For the new year, I decided to do a small purge of my skincare collection. As the seasons change, and as I’ve continued on with my Epiduo and spironolactone treatment, my skin has changed a bit. Products that I used to swear by and considered HG status at one point just don’t work as well anymore. That’s not to say I don’t consider them good products anymore, I would still recommend them to someone with a particular skin need.
So, here is a list of products that are going into my “on-hold” stash, or in the trash, for 2020, despite their previously coveted “holy grail” status in my reviews.
Cerave PM. This started to make my skin feel congested and break out minorly. The buzz on Reddit is that Cerave PM was reformulated for 2019, and I’m wondering if that was related to my breakouts. Now, I’m on the hunt for a good niacinamide replacement…
Cerave Hydrating and Foaming Cleanser. The foaming cleanser has always gotten a bad rap for being a little too harsh, and I agree with that. It’s also, for some reason, not very good at removing makeup. The hydrating cleanser tends to leave behind a film, and quite frankly won’t really make you feel clean. I’ve replaced both of these with CosRX Low PH Cleanser.
Throw out your Cerave cleansers, boys and girls, I have found the new cleanser holy grail! (Just kidding, don’t throw out the Cerave, it’s still fine). Seriously though, this $9, 5 fl oz bottle is awesome for sensitive skin.
It’s a cleanser, so I don’t think I’ll have too much to say in the review since the process is quick: you apply the clear gel from the bottle on your face with a little water, and rub it in. Then, you wash it off. However, there are a few things this product is capable of that, strangely, many cleansers cannot do:
1- You only need 1 dollop of gel for your face to cover your entire face (as opposed to like, four pumps out of a bottle, and even then, you still think to yourself “I probably need another”),
2- It removes makeup fully,
3- Doesn’t strip your skin: your face won’t feel dry after you wash the product off of your face, and…
4- Doesn’t cause break outs! I can’t say for certain if it’s because of the cleanser or not, but I feel that the condition of my skin has been better since I started using it a few weeks ago,
5- The price point is pretty good at $10 a bottle.
The smell of the gel is a bit sterile, but I can live with that. That’s the point of soap, after all, isn’t it? So there you have it! The perfect cleanser. I absolutely recommend this. ~A
For the sake of documenting a moment in time, and perhaps to reflect in five years to ask myself “why on Earth did I use that?”, I wanted to list some of my current skincare favorites. I recently went on a short trip, which is always great for forcing yourself to decide on which products are truly must-haves (and also useful in those moments where you think to yourself, “why did I forget to pack that?!).
Now, of course, I don’t use all of these every single day, but everything listed is in heavy rotation. All of these products have been in my routines for a minimum of five months — some have been in my routine for over six years. I can say that all of these have maintained or improved my sensitive, acne-prone skin. Everyone’s reactions are different, but if I had to recommend products to someone with skin issues, these would all be included in that list.
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Mario Badescu Rosewater Spray
Melano CC Gel (although I’m not 100% sold on this one yet…)
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
Rohto Skin Aqua Super Moisture Milk SPF50
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (I obviously love this)
Mario Badescu Rosewater Spray (same with this, I would spritz this every hour on the hour if I could)
Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner
PM Exfoliant Options:
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA
The Ordinary 5% Lactic Acid
Derma-E Anti Wrinkle Eye Cream
PM Moisturizer Options
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
PM Heavy Moisturizers — “Last Step”:
CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream
HadaLabo Gokujun Hyaluronic Solution
IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Illumination – Medium
Maybelline Stick Corrector Concealer (under eyes, and on/around eyelids with careful blending)
NYX Tinted Brow Mascara in Brown
L’oreal Lash Paradise
Physicians Formula Eye Booster Pencil Eyeliner
Physicians Formula Mineral Glow Pearls in Bronze (used as bronzer)
Maybelline Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter in Molten Rose Gold
Clean and Clear knows their target demographic very well: teens who are struggling with acne for the first time in their lives, and their parents who don’t know much about skin care. They have what seems to be an astronomical budget for their marketing campaigns (probably because their parent company is Johnson & Johnson), which make it seem like all you need to do is put the product on, dramatically splash some water over your face, and you’ll be out the door with clear skin in no time. That’s not to say Clean and Clear is pumping their products full of stuff that doesn’t work, but it seems like their preference is to hook the consumer with loud-colored product lines instead of having them focus on the ingredients in the products themselves.
That brings me to talking about this product. This is a white-cream cleanser that you mask your face with (or your problem areas), leave it on for 20-30 seconds, and then wash it off. The idea is that the 10%(!!!!!) benzoyl peroxide should eradicate active, or about-to-be active breakouts.
The reason I bolded 10% BP is because 10% is A LOT. That is the maximum percentage benzoyl peroxide can be sold at. For me personally, a 2.5% spot treatment is enough to make my skin peel. Now that I think about it, even the prescription-only Epiduo gel is only 2.5%! I use the Clean and Clear product MAYBE twice a year, and the way I view it is kind of like a nuclear bomb — if I’ve gotten to the point of using it, that means I’ve had a very terrible breakout, and I’m prepared to accept the consequences of my skin burning and peeling to help turn over the breakout faster.
Imagine you are a teenager who is embarrassed by their first onset of acne. You walk into Walgreens, and find a cleanser that promises clear skin. You don’t really know what the 10% truly implies, but Clean and Clear is a very popular brand, and it’s cheap ($6), so you should buy it too, right? Once you use it, you notice your skin is burning and peeling, but the adage is that “if it hurts, that means it’s working”, so you keep on cleansing your face with it, hoping to see clear skin the next day.
But it doesn’t work like that — with repeated usage of this product you’ll only experience more irritation, and the dryness of your skin will likely create even more breakouts. Just because you’re washing it off after 20 seconds doesn’t mean you’ve reduced your exposure to the BP. You’ve more or less entered into a never-ending cycle, because the product simultaneously causes the problem, and also cures it.
I know that Clean and Clear is not the only brand that sells 10% BP in this form, as a cleanser. Other brands yet sell this percentage as a spot treatment, which makes a little more sense since the idea is to “target” the problem area and not put it all over your face. The spot treatment idea I can get behind, as long as the user has education about the strength that they’re using. But as a cleanser — I can’t back that as a well-intended product.
My recommendation to someone new to skincare who is struggling with acne or possibly has a limited budget is to try to stick to a basic routine. Use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil, an oil-free moisturizer like Cerave PM, and, if you must, sparingly use a spot treatment that isn’t more than 2.5% BP. Unless you already have a very high tolerance to benzoyl peroxide, slathering 10% of it on your face is only going to lend itself to trouble. ~A
The holy grail cleanser for anyone with any acne issues, ever. It won’t cure your acne, but it will never make it worse, and does it’s job well to give your skin a clean slate for the day.
For $10-13, this pump bottle comes with enough product to last you at least 4-5 months, depending on how often you use it. One pump should be enough if you add a little water in to lather it. Apply it to your face, and wash it off. Simple. It’s incredibly basic — the cleanser comes out faintly white and it’s easy to lather up. It has no distinct smell.
In terms of removing makeup, this isn’t the best in the world and you might need go through the motions a few times to remove any extra product. But if you’re just looking to remove excess oil or grime from your face from the day or night (without stripping 100% of the natural oils from your face), then this is definitely your product.
I have tried the regular version of this (not labeled gentle skin cleanser), and it seemed about the same — maybe a tiny bit more drying, but nothing that prevented me from using up the whole bottle.
There really isn’t too much to say about this cleanser — it is, again, basic, but does the job starting your skin back at zero pretty well without being too drying, and a lot of people love it for that reason. I HIGHLY recommend this product if you have any type of acne. ~A
This product has been around forever (since the early twentieth century, according to Wikipedia), and it’s in every grocery store in existence. Until two months ago, I ignored it completely, until it was at Target for $4 and I impulse bought it.
This product is a white cream cleanser. It’s, as the title would suggest, cool to the touch. The instructions on the back say to use it as cleanser. I was hesitant to do so because there’s definitely mineral oil in it, and my sensitive skin is very… particular to what oils end up on my face, if any at all. But I tried it anyway (no patch testing, yee-haw!). Although it required a little more manual effort of pushing the product around on my face than my normal foaming cleansers would seem to require, it actually did take off my makeup more effectively than aforementioned foaming cleansers.
I did this for a day or two. I am convinced it did cause a small breakout on my chin, but there’s no way to prove that. Needless to say, at that point, I started using the product only around my eyes, since it’s totally awesome at removing eye makeup.
There is an instruction on the back that suggests you do not have to wash off the product after applying it. After cleaning off my eye makeup one night, I decided to leave a few swipes “on”, under my eyes, right on top of my beautiful dark circles. It felt kind of nice, actually — the skin around my eyes tends to get irritated because of how sensitive my eyes are, and this product is super cooling (and, said product does not cause further irritation to my eyes!). And I SWEAR the next morning my circles looked a bit fainter. Placebo effect? Who knows. But I still do it to this day. Even if it’s just mind trickery, I’ll take it! ~A
This cleanser is highly coveted by many, but I personally am just not feeling it. The caveat here is that I have a tough time with cleansers, generally speaking, and I try to avoid using them when I can. I originally picked this up when I realized that the Cerave Hydrating Cleanser isn’t super-phenomenal at taking off makeup. I figured, hey this one is a foaming cleanser ergo it will remove my makeup, and it’s from Cerave who has never let me down in terms of pumping their products full of hydrating ingredients, so I won’t feel like I’ve completely stripped off the first layer of my skin after washing.
The product comes out as a clear liquid from a pump. It doesn’t really smell like anything in particular, maybe a bit like something you would smell from a generic handsoap, with substantially less fragrance. It’s supposed to foam up when you apply water and rub it against your skin, but I… don’t really think it does that? Am I wrong? Ok, it foams a TINY bit. Doesn’t matter. The next issue is, no matter how much product I pump out, it’s seemingly never enough to get my entire face, and I need to pump out more. Good thing this is kind of a big bottle, right?
In terms of makeup removal, it does… okay. Again, not great, but it’s not like this product is exactly screaming out “makeup removal” on the packaging (rather, not at all), so I’ll give it some credit. Certainly, it does a better job of stripping off oil and product than it’s sister hydrating cleanser.
What this product is really good at, though, is making your skin feel dry as a desert after you’re done washing. As I mentioned before, I try to avoid cleansers and it’s for this very reason — that is their purpose, to strip you dry of all the gunk on your face. But considering Cerave goes out of their way to advertise the ceramides and HA, I just feel like… I shouldn’t feel like that? I don’t know. I certainly feel like my skin barrier’s been disrupted.
Over time, I’ve discovered my secret combo: mix the Cerave hydrating cleanser and the foaming cleanser together! That way, it’ll take off my makeup and ever-so-slightly keep my skin hydrated, simultaneously. So I guess I’ll keep the foaming cleanser around, so long as it’s sister cleanser stays on my bathroom sink. ~A