Let’s take a break from talking about big life events to talk about how I changed my skincare routine this past year. I moved from a pretty simple routine (Lush face wash, Aveeno baby lotion with tea tree oil mixed in, charcoal sugar scrub, occasional sheet mask) to a “10 Step” Asian skincare regime. I think for many people, myself included, the “10 Step” part of this is mostly just a gimmick. It’s more like “more steps than you used to have, with more specific goals, and products tailored to those goals”. And today I am going to tell you all about it, here we go.
Keep in mind throughout this post: I am not a dermatologist. I’m also still figuring out my skin!
OKAY SO the first thing to know is you cannot introduce a million new products all at once and think that your skin is going to be pleased about it. NO, you must be so patient, and bring in one new thing, use it for a couple weeks to see if your skin reacts badly, and then add the next thing. If I went ahead and tossed all my new, exciting things on my face all at once then I would have had no way of knowing that my vitamin C serum was truly detrimental to my poor face and probably would have scrapped the whole project. As it is, there have only been a couple of products that haven’t worked for me and I was able to identify and stop using them pretty quickly.
The second thing to know is that you have to wear sunscreen every single day on your face. Listen, you know about my struggle with the sun and the sunscreen and let me tell you: I have tried a LOT of different brands and formulas and all of them felt gross on my face UNTIL:
This stuff is an absolute life saver. I’ve heard rave reviews for Shiseido Senka Aging Care UV Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++, but it doesn’t feel as nice on my face as the Biore sunscreen does. Try to think of a sunscreen that is the absolute opposite of the weirdly chalky goopy white ooze that we’ve had to smother our faces in for our whole lives and you’ll have a pretty close idea of what these sunscreens are like. They absorb quickly! They don’t leave a ghostly impression! They don’t feel like you just covered your face in gravy that makes your eyes sting! If there’s one thing people take away from this post I hope it is this: if you get better sunscreen you are more likely to wear it and prevent sun damage and skin cancer.
Sunscreen goes on your face last; I am getting ahead of myself here. Let’s get down to business.
The things I want to focus on for my skincare are acne prevention, hydration/dryness, smooth/uniform texture (think “plump”), and general health. Edmonton is VERY DRY, and the winter is EVEN DRYER, so keeping my skin moisturized and hydrated is a Daily Struggle. Turns out the answer to this specific trouble is Literally Goop From Snails, but we’ll get into that in a moment. I’m gonna go through the steps I take when I’m washing my face, and it’s going to seem excessive, but stick with me and we’ll get through this together. I’ll link the products I’m currently using.
1. First Cleanse – DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over the years is finding a good cleanser. I have quite a few acne-fighting cleansers in my bathroom which I’ve tried and ended up not using because they stripped everything good out of my poor skin and left my face dry and tight, sometimes to the point where my nose was constantly peeling. Here’s the key words you want for cleansers: 1) mild, 2) gentle, 3) MILD, and 4) GENTLE. Oil cleansers gently wash your makeup and other products off without stripping any moisture out of your skin. This specific cleanser is made primarily from olive oil, and I want to take this opportunity to urge everyone to avoid putting coconut oil on their faces. It doesn’t emulsify and it’s comedogenic, it’s a good-for-body-not-for-face item. Also, I only use this cleanser when I’ve worn makeup or have reapplied sunscreen a few times throughout the day.
2. Second Cleanse – Skinfood Egg White Perfect Pore Cleansing Foam
Listen. I double cleanse my face. Oil first, then water-soluble foaming cleanser. UNLESS I didn’t wear any makeup that day, or don’t feel like I have a lot of stuff on my face, in which case I skip the oil cleanse and head straight to the (gentle and mild) foam cleanser. You’re supposed to wash your face against the grain of your skin and wtf, skin has a grain??? I use an egg-based product, and omgosh, it has worked wonders upon my countenance. I just replaced a used-up tube of this, which is significant in that there are So Many Options in Asian skincare, and it’s so fun to try new ones, but this one has worked so well for me that I’m gonna be loyal for at least a little bit longer. I’m getting to the bottom of my oil cleanser, and I’m gonna replace with a different kind of oil cleanser and LISTEN, I love skincare. Also I cannot emphasize enough that this cleanser DOES NOT smell like eggs. I use a Norwex cloth to pat not wipe my face dry but I also kinda feel like Norwex is a scam, so. At this point I sometimes use the Skinfood Egg White Pore Mask, if I have some extra time. Also I just want to point out here that part of washing your face is regularly washing your makeup brushes. Those things get grimy.
First off: you can’t scrub away acne. I wish you could. If that were the case I would go back to using my teenage fave St Ives apricot scrub with its little jagged pieces of apricot shell and I would scour the acne from my face. Second, omg let me TELL you about this peeling gel I recently started using; it is a miracle. It’s a clear gel and it chemically exfoliates your face, but not in a burny way, because the old adage “if it hurts it’s working” is UNTRUE. You rub it around on your face and voila: you get these little balls of stuff and it’s your dead skin cells coming off your face. I don’t know how it works, but it’s some kind of acid – a good acid, don’t worry. I use the gel once a week or two, and then use the sponge (it’s made of silicone and is very gentle) on my face when I wash it in the shower. As a fun bonus I have also basically eradicated ingrown hairs from my pits with the coarser side of the facial sponge. Soft side on the face, rough side on the pits, can’t lose. I also sometimes use a konjac sponge on my face.
Toners in Asian skincare are not the same as toners you can buy in drugstores here, in that they are not alcohol based. Alcohol dries your skin out and we are all about MOISTURE now, so we use toners that will prep our freshly cleaned faces for all the stuff we are about to apply to them, because we are only getting STARTED. I’m currently using the Mario Badescu spray and it’s fine but I think when I’m done I’ll switch it up, it’s artificially coloured pink and very frangranced and I’m not super pumped on that. I used to use CosRX Centella Water Alcohol Free Toner, which tbh was so mild and gentle that I didn’t feel like it did much of anything for my skin. Oh also! Spray toner is key: no more dragging cotton pads across my face. And also again: there’s a lot of stuff about pH balancing in Asian skincare that makes my eyes glaze over because numbers are witchcraft.
5. Actives (BHA/AHA) – CosRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol
This is an area that I am still working out. I went through a bottle of the linked CosRX BHA, and it was good but also I think I’ll try a different one. CosRX makes an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid)and a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) which both get consistently good reviews, so I’ll probably add them to my routine at some point. T&T Supermarket has Asian skincare products, I’m going to see if they have any AHAs and BHAs in stock soon. This is where I would use any prescription products if I had them. Also!! AHAs are photo-sensitive and you must wear sunscreen. This is also the point in this whole thing where vitamin C serum goes; I had a vitamin C serum which absolutely did not work for me, and I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to include a different one. Probably, because I luv 2 care 4 my skin, but not yet.
6. Serums, Ampoules, Sheet Masks – linked below
THE FUN STUFF, AT LAST. Let’s get INTO IT. All of these go on in order of thinnest-to-thickest consistency, and sometimes I give each one a little bit of time to sink in, otherwise I just tap tap tap them into my face one after another.
- I have one serum which is an absolute Holy Grail product for me, and it is ArtNaturals Anti-Acne Serum. I found this by literally searching “acne serum” on amazon and it’s made a giant difference in my face. My skin is clearer and smoother, it’s amazing. I’m on my second bottle and let’s be honest, I might just subscribe to it on prime and keep it coming.
- Nature Republic Real Nature Rose Ampoule not only smells amazing but also makes my face feel like it has been pumped full of moisture. I used up the last of my bottle a couple days ago, but fear not, I have a replacement lined up that is by the same company but is slightly different. I’ve moved from the rose ampoule to the Real Nature Lotus Ampoule and I’ll let you know how my face skin fares once I get it into my routine.
- I got Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule in the mail a bit ago, and I am excited to use it on my face, partially because propolis was used by Ancient Egyptians to embalm mummies and what a wild ride. This stuff goes on my face??? I GUESS SO. It’s antibacterial! It’s in such a pretty bottle! I’ve been using it for a couple weeks now and last week someone complimented me on my skin, so I’m calling this one a WIN. And it smells so nice!
- I have a set of Babor purifying ampoules, which are ampoules proper in that they are those little glass bottle things that you have to snap open, that are supposed to be *hella potent* and guess what: they totes are. I once used them three days in a row and my skin was like “what the fresh hell are you doing” (and, potential tmi here, it made Josh’s lips a lil numb, which was, to be entirely honest, concerning) so now I only bust (literally) one of these out a day or so before my period starts just to give me a leg up on the ol’ hormonal acne. I didn’t get this online, hence the non-linking. I may or may not restock my supply of these, I haven’t decided yet.
- I sometimes use a sheet mask at this point and tbh I just use whatever I got at Winners most recently. Winners sells a ton of sheet masks these days, and it’s like seven dollars for five of them. The sheet mask will hold in all the stuff you just put on and help it absorb! Or something! I’m not a skin scientist! I also sometimes use a sheet mask directly after the washing portion of this whole thing and THEN move on to the rest of the various goops and glops I put on my face, because I am no bird and no net ensnares me.
IT’S SNAIL TIME. Listen, if you’ve made it this far you know I put all kinds of stuff on my face including stuff used by The Ancients in mummification, so should snail goop really be that surprising? At the same time, Josh for sure laughed out loud at my giant bottle of lotion that says “SNAIL MUCUS” on it in all caps, so maybe I’m the one living in a skincare fever dream. I think the CosRX snail essence technically falls into the category above this one, but I wanted to put the snails together. At this point I cannot emphasize enough how little I know about snails and how little science-ish reading I have done about them. All I know is they have been actually studied and it’s not a snake oil, and the goop is ethically harvested (??) from the snails. AND I know that it works FREAKING WONDERS on my face. Snails! Snails! Snails! Snails! Oh also. Once again you work from thinnest to thickest, and apply things by tapping or with gentle swiping motions, not by vigorously dragging your fingers all over your face. Awhile ago I ran out of CosRX’s Ceramide (this is not a type of snail, alas) Full Moisture Cream and wanted to try something new even though it was good, and found a dud, and am still in the process of returning it to Amazon, and I’m on the hunt for a good final cream. I’m thinking it’s gonna be another snail lotion because damn I love snails. I ordered Mizon Black Snail All-In-One Cream, and I think it’s gonna do the trick nicely.
Okay, yes, this is possibly getting out of hand, but we are almost done and this step Is So Worth It. Eye cream! My eye skin has benefited so much from applying eye cream every day, I can’t even tell you how much. I use my middle or ring finger to tap this into my under eye area and then from my crease to my brow bone. It’s made a difference in the tone and texture of the skin around my eyes, and now eyeshadow goes on and stays on so much better. The Tonymoly lip balm has the cutest packaging and I love it, AND it makes my lips feel soft and moisturized and delightful. I don’t use the lip scrub very often, because it leaves a kind of film? on my lips? but when my lips are so dry they’re flaky (ew) I give them a nice gentle scrub and then Load Up on the balm. At this point you may be asking yourself “does Glynis sometimes buy products because they have cute packaging?” and the answer is: OF COURSE, what do you think I am, an emotionless automaton?
9. LAST BUT NOT LEAST
SUNSCREEN. Sometimes I use a BB cream that has SPF 50 (and more snail goop) in place of sunscreen proper. Obviously you needn’t use sunscreen at night. If it’s bedtime and I’ve got a particularly annoying zit I’ll put a Nexcare Acne Absorbing Cover on it and it’ll usually be flat by morning, which reminds me, I am down to my last two pimple patches. Gotta order more.
Okay, that’s the conclusion of the steps, and I know this post is extremely long, and this routine may seem overwhelming or excessive but I promise it’s not. In the morning I cleanse, tone, apply serums, snail goop x2, sunscreen, and makeup when I feel like wearing makeup. I don’t always use eye cream in the morning, just because it’s pretty thick. In the evening I oil cleanse, foam cleanse, maybe exfoliate, tone, serums, snail goop x2, other lotion, eye cream. It takes like 15/20 minutes, and it’s a really nice evening wind down/day preparation activity. If I don’t have a ton of time I do a truncated routine which is foam cleanse, acne serum, snail lotion. When I go to bed my face feels happy and hydrated instead of dry and tight. My face doesn’t peel anymore (praise God) and my acne has been calming down and I can’t express how good this feels. It is also just fun to look at skincare, you can ask Josh for confirmation on my skincare browsing ways. I have a long wishlist on Amazon of skincare stuff I want to try sometime, and I get packages of skincare from Korea every so often, and my face is so much better off for the attention I’m pouring into it. Now if only I can get myself to stop picking at my face all the time; the final boss battle of my skincare life will be resisting the temptation to constantly pick at my acne.
If you’re intrigued by this kind of skincare regimen/routine/system/whatever, here is the advice I will offer on getting into it: start by adding a good sunscreen into your routine, and next add a gentle cleanser. I feel like it would be fine to entirely scrap a drying/unhelpful skincare routine and replace it with a pair of gentle cleansers and a sunscreen and then go from there. Once again! I am not any kind of doctor. If you want to add something new to your skincare routine and aren’t sure where in the routine it should go: here is a handy guide. I will openly admit here that I am often guilty of just following my heart for when to apply what, and sometimes when I look at guides like the one I just posted I say in my heart “this is all pure malarky” BUT my skin posits otherwise Good GRACIOUs this post is long.