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Skincare that’s NOT all-purpose

Jun. 7, 2018
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Photo from @glossier

There are always a few things to remember when it comes to skincare: ALWAYS wash your hands before you put them on your face, certain oils are VERY good for your face and serve a multitude of skin types, be safe as you can in the sun, and St. Ives apricot scrub is liquid sandpaper.


Every morning should start with a cleanse. Whether your skin is dry, oily, or both, the night’s germs and dead skin cells should be cleared away to promote healthy cell turnover. When dead skin stays on your face, it can clog pores and promote bacteria growth. Keep the temperature of the water you use about the same as how your face feels. Not too hot, and not too cold.


For combo skin, I like to use a gel-to-foam cleanser (The Body Shop’s tea tree cleanser) to chemically exfoliate. The foaming aspect lifts dirt from the surface of your face, and tea tree oil combats acne while maintaining hydration. Be sure to rinse a few times after you think you are done so there’s no residue left on your face. The leftover soap clashes with your skin’s natural pH. pH stands for potential of hydrogen, and it’s used to measure the negative log of hydrogen in a water-based solution (like soaps and cleansers). Our skin’s pH should be slightly acidic—about a 5.5, whereas 7 is considered neutral. Look for products that market themselves as “pH-balanced.” This means they have a pH close to that of our skin and hence won’t interfere with the acidity.

If you have oily skin, try to shoot for a cleanser that has more of an oil component. While this sounds extremely contradictory, hear me out: your face has sebaceous glands that produce sebum, aka the “oil” you see. Depending on your DNA, you may produce an excessive amount or very little. Drying out your skin causes the sebaceous glands to overreact—they think they need to make more to compensate for what was lost. Consequently, you end up with more acne and far oily skin. By introducing oils, you reduce the need for the glands to overwork themselves, and the pimples that are caused by oil overproduction go away faster. Use a cleanser that has natural oils like rosehip oil (which does a great job at removing those little bumps and the texture that comes with having oily skin), tea tree oil (it’s antibacterial and good for getting rid of breakouts fast) sunflower oil, or even clary sage oil, which has been used to heal wounds. If you have scars, this is great. Just be careful to not overdo it, and consult a dermatologist if you have any questions. I should also add that coconut oil is 50-50 when it comes to skincare. Some say it’s miraculous, and others disagree strongly. I've risked it once, and the results were horrible. Use your best judgment. 

If you have dry skin, shy away from heavy fragrances in both cleansers and moisturizers. You most likely have a greater sensitivity to fragrance chemicals. Keep the temperature of the water you rinse with warm and NEVER HOT. Scalding one’s face is never healthy. Go for an oil-based or cream cleanser, and look away from gels and foams. Both tend to be more chemically harsh and will do nothing in helping you retain moisture. Hyaluronic acid is great, but again, use your best judgment. It’s worked for some people and not for others. Don’t go too oil-heavy if you can help it.


Most people skip this step, but its crucial in regulating the pH level of your skin. When sprayed or applied with a cotton round, toner takes care of the dirt and eliminates soap your initial wash missed. The best part is it's pretty universal. Go with a toner that’s alcohol-free. Alcohol not only dries out your skin to the max but also dilates your blood capillaries, causing extreme redness. Thayer’s witch hazel is alcohol-free, super gentle, and I’ve never come across a single bad review.


It all depends on what area you want to target. There are gentle acne serums on the market; stick to natural ones. Vitamin C is amazing for acne scars. Derivatives of Vitamin B3 are great for hydration, too. A splendid thing is that serums often target the problem addressed in their product names. They are pretty straightforward, and there’s one for every type of issue. Drunk Elephant has AMAZING serums, and Glossier is a great starting point if you are just getting started. Keep in mind they can be quite a splurge, and some people choose to skip the step completely to avoid overloading on products.

Eyes and Anti-Aging

Some say it’s optional and some claim it’s never too early, but an amazing brand is Kiehl's. It won’t break you out, and the avocado eye cream is gentle yet effective.


This is possibly the most important step in skincare, and it has the most range, product-wise. Moisturization is crucial when it comes to maintaining elasticity in your skin, and hydration often gives off a healthy glow. In the morning, opt for a moisturizer without SPF (add it in as your last step before makeup). For my combination skin, I choose to layer my hydrators, starting out with a thin lotion like the La Roche Posay Toleriane and applying Nivea soft lotion on top. It hydrates yet doesn’t leave me super shiny. Using these two together also creates a base of hydration that lasts all day and looks splendid under makeup. Depending on your skin type, there are a number of lotions to help control shine and dryness alike. The Body Shop has an amazing seaweed gel that leaves you matte, and their tea tree lotion does the same. For sensitive yet oily skin, Burt’s Bees offers a natural and organic solution. Neutrogena has a similar product that really helps with redness. If your skin is dry to no avail, try going for Clinique’s moisture surge or Kiehl's ultra facial. If you feel like splurging, La Mer makes a wonderful cream that acts as a cure-all for almost everyone across the spectrum. (It’s one of the most expensive skincare items out there, costing up to $2,000).


The most overlooked part of almost everyone’s routine is sunblock. Shoot for a gel formula—these tend to be kinder to your skin than the chalky white stuff. Never go for anything under SPF 30, as it's just not as effective. Glossier makes a decent one, and Supergoop! has a good one as well.


Take it all off.

Use a gentle, non-exfoliating cleanser to remove your makeup. Physical exfoliators (scrubs, beads, grains, even rough washcloths) are used to rub off dead skin. When abused, they can cause microtears in the skin (remember the whole St. Ives lawsuit?) and make acne, dryness, or even normal skin worse. If your skin can handle it, use an oil-based cleanser like Palmer's cocoa butter, or Glossier’s milky jelly to dissolve your makeup. After you think you're clean, exfoliate sparingly to get all the product you’ve missed. Rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.

Moisturize (again).

You can choose to incorporate your morning routine into your night one (like I always do) and skip the SPF, or create a whole new routine. The order should be the same as the daytime: thinnest products to thickest, so you don’t have super heavy creams struggling to be absorbed while a thin liquid product slips around on top. Almost every brand mentioned has a nighttime line along with a daytime one, so you should have no problems finding products that work for you.

Sleeping Mask

More commonly known as a sleeping pack, this is a super easy option to skip out on a time-consuming night routine. Sleeping masks were originally targeted for humans with very dry skin in Korea, but ever since their move to the U.S., companies have developed masks that you can wear overnight for any skin problem imaginable. Basically, after you dry your face, you apply a medium amount of the mask to your face, ducking out from toning, moisturizing, serums, and all that jazz. It's one step; you go to sleep and wake up the next morning with amazing skin. Tony Moly has the most effective hydrating sleeping masks I’ve ever used, and The Body Shop makes some pretty dandy acne and anti-aging ones. Sweet dreams.

 Taking care of your face serves a different purpose for everyone. It can be confidence-boosting, meditative, and even pain-relieving. It secures a sense of control amidst a hectic life and allows you to see the positive change you’ve made, fast. None of this is to say people with imperfect skin are bad or flawed in any way. Your skin is your outer being and a big part of your identity, and with it, you are incredibly unique. The scars, freckles, eye bags, and acne are what sets us apart. What we may consider imperfections play a huge part in making us unique and different.