If I would have asked myself even 2 years ago if I would have a 16 step routine at night I would straight up laugh. But it also didn’t start that long. I remember when I thought doing 5 steps was lengthy and I was #skingod. Slowly but surely it’s grown into what it is now. A lot of clients ask me what my routine is and are shocked by how long it is. But I like to actually explain a lengthy routine like a car’s transmission.
In a standard car transmission there are a set number of gears. These gears are sized smallest 1st to largest. Many common older transmissions are 4-speeds while newer cars can come standard with 5,6,7,8 and even 9 speeds. Now if you want more control over the application of the car’s power to the wheels we would want a little bit more than just 4 speeds. To better explain this; my first car was a 97′ (it was pretty gnarly I loved it) it had a 4 speed automatic transmission. On the freeway if I needed to pass someone the car would need to downshift to 3rd gear in order to produce enough power to pass. But because there’s only 4 speeds. the difference between 4th and 3rd was the difference of my car puttering along on the freeway and screaming bloody murder trying to squeeze every ounce of the engine. But on my new car which is a ‘16 I it has 6 speeds (it’s a slightly older transmission for the year of the car, but it shifts faster than humanly possible with a manual so u know, car person reasons) so this means if I need to pass someone and I’m cruising on the freeway the jump in the 4 speed to 3rd would be similar to me shifting from 6th to 3rd my new car! But all I need is just a little bump in the 5th gear to successfully pass and my engine isn’t maxed out compensating. This is because each gear has more common ground with the next one. Like in my 97′ you can actually drive the car completely in 3rd gear.. BUT in comparison 1st gear will max out at about 21mph but in 2nd you can drive it as slow as 10mph but it’ll let me go all the way to say, 45mph. In 3rd In my new car the gears have more ‘middle ground’ or areas where you could be in a few different gears without them letting the engine bog down or over do it. That analogy probably won’t make sence but hey I tried. Let me try breaking it down more..
In a sense this applies to our skin. Me breaking my routine up into many steps provides more thoroughness and fine-tunability. Taking something like cleansing (since it’s the first step let’s say it’s first gear), and having it be 3 steps instead of 1 allows for a lot more fine tuning. For instance, I have a client who initially told me she wanted one cleanser that she could use daytime and night and it would remove her makeup, gives a deep clean, not be stripping, doesn’t clog pores. While this is asking for a lot, there are brands that claim their cleansers can do such, and some may do, to an extent. Now I could recommend a popular cleanser like Fresh’s Soy Face Cleanser but I know in the back of my mind she could run into even more issues with things like her concern of blemishes, or giving a deep clean. But if she was willing to be able to split her cleansing routine into two steps instead of one, she could have a great oil cleanse that’s providing her that deep clean and makeup removal but then pair it with a gentle foaming cleanser she could use to tick off the non-stripping and clear pores points. The best thing about this is that she now has the versatility to use just her foaming cleanser in the morning but also maybe if she didn’t wear makeup that day, skip the oil cleanse if she so chose. So in my mind I see this as, the Soy Face cleanser is like the 4 speed transmission’s first gear. Or in my routine, my cleansing steps are actually my first 3 gears.
It’s fun to think about our routines as a puzzle. Bigger puzzle pieces make the puzzle much easier but if a piece doesn’t perfectly fit, it can leave a bigger hole and leaving more work to be done. Another thing I hear a lot from people are these crazy horror stories of certain products they wanted to try that would cause super severe reactions like flakey dry skin, or acne. I’m not mentioning this to point them out as bogus or anything, believe me I see it. I’m mentioning it because when that happens to me it happens much less severely. Say my moisturizer may not be moisturizing enough, I just switched to a gel based one but not all of my lipids are from my one moisturizer, I am also getting them from things like my emulsion, possibly my serum, if I’m using an oil, etc. So my skin isn’t going from lipids to no lipids with a switch of a moisturizer like they would be if I only had one moisturizing step in my routine.
Another point I like with this ideology is that you can essentially break your routine into categories and then add and subtract from there. Feeling congested? Amp up the cleansing steps, maybe add a clay mask in before moving on to your treatment category. Or maybe you’re feeling dehydrated? Add in a hydrating essence to provide a hydration boost until the concerns have subsided.
So now the part you’ve been waiting for, my routine. (I need fireworks going off) This is my routine as of the posting date but it’s very slowly, but constantly changing.
Currently I am using Sunday Riley Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm, I love this because it is mineral oil free, however it fully breaks up my sunscreen, bb cream or whatever I have on my face for the day. It’s also fairly moisturizing in this dry cold winter and you can leave it on for awhile as a moisturizing mask as well.
My foaming cleanser rotates out between a few depending on how deep of a clean I need. Currently it’s been consistently Huangjisoo Pure Daily Foaming Cleanser since trehalose is the second ingredient and it’s pH balanced and formulated with only gentle ≤2 EWG rated ingredients.
I put optional because if I am using a pH balanced cleanser, such as right now I do not need to rebalance my pH before using pH sensitive acids next.
Currently I am in search of a new BHA exfoliator to use but in the meantime I’ve been using my trusty Perricone Exfoliating Pore Refiner with it’s gentle betaine salicylic acid. I will occasionally use this as a cotton pad spot sheet mask for a couple of minutes to give my pores a serious flushing (however not recommended) It has a great antioxidant complex containing some of my favorites such as turmeric and green tea.
PapaRecipe gives my wallet a break with their White Flower Clear Up 8% AHA Gel it uses Glycolic and Lactic acids to gently exfoliate while it can also be considered a treatment since it’s also loaded with niacinamide and fights breakouts with centella and chamomile. It smells funky and stings a bit but I love that this is meant to be followed with toner so there is no sticky residue left behind (like using a leave on glycolic serum can oftentimes be very tacky)
Currently I’ve been using Perricone’s Facial Firming Toner or occasionally if I feel extra dry, I will use Benton Snail Bee Skin which is a soothing toner with snail secretion, B vitamins, and an array of premium botanicals. The Facial Firming Toner however is quite the opposite, it’s an astringent toner with alcohol and glycolic acid to prep the skin for treatment; but it’s also loaded with Perricone’s DMAE, a clinically proven firming ingredient.
Currently I am on a Curology subscription so my current prescription is all anti-acne. You can read part 1 of my experience with it here
When using highly active ingredients you want to make sure you give them ampoule time to absorb and/or ‘deactivate’ before moving on to the next step. We also want to reduce potential negative interactions with other ingredients as well.
First Treatment Essence
As I am dwindling down on two essences, My CosRx Galactomyces Whitening Power Essence and Tony Moly 96.5% Galactomyces essence are about exhausted. I am excited to replace these soon with what I believe to be a superior option for my skin: Benton’s Fermentation Essence, it contains my beloved galactomyces ferment as well as Bifida Ferment (popular in Lancome’s Genifique, Estee Lauder’s ANR, and Dior’s Capture XP serums) with a few other supporting ingredients like Ceramide 3 to start lipid additions as we go deeper into the routine.
Currently I am using Benton’s Snail Bee Essence paired with Blithe’s 5 Energy Roots essence to seal in deep hydration. Since Blithe’s contains dimethicone I prefer to use it after the very light formulation of the snail-bee essence. (Even though it is a gel, and the Vital Treatment essence is actually less viscous.
Dr. Dennis Gross Firming Peptide Milk has been impressing me thoroughly. I chose it initially because it’s slightly moisturizing and L O A D E D with great ingredients such as hydroxypinacolone retinoate (a derivative of retinol that isn’t as irritating as standard retinol, and claims superior absorption. It’s found in PTR’s 3% retinoid and Philosophy’s HPR products and it’s definitely my favorite form of vitamin A i’ve used) and strings of peptides to help retexturize and firm. But the slightly moisturizing part is the great part for me. To be able to get treatment incorporating squalane, sphingolipids, phospholipids and collagen amino acids. Definitely worth the $65 price tag.
Sheet Mask (Optional)
Depending on my mood and current skin state this is where I give myself some creative freedom. I am not the type of person who has a different routine everyday as I believe ingredients take time and repeated, consistent use.
This is where the lipids start to creep in heavier. I haven’t had the chance to use many products in this watery lotion/lotion category as it’s the newest major step I’ve added to my routine! I’ve been using this step since the beginning of summer and I’ve been amazed at how much it improves my transition from serum to moisturizer. Benton’s trusty Snail Bee line shows up again in it’s lotion form to provide snail secretion, niacinamide, glycerin and oligopeptides!
I love oils conditionally. Since my routine is what it is (extensive and thorough) I really don’t need an oil with the rest of my routine. But since moving to the cold my skin has been welcoming this step at night with RENs Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Oil. It’s a lighter weight oil with essential omega acids our skin loves. It contains rice oil, camelina oil, and soothing bisabolol.
*to the tune of oh Christmas Tree* Oh millia, oh millia, why do I have to deal with you. Regularly I would just want an eye cream that fits the description of firming and extremely moisturizing but Peter Thomas Roth has me covered in the dermal exfoliation department. The Retinol PM Fusion Eye Cream is incredible in my book. Slowly but surely it always shows improvements in my under eyes. It has 1% microencapsulated retinol that is released over a period of 8 hours. To read more I have a full review here
This is generally where I get the majority of my lipids. Currently I am using two different moisturizers. However I am using Joseon Dynasty Cream which is slightly more on the hydrating side of the spectrum. But still contains oligopeptides as well as ceramide 3 and argan oil. (I also use Benton Steam Cream for my problematic areas) Full review here
Last but surely not least a product to seal all my hard work in. I’ve tried many and two stand out. But the one that’s been leaving me dewy in the morning is CosRx Nourishing Rice Sleeping Pack. It’s 65% rice extract with niacinamide and a moisturizing feeling left behind. This lil guy also has a review you can read. For many people who want to keep a simple routine but need a little ‘boost’ once in awhile generally enjoy sleeping masks as they provide this without being time consuming like a mask or sheet mask.