I’ve always taken a very simple, clean approach to my skincare routine. I frequently use honey as a face wash, worship at the altar of coconut oil, and hate putting makeup on beyond mascara and blush (gotta let my skin breathe). And for a long time, this simple routine kept my skin clear and bright.
And then I turned 30.
It was as if I woke up one morning and *bam!* my skin was different. It wasn’t as bright, I was breaking out a lot (especially along my jawline), and it just felt …. off. While some of this is due to age, there were other changes in my life that I know contributed to this change.
For starters, I switched birth control methods right after the 2016 election. I was nervous that a GOP-control government would make it more difficult to have access to free birth control, so I switched from a pill to an IUD. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my IUD but the change in hormones messed with my skin.
Second, I’ve been really stressed lately. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: it’s really difficult, scary, and emotionally exhausting to be a minority in America. And when I’m stressed, it shows in my skin. Let’s just say that my skin has been a mess from November 7.
After doing quite a bit of research, I decided that a modified approach to the (perceived) Korean skincare routine would be the best for my skin. I use a general 10 step skincare routine; I don’t do every step each time I implement my skincare routine (i.e., AM and PM) or even every day. But these 10 steps are the ones that I found work best for me and my skin (30+ combo).
My 10 Step Skincare Routine
1. First cleanse (PM)
My first cleanse happens during the PM and gets rid of any makeup or sunscreen on my face. I put sunscreen on my face every day that I leave the house, so I do a first cleanse almost every day. Balms and oils are your friends in this step. I know that a lot of people use makeup remover wipes as a first cleanse but for the love of gawd, please don’t do it (unless you're traveling or camping or do not have access to clean water).
2. Second cleanse (AM/PM)
This name is a bit misleading. While it is my second cleanse in the evenings after I take off makeup and sunscreen, it is my only cleanse in the AM). This is when I use a gentle cleanser (either milky or a bar) to make my skin squeaky clean.
3. Physical exfoliant (AM/PM)
(1x a week) Physical exfoliants are not my favorites but I do like to use a gentle physical scrub once a week, focused on my oily t-zone and jawline. I usually make my own (brown sugar + coffee grinds + coconut oil) but have found that some brands make awesome gentle scrubs.
4. Rinse-off Mask & Toner (PM)
(3x a week) Once my face is clean, I like to use a rinse-off mask (e.g., clay mask) about three times a week. After I remove the mask (with a washcloth), I use a light toner (usually rose water)to make sure that everything is off my face.
5. Serums (Chemical exfoliants / Vitamin C; AM/PM)
In the morning I use a vitamin C serum to brighten and even my skin while I love using chemical exfoliants (AHA/BHA) in the evening. Once a week I use a heavy-duty chemical exfoliant for a nice at-home facial.
6. Sheet Masks / Essences (PM)
(3-4x a week) I use a sheet mask every other day and probably my favorite step of this skincare routine. I love that I have to relax during my sheet mask time, which is so welcome at the end of a long day. Tip: I keep my masks in the refrigerator when it’s warm so that my masks are cool and refreshing.
7. Eye Treatment (AM/PM).
Please be careful with the thin, delicate skin around your eyes! I use an eye cream every night, applied by using my ring finger to lightly tap the product along my orbital bone. If I’ve had a rough night out or didn’t catch much sleep, I reach for gel eye masks in the morning.
8. Moisturizer (AM/PM).
I don’t care if you have oily skin you need a moisturizer. I use a combination of gels, creams, and emulsions, depending on my skin needs.
9. Sleeping Pack (PM).
When my skin is feeling really dehydrated, I reach for a sleeping pack. They are quick absorbing masks that moisturize your skin while you sleep. And don’t worry – they won’t leave a mess on your pillow.
10. Sunscreen (AM).
I have dark skin and sometimes like to tell myself that I don’t need sunscreen. That’s a dangerous lie. Even if I’m just running to the grocery store, I now make sure to wear sunscreen every time I leave the house. The main reason is that some of the serums and treatments that I use make skin ultra-sensitive to sunlight, increasing the likelihood of burning. No thanks.