I’m going to preface this post by stating this: my skincare routine is not for the faint-hearted. It’s not for someone who wants to use three or less products. The price range starts around a few dollars and increases to a bit of an investment.
But, these are also not products that I chose randomly. I’ve spent many hours reading up on ingredients, reading reviews, trying out and testing and spending my money to find a routine that works for me. I’m a combination-oily skin type, and time isn’t slowing down for me either, so my concerns encompass trying to prevent blemishes and clogged pores while also trying to slow down the aging process and prevent fine lines and loss of elasticity.
If you’re wondering where someone even begins with so many products, I’ll give you the short and sweet version: I began reading /r/AsianBeauty and found out about the Korean 10-step routine (here is an awesome article that lays it out better than I can). I already had some tried and true products that fit some of the steps when first learning about these kind of routines, so my real journey has been finding other products that fill in the blanks. I don’t have a “fully realized” routine yet that has every. single. step., but I do have a routine that I have done every morning for a few months and it works for me.
- Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (Amazon)
- Retail: $10.75 USD (5.07 fl. oz / 150 mL)
- Thoughts: Cosrx is a Korean brand that I learned about through /r/AsianBeauty. It’s not sold in stores, so I have been buying it off of Amazon. First, I was drawn to the brand due to glowing reviews from Redditors who spoke from their own personal experiences with Cosrx; and second, while learning about K-beauty skincare routines, I learned that you want to have a low pH cleanser. Healthy adult skin has a pH of 4.2 to 5.6 (slightly acidic) and scientific studies have shown that maintaining a proper pH is good for your skin’s acid mantle (its natural barrier). Snow White & The Asian Pear wrote an excellent blog post about why the pH of your cleanser matters so please check out that post if you want to know more!
Let’s talk about this cleanser specifically: It doesn’t lather up a ton like you may be used to, it has a slight medicinal scent (likely due to the tea tree in the ingredients), and it feels very comfortable on my skin. It doesn’t leave my skin feeling stripped or irritated at all, and it’s super affordable. You get a ton of product for under $11.
As a side note: I don’t use this for removing makeup at night, but I also feel like it wouldn’t remove makeup anyway. (I will do a nighttime skincare post which will cover makeup removal).
- Thayer’s Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Toner – Cucumber (Amazon)
- Retail: $12.27 USD (12 fl oz / 355 mL)
- Thoughts: You can buy this on its own for the price above, or buy it as an add-on item for around $8 if you have other things you plan on getting from Amazon. For those who want don’t want to order it, I have seen the Rose and Lavender versions of this product at Target in the naturals section of their beauty/skincare department.
This is my second bottle of Thayer’s as my toner. My first bottle was the Rose version, which I really liked and felt was very hydrating, but I was curious to give the Cucumber one a shot. I am really enjoying it so far. It smells like freshly cut cucumbers (what else would you expect?) and feels very refreshing on the skin, equally hydrating as the Rose version.
I will put this toner on half of a cotton round (also pictured above) and gently apply to my entire face and neck after cleansing. I then give it some time to dry down a little bit. I do believe this toner is helping a lot with my own redness issues, thanks to the soothing properties of cucumber and aloe vera together.
Essence and “Actives”/Treatment
- Belif Hungarian Water Essence
- Retail: $42.00 USD (2.53 oz / 75 mL)
- Thoughts: This is my first foray into an “essence”, and the one pictured above is a deluxe sample I received in a Sephora Play! box around two months ago. I use it right after my Thayer’s Witch Hazel Cucumber toner. An essence is a concentrated formula that has a specific purpose. This essence from Belif is meant to provide long-lasting hydration to the skin (and I kind of view it as a “beginner” essence to be honest), but there are many other essences out there that specifically target fine lines, dullness, and uneven skin tones.
When I run out of my Belif I will be looking into trying another essence that is more focused on anti-aging, but I am enjoying this one while I have it. It is allowing me to get into the habit of using an essence in my routine, since that is my most recently added step. After applying, I allow my skin a few minutes to let it dry down, passing the time by brushing my teeth for example, before moving onto my next step.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
- Retail: $80.00 USD (1.0 fl oz / 30 mL)
- Thoughts: I use vitamin C in my routine to help a lot of things! L-ascorbic acid (aka, vitamin C) helps with overall brightness and clarity, fine lines and wrinkles, fading hyper pigmentation caused by acne scarring, etc.
This is actually my second bottle of the Drunk Elephant C-Firma serum, and I really love it. First of all, the packaging is excellent because it prevents the product from being exposed to light and oxygen. Secondly, the formula is really nice: the texture is smooth and comfortable and non-irritating to my skin. I use this before I use my 2% BHA Liquid (next step) because vitamin C works best when applied early on in your routine, as it absorbs quicker than other actives. After I’ve given it a few minutes to set on the skin, I will then move onto my next morning active, which is the 2% BHA.
- Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid (Amazon):
- Retail: $29.00 USD (4 fl oz / 115 mL)
- Thoughts: I have talked about this product in a few previous posts already, but the reason I use a BHA (salicylic acid) is that it helps with things that I am prone to as someone who has combination oily skin: breakouts and enlarged/clogged pores. I will take the other half of the cotton pad from earlier (when I applied my toner) and press this onto the surface of my skin all over, but definitely with some extra focus on the t-zone. I will then try to give this product time to “sink in” by going and getting dressed for the day, or letting my dog out and feeding him his breakfast, etc.
If I need to restock on a few Paula’s Choice items, I always order them from her site because I will almost always qualify for free shipping at that point. But most of the time the 2% BHA Liquid is the product I run out of and replenish the most, so I buy it on Amazon because I get it a little cheaper (around $27ish) and I still get my free shipping with Prime.
Hydrate & Moisturize, Eye Cream
- The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
- Retail: $6.80 USD (1 fl oz / 30 mL)
- Thoughts: A lot of people think if you have oily skin that you need to not moisturize as much as people with dry skin, and that’s a complete myth. Skin is usually struggling with one of two problems: either you are a truly dry skin type (your skin lacks oil), or you are a dehydrated skin type (your skin lacks water — many oily skin types fall under this category). Regardless of which you are, you need to be moisturizing. Oily, dehydrated skin types can benefit from adding hyaluronic acid like this to their routine because it will attract moisture to the skin and can penetrate multiple layers, while the addition of B5 helps to further hydrate and nourish the skin.
I take about three drops and apply it all over my face and neck. It doesn’t feel as watery as the Belif essence because it has some viscosity, but it is lightweight and sinks in easily. This serum is also non-comedogenic and doesn’t cause any irritation, so any skin type should be able to use this. When I’m running low on time–which is often enough since I like sleep–I will mix it with my moisturizer.
- Paula’s Choice RESIST Anti-Aging Clear Skin Hydrator (Amazon)
- Retail: $33.00 USD (1.7 oz / 50 mL)
- Thoughts: This is $33.00 on both Amazon and Paula’s Choice, so this is another product that if this is the only thing I need to buy, I’ll buy it on Amazon thanks to the free shipping with prime, but I will buy it on Paula’s Choice website if I need to get this and another item because they have free shipping at $50+.
This is maybe my fifth bottle or so of the RESIST Anti-Aging Clear Skin Hydrator. It’s made specifically for normal-to-oily skin types, contains anti-wrinkle and skin-clearing ingredients, and goes on really silky and lightweight. I have tried other daytime moisturizers over the years, but this is one I keep coming back to. The RESIST moisturizer also contains some vitamin C, niacinamide, and adenosine, a combination which works to brighten and smooth skin.
A lot of people complain in the reviews about the “air vacuum” packaging (which is similar in purpose to the Drunk Elephant packaging, but a different mechanism), but thankfully I have never had an issue with it. The purpose of this design is to prevent the product from being exposed to light and oxygen, which will reduce the efficacy of the active ingredients. When you first get a new bottle, you may have to pump it a lot before product comes out, but after that it should work just fine until you run out of product.
- Drunk Elephant Shaba Complex Eye Serum (Amazon)
- Retail: $60.00 USD (0.5 fl oz / 15 mL)
- Thoughts: This is one of my more expensive skincare products considering the amount you get, but I have enjoyed it so far. One of the biggest changes I have noticed in my skin as I have gotten older is how the skin around the eye area gets dryer. I never had this issue in my early twenties, so almost any eye cream would work for me. Within the last year especially, however, if I’m not using something hydrating enough around my eyes, the skin on my eyelids can get flaky and my undereye concealer won’t sit as nicely.
I picked this up based on the recommendation of someone in a makeup group I am in on Facebook. I was looking for an eye cream to help with anti-aging, but would be comfortable and hydrating. This eye serum uses a ton of anti-aging ingredients, a few of them being: an edelweiss stem cell / niacinamide combo which reduces wrinkle depth while improving elasticity and barrier function, Co-Q10 to help prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin, and the flavonoid hesperdin, which aids in reducing dark circles.
When I apply this, I apply under the eye as well as around the orbital bone and on my eyelid, both day and night. I have never experienced any burning or irritation, and it hasn’t caused issues with my regular eye makeup (primer, eyeshadow, etc). I also only use a very small amount, maybe a third of a pump, so the 0.5 oz of product is lasting me a really long time, which helps alleviate some of the “sticker shock” of the price tag.
- Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++ (Amazon)
- Retail: $13.80 USD (50 mL / 1.7 oz)
- Thoughts: This is the most important anti-aging step anyone can do, no matter what your age is! If you aren’t using a separate, dedicated sunscreen every single day, please look into one! The SPF in cosmetics (such as foundation or powder) is often not enough to truly protect your skin, those SPFs should be considered as just a “layering” bonus. Plus, if you are using any actives in your skincare — vitamin C, AHA/BHA acids, retinol, etc. — your skin can become light-sensitive, so you’ll want to be protecting it during the daytime with an SPF.
Alright, moving on… this is my second bottle of the Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream, which is another product I discovered thanks to the /r/AsianBeauty subreddit. It is a mix of both physical and chemical sunscreen, which made me nervous at first because I have broken out and had a reaction from chemical sunscreens used on my body. The great news is that this sunscreen by Cosrx has not made me break out, I haven’t experienced any skin irritation from it, it applies like a lotion and wears well under makeup, and it hits the SPF 50 mark. (I always try to use at least a SPF 30, but I don’t go beyond SPF 50.) A little bit of this goes a long way, and I will apply it to my face, my neck, and any part of my décolleté that is exposed.
As a side note: I do make sure that all previous steps of my skincare have had a chance to sit on my skin and absorb or dry down as needed. If I go in too soon with this, or apply too much, I run the risk of this “pilling” a little bit when applying makeup. If that happens to you, try and think about how much you used in application, or how long it has been since you applied your moisturizer. I know some people who use this purely as their day cream (effectively skipping the moisturizer step that I listed above), and that’s totally okay, too. The important thing is that you are using an SPF every single day and that you find a routine that works for your skin type.
Well, there it is, my current morning skincare routine as of July 2017. I hope that I explained the reason for each product, what certain ingredients are intended to do and why I include them, as well as clearly outlined how I like to apply. If you have any questions about this routine, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or ask me on my social media!