Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Current-ish Beauty Routine

ph Donna Trope for Under The Influence 

ph: Donna Trope for Under the Influence

For the past 2 years, I’ve been struggling with recurring breakouts and cystic acne bumps on my forehead and between the brows. Skin is like your school GPA, once you ruin it, it’s hell to get back. When it comes to beauty products, I mainly stick to accessible ones that I can buy in person from Ulta, Whole Foods, or Target. I do the bulk of my skincare in the morning. Before showering, I will put on Peter Thomas Roth Sulfur Mask while I’m eating breakfast. If you get stubborn cystic breakouts that do not respond to salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, various concoctions of Aztec Secret, Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion, prescription Retin A...try this. I am amazed that this gives fast, visible, tangible results. This will diminish a cyst within 1-2 days, to gone by the end of the week. And I'm the person that would be a unicorn for weeks to months otherwise. And if you're wondering this doesn't smell like rotten eggs. If I have a more normal breakout I use the AcneFree Drying Lotion, it's a dupe for the Mario Badescu one. I'm not wowed by it, but I have it, so I use it.

After the shower, I use Murad Clarifying Toner. This is a recent addition to my routine, I had a facial at Massage Envy earlier this month and their treatments are Murad based. I bought this to support and I like the ritual of the toner step. If I want to feel fancy I use my tiny little sample bottle of SK II. I don’t use it regularly to have my mind blown, maybe my skin feels a teeny extra bit softer or if I used it overnight maybe my breakouts seemed calmer in the morning. A Space NK rep told me “Don’t believe the hype,” but if I ever bought the full size it’s because I have some perks that I can get it on sale. But I know there are lesser expensive alternatives out there like the Shisedio, the hype of its time, and the Missha. In my experience with skincare products, once you start surpassing that $40-$50 mark, you may be better off going to a dermatologist (depending on your insurance) or esthetician to get treatments that will give you immediate results.

After toning, SK II or not, I use DermaE Vitamin C Concentrated Serum. They recently reformulated and relaunched their products. Before this one, I was using a different DermaE serum. I follow the serum with CeraVe PM. I did a no-buy and went without CeraVe PM for a month. I could see and feel the difference—and I won’t be without it again. I ran into someone I haven’t seen in a few years, and he told me I look the same “in fact 10 years younger” so this combo must be doing something.

I have naturally long lashes, so some days I wear mascara (Urban Decay Perversion travel size) but even when I don’t, I always curl them. I use the cheapest one that they sell at Target or Walmart. Since most days I’m applying sunscreen with my hands, I bought a Sonia Kashuk spoolie brush to comb product out of my brows. I started getting my eyebrows threaded 2 years ago, and it made me wonder what I’ve been doing with my life.
I don’t wear lip color to work, I have a lightning fast metabolism so I dehydrate fast and my lips are the first place to show it. But I apply Waxelene in the morning, before that I was using a Queen Helene cocoa butter stick, but I left it in the car and it melted so I finally tossed it. Otherwise, I’d still be using it for the next two thousand years.

If I’ve ever done something right, I’ve been steadfast about wearing some form of sunscreen since I was 19. Neutrogena Clear Face SPF 30 is my new wholly grail, sometimes I mix it with a tiny drop of foundation or MAC Prep + Prime Natural Radiant Primer or all of the above. Lately foundation, it’s been MAC Matchmaster. If I’m mixing it with sunscreen I apply the mix with my hands. If I feel like “doing makeup,” I use the Nivea Sensitive Post Shave Balm and/or the Mac Primer. And then put on Matchmaster with the Real Techniques Stippling Brush. This is how I feel about my makeup, I bought it, so I force myself to use it. I started wearing blush regularly since Ramadan just so I have some color to my face. Lately it’s been NARS Orgasm in the powder, I gave away my Orgasm Multiple to a friend that loves it, on me it was a glittery greasy mess. The blush is tolerable, I have the tiny sample size, but I just want to get rid of it, so I use it. Once I’m finished with whatever I’m doing with my face I mist and fan Milani Make It Last Setting Spray. I’m already on my second bottle. I got my friend hooked on it too, she texted me that she drove all over town to hunt this down. As much as I enjoy watching makeup videos on YouTube, in my real life, I’d rather be someone that looks good vs. someone whose makeup looks good.

Body wise, my wholly grail is Goldbond Rough & Bumpy. Sexay name, but this is a miracle in bottle for KP. I heard about this through the comment section of Into the Gloss, where people talk about the products they actually use. I’m on my second tub of this. Because I’m convinced that my driver’s side hand (left hand) is aging faster than my right hand, I use Lubriderm with SPF 15. Super sexay name again, but it does what it says and I keep it by the door so I put it on right before I leave. For body-wash I went from using PanOxyl 10% Benzoyl Peroxide (made my skin worse before it made it better—but hyperpigmentation wise the damage is done), to CVS 4% BP creamy wash (not as drying but doesn’t have a satisfying lather), to now Mario Badescu A.H.A Botanical Body Soap, which is actually cheaper than the drugstore products. I switched to Schmidt’s Bergamot + Lime Deodorant after using Earth Science Liken Plant for years. So far so good. In an attempt to move away from those vanilla sugary gift sets, my everyday fragrance is the cool (as in the opposite of warm), soapy, “spa” Bvlgari Au The` Vert.

Also, I recently discovered Alive Women's Gummy vitamins. I used to take Whole Food’s vitamins but for some weird reason, my body would flat out refuse to swallow them and I tossed my Biotin when I heard it being linked to cystic breakouts. The Alive Gummys are made without gelatin (I don’t eat pork). I would eat them like candy if they weren’t vitamins.  I take them everyday and it gives me the illusion that I’m doing something good for myself.  I’m already on my second bottle.

Hair, I can’t be bothered. I wash and go. I have naturally curly hair, so I have to wet it everyday. I always wondered what people mean when they say they don’t wash their hair. I can only get away with that when I have my hair straightened. Shampoo, it’s been Desert Essence Tea Tree Shampoo for years now. I feel like I started using it because I just felt my hair was getting greasy and flaky from product build up. I haven’t had those problems since. I also added in the Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner. I use one of those rubber/plastic wet hair brushes from TJ Maxx and put it up in a Turbie Twist for as many minutes as I have in the morning. When I take it down, I spray John Frieda Dream Curls Spray and let it air dry. I go through countless bottles of this hair spray—it’s my wholly grail—I never got compliments on my hair until I started using this.

In the evening, I always shower once I get home from work. It’s ingrained in me to wash the day off. I will put on a shower cap so I don’t wet my hair again. I either use Neutrogena make up wipes or the Garnier waterproof micellar water. I also bought the regular Garnier one—and I like the thin soapy water feel vs. the waterproof version that has a more oily residue. My cleanser is still Purpose for years now. At night I will use a prescription tretinoin a few days a week but seeing as I still struggle with recurring breakouts its not working as well as it should.

That said, despite my recurring breakouts, I feel like I have my youthful, healthy glow back. I think it’s a mix of the routine and just being in a faaaarr healthier and happier state of mind since coming back from Jordan in May. 

What is your current skincare routine? Any new amazing discoveries?

**8/17 update: After over a month of use I do not like the Schmidt's deodorant. The initial application is nice: goes on dry and nice scent. But with wear I find it to leave a very messy residue on my clothes and to even stain through my clothes. Also it changed my natural smell, that even showering is not removing, which I never had before. yuck!


  1. Nodding along to much of this and appreciating that you're mixing in high-end and regular products into your routine. I know you mentioned the Milani setting spray to me before on my blog so I'll have to search for that near me. I haven't seen it at Target so maybe Ulta might have that.

    As for skincare--I'm really liking the Aveeno Positively Radiant line of products, specifically the Brightening Cleanser (every day face wash) and the Brightening Daily Scrub (a gentle exfoliant.) I've become better about taking vitamins, being more on top of washing face/and maintaining good habits like not touching face with hands, etc. AND these products. I think overall my skin's improved except for hormone-related breakouts which I can't really control but I can make them resolve faster if I am on top of my washing regimen.

    1. Ulta doesn't carry Milani. Try Walgreens, they have a product locator feature on their website that can help you hunt it down. Otherwise target stocks it online.

      I like Aveeno products too.

  2. I adore these posts...it's like a top shelf but feels more real somehow.

    My latest and favorite two discoveries are Mad Hippie's vitamin C serum and this rose face oil made by Chicken Coop botanicals. I'm convinced these two products did what years of everything else couldn't.

    I want to put together a post like this now! Far less interesting than the above, but it would be fun to see it all written out.

    1. I like reading the Top Shelves too, but sometimes its like Food & Wine magazine--(highfalutin).

      I'd love to read yours! You have beautiful skin.

  3. Thank you for this update. I'm always reading Into the Gloss for new ideas, and your post is giving me the same. Especially that body wash! I must try. And I need to start taking those Alive gummy vitamins again; they are simply too delicious and I was eating too many. :)

    My recent life-changing discovery has been Accutane. I finally went on it a few months ago, and it has done its job. I have a little time left, but already I can use drugstore (and other store) beauty and hair products without worry. Before, I *had* to have very specific things for everything; now, I can try out a shampoo, try out a body wash, try out CeraVe, which is awesome. I don't know the CeraVePM, so I will grab that next time I'm in Target.

    Accutane is its own circle of hell administrative- and insurance-wise, but it hasn't been difficult physically aside from drier lips (my lips were always already dry). If it's an option for you...you might consider it for cystic acne. Because it is *super* expensive and I wanted the premium version of the drug, the first trick for me was to upgrade my insurance to *da bomb* plan (in hindsight, a fatefully good decision given all the other medical and specialist things happening). The second trick is to make sure to have a dermatologist with the administrative support to wrangle and manage everything with both the insurance and the pharmacy. Headaches!

    I do hope you and your skin continue to heal. It's been a three or four year journey for me—developing allergies, developing acne (or whatever it was). It's a real relief when one can set that aside for the most part. Take care.

    1. I'm glad that Accutane is working for you with minimal side effects. I've always heard how intense that regimen is.

      I know it's too strong for my situation, it's just...I'm vain. I'm sure a chemical peel would have reset everything back to normal, but I unexpectedly went back into the working world less than a week after coming back from Jordan. So I didn't have the down-time to get one done. I'm hoping my breakouts aren't continuing because of eyebrow threading...I know the place I go to isn't hygienic but I love the results. Horrible! I know.

  4. So detailed! Thanks for sharing! I too have been using SK II toner for a while. My mom bought it on sale once and when I mentioned I'm interested on trying, she gave me hers. I think I need to actually asses my skin pre and post using the toner because I haven't really noticed a significant difference on my skin.

    I'm quite the opposite, I always do the bulk of my skincare at night because I feel like I have more time to be thorough. In the morning, I just want to get out of the house as quickly as I can.

    1. I think SK II may do something, but whether its worth $99 USD per bottle something is questionable. If I ever bought it would just be for the novelty of it.

  5. I love reading about people's skincare and beauty readings, so I really enjoyed this post! The pink bottle Garnier micellar water is great, I find it to be pretty much the equal of the Bioderma stuff. I can also vouch for the benefits of a sulfur mask on cystic-type acne (I currently use the DDF sulfur mask when needed, as a spot treatment for the nastier bumps, the product discontinued for quite some time, but came back for a while.) I'd never thought of really using the sulfur mask all over the face as a wash-off mask, though it may be something I try after I finish this round of dermatologist treatment.

    The doctor has put me on a simple cleanser (Cerave Foaming Face Wash for me), prescription topicals, simple moisturizer (Cerave Moisturizing Lotion in the morning and Vanicream at night), and sunscreen only routine which is... fine and does allow the prescriptions to work better, but hasn't been great for the overall appearance of my skin. I miss my old 10+ step skincare routines, though there's pros and cons to both. Perfect, breakout-free skin is just not in my future, it seems!

    1. Thank you, I wasn't sure anybody would read this. YouTube has become so heavily sponsored and free PR-ed that it's hard to trust what people "actually" use.

      I find the people that use Bioderma seem to not like the Garnier. I've even seen some UK and Aussie Youtubers have different versions of the Garnier that we don't have in the US, and their bottle cap colors are different. Lol!

      I used my sulfur mask as a spot treatment, but when I had the facial she used a 2% sulfur mask all over my face which gave me the idea to use it all over.

      I hope your regimen starts giving you the results you want.

  6. I know the focus of this post isn't really your hair care routine but I bought a Turbie Twist a year ago and I absolutely love it! I'll never go back to a giant towel wrapped around my hair. Also, I used the Desert Essence Raspberry shampoo for years, until I moved and couldn't find it easily anymore.

    1. Sometimes im tempted to have regular scarves converted into the turbie twist styles, i think its quite chic!

      Whole foods has a good selection of desert essence line.

  7. Thank you for such a detailed post and hope the break outs stop. By comparison I really don't do anything to my skin! I used Lancôme since by early 20's, cleanse, tone, moisterise and occasion scrub routine and SPF. In 2010 I kept the same routine but changed over to Avene which I love and is more readily available now after moving from a city to a small town. I get the usual monthly spot and a strange phase of very dry skin last year which I think was hormonal. My skin has always been on the dry and sensitive side but fortunately nothing else and I don't wear much make up at all these days, just lipstick and go!

    I noticed my hair feels thicker after I started swimming regularly and I simply have it trimmed regularly, no colouring to cover up the whites/greys even. I do enjoy a good body scrub though as it's always effective and I always use a good body lotion and foot lotion.

    1. The PTR sulfur mask has been doing miracles for my skin. Like you I want to go back to not wearing makeup--granted I wear next to nothing, but I have it, so I force myself to use it.

  8. I struggled with acne all throughout college and into my twenties. I tried everything except Accutane, since my acne didn't seem 'as bad' as others', but I never had a day where I didn't have some sort of blemish somewhere. The acne would migrate, too - some years it would focus on my cheeks, then on my chin, occasionally on my forehead.

    I think I may have just grown out of it, but when my skin cleared up miraculously it coincided with a few things, so they may or may not have helped:

    - I change my pillow case every night. Well technically every other night, since I flip the pillow over to get two nights' worth out of one pillow case. I went to Marshall's and bought some decent quality Egyptian cotton pillow cases, a whole bunch of them, enough to last me until the next laundry cycle.
    - I stopped washing my face. Sounds gross, probably. I do take off my makeup, I used to use Burt's Bee's cleansing cloths and really liked them but wanted to cut down on my waste, so now I use Vichy's purete thermal 3-in-1 cleanser, I just massage it into my face then tissue it off. But basically I don't use any sort of foaming cleanser or soap, none of that 'squeaky clean feeling' business!
    - Mornings I'll swipe some micellar water on my face, do some sort of glycolic acid toner, currently it's mario badescu but I think I may go back to Pixi's Glow tonic
    - Cerave moisturizer, then La roche posay's anthelios sunscreen, then some BB cream
    - At night after taking off my makeup with the Vichy I'll tone with paula's choice BHA toner, then do a serum, at the moment it's by The Ordinary but I bought some Kiehl's recently which I'll use when that's done, then Cerave PM moisturizer
    - Twice a week I'll do a mask, one day it's Kiehl's clay mask, then the other it's their turmeric mask.

    I have some mild back acne, I've heard good things about the Badescu soap so I'll definitely stop by Ulta this weekend to buy some. Apparently there's a Neutrogena acne body spray too that sprays upside down for hard to reach places, I read about it in the comments section of ITG too, it was a recent thing on bacne, so I might pick that up too. It might also be a sign that I need to replace my sports bras?

    I also have several DPNs (Dermatosis papulosa nigra) along my cheeks, both my parents have them, they are quite common also in the African American community. They don't bother me, but one of them has grown; I did have it checked out, nothing wrong with it, but I'm thinking of getting a whole bunch of them cauterized just for aesthetic purposes. Not covered by my insurance though.

    Anyway, good luck on your skin journey! The annoying thing is that everyone is different so you kind of just have to try a bunch of stuff :(

    1. I saw that post on ITG too. I keep checking the comments section for other product recommendations since I think the Mario AHA cleanser is just OK. But many people like it. Once I finish it, I will try something else. I know my issues are mild but at some point in my life I would like to have looked good. I just wish I could jump into a vat of acid and start all over.

      I’ve seen body sprays from Murad and AcneFree (Walmart, Target, maybe still Ulta).

      I had random spots/freckle things appear on my face—and I had the derm remove them for aesthetic reasons. It’s quick and painless, and healed without scaring. I recommend it.


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