So far, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year—and if you're anything like me, sticking to a skincare routine has been a struggle.
First, a quick update on how I'm approaching my skin right now, and then we'll dive into the juicy product details!
My Summer 2020 Skincare Routine
Although I don't really believe in "skin types," my skin is probably closest to combination, with a tendency towards breakouts and redness. So here's what I've been trying to achieve with it lately:
- Breaking the moisturizer "addiction": In my dry skin tutorial, I shared how Dr. Zein Obagi believes moisturizers weaken your skin, become addictive and ultimately slow down cellular renewal. Yikes! It takes up to 12 weeks to get your skin used to going moisturizer-free, according to facialist Kate Kerr, so I took the opportunity to try this out during the COVID-19 lockdown this spring. (Hint: I think it's made my skin better!)
- Going oil-free: Another idea I picked up from Kate Kerr, as well as Dr. Rachael Eckel, is that oils may not be as beneficial or as necessary as I thought. (More on this in a future tutorial!) That's why, in addition to ditching moisturizer, I'm experimenting with an almost fully oil-free routine.
- Upping the physical exfoliation: While acids have been a mainstay of my routines for years, I've also started getting into scrubs and the occasional home microdermabrasion. Rather than being too aggressive, the physical exfoliation actually helps to clear any flaky bits from the acid, so my skin seems smoother and even clearer.
Of course, being summertime, I'm being vigilant about protecting my skin from the sun and minimizing acne by keeping my pores clean.
Here's a look at some of the products that I'm loving right now....
And here's how I'm using each one!
My Morning Skincare Routine
After investing in the Advent Calendar last Christmas, I'm making my way through a lot of Dr. Barbara Sturm products (so that's why you'll see travel sizes in these photos). In the mornings, I'm using the Dr. Barbara Sturm Cleanser, which is so gentle, I'd recommend it to everyone. It produces a light and airy foam, and a little goes a long way—so it may actually be more economical than its price point would suggest. I love that it's fragrance-free, and totally non-drying.
Then comes Dr. Barbara Sturm Facial Scrub, which is nothing like the abrasive, gritty scrubs of the past. It's super creamy, and the exfoliating beads are tiny, round and widely spaced-out. So it doesn't aggravate my skin at all—it just helps to smooth out any flaky areas, like around the nose. It does seem to leave a bit of an oily film behind (since it's high in shea butter and jojoba oil), so I make sure to swipe my skin with toner next.
In the past, I haven't used toner in the mornings because I wash my face in the shower (which does a good job of thoroughly removing my cleanser). But now that I'm testing an oil-based scrub, the new Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner is coming in handy to get off any leftover residue. Plus, I really wanted to try this product because it contains betaine salicylate, my favourite type of BHA! The brand doesn't disclose the percentage, so I think it's quite mild, and it has a hydrating, essence-like texture.
One thing that never changes in my routine is COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid (reviewed here). Right after the toner, I use my fingers to apply a thin layer all over my face, which gently exfoliates, brightens and keeps my pores clean. The secret ingredient is 4% betaine salicylate, which I've found to be amazingly effective yet non-drying and non-irritating.
5. Eye Cream
While the acid is doing its thing, I put a dab of Odacité Ultra Effective Eye Cream under each eye. I have a lot of trouble with eye creams causing irritation, but this one doesn't—probably because it's made with simple ingredients like aloe vera, olive oil and jojoba oil.
6. Niacinamide Serum
After the acid has been on my skin for about 20 to 30 minutes, it's time for another active ingredient. I apply a few drops of the new Consonant Vitamin B3 + Zinc Serum, which I'm very excited about, since I've been a devoted fan of the brand's HydrExtreme for ages. This serum targets basically all of my skin concerns at once: blemishes, redness, excess oil production, discolouration and dullness. It has a short, simple ingredients list that includes niacinamide, zinc and panthenol in a propanediol base (which gives it a more viscous texture).
7. Hydrating Serum
Since the niacinamide serum is pretty moisturizing, I don't really need a separate hydrating serum. But I've been dabbling a bit with the COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule that I recently purchased, and I have to say, I really love it. This has 83% propolis extract (a.k.a. "bee glue"), which somehow is both moisturizing and oil-controlling.
8. Gel Moisturizer
If I'm not going outside until later, I don't apply sunscreen right away in the morning—I'll just do some Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel if my skin needs it instead. This has become my favourite gel moisturizer, as it is silicone-free, fragrance-free and made up of 80% aloe vera and 10% propolis. (So I don't think this one would make the skin "lazy," since it's not occlusive at all.)
For sunscreen, I've been absolutely blown away by the new EleVen by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35 and On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 (reviewed here and here). If you've sworn off mineral sunscreens due to the white cast, you need to try these ASAP! They look and feel completely invisible on the skin (even on dark tones), despite containing the highest possible concentration of zinc oxide.
And if you're in Canada, you'll be happy to know that you can get virtually the same formulas here, since they were developed by The Sunscreen Company. Ava Isa Sun-é-Serum Drops SPF 35 is a close match to the serum, and CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 30 is identical to the lotion. All of them are game-changers, I tell you!
What is makeup anymore during these COVID times?! I haven't wanted to wear foundation or powder in what feels like forever, but Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Aging Primer is my newest discovery for skin that looks just a little more perfected. I've only been wearing it through my T-zone, and it works so well to mattify without drying you out. (You can see the difference in my photo; I applied it between my brows but not all over my forehead, which is looking a bit sweaty!) I'll definitely invest in a full-sized tube when this runs out.
For my oil-free experiment, I had to ditch my former go-to concealer (RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up). Fortunately, I've found two replacements that I couldn't be happier about! Kosas Revealer Concealer is what I use for dark circles and redness, and I already plan to buy it again. It's about medium-coverage and has the best creamy but non-creasing texture. The shades run dark, so I got the lightest (Porcelain) and it's perfect.
For blemishes and post-acne marks, I have bareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin-Clearing Spot Concealer. The pen format makes it quick and easy to spot-conceal (rather than having to use a brush), and it's infused with salicylic acid to speed healing. Again, the shade range may be a little off, but I got Fair 1C and it's a good match for me.
Continuing with the oil-free theme, I thought I'd test some powder highlighters this summer. While the ingredients in Milk Makeup Flex Highlighter aren't the best, it won't absorb into pores like a cream highlighter would. The verdict? I love the champagne shade, Lit, but the glitter is quite dense, so it may be more of a "going out" product. (Not that nightlife exists at the moment!)
I switch between that and the new ILIA DayLite Highlighting Powder in Decades, which is like the opposite—very subtle. Maybe too subtle. But every once in a while I need to at least try something other than RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, you know? (I think it's still the best!)
13. Tinted Lip Balms
My tinted lip balm obsession continues with two new additions to the fam. Kaja Mood Balm Color Changing Lip Moisturizer is supposed to react with your body temperature to create a unique shade. I got the coral (First Thing), which I have on in the top photo, but as you can see, there's nothing coral about the colour! Still, I'm not sorry, as it feels great on the lips and is long-lasting.
I've also been wearing the new Lanolips Baby Rose Gold 101 Ointment, which I love just as much as the original Rose Gold shade. It's a gorgeous, unique pink, and you could use it on both lips and cheeks.
Oh, and I always wear COOLA Mineral Liplux Organic Tinted Lip Balm Sunscreen SPF 30 (reviewed here) if I'm going to be in the sun. The shade Bonfire is also great to swipe across your cheeks and nose to mimic a sun-kissed effect.
14. Face Mist
I always like to keep a mist nearby, especially to cool me down in hot weather, and right now it's NIOD Superoxide Dismutase Saccharide Mist. This is a nice, juicy mist that gives extra protection against oxidative stress (making it apropos for summer).
My Nighttime Skincare Routine
1. Makeup Remover
My evening double cleanse starts with Odacité Blue Aura Cleansing Water, an all-natural micellar water. I hesitated to try it because the instructions say to avoid the eye area, which seems strange for this type of cleanser. But I decided to go for it anyway, all over the face and eyes, and nothing bad happened! Mind you, I haven't been wearing much (if any) makeup, so your mileage may vary.
Then, I clean my skin with the new Caudalie Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser for combo and oily skin. This one has the texture of a liquidy gel, and produces a nice creamy lather. While I wouldn't expect the salicylic acid in it to have too much of an effect (since you're rinsing it away), it does a good job of getting off summer sweat, sunscreen and grime.
3. Cleansing Brush
A few times a week, I'm testing the PMD Clean Smart Face Cleanser Device in conjunction with the gel cleanser. Although the Foreo Luna 2 is still my all-time favourite, this is also a great option if you're in need of a vibrating cleansing brush. It, too, is made from hygienic and non-irritating silicone, and gives you a much better cleanse than your fingers are capable of on their own.
For about a year now, I've been using toner every night to make sure all traces of cleanser have been removed from my skin. The challenge is that most toners don't play well with acid (which is my next step), so I'm always on the lookout for astringent formulas that will be compatible. That's why I bought the new Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner as soon as it came out. I love that it has 2% salicylic acid, and is fragrance-free and alcohol-free. Gentle but effective!
Truthfully, I could just use the toner as my acid exfoliant, but I don't want to quit my nightly COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid—which I've been applying twice a day for well over a year now. Layering them hasn't caused me any dryness, redness or irritation, but of course, I wouldn't recommend doing this unless your skin is very tolerant to acids.
6. Eye Cream
Right after I put on the acid, it's time to treat the eye area with some Dr. Barbara Sturm Eye Cream. Although it's not packed with active ingredients, I love the lightweight texture, long-lasting hydration, and the fact that it doesn't give me any allergic reaction.
7. Microneedling Device
I've been wanting to get back into microneedling, so I've been experimenting with the Nurse Jamie Beauty Stamp once a week or so, about 30 minutes after my acid. You're meant to do a "press and lift" action as you work you way around your face. I'm doing this to enhance the penetration of my retinol, which should make it more effective.
Next, I apply a thin layer of the recently reformulated Shani Darden Retinol Reform (which I originally reviewed here). Before, the active ingredients were 5% each of retinyl propionate and lactic acid; now it has 2.2% encapsulated retinol and 2% lactic acid. I'm happy to report that I haven't noticed a difference—the new version has the same fresh texture I remember, and my skin seems to be responding really well to it (again). I'm very pleased!
9. Lip Balms
To keep chapped lips at bay, I reach for one of two lip balms on the nightstand at the moment. Dr. Barbara Sturm Lip Balm has an elegant consistency and coats your lips with a thin, non-greasy layer of moisture. However, it is vegetable oil-based, so it won't have a long shelf life.
My favourite is definitely the Vis Viva Honey + Coconut Hydrating Lip Balm, which contains lanolin, honey, beeswax and squalane. Honestly, it's the most perfect, nourishing, buttery lip balm I think I've ever tried! So if you're looking for something more luxurious than plain ol' lanolin ointment, you will love it.
My Extra Skincare Treatments
My mask of choice this summer is the Dr. Barbara Sturm Clarifying Mask, which has kaolin clay and zinc to help balance combination and oily skin. Thanks to the jojoba oil, it has a creamy texture, and isn't drying like most clay masks. I wouldn't expect a dramatic effect on breakouts or oil production, but it's a nice weekly or biweekly treatment.
I've had my PMD Personal Microderm for a few years, but only ever used it sporadically because my routine always included acids and retinoids—which you're supposed to quit for at least seven days before doing a treatment. (For me, that's not going to happen!) To be fair, this was probably a lockdown-related decision, but I decided to throw all caution to the wind and use it anyway. I'm not recommending you do the same, but for me, it's been fine doing a session every couple of weeks. Yes, there is a ton of exfoliation in this routine, but so far my skin doesn't hate it!
Red Light Therapy
Last but not least, my skincare routine is never complete without my trusty Red Light Man Red Light Device, the most powerful and effective red light on the market. As explained in my red light therapy tutorial, it's good for skin health in general, and helps with everything from acne to signs of aging. I typically shine it on my face at night, while I'm lying in bed, as it also helps you sleep like a baby!
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