I had a solid skincare routine a couple of years ago when I started using adapalene gel. I experienced a bad purging period which showed no signs of subsiding so I decided to stop using it. When I did, I went back to using my regular acids and was met with a stinging, raw skin feeling. I tried finding a solution, an acid gentle enough, a moisturizer hydrating enough, a sunscreen that didn’t cause a rash, it just went on and on. I finally discovered what the skin barrier is and realized I extensively damaged mine by using too many actives. I had become so sensitive to everything, even products I used with no issue before were causing reactions. I had nearly given up on skincare, only being able to use a cleanser when necessary to remove makeup and thermal water spray to cool my skin down. Rebuilding my skin barrier was a welcome wave of information and learning (and a long process) that opened up new possibilities and allowed me to finally enjoy skincare again. These were some of the most helpful products along the way. I’ve mentioned them often, but I want to give them the in-depth reviews they deserve. Hopefully this can help you as well!
How long I’ve used it: 10 months
Texture and scent: An oily texture, thinner than olive oil. Has a hint of rosemary scent which is refreshing.
What I noticed: It is hard to compete with my faithful Clinique Take The Day Off Balm, but this oil cleanser has definitely worked its way up the ranks. I find it’s best to use 3-4 pumps of to ensure a good slip. Rinses clean, but I do like to follow with a second cleanser. Removes face makeup, sunscreen, and most eye makeup well, but I find it struggles with mascara (although it doesn’t leave much behind so my second cleanse finishes the job). Because this gives such a nice slip on the skin, I like to use this step to do a light face massage before rinsing. The simple pump bottle works well and I haven’t had any issues with packaging at all.
How long I’ve used it: 6 months
Texture and scent: Comes out looking and feeling like a slippery gel, but foams when water is added. Mild scent (no added fragrance).
What I noticed: When looking for a second cleanser I was skeptical to use a foaming product at first, but when I came across this one (which is low in surfactants and PH balanced) I was keen to try. After finishing my first bottle I noticed my skin looked less red and felt more hydrated. After rinsing this off, my skin feels clean but not stripped and looks instantly calmer and brighter. There is a nice balance of acne-fighting, skin brightening ingredients like probiotics, apple cider vinegar, grape seed oil, and black tea ferment, along with hydrating ingredients like sea buckthorn oil and camellia seed oil. The pump bottle is easy to use and dispenses a good amount of product. I can get away with using one pump of this, although for ease of use I typically use 2 pumps if it’s my only cleanse and 3 pumps when I double cleanse. Overall, this is perfect for the humid summer or nights when I want a deeper cleanse. I can see myself buying this many times, I’m actually about to finish my second bottle and repurchase.
*I recently found out there is a slight change in formula so I reached out to HoliFrog and their reply was “We added 10% Rice Extract for more lasting hydration! We also amped up the grapeseed oil and glycerin a tad!”. I just order a new bottle with the new formulation and I am excited to try it out to see how it compares.
How long I’ve used it: 3 weeks
Texture and scent: Beautiful pinkish/brown liquid. Does have a strong scent, mostly a vinegar smell with some herbal notes. I don’t find the scent unenjoyable at all, however the benefits would outweigh that for me anyway.
What I noticed: The dreaded step of exfoliation; one I used to love so dearly, but had to give up for months to let my skin heal. I tried a couple of exfoliating products before this one and while they weren’t horrible by any means, this one easily takes the cake. From the first swipe, I didn’t feel any tingling or sensitivity which was a great sign. When I woke up the next morning with no breakouts, only softer skin, I knew this was a keeper. It is utterly refreshing and makes my skin glowy. I also use this under my arms as a deodorant alternative and on my chest. I haven’t been used this long enough to see the full effect of results, but I am excited to continue using it!
How long I’ve used it: 2 ½ months
Texture and scent: Has a silky texture, sinks in very quickly, spreads nicely. No scent.
What I noticed: After hearing about the multiple benefits of azelaic acid (I talk more about this in my all about acne post) it definitely piqued my interest. I’m always cautious when adding new active ingredients because I am used to being met with a new breakout or rash, but since the first time applying this on my face I have only experienced positive changes. I use this either all over my face or on more targeted areas at night before my moisturizer, although it can easily be mixed into other products if you prefer skipping a step. I recently had a large cyst pop up on my forehead and massaged this over the area, the next day not only had it not grown anymore, but it reduced the inflammation and was much less painful. Within a few days it was almost gone, which is something that normally takes over a week (sometimes much longer) to heal. I also notice this acts as a moisturizer and paired with a few drops of squalane oil, leaves my skin feeling (and looking) hydrated and smooth. Because I am prone to redness and post-inflammatory erythema, it is so nice to use an acne-fighting product without the harshness or drying effect that some others can have. I purchased the travel size and I still have a bit left, so if you’re not sure about the full size the smaller size gives you more than enough to fairly trial the product. I will be purchasing the full size when it runs out.
How long I’ve used it: 1 year
Texture and scent: Thin, clear oil. No scent.
What I noticed: It is a common misconception that all oils are bad for the skin, however, the outer shell of your skin ( aka epidermis, aka skin barrier) is made up of fatty substances like lipids, sebum, and free fatty acids, which are all important for healthy skin. I haven’t always had the best luck using oils (not all oils are created equally which I can talk in-depth about in a future post), but this is the product I’ve seen the best results with. Squalane is a skin-identical (naturally produced) ingredient that is derived from sugar cane (can also be derived from olives). This product greatly improved my skin texture, softened my skin, and helped with the tight, dehydrated feeling I constantly experienced. I also noticed an improvement in leftover acne marks. No matter how angry my skin feels, I know I can rely on this for hydration and nourishment. I like to pat a few drops all over my face and neck either as my only moisturizer or on top of a lighter product (like a serum or lighter moisturizer). It goes on occlusive as you would expect with an oil, but is very light, sinks in quickly, and doesn’t feel greasy at all. They also offer a travel size for $8 which will give you plenty of product to test. I also use this on my body and in my hair.
How long I’ve used it: 6 ½ months
Texture and scent: It goes on the skin a gel but transforms into a water-like texture.
What I noticed: Moisturizer has been the most difficult product to find since most have broken me out or left me feeling itchy. I was so excited when this product launched and I saw it only had 10 ingredients. This product was literally made to be a no-fuss, non-irritating, simple, safe for acne moisturizer. I especially love getting to use this on my neck, which is even more sensitive than my face, and noticed a much smoother and softer texture. It effortlessly glides on, giving me time to gently massage into my skin and has a slight “cooling” and calming effect as it sinks in. I use this on its own or with a few drops of squalane oil. If you have dry skin this can be used before a more occlusive moisturizer. I also like that it comes with a scooper, so no fingers need to be dipped into the jar. This is another product I will repurchase.
CoTZ Face Moisture Lightly Tinted Sunscreen SPF 35 * (you can read my full review here)
How long I’ve used it: 1 year
Texture and scent: Has a silicone feel. Goes on skin easily, but doesn’t completely sink into the skin. Leaves a film on the skin, not sticky like a primer or unpleasant, but it is noticeable.
What I noticed: No white cast, wears well under makeup. This keeps my skin feeling hydrated, but not oily throughout the day. Does not break me out or cause any irritation.
Baby washcloths: I like to use a washcloth to gently remove my cleanser. I find it helps to better remove makeup and also ensures I’m getting to all the places (like around my hairline) I might miss if I just splash my face. I find most regular washcloths have a rough and sometimes scratchy texture, which can lead to irritation. These double-sided baby washcloths are super gentle, even the more textured “exfoliating” side is soft on the skin so I don’t feel like I’m tugging or upsetting my skin barrier.
What are your skin healing hero products?
*This post contains affiliate links which are marked “*”.