Current Skincare Routine

Left: Spring 2016 // Right: Autumn 2017

My skin has come a long way in the last couple of years. Part of that is my hormones stabilizing (and they could go haywire again) but I owe much of the improvements to my routine. I rarely post my routine on Instagram because it looks basically the same every single night/morning. Here are the hows and whys of my current morning and night routine- and what changes I've noticed in my skin since these routines have been in place!

Morning Skincare Routine

Watery antioxidant/prep steps for the morning

Keywords for my morning routine: Smooth, hydrate, plump, protect. 

I wear a full face of makeup every day, so I need my skincare to work in concert with my makeup. I need to look glowy but not greasy, and I want to stop any emergence of flakes or roughness that will mess up the finish of my base.

Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk: This is halfway between a gel and a cream cleanser. It leaves no residue, but it is not a foaming, squeakifying cleanser. I don't think cleansing in the morning is a necessary step for everyone. When I was actively recovering from dehydration, I completely abstained from a morning cleanse. While this product is important for me to cleanse off the residue from the night before, I can get away with not cleansing some days.

Mizon Daily Clean AHA/BHA Toner: I use this post-cleanse because I rarely use true acids/actives in the morning. Sometimes I want a little smoothing action, and I find this does a gentle job exfoliating but also assists in plumping/hydrating my skin. I don't use this every morning- maybe twice a week.

NIOD Superoxide Dismutase Saccharide Mist: I haven't been shy about my feelings toward the Deciem umbrella of brands, but the SDSM is the one product they make that has become indispensable to me. It functions as an FTE (first treatment essence) in my routine, because it has a watery, fast-absorbing texture. I am allergic to niacinamide, an ingredient found in most FTEs, which promotes water retention in the skin. The SDSM substitutes well, as I noticed less irritation and water loss, as well as quicker healing time since I incorporated it.

Skin Biology 7% GHK-Cu Accelerant: This is a high-priced but not ridiculous (like NIOD) Copper Peptide serum. It is meant to be mixed into any skincare product, and treats my inflammation and irritation. I have noticed an overall calmer, less red appearance when I wake up in the morning since I began using this a few months ago.

Some light, absorbent hydration to start

Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner: I find that my oily and dehydration-prone skin likes some sparing alcoholic skincare, as it soaks in fast and tends to plump and "rubberize" my skin to give me that chok-chok Korean ideal. This toner subtly brightens, soaks in fast, and hydrates my skin while soothing redness.

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid: Another quick-absorbing, multi-faceted hydrator that works excellently to combat and prevent dehydration and dullness.

Paula's Choice Redness Relief Toner for Normal to Dry Skin: Although I do not have dry skin, this toner ticks a lot of boxes for me as a morning step. It incorporates some fatty acids and oils which lend emollience and bounce to my skin without loading me up in grease. Soaks in more slowly and acts as a final step heavy hydrator on top of my watery steps.

Layers of emollient and occlusive ingredients to trap moisture

Klairs Supple Preparation Toner//CosRx Snail 96 Essence//Stratia Fortify: I do a lot of mixing in my day to day routine, because sometimes nobody makes a single perfect product. For daytime, I think that mixing is necessary to balance the exact level of moisture with the amount of residue you're comfortable with. This combination results in a lightly emollient soothing gel.

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum: longtime favorite of mine, this product has become a daytime must-have for me. It traps the slightly oily and slippery early layers of my routine under a blanket of smooth, siliconey goodness. Acts as a hybrid primer and light moisturizer.

Mizon All in One Snail Repair Cream//Simple Hydrating Booster: On very hot, humid days, I'll skip this last step. However, in the cooler months it's more important. I apply this only on my chin/jawline where I'm most prone to dehydration. See this post for why and how I "zone" my face. This mixture of a thick essence with a very rich siliconey gel makes for a makeup-friendly but dehydration-busting layer of occlusivity.

Skin Aqua Sarafit Silky Essence SPF 50: A high SPF is completely non-negotiable for me. If you care at all about photoaging and hyperpigmentation, you cannot live without a daily SPF. I have been lucky enough to find multiple Japanese sunscreens that work excellently for my daily needs. This is a so-called "commuter" sunscreen- great for the type of sun exposure you'd get driving, taking the bus, and walking to lunch- not suited for outdoor sweating, swimming, or all-day high-UV-index exposure. The best sunscreen is one you will use so spend as much money and time as you need to find the perfect one for you.

Evening Skincare Routine

My full nighttime cleansing routine

Keywords for my evening routine: Cleanse, treat, moisturize, strengthen. 

I love a heavy face of moisturizer. As an oily-skinned gal, I think that isn't always the norm. But I find that my dehydration-prone skin and acneic tendencies make me more reliant on heavy occlusive moisturizers. And in the evening, when a greasy appearance is not a bad thing, I go all out. I also need to squeeze in my active ingredients, the ones which treat my acne and keep my skin in balance.

Lancome BiFacil Makeup Remover: Technically skincare, although I limit its use to the eye area- this is my holy grail waterproof makeup remover. I use this on a cotton pad when I'm wearing liner, mascara, or heavy eyeshadow. Otherwise, I skip to the next step.

Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water: I was an oil-cleansing devotee for many years, but in the last 6 months I have found that my skin likes micellar water for a first cleanse. I notice a lot of people leave micellar water on without rinsing, which I find sensitizes and irritates the skin. I use this to remove the bulk of my makeup, then I follow with my second cleanser.

Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk: My favorite gel/milk cleanser. I need to fully remove all residue of makeup, dirt, and sweat from the day, so I will massage this thoroughly after finishing my first cleanse, and then I rinse with warm water.

Mizon Daily Clean AHA/BHA Toner: Again, I don't use this every single night. But I use it if I'm particularly oily, broken-out, or my skin appears stressed (and not dry at all.) I never believed in acid "toners" that weren't real "actives" before this year, but since I added this I noticed increased clarity, improved skin texture, and better hydration.

[1-3 TIMES PER WEEK] DIY Honey Mask: I like to take advantage of the healing, anti-acne benefits of raw honey using this method. Most commercial "honey" products contain propolis, which I'm allergic to, and I find that using pure honey in a DIY mix is extremely effective for acne care and soothing. The benefits are most apparent if you wear this for at least an hour, so I keep this to a single use per week unless my skin is in extreme distress.

My library of actives

[4-5 TIMES PER WEEK] Acid Treatment: I have oily, congestion-prone skin and overactive hormones, so I do need to do regular acne treatment to keep my skin clear. However, in the grand scheme of things, I'd say I have a fairly light to moderate schedule of actives. I find that exfoliating every single night, no matter how gentle, isn't right for my skin at the moment. I switch between Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA, Alpha Skincare 10% Glycolic Treatment, and Melazepam (20% azelaic acid). I will occasionally double up and use two treatments on one night, but my usual schedule allows for 4-5 total active days, with at least 2 days of "rest" for my skin, when I purely focus on moisturizing.

Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid

Klairs Supple Preparation Toner//CosRx Snail 96 Essence//Stratia Fortify

My two HG masks

[1-3 TIMES PER WEEK] Whamisa Organic Flowers Hydrogel Mask OR SNP Bird Nest Aqua Ampoule Mask: I went down the usual Asian Beauty rabbit hole of buying dozens of varieties of sheet masks. Some people enjoy the variety of a large library of masks, but I've settled comfortably on just 2 as my regular treatments. The Whamisa variety is incredibly effective for fixing emerging breakouts, flaky irritation, and dullness. The SNP one is very moisturizing, and when worn on top of my usual essence/oil blend, allows for a super hydrating experience.

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream OR Avene Soothing Moisture Mask: These two qualify as moderately heavy, hydrating night creams. They are slightly too rich to use in the morning, and they do an excellent job of soaking into my skin over the course of a few hours. I will apply this as my "sealing" step around 6 pm, and then I will leave my final step until bedtime.

Paula's Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer: This moisturizer contains less than 1% retinol, not enough to truly qualify as a "treatment" step, however it clarifies and smoothes my skin in a way that an inert moisturizer does not. I will usually only use this once or twice per week, on days I am not exfoliating. And if I'm particularly congested, taking a week off acids, or my barrier is compromised, I will use it more frequently.

Emu oil: Vegans, look away! Emu oil is made from liquified, purified fat from an emu bird. It's famously soothing, rarely causes reactions, and is intensely heavy and moisturizing. A sticky, inelegant oil, this makes no sense for morning use, but I love to mix a few drops into my nighttime moisturizer when my skin is extra thirsty. I find mixing a heavy oil into my night creams gives me more flexibility than having a ton of different creams for different moods.

Sleeping pack to end all sleeping packs

Cerave Healing Ointment//Cerave Moisturizing Cream: Since I posted about this DIY sleeping pack mix early in 2017, I have received so many messages and comments telling me how well it works for others' dehydrated and dry skin types! I find this to be the most effective anti-dehydration barrier out of all the creams and packs I've tried. A sleeping pack is essential if you feel plump when you fall asleep and wake up parched. When I'm sick or dead tired, I will simply do a cleanse and this last step, and I'll wake up looking like a normal human, not a zombie.

What I Do Not Use

Physical Exfoliants: My face responds well to acids. In my experience, my acne only worsens with scrubbing/manual exfoliation, so I stick to the chemicals.

Foaming Cleansers: While I appreciate the cleansing nature of a true gel-foam cleanser, I think that a gentle double cleanse has done more to repair my barrier and keep it in tip top shape while cleansing thoroughly.

Tretinoin: Currently my skin does not tolerate tretinoin, and I have found full resolution to my severe acne using the above exfoliants. I may begin a tretinoin or retinol treatment in a few years, but for now I am happy with sunscreen and antioxidants as preventative aging care.

"Oil-free" Products: Oil-free was a 90s-era-sham perpetrated on the skincare public! Oils are good- no, oils are great! I never avoid oil in my products, and I will often use a few extra drops of my favorite oil blends when my skin is unhappy.

Eye Cream: I actually have no issue with eye creams generally- I just don't need one right now. I bring my moisturizing products all over my eyelids, and I don't suffer from extreme dark circles, so they are an extra unwanted step for me.

And that sums up my routines! A total of 10 steps in the morning and 10-12 steps in the evening. For a complete skincare newbie, remember this particular routine was built over 2 years. A newcomer's routine will include maybe 2-3 products only. My particularly fussy skin demands a high degree of customization- I hope my routine helps you see the potential for great results at all price points and within your own stash. 


  1. Thank you for reminding me that I wanted to try a honey mask! Though I keep using all of my honey for bagel making. Your skin looks great, and I see some things I might want to try out over the next year.

    I can't do emu oil, but only because my boss told me about the time in her previous career she worked on a project involving emus and how their owner wanted to capitalize on emu oil from them. Her description of the entire project has soured me on emu anything forever.

    1. I can totally see being grossed-out by it. My own mom read this blog post and texted me a WTF reaction to the emu oil point.

      Also honey used for bagel-making is surely not honey wasted.

  2. Thanks for this comprehensive list! My skin struggles with retin a, have been using it for years and I know I should stop but it keeps my cysts and wrinkles at bay so well. But my skin is very sensitized as a result. I will have to try some of the calming products you listed.

    1. Yep, Retin-A is popular AND reviled for a reason. So intense. So powerful.

      Have you ever tried lower dose retinols and the next gen retinol formulas that have come out recently? There are more and more experts talking about long-term use of Vitamin A- and encouraging people to consider gentler forms (used more frequently) over super strong (used more sparingly.)

      Caroline Hirons is one who is very much on the "gentle, frequent Vit A" use train and has done a ton of videos discussing her fave products/ways of going about it.

  3. Does the honey mask contain anything else, or do you literally just put honey on your face?

    1. I found the one person I haven't yakked to about this 100x already :D

      https://faceonomics.blogspot.com/2017/02/quick-fix-for-messy-diy-honey-mask.html <- this is my method- mix toner OR you can mix any bland moisturizing cream with the honey. Either I find is superior to plain honey!!

  4. Great routine. I am interested in copper serums but honestly the sort of scare me because I don't know how my sensitive skin will react and the NIOD one is ridiculously expensive imho. Just out of curiosity what do you mix the skin biology one with and how does it work regarding actives and layering? do you mix it with a cream or a serum? and do you layer it on before hydrating toners?

    1. I mix it with my earliest step- so usually that's a light hydrating toner like the Whamisa! I like antioxidants to go on bare skin as much as possible, which is my reasoning for putting it on early. Sometimes if I forget to use it, I'll mix with a cream though.

      I was told to be cautious introducing it but frankly I didn't find ANY irritation whatsoever. I introduced it 2x a week, then moved quickly to 3x a week. No issues whatsoever- it definitely doesn't act like an acid in that I feel the need to regulate/watch my usage as it feels fortifying rather than slightly weakening.

  5. Your skin looks AMAZING! Thanks for writing all this up, I have extremely similar skin type and concerns to yours so this was extremely helpful.
    I'm currently using an azelaic acid myself (Skinoren 15% Gel) and I've found that it's been the most effective acid so far. What's your opinion on the Melazepam? It seems to be a much more moisturizing formula than the Skinoren, which upon application leaves a tight film on the skin.

    1. Melazepam is an HG of mine. I prefer it over the Skinoren...for some reason Skinoren burned my skin and also didn't really have as much of an effect when compared to a different 15% AzA I used before. I moved on to Melazepam and haven't looked back! Melazepam has a bit of a moisturizing, emollient feel and definitely never leaves me feeling tight.

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  7. Thanks for this great post. How do you use the Melazepam? Do you use it at night after cleansing, wait 15-20 minutes and then move onto the next steps in your routine? Should there be a wait time before using anything else? Or do you use it as a spot treatment? Or all over treatment? I’m so curious about the copper serum, but wonder whether I need it yet. Am tempted though, but will probably wait until The Ordinary introduces their Buffet/Copper serum combo in the spring.

  8. I typically wait for it to absorb because of the texture, but Azelaic Acid is not so sensitive to pH that it needs a "wait time" like bHA/AHA. Allover. I don't use anything as a spot treatment, really!

  9. My skin looks healthy and taut. I use it in conjunction with tazorac. I choose goods only on the site about korean cosmetics