Why I Have a 19-Step Skincare Routine

My face a few days ago. Check out dat glow.

Since I got back from Paris a few weeks ago, I haven’t blogged, despite having a lot of thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I blog to figure things out for myself, and sometimes I wait until after the dust has settled to share things with the world. I guess this is one of those latter times. That’s the partial truth. The other reason is that I haven’t really wanted to think about Paris since I left Paris. Paris for me is an oasis, somewhere that feels so much like me and so much like home that I couldn’t possibly be unhappy there. It’s somewhere that lifts me out of my daily anxiety and depression and changes me into the person I would be if I didn’t have mental health struggles. I’m sure those of you with mental health issues can relate. I know that a lot of people with mental illnesses turn to drugs not to chase an ephemeral high, but to simply experience normalcy. Paris for me is that normalcy — an escape from the self-doubt and fatigue that plague me in my daily life. Unfortunately for me, drugs are much more accessible than Paris is. This was my first time back in five years, and I don’t know when the next time will be. There is always the possibility of moving there, but I honestly cannot imagine living in an apartment with Juno, and his happiness is my utmost priority. Anyway, it’s obviously a bit depressing thinking about how different I felt in Paris, trying my best to recreate that feeling here, and failing most of the time. So I haven’t wanted to think about that.

This was about a year before I started my routine. You can see how dehydrated my skin is in this picture. Even my lips are dry! And this was the middle of summer.

Instead of talking about Paris, then, I’m going to talk about something related to mental health: self-care. I’ve always been horrendous at self-care, and I still am for the most part. I hate going to the doctor, buying things for myself, taking a nap or a hot bath. This month, however, marks one year since I began engaging in a form of self-care that has become a part of who I am now — skincare.

This was maybe a month in. Moisturizer made a huge difference. Then things got worse before they got better again.

I absolutely love it because I can see the results of my hard work, it’s something that makes me feel a little better every night, the routine helps me stay centered, and it’s relatively inexpensive. Plus, it’s good for my health. Before I started all of this a year ago, I was the last person I expected to have a skin routine. I had been blessed with perfect skin all through my childhood and adolescent years. Seriously, I got one zit a year as a teen. I never used sunscreen or moisturizer (oh, the horror). After graduating from college, my skin became a problem for the first time in my life. It was frequently dry, parts of my face would peel, and I had intermittent acne. I started washing my face daily and using moisturizer, but I didn’t really care enough to seriously research skincare. For some reason, last summer, I decided enough was enough and committed to investing in my skin. After an entire year of trial and error, I have my routine 95% down. As I go through my products, I’ll try other things out. As my skin matures, I will look into more expensive options. For now, though, I’m extremely happy with my 19-step routine. Here’s what it looks like:

AM routine

  1. Garnier Micellar Water — This stuff is amazing for me in the morning. Since my skin is dry and sensitive, I only cleanse at night. In the AM, before I discovered micellar water, I used to just splash water on my face, but even that would dry my skin out. Micellar water not only cleans my skin better than regular water, it leaves it moister than it started out. Love it.
  2. OST Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum — I’ve tried a handful of Vitamin C serums, and this one is definitely the best so far. I can’t say yet whether it fades sunspots or hyper-pigmentation, but it definitely leaves my skin soft and supple.
  3. Skin Food Peach Sake Toner — I don’t always use this in the morning, and it’s definitely not a necessity, but the more moisture the better. It helps my facial oil absorb better.
  4. Shea Terra Argan Oil — I recently discovered facial oils, like last week, and this has made the most difference in my routine out of anything I’ve tried. The idea of rubbing oil on your face seems crazy. And I disliked the idea of argan oil because I’d seen it in so many shampoos and lotions. I thought it was marketing gimmick, but I assure you the 100% pure kind is not. I’m not sure if argan oil is the best oil out there, because I haven’t tried any others yet, but this stuff is doing wonders for my skin. My skin has been moist and dewy without being oily 24/7 since I started using it. Seriously, my face is glowing because of this thing. Once I finish this bottle, I’m excited to try other oils, like rose hip and blended ones.
  5. Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel SPF 50+ — It blows my mind that I have worn sunscreen every single day for the past year, at least on my face. Sunscreen is so important, people! It is the #1 anti-aging key, besides genetics. This sunscreen has made it possible for me to actually wear SPF, because it has no smell, isn’t greasy, and is super cheap, considering that one bottle lasts me half a year. I’m still bad about wearing sunscreen on my body, though, because the only sunscreen I like for that is La Roche-Posay Anthelios, which is just too expensive to justify spreading all over my body. Instead, the Roche-Posay in our house goes on Dan’s sensitive, expensive face. The alcohol in the Bioré irritates his redness-prone skin.

PM routine

  1. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil — This is the only oil cleanser I’ve tried, and I like it a lot. I like it too much to try something else, for fear that it won’t be as good as this one, but I really should, especially because it’s a bit pricey. It cleanses extremely well without drying out my skin, and it comes right off with water.
  2. Biologique Recherche Lait U Cleanser — This is my holy grail cleanser. I went through A LOT of cleansers before I realized that I needed a milk cleanser, which was the only thing that didn’t dry out my skin. Before I discovered BR, I used Mario Badescu Cleansing Milk, which was pretty good for my skin, but contains a problematic ingredient, Methylparaben. Plus, I didn’t know what its pH was. Ideally, all products should be under a pH of 6, to preserve the natural acidity of the skin. Lait U has a pH of 5.0. BR is an upgrade over MB in every way, and that is enough for me to justify the fact that it’s the most expensive product in my routine at $32.
  3. Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant — It took my skin many, many months to accept AHA. At first, it would get very dry and irritated, so I would only use it once a week or less. Just when I was about to give up on it, I used it again on a whim and was amazed by how soft and moist my skin was after using it. Now, I can use it daily without any dryness or irritation. Besides my argan oil, I would say this is the #2 product in my routine in terms of making an immediate impact. It’s so fun seeing dead skin fall off my face.
  4. Stridex BHA Pads — This BHA is one of the cheapest and is known for being harsh, but for some reason my skin has always liked it. Sometimes I can go a little overboard, and then I take a break from it for a few days. I tried Paula’s Choice BHA before Stridex and found that Stridex worked better for me, but that was a long time ago, so I will probably try PC again sometime in the future.
  5. Leejiham LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence — I just started using this essence, so I can’t say that it’s life-changing yet, but it makes my skin feel calm, soft, and moist after I use it.
  6. Skin Food Peach Sake Toner — This toner does exactly what a toner should do: prepare your face like a canvas so that your following steps can absorb better. Kind of like a primer for moisturizer. I’ve tried acid toners before and found those to be too harsh, but I would like to try them again now that my skin isn’t as dry.
  7. Mizon Collagen Power Lifting Emulsion — I have no idea if the collagen in this does anything, but it’s a perfect follow-up to my toner. It has the perfect creamy texture and provides a good amount of moisture.
  8. Shea Terra Argan Oil — Yay more facial oil! My favorite step in my nighttime routine.
  9. Biologique Recherche Creme MSR-H — I really shouldn’t put this in my actual routine, lest I get any ideas about ever purchasing this cream for $325. I got it as a sample with my Lait U, and I have to say it feels like silk on my skin, but I will stick to the samples until I get super rich. Plus, I’m not quite convinced there isn’t something better out there for less money.
  10. Tony Moly Intense Care Dual Effect Sleeping Pack — This stuff is great. I love the smell, and it’s cheaper and works better (in my opinion) than Laneige Water Sleeping Mask. It’s richer than Laneige, but still feels gel-like, as a sleeping pack should. It absorbs completely by morning, no need to wash it off.
  11. Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream — This isn’t a cream, but a gel with a less viscous consistency than the Tony Moly sleeping pack. I felt like it made a huge difference when I first started using it, but now it’s hard to tell with so many moisturizing heavy-hitters!
  12. Cerave Healing Ointment — I got this as a sample too, but I’m planning to buy some when I run out. It is like vaseline without the gross greasy texture. Right now, I use it only when I have an especially dry spot or when I over-exfoliate. In the winter, though, I’ll probably put it all over my face.
  13. The Face Shop Character Mask — I only do these once a week because I’m not sure that their effects are truly lasting. But they do help my skin absorb the layers of moisture underneath, and I like the way they feel on my skin. These masks are the only ones I’ve tried that actually make my skin feel better the next day. I like using them at the end of my routine, though, because I would prefer that my skin soak in my other products first.
  14. Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 — Last step!!! I use benzoyl peroxide as spot treatment on active breakouts. I find that acne goes away the fastest if you use BHA to kill the bacteria, benzoyl peroxide to dry it out, and then lots of oil/moisture to heal the skin.

This seems crazy to me now that I’ve listed everything. I’m sure it sounds crazy to anyone who hasn’t tried it. I think of it this way: your face is something that you have to look at every day, and everyone else looks at it too. In my opinion, good skin makes more a difference in someone’s appearance than any kind of makeup. I’ve never worn makeup, because I don’t enjoy wearing it, so it makes sense for me to invest in skincare. What’s more, applying my products at the end of a long day feels like taking a hot bath. You feel relaxed, ready for bed, and excited to wake up to better skin.

Of course, my skincare journey has just started, and my skin is nowhere near perfect. But it’s getting better every day, and I look forward to trying out new brands and products. For someone who can’t always find the motivation to get out of bed, I somehow always have the energy to do my 19-step skincare routine. That’s the beauty in it 🙂

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