also includes niacinamide as one of the first 10 ingredients, suggesting a pretty high percentage.

Twice a week I switch out my IUNIK serum for a chemical exfoliator. I currently use Facetheory’s BHA Exfoliant Serum with great results. Even though I could probably layer on the two products, I have read that the acidity of chemical exfoliators can bring down the PH level of niacinamide products, causing them to be less effective. Besides all the science-y stuff, I find that layering serums is too much for my sensitive skin and causes me irritation, so I stick to one serum at a time. If I used a physical exfoliator instead, I might be more comfortable doing both at a time, since most physical exfoliators are wash-off products.

Step 4. Moisturizer

Last step in my skincare routine is moisturizer. I am currently loving Facetheory’s Rejuvenating Moisturiser. Note the packaging says it’s a “deeply hydrating day cream” but I’ve found it is way too thick and occlusive to wear during the day and it does not go well under makeup. Instead I use this as a nighttime moisturizer to keep my skin soft and moisturized all through the night. I should also mention that Facetheory is a UK based brand; the UK and other parts of the world tent to have stricter regulations when it comes to skincare products, which I fully appreciate as opposed to the loosely regulated wild wild west we have going on here in the U.S.

In the mornings I’ve been using Paula’s Choice Hydralight Shine Free Mineral Complex SPF 30 and I have to say, I am not loving it yet. I don’t know what about it I don’t like but I am going to continue using it until the product is done because in my experience, you can’t make an objective judgement on a product until you’ve given it a solid 3-6 months of use.

Tips to Building an Effective Skincare Routine

I really enjoy building my skincare routing and learning new things, not to mention it’s helped me stay preoccupied during self-isolation. If you aren’t the type to do a bunch of research and spend a ton of time understanding the science behind everything, you can still build and enjoy a great skincare routine with these simple tips.

Save money by using tools like SKINSKOOL for affordable dupes.

Buy products that identify skin types (i.e oily skin, combination, dry), to maximize your chances of buying products that work for you (or if you aren’t sure, stick to products that are for “normal” skin because our skin is self-regulating anyways).

If buying products on the spot, never buy based on packaging or advertising alone, instead do a quick google search to read reviews and what experts have said.

Light a candle, incense or other form of aromatherapy to add a spa like feeling during your skincare routine.

Play music, follow along to your favorite youtube’s routine, or just enjoy 10 minutes of silence and self care.

Most importantly, have fun with it!

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