I started wearing foundation in sixth grade, and I haven’t gone a day without it since—until now. I started breaking out a bit earlier than my peers, and I’ve stayed breaking out a bit longer too. Even on vacation or at sleepovers, I’d be the last one to take my makeup off at night and the first to run to the bathroom to cover my face before everyone woke up. But I’ve changed my ways, and it’s all thanks to a new skincare routine.
For the last six months, I focused on keeping up a consistent skincare routine of a few products that have helped clear, brighten, and hydrate my skin, once and for all. Now, I feel confident without makeup on and almost never wear a full face of foundation. Even when I have a breakout, I’ll just spot conceal because I want the rest of my skin to show—that’s how good it is, y’all.
Because I test beauty products for a living, I can never say I follow a strict routine of only a few set products. I’m always trying something new and switching things up to have new products and information to share with readers. But these are the standouts that have given me the skin of my dreams over the last few months:
About My Skin
Combination, acne-prone skin with hyperpigmentation from old breakouts
Prior to this routine, I thought I had dry skin, so I used everything with caution and only focused on hydrating ingredients. Anything with the words milky, hydrating, jelly, oil, glowy, creamy, and dreamy made its way into my routine. Then, I went to a facial, found out my skin was dehydrated, focused on my skin barrier, and immediately discovered my skin did not need all the extra moisture I was giving it.
Ultimately, my skin is combination: oily in the T-zone and normal/dry on my cheeks (definitely drier in the fall and winter). I’m prone to irritation on my neck, but otherwise, my skin can handle quite a bit without going blotchy or breaking out. If I skip a night of my routine, I break out every single time, so consistency is key for me. I mostly get hormonal acne on my chin and jaw line and clogged pores on my nose, but occasionally, I’ll get bumps and texture on my forehead (typically from hair products or drinking too much alcohol).
On top of my routine, I also take Spironolactone, an oral medication used to treat acne. I’ve been taking it for over two years, and it keeps my skin at a good baseline, but my routine is what’s helped me the most.
In the morning, my routine is all about looking dewy and smooth, but I do focus on using a few active ingredients to help my skin improve too.
Once I started cleansing with a gel, my skin completely changed. I was using milky cleansers before because I thought my skin needed the extra moisture, but I actually needed a gel with salicylic acid that could help clean my pores a little deeper and get all the oil and dirt off my face.
I used to not cleanse in the morning, but I like to remove all the skincare I had the night before, and I notice that my skin can get pretty oily while I'm sleeping. I like to put my morning skincare on a clean canvas, especially if I'll be wearing makeup.
Once or twice a week, I like to use an acid toner to help reduce hyperpigmentation and unclog pores, and the classic Biologique Recherche P50 does it better than anything I've ever tried. There's a reason celebrities, editors, and estheticians love it. P50 made a difference in my skin tone and clarity in a mere month, and when I'm continuously using it, I have the best skin I've ever had.
Be warned that there are many different types of P50 depending on your skin type, and the classic version is only for those with normal to oily skin. When my skin was reactive and sensitive, even the P50V was a bit too much for me. Consult this guide to figure out which formulation is right for your skin type and needs.
Getting rid of hyperpigmentation from acne scars has been a top skincare goal of mine since I finally got a handle on breakouts, and nothing has worked as good as Topical's Faded Gel. Made with tranexamic acid, azaelic acid, and niacinamide, it helps actually fade dark spots, brighten skin tone, and reduce redness. It's hardcore without ever being intense or irritating, which I love.
I will note that I did purge when I first started using this, but my skin stopped breaking out after about a month of use, and it's been smooth sailing ever since.
This moisturizer alone helps me go foundation-free, thanks to the non-greasy glow it gives my skin. But there are more reasons I love it. The gel texture is comfortable during the day, and I love that it's oil-free, meaning it won't compromise blushes, concealers, or bronzers I might use over it. I also love how lightweight it feels, and I even pop it in the fridge sometimes to make it cooling and relaxing to apply.
Finding a sunscreen that I love putting on every day was imperative because I know if it pills or causes a white cast or feels heavy, I sure as heck won't wear it. This one is super lightweight and makes my skin look glowy but never greasy. I also love that it's a mineral formula that doesn't have a white cast or break me out. In fact, it has a greenish tint that reduces redness, making it a great first step in a no-foundation makeup routine.
At night, it’s all about treating and protecting my skin, largely focusing on acne prevention. But I always follow it with lots of moisture, and as I enter my mid-20s, I want to keep my skin as hydrated as possible.
You can almost always guarantee I'll be wearing at least some makeup, even if I don't wear a full face of foundation, so I always make sure to oil cleanse at the end of the day. Since I started consistently double cleansing, my clogged pores have decreased significantly, and my skin has much less texture.
I love this one because it's budget friendly and contains only seven ingredients, but it still removes waterproof mascara and eyeliner like a champ.
I already waxed poetic about why I love a cleansing gel, but let me explain the ways this guy has changed my life. I've tried quite a few gel cleansers over the last two years, but since I tried this, I refuse to use anything else (sometimes I'll use a moisturizing cleanser in the AM, but at night, it's only this) because my skin notices and reacts at even the thought of switching. It leaves my skin feeling clean but never stripped or dry. It also feels as luxurious as cleansers I've tried that are double the price, but this one gives an even better result.
Then, I get into some moisturizing ingredients. As stated, I have combo skin, so I still like to hydrate, especially because I use acids and retinoids in my routine. I've been using this for almost a year, and I see no signs of stopping. It's much more thick and viscous than a regular toner, but it's definitely not the consistency of a moisturizer either, hence this toner/moisturizer hybrid name. I put a little on my hands and pat it onto my face and neck, and I immediately feel dewy and moisturized, ready for the next step in my routine. It's lightweight, and when my skin gets super oily, this is even enough to use as a moisturizer.
Since I started using this, my skin is baby's-butt soft. Even when I don't have any breakouts, my skin has always been rough and textured. I thought hyaluronic acid serums were a sticky mess that were just another layer in my skincare routine, but this changed my mind. It's a bit thicker than other serums, but it spreads all over my face easily and leaves me feeling dewy and smooth, never sticky. Over time, my skin has gotten way softer and smoother.
A retinoid is the only product that has kept my acne at bay after years and years of trying every product on the market. I use a prescription Retin-A due to pretty severe hormonal acne that doesn't react to anything else, but Differin's Adapelene gel is probably the closest thing on the market. I'm even considering adding Differin to my routine to switch on and off with my tretinoin (to save a little money and go a little easier on my skin some days). Adapalene is a type of retinoid that's specifically for treating acne and is less potent than a prescription tretinoin, but it doesn't skimp on efficacy.
Before bed, I like to use a thick, occlusive moisturizer to lock everything in so that I wake up with glass skin, and ever since my derm recommended this, I haven't used much else. This moisturizer leaves my skin feeling plump and hydrated.
This is made for normal to dry skin and is especially helpful for anti-aging, thanks to a formula full of ceramides, fatty acids, and essential oils that plump skin and fight environmental and free-radical damage.