I love reading about other peoples’ skincare routines. It’s definitely lead me to discover new products new ways of doing things. There are so many different things that you can do, especially with skincare! Since everyone’s skin is different, you can customize which products you use, how many you use, how you use them, and what order you use them in. Some people do better with a very simple routine, while others have a more extensive one that consist of many products in many steps.
I know when I first started getting into Asian skincare, I wanted to create the famous Korean 10-step routine, which seems like a lot…It most definitely can be! I imagined a super luxurious schtick with lots of beautiful and cutely packaged products, and a clear, glowy face that would make it so that I didn’t have to worry about breaking out ever again.
My skincare expedition began when I was in early high school. Before that, I did pretty much nothing to my skin, not even cleansing. I followed the Clinique system that my mom followed—a bar soap cleanser (I now cringe just thinking about that…I’ll make a post about why later), an astringent toner, and the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. I didn’t have severe acne, but I most definitely did not have clear skin, with consistent pimples, especially on my forehead and occasionally on my cheeks. I also used to pick at my pimples and end up with post-inflammatory-hyperpigmentation for short (the dark spots that appear after a pimple; they’re different than acne scars: here’s a great post about them), which I should’ve slapped myself for doing. Picking is never ever good! Avoid doing it, even if there is a pimple that’s literally screaming your name as loud as a fire alarm.
I also used to wear makeup that I didn’t wash off in the evenings because I thought it was too much of a pain to re-apply in the morning. I’m actually surprised that I didn’t get an eye infection or anything like that. For years, I continued this routine until around my freshman year of college, when I discovered the mystifying world of Asian skincare. It was love at first sight. The different products with different purposes fascinated me. Not to mention the clear, beautiful, glowing skin Asian people seem to have. (I am aware that not all Asians have clear porcelain-like skin, but I am specifically focusing on the pop cultures of countries like South Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan.) I decided to give this more extensive routine a try, and jumped right in.
Let me just say: don’t be like me. I made a huge mistake by doing that. My first experimentation with a multi-step routine was grave. I picked up some pretty little tubes and bottles from my local Asian grocery store and headed home, excited to jump right into the skincare game. I can’t remember anymore what the particular things I bought, but I do remember that one of them was a collagen creamy-gel- like moisturizer by the brand Hadanomy. I suppose I blocked out the memory from the dark times littered with acne from what I thought would work. How sad! For the other products, I would assume they were a cleanser and a toner, or some type of serum. I broke out like I never had. I now know that I made a few mistakes:
- Don’t start a bunch of different products at once. Try to wait at least two weeks before adding a new product to your routine. This way, you’ll be able to identify what specific product caused a reaction.
- Check the ingredients for anything my skin may have a problem with. It can be difficult to tell what your skin can stand and what it can’t. The best way to find this is to start tracking the products you use and what their ingredients are. This lets you look for any ingredients that unsuccessful products share, which means those particular ingredients may be the culprit.
Some common ingredients that may cause a reaction are:
- Coconut derivatives
- Fatty Alcohols, such as Cetyl Alcohol and Stearyl Alcohol
- Ferments, such as Saccharomyces and Galactomyces (there are many more)
- Sulfates, such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Everyone is different, and ingredients will interact with everyone’s skin differently. Don’t be scared off by products containing these ingredients. You won’t know what works unless you try!
- Deny that a product is breaking you out. It’s hard to let go of a product that isn’t working for your skin. As much as you wanted to like it, it just didn’t happen. I’ve used products that have caused me to break out, but since it was everyone else’s holy grail, or because I loved the ingredients list and how it felt, I kept using them and told myself it was anything else that was breaking me out, until I couldn’t deny it anymore.
If a product doesn’t work for you at the time, definitely go back and try it again. You never know; it could be amazing this time! If it gives you the same reaction, it’s probably time to say ‘see ya’.
As soon as I accepted that my new beloved products were causing my breakouts to get worse, I stopped them immediately. My skin went back to normal as I first searched for another cleanser that wouldn’t break me out. I tried a few and even washed my face with oatmeal (which did help a bit, surprisingly), until a few years later when I found my loyal friend, Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser. I raved about it already, but it immensely cleared up my skin. After this, I tried slowly (okay, maybe moderately…don’t do as I say, I’m a hypocrite sometimes) adding to my routine until I built up to my current one. It took a while, but my skin has cleared up even more, I hardly break out, and when I do, my skin heals lightning fast.
So with that crazy novel written, I’m going to talk about my AM skincare routine. Ta dah! I will continue with my PM routine in my next post. Just to get it out there, my morning routine is pretty involved with 10 products and 6 steps. Of course, nobody has to use this many steps to get clear skin, and I’m actually trying to shorten it just a bit…it takes about 20 minutes to complete. But without further ado, I present my AM routine!
Rinse with water
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I wash my hands and then splash myself and the rest of the bathroom with water. I don’t use a cleanser in the morning since my skin is dry; it feels more dried out than anything afterward if I do. After rinsing, I don’t dry my skin with a towel, instead, I pat pat pat my face dry. This helps my skin feel much more moisturized.
2. Vitamin C serum
Right after my skin is dry, I apply my Vitamin C serum. In order to work the best it can, Vitamin C serums should be at a pH of around 3-3.5, and your skin should be back to (or close enough) its original pH, which is around 5.5. Since the serum is so acidic, leaving your skin at a more alkaline pH and creating more work for the Vitamin C. Its goodness will be spent on lowering your skin’s pH itself, and the benefits are significantly decreased.
Because Vitamin C oxidizes very quickly, it is best to store it in a cool, dark place. I put mine in the fridge.
Note: the serum should be clear. If it turns an orange color, it means it’s oxidized. In this case, it’s time to get a new one!
Once I apply the Vitamin C serum, I wait for about 10-15 minutes, in which I usually do other things to get ready. When time is up, I layer three different toners—well, one is technically called a lotion, but I basically treat it as a toner. I rub some product between my palms and apply all over my face and neck. I then pat until it dries, aaand repeat.
I repeat the above step twice with this light toner.
By this time, my skin feels pretty tacky, so I use a homemade green tea mist, which is just green tea that I brewed. After waiting for the other products to sink in for about 3 minutes, I mist myself one more time before moving on.
As much as I would like to use all the ampoules in my collection at once, I limit myself to two for the morning. As with all of the other products I use, these are aimed at moisturizing.
- Graymelin Pure 100% Beta-Glucan and Graymelin Bifida 100% (I bought both for a great deal here.)
I mix a few drops of each and apply as I would a toner.
The moisturizers I use are just regular moisturizers, but I mix a lighter gel (Sebamed) with a slightly thicker lotion (CeraVe). The CeraVe is sort of an occlusive layer to seal in all the products for my skin to drink up. Yummy! It makes my face feel smooth, while all the tackiness is almost gone right away.
- CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
I don’t think I have to say it anymore, because I probably sound like a broken record. Sunscreen is important! I use sunscreen everyday. I’m trying to be better about reapplying, though. Every two hours seems like such a pain, but it’s worth it.
And there you have it! My morning skincare routine. It does take a little while to finish, mostly because I wait about 30 seconds-a minute for each product to absorb before applying another one. My skin does still feel sticky for a little while afterward, but I don’t mind it, and it goes away after in about a half an hour. This is a heavier routine since it’s winter here where I live, and I know the coldness will dry my skin out super fast. My summer routine is much lighter on the steps and uses less products.
What do you guys think? What’s your routine? Or what’s your dream routine? I’d love to hear about it!