2016 Skincare Journey & Favorites

by - January 18, 2017

For pretty much as long as I've been aware that skin can be anything other than just a casing for your body insides - read: since puberty hit - I've pretty much hated my skin. Of course, we always think that our skin is worse than other people think it is and looking back at pictures of myself when I was younger I realize that I never really had the most problematic skin. Still, it's always been an issue for me and one that I'm finally really addressing in an active way now that I'm in my 30s and I've got that fun stage where I'm dealing with both breakouts and early signs of aging.

2016 was a big year for me skin wise. I can really honestly say that now that we're in the early weeks of 2017, I'm happier with my skin than I've ever been before and I know that it's because I've been really trying to learn about skin care and what works for my skin and then taking those things and consistently using them in a daily routine. Rather than do a traditional 2016 Skincare Favorites post, I decided I wanted to go into a little bit more depth about my 2016 skincare journey and the things I've learned that have worked for my skin. There will be favorites listed here, but I feel like skin care is definitely about routine more than individual products so I want to take a look at that.

This will probably be a pretty long post, but I think I've learned some pretty good things this year, so I hope it's worth the read! Keep reading for more!

First off, I want to tell you guys a little bit about my skin. My skin type is normal leaning combination, meaning that I struggle mildly with both dryness and oiliness and a big focus of my skin care routine is keeping everything balanced. My skin also pretty significantly changes with the extremes of the seasons, meaning that in the heat and humidity of summer I lean oily and in the cold, dry conditions of the winter my skin can get really, really dry. I'm prone to hormonal breakouts and I do have some pitting and scarring as well as pigmentation from previous breakouts on my skin. For my age, I'm actually overall pretty happy with my situation of wrinkles. I have one deep line in my forehead that I've had since I was in my mid 20s and I have some fine lines around my eyes.


I think the biggest lesson I've learned about cleansing my skin is that a double cleanse is the way to go for me. Because most days I do wear makeup, it's really important to get in there and get that all off before I actually go in with a second cleanser and clean my skin. I like to use an oil as my first cleansing step, but I've also enjoyed using balms. Using dry hands, I smooth the oil over my skin and gently rub to release all of the makeup, and then I go in with a hot washcloth and press it to the skin to open my pores and start to remove the product from my skin. I know a lot of people like to emulsify the product with water and get it milky before removing it, but there's something about the feel of the emulsified oil on my face and hands that I just don't like so I don't do that. I tend to do one pass of the wash cloth, rinse it, and then do another pass to make sure I've gotten everything off my face. Next is when I go in with my skin cleanser. I like to use a gentle foaming or cream cleanser for this step and make sure to massage it into my skin for at least a minute before rinsing with water. Because foaming cleansers can be stripping, I'm pretty picky about what ones I reach for, and I think it's important to really pay attention to how your skin feels after you cleanse to decide if a cleanser is right for you.


2016 was really about learning about skin care ingredients for me. I'm still learning and I'm really fascinated with the subject, but I really think I've come to better understand the purpose of different skin care ingredients over the past year and have really learned which ones my skin loves.

The first is AHAs - specifically Glycolic and Lactic acids - which I've used in the past but really only consistently started using this year. For several years, uneven skin texture and little bumps on my skin were one of my most significant concerns and I really think that consistently using an acid exfoliator has helped me to better achieve that smooth, youthful skin texture I've always wanted. I started slowly with these, but now that they're a constant in my routine I use one almost every day.

Next is Retinoids. I actually hadn't used a retinoid until 2016 and now I definitely won't be going back. I did have a little bit of flaking when I first started using a retinoid, but since then I've had no irritation and I feel like consistent use has been a really significant part of the overall look of my skin improving. Also, I've actually seen a really difference in how deep that worry wrinkle in my forehead is over the past few months. It's still there, but it isn't nearly as deep as it was.

Finally, I've really seen a difference when I use products that have peptides in them. I love the plump, youthful appearance that these types of products give my skin, but more than that I like how they make my skin feel. It's hard to explain, really, but since I've been using them I really don't see myself going back from peptides.

If you're interested in reading about any of these ingredients, I highly recommend you do. My first resource was the Paula's Choice Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and I just kind of went from there, trying to suck up as much as I could about different skin care ingredients and what might work for my specific skin issues.


A lot of people look at, say, a Korean style skin care routine with the number of steps it has it in and think it's insane, but since I've adopted a routine that's a little more intense than the Cleanse Tone Moisturize routine that I remember learning from my mom as a kid, I've really seen significant improvements in my skin. A typical night time skin care routine for me is:
  1. 1. Remove Makeup. 2. Cleanse Skin¹. 3. Acid. 4. Face Mask². 5. Mist. 
  2. 6. Eye Cream. 7. Serum³. 8. Oil. 9. Cream/Sleeping Mask.

¹ About once a week, I replace my normal cleanser with a scrub to give physical exfoliation to my skin. On those nights, I tend to skin the acid step in my routine because I don't want to cause any irritation.

² This is a once or twice a week step for me most weeks, though I tend to go in a little more often with hydrating masks if I'm feeling under the weather or pore clearing masks when I'm in the throes of PMS. I use both sheet masks and pack masks in this step, generally sheet masks for hydration and pack masks for pore clearing... or sheet masks for everything when I'm real lazy and don't want to have to wash anything off.

³ My serum step is where the layering really comes in. While this is listed as one step, I usually use 2-3 different products during this step. Recently, I've been using a Retinoid every second night, which is a part of this step. I also consistently use a peptide serum and often a brightening serum. Because I do have quite a few different products on the go at any given time, I tend to rotate through different serums in this part of my routine. Because the different ingredients do different things and my skin has a variety of needs, I find that this works really well for me. It's really a matter of figuring out both what your skin needs and which products work best for you when layered together, but I find that once you get into the hang of it, it's a no brainer.

My morning routine is definitely a lot less intense, but no less important, in my opinion. Typically I go with:
  1. 1. Cleanse. 2. Mist. 3. Serum¹. 4. Moisturizer. 5. SPF.

¹ I personally really like a brightening serum for daytime, but I also like to layer it with a Vitamin C serum or a peptide serum to help give a little bit of life to my skin. Vitamin C is great for day time because it can boost the effectiveness of your SPF and it's an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from environmental damage. 


So... I'm not sure this particular thing is something that any skin care professional would necessarily recommend, but it's actually something that I've really found works well for my skin. About once a week, I throw my night time routine out the window. On these nights I generally take my eye makeup off with a biphase makeup remover on cotton rounds and then go in with an oil cleanse that's a little more intense than usual. And that's it. I leave my skin naked, hydrated lightly by whatever is left of the oil, and call it a night. I find that when I do this, my skin actually behaves a little bit better than when I diligently do my whole skin care routine every night. Also... makes a really good excuse when I feel like all I have the energy for is brushing my teeth.

The other break I like to take with my skin is from makeup. Because I LOVE makeup, I generally wear it almost every day, but I really find that when I spend a Sunday without doing anything to my skin, my skin seems to really love the vacation. I tend to do this about twice a month - usually on the Sundays when me and my boyfriend don't have family dinner, if I'm being honest. When I have a day when I can just stay in and keep it natural all day, I tend to take it.


So... yeah... I've been a bad bad girl for a lot of years when it comes to regular sun protection, but that has definitely changed over the past year. Because I've been using AHAs and Retinoids this year, I know that I need to be extra careful to protect my skin from sun damage. A big problem for me has always been finding a sunscreen that I actually want to wear on my face - and that won't break me out. I heard someone say once that you need to find a facial sunscreen that you like, otherwise you won't use it, and that really couldn't be more true for me. Now, I consistently apply my SPF every day as the last step in my morning routine and though I can't necessarily see the results of that now, I know that I'm protecting my skin from sun damage that will rear its head in the future. I - and pretty much anyone talking about skin care ever - can't stress enough how important it is to protect your skin from the sun, but particularly if you're using acids or retinoids in your skin care routine.


I know I haven't said anything here that you haven't heard before. I think we've all heard it before, from the importance of finding the right ingredients for your skin to protecting it with SPF. The biggest thing I've learned is that it's important to cherry pick different ideas and put together a routine and an arsenal of products that work for your skin. Trying things can be tedious - and expensive - but I do think it's important. Get a sample of products you've been wanting to try. Discontinue use if something really isn't working for you. Look into ingredients that will work for your specific needs. I really don't believe there's any one size fits all skin care routine, so it's important to try different things and see how your skin reacts.

If you got this far, I want to really sincerely thank you for reading! This was a really exciting post for me and I really enjoyed writing it.

Have a great day and come back soon!

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