The skincare struggle is real, people. That’s why it’s like, a billion dollar industry. And I am all for it.
I didn’t used to be. In fact, I hated skincare. Absolutely hated it. You know why? Because anything that adds ten minutes to my morning routine is not welcome. No thank you, sir. But then I became a college student, and my skin rebelled. Apparently as an adult, I still have teenage skin, because it is angry and oily and loves to erupt in acne right before important social functions, such as fraternity date parties, and my college graduation. Sigh.
So I got desperate and started trying everything. I tried my roommate’s put-toothpaste-on-it trick, I tried using spot treatments but all over my face, I tried moisturizers, Proactiv, Exposed Skin Care, everything. I kept playing Whack-A-Mole with my face: Every time a pimple popped up, I squashed it, and then another pimple would pop up next to it. Finally I knew it was time to get my butt into the dermatologist.
Taking the bitter pill
At some point, you have to suck it up and do an acne treatment that sucks for a few months before it gets better. I had cystic acne, which meant I had those awful monster bumps deep under the skin that won’t go away. My derm patted me on the arm and said, “We will beat this,” like I had some kind of horrible disease. And then we did. We beat the crap out of it. I knocked the thing out with Doxycyclin, a powerful antibiotic that I was very happy to stop after three months. The bad news: I had to start a skincare regimen. With prescription products. And because one of those products is an antibiotic, if I didn’t do it right, if I wasn’t consistent, the products would stop working. Eek.
The new skin workout
I told myself that I would rather have to take ten minutes out of my day to fix my problem, than face another cystic mountain zit. People face worse things. People have worse health problems with worse treatments. So why was I so frustrated? Maybe because it still felt unfair that I had to deal with this while other girls have beautifully clear skin. Bu that was stupid thinking, because everyone has their thing they need to deal with, and I’m lucky that my thing is skin. Because, hallelujah, I could fix it!
My prescription products include a daily face wash, an antibiotic lotion, and prescription Retin A. Beyond that, I mix it with other products to keep my skin feeling fresh, clean, and happy. No more angry zits.
My current skincare routine, with life-saving products
Some of the products I use are prescription, but for the ones that aren’t, I provided links!
Morning: I start by washing my face with PanOxyl, a benzoyl peroxide face wash. Then I apply prescription face lotion (this prevents the cystic acne). The benzoyl peroxide kills all the bacteria, which not only helps acne, but also makes sure my skin doesn’t get used to the antibiotic lotion that I put on after.
Sometimes I do see a little pimple starting to pop up, especially if I’ve slacked on washing my face, so I’ll apply a spot treatment.
Next is SPF, the most important step. I’ll put on a BB cream with SPF in it, or a primer with SPF, or I’ll wear a tinted sunscreen moisturizer. SPF is so, so important. Not just for preventing wrinkles, but also for preventing cancer.
Finally, I’ll usually wear a foundation specifically for acne-prone skin. Lately I’ve really liked Clinique! It gives me moderate coverage with acne-fighting, medicated ingredients.
- Face wash: PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash
- Spot treatment: Equate Maximum Strength Spot Treatment
- SPF/Primer: Dermologica Skinperfect Primer (note: this is expensive but worth it! If you don’t have the funds, there are plenty of dupes. Just make sure to find a primer that also has at least SPF 15…but SPF 30 is even better!)
- Foundation: Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup
Night: Remove makeup, cleanse face, then apply Retin-A (well, the generic version of Retin-A). Retin-A is a retinoid, which is basically a vitamin A derivative that helps unclog pores and speed up cell turnover. Mine is prescription strength, but you can find retinoid creams over the counter, too. Whether you have acne-prone skin or not, they’re super beneficial for improving lines and discoloration.
Important Note:If you use a retinoid, only use it at night (sunlight makes the ingredient stop working) and be sure to use SPF in the morning!
Once every few days
At night, sometimes I’ll use a sonic facial cleansing brush (like a Clarisonic, but a different brand) and a sonic face wash to give my face a deeper cleanse. I would never have tried a sonic brush if I hadn’t worked in beauty PR, but now I’m a believer. It’s like an electric toothbrush, but for your face.
I’ll also put on moisturizer every couple days, because even oily skin types need hydration! It’s easy to forget that when your skin gets too dry, it can overreact and start producing even more oil, causing more breakouts. I also have a lot of redness, so moisturizers help calm it the eff down.
- Face brush: Foreo LUNA Play (note: this is a travel size and not intended to be used frequently, since it’s not rechargeable! However, it’s perfect for trying out a sonic brush to see if you like it before buying a bigger brush.)
- Sonic face wash: Clinique Foaming Sonic Facial Soap
- Moisturizer: Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief
Once a week:
I love face masks, and I try to treat myself to one every week. Depending on how dry the weather is and how oily my skin is feeling, I’ll switch up my routine with a mask and put on an episode of This Is Us. And try not to cry the mask off.
I also use sleep masks, which are ideal for dry times. You just put it on, go to bed, and let the mask do the work.
- Face mask: Philosophy Purity Made Simple Pore Extractor Exfoliating Clay Mask
- Exfoliant: Dermologica Gentle Cream Exfoliant
- Sleep mask: Algenist SPLASH Absolute Hydration Replenishing Sleeping Pack
Once a month/Whenever I can afford it and I’m feeling rich:
Occasionally, I’ll get a professional facial! It honestly feels better than a massage. The Dermologica Skin Bar at Ulta Beauty is pretty awesome and inexpensive– you can even get the 10-minute facial for $10, if you’re like me and you’re short on both time and money! But really, it’s worth a splurge, because it’s your skin. And your skin deserves all the pampering you can give it!