I blame Drunk Elephant.
For my spring skincare routine, I was planning to give you an "all Drunk Elephant" regimen, since so many of you have been asking me about their products.
But after several weeks of testing... I was too broken out to continue.
So, I now present you my "RECOVERING from Drunk Elephant" routine!
That's right—I didn't have the best experience with their products (which is why I decided to do this review instead). Most of them are just not suitable for acne-prone skin like mine.
Fortunately, the breakouts stopped as soon as I eliminated the culprits. But now, I'm dealing with the aftermath: post-acne marks!
My Spring Skincare Goals
Okay, before we get into the routine, let me share my strategy here. (You might not be able to see the marks underneath my concealer, but trust me, they are there!)
- Fading post-acne marks: There are actually two types of post-acne marks or discolourations that can occur after a bout of acne, and both are triggered by inflammation. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) appears as brown marks, and is caused by an overproduction of melanin. Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) is red or purple in tone, and caused by dilated blood vessels. Personally, I tend to get the reddish PIE marks to start, but if I'm not careful, they can turn into brown PIH marks over time. That's why this routine includes topicals that address both, along with plenty of exfoliation to speed up cell turnover.
- Protecting skin from the sun: Sun protection is always key, but especially when you're dealing with post-acne marks, as the sun tends to darken them and make them hang around much longer. Obviously, you need a good SPF, but I think it's also important to avoid the midday sun during this time (at least until the marks go away). I've found that even with sunscreen, any pigmentation can get worse if I'm spending a lot of time outside. Basically, I have to wear a hat or be a vampire for now!
- Preventing new breakouts: As someone with acne-prone skin, I always have to be vigilant about prevention. I think my routines had been working so well for me, I got a bit overconfident when I went to try Drunk Elephant, never imagining it could break me out so badly! Lesson learned—I need to stick with simpler formulas with fewer, more lightweight ingredients.
As usual, most of the products below were purchased by me. For details on how I evaluate ingredients lists, see this tutorial.
One thing I'm doing differently this time is including my skincare gadgets, like the ZIIP, where they would fit within my routine (since a lot of you guys asked about this). But if I'm pressed for time, I certainly skip those extra steps.
My Morning Skincare Routine
1. Cleansing Water:
If I'm going to work out and/or use my ZIIP, I'll start by saturating a Shiseido Facial Cotton with the S.W. Basics Cleanser and passing it over my skin. This is a cleansing water that contains rosewater, glycerin and tea tree oil—that's it! Unlike micellar waters, you do need to rinse it off, but it's gentle, effective and leaves your skin super soft. I will definitely purchase again!
2. Conductive Gel:
If I can spare the 15 minutes or so that it takes me to ZIIP, I'll apply the ZIIP Golden Gel next. You always have to use a gel like this to ensure proper conductivity of the electrical current. This one is very gooey and an anti-aging treatment in itself, as it is spiked with various peptides and growth factors. Since it can migrate into my hairline, I like to do this whole procedure before I have a shower.
Then I use the ZIIP Nano Current Device. It syncs with your phone, where you can choose from several programs, depending on what you want to target. For each one, there's a step-by-step video to watch with founder Melanie Simon. Usually, I like to do the 12-minute "Energize" treatment for firming, tightening and brightening, followed by a few minutes of "Total Clearing" for treating and preventing acne. Honestly, I do see a difference!
Next, I jump in the shower and wash my face with one of two cleansers I have in there at the moment. I recently bought the Omorovicza Cleansing Foam, after much internal debate because it's ridiculously expensive... yet the reviews are so positive. I'm glad I finally pulled the trigger! It's creamy yet foamy and just SO GOOD. Probably the best cleanser I've ever used, and that's saying a lot.
To make it last longer, I'm alternating it with Youth to the People Superfood Face Wash, which is actually a very nice gel cleanser. I don't find it drying at all, which is unusual.
When I step out of the shower, I slather on a generous layer of the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, my favourite beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) treatment (reviewed here). Not only has it helped to clear my Drunk Elephant-induced breakouts, but it also works on fading the dreaded post-acne marks. And did you know that BHAs can also reduce redness? I was so relieved to go back to this product after T.L.C. Framboos left my skin dry and inflamed!
6. Eye Cream:
At the same time as I do my BHA, I also put on the Odacité Ultra Effective Eye Cream. I recently bought this because it's made with all-natural ingredients including aloe vera, olive oil and jojoba oil. It's very light, and non-irritating.
7. Pigmentation Treatment:
To give the BHA enough time to work, I wait about 20 to 30 minutes before my next step, SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense. For the job of fading post-acne marks, I figured this treatment would be ideal! It contains five percent niacinamide, which targets both hyperpigmentation and redness, along with tranexamic acid for brown patches, kojic acid for brightening, and sulfonic acid for exfoliation. I was a little nervous because it has a thicker texture than most serums, but it hasn't broken me out at all. And the reviews are very positive!
As soon as the serum has absorbed, I apply a small amount of Biologique Recherche La Grande Crème, a moisturizer that I was also using in the winter. Normally, I'd switch to lightweight serums and essences in the warmer weather, but this cream is incredible—so light and non-greasy, yet hydrating. Also, it helps eliminate the flaky skin I tend to get from using an acid twice a day. The problem is, I don't know what I'm going to do when it runs out, because the brand sent this to me and it's $800+ Canadian!!!
For sunscreen, I'm using the Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30 right now (while I wait on the new REN Clean Screen the brand promised to send me, since it's not sold in Canada yet!). This one, reviewed here, has 20 percent zinc and comes in five sheer tints, so I basically use it in place of foundation or tinted moisturizer. The finish is pretty dewy, but it's nothing that a little powder can't fix.
Next, it's time to conceal those marks, and I recently started using the W3ll People Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer. Unlike most natural concealers, it gives opaque and long-lasting coverage, even though it is silicone-free! Where has this been all my life?
For "pinpoint" concealing of dark marks and pimples, I apply it with Kevyn Aucoin The Concealer Brush, an amazing brush with a tiny tip. I find it covers just as effectively as the Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer, which I was using before. But you can also use it for larger areas, such as dark circles, and it still looks super natural. I apply it there with the RMS Beauty Eye Polish Brush.
By the way, this is the only coverage product I'm wearing in the photo above, not even the CC cream or any powder. And I had a lot of marks to cover up... it works that well!
If my T-zone looks too shiny, I reach for my favourite ILIA Soft Focus Finishing Powder, a translucent corn starch- and silica-based powder that absorbs oil without drying you out. I always apply it sparingly with the Clinique Eye Shadow Brush instead of a big, fluffy brush, so I don't look too powdery.
Ever since RMS Beauty founder Rose-Marie Swift told me my skin was too red to wear blush (she's blunt like that!), I switched to bronzer instead. I alternate between both of her bronzers; Contour Bronze is deep and brown-toned, while Buriti Bronzer is lighter with a hint of pink. They're so sheer, they just create a sun-kissed look when I sweep them across my cheeks and the bridge of my nose (using the Skin2Skin Blush Brush).
13. Freckle Pen:
I know this sounds kinda crazy, but when I have time, I like to create and/or deepen the freckles across my nose with the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color. It's an old makeup artist trick to make your makeup look more natural; I also find it balances out my freckle pattern (since mine tend to be darker on the sides of my face, which isn't so cute). I was using Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade before, but I find this pen stays put longer. I also have the Freck OG Freckle Pen on order, which I suspect will be even better!
For a little glow, I always use RMS Beauty Living Luminizer across my cheekbones, applied with the Kabuki Polisher. I swear, that little bit of light reflection makes people think you have better skin!
15. Face Mist:
I hate my skin to look too "done," so mists are great for taking away any powdery residue. I've been getting into Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist lately because it dispenses such a lovely fine mist (and of course, smells gorgeous).
16. Tinted Lip Balms:
I have two new tinted lip balms in my rotation. Lanolips Rose Gold 101 Ointment is a new rose gold version of their original clear balm, and I'm obsessed! It's what I'm wearing in the photo above—just gives a nice coral-red tint with all the moisturizing benefits of pure lanolin.
The other is the Kosas Kosasport LipFuel Hyaluronic Lip Balm, which I find more pigmented, almost like a sheer lipstick. Of the two shades, I prefer the lighter, pinkier one called Rush; Pulse is a more intense brick red. (Anyone interested in a review?)
My Nighttime Skincare Routine
1. Makeup Remover:
At night, I do a first pass over my skin with BIOeffect Micellar Cleansing Water on a Shiseido Facial Cotton. I might have to permanently switch from Bioderma, I like this micellar water so much! Even though it's a "clean" product, it is just as effective.
Next, I wash my face with the new Odacité Black Mint Cleanser. You might assume it would be harsh, since it's a gel formula with charcoal, clay, tea tree oil and mint. But you would be wrong! It becomes a little creamy when it lathers, and gives you a deep clean without leaving your face tight or stripped. Love!
3. Cleansing Brush:
As usual, I like to use the Foreo Luna 2 for Combination Skin in conjunction with my cleanser. It never irritates my skin like other cleansing brushes, and ensures that all traces of dirt, oil and makeup are removed. My skin can get a little flaky from the acid, and this also helps buff that off.
After I pat my skin dry, I use Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 PIGM 400 (again, on a Shiseido Facial Cotton) as a toner. Yes, I know it's an acid treatment, too, but let me explain my thinking on this. After researching Padma Lakshmi's skincare routine, I was reading up on her facialist, who says that EVERYONE needs to be using a toner. I've been struggling with this, because no toner seems to play well with my BHA—I always get a flushing reaction due to some unknown ingredient interaction. Then it occurred to me to try P50, and it doesn't do that! Bonus: The anti-pigmentation ingredients in PIGM 400 will help me with the post-acne marks, too.
Here's where I'd fit in microneedling, although I definitely don't do this every night—more like once or twice week right now, and I couldn't do it when I had active acne. I'm using the BeautyBio GloPro Microneedling Regeneration Tool, which has a 0.3 mm needle length, the maximum I'd roll with at home. I'm just easing into it because it does make my skin temporarily inflamed and a little dry. Hoping I can build up a tolerance, the more I do it!
6. Hyaluronic Acid:
The main benefit of shallow needling is to increase the penetration of your topical products, but you've only got about 10 to 15 minutes before the needle holes close up! So, right away after rolling, I apply a few drops of Timeless Hyaluronic Acid Pure, which is a high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid serum with only four ingredients. According to the doctors at BareFacedTruth, there's a real risk of granulomas and reactions if you apply the wrong topicals on freshly needled skin—that's why this simple serum is one of the few products I'd consider safe.
That said, you can get even better results from applying vitamin A, so I want to buy Environ A, C & E Oil next! Even though it's technically a body oil, it has been used with great success by microneedling expert Dr. Des Fernandes after treatments.
7. Red Light Therapy:
Then, it's a good time to do red light therapy to take down the inflammation from microneedling. Even though the GloPro has a built-in red light, I prefer a separate 10-minute session in front of my Red Light Man Red Light Device, which is MUCH stronger. I actually use this almost every night, whether I've needled or not, as it's so beneficial and relaxing! More on red light here and here.
After about 15 minutes, once the needle holes have closed up, I apply some COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid again. (If I'm not needling, I do this straight after the P50.) For my last two routines, I was using the salicylic acid pads from First Aid Beauty or B. Kamins at night, but I've come to the conclusion that the COSRX works better for me. I think it might be the penetration enhancer!
9. Eye Cream:
The only Drunk Elephant product I stuck with after my test was the C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream, which I recently purchased. What I like about this is that it's creamy, yet fast-absorbing, and it hasn't irritated my eye area so far. Plus, there's a good amount of vitamin C derivatives in here for brightening.
Then, I need to wait about 20 to 30 minutes before I apply my final skin step, A313 Vitamin A Pommade (reviewed here). So, usually this happens from bed! This is still my favourite retinoid—especially after giving it up for a week to test out A-Passioni, which gave me the cystic acne from hell. Even though A313 is greasier, it's far less comedogenic, and I love how strong it is!
11. Lip Balm:
Last but not least, I always use Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm, a pure lanolin balm, to keep my lips nourished and free from chapping. It also works great on dry cuticles!
So there you have it—my complete skincare routine for getting rid of post-acne marks while preventing future breakouts.
I'll be reporting back with more detail on both of those products, so stay tuned. And let me know if you're interested in reviews of any others—the cleansing water, concealer and lip balm are so inexpensive, you NEED to try them!
Shop My Skincare Routine
Have you tried any of the products in my spring routine?
Which skincare products are you loving lately?