I won’t claim to be any kind of expert on skincare….no, not at all.

In the last couple years, though, I’ve really made an effort to at least do SOMETHING about my skin, after years of literally not even washing my face before bed. Eek. Someone should really mail out a neon orange postcard to everyone when they turn 25 that says, “If you don’t have a skincare regimen yet, START NOW! You aren’t getting any younger!!” 🤣

Anyway, so I missed the boat there and started more at like 35. Or maybe even closer to 37. Oops.

I do not love my skin. It’s just….bleh.

1) I have dark circles under my eyes, no matter how rested I am. (I’ve honestly had these since I was a kid. I don’t think they are going away.)

2) Now, in my (very) late 30’s, I’ve also developed some melasma- significant dark spots on my forehead, exacerbated by sun and heat. I spent a LOT of time getting really way too tan on vacations in my high school years (+ some tanning bed use…), which has led to some sun damage. Melasma is also caused by hormonal shifts.

3) On top of that, my skin has turned more oily as I’ve gotten older, and I’ve been struggling with some persistent adult acne for a few years. Not “horrible”, full face acne or anything, but kind of just always…there. One spot clears up, another shows up, etc. It is beyond exasperating.

4) I’m not too bad overall, in the wrinkle department (yet), but definitely have a lot of fine crinkle lines under my eyes when I smile. :/

I am so envious of people who have glowing, makeup free skin. When I first wake up in the morning, and am fully make up free, I swear I look like a dead person most days. (shudder)

Almost 2 years ago now, I went to one of those med spa skincare places. They prescribed a whole regimen of ZO Skin Health products, which were kind of $$ but also seemed nice. I enjoyed having a written out, personalized routine to follow. After several months of consistent use, some of my issues seemed to be improving, and some of the dark spots faded some.

But my skin is complicated. The anti-acne products (e.g. any products with salicylic acid) tend to be “harsh”, and tend to make my skin angry, inflamed and exacerbate the melasma! Exfoliants and other active products are meant to help melasma, but my skin has become increasingly sensitive over the years- and the exfoliants/actives seem to also make my skin flare up (more breakouts/ redness/ etc.). It’s like a big catch-22. What treats one issue for me worsens another….

I went to my primary doctor this past fall/winter, looking for help specifically with the acne (probably my most desperate issue), and she prescribed Tretinoin (high strength prescription retinoid- supposedly the “gold standard” in skin care for both anti-aging AND acne treatment).

I started using that (along with the other ZO Skin Health products). There can be an adjustment period to the retinoids, so, I tried to be patient and wait. I felt like I kept waiting….and waiting….for things to really improve…and while I saw certain improvements, overall, not really enough.

Leading up to our trip in March, and coming off a busy, stressful winter, everything seemed worse than ever. My skin often seemed like it was “inflamed”- just not happy. I wasn’t really sure if it was due to a certain product, a combo of them or something else…. so I decided to just STOP everything and kind of re-set. I felt like my skin just needed a break from any harsh or active products.

Now, after over 2 months of just using a gentle cleanser + simple moisturizer, I’ve started reintroducing the Tretinoin. I really do want to give it another try. (Actually, I want to go to a real dermatologist about these various concerns- but our health insurance claims we’re supposed to “start with our primary care doctor” for things like this. Eye roll. Apparently, my issues aren’t “serious enough” for me to warrant a derm visit?? I disagree….my skin has been a pretty significant stressor for me!) Anyway. I’m going to try again. Or at least go back to my PCP to re-discuss.

During this “break” period from any fancy products, I’ve been just using some very gentle cleansers and moisturizers. After reading a bunch of reviews re: products for people with easily inflamed/ sensitive skin, I’ve been using Cerave products! Just from the drugstore, but so far, I’m a fan. They are SO LIGHT and nice feeling on my face.

I traded out my expensive ZO cleanser for this one:

And at night, after my Tretinoin soaks in, I’ve been putting a layer of this light, airy moisturizer:

“ultra lightweight”, using before bed- helps me not get oily….

And recently, I swapped out my (also more $$) Colorscience sunscreen for this simple, also “ultra light” SPF 30. ($15 at Target. I found it repeatedly recommended in various articles about “sunscreens for people with acne prone skin”).

I’ve been using this first thing every morning, even if I haven’t showered yet- I’m out and about outside, walking, etc., so I want sunscreen on right away.

The two main skincare “holy grails” I keep seeing recommended everywhere, in every single skincare article, video or review I read are:

  • Retinol
  • Daily Sunscreen

So I’m keeping it simple and focusing on these big two right now.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at currently. Not using any other exfoliants, serums, or harsh anti-acne products, for now. Trying to keep it simple, drink a lot of water, eat a healthy diet, consistently cleanse my face before bed (I do this 100% of the time now), and hopefully, let my skin readjust to the Tretinoin. And moisturize. Oh, and SUNSCREEN every single morning. (Which sucks. Because, I love being tan!! 😫 But, I think I would prefer no dark spots and no wrinkles (oh, and no skin cancer) more, I suppose…..)

I am also going to hopefully get in with a dermatologist for some professional guidance!!

Anyone a skincare pro and want to share any tips?

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for watching this bird in my bird bath yesterday! It was the absolute cutest thing ever. It was fluffing its tailfeathers, splashing water around on its head and back…a regular old bath time. 🙂

25 thoughts on “Skincare”

  1. I am a CeraVe lady, too! I use the AM/PM moisturizer. I do clean with Neutrogena, but I have very sensitive skin and lots of other moisturizers irritate my skin. I also regularly use eye cream (CeraVe Under Eye Repair Cream). And I use sunscreen every day (I like Canmake Mermaid Skin, but will use EltaMD if I can’t find the Canmake).

    And I sometimes play around with products from The Ordinary because they are inexpensive and it seems like a low-risk try. But my skin issues are different from yours, so I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for you to “play” the way I do!


    1. I looked into a few different tinted moisturizers… have never tried one yet though! I like the idea. For now I just wanted to find a good spf that wasn’t greasy and wouldn’t make me break out.


  2. I love CreaVe too and have been hit with melasma when menopause started. Here’s what I do now:

    For gentle cleansing, either a washcloth and lukewarm water or Garnier micellar water (green) which removes eye makeup as well. I tried fancy too and have found some products less fancy but equally or even better.

    During the day, I use a serum (see below) and then Oil of Olay Vitamin C + Peptide 24 facial moisturizer (buy it at CVS as they frequently have sales) It keeps my skin moisturized (some fancy creams need an additional layer late in the afternoon) and it makes my melasma less obvious.

    For the evening, after cleaning, I use the serum and cream from Seoul Ceuticals. I use the Day Glow serum vit C and their Snail Repair Cream Moisturizer. The serum is thin so it drips easily. The cream goes on as slightly sticky but then gets completely absorbed. One layer and done!

    For eye treatment, I use Belif moisturizing eye bomb. I have used Clinique all about eyes and like that too.

    I am not convinced that expensive is better. Some of the Asian brands work better if you have sensitive skin. Ulta used to have those brands better indicated on their website. Amazon and Target sell some. I just go to the brands’ websites.


      1. I started with that one but moved up to the moisturizing bomb as my skin needed a little more cream. I love the brand and still get back to it for winter. For summer, I have the Olay routine.


    1. Thanks for breaking this down! It’s really helpful to see what products other people use. 🙂 I used to have a vitamin C serum, Drunk Elephant brand, I think, that I liked, but I haven’t bought it in a while. Maybe I should add back in. I have never heard of the brand Belif! Will have to look that up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Check belif on both Sephora and Ulta as they have mini sets so you can try several products. I have used a sample of Drunk Elephant but I didn’t see a more obvious result or difference than with Seoul Ceuticals’ serum.


  3. I use a lot of products (Good Genes by Sunday Riley probably the most consistent) but my two favorite tools? Birth control pills and Botox. Yep. Those two definitely do the most for me!


    1. I have heard Sunday Riley products recommended but haven’t tried them yet. I’ll have to compare the ingredients in Good Genes to whatever is in my ZO Skin Health stuff. There’s one main product they (ZO) seem to really recommend called “Daily Power defense ” that seems to encompass several of the different serums I see recommended from other brands. The ZO Skin Health is supposedly “medical grade” and has lots of good reviews, but I might have been mixing too many things at once, you know? So I’m hoping that maybe by backing off a bit and then gradually reintroducing I can see what works and what doesn’t. Where do you get Botox done? I don’t even know! At a medspa type place? I read some dentists offices are offering it now?! So you could get it while you get your teeth cleaned every 6 months. 😂


  4. My routine is this: a washable make-up removing cloth (you just add water and rub gently in circles) – I have a whole stack of them.
    And coconut oil. That’s it. I don’t own any creams or removers. I use the coconut oil to remove makeup (especially mascara – just dab some on and press down gently as it warms up with the heat of my fingertips) + put on a tiny bit over my face before makeup. I find the latter move makes my makeup look so much nicer.

    I may regret this tactic later in life, but it has been so simple for me and effective. I don’t have amazing skin…but it’s mostly good!


    1. I remember seeing you mention coconut oil before… I don’t know, the sound of it scares me!! “Oil”. Haha. I have issues with acne, and this sounds like it would make me break out!! Maybe not though! Your skin always looks great in the pics you post. 🙂


      1. I’ve had issues with acne my whole life and I have found coconut oil to be…great. It’s not heavy at all. That said, I don’t know of anyone else (personally) that uses only coconut oil so maybe I’ve just gotten lucky. It might be worth a try, though?
        I buy the stuff that DOESN’T smell like coconut because after a while the smell starts to turn my stomach (Everland Organic Expeller Pressed).


  5. I like minimal products too because I’m lazy and honestly I don’t see the benefits of many products as they claim. what I am currently doing is:
    – sunscreen non negotiable AM and PM if I go out of the sun again, and with hat
    – pharmacy balm to take off makeup/sunscreen at night
    – hydration serum
    – eye cream if I remember
    – moisturizer (neutrogena)
    – face oil because it smells good
    my skin has been good for months now, mostly acne free with occasional one or two around period or if I eat sugar for few consecutive days. Sugar/white carb has been a main cause of acne, so cutting them out really helped.


    1. Thanks for sharing. I know exactly what you mean- it’s so hard to know which products actually do anything or not. And they can be SO expensive!! I think you are definitely onto something with the sugar/white carbs. I feel like my acne has improved overall since I have cleaned up my diet, less soda, less sugar. Last weekend we ate out several days in a row and I drank more soda, few days in a row, and I feel like this week I had more breakouts again. So I am going to really really pay attention to this!! It would be amazing if it would be as simple as just cutting that back.


  6. Ok it sounds like we have similar skin, and similar woes with products working on one thing and not on another. I also tried a retinoid and had to stop because of terrible irritation/dryness after trying for like a year. I also tried ONLY washing my face at night, and just rinsing/moisturizer in the morning. I have no idea what’s right! Nothing works and I still definitely have not figured it out. I am 40 and my forehead wrinkles are pretty rough but ….. oh well? I’m 40? I use cetaphil gentle cleanser, and cerave lotions (the AM/PM ones currently, because AM has sunscreen). I have been playing around with ONLY using the retinoid on my forehead, and trying a lactic acid serum because my friend gave it to me??? I don’t even know what it does. Probably not a good choice!!! Anyway…. solidarity. I have a derm appointment later this summer so maybe she’ll have some new ideas.


    1. I originally bought the AM/PM CeraVe lotions, but the regular AM with sunscreen made me feel just a little greasy/oily!! So I found that they have this “ultra light” moisturizer option, still with SPF, but it definitely feels just lighter and less oily to me. I gave the other one to my mom. 🙂 So if you ever have that issue, check out the one I shared in my post. I love the PM lotion though. So nice!

      Do you know which strength of tretinoin they prescribed you? I think mine is 0.05%. Which I think is the “middle” strength. I was peeling and had dryness over the winter when I first started using it, but at that time I was also using these anti-acne salicylic acid pads, a chemical exfoliator, etc. I think the combo of it all was too much!! Now that I have cut everything else out, and am also making sure to put moisturizer on after I apply the Retinoid, it seems my skin is tolerating it better. Still a bit of irritation on my forehead, but I just restarted it recently. I’m not seeing any more of the peeling or dryness though. Just doing the tret plus moisturizer and eye cream at night, and in the morning just eye cream and the SPF lotion. (For now)


      1. I have the .005% too… I’ve been getting a lot of zits right around my mouth and it’s driving me nuts lately. Ugh. I’m going to try some of the non-prescription serums after watching Young House Love’s instagram stories on her skincare (she uses only apple cider vinegar as a toner, some coconut oil, and a few serums) – she saved them on her profile if you want to check those out!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Honestly, wearing less make-up during the pandemic has been a huge “booster” for my skin. I try to keep it fairly simple. I use the Neutrogena Naturals Cleanser (I’ve tried others but I feel like the Neutrogena Cleanser doesn’t dry out my skin or make me break out). I use my Clarisonic Mia Brush every other night and I have a (more expensive) exfoliator that I use every other week (Dermatologica). Otherwise, I use sunscreen (Aveeno right now) and a Vitamin C serum (Ole Henriksen) in the morning and retinol serum at night.
    That’s pretty much it.

    I am intrigued to try CeraVe products.


  8. I like Cerave too, especially their moisturisers are top notch. I just started using their vitamin c serum in the morning before sunscreen and I have read many rave reviews about their Retinol serum, especially for beginners. But best to consult with a dermatologist before starting to use actives in skin care. I also enjoy watching Dr. Shireen Idriss’ youtube channel. She has some great information for beginners and wonderful tips for using actives in your skincare.


  9. I used to have horrible acne and it was especially bad during pregnancy. Pre-kids, I was on birth control to control my acne and that seemed to work pretty well, but I can never go on hormonal bc again because I have a genetic condition that predisposes me to blood clots… I got one at 34 weeks when I was pregnant w/ Paul. Hormonal changes/taking hormones makes me susceptible to them so bc is never an option again. But luckily, my skin has been so much better lately and I think it is due to not wearing make up during the pandemic. I also have dark eye circles so I probably don’t look “awesome” but as soon as I started to wear a light tinted moisturizer when I returned to work in March, I started to break out. So now I do not wear any foundation – just sunscreen and then eye make up. For face products, I use Beauty Counter. I switched to them years ago because their products are very clean/free of things like parabens, etc. I use their acne-prone line and it works well for me.

    My skin routine is so basic but it works for this stage of life. I figure I will try harder when I have more mental bandwidth!!


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