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How to Do My Spring-Summer Skincare Routine to Treat and Prevent Dark Spots and Sun Damage

Including SkinCeuticals, Allies of Skin and more.
Skincare routine spring-summer 2021

It's been a few months since I shared a skincare routine, but I'm finally back with an update on everything I've been using (and loving) lately during this warmer weather. I've got so much to tell you about, including both new discoveries and old favourites!

This time around, I've combined spring and summer because I recently moved—and when you've amassed a skincare inventory like mine, that's no easy feat! For a while there, I was only doing the basics until I could unpack and get back on track with all the products I'm mentioning here. 

They include a new vitamin C serum, niacinamide mist (I'm obsessed with this concept!), gel cleansers, skin-friendly makeup and more. So here's the lowdown on my latest routine, along with my rationale for choosing each product.

My Spring-Summer 2021 Skincare Routine

Skincare routine spring-summer 2021

My spring-summer 2021 skincare routine includes products from SkinCeuticals and Allies of Skin.

Right now, I don't have any major skin concerns other than a few post-acne marks from old breakouts. So before we get into the nitty-gritty of this routine, these are the most important changes I've made since the winter:

  • Vitamin C serum: If you recall, I was previously using iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance+ as my first foray into L-ascorbic acid. (Well, I did try C E Ferulic many years ago, but not recently!) I'm still on the LAA train, and now I've moved on to another serum that I like even better. 
  • Niacinamide mist: For the past year, I've been talking about how I quit moisturizer, and instead rely on serums as my main source of hydration. That used to mean layering at least a couple of them—but now I've discovered a niacinamide-based face mist that both treats and hydrates in one quick step!
  • Ultra-protective sunscreen: Since there's no point in treating dark marks if you're going to turn around and get sun exposure on them, I'm using the most protective sunscreen I've found.
  • Triple cleansing: I just made up this term to describe how I've been cleansing at night lately—with an oil, a gel cleanser and then a toner. I feel like I'm not breaking out as much this summer because of this!
  • Powder skin makeup: Last year, I wore less makeup than ever before. No foundation, just a little cream concealer here and there. Now, I've replaced that with a tinted powder, and I'm even happier with my results. I suspect that creamy makeup may negatively affect your skin the same way as moisturizer, and it also attracts dirt and bacteria.
  • Retinoid: After test-driving retinaldehyde (Osmosis MD Renew) all winter, I've returned to my Holy Grail retinoid, which I've concluded is the strongest. Quelle surprise. 

Here's a sneak peek at what I'm about to show you....

Skincare routine spring-summer 2021

Products in my spring-summer 2021 skincare routine.

And now I'll take you through each step!

My Morning Skincare Routine

1. Micellar Water

Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

If I'm doing some exercise in the morning, I'll just do a quick cleanse with micellar water, and then apply sunscreen and go. So I have no idea how well this Simple Micellar Cleansing Water works as a makeup remover, but as a gentle one-step cleanser, I've got no complaints! I swipe it on with a Shiseido Facial Cotton, and it makes my skin feel clean and soft without causing dryness or irritation (mind you, I also rinse with water after). 

2. Cleanser

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

In the shower, I've been using Fresh Soy Face Cleanser. I don't know why I never got around to trying this cult classic before, but I rediscovered it when unpacking and I'm so glad I did! It reminds me of First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser (which I love and reviewed here), but is a little more gel-like. Once you massage it over damp skin, it becomes super creamy, and it doesn't strip at all.

3. Vitamin C

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF

Then on clean, dry skin, I apply about four drops of SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF. This is the newest vitamin C serum from the brand, and for my skin at least, it's the best one yet! Just like C E Ferulic, it contains 15% L-ascorbic acid and 0.5% ferulic acid. But instead of 1% vitamin E, it has 0.5% silymarin (milk thistle extract) and 0.5% salicylic acid. 

The silymarin is not only an antioxidant, it also prevents oil from oxidizing, while the salicylic acid gently exfoliates and reduces oil and breakouts. Together, they make this one of the best treatments I've found for pigmentation, excess oil and acne-prone skin. I'll be doing a more in-depth review soon, but so far I've noticed that my skin has been more matte this summer, and the dark spots that were bothering me are fading fast! 

4. Eye Cream

iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex

iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex

After that, I put on some eye cream so that my eye area doesn't get too dry while I'm waiting for my vitamin C and other treatments to do their thing. I'm still using the iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex that I told you about in my winter routine, and yes, I still love it. It gives the perfect amount of hydration with no greasy feel, and has never once irritated me. It's also loaded with peptides—including copper peptides—so it's got anti-aging benefits, too.

5. Lip Balm

Lansinoh Lanolin

Lansinoh Lanolin 

At the same time as my eye cream, I treat my lips to a little Lansinoh Lanolin. Technically, it's supposed to be a nipple cream for breastfeeding... but it also happens to be the cheapest 100% lanolin ointment! There's no need for expensive lip balms when you have a tube of this stuff, because it is the single most effective ingredient for dry, chapped or flaking lips.

6. BHA

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid 

Since Silymarin CF is pH 2.0-3.5, and COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is pH 4.0-5.0, I try to wait about 15 minutes before I apply the latter. This is because L-ascorbic acid penetrates best at a low pH, so you always want to use it away from higher-pH products. 

No surprise, I'm still in a long-term relationship with this treatment (reviewed here), which single-handedly exfoliates, brightens, deep-cleans pores, fades dark marks and prevents breakouts. I apply it to my skin directly instead of using a cotton pad, and then use my fingertips to spread it around in a thin layer.

7. Niacinamide Mist

Allies of Skin Molecular Saviour Probiotics Treatment Mist

Allies of Skin Molecular Saviour Probiotics Treatment Mist

Once the COSRX has sunk in, I spray on Allies of Skin Molecular Saviour Probiotics Treatment Mist. I can't tell you how excited I am to have discovered this product! First of all, it is pH 4.0-4.5, same as my BHA, so I can layer them with no waiting in between. Usually, I wouldn't use acid and niacinamide together, since niacinamide treatments typically have a higher pH, around 6.0. So this mist is actually saving me time!

As for the product itself, I love niacinamide serum and I love face mist—so if they had a baby, this would be it. There's 5% niacinamide in here, therefore you're getting all of its benefits, plus the hydrating, antibacterial and soothing properties of probiotics, zinc, aloe and amino acids. It is in fact so moisturizing that I don't need any other hydrators.

8. Sunscreens

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Lite Untinted SPF 50 REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Lite Untinted SPF 50 and REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30

Then I apply my sunscreen, and there are two that I've been reaching for most this summer. One is CyberDerm Simply Zinc Lite Untinted SPF 50, which I wear when I'm spending a lot of time outside because I consider it to be the most highly protective sunscreen on the market. Besides the maximum 25% zinc oxide, it contains a material called Bio UVA Ultra, which increases its UVA protection by up to 60%. It also comes in Tinted.

I alternate that with REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30, which just works really well for me as an everyday sunscreen. I love the texture—easy to spread and not at all greasy—and it doesn't even feel like I'm wearing sunscreen when I have this on. For me, it is non-whitening and stays matte without drying out my skin. 

9. Under-Eye Concealer

MERIT The Minimalist Perfecting Complexion Stick

MERIT The Minimalist Perfecting Complexion Stick

It's been a while since I shared what I'm doing for skin makeup (which I've become just as careful about as I am with my actual skincare products). Like I said, I've made the switch to powders now, with the exception of MERIT The Minimalist Perfecting Complexion Stick for my eye area. 

I bought this in Linen on a whim, and I've been really impressed. This is a hybrid concealer-foundation stick, and not only is it a perfect match, it has a weightless texture that doesn't look or feel like you're wearing anything! So far, I've only used it to cover dark circles, but it hasn't creased on me at all, and doesn't require any setting powder.

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10. Powder Foundation

W3ll People Bio Base Pressed Foundation

W3ll People Bio Base Pressed Foundation

Then I go in with W3ll People Bio Base Pressed Foundation as my concealer (I don't like the look or feel of a full face of foundation). When I first got this product, I was thrilled about the ingredients, which are the best I've seen in any powder... but I didn't think it worked for me. That's because I followed the directions to use a wet kabuki brush, which deposited way too much of it for my liking. But when I used it dry with my favourite powder brush, it applied like any other translucent mattifying powder, with zero coverage. So I almost gave up!

But everything changed when I decided to try it with my RMS Beauty Eye Polish Brush. With this brush, I can apply it like a concealer, in the areas where I actually need it (like around my nose and chin). To cover dark marks, I use an even smaller brush (mine is discontinued, but this one is similar). The effect is completely seamless, and it stays put way better than a regular concealer. I think it's healthier for my skin, too, since grime won't stick to powder like it would with a cream finish. I'm about to buy this powder in multiples!

11. Blush

Freck Cheekslime Lip Cheek Tint

Freck Cheekslime Lip + Cheek Tint

In the summer, I love to do a little blush across the bridge of my nose to mimic a (safe) sun-kissed effect. To achieve this, I apply the tiniest dab of Freck Cheekslime Lip + Cheek Tint in the lightest shade, Cuffed. It's a stain, so you have to work quickly, but it's extremely long-lasting (and can be used on top of powder without caking).

12. Freckle Pen

Freck XL The Original Freckle

Freck XL The Original Freckle

On top of the blush, I do a sprinkling of faux freckles with Freck XL The Original Freckle. I know, it's kind of weird to be painting on freckles, but I think it looks cute, okay? There is a learning curve with this product, but once you get the hang of it, the effect is very realistic (much more so than if you used an eyeliner). It's also long-lasting and doesn't fade.

13. Powder Sunscreen

Supergoop Resetting Powder SPF 45

Supergoop! (Re)setting Powder SPF 45

Instead of a regular setting powder, I dust Supergoop! (Re)setting Powder SPF 45 all over my face so that I can get the benefits of mattifying and sun protection in one. I use the Translucent shade, which is invisible on my skin and doesn't add any unwanted texture. This is my favourite powder sunscreen that I've tried to date.

14. Highlighter

Milk Makeup Flex Highlighter

Milk Makeup Flex Highlighter

The finishing touch is a sweep of Milk Makeup Flex Highlighter across my cheekbones and down the bridge of my nose. I don't know why they only sell this shade, Lit, in the cream version now, but hopefully they bring it back because I've never found anything else like it. It's described as a champagne pearl, so it's a little more cool-toned than the other shades, and almost dark enough to act like a blush if your skin tone is similar to mine. This powder has a creamy texture that I love, and there's no glitter, just a lovely sheen. Sometimes I add some RMS Beauty Living Luminizer at the inner corners of my eyes, too.

15. Lip Balm with SPF

Ava Isa Sun Lip Sun Whip SPF 15

Ava Isa Sun Lip Sun Whip SPF 15

To protect my lips, I do a slick of Ava Isa Sun Lip Sun Whip SPF 15, which recently launched in Canada and is one of the only tinted lip balms with mineral sunscreen. (If you're in the US, the formula is the same as the new EleVen by Venus Perfect Form Lip Balm SPF 15, just slightly different shades.) 

Since I'm still in love with Dior Addict Lip Tattoo, usually I will do that in Rose as my base colour, and then use the Clear Sunshine shade over top. But Strawberry Zinnia (fuchsia) and Watermelon Lily (pink coral) are both really pretty! 

16. Face/Body Mist

Avene Eau Thermale Thermal Spring Water

Avène Eau Thermale Thermal Spring Water

Last but not least, I always like to have a mist on hand when it's hot outside, to cool down and refresh my skin throughout the day. Avène Eau Thermale Thermal Spring Water is a cult classic, and I use it on both my face and body.

My Nighttime Skincare Routine

1. Makeup Remover

Hylamide High-Efficiency Face Cleaner

Hylamide High-Efficiency Face Cleaner

In the evenings, I start with Hylamide High-Efficiency Face Cleanser as my first cleanse. I'd been using micellar waters before, but I felt like this might be more effective at cutting through occlusive sunscreens—and I think it is. 

It has an oil texture that reminds me of fractionated coconut oil, and you apply it on dry skin. Unlike regular oils, though, they say it rinses clean with just water (no wiping with a cloth required). I think most of it does come off, yes, but I still follow up with a gel cleanser to be sure.

2. Cleanser

Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser

Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser

For my second cleanse, I've been testing out the newly reformulated Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser. I hadn't tried the original, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I like this cleanser a lot. Although not as hydrating as Fresh, it lathers up more while remaining extremely gentle on your skin. Most importantly, I feel like it really cleans well, so it's one I'd definitely recommend for the summertime and for normal to oily skin year-round.

3. Toner

Biossance Squalane BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner

Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner

The third step in my "triple cleanse" is toner—something I used to believe was pointless, but now I can't live without. I think it's essential for making sure all final traces of product, grime and cleanser are removed. 

I always use slightly acidic toners, not hydrating ones, because the latter are not usually compatible with my acid exfoliant (which I'm applying next). But the new Biossance Squalane + BHA Pore-Minimizing Toner is actually the best of both worlds, because it combines a BHA (willow bark extract) with hydrating squalane oil. I wouldn't use this as a standalone acid exfoliant (it won't be strong enough), but as a toner, it's perfect.

4. BHA

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid 

Then comes a light layer of COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, same as in the morning. Obviously, you should ease in and not use it this often if you're new to the product, but for me, a twice-daily application works best. (I've been doing this for several years now.... I figured that if Lotion P50 is supposed to be used twice a day, I could do the same thing with this—especially since it's much gentler on my skin and gives me zero irritation, dryness or redness.)

By the way, I noticed that COSRX recently changed their instructions. They used to recommend using this product only two to three times per week, but now have added that you can "gradually build up the usage according to the skin condition."

5. Retinoid

A313 Vitamin A Pommade

A313 Vitamin A Pommade

Then I go and do other stuff for about 15-30 minutes while the BHA works its magic, before applying a thin layer of A313 Vitamin A Pommade. This is the European packaging, but in North America it goes by the name A313 Cosmetic Cream with Retinyl Palmitate. As I explained in this review, they are the exact same product.

As I mentioned, I was using a retinaldehyde serum, Osmosis MD Renew, in my winter routine. It was great, and I'd definitely recommend it, but I'm certain that A313 is stronger. That's why I've gone back to it yet again—I honestly think it's comparable to a mild Retin-A! Just so you know, I'm also putting it around my eyes instead of eye cream and have been able to tolerate it there just fine. You can find all the details about this retinoid here.

6. Lip Balm

Lansinoh Lanolin

Lansinoh Lanolin

I finish with Lansinoh Lanolin on my lips (as well as cuticles) and then it's off to sleep! 

Usually, I would do a nightly red light therapy session with my Red Light Man Red-Infrared Combo Light, but sadly, that hasn't been happening lately because I had to pack it for my move. Rest assured, I'll be back to that shortly—along with the Combo Bodylight 2.0 that I also recently invested in to do full-body treatments! 

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