I don’t know if my parents or siblings had favorite face products while I was growing up, but if they did, none of it made an impression on me. I was lucky enough to not have almost any acne as a teen (that came around in adulthood later), so that was a cross I didn’t need to bear. My cross was eczema, everywhere on my body but my face. It’s especially stubborn on my arms, legs, hands, and feet. When I was very little, I was so itchy all the time that I’d hide behind the couch and scratch my arms so no one would stop me. My parents put long socks on my arms and safety pinned them to my sleeves everyday to try and stop me.
Because my face was clear, my focus was on body lotion to combat the eczema. My mother bought things like Eucerin, Aquaphor, and the regular Aveeno for years, and those are the only skincare products I remember using. I also grew up avoiding short sleeves or shorts, because I start scratching exposed limbs without thinking, especially when I’m anxious. I’ve torn up my arms during enough stressful phone calls or sleepless nights that it became something I’ve had to deal with in therapy. W gently stops me all the time.
If you’re someone whose idea of a skincare routine is the water that gets on your face in the shower while you wash your hair, I was you once. You might not know about the wide, wide world of skincare, or you might, and you just don’t care or have the time. All of these are valid choices! Live your life!
Change happened for me sometime in my mid to late twenties in the form of new eczema on my face and adult acne on my forehead and neck. The eczema scared me the most, since I knew how long it can take to heal and how easily it can flare up in the same place again. I felt extra self conscious, and I didn’t know anything about makeup at the time (I wrote about my experience with makeup here). I began researching skincare and ended up reading the SkincareAddiction and AsianBeauty subreddits. The folks in these communities are so knowledgeable that it’s overwhelming, but I was promptly sucked in. Moisture barriers! AHAs vs BHAs! So many words in this new skincare lingo! With guidance from internet strangers, I was on my way.
After several years of experimentation and self-inflicted guilt over how much is too much to spend on self-care products, I’ve landed on a routine that works well for me. I don’t use all of these things every day, but this is what it looks like when I do. When I really stick to these steps, my face is significantly less itchy and inflamed. I also find taking the time to do them very therapeutic. Why not wear a face mask so you can stop thinking about climate change and threat of nuclear war both being things for a few minutes out of a day? If you’d like to know the sciencey reasons for some of the steps, check out those reddit gurus. They explain it better than I ever could!
1. A cleanser: COSRX Low PH Good Morning Cleanser (in shower)
2. An essence: MISSHA Time Revolution The First Intensive Moist Treatment Essence (on a cotton pad)
3. A moisturizer: Sulwhasoo Essential Firming Cream (I buy sample sizes because it adds up to a hell of a lot cheaper than buying the full size)
4. A lip balm: Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25 (best and only lip product that doesn’t seem to make the dryness worse after awhile…I’m looking at you, Chapstick)
1. A cleanser: Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser
2. In case of anything leftover: Garnier Micellar Water (on a cotton pad, it’s the one in a pink bottle)
3. An active: Pixi Glow Tonic (on a cotton pad) or Real Chemistry Deluxe Luminous 3 Minute Peel (dream exfoliating product I had a sample size of once and can’t bring myself to buy the full size of)
4. After 20 minutes with active on skin, an essence: MISSHA Time Revolution The First Intensive Moist Treatment Essence (on a cotton pad)
5. A second essence: COSRX Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence (on cotton pad) or COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (yes, it’s snail! yes, that’s weird! yes, it does feel weird and a little gross! yes, it works!)
6. A face mask or eye mask: Dermal Collagen Essence Full Face Facial Mask Sheet (these are my favorite ones, I buy them cheap on Amazon) or Etude House Collagen Eye Patch (also from Amazon)
7. After removing mask, a moisturizer: Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream
8. Tiny patches that help pimples overnight: COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch
9. A lip balm: Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25
10. Not a face product, but I wanted to mention it anyway: Alpha Skin Care Renewal Body Lotion 12% Glycolic AHA (using this twice a week or so helps the eczema on my body so much that I wish I’d found it 20 years ago!)
At this point, you might be cringing, thinking it sounds too complicated or like a waste of time. That’s okay! It’s not your time being wasted! It’s taken me awhile to let myself have things like this that are just for me, just because. It’s part of that whole self-care thing. Your self-care might be yoga (shudder) or watching those Instagram videos of squishy objects like Koosh balls getting cut in half. It’s weird and makes me very uncomfortable. But you do you!
Alternatively, you might be thinking this looks kind of like your own routine. Or simple compared to yours! To you, I say, right on, my friend! Live your best skincare life!