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My First Four Months on Differin .1%

On June 28, I placed an Amazon.com order for the 15 gram tube of Differin .1%. I was nervous, apprehensive, excited.  I’ve had a rough history with retinoid products, which I talked a bit about in my guide to visiting a dermatologist.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt the desire to  incorporate a retinoid into my routine for the benefits of improved cell turnover. As I talked about in my previous post on retinoids, adapalene is the most gentle of the retinoids, and .1% is the lowest dosage.

Ultimately, my goal is to be able to use .025% tretinoin (tretinoin remains the gold standard in dermatology for “anti-aging” benefits), but I felt that adapalene would be a good way to ease into this and make the transition a bit less irritating. While I’m not there yet, my first few months on Differin have been pretty painless, truth be told, and my skin looks better than ever.


My Skin Profile

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My skin on a very good day (and my hair on a very bad day), without retouching, before embarking on Differin

My skin is in relatively good shape. For some background, I’ve burnt very badly twice in my entire life – both times as a child – and have worn sunscreen in some capacity since I was 12 or 13. I’ve been blessed with pretty good acne genetics and only see acne flares around times of stress, excessive tiredness, autoimmune disease flare-ups, hormones, and of course, product changes. In fact, I’d say that products are the number one reason for most of my acne woes, as many of you who read this blog may already know. The longer or more complex the ingredient list, the more likely I am to avoid it at all costs.

Unfortunately, where I did not win the genetic lottery is in my rosacea. While it is blissfully mild due to catching it pretty early, it is persistent. It frequently creates small bumps along infraorbital triangle of my face (the area beneath the eye, above the nasolabial folds, and right beside the nose) as well as pockets of flushing. Even on my best days I have a bit of a rosy complexion. It does not cover well with makeup due to the flaky nature of the skin in this area, due to the rosacean redness.

My cheeks are the most sensitive portion of my face with my forehead being the least sensitive. Even makeup removing wipes feel too harsh and abrasive against my skin many times, and I can only use a very soft washcloth on my skin once a week.

My skin responds to irritation with acne breakouts. If I’ve pushed it too far with acids: acne. If I’ve pushed it too far with retinoids: acne. If I push it too far with physical exfoliants or a washcloth: acne. These breakouts are always tender, firm, under the skin bumps that linger for days to several weeks and leave flat scars.

I scar pretty easily, even in spots that I do not pick. For example, I am still fighting away hyperpigmentation on a spot that appeared on my cheekbone back in March of this year. Arbutin, azelaic acid, and other melanin-suppressants do not seem to do much for me in this regard.


The First Few Weeks

For the first three weeks, I went extremely slow. I applied every third night with the following routine:

AM

  • Apply sunscreen
  • Apply makeup

PM

  • Cleanse makeup and/or sunscreen with Clinique Take the Day Off Balm
  • Pat eyes and beneath my jaw dry with towel, leaving face wet.
  • Apply HadaLabo Premium Lotion generously to wet skin
  • Apply Cheryl Lee MD Lotion to skin while it is still damp
  • Allow lotions to dry about 20 minutes
  • Apply pea-sized amount of Differin .1% all over

I stopped usage when I experienced excessive tenderness during the day and resumed usage the next day. I experienced light peeling that was only visible when base makeup (like foundation or concealer) was applied. Some small breakouts surfaced on my forehead, near my hairline, and along my jaw. Breakouts resolved quicker and did not leave marks.

After around three weeks, I noticed that my skin peeled less and seemed less sensitive, so I bumped up usage to every other night. This is where I stayed under about month four.


Every Other Night

After the initial “every third night” period, I was able to bump up usage to every other night. This was where I was for quite awhile.

Initially, bumping the frequency caused slightly more peeling, but this was the only side-effect I noticed, and it began to subside around the seven week mark. I followed the same routine of application after moisturizing.

I noticed that my skin started to look glowier, healthier, more even-toned, and pigmentation began to subside a bit quicker. Makeup glided on easier, foundation looked better, and the pockets of flakes around my infraorbital triangle weren’t quite as bad. My rosacea also appeared to flare up slightly less.

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Makeup-free selfie from August 11

Everything was going great until I tried to adjust my usage to every night.


Achieving Every Night Usage

Around the middle of August, shortly after the above selfie was taken, I decided that my skin felt ready for every night usage. It was not.

Within three nights, I began to break out in small spots around my forehead and chin. My nose became very tender to the touch. I tried to exclude my nose from this nightly ritual for awhile, but the rest of my face quickly joined the rebellion. After five nights, I eased back and skipped two days of usage entirely to allow time to heal. I went back to using it every other night for roughly two more weeks. Unfortunately, the breakouts did not subside. My skin almost seemed to be reverting back to pre-Differin times with clogs and breakouts.

Around September 1st, I tried again with the same pre-Differin routine in place. This time, my skin responded perfectly. The breakouts healed within days, the small clogs in my pores began to roll out with my nightly oil cleanse, and my nose didn’t even feel excessively tender. There was not even a peel in sight. Just smooth skin.

 

I’m a little over three weeks into this routine of every night and my skin feels no different (irritation wise) than it did at every other night.


Takeaways

While many people feel that application of Differin or other retinoids on dry skin is paramount, my experience has actually been opposite. As someone with extremely irritation-prone skin, moisturizing before applying my retinoid (and gradual introduction) has unquestioningly been the biggest factor of success. For me, application on dry skin always lead to redness, peeling, and excessive breakouts, possibly due to the increased TEWL and more compromised nature of the skin barrier post-cleansing.

I’ve also moved extremely slowly and patiently, unlike in the past where I had bum-rushed my way into retinoid usage. This was also a factor in reducing irritation and subsequent breakouts.

One note is that I haven’t really experienced any dryness. In fact, the Differin base seems fairly moisturizing to me. Again, I attribute a lot of this to the application of moisturizer after cleansing and before using Differin.

I imagine I’ll be able to introduce tretinoin at some point early next year – maybe by late this year – but for now, things are going great.

Have you tried using Differin .1%? How do you use it and how long was your breaking in period? 

 

 

 

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My Routine: June 2018

by Kristen
My Routine: June 2018

I’ve made some changes to my routine since I wrote my first routine post back in May, and I feel like my skin has been much better for it. Certainly I’ve tried some new products, which I will be reviewing in the coming days, but I have landed on something so simple and so bland that I never would have imagined it would work for me.

If you are curious about the plethora of ingredients I cannot use, want to know some back-story on my skin, or read mini-reviews (plus ingredients!) of each product, please check out my first routine post.


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Products

My routine has largely remained the same, but I’ve jostled products around, removed many, and added jojoba oil (Trader Joe’s brand, which was the cheapest I could find).

Product List

  • HadaLabo Goku-jyun Premium
    • Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, PPG-10 methyl glucose ether, hydroxyethyl urea, sodium acetylated hyaluronate (super hyaluronic acid), sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid (nano hyaluronic acid), hydroxypropyltrimonium hyaluronate (skin absorbent type hyaluronic acid), sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer (3D hyaluronic acid), aphanothece sacrum polysaccharide (sacrum), hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, glycosyl trehalose, diglycerin, sorbitol, pentylene glycol, triethyl citrate, carbomer, polyquaternium-51, PEG-32, PEG-75, ammonium acrylates crosspolymer, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, diethoxyethyl succinate, disodium succinate, succinic acid, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben. 
  • Trader Joe’s Jojoba Oil
  • Trilogy Rosehip Oil
  • Clinique Take the Day Off Balm
    • Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic / Capric Triglyceride, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Polyethylene, PEG-5 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Water / Aqua / Eau, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol.
  • CoTZ Sensitive SPF 40 Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB
    • Active: Zinc Oxide 20% (Sunscreen). Inactive: C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Disodium EDTA, Glycerin, Methicone, Microcrystalline Wax, PEG-10 Dimethicone, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Chloride, Stearyl Dimethicone, Tetrahexadecyl Ascorbate, Triethanolamine, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Water.
  • Finacea 15% Gel
  • Tretinoin .025% Gel

Cleanser

Since writing my last post, I’ve finished a tub of Clinique Take the Day Off Balm and re-purchased. It is my stand-by, my forever cleanser.

Since my skin is dry, I’ve begun only cleansing PM with this cleanser and one of the microfiber towels resting atop the HadaLabo that is pictured above. I wipe away most of the excess cleanser with the towel, but very lightly. This exfoliates my skin lightly, and doesn’t irritate me.

Moisturizer

Swapping out my Cheryl Lee MD Lotion for a simpler routine, I add 3-5 drops of Hada Labo Premium to my palm, along with 3-5 drops of jojoba oil and 2-3 drops of the Trilogy Rosehip Oil (which I am almost out of). I massage my hands together, which creates this lovely, slippery emulsion, and spread it across my face, down my neck, and across my chest. It’s lovely, hydrating, and doesn’t leave me as dry in the AM as when I was using traditional moisturizer or when I use do steps separately (example: applying the Hada Labo, then the oil).

I feel like the real game-changer for me in this was the addition of jojoba oil. I actually wasn’t sure if jojoba oil was going to work for me, but I picked up a bottle of it on one of my last Trader Joe’s visits and began slathering it on unapologetically. To my surprise and delight, my skin took to it immediately, looking less red and feeling softer, plumper, and less flaky.

I definitely owe a whole post to jojoba in the future. I’m a convert.

Sunscreen

Still the same ol’ same ol’ (CoTZ Sensitive SPF 40 Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB). I think I’m about halfway through this tube, and it is still one of my favorite sunscreens around, instantly soothing my skin.

It can settle into my fine lines, such as around my nose and the 11s on my forehead, but this isn’t a huge deterrent for me. It just means I need to make sure to make sure to wipe it away at night with a cleanser (especially since I’ve missed the creases of my nostrils before, which has created a build-up of dead skin and sebum).

Treatments

I am still using Finacea (15% Gel), possibly until the day I die, and have added tretinoin .025% gel every third or fourth day. I only apply it to my forehead and chin (my cheeks and rosacean areas are simply far too sensitive) so it is way too early to tell what benefit this has had on my skin, but this is absolutely the most I’ve ever been able to use it successfully, without breakouts or even excessive peeling.

What My Routine Looks Like

My routine is still heavily based around what my skin looks like or feels like. Since I started to include tretinoin back into my routine, I notice slightly more peeling, for instance, so I try to keep that in check.

AM

  • Mix HadaLabo Premium with Jojoba Oil and massage into face, down neck, and onto chest.
  • Apply sunscreen
  • Apply eye makeup
  • Follow with powder, face makeup, and then more powder to set.

PM

  • Work in Clinique Take the Day off Balm
  • Lightly wipe away with a makeup removing microfiber towel and rinse with cool water until water runs clear off of my face.
  • Mix HadaLabo Premium with Jojoba Oil and massage into face, down neck, and onto chest
  • Apply Finacea to flushed spots.
  • Apply tretinoin .025% to neck and chin area every third or fourth day.
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My Routine – May 2018

by Kristen
My Routine – May 2018

I have sensitive skin. I’ve spent years and thousands of dollars on my skin. Following a rough bout with tretinoin in my early 20s, I really began to dig in deep on what I could and couldn’t use as well as what worked for me.

I won’t lie to you: This has taken me years, and I am still changing it here and there on occasion. Sometimes I switch out my trusty Vaseline for a more comfortable sleeping mask, or I try out a new hyaluronic acid serum, but much of the time, I land right back where I was.

To give you an idea of how sensitive my skin is, I know for certain that I cannot use the following ingredients:

  • Polymethylsilsesquioxane
  • Cetareth-20
  • Argan oil
  • Sunflower seed oil
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Almond oil
  • Squalane
  • Coconut oil
  • Virtually all essential oils
  • Most products with fragrance

Despite knowing all of this, some things I’ve used still give me grief for unknown reasons. If you’d like a full list of the products (that I remember) that I cannot use, I’ve created a Google Sheet full of the products with the name and ingredients which you can view here.

As such, I’ve become very stringent about reading ingredient lists. In fact, I avoid most oils and ferments, and I won’t even touch squalane (which has become very popular in recent years, much to my frustration).

With that in mind, I have learned that I can use ingredients I previously ruled out, including:

  • Fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol
  • Rosehip seed oil

Every time I add an ingredient to my list of “things I can use that I thought I couldn’t,” it feels like a little bit of a celebration.

So now that we’ve talked a little bit about what I cannot use, let me show you what I can (and do!) use every day and give you a mini-review of each.


Cleansers

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Bioderma Sensibio H2O, Lancome BiFacil, HydraLight Face Cleanser, Clinique Take the Day Off Balm

Bioderma Sensibio H2O

Water, Peg-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Propylene Glycol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Mannitol, Xylitol, Rhamnose, Fructooligosaccharides, Disodium Edta, Cetrimonium Bromide

My bottle of this has the old label of “Crealine” but it is the same formula as the Sensibio. It has a fairly bland ingredient list and minimal scent. I’ve used it for years to remove makeup mistakes, cleanse my eyelids to prep for eye makeup, and give my skin a once-over before makeup application between my AM and PM washings.

To use, I soak a Japanese cotton (MUJI Unbleached Cotton) and just wipe away. For makeup mistakes, I just stick a q-tip (or cotton bud) into the dispenser and soak it. It’s perfect for cleaning up wings or lipstick application mistakes this way.

It does leave my skin feeling a little dry (but not tight) when used all over, and it does not feel as “clean” as if I washed it with my normal cleansers, but it is an excellent remover nonetheless. I’ve used it for years and would have no problem recommending it to anyone else.

Lancome BiFacil

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Isohexadecane, Sodium Chloride, Poloxamer 184, Hexylene Glycol, Dipotassium Phosphate, Benzyl Alochol, Potassium Phosphate, Quaternium-15, Benzalkonium Chloride, Fragrance, Citronellol, Geraniol.

This is my eye makeup remover for days when I’ve worn a budge-proof liquid liner, false lashes, or mascara. It is also really good at removing matte liquid lipstick formulas that don’t remove with Bioderma Sensibio or my Clinique remover.

It needs shaken up, and is pretty oily on the skin, but is honestly the best eye makeup remover I’ve used. I’ve tried the Target Up&Up knock-off as well as the Neutrogena dupe, and they all went into the trash. This is it for me: The best eye makeup remover I’ve ever used.

To use, I simply soak a Japanese cotton and then press it to my closed eyelid, letting it soak away the makeup. *Chef’s kiss*

Paula’s Choice Hydralight One Step Face Cleanser

Water, Glycerin (skin-replenishing ingredient), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (gentle cleansing agent), Sodium PCA (skin-replenishing ingredient), Sodium Lactate, Glycine, Fructose, Urea, Niacinamide, Inositol (water-binding agents), Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Lactic Acid (water-binding agent), Allantoin (soothing agent), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-replenishing ingredient), PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate (texture enhancer), Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate (stabilizer), Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate (gentle cleansing agent), Xanthan Gum (texture enhancer), Triethanolamine (pH balancer), Carbomer (texture enhancer), Benzophenone-3 (stabilizer),Methylparaben, Propylparaben (preservatives).

There are a lot of feelings out there for Paula’s Choice products, and I have used several of her products (some with success, some with not-so-much success). However, this has been an old standby.

As a teenager, I used an Aveeno Oatmeal Bar on my face, but it became increasingly hard to find, and before long, I wanted to use a liquid cleanser. After much searching and sampling, I landed on this one, and I haven’t changed it since. Sure, I’ve had flirtations with other products, but I always return to the Paula’s Choice. I’ve repurchased it maybe five or six times, and always the 16oz. bottle (which is HUGE — the last one took me two years to finish).

It is clear, unscented, and non-offensive. A basic, no-frills cleanser, it barely suds and leaves my skin feeling clean but not parched. Creamy cleansers break me out, and other forms of foaming cleansers have been too foamy, stripping my delicate skin of essential moisture.

To use, I squeeze about a dime’s worth in my dampened palm, working it together first before applying to my face. I work in gentle, circular motions all over, running my hands under the (cool — not cold or hot) water occasionally, and then going back to massaging. This way, I am diluting my cleanser more and more, slowly removing it but ensuring it has a chance to work off all of the oils and dirt on my skin. It takes me about ~1 minute to wash my face this way, and it always feels clean but not at all dry after.

Clinique Take the Day Off Balm

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Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic / Capric Triglyceride, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Polyethylene, PEG-5 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Water / Aqua / Eau, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol.

Ever used a product only to realize that this is it — this is the one that you’ll never be without? That this is your product soulmate? That is me and my Clinique Take the Day Off Balm. In fact, I love it so much that I took a photo of it — lid off — to show you what it looks like inside.

I’ve used this remover for years. I’ve had my bag swabbed by the TSA because I refused to be without it. I’ve dragged my girlfriends across a mall in Las Vegas to buy this product because I forgot to pack it. I’ve probably been through ten or fifteen tubs of it, and start to panic when I run low.

It is the perfect makeup remover for me. It is a balm, so it travels great and doesn’t spill out of my hands; it has a simple ingredient list; it is unfragranced; it feels luxurious when massaged into the skin; and it rinses perfectly clean, leaving my skin supple and moisturized.

To use it, I run my finger along the inside, scooping out a small amount, and working it in my hands a little. From there, I simply massage it into my face, taking care to sweep it over my eyes to loosen up pesky mascara. I even massage it into my lips to remove lipstick. After my makeup feels sufficiently loosened, I rinse it away. It does take a good couple rinses to remove, but you’ll know once it is off because the water will run clear. Some days I follow this with my Paula’s Choice cleanser, but most days I don’t.

On days where my skin is particularly dry, I actually swap this in as my normal cleanser and just use a smaller amount. It is that moisturizing to my skin.

The only caution I have for you is to not get caught up massaging this in for too long if you have very sensitive skin like me. The nonstop rubbing and friction tends to irritate my skin (not the product, just the massaging).

To speed up removal of it, I’ve used soft makeup removing microfiber towels (not washcloths — microfiber towels for the face are much softer). Just damp the towel and gently wipe. Rinse out the towel and splash your face until the water runs clear.


Moisturizers

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Avene Thermale Water, HadaLabo Gokujyun Premium, Cheryl Lee MD Hydrate, Correct & Perfect Lotion, and plain Vaseline Jelly

Avene Thermale Water

Water (Aqua), Nitrogen.

I feel almost ridiculous giving ingredients for this product, but I am nothing if not consistent.

While I know that this product is, essentially, fancy distilled water, it is convenient and it does seem to soothe my skin, especially after a shower in Los Angeles tap water. While it is not technically a moisturizer, I use it in conjunction with the HadaLabo to “boost” the moisture in my applications.

To use, I spritz some of this fancy French water on a Japanese cotton and then drizzle a little HadaLabo on it. While I know I could apply this with my hands, the little bit of extra friction from the cotton seems to give my skin just the right amount of exfoliation.

Adding water to the HadaLabo step has given it a bit of extra “oomph” and something to hold onto from the start.

Alternatively, you could apply your HA serums right out of the shower, before patting your face dry.

HadaLabo Gokujyun Premium Lotion

Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, PPG-10 methyl glucose ether, hydroxyethyl urea, sodium acetylated hyaluronate (super hyaluronic acid), sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid (nano hyaluronic acid), hydroxypropyltrimonium hyaluronate (skin absorbent type hyaluronic acid), sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer (3D hyaluronic acid), aphanothece sacrum polysaccharide (sacrum), hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, glycosyl trehalose, diglycerin, sorbitol, pentylene glycol, triethyl citrate, carbomer, polyquaternium-51, PEG-32, PEG-75, ammonium acrylates crosspolymer, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, diethoxyethyl succinate, disodium succinate, succinic acid, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben.

For years I’ve used the classic HadaLabo Gokujyun Lotion — the watery toner classic. Whenever the Premium came along, I knew I had to try it.

It is much stickier and thicker than the original, and it does moisturize my skin much better. My skin is dry and I live in a drier climate, so it is perfect. I frequently wear it AM and PM under sunscreen and makeup as the first step in my routine. It just locks in moisture and plumps up my skin, making it instantly look healthier and glowier.

One thing I will note is that when I took this product with me on a trip back home to Houston, I looked moister than an oyster for days and had to back down on using it only at night. Indeed Houston is much more humid than Los Angeles, and this product did it’s job at sucking up all of the outside moisture. Unfortunately for me, I spent the week looking slimy and oily until I realized that it was probably a bit too much during the day. Just something to think about if you live in a humid climate.

Cheryl Lee MD Hydrate, Correct, and Perfect Lotion

Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Coconut), Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Polyglycery l-10 Pentastearate, Behenyl Alcohol, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, 1,3 Propanediol (from Corn), Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, Ceramide 3, Phytosphingosine, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Niacinamide, Glycyrrhetinic Acid (Licorice Root), Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, 1,2- Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Gluconolactone

For years, I used Elta MD PM — an objectively great product but not enough moisture for my skin — and then I found Cheryl Lee MD products. In fact, introducing more hydration to my routine with these products cured a majority of my acne. Yeah — it shocked me too. Imagine my surprise when I started to slather products on my face that contained ingredients that I thought were problematic for my skin (namely cetyl alcohol) and my acne actually got better. I haven’t been without a tube since, and have found nothing that works as well for my skin. 

I alternate between the Lotion and the Ceramide+ Cream at any given time. Both are great for me, though the lotion is noticeably lighter and preferential at times when I don’t feel so parched.

I’ve used both for years now, as does my mom, and have found them to be a real treasure that I couldn’t be without. To use, I simply dispense about a dime-sized amount into my hand and pat in.

I do feel the need to say that I am unaffiliated with Cheryl Lee MD in any way though, as there was a debacle a couple years back on Reddit with a team of moderators spreading affiliate links for this product and doing their best to benefit from their position within the community.

Vaseline Jelly

White Petrolatum, USP (100%)

Vaseline has been with me since almost the beginning. Bland, boring, beautiful. When I am dry, it is the last thing to grace my face, and when I am irritated, it is the first and only thing to go on.

I can’t really say much more than that. It is a beautifully simple product that just works. My skin looks and feels plump when I use it on top of my moisturizers, though I do stick to pillows a bit at night.

To use, I take a small glob and work it between my hands to warm it up before patting it into my skin. I use it mostly after all of the steps in my routine, but also immediately after a shower (right after stepping out, still in the steam) on lazy days.


Sunscreen

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CoTZ Sensitive SPF 40 Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB

 

Active: Zinc Oxide 20% (Sunscreen). Inactive: C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Disodium EDTA, Glycerin, Methicone, Microcrystalline Wax, PEG-10 Dimethicone, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Chloride, Stearyl Dimethicone, Tetrahexadecyl Ascorbate, Triethanolamine, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Water.

You may notice that sunscreen stands alone as a single item in its category, and that’s because this single sunscreen has made me neglect all others.

CoTZ sunscreen is 20% Zinc Oxide and has an estimated PPD value of 10, which is pretty good for a US sunscreen. For perspective, one of the highest PPD value sunscreens you can obtain in US sunscreens is La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily with SPF 15 which has an estimated PPD value of 10.5.

This sunscreen is fairly thick and definitely produces a white cast upon application. I would not recommend this for darker skin tones or oilier skin unless you plan to wear makeup over it, but for fairer skins it is excellent. The zinc soothes my rosacea, and it leaves a dewy, luminous finish. Since I began wearing it, the acne on one side of my face cleared up and the hyperpigmentation left behind by Christmas zits is finally disappearing. Take that as you will.

To use, I apply it after my HadaLabo Premium, in place of a moisturizer. I eyeball a quarter teaspoon, dot it all over, and then work it in, making sure to coat my entire face evenly (sans eyelids).

While it sets a bit, I do eye makeup and eye brows, and then dust my face all over with transluscent powder. This dries down the sunscreen, which can otherwise look a bit greasy. Then I apply my usual foundation with a beautyblender-esc sponge, as to not shift the sunscreen around too much.

To remove, I use my Clinique TTDoB. I have run into some trouble with removing it, even with this method, as it is a pretty oil and waterproof sunscreen. To combat this, I simply work in my Paula’s Choice cleanser and then gently wipe away with a microfiber cloth. I usually follow this with a very gentle second cleansing, just to make sure the product has been removed from my skin.

As an anecdote, I’ve also had my boyfriend use this sunscreen on his eczema-prone face and not only does it work for him, it seems to soothe his eczema and hydrate his skin.


Treatments

 

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Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid, Paula’s Choice 5% Benzoyl Peroxide, Finacea Gel, 15%

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid

Water (Aqua), Methylpropanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Polysorbate 20 (stabilizer), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (green tea/skin calming/antioxidant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH balancer), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizer).

This bottle is old. I don’t use it often, but when I break out from a product or travel, out it comes. An oldie but goodie, this product is sold in two lines on Paula’s Choice’s website. It is the same formula for both the Skin Perfecting liquid (pictured here) as well as the Extra Strength CLEAR Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution.

It is an excellent zit-buster, and even better clog-buster for me. It dries my skin out very minimally, and even seems to soothe the spots I have. It will dry me out if I use it very frequently, but I only tend to use it for four or five days in a row, and only at night.

One note is that I do not use this on my rosacean areas. For whatever reason, BHA products make my rosacea look blotchy and flushed. Finacea only for those regions.

The texture of this product is watery but almost a bit… slimey? Oily? Slippy? It’s hard to describe. I would not recommend wearing it under makeup and allocating it to “night time only.”

To use, I dump a small amount of product out in my palm — no cottons required here. I then wipe it onto my forehead, pat it into my cheeks, chin, and my nose.

Paula’s Choice 5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide 5% (anti-acne)
Inactive Ingredient: Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol (hydration/penetration enhancer), Bisabolol, Allantoin (skin-soothing), Acrylates C10-30 Alkyl Acrylates Crosspolymer (texture-enhancing), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Sodium Citrate (stabilizer), Laureth-4 (stabilizer), Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol (preservatives), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

A fairly new addition to my routine, this product is simply around to zap hormonal zits. You know the ones — those big honkers that sit under the skin on your chin until they rise up to turn into double-headed monsters that refuse to go away quietly.

It is bland (all things considered) and very effective. Best part is that it goes on clear as opposed to other BP spot treatments that create a weird, white film.

To use, I dispense the tiniest amount to the back of my hand and then dot it onto the spot with a Q-tip. I only use this at night.

Finacea Gel, 15%

Each gram of FINACEA Gel, 15%, contains 0.15 gm azelaic acid (15% w/w) as the active ingredient in an aqueous gel base containing benzoic acid (as a preservative), disodium-EDTA, lecithin, medium-chain triglycerides, poly-acrylic acid, polysorbate 80, propylene glycol, purified water, and sodium hydroxide to adjust pH.

Finacea is my favorite product to combat my rosacea. Well, that and moisture.

When I first began to use Finacea, it tingled and felt itchy. Anyone who has used azelaic acid knows what I am talking about here. It just feels like little pin-pricks on your skin.

Fortunately, I am past this stage of rosacea, and now it only seems to happen when my skin is well-exfoliated. In fact, at this point, I take the pin-pricking itches as a sign that I may have gone too far and irritated my skin a bit, hence the pin-prickly goodness.

Finacea soothes my rosacean flushing and controls the flat pustules that always accompany my flush. When my skin is doing particularly well, it doesn’t even get the characteristic dryness in those rosacean spots.

To use, I simply dab a less-than-pea-sized (usually about half a pea?) on the back of my hands and apply to the places where I flush, which in my case is by my nose, where cheek-meets-nose. I don’t apply much — just enough to feel like I have some “slip” under my fingers, but not enough to have excess that I am wondering what to do with.


What My Routine Looks Like

So for me, my routine is pretty based around what my skin feels or looks like. If it is troubled, I’ll use more of my actives (BHA, BP, Finacea) , but if it is doing okay, I’ll use just my Finacea as an active. Most days though, it looks like this:

AM:

  • Apply Avene Water to cotton, drizzle on HadaLabo, and massage into skin, especially dry areas.
  • Apply my sunscreen.
  • Apply eye makeup.
  • Follow with powder, face makeup, and then more powder to set.

PM

  • Work in Clinique Take the Day Off Balm.
  • Lightly wipe away with a makeup removing microfiber towel (I am currently using Ulta’s Removing Towels) and rinse with cool water until water runs clear off of my face.
  • Gently work in Paula’s Choice Cleanser, if needed
  • Apply Avene Water to cotton, drizzle on HadaLabo, and massage into skin, especially dry areas.
  • Apply BHA, if needed, to outer perimeter of face.
  • Apply Finacea, if needed, to flush spots.
  • Apply Cheryl Lee MD Moisturizer (Lotion or Cream).
  • Apply BP, if needed, to spots, and allow to dry.
  • Pat in Vaseline on dry spots or over whole face, if needed.

On lazy days, this is what my PM routine looks like (especially if straight out of a shower, when my skin is moist, clean, and supple):

  • (In shower) Work in Clinique Take the Day Off Balm.
  • (If not in shower, otherwise let the shower just rinse it away) Lightly wipe away; rinse away with cool water until water runs clear.
  • Apply Vaseline

And that’s about it! My skin has remained in pretty good shape due to this routine, and I don’t make many tweaks to it. I’ve used a majority of these products for years, and they are old standbys that I feel fairly safe recommending to most sensitive-skinned folk.

 

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