Saturday, August 6, 2022

Skincare! An Updated Approach

I had a whole post on skincare a few months ago that I never published and now I've had to change my routine because some of the products (like this SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum, which I LOVED- it was Botox in a bottle) were too strong for me and my skin got mad and started basically flaking off while we were in Iceland which was not great. I've been doing some research in stolen moments between flights and the rare TV show I get to watch with James at night, and I've settled into a skin cycling routine I really like.
I'm basically the last person on earth not on Instagram (I know my limits and do not need any additional reasons to confer with the internet), but I briefly downloaded it to go through all of Dr. Whitney Bowe's posts (stories? I do not know this world) and the approach of spacing out your strong and targeted skincare products to focus on one goal/task per night spoke to me. And so I've been building a routine for my fair, sensitive, papulopustular rosacea (a skin condition common in women who are red-haired, fair-skinned, and in their late-thirties, characterized by red, swollen bumps that typically appear on the cheeks, chin, and forehead and are frequently misidentified as acne and can take a long time to go away. They can be exacerbated by stress, changes in weather, exercise, alcohol, and caffeine, so that's AWESOME for me)-prone skin.

Dr. Bowe has lots of great product recs on her page, but I've largely been using product I already had and am working in new ones (like the Sunday Riley exfoliant) as I run out or don't feel like I've found the right one. This is what I'm doing right now:

Morning Routine: this doesn't change day to day.
1. Cleanse. I've learned to spend less on cleansers because they're on your face so briefly before you wash them off. Just use whatever you like that gets makeup off and leaves your skin clean but not tight. I like both of these: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser or Vanicream Unscented Gentle Facial Cleanser. Pat dry.

2. Vitamin C. Essential. Repairs your skin and protects it from the sun and pollution in the air. This one is the gold standard and I've used it for years. It also stays stable the longest (a lot of cheaper Vitamin C serums break down quickly and aren't effective after a couple months. This one lasts me 9): Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Antioxidant Serum.

3. Redness Corrector (optional). Totally optional, but it's great for correcting redness and feels very soothing. I use it after facial treatments or anytime I'm more flushed, like post-sun exposure or when I'm traveling. My skin does not enjoy airplane air or hotel towels/linens even when they're much nicer than my own: Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Gel.

4. Moisturizer/Sunscreen. I usually go straight to my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer with SPF, but lately my skin has been so dry I've been using this Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel first and then doing the tinted moisturizer. I like the hydrating gel a lot- it's light, isn't sticky, absorbs well, and feels amazing on my skin. It also has hyaluronic acid, which is very hydrating, though I've learned you have to SEAL it with another moisturizer (like my tinted moisturizer I use as makeup) on top otherwise it's actually dehydrating, something I was doing very wrong for a while.

5. Extra SPF. For sunscreen touchups during the day I've been liking Supergoop (I got this set and stuck one in each of my purses or bags so I always have some on hand; I like them all, but maybe the "unseen" one is my favorite) and I use SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 32 on days I'm not going to wear makeup or use the tinted moisturizer.

So most mornings it's: Cleanse (usually in the shower), Vitamin C serum, Phyto gel (sometimes), Tinted Moisturizer, done.

Evening Cycling Routine.
It's a 4 day plan that you just repeat forever. I have a little calendar in my bathroom with each day filled in for the month because I am incapable of remembering what I did the night before.
1. Cleanse. I usually use whatever cleanser is by the sink, in the shower, or near the tub where I happen to be washing my face, but I do love Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser for nighttime cleansing, particularly if I've put on a lot of sunscreen during the day or wore more makeup than usual. It's a little stronger.

I'll also often use micellar water first as a double cleanse to get my makeup off before washing. My dermatologist recommended it because I have rosacea and reducing bacteria on the skin helps keep it at bay. Isdin Micellar Water (my dermatologist recommended this one and I had a credit with her office to get it for free) or Bioderma Micellar Water (cheaper and the one every makeup artist recommends; also available in a travel size).

Exfoliation night
2. Exfoliant. Dr. Bowe recommends a chemical exfoliant with AHAs over a physical exfoliant, particularly for sensitive, dry skin (like mine!). I've been using Sunday Riley's Good Genes and I really like it. You can leave it on, or if your skin is really sensitive, you can rinse it off after 15 minutes. My skin has been agreeable to letting me leave it on so far. This is also a GREAT physical exfoliant if you prefer that: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. I used it for a while before I discovered chemical exfoliants and they just work better for me.
3. Moisturize. I use the Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel first and then layer on a moisturizer. I'm still in search of a favorite, but these two are inexpensive and I've been trying to decide which one I like more for the last month: Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Sensitive Skin Night Creme or Differin Restorative Night Moisturizer. I cannot emphasize enough how dry and angry my skin was by the end of June with all my travel; it's come a long way.

Retinol night:
2. Retinol cream. One of the only active ingredients that can actually repair skin and force collagen production and regeneration. Use the strongest concentration your skin can handle without flaking. It is better to use a lighter concentration more regularly than a stronger one more rarely. I currently use 0.5 but started at 0.25. Lots of people can handle 1.0, my skin just gets mad at it. Your dermatologist can also write you prescriptions for stronger ones, but I've never been able to go that strong. I used SkinMedica 0.25 for years and now use Skinceuticals 0.5. You can layer moisturizer first if your skin is sensitive. I've found with the cycling I no longer have to do that.
3. Moisturize. Same as above.

Recovery night x 2
2. Just moisturize!
And that's it. This routine works for me because even when I'm traveling I can still follow it - I used to use all the products everyday, so it's not any more to pack for a few different nights. Here's where I am on my cycle:

Last night (Friday):
Cleanse, Exfoliate, Moisturize

Tonight (Saturday night):
Cleanse, Retinol, Moisturize

Sunday & Monday nights:
Cleanse, Moisturize

Tuesday night:
Cleanse, Exfoliate, Moisturize

Wednesdsay night:
Cleanse, Retinol, Moisturize

Thursday & Friday nights:
Cleanse, Moisturize

Repeat forever. I may work in the TNS serum I linked above in the mornings once I feel like my skin is on really solid ground again. It was powerful- my skin was literally glowing and I've never had so many people comment on it- but it was too much for me to combine with travels, cold weather, dry skin, and my haphazard approach to moisturizing. For now, I'm sticking with exactly the above plan- I'll keep you posted on my progress!


  1. I had the same type of rosacea as you. When I lived in Dubai I was prescribed a cream called Soolantra to address the bumps on my cheeks. Within two months they were completely gone. I faithfully applied the cream for one year and the redness went away, too. I now live in the U.S. again and continue to get Soolantra prescribed by a dermatologist. Now, though, I only use it 1-2 times a week when I notice some redness developing. This medicine is seriously amazing, and I'm so happy that I learned about it. I want to pass this along in case it helps :)

    1. Thank you! I've written this down to ask about at my next dermatologist appointment!

  2. Thank you for the update! I literally was searching through your old posts for this specific purpose, haha.

  3. I have a question about timing - do you wait in between steps at all? or just layer them on one right after the other?

    1. I don't really wait. I've read that for retinol you should let it soak in for 15+ minutes, but now that I'm doing the active products on separate nights, I don't worry about it as much and just go straight to the moisturizer. Plus, any time I tried to delay, it basically meant I never did the next steps, so I've accepted that immediate layering is the only way for me!