My Reluctant Journey to Becoming a Skincare Maximalist

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So, FINALLY—let’s talk skincare!

Some background: I was lucky enough to have pretty good skin growing up, other than a very normal bout with acne when I was a teenager. My mom always taught me good skincare habits, but I kept things pretty simple: washing with a gentle cleanser, using a moisturizer with SPF, and occasionally exfoliating with a gentle scrub. For the most part, the less I did, the happier my skin was, so I pretty much let it be (and tried to stay out of the sun), and I was pretty much in the clear.

That started to change in my mid-20s. At the time, I had a very stressful editorial job that also required me to constantly test out new beauty products. One day, I tested an expensive, cult-favorite face cream and broke out into a crazy rash. Even though I immediately stopped using the cream, it was like my skin’s texture completely changed (in retrospect, I think I’m allergic to glycolic acid, so now I avoid it). My skin was suddenly bumpy, itchy, red, irritated, and dry—but with clogged pores (like small whiteheads). The outbreak was so bad that I remember staying home one weekend and just rubbing hydrocortisone cream on my skin, trying to calm it down.

The rosacea eventually cleared up, but from that point on, it was like a switch had been flipped—and I suddenly had VERY sensitive, easily-irritated skin. Once again, I went back to a very basic routine of cleanser + moisturizer and tried (mostly successfully), to keep my skin under control by using very simple, gentle products. Flash forward to having a baby and turning 30, and it’s like my skin had gone completely haywire again. My face was bumpy, red, and irritated, almost all of the time. Some days I was truly broken out in what seemed like hives all over my face. My rosacea would get even worse when I had wine, or if I was especially tired or stressed, but there was pretty much some form of bumpy redness/irritation going on all the time. Here’s photographic evidence if you don’t believe me (and this is WITH makeup on):

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Yikes, I know.

So, that’s a lot of background info, but I want you to understand the context of how bad things were. To try to improve my skin, I realized that I would have to step up my game with my product routine, but it was a process to figure out what my skin actually needed. First, I realized that the makeup wipes I was using before bed were probably doing my skin zero favors, so I started washing my face for real. I added in a retinol alternative, and I started masking on the regular. Then, I started consulting again with my beloved Fresh in their copy department (where I had worked a couple of years ago), and I was lucky enough to receive two of their new products that I had been dying to try. Within a matter of days, my skin was completely different.

So, without further ado, here are the products I’m currently using. It is a LOT, but both the morning and evening routines go quickly.

MORNING

  • Cleanse in the shower with Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Cleansing Foam, a gentle cleanser that smells fantastic.
  • Every second or third day, I’ll follow a gentle cleanser with a physical exfoliant—I’ve been loving Seaweed Bath Co. Purifying Micro-Scrub. Here’s the thing with this stuff: it is a SERIOUS scrub. Micro-scrubs can seem like they’re gentler than other scrubs because they feel less gritty, but they are actually finer and MORE abrasive than traditional face scrubs. But, I feel like the fine grain of this scrub does a more thorough and even job of exfoliating than other scrubs I’ve used—I just have to make sure to be gentle and not over-scrub or my skin will freak, as it did the first time I used it.
  • Apply Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence. I’m pretty sure that this is truly the product that changed my skin. It’s a very thin serum, almost like water, but it absorbs almost immediately and just makes my skin SO happy. It’s incredible.
  • Apply Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum. I’ve been really liking plant-alternative retinols and AHAs; they exfoliate and encourage increased cell turnover without the harsh side effects of prescriptions like Retin-A.
  • Depending on how dry my skin is, I will add Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil, which has the loveliest light-yet-nourishing texture and a beautiful rose scent, or Acure Brilliantly Brightening Glowing Serum, which is a nice, light oil-based serum.
  • Next up, I apply Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Daily Shade Facial Lotion SPF 18. I have used and loved this day lotion for years; it’s only 15 bucks but it feels and smells so luxurious. Admittedly, SPF 18 is not the highest, but my foundation has sunscreen as well, and I generally try to stay out of the sun.
  • Finally, if my eyes are puffy (which, let’s be honest, they usually are), I’ll apply a bit of Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Eye Revive Contour Gel. Yes, I essentially own and use the entire Andalou Naturals Rose line; it’s so good and so affordable that I’m just like gimmeallofit.

So, that’s the morning routine. If you think that’s a lot, just wait for the evening routine.

EVENING

  • So, to start, I’m actually washing my face with a REAL cleanser—those little wipey things do not cut it. It’s amazing how easy it is to fall into a bad habit, and man, I was hooked on the delight that is washing one’s face while in bed, but I finally had the realization that I was doing my skin zero favors by doing a subpar job of cleaning my skin. And, let’s be real—it makes no sense that you don’t rinse your face with water after using one of these things. So, I was doing a subpar job of cleaning my face, and then leaving behind whatever questionable ingredients did the subpar cleansing behind. I was going to bed with makeup and cleanser debris on my face every night—no wonder my skin hated me so much! So, I finally got back into the habit of actually washing my face with real cleanser—I’ve been loving Sailor Sea Splash Cleanser from Captain Blankenship’s capsule line for Target. Bonus: the real cleanser + water routine is actually a lot faster than trying to wipe off all of my makeup with a cleansing cloth. Go figure.
  • Next, I will do a mask—not every night, but a few times a week. I’ve been alternating a handful of options lately, depending on what my skin needs:
  • Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask: the ultimate clay mask, in my opinion. When I started working at Fresh, I learned the story behind their Umbrian Clay line—basically, the company founders had a friend whose decades-long battle with acne was cured after she used a certain kind of clay as a mask while she was traveling in Umbria, Italy. Now, Umbrian Clay is an exclusive ingredient to Fresh, which is very cool. It’s super-purifying and really gives the feeling like it’s sucking all of the grossness out of your pores, but it has lavender water in it so it soothes and comforts at the same time. So good, especially during gross Brooklyn summers.
  • Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask: I edited copy for this campaign the last time I worked for Fresh, but I just got the chance to finally try it and O. M. G. The story with this mask is that it gently exfoliates with naturally-occurring alpha hydroxy acids that are found in citrus peel, and for me, it TRULY does what it says: it leaves my skin incredibly healthy and vibrant-looking. Note: the product does include real chunks of citrus peel in it, so it looks and feels like you smeared your face with orange marmalade while you’re using it—which, frankly, I don’t love. But, it’s a small price to pay for skin that’s perfectly exfoliated with ZERO irritation…YASS. Another note: the directions say to use it 2-3 times a week, but when I first got it, I used it a few nights in a row, and it worked beautifully.
  • Sailor Smooth Sailing Gentle Resurfacing Mask: another great mask that gently exfoliates with AHAs found in fruit.
  • Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Rosewater Mask: if my skin is itchy/irritated/generally pissed off, this is a simple, soothing mask that calms everything down with rosewater, aloe, and hyaluronic acid.

So, there you go. It’s a lot, I know. But, if you’re raising your eyebrows at me, I have further proof to offer that this routine makes a huge difference for me: shortly after taking my “after” picture that’s at the top of this post where my skin looks great, I traveled to a wedding over Labor Day weekend, and I didn’t bring my new products because they were too big and bulky to stash in a carry-on. By the end of the weekend, my skin was back in “before” mode: bumpy, irritated, red, etc. After returning home and getting back into my routine, my skin quickly got back on track. I guess my minimal skincare days are behind me—but honestly, I’m just grateful to have found products that WORK. And, it’s a bonus that I didn’t have to turn to harsh chemicals and/or prescriptions to see a difference in my skin, which I had been seriously considering when I was desperate.

So, is this the perfect skincare routine for everyone? Definitely not, but for me, I’ve had to (reluctantly) admit that I am now High-Maintenance Fancy Skincare Lady that needs a medicine cabinet full of products to keep shit under control. So here we are.

That being said, if I had to make a few general statements about which products/steps have made the biggest difference with my skin, here we go:

  1. Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Facial Essence. I really believe that this is the product that’s made the biggest difference in my skin. And, after talking to a few of my colleagues at Fresh about it, I’ve found that this is a major company favorite: no one can live without it. It’s not cheap at $68, but it’s also not going to break the bank, so if you were looking to add one product to your skincare routine, I would 1000% percent recommend this one, no matter what your skin type is (and make sure to use it morning and night on clean, DAMP skin, so the hyaluronic acid can seal the moisture into your skin). It’s so soothing, hydrating, and glow-ifying, it’s kind of ridiculous.
  2. Some kind of (gentle!) exfoliation, every day. Whether it’s a scrub or one of my exfoliating masks, I think majorly upping my exfoliation game has made a huge difference in my complexion. I have this hack theory that my rosacea is caused in part by the slowing down of my skin’s natural sloughing of dead skin cells due to inflammation/hormones/stress/aging. So, the excess dead skin cells were just sitting on my face, which was both irritating my skin AND clogging my pores. So although my rosacea looks and acts like a “rash” (which initially made me shy away from exfoliating/irritating my skin), in reality, I needed to exfoliate MORE. Now that I’m helping my skin along by removing dead skin cells, I feel like my skin can breathe—and like it can more efficiently absorb the products that I apply after exfoliating.

So, that’s probably 1,000 more words on this topic than was necessary, but since so many of you told me that you were interested in this topic, I decided to just go full-on beauty nerd on you and give you ALL the deets. If it’s possible that you have additional questions after all of this rambling, please let me know! I’m always, always up for talking beauty, and I would LOVE your suggestions if you have skincare products that you’ve found success with, so leave me a comment or shoot me a DM or an e-mail at tararasmus@gmail.com. Thanks so much for reading—I wish you happiness, health, and good skin. 🙂

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