March 26, 2018

My Skincare Routine: What I Use And Why + Differin Update

If you follow me on Instagram (shameless plug) then you see my skincare routine on a pretty regular basis, but I know just seeing a routine sometimes isn’t enough to understand the full picture. That’s why I want to walk you through my skincare routine and explain every single product I use, why I use it, and how it fits into my routine. The only products I’m not going to talk about in this post are masks because for me they’re something I only use 1-2 times per week (if that), and because this post is already going to be absurdly long as it is. If you want me to do another post on my face masks, drop me a comment down below or on IG letting me know, and I’ll get to it ASAP.

This post has been a long time coming, but I’ve always held off on doing it because my routine changes so much based on what I’m currently testing. At this point, I feel like my routine is stable enough that I can finally share the logic behind it all. Plus, I’ve had a lot of questions lately about what order to use products in, so this is obviously something y’all are curious about. I’m happy to help! I’m also including a Differin (adapalene) gel update because it’s been over a year since I first started using it and I definitely have some new information to share!

Without further ado, here’s my skincare routine.

Disclosure: This post is not sponsored. This post does not contain affiliate links. Some of the products in this post were PR gifted, denoted with *. I have not been asked to include them in this post. All opinions are my own.

About My Skin:

For most of my life I had oily skin. In the last few years I’ve gone from oily to combo, and now I’m mostly normal to dry. Whether my skin was oily or dry, I’ve always had issues with dehydrated skin. My skin is acne prone and clog prone, which seems to be tied to my skin not exfoliating properly (meaning it lets old skin cells, oil, and debris collect in my pores rather than pushing it out the way it should). Aside from that, I haven’t been able to find the cause for my acne and clogged pores. I have no known acne triggers or allergies. My main skin concerns are dryness, dehydration, acne/clogs, and preventing signs of aging. Hyperpigmentation left over from my acne spots is also a minor concern. I don’t actively work to address it, but if a product contains an ingredient that will help with that, such as niacinamide, then I’m all for it.

Night Time Routine

Step 1: Cleanser

First Cleanser: Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm

I only have one first cleanser in my collection, and I just repurchased another tub of it. That’s how much I love Farmacy’s Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. Now, if you’re confused about why I’m calling it a ‘first cleanser,’ then you probably don’t know about double cleansing. I have a detailed post about how and why I double cleanse (it’s actually one of the very first posts I wrote on this blog!), but the TLDR version of it is that I use an oil cleanser to remove my makeup and sunscreen, then follow up with another cleanser (cream/milk/foam cleanser, whatever floats your boat) to remove any residue and cleanse my actual skin. If you think about it, using just one cleanser to remove makeup and cleanse your skin isn’t ideal because the cleanser is mostly going to be working at dissolving any makeup and skincare products sitting on top of your skin. Using one cleanser to remove that, then a second to cleanse your skin is going to be much more effective at removing the dirt, excess oil, etc. from your skin. That’s exactly what we want when we’re trying to improve or maintain skin health, especially if you have acne and/or live in a highly polluted area. That being said, it’s important to use gentle cleansers and to adjust your approach based on what your skin needs. Some people prefer to use the same cleanser morning and night, others (like me!) find that their skin becomes too dry if they cleanse in the morning. If this is you, try using just water or a micellar water to cleanse your skin in the morning. More on that later.

So, back to Green Clean. The reasons why I love this cleanser are basically endless, but if I had to name my top 5 reasons they’d be (in no particular order):

  1. Dissolves my makeup better than anything else I’ve tried.
  2. A little goes a long way, so I don’t have to repurchase it frequently.
  3. It smells like lime sherbert! Ah-mazing!! (do I want a lime sherbert perfume now? Honestly, maybe… but a candle might be better. Do I want Farmacy to create a perfume? Definitely.)
  4. It’s super gentle on my skin.
  5. Smart packaging! The little plastic spatula makes it easy to keep the product sanitary and prevents me from getting product under my nails, which is something that drives me nuts!

If that’s not enough info for you, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I already wrote a full review of Farmacy Green Clean.

Farmacy Green Clean $34 Sephora | FarmacyBeauty.com

Second Cleanser: Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk

This is another category where I only have one product in my collection, which is Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk. Even before my skin shifted from oily to dry, I found that after cleansing, my skin felt dry and irritated. It improved when I learned about how important pH is to skin health and started using only low pH cleansers. (If you want a better understanding of the link between pH and healthy skin, you’ll want to read this post from Skin and Tonics and this post from Snow White and the Asian Pear.) Even then, my skin still felt a little out of whack when I cleansed. I just started to accept that the cleansers I was using were as good as it was going to get for me. You’ve probably all heard this story by now, so I’ll make this brief. My skin became extremely dry and irritated when I first started using Differin, especially because at that time I was using their whole system and my skin hated the cleanser. Even applying makeup hurt my skin, so I knew I needed to find something gentle. Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk was the first thing that came to mind, and lucky for me it ended up being exactly what I needed.

Velvet Cleansing Milk is gentle on my skin, removes any oil or traces of mascara that may have been left over from Farmacy Green Clean, and doesn’t dry my skin out. It’s fragrance free, and every single ingredient serves a purpose. There’s nothing added in here to use as a marketing buzz word, it’s all carefully formulated based on well-supported, well-researched science. I’ve gone through bottle after bottle, and have actually sworn off testing other first cleansers because of how much better this has been for my skin. Full review: My Holy Grail Cleanser: Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk Review

Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk $15 StratiaSkin.com

Step 2: Toner

Lapothicell A.C. Daily Calming Peeling Booster

I purchased this at a discounted price from 0.8L in exchange for an honest review on Instagram sometime last year. This is an acid toner, which just means that it contains low percentages of AHA or BHA (in this case, both) to lightly exfoliate the skin. Many acid toners also help to lower the pH of the skin, which in turn creates a more ideal environment for actives such as AHA, BHA, Retinol, and Vitamin C serums to work optimally. This toner is alright. I don’t have anything I dislike about it, and it does do what it’s supposed to. I’m just not particularly impressed by it. I’ll finish it up (sometime in 2020 because this thing is massive), but I won’t repurchase it. I typically only use it at night because of the exfoliating properties, and only a few times per week. I reach for this over my other toners if I feel like my skin is looking dull or I have a lot of clogged pores.

I’m out of both the CosRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner and the Acwell 5.5 Licorice Toner, but I like and would recommend either of those if you’re looking for an acid toner.

Lapothicell A.C. Daily Calming Peeling Booster $20 Amazon

CosRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner $11.39 Amazon

Acwell 5.5 Licorice Toner $18 SoKoGlam

Mediheal N.M.F. Aquaring Effect Toner

I also purchased this at a discounted price from 0.8L in exchange for an honest review on Instagram. This is a hydrating toner meant to add more water to the skin, which is what dehydrated skin like mine needs. Unfortunately, this isn’t very hydrating. Another blogger who reviewed this at the same time said she felt the same way about it, so I know it’s not just me. I feel like I have to use several layers of this to see any effects from it. I like having a hydrating toner in my routine, but I’m still searching for one that really satisfies me.

Mediheal N.M.F. Aquaring Effect Toner $19.95 Amazon

Erborian Eau Ginseng Lotion*

Erborian refers to these as lotions, which is a concept from Japanese skincare. They’re thin, typically watery products that are similar in texture to an essence mixed with a moisturizer. However, they serve a different purpose than an essence or moisturizer. When you’re trying to figure out where to place these in your skincare routine, they should be the next step after cleansing because their purpose is to provide a benefit (hydration, nutrition, oil control, etc.) while also prepping the skin to better absorb the rest of the products in your routine. Although I don’t like the way the Erborian Eau Ginseng Lotion smells (it’s too soapy for my liking) I do like the hydration it provides. I wouldn’t repurchase it because of the scent, but otherwise I like it. I’d only recommend this for mildly dehydrated skin because I don’t think it packs enough punch for more severely dehydrated skin, plus I worry that if you have more sensitive, cracked skin the fragrance may be too irritating for you. I use this as needed, morning or night to add more hydration to my skin.

Erborian Eau Ginseng Lotion $39 Sephora | Erborian

Erborian Yuza Double Lotion*

The Erborian Yuza Double Lotion is a favorite of mine. As someone with dry and dehydrated skin, I love the way this product combines an oily/cream layer with a watery layer to address two of my skin’s needs at once. It also helps to nourish the skin and add radiance. The smell of this is heavenly, and if you like sweet, tangy citrus scents, you’ll probably love this too. If you prefer to use fragrance-free skincare, you’re obviously not going to like this. I use this when my skin is dry, dehydrated, and dull, morning or night, as needed.

I wrote reviews of Erborian Eau Ginseng and Yuza Double Lotion a while back if you’re interested in learning more about them.

Erborian Yuza Double Lotion $36 Sephora | Erborian | SoKoGlam

Step 3: Actives

Using a combination of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA) are the best way I’ve found to manage the clogs I get. BHA cleans within the pore and helps to remove the dirt, oil and dead skin cells that cause clogs. AHA helps to exfoliate the surface of the skin by loosening dead skin cells, and is also a useful anti-aging ingredient. AHAs come in many forms such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, and more. BHA exclusively refers to salicylic acid. Actives may also include retinol, niacinamide, and vitamin C serums.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what order to use your products in, here’s a general rule: if one of the ingredients I’ve just listed is the main ingredient in a product, treat it as an active. If it’s a product that just happens to contain one of these ingredients, but it’s near the middle or end of the ingredient list, or if the main purpose of the product is something else (ex. moisturizer), you’re generally going to want to place it in your routine going by either the name or by the texture of the product (ex. Stratia Rewind Anti-Aging DMAE Essence would be treated as an essence step even though niacinamide is listed as the fourth ingredient). In general, you should be applying any of your thin, watery products early in your routine, and working up toward thicker, heavier products like moisturizers and oils.

The reason why you want to apply actives early in your routine is because it helps to make sure more of the acid actually reaches your skin (this is related to the concept of free acid value (FAV), which is beyond the scope of this post. If you’re a curious kitten, Michelle of LabMuffin addresses it here.) Additionally, because these active ingredients are pH dependent, meaning they work best when they’re A) formulated within a specific pH range and B) are applied to skin that’s in a specific pH range, using them earlier on in your routine is going to give them their best chance to be the most effective they can possibly be. One reason why you might want to use an active later in your routine is if you have sensitive skin and feel that the active(s) you’re using are too much for your skin, but you don’t want to take them out of your routine completely. If this is the case for you, try placing the active after your serum to create a buffer. Less of the acid will reach your skin, and it should cause less irritation for you. Some people’s skin tolerate acids better than others, and some skin responds better to one type of acid over another. It’s important to experiment to find what works best for your skin.

Wow, ok, that turned into a post on how to use acids. I just really love acids, you guys. Let’s get back to the routine.

Alpha Skincare Intensive Rejuvenating 14% Glycolic Acid Serum

This is a product I’ve repurchased and would definitely recommend if you want a simple, effective, high % AHA serum. They do make other versions of this serum with lower concentrations of acid, which is what I would recommend if you don’t have a lot of experience with acids or if you have sensitive skin. I use this around twice per week in the evening.

Alpha Skincare Intensive Rejuvenating 14% Glycolic Acid Serum $18.99 Amazon | Walgreens

Julep Dream Big Nightly Renewal Pressed Serum with BHA

This is a new addition to my skincare routine, and because of the texture of it I’m still playing around with where to place it in my routine. BHA is oil soluble, and as a result almost every BHA serum is going to have a bit of an oily feeling to it. (If you have oily skin, don’t let this stop you from using a BHA product. BHA is actually one of the best ingredients for oily skin!) Julep’s Dream Big Pressed Serum is one of the most lightweight BHA products I’ve encountered, but it also creates a slight oily film on my skin. Because of this, I’ve been playing around with putting it after Differin gel or keeping it in my usual spot following toner. Both ways are fine, but I think I might prefer it after Differin because the gel texture of Differin is more like a watery layer.

I like this serum so far. I feel like it’s helped to unclog some of my pores and increase the radiance of my skin. The pressed serum format is also enjoyable to use and travel-friendly. Prior to this, I was using the CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, which I also like and would recommend. I’m just interested in trying new products in this category right now.

Julep Dream Big Nightly Renewal Pressed Serum with BHA $36 Julep | Ulta

CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid $16.38 Amazon

Glossier Solution

This is a new-to-me product that I’ve used around six times now. Thoughts so far: like the texture, hate the smell, haven’t seen results yet. I’ll review it once I have more to say about it. The reason I was interested in this product was the combination of AHA, BHA, and PHA. PHA is something I’ve never used before and don’t know much about yet. Essentially it’s similar to AHA but even more gentle. Some nights I use this as my only acid product, other nights I use it prior to either Dream Big or Alpha Intensive Rejuvenating Serum depending on how my skin is looking and feeling.

Glossier Solution $24 Glossier (out of stock until May 2018)

Step 4: Essence

If you have dehydrated skin, essences are a great way to add extra layers of moisture along with some other beneficial ingredients. For oily skin, they can be a more lightweight option to add hydration to the skin without overwhelming it.

Farmstay Collagen & Hyaluronic Acid All-In-One Ampoule

Although this is an ampoule, I’m lumping it in with my essence step because I typically don’t use an ampoule. I’m just using this one because I got it in a subscription box and I kinda like it. Sometimes a beauty blogger’s skincare routine really just comes down to “I use it because I have it.” It’s a very lightweight gel, it’s hydrating, and there’s some niacinamide in it to help fade hyperpigmentation. Very perfumey, which I don’t like, but I’ll continue to use it until it’s gone or I decide to destash it. Wouldn’t recommend it. I use this at night when I feel like putting a lot of stuff on my face. Really, that’s the logic behind why I use this. *shrug*

Farmstay Collagen & Hyaluronic Acid All-In-One Ampoule $21.99 Amazon

Berrisom Aqua Moist Essence

This was another product from a subscription box, but I like this one a lot better. It’s a thin, watery, gel serum that does a good job of hydrating and softening the skin. A little perfumey, but not nearly as bad as the Farmstay ampoule. I’m not in love with this, but it does the job. I’d kind of forgotten about it, but I’ve been using it more recently. I use it morning and/or night when I feel like I need to layer hydrating products.

Berrisom Aqua Moist Essence $7.81 on special/ $26.96 full price RoseRoseShop

Stratia Rewind Anti-Aging DMAE Essence

Rewind contains ingredients that help to fade hyperpigmentation, hydrate the skin, and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. I can’t say I’ve seen much of a change in my fine lines, but I do feel like I’ve seen an improvement in my hyperpigmentation since I’ve started using Rewind. This can be used morning and night, but I typically only use it at night because I don’t do anything more than the bare minimum in the morning.

Stratia Rewind $16 StratiaSkin

Step 5: Eye Cream

Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb*

This is the only eye cream I’ve been using since I received it from Influenster. I still love it, and if anything I love it even more than I did when I reviewed it. Although it’s not something mind-blowingly innovative, it does a great job of hydrating my eye area. I also like to use it all over my face as a sleeping pack because it has a nice thick, plush, silky texture. Most of the time I use this morning and night, but sometimes I skip it in the morning if I don’t have time to let it sink in before applying my eyeshadow primer.

Reviewed previously here: Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb Review

Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb $48 Sephora

Step 6: Differin (adapalene) gel

I have a very, very in-depth review of Differin gel already up on my blog, so I’ll just briefly explain what it is, then get to the update.

Differin is the brand name of adapalene gel, a form of retinoid developed by Galderma labs. Its primary use is to treat acne.

Differin update:

I’ve been using Differin for over a year now, and a few things have changed since the last time I talked about Differin on the blog. I also have a few tips to share.

First, my skin is no longer sensitive the way it was after I finished my first few months of Differin gel. In fact, I would actually say it’s completely restored to the sensitivity level I had prior to using Differin, which means I’m back to using acids to my heart’s content. I slowly reintroduced acids to my routine, increasing how frequently I used them, then eventually increased intensity. I’m able to use pretty much anything I want now and it. feels. great. Oh acid, I missed you so much.

Second, at some point I used something my skin didn’t like and ended up with a ton of clogs, most of which were on my left cheek. I still don’t know what it was that caused it, they just appeared suddenly, but I’ve spent the last several months trying to get rid of them. I think I’m finally getting there.

Third, I do notice that using Differin speeds the healing process of my acne. It also seems to leave less pigmentation behind.

Here are my two tips for using Differin.

  1. Apply your eye cream before you apply Differin. I experienced a lot of dryness in my eye area after I started using Differin, and I’m almost certain it was because I had residual adapalene on my fingers when I applied my eye cream. Applying Differin after my eye cream stopped the dryness and peeling I was experiencing in my eye area.
  2. Be consistent. I already talked about this in my original review, but it’s worth repeating, especially with the amount of experience I have with this product now. Because of the way adapalene works, in order for it to be effective, it needs to build up in your skin. The results don’t start when you apply it, they start a few days later when enough of the adapalene has built up in your skin for it to start doing its job. The same is true of it losing effectiveness. At least based on my experience, I’m not a chemist and I haven’t conducted any scientific studies on this. However, I have noticed that I can go a maximum of three days without applying Differin gel before I start to notice an increase in acne and a slight change in my skin texture.

Differin isn’t a cure for acne, it’s a skincare product that treats and prevents acne. Know that it’s something you’re going to have to continue to use consistently if you want to maintain your results.

I already explained why I use Differin after my eye cream. The reason why I use it before my serums is because I feel like some serums create too much of a barrier and I noticed that Differin wasn’t as effective when I used it after my serums. Sometimes I even use it with the rest of the actives earlier in my routine. The reason I typically don’t is because I feel like I’m wiping it away if I use something that’s very watery after it.

Differin Adapalene Gel $11.19 Amazon | Target

Here’s what my skin looks like as of 25 March 2018. Note: I’m wearing a few skincare products in these photos, hence the glowy, hydrated appearance.

Step 7: Serum

It’s Skin Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Serum

This has a strong floral perfume scent that eventually goes away. The texture is nice. It’s like a lightweight lotion. Hydration level is good. Mo’ moisture, mo’ better. I typically use this at night, but will sometimes use it in the morning too if my skin is in dire straights. Wouldn’t repurchase.

It’s Skin Hyaluronic Acid $14.54 Amazon

Lancome Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate

Don’t really care for this, I’m just using it up. I don’t feel like it does much of anything for my skin. I don’t notice a difference when I take it out of my routine for a bit. Meh. Not worth the $$ for me. When I do use it, I use it morning and/or night when I feel like putting a serum on my face. I need to find a serum I love, this is just sad.

Lancome Advance Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate $78 Sephora

Step 8: Moisturizer

Mamonde Moisture Ceramide Light Cream

It’s a decent light weight cream that contains ceramides to help protect the skin’s moisture barrier. I use it when my skin is feeling a little sensitive, but I can’t say that I’ve noticed any remarkable results. Wouldn’t repurchase.

Mamonde Moisture Ceramide Light Cream $26.90 Amazon

Perricone MD Hydrating Cloud Cream

Lightweight, but hydrating enough for dry skin. Fragrance Free. Great texture. Don’t know if I’d purchase the full size since it’s $80, but I do like it. I usually only use it at night, but it’s lightweight enough that it could be a day cream too. I really like using it when the weather is too warm for a heavy cream, but my skin is still in need of a lot of moisture.

Pericone M.D. Cloud Cream $80 Sephora

Dr. Jart Water Drop

Incredibly lightweight gel moisturizer that feels like water on the skin. Surprisingly hydrating for how light it is. Similar to the Cloud Cream, I use this on days or nights where my skin needs hydration, but the heat is stifling.

Dr. Jart Water Drop $36 Sephora

Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb

LOVE. So hydrating, perfect texture. Silky, plush, comforting. I’ve managed to end up with a pretty steady supply of deluxe samples between gifts with purchase, trial sets, Sephora point codes, and subscription boxes, but if I ever run out I would definitely repurchase this. Same goes for Aqua Bomb, which I also love (it’s better suited for oily skin). Both make excellent everyday, every occasion moisturizers. Aqua Bomb is especially great in the summer months.

Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb $38 Sephora

Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb $38 Sephora

Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask

A long-time favorite for me, this mask basically feels like a hug from a really cute boy wearing a soft t-shirt. Ok, that was oddly specific, but it gets the point across. It’s such a comforting feeling. It does an amazing job of locking in all of the other layers of my skincare while also providing another layer of hydration. It leaves a thin layer of product on top of the skin to form a protective barrier. As if that wasn’t already great enough, it has an incredible apricot scent that I can never get enough of. Origins, if y’all wanna turn this scent into a perfume or a body wash (both plz) I’ll buy the first bottle. (am i going to keep trying to talk skincare companies into making perfumes for me? definitely yes.)

Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask $27 Sephora

Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream

I’ve heard other people say they love this as a primer for makeup or a light weight cream. Personally, I only like using it at night, and I tend to use it in place of a sleeping pack. I nearly always mix it with one of my oils as a way of adding a hydrating and protecting layer. I use this most often when my skin is looking worse-for-wear or when the weather has been really harsh to my skin.

Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream $16.99 Amazon

Step 9: Oil

Dr. Jart Ceramidin Oil Balm

I typically only use this on my hands now, but I wanted to mention it here because I used it a lot on my face when my skin was in the throes of the Differin purges (yes, purges. My skin purged twice when I started using Differin, lucky ducky that I am. Ugh). It goes from solid to liquid and was a great way of providing nutrition, oil, and creating a protective barrier on my skin when it was feeling very vulnerable.

Dr. Jart Ceramidin Oil Balm $35 Sephora

Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil

Sea Buckthorn Berry is one of my favorite ingredients ever, so I’ll buy basically anything that lists it as a main ingredient. It’s great for treating sensitive and damaged skin, and is full of antioxidants and fatty acids that help to keep the skin healthy and prevent signs of aging. Fresh’s Seaberry Oil is a great, reliable oil. It’s also one of the rare oils that can work great for oily skin. As oils go, it’s pretty light weight, so this is usually my summer oil. It’s a lighter hydration level, but a heavy punch of skin benefits.

Fresh Seaberry Oil $52 Sephora

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil

This is a retinoid in the form of an oil. As such, it’s great for addressing hyperpigmentation and texture issues, but is much gentler than most other forms of retinol. I use this around 4-5 nights per week depending on how my skin is looking and how many other actives I’m using. I think of this as an active in an oil format, so I use it more for the retinol benefits than I do for the oil benefits.

Sunday Riley Luna Oil $55 Sephora

Kora Organics Noni Glow Face Oil

Discovered this through a sample last year and fell in love. I’m still working my way through my little bottle, but this is such a great oil for increasing skin nutrition and radiance. It’s also an oil that’s great for acne-prone skin. It’s surprisingly lightweight and feels almost like a dry oil, though not quite that dry. I reach for this oil when my skin is looking dull, typically about once per week. Oh, and it smells faintly like a tropical paradise without that icky fake tropical smell. It actually smells like lying on a beach under a palm tree (hey could y’all make a perfu- just kidding… this time). Love. It was one of my top skincare products of 2017 for good reason!

Kora Organics Noni Glow Face Oil $68 Sephora

AM Routine

I hate doing a routine in the morning, I’d much rather just get a jump on whatever I’m working on that day. As a result, I tend to keep my morning skincare routine pretty simple. I’m including all of the possible steps I might follow here, but a typical morning routine for me is 1) Splash face with water 2) Add some sort of hydrating product and 3) Use sunscreen. Das it.

Step 1: Cleanse

Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

I usually only cleanse my face with micellar water in the morning if I feel like I have a lot of residue from the previous night’s skincare left on my face. Otherwise, I just splash a little water on my face and call it good. My skin gets over-cleansed easily, so I’ve found this to be the best solution for me. Garnier and Bioderma are the only cleansing waters I’ve tried so far. I think Bioderma is a bit better at removing makeup, but since that’s not the reason why I use it, I typically go for the Garnier. I like it enough that I’ve almost finished my 2nd bottle. I’ll probably try something else after this so I have more to compare it to, but I do think this one is a great option.

Ganier Micellar Water $8.99 Ulta

Step 2: Tone

Erborian Bamboo Matte Lotion*

If I’m not using one of the toners I mentioned in my night time routine, I’ll use the Erborian Bamboo Matte Lotion. It helps to control oil and mattify the skin, but still adds a layer of hydration. Great under makeup. I use this when my skin is feeling more combo or in the summer when my skin tends to be more oily.

Erborian Bamboo Matte Lotion $34 Sephora

Step 3: Serum

Julep You Got This Pressed Serum Daily Moisturizer

If I use a serum at all in the morning, it used to be the Lancome serum I mentioned previously or occasionally Stratia Rewind. However I recently added the Julep You Got This Pressed Serum to my collection so I’ve been testing this out. It’s a bit on the oily side, I think it’s something only people with dry skin are going to love. I’m going to try moving it to my night time routine because I’m not sure how I feel about this texture under makeup. I think I’ll like it much better as a night time moisturizer rather than a day time serum.

Julep You Got This Pressed Serum $36 Julep | Ulta

Step 4: Moisturizer

Anthony Oil-Free Facial Lotion

This is a remnant from my oily-skinned days, but it’s something I’ve continued to use and love even now that my skin is dry. It’s light enough that people with oily skin will love it, it works well under makeup, and it’s very hydrating without feeling heavy. The scent reminds me a lot of Sweetarts and I’m kinda into it, weirdly. It’s my go-to daytime moisturizer.

Anthony Oil-Free Facial Lotion $30 Sephora

Farmacy Rise ‘N Shine Daily Moisture Lock

I just recently purchased this, so I’m still getting a feel for where I want it in my routine. I’ve tried it in my night routine and in my day routine, and so far I like it in both spots. It seems to be very versatile, and I love the texture. It’s lightweight, non-greasy, yet hydrating. I’m very excited about the results I’ve seen from Rise ‘N Shine so far, but you’ll have to wait for my review to learn more (I know, sorry! I just don’t want to share too much before I’ve fully formed my opinion).

Farmacy Rise N Shine $40 Sephora

Step 5: Sunscreen

Cosmo Monster Aqua Gel Sunscreen

Of course right after I find a sunscreen I love, it gets discontinued. It has the most insanely light weight gel texture that feels like water on the skin. It doesn’t feel like sunscreen at all! It’s also SPF50 PA+++ so it offers great sun protection. It was discontinued in early 2017, so even the few that were floating around on eBay are all gone now. I’m running low and it’s about to expire, so it’s time to start hunting for a new sunscreen. Tell me your favorites!

Effect R Sunscreen

The brand name is in Korean, and I’ve long since forgotten what it was. This was another product I purchased at a discounted rate from 0.8L sometime last year. It’s a very hydrating sunscreen and has much more of the typical sunscreen feel to it. As a result, I really only like to use this in the fall and winter. It’s too heavy feeling in the Vegas heat during spring and summer. I’m trying to finish it up now before it gets too warm. It’s ok, nothing special. It’s another one of those products that I just use because I have it.

Step 6: Oil

Josie Maran Argan Oil Light

My skin is really sensitive to sudden weather fluctuations, so if the temperature jumps more than ten degrees in either direction, my skin suddenly becomes dry and irritated. When that happens, it seems like no matter how many hydrating products I add to my skin, I just can’t get foundation to sit right on it. I’ve been using the Josie Maran Argan Oil Light as a final step before my foundation to get it to sit better on my dry, dehydrated skin. Works like a charm.

Josie Maran Argan Oil Light $48 Sephora


Lip balm

Tokyo Milk Dark Lip Elixir

Without a doubt, my favorite lip balm ever. It’s thicker and more cushiony than the typical lip balm, which I love because it helps it to stay on my lips longer and creates a comforting, protective barrier over my lips. It also comes in several amazing flavors, such as chocolate cherry and salted caramel. It takes me like a year to finish off one tin of this stuff, so even though it’s a little more expensive than a drugstore chapstick, it balances out because I don’t have to repurchase it very often. It’s basically my mission in life to get more people to love this lip balm.

Tokyo Milk Dark Lip Elixir $7 Sephora | TokyoMilk

Farmacy Lip Bloom

I received this as a sample with my last Farmacy order and have been testing it ever since. It’s thinner and more oily, a lot like coconut oil, so for me this is strictly a day time lip balm. I really like it for prepping my lips for color because it seems to add a lot of moisture to my lips in a short period of time.

Farmacy Lip Bloom $12 FarmacyBeauty.com

Glossier Balm Dotcom

I have a sample size of Balm Dotcom that came in my latest Ipsy bag. This is thicker than Farmacy’s Lip Bloom, but still a lot thinner than Tokyo Milk’s Lip Elixir. I use this throughout the day and sometimes at night. I like it a lot, but Lip Elixir still owns my heart.

Glossier Balm Dotcom $12 Glossier

Face mists

3w Clinic Ultra Energy Mist

If you like rose-scented face mists, you’ll probably love this. I, however, am not that big of a fan. It’s too fragranced for my liking, which makes it feel like being punching in the face with a bouquet of roses. The hydration it provides is on par with other face mists. I like that it’s in a plastic bottle because I’m most likely to use face mists when I’m on the go. I kept this one in my bag when we moved into the new house and periodically sprayed my face when I was starting to get hot. So refreshing, definitely recommend keeping a face spray on hand when you’re moving.

Provence Beauty Cucumber Water

You would think a product called cucumber water would smell like cucumbers, right? Wrong-o my friend. Roses again. Much lighter scent though, thankfully. As a result I prefer this mist, though the glass bottle makes it less travel friendly. Similar hydration level. I mostly use it to add more hydration to my skin when I apply makeup.

Bonus Round:

My bare bones night time routine: what I do when I’m feeling lazy AF

There are some nights when I truly can’t be bothered to fuss with skincare. Usually those are nights where I’ve put off applying my skincare for too long and am now debating with myself if it’s actually that important or if I can just go to sleep now nownow. Half-asleep, I stand in front of my vanity. What do I reach for?

If my energy/care level is halfway decent: some form of acid, Differin gel, a serum, and a moisturizer (typically Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight mask because it makes me happy and it makes me feel like I’ve done more for my skin than I really have).

If I’m basically already asleep, but am somehow still making my body move from point A to point B: Differin, moisturizer. Boom, done. I added hydration and I prevented acne, so technically I did the skincare thing. Not a routine I would use long-term, but good enough for one night.

A few parting words:

If you’re trying to develop a skincare routine for yourself, don’t try to follow someone else’s skincare routine. Instead, make a list of the goals you have for your skin like the one I included at the beginning of this post and then try to find products that suit your needs. Every skincare routine is going to include some trial and error. You might need to switch to different products, change the way you apply them, or change your goals altogether. I have different goals now than when I first got into skincare, and I’m sure my routine is going to continue to evolve as I get older.

Also, don’t treat your skin like the enemy. Stop using harsh products because you’re frustrated with the state of your skin. Using gentle products will typically get you much better results than harsh ones will when it comes to skincare. Consider how a product contributes to the health of your skin, not just the appearance. Work with your skin, not against it. Set realistic expectations and be patient. Most skincare products don’t provide instant results because that’s not how skin works. It takes time to change, so give it the time and care it needs to improve. Finally, let go of the idea of having “perfect” skin. It’s such an unattainable goal and it sets you up for failure and disappointment. There are enough people and things in this world that will make you feel like shit, don’t let the way you treat yourself be one of them.

Thanks for reading!



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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like My Favorite Skincare Products of 2017

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  • Lauren

    I love the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence for sunscreen. It has only a fair citrusy smell, dries down to a dry silky finish. I bought mine in Japan super cheap but I think it’s on Amazon.

    September 3, 2018 at 10:08 pm Reply
    • Cristine

      I’ll have to check that one out, thanks!

      September 4, 2018 at 10:05 am Reply
  • Ann

    Hi Cristine,
    What an amazing article. I am so glad/happy to have found your blog. I have a question about your experience with Differin. I have used it on and off for spot treatment. But this time around I am determined to incorporate it into my routine. I am starting out as using it every 3 days. I am on my second week already. My face is starting to feel hurt, thick ( not sure if this is the same as texture when you mentioned it in your article), dry, peeling already. Is that normal to feel hurt? Also in this article you put Differin after a few products, I am curious as you already able to build tolerance, why not put it on right after you face was clean? I am looking forward to hear your feedback and read more of your articles. 🙂

    July 20, 2018 at 3:38 pm Reply
    • Cristine

      Thanks, Ann! It sounds like your skin may be sensitive to Differin like mine was. It’s not normal for skin to hurt while using Differin, but dryness, peeling, and increased sensitivity are fairly normal. Since you’re already using it at a lower frequency, but still experiencing sensitivity you may want to discontinue use of Differin and try a different treatment for your acne, or consult a dermatologist. If you want to continue using Differin and just push through the side effects you can, but I can’t say that I would recommend that since you’re experiencing pain. I’m not a dermatologist or a professional in any way, this is just purely based on my experience with Differin and the research I’ve done, so definitely take my advice with a grain of salt. A couple of things to consider are the other products in your skincare routine. Discontinue use of any exfoliating products including scrubs, AHA, and BHA because these could be making the sensitivity worse. Make sure you’re keeping your skin hydrated and use a gentle cleanser, such as Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk or Fresh Soy Face Cleanser.

      The reason why I typically put Differin on after a few other products is because of pH dependency. Some of the products I use such as AHA and BHA work best when they’re applied directly after cleansing, so on days when I use them and Differin in my routine, I get the best results if I apply those before Differin. I also have some products with textures that are thinner than the texture of Differin, so I prefer to use them before Differin in my routine. I do use Differin directly after cleansing sometimes now that my skin has adjusted to it, it really just depends on how many products I’m using that night and how they layer best based on texture and pH.

      July 21, 2018 at 2:57 pm Reply
      • Ann

        Thank you so much for replying to me! You are so thoughtful and details in your response!! I just went through my products and realize (my not so smart self) that the cleaner I was using this past 2 weeks have salicylic acid in it, not sure if this can cause the pain I am feeling. Also on certain day I need to wear make up for work, but my skin would be too red and drying to apply foundation. Do you have any suggestion to help with wearing make up possible during this tough time?

        Thanks again!!

        July 23, 2018 at 12:13 pm Reply
        • Cristine

          Happy to help! I think you’re probably right about the cleanser, it could definitely be irritating your skin. Hopefully switching to a different cleanser will make your skin feel better. When I switched cleansers, my skin started to feel better within about one week, which also made it easier to wear makeup. I know how badly it hurts to wear makeup when your skin is in this state, it’s awful! Try to use really hydrating products in your skincare routine, and definitely use moisturizer underneath your foundation. Try to avoid products with fragrance in them because the fragrance will irritate your skin even more. The only other thing I can think of that might help is Farmacy Honey Savior, it’s really great for healing and protecting irritated skin. It made the healing process so much quicker when I accidentally over-exfoliated my skin a few months ago. They sell it at Sephora, so you might be able to get a sample in-store if you don’t want to buy a full tube (it’s $34). I hope your skin starts feeling better soon!

          July 24, 2018 at 12:49 pm Reply
  • pauli

    acid tend to deactivate differin. fyi

    April 10, 2018 at 10:43 pm Reply
    • Cristine

      Interesting, I’ll have to look in to that! I’ve only ever read that they shouldn’t be used together because of the irritation it can create.

      April 12, 2018 at 8:53 am Reply
  • Laurie Lee Guinan

    Loving this site. I’m crazy about farmavy skin products!

    March 27, 2018 at 3:01 am Reply
    • Cristine

      Thank you so much! I love Farmacy too, they’re one of my favorite skincare brands!

      March 27, 2018 at 9:18 am Reply

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