Perfecting My Skincare Regimen
Over the past couple of years, my devotion to perfecting my skincare routine has been going amazingly well. This past few months, my skin has been the calmest and clearest it has ever been. Pimples have been rare. I haven’t had any issues with dryness. My 33-year-old skin looks better now than it ever did in my twenties.
I’m not wearing any foundation, BB cream, tinted moisturizer, or any kind of tinted face makeup in the pictures above. I’m wearing only mascara and, in the second picture, lip tint. I almost never wear face makeup anymore but friends and family who see me think I’m wearing BB cream.
To give you some perspective, here are pictures of me from previous years. These were from my “better days” when I was happy just to not have an angry live pimple.
Even with all that makeup, you can see how bad the texture of my skin used to be. I would get at least one painful pimple just often enough that a scar would fade just in time for a new pimple to appear. As I got older, the pitted scarring seemed to get deeper and rougher due to receding collagen production.
As I accumulated and filtered out various products and routines to my regimen it became clearer that the smartest rule to apply here was to treat your face like the delicate membrane that it is. It’s tempting to tackle your skin problems head on and pummel it with all kinds of abrasive, drying and medicated ingredients. That’s what I was doing, washing my face too often, using harsh drying products, washing with scalding hot water, changing tactics too often for my skin to adjust. However, it’s best to keep things simple, gentle and as constant as possible. I believe it’s important to keep this in mind before exploring avenues of at-home skincare because it keeps you cautious and prevents you from putting random things on your face in desperation without hesitation.
I’m not a doctor nor a scientist so take what I say with a grain of salt. A great starting point is the sidebar of this Reddit community. Follow the white rabbit and do your own research.
Your face isn’t made of Gore Tex.
Your skin is protected by an acid mantle that needs to maintain a specific PH range for healthy skin. I don’t know a whole lot about what that means (so you really should do the reading yourself) but here’s what I can tell you here.
Exposing your face too much to ingredients that are too alkaline or acidic for that range alters your PH. This makes you vulnerable to contaminants like bacteria and viruses. Wow, I finally get what those deodorant commercials were talking about.
Guess what; you know those baking soda and lemon juice remedies that is heralded all over the Internet as being great for at-home skincare? They don’t fit into that PH range and they will DESTROY your acid mantle. Not only does this mean you’re making yourself vulnerable to infections and sun damage over time but you’re also letting out moisture. So an ingredient being edible and natural doesn’t make it automatically great for slathering on your face. You may feel like you’re seeing great results with that baking soda lemon juice scrubbing mask but, years down the road, you’ll be paying for it with any or all signs of damage (melasma, wrinkling, etc).
Surprisingly Safer and Better: Oils and Acids?!
When a product is oily or greasy, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll increase oiliness in your face, nor that it’ll clog pores and cause acne.
Winters were tough for me because my face would get so painfully dry. This would aggravate acne and I’d also get rough dry patches on my face that felt like Velcro. Whenever I got sick, the dryness was unbearably worse.
Two winters ago, I started applying Aquaphor all over my face in the evenings, right after moisturizer. When I got sick, I kept my face constantly coated with Aquaphor. I never had a problem with dryness since. Because I used to get so dry, I actually savored that greasy feeling. I have grown to love it.
Oils can help regulate moisture retention and oil secretion. Many people have seen the benefits of the Oil Cleansing Method (not to be confused with those oil cleansers that you rinse off) for treating acne and promoting overall healthy skin. An occlusive like petroleum jelly can actually help lock in moisture without harming you…
…UNLESS YOU ARE ALLERGIC! So, be sure to spot test each ingredient for compatibility first! This is super important. Many have seen the benefits of certain oils while a small number have experienced allergic reactions to the same things.
Chemical exfoliants also sound scary but they’re actually safer and more effective than physical exfoliants. That St. Ives apricot scrub that you think is evening you out? It’s actually causing microtears that, in the long run, will make you prone to infection and severe dryness. In fact, introducing alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) like glycolic acid and lactic acid into my regimen has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my skin. My face breaks out far less often and any existing acne heals faster after a peel session. Collagen production is boosted which has helped improve the texture of the pitted scarring. Lactic acid has helped fade discoloration. Doing a TCA peel dramatically improved the appearance of my skin.
These are still acids, so you need to be cautious and do your research first. Don’t even think about TCA peels until you’ve tried milder peels first. I spent years building tolerance and only now can I handle the gentlest TCA peels and a lactic acid as high as 65%.
My Current Regimen
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you make very gradual and careful changes to your routine. Don’t start using a bunch of new things at once but give yourself time to adjust to each new product/method and time to make sure that each one is compatible with your skin. This regimen was carefully tailored for my own needs so it’s not meant for everyone.
I wash with cold water in the mornings with no cleanser. The cold water is great for circulation, helps me wake up and preserves moisture so my face isn’t dried out first thing in the morning.
When I wash my face, I actually hold the water and press it into areas of my face, like the water is a cushion. My hand barely touches my face.
I apply witch hazel toner, which is an anti-inflammatory that helps retain moisture. I follow that up with Silk Naturals Super Serum, a vitamin C serum, which is great for protecting and repairing your skin from sun damage and other elements.
I use CeraVe (or a generic brand of the same formula) in the AM. I apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before I go outside, even in cloudy days. I try to apply a quarter teaspoon of sunscreen every two hours.
I remove any makeup or sunscreen with a gentle face wipe (currently loving Yes! To Blueberries) or Pond’s Cold Cream.
I wash with lukewarm water and CeraVe in the evening. I never touch my face with anything hotter.
I wipe my face down with St. Ives Exfoliating Pads. Unlike the apricot scrub, this is a very mild chemical exfoliant.
After a few minutes, I apply Silk Naturals Mama’s Helper Vitamin C serum. I immediately follow up with moisturizer.
Twice a week:
I use the Clarisonic Mia to cleanse in the evening.
I make an Aztec Healing Clay mask mixed with apple cider vinegar and wear it for 10-15 minutes to clean out sebaceous filaments (commonly mistaken for blackheads).
Once or twice a week:
I do a lactic acid peel. I don’t use the St. Ives exfoliating pad on this day.
I recently started doing several rounds of TCA peels every 3-6 months. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU ARE FAIRLY NEW TO CHEMICAL PEELS.