Baby's first foray into skincare
April 26, 2020 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out a basic skincare routine that isn't too expensive or too much work

Growing up, I had severe acne on my face and shoulders, so bad it left keloid scars on my shoulders, which I still have to this day (not looking for recommendations on how to get rid of them - after many years, I have embraced them as part of my body). I tried antibiotics, various creams, and so many other things. I used proactive for many years, which worked fairly well but was also exhausting and I hated having to do it. It felt like my skin punished me with painful scars and was now punishing me with what felt like a grueling daily routine, though maybe some of that was teenage drama.

ANYWAY. I ended up taking Accutane in college, and it worked! My severe acne just... disappeared. Now I get minor pimples around my period but none of those deep, painful, cystic ones I used to get. I then spent several years doing absolutely nothing for my skin. And, I mean, it's fine. I have minor acne. I get severe dry skin on my hands, but I seem to swing between oily skin and dry skin on my face. Sometimes my forehead flakes, but other times I notice oil buildup, especially on my hairline. After all of this time I'd like to finally adopt a SIMPLE skincare routine. The key is that it has to be simple, inexpensive, and not time-consuming. When there's not a pandemic going on I'm chronically low on time and money and I want this to be something I can actually commit to.

My skin is VERY sensitive. It is also VERY soft, almost velvety, and it's weirdly stretchy. I'm sensitive to basically everything - I've been forced to give up on earrings - so whatever I do has to be GENTLE.

After some research I bought this dead sea mud mask, which I plan on trying once or twice a week. And I'm.... not sure where to go from here. Do I need anything else? Should I be using a daily rinse or moisturizer? Should I moisturize after using that?

I have an aloe plant. What I would LOVE is to mix up some kind of cream with the gel from my aloes and using that to moisturize, in addition to the facemask, but since I have no idea what I'm doing I don't actually know if that would work. I've had these leaves in my fridge for a while and would love to actually use them. Plus, it's cheaper. I was considering trying to extract the gel, then add either some kind of vitamin or lemon juice as a preservative, and use that to moisturize after the face mask. Am I on the right track? Is that even necessary? Am I missing something important?

I just want something I can commit to, and I don't want to be scammed into using some wildly expensive products when I can take care of this simply, at home.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Amy93 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing one truly, truly needs is sunscreen. Japanese sunscreens do not cause hives for me unlike american brands. I like Biores Sarasara UV Aquarich Essense and buy thru Amazon.

I have super sensitive skin like you and use warm water and a clean, fresh washcloth each time to clean my face. If it's been a hot sweaty day then I use Cerave facial wash. If I feel dry during winter I use Cerave moisture that's meant for the body. I never wear makeup because of my sensitive skin. Cerave can be found online and at any local drugstore or big box store. It's not dirt cheap but also not crazy expensive.

Masks are fun to do but I don't think they do much except to temporarily make the skin feel good. You can certainly mix up some homemade masks or moisturizers but just because it's natural does not mean it won't cause irritation. Test and have fun.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 10:32 PM on April 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

First thing, do NOT put lemon juice on your face in any form, full stop, especially if your skin is sensitive. Lemon juice is highly acidic and irritating to skin; my face hurts just thinking about putting lemon juice on it and I have tough, nonsensitive skin. Really, please don’t try it.

I would also strongly recommend that you not try DIY skincare at all, again, especially if you have sensitive skin. At best, it rarely works; at worst, you can do yourself some serious damage. For example, going back to lemon juice, Citrus oils are phototoxic and can make your skin exceptionally sensitive to sun, which of course will cause more irritation. There are a few things you can DIY, like Vitamin C serum, but they require stuff like ascorbic acid and you have to be pretty careful about getting the right ratio of ingredients.

The good news is that there is plenty of excellent inexpensive skincare out there. Most of CeraVe's products are excellent and inexpensive, as well as gentle. I like the hydrating cleanser and the facial moisturizing lotion; I have oily skin that tends to break out and neither of them bother my skin at all. You also need to wear sunscreen. I use expensive ones so I don’t have any to recommend, but you might want to have a look at the Skincare Addiction subreddit for recommendations. That's actually a very good resource for skincare beginners.
posted by holborne at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2020 [8 favorites]

I have skin very similar to yours. I also had severe acne that finally went away with Accutane. I do recommend at least a cleanser and a moisturizer in the PM. I personally use some Asian brands (mostly Hada Labo), which are not that expensive and easily found online. I find that Asian products are WAY gentler than Americans ones However, I've also heard good things about CeraVe products that you can get at drugstores. A gentle foaming cleanser and moisturizer will really go a long way. So just - wash with foaming cleanser, pat dry, apply moisturizer. Sunscreen is also extremely important for protecting your skin and I do recommend using one regularly.

The kinda sucky thing about skincare is that it IS kind of hard to predict how your skin will react to things so finding the right products can be a pain. I have no idea whether incorporating the aloe is a good idea, but if you do try it out then do a spot test first to see if you have any bad reactions.
posted by thebots at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2020

You might like this for your hands. It would normally be way too heavy for me but I have been putting it on right before bed and helps a lot with the dryness brought on by all this obsessive hand washing. It has a strong scent but not one I personally mind, and I guess I now think of it as a “bedtime, time to sleep” kind of smell. A lot of getting into skincare routines you can keep is about finding ways to enjoy it.
posted by cakelite at 10:48 PM on April 26, 2020

Seconding the recommendation of r/SkincareAddiction, it really is an excellent resource for beginners, especially the SCA Routine page.
posted by Mauve at 11:06 PM on April 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Slightly off topic, but your description of your skin reminds me of how my friends with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome describe their skin. If you have other associated symptoms but haven't explored that possibility, I wonder if it might be useful to do so.
posted by spindrifter at 3:58 AM on April 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

I have dry hands and I rub pure raw shea butter into them before bed. It is very greasy though. During the day, I use a rich hand cream which has shea butter as one of the main ingredients. You can try the classic L'Occitane Shea Butter hand cream if money is not an issue. I'm broke and currently trying a cheaper brand which shall not be named :(
posted by whitelotus at 8:33 AM on April 27, 2020

Definitely sunscreen! Japanese sunscreens are great and have nice textures, as mentioned above, but I personally use Elta MD UV Clear, which is light and gentle and contains ingredients that are good for your skin, like niacinamide, which helps regulate oil production and might help with the oily/dry patches.

The Ordinary offers very cheap, simple, and effective skincare. If you’re on a budget, I definitely recommend them. Downsides: some items aren’t very nicely formulated, so they may be grainy or smell weird, and they tend to use a lot of science-jargon babble in their marketing, and offer multiple products with the same active ingredient, so it can be confusing figuring out which of 5 vitamin C serums you might want.

Depending on your budget and motivation, you might also look into Curology, which I have been using for years for anti-aging and recommend. You send pictures to a dermatologist and tell them about your skin and your needs, and they custom-formulate a treatment for you and mail it to you once every three months or so. I apply some other treatments every so often for fun, and product diversity, but usually stick to just this cream in the evenings and sunscreen in the mornings, and CeraVe hydrating cleanser to wash my face in the shower. I think at the moment I have tretinoin, niacinamide, and azelaic acid in mine.

Definitely skip the DIY skincare idea... great way to eff up your skin, potentially for quite a long time if you mess up its moisture barrier. Look for active ingredients—there aren’t really a huge number of them with proven effects. Some good ingredients include: retinol/retinoids, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, niacinamide, vitamin C, ceramides. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) may include lactic, glycolic, or mandelic acids, and they’re good for dull or discolored skin. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are usually salicylic acid and are good for clogged pores.

Lots of other stuff you’ll see listed like collagen, caffeine, or ferments have less (if any) science behind them.

The skincareaddiction subreddit is an excellent resource.

Makeupalley reviews are surprisingly helpful to me—not filtered like retailer website reviews, or with a hidden agenda like Beautypedia/Paula’s Choice, which sometimes has good info but is heavily biased towards their own product line.
posted by music for skeletons at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've had terrible skin my whole life, which similarly to you has now been cleared up by accutane, and possibly my IUD!

If there's a skincare product, I probably tried it!

now, before bed I wash my face with cetaphil (only the bar, not the liquid stuff, it doesn't seem to work for me) and then I moisturize with either pure jojoba or cold-pressed rosehip oil (I alternate, based on which one I see first). In the morning I wash my face with cetaphil again, then I apply an antioxidant serum ("Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%") and then a anti-aging serum ("buffet") before makeup.

I bought the antioxidant serum, the anti-aging serum and the rosehip oil all together in a bundle from The Ordinary, though they no longer seem to have that bundle. When I run out I will probably just buy their updated anti-aging bundle. I wonder if the antioxidant serum might be too harsh for your skin though, it sometimes makes me feel itchy.

Every now and then I do a mask - I like the dead sea mud with the apple cider vinegar mask that's very popular on amazon, but I think it might be too much for sensitive skin!
posted by euphoria066 at 4:01 PM on April 27, 2020

The essentials are cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer.

My dermatologist described my skin as delicate and then recommended CeraVe for cleanser and moisturizer. The brand has really good products without any frills or trendy ingredients. Their website can help you pick which cleanser and moisturizer to use.

You can use straight aloe to moisturize but it won't be as effective unless that's all your skin can tolerate.

If you're able to go to a dermatologist at some point, it's worth it.
posted by meemzi at 4:49 PM on April 27, 2020

Vanicream is just about the most basic moisturizer you can get for sensitive skin and it's cheap. Also good are La Roche Posay Toleraine and Avene Tolerance lines of moisturizers, but they are both more pricey (but not like luxury expensive, they are still "pharmacy brands").
I also like Clinique moisturizers, especially the classic yellow lotion.
Since you haven't been using any moisturizer, just use a tiny tiny amount, like half a pea.
When I'm spending all day inside aside from like going to a parking lot and back I don't wear sunscreen because I find them irritating or they leave a white cast, or they have a shit ton of alcohol in them or they just accentuate texture on my face or they look greasy and on and on. I wear a hat if I'm going to be outside for 15 mins or less. IF I am going to be outside I will put on sunscreen, but then you do need to wash it off with some sort of soap or cleanser. This is a very unpopular opinion and you will be burned at the stake in r/skincareaddiction if you ever mention that you don't wear sunscreen everyday. When I do use sunscreen I usually use an Aveeno baby one.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:03 AM on April 28, 2020

Please use sunscreen!

There are a lot of poorly formulated sunscreens out there. Plus there's a huge Your Mileage May Vary factor with skin care. So I understand people like WeekendJen who don't wear sunscreen every day "because I find them irritating or they leave a white cast, or they have a shit ton of alcohol in them or they just accentuate texture on my face or they look greasy and on and on."

But I won't burn them at the stake. (So bad for the complexion.)

Instead, I'll share the names of a couple of sunscreens that can be worn every day without wanting to tear one's face off.

Badger SPF 30 Clear Zinc Unscented Sunscreen Lotion: $16 for 4 oz. at iHerb. Reef-friendly and cruelty-free and absorbs well on both my oily forehead and nose and the dry patches elsewhere on my face. In the winter, I do put a little safflower oil on the dry patches and let it sink in before I apply the sunscreen, or else I wind up feeling itchy. Aways shake the tube before you put it on.

I have a friend who always lets me know if I have any unblended white patches of sunscreen on my fair to medium skin; she's never been able to spot any with this stuff. (Make sure you buy the lotion, not the cream, which will leave a white cast.)

That said, I am a Sunscreen Crank, but I am not a liar. People who don't like sunscreen because they don't like feeling like they have something on their face still might not like the Badger SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion.

My suggestion for them: Purito Centella Green Level Unscented Sun SPF 50+: $15 for 2 oz. at Amazon; $12.76 for 2 oz. at YesStyle.

Rio Viera-Newton at New York magazine, my skin care Yoda (who is prone to eczema and cystic acne), loves this cruelty-free, no-alcohol, vegan Korean sunscreen, saying that Purito Unscented SPF 50+ "actually helps prevents breakouts ... leaves no white cast" and works as a daytime moisturizer for people with normal or oily skin. (The Beauty Wonk blogger Rifat advises other people who have oily skin and live in a high-humidity area, like she does, to set this sunscreen with a face powder.)

The active ingredients are two filters called Uvinul A Plus (diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate) and Uvinul T 150 (octyl triazone). Both of these are photostable, according to Michelle of Lab Muffin: that is, they don't break down in sunlight.

Reviews of the Purito Unscented SPF 50+ largely are positive, focusing on how comfortable it is to apply and wear, though Dorit on Twindly found that it was sticky and it irritated her eyes.

People of color should also use SPF daily, and Tembe Denton-Hurst, a cohort of Rio Viera-Newton at The Strategist, has worked with dermatologists to develop a list of sunscreen recommendations: The Best Sunscreens for Dark Skin, According to Experts.

The 11 products on the list include the Best Overall – EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 -- and a drugstore pick, Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, which derms like because it uses a soy complex that helps even out skin tone.

But in the end, every dermatologist, blogger and Sunscreen Crank will tell you that the best sunscreen is the one that you like to use.
posted by virago at 1:54 PM on April 28, 2020

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