You may remember the super-involved skincare routine post I wrote a while ago. While my current routine is different, it certainly isn’t less involved (oops). The skincare routine I was following in my last post was formed after a couple months of being really into skincare. Now, I’m (surprise) even more into skincare. More specifically, I have been reading up on cosmetic chemistry and the research behind skincare (I’m a forever student). So, a few months ago, I set out to make drastic changes to my skincare routine based on this research.
I had a 10 goals in mind when crafting my new skincare routine:
1. Eliminate bad types of alcohol
There is a lot of research on the damaging effects bad alcohols can have on your skin. Namely, while they may minimize oil in the short run, in the long run, the constant striping of oil damages the skin’s moisture barrier and leads to excess oil production to compensate. Notice, I said “bad” alcohols; these are ingredients like alcohol denat., ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol. Good alcohols are fatty alcohols that you needn’t stay away from, like cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol. You can read more about this here, here, and here.
2. Eliminate fragrance
Fragrance in skincare can aggravate sensitive skin. Even for people without sensitive skin, continued use of skincare with fragrance sensitizes skin over time. You may think that to avoid this, you can just stick to fragrance-free products. Turns out, most products labeled “fragrance-free” typically mean “synthetic fragrance-free”. However, natural fragrance is still sensitizing and should be avoided. This means, you want to avoid skincare with fragrant essential oils like lavender oil, rose flower extract, lemon, and more.
I haven’t completely rid my skincare collection of fragrance, but I’m slowly phasing it out and not purchasing any new products with fragrance (natural or synthetic)
3. Introduce antioxidants, particularly Vitamin C
Now that I’m in my early 20s, post teenage-acne life (though, let’s be clear, my acne is still hanging around) has left me with some acne scars and dark marks. Incorporating antioxidants like Vitamin C into your routine is generally always recommended, but it’s especially useful if you’re looking for that coveted “glow”.
4. Introduce retinol slowly
One of the larger new developments in my skincare journey is using anti-aging ingredients early on. Retinol is one of those powerhouse products everyone recommends. As I’m still young, I limit my retinol use to twice a week, at most.
5. Avoid negative ingredient interactions
This one really made designing a new routine painstaking (I’m talking several months of adjustments, furious reading, and Googling). There are a number of great ingredients you shouldn’t mix for fear of irritation (e.g. AHAs/BHAs and retinol) or rendering them inactive (Vitamin C and AHAs/BHAs).
My new routine avoids using the following at the same time of day: 1) Vitamin C and retinol, 2) Vitamin C and AHAs/BHAs (aka exfoliants like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, etc.), 3) retinol and AHAs/BHAs. It was a convoluted tango I had to dance to coordinate the avoidance of these combinations, but I finally figured it out. Experts are divided on whether or not some of these combos are actually harmful, but I figured avoiding them couldn’t hurt.
6. Limit physical exfoliation and avoid over-exfoliation
I find physical exfoliation to be too harsh and counterproductive for acneic skin, and so do these experts here,here, and here. When using physical exfoliates like scrubs or cleansing devices, you’re tempted to rub too hard. In skincare, sometimes we have this illusion that the more we feel the better it’s working. It’s easy to think that the harder you scrub the better, or that the more something makes your face tingle (read: burn) the more effective it is.
I’ve decided that beauty isn’t pain. I don’t want to have to feel something scratching or burning my face in order for me to know it’s working. So, personally, I stick to chemical exfoliation with AHAs and BHAs most of the time. Once every two weeks I physically exfoliate with a muslin cloth, cleansing brush, or super gentlescrub. Side note: I’m all for physical exfoliation on other parts of my body; I’m always here for a good lip, hand, or body scrub with fine exfoliating granules.
I also only exfoliate 3 times a week to avoid over exfoliation.
7. Double cleanse at night
Double cleansing is slightly controversial (like almost everything in skincare). Many people and experts swear by it, and tell you that in order to remove dirt, makeup, and sunscreen you must double cleanse at night (first with an oil-based cleanser, then with a water-based one). You can read some pro-double cleansing sources here, here, and here. Others think double cleansing is either unnecessary, as modern cleansers tend to have both oil and surfactants, or could interfere with the penetration of other products because oil molecules are too large.
Because I have oily skin and because I wear sunscreen (which everyone should!), I double cleanse most nights, but not always.
8. Be more diligent with moisturizing
I fell prey to the myth that oily skin doesn’t need moisturizer for so long. But don’t worry, I have been freed of my errant ways and now I vow to moisturize day and night with moisturizers that fit my skin type.
9. Hone the optimal order of products
I was already doing pretty well with this in my first skincare routine. I got the basic cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer order down. But I now apply eye cream before serums rather than as a last step. If you apply eye cream last, the serums and moisturizer you applied earlier might interfere with the absorption of your eye cream.
10. Keep tools sanitary and soft
The point of sanitation goes hand in hand with #6 (re: physical exfoliation); I parted with cleansing brushes not just because they are a form of physical exfoliation, but also because of how easy it is for bacteria to breed on brush heads.
I now use facial flannels from The Body Shop that are softer than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life (highly recommend). I keep a stash of around 15, and use 1 per day before tossing it in the laundry, to be as sanitary as possible. I’ve also started using Shiseido Facial Cotton instead of my usual drugstore cotton rounds to apply toner. The Shiseido facial cotton pads are sooo much softer and aren’t really more expensive ($10 for 165 pads).
Given these 10 goals, I have finally been able to design a new skincare routine. Stay tuned for a post detailing my new and improved skincare routine in the coming weeks!