Missing: A Skincare Routine for Me

Common skincare advice online, in magazines, given by doctors, and passed between friends often focuses on products, which are generally accepted as useful for everyone—just select the right products based on your skin type, right?

Sure, that works for some people. Maybe even most people. But what about the rest of us? The ones who have searched and searched, and then tried product after product, routine after routine, and still struggle with acne?

I must admit, I no longer struggle with acne, but I do have acne-prone skin. I don’t see that changing. Ever. But once I discovered my skin’s capacity to pile up (it’s truly incredible), and how to manage it with an uncommon skincare routine, acne is no longer a problem.

Based on what I see over and over after searching online for skincare recommendations, the prevailing advice is:

Determine your skin type (what’s up super-oily friends!) and find products that work for your skin type.

Here is a recent article I found: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/tmagazine/skincare-routine

In case the link is no longer active/accessible, here’s the gist:

Common, recommended skincare routines include a cleanser, a toner and/or serum, and a moisturizer. Just pick your favorite skin-type-specific option for each of these product types. Some may argue that these three components are not only recommended, but even essential to achieving clear, healthy skin. A dermatologist said, “Everyone needs moisture …”

Fair enough. But he then went on to suggest that you select your moisturizer based on your skin type—as though using no moisturizer was not an option, as though everyone needs added moisture to maintain healthy skin. What if you already have plenty—in the form of oil.

Hence your OILY skin!

I stopped using moisturizer 15 years ago. *gasp*

I know, skincare HERESY.

I don’t use a cleanser apart from mild, organic soap (there I go again, soap is a dirty word in the skincare realm, I may dry out my super oily skin!).

And who even knows what a “toner” or a “serum” is? Honestly, in such a highly unregulated industry (Feinstein, 2018; Hamblin, 2020), toner or serum (or cleanser or moisturizer, for that matter) can be whatever you want it to be. Unless a product contains an ingredient classified as a drug and is under the tight regulatory purview of the FDA, there is little oversight of the sale and use of such products. Many cosmetics and personal care products slide right under the regulatory radar and it’s even difficult to have products removed from the market when harmful effects are known (Feinstein, 2018). Consumer beware.

To be clear, I am not against skincare products, but I proceed with caution. The prevailing advice around skincare does promote the “need” for these products to the exclusion of the idea that some of us need exactly the opposite. We need to find our healthy skin, which is currently buried beneath layers of dead skin, which is then topped with products that are never going to reach a place where it has any chance of having any effect at all. The products billed as ways to deeply exfoliate don’t do enough, plus we are advised to be gentle, lest we irritate our poor, dead skin.

We (me and anyone with skin like mine) need to exfoliate at a level that may be completely unknown to many of the people out there who are giving advice on skincare routines.

Maybe we have a skin type that has yet to be properly defined and that no one really knows what to do with!

Or maybe a lot of people know but just aren’t sharing.

Well, I am sharing. Based on my experience over the last 15 years, I believe:

  • If you use a fantastic cleanser on layers of dead skin, you will have a squeaky-clean outer layer of dead skin, and that will do nothing to prevent acne.
  • If you use a toner or serum on layers of dead skin, you’ll tone up or nourish your dead skin quite nicely, I am sure. Again, no effect on the status of your acne.
  • If you put a fancy, skin-type-specific moisturizer on layers of dead skin, you’ll probably just help your already super-sticky skin hang on that much longer. And if deep exfoliation is a solution to the acne problem …well, you can imagine how much moisturizer is going to help. On the other hand, a moisturizer may help to soften the outer layers, but then you need to scrape it off. Otherwise …pile-up continues.

Once you’ve exfoliated deeply, there may be a benefit to using some, or all, of your chosen products. Or you may find that you can do better with far less. Only you can figure that out.

Join my email list and grab a free copy of my report on report on Acne Myths here.

References Feinstein D, Collins S. The Personal Care Products Safety Act. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(5):601–602.

Hamblin J. Clean: The new science of skin and the beauty of doing less. Riverhead Books, 2020

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Everyone’s skin, body, and health status are different. This is the process I use—one that works for me and may have the potential to help others. I make no claims of its safety or effectiveness for others. Use common sense in how you care for your body and be sure to consult your physician before starting any new health or wellness program.

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