I have sensitive, semi-oily skin, and this is the skincare routine that keeps it in check
I started seeing results when I began working smarter (not harder) in favor of my skin.
Cleanse, moisturize, sleep, and repeat—or not. Everybody’s skincare routine differs, from the 18-product skincare maximalists to the one-and-done movers and shakers. In A.M. to P.M., we’ll explore the morning and evening routines of women with different skin care concerns, giving you real-life examples of routines that focus on targeting acne, embracing vegan beauty, and much more.
Skin Type: Sensitive and oily
Skin Concerns: Redness, dry nostril creases, oily T-zone, enlarged pores, and cystic menstrual zits
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a blusher. Flirting with a cute boy? Chances are, I’m turning pink. Going out for more than one drink? I’ll flush from my forehead to my chest. But it’s not just social situations that trigger this color in my skin. Physical touch and skincare ingredients trigger it, too. Whether I’m getting a facial, my latest round of Botox, or simply applying my daily skin care, my face will turn red. While I always chalked this up to having sensitive, reactive skin, it wasn’t until my last Botox appointment that my dermatologist quizzically asked me what I was doing for my rosacea. Despite my grandmother, mother, and sister all having the skin condition, I blindly neglected to label my own complexion as such, instead chalking it up to the fact that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a blusher.
That day pushed me to work smarter (not harder) in favor of my skin. And so—in addition to being mindful of products and ingredients targeted toward balancing oily areas, shrinking the appearance of enlarged pores, and preventing cystic menstrual zits—I decided to steer clear of fragrances, essential oils, and alcohol in an attempt to avoid drying and stressing out my skin, further exacerbating my redness. It’s been a chore, but I’ve learned that finding a streamlined routine and sticking to it is the magic recipe for stellar skin. I’d be lying if I said I don’t experience an oily T-zone now and again or that I don’t get red from touch, but, overall, my skincare routine has delivered me with my clearest, brightest, most balanced skin.
I start my morning routine with nothing but water. I dampen my Weezie Makeup Towel (which I adore for its softness and stain-proof navy color) and gently wipe my face. Given that my nighttime routine is fairly involved, I’ve found that my skin actually fairs better when I nix cleansing from my morning regimen. The exception being that, if I work out in the morning, I’ll, of course, wash my face.
After waking up my complexion, I squirt three pumps of either the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum or the Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA into my hands and gently press it into my face, being careful to avoid my eyes. (You’ll notice that, to quench my product-testing thirst, I’ve found two products for pretty much every category of my routine so that I can switch it up without worry of how my skin will react.) I dig vitamin C because it brightens my skin and diminishes inflammation.
After letting the vitamin C serum settle in for a few seconds, I follow up with moisturizer—either Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer (a 2020 Beauty Crush Award winner) or Shani Darden Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer. If my skin feels particularly dry, I reach for Lala for its ceramide-rich formula and thicker consistency; if my skin looks oily or simply needs a lightweight boost, I go with Shani Darden, which I adore for its plumping and smoothing benefits.
Next, I give my under-eye area a boost with Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream—or, if I crave an actual color boost (especially on no-makeup days), I’ll use Pixi by Petra +C VIT UnderEye Brightener, which has a peachy color that almost goes on like sheer concealer.
I finish with a lightweight sunscreen—I love Dr. Jart + Every Sun Day Sun Fluid SPF 50+ for under makeup and Supergoop! Glowscreen Sunscreen SPF 40 for makeup-free days—and an ultra-hydrating lip balm. This last part is the one category of my morning routine that revolves around a single, must-have product: Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm. Buy it. You won’t regret it.
At night, I like to rinse the day away with HoliFrog Kissimmee Vitamin F Therapy Balmy Wash. Y’all, I truly cannot say enough about this deliciously creamy cleanser. It’s packed with linoleic acid (a gentle exfoliator), jojoba oil (a fragrance-free oil that restores skin), kokum seed butter (an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich ingredient that works wonders for redness-prone skin), and more. It’s a dream and something I genuinely look forward to using every day.
Twice a week, I preface my Balmy Wash with HoliFrog Como Popp-E Renewal Scrubby Wash. While I’m usually not a fan of physical exfoliators (they make my skin turn red), this one is so gentle that I have zero complaints. It’s formulated with a bevy of fab ingredients, but it’s the barrier-repairing poppy seed oil that is so helpful for my stubborn rosacea and dry nostril area. Best of all, using Popp-E followed by Balmy leaves my skin feeling so soft and supple that it legitimately feels fresh out of a luxe facial. It feels so good that often I don’t want to disturb it with more products and ingredients. But, nevertheless, I press on to treat my other complexion concerns.
To further the cell-turnover process in an effort to prevent cystic menstrual chin zits (I’m blessed to not struggle with all-over acne, but I experience a single gigantic cystic bump on one side of my chin every month like clockwork), enlarged pores, and overall oiliness—and, not to mention, to help keep my 28-year-old skin looking as young as possible—I switch between Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum and Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform every other night. I’ve found that applying just T.L.C. or just Retinol Reform daily or even every other day can be too much for my skin, but somehow swapping between the two seems to be the secret solution. I’ll take it. I love the Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum for its gentle yet effective blend of alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, tartaric, lactic, and citric, to be exact) and salicylic acid, which keeps my oily T-zone in check and makes my pores look as small (and as smooth) as they possibly can. I dig Retinol Reform for its gentle approach to retinol. Since it’s formulated with lactic acid, it’s a bit less aggressive for my reactive skin.
After treating my major concerns, I wrap every nightly skincare routine with Marc Jacobs Beauty Youthquake Hydra-full Retexturizing Gel Crème Moisturizer (I am wholly and completely obsessed with the fragrance-free, pudding-like texture and dewy results) and BITE Beauty Agave+Nighttime Vegan Lip Therapy (one of the few lip products I ever hit empty on).
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But that’s not all, folks. Two nights a week I skip out on my nightly treatments and moisturizer and opt for masks instead. For an ultra-calming treat, I’ll use Loops Beauty Night Shift Mask (their hydrogel is by far the best I’ve ever used—it actually stays put for the duration of the recommended wear time). And, once a week I use Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask for 10 minutes max (normal, non-reactive skin types can swing up to 20 minutes) followed by a generous amount of Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Antioxidant Face Oil (which the brand recommends applying to help nurture and calm skin post-mask). While the mask tingles and admittedly leaves my skin quite flushed immediately after removal, come morning my skin looks and feels so incredible (read: toned and mattified, but bright and glowing) that I’ll allow it.