A Very Long Post About My Updated Skin Care Routine

Updated Skin Care Routine

I’ve written so much about my skin care struggles here and it continues to be a work in progress. In an effort to improve what has been a 15+ year struggle I have tried many things — medications, antibiotics, expensive facials, and even Accutane (CLIFFS NOTES: DO NOT RECOMMEND!) — but since about 2010 I’ve taken a different approach.

The History

I changed my diet to a Paleo template and as most most people know, many folks in the Paleo community have a real shared love for finding the root cause of health issues instead of just trying to make the symptom go away — myself included. I firmly believe acne is a symptom of an underlying health problem, and more specifically an underlying gut problem. I don’t think it’s just something that happens as a fluke, it’s absolutely an indicator of something going on inside your body.

With that in mind, over the last few years I’ve tried many different things in order to uncover a solution. I have experimented with eliminating foods, learned a ton about digestion and it’s relation to skin, I’ve added helpful supplements (Liz Wolfe’s Skintervention Guide has some great advice here) and then in the middle of 2012 I made a marked effort to move all of my products toward the “natural” side of the spectrum. I know “natural” doesn’t mean a whole lot these days, but essentially I decided I was going to simplify the sheer amount of products I was using, and leave as much of the chemical skin care stuff behind as I could.

I focused on gut health and how it relates to skin for about a year and in many ways my health got better. But my skin results were always inconsistent. I’d go through periods of time where it was great, and periods of time where it was only ok with no rhyme or reason, but even at its best, my skin was still so very far from where I wanted my skin to be. Also not to state the obvious, but I’ve continued to get older. Prevention is still important with respect to skin, but also I would like to UNDO some of the damage, scarring and pigment issues I’ve got going on as well.

Recent Developments

In October of last year, I decided go back to a few “more traditional” skin care items. I did it in response to giving nutritional ketosis a try (man I still have to blog about my Keto experiment)  because among many  developments, my face was overtaken by SUPER SEVERE acne. So bad it felt equivalent to the time in my life when I decided I should try Accutane.  I was literally having some mini panic attacks about it and my coconut oil and baking soda face wash was basically laughing at me on the sidelines. I was fretting about the potential for scars (I already have enough!) feeling sad about the additional pigmentation problems (I’ve had freckles since I was born and breakouts don’t make it better!) and so one day I just impulsively made a bee-line into some retailers who sold my old tried and true skin products from my back in the day.

Probably two weeks later I was ASTOUNDED by the change in my skin. But truth be told, I was also conflicted about the positive results.

The Conflict

Day after day my skin was improving — the look, the spots, and the texture were all getting better. Consistently. All of the things that I had hoped to attain by moving toward more natural solutions were happening — except natural skincare lovers would certainly say my products had “questionable” ingredients in them. I wrestled with this for a while, and then one day I woke up, shook myself, and said “Save your stress for the things that matter, Holly! You can’t win every battle at the same time.”

The facts are: I am really happy with my current results. Do I wish I was accomplishing these results with only coconut oil, baking soda and the sweet breath of unicorns? YES! Absolutely! And someday I might get there. I aspire to get there, actually. But I also have a lot going on in my life right now, and a finite amount of resources in the problem solving department. I believe in allowing yourself some evolution (Paleo Joke!) and in my opinion, the people who are the best example of this Paleo LIFESTYLE (gag) are the people who interpret all the ancestral wisdom through a modern lens. And right now, I’m happy that in these modern times I have a Clarisonic and a Sephora.

I know this has been a lot of words so far and I haven’t even talked products, but I wanted to give you some context. If you have any other questions about why I turned on a dime and went running back to retinol — feel free to leave them in the comments. But for now, here are the things that are just rocking my world lately when it comes to taking care of my face.


The Game Changer: Clarisonic Mia 2
Clarisonic Mia 2

At the beginning of last year I finally ponied up $100+ for a Clarisonic because I couldn’t go five feet without hearing someone rave about it. I used it for a few months and was only mildly impressed. Then I found out IT WAS A FAKE! A fake that I had purchased on Amazon from an unreputable retailer. (Be ye not so stupid. Only buy on Amazon from legit places!) I went most of the rest of the year without it but when I had my skin care scare that I mentioned above in October I decided that the next time I saw a good deal from a legitimate retailer, I would pounce. And on Black Friday I did just that. I purchased a kit from QVC, that included a cleanser that I didn’t care about at all and a travel case, and from the first week on I’ve been absolutely in love. If you need additional endorsement? I got Garrett to use it (“Hey babe, try this vibrating hot pink face washer the next time you’re in the shower, ok?” HA! You should have heard his response) and even HE is an evangelizing devotee now. Masculinity be damned. It is worth it.

The AM/PM Everyday Cleanser: Fresh Soy Face Cleanser
Fresh Soy Face CleanserRemember the cleanser I got with the Clarisonic that I couldn’t have cared less about? It was this! And I was shocked by how much I loved it. It’s incredibly gentle, has only a few ingredients, a very light cucumber scent and it makes my face feel wonderful. When I first purchased it I was just using my Clarisonic with Cetaphil thinking the cleanser you used didn’t really matter, but the difference was remarkable. I’ve already repurchased a second bottle. It’s pricy, but it’s so worth it.

The Wild Card: Acure Unscented Argan Oil Facial Cleansing Towelettes

Sometimes on days when I am wearing a lot of makeup I like to do a little pre-wash before I use the Clarisonic. These work great to get a ton of makeup off. Also, these are awesome in my gym bag. They don’t dry out my skin, are very gentle, and have a non existent scent.

The 3 Nights Per Week Cleanser: Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Wash
Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

I used this years ago when the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion was all the rage and I didn’t even have a hint of a reason to use anything glycolic (For the record, the drying lotion does NOTHING for me.) I picked this up on a whim at Ulta around Thanksgiving and it’s just an awesome AHA exfoliating face wash. I only use it 2, maybe 3 times a week (usually at night) — depending on if my skin is feeling dull and it brightens it right up. This is also one that Garrett rolled his eyes at and is now using religiously. It’s a really great product that makes a noticeable difference in my face.

The Toner: Dermalogica Multi Active Toner or Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydramist
DermalogicaPost washing, I like to use a light toner, but I don’t have the patience for liquids and cotton rounds and all of that. Dermalogica makes, HANDS DOWN, the best toners out there in my opinion. I’ve been a long time user of the Multi Active Toner, but decided to try the Antioxidant Hydramist because it is a part of their Anti Aging Line and I am VERY. ANTI. AGING. 🙂  Not sure which one I like better, but I will always keep at least one in the rotation. I love that Dermalogica makes travel sized products, and it is a great way to try out their line without breaking the bank. I think it is worth every penny, but it’s always nice to try a small size if you’ve never used something.

The Everyday Moisturizers: CeraVe AM Lotion with SPF 30 + CeraVe PM Lotion
CeraVeAbsolute Drug Store STEALS, and really amazing moisturizers. I like the separation of AM and PM because of the sunscreen issue, and they are really hydrating without using a lot of product or making you feel greasy. I find the bottles last a long time too, which makes a $10 purchase feel like even MORE of a deal.

The (2-3x per week) Night Cream/Tip Toe Into Retinol Products: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
Roc RetinolThis was an impulse purchase (what isn’t in my life, JEEZ!) and honestly I am not that up to speed on Retinol type products so I’m still sort of researching my holy grail version of this or if I even want to continue using it. But I got it in a 2 pack, and I’m going to use it all up. Mostly because it is gentle (probably because it doesn’t have a large percentage of retinol? retinoids? See? I’m still researching) but when I use this a couple of nights a week, I wake up with the tiniest pores in the morning. It’s actually kind of weird. But good weird, you know? Plus it doesn’t smell too chemically.

The Spot Treatment: Bremenn Clinical Zit Stick
Zit StickI’ve already raved about this. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go get it.

The Occasional Nightime Dry Skin Reliever: Julep Luxe Repair Skin Serum
Julep Luxe Repair Skin SerumThis is a little too oily for me to use on a daily basis, especially as part of my morning routine, but we’ve had a couple of weeks this winter where it was really cold (For California! I know!) and the first thing to revolt was my skin. Those days when I was feeling a bit parched, I would just slather on this serum and be right as rain the following day. And despite it’s viscosity, no breakouts at all. I’m on the hunt for a better serum, but I do like this one in the meantime and will happily use it all.

The Once Per Week Anti Aging Treatment: Philosophy The Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel
Philosophy The Microdelivery Triple Acid Brightening PeelHands down this is my favorite skin discovery in probably the past five years. It is an at home chemical peel that I use once per week (I do some juggling with my skin care schedule to use all of the products for sure!) and usually once I put it on my face and neck there is enough to use on my chest and hands. It’s amazing, feels luxurious, and in is far, far better than similar products like this that I’ve tried by Bliss and Peter Thomas Roth. The best price around is at QVC and while it seems spendy, it last forever because and remember it is only a once per week treatment that you will make a NOTICEABLE difference.  $4 each is a steal and I’ll skip a latte in favor of this brightening peel any day.

The 2x Per Week Spa Solution: Karuna Masks
Karuna MasksI have always been a sucker for masks, and I find that as well as they work for my skin, they also work for my LIFE — because to sit down (on my couch or in a bathtub) twice per week for 20 minutes to do a mask on myself is such a great stress reliever! I love these Karuna masks but you can always find fun ones at TJ Maxx or Ulta to stock your collection.



What I’m Still On The Hunt For: A “worth it” Vitamin C Serum. Haven’t found one yet — any suggestions?  Anything surprise you? Any questions for me?

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16 Responses to A Very Long Post About My Updated Skin Care Routine

  1. Have you tried the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum? I haven’t been using it for long enough to 100% recommend, but I really like it so far!

  2. Carol says:

    I second the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum!

  3. sarah says:

    Your skin looks great in that picture! XOXO

  4. Katie says:

    I love all things Obagi, they have a vit C serum that might be worth a try.

    I currently have the Active Cell Renewal Serum by Bare Minerals though and LOFF it. Enough to moisturize (since I use no lotions on my face) and I definitely wake up with brighter, smoother skin.

  5. Neely says:

    Hey Holly! I just wanted to write to tell you that I can relate with your struggles a bit. Coconut oil, when put on any surface of my body, makes me break out in zits. That and olive oil, so that rules out a lot of natural skin care stuff. I do really with with shea butter – just raw shea butter – and Everyday Shea lotion. Anyway, just wanted you to know you’re not alone! Oh, and I’d LOVE to hear about your keto experiment some day 🙂

  6. Sarah B says:

    Ask and you shall receive! Thanks Holly! I’m excited to try a few of these products based on the recommendation. So happy you’ve found some things to help out. I have been doing oil cleansing with a mix of oils but I still go to the dark side and use some other products too. By the way I love, love, love this “Save your stress for the things that matter, Holly! You can’t win every battle at the same time.”

  7. Holly says:

    Love this post! I love all Philosophy products. Their Purity dash wash is Ah-mazing!!! I’ve heard their turbo booster C powder is great, you mix it in with your moisturizer. I’ve got to get myself a Clarisonic!

  8. KellyBrown says:

    Did you have success on the oil cleansing method? It’s the only thing I use now! I use it at night, and moisturize with CeraVe and then in the am just wash with warm water and moisturize again before adding on makeup. It’s actually been a huge improvement for me over commercial products.

  9. Meg says:

    I was only using the OCM for a few months, with great results – until I went off birth control. And then, holy hell did my skin take a turn for the terrible. I have ALWAYS had really clear skin so I can completely relate to your panic attacks because I had more than a few of my own.

    After doing lots of research, I started using Paula’s Choice products, which I highly recommend. I saw (and felt) an immediate difference, and my skin starting improving immediately. And after 9 months of successfully preventing pregnancy using FAM, I decided to go back on the pill (but that’s a whole other discussion). And this has also helped.

  10. Juliet says:

    I really enjoy how thorough you are in your reviews and you’re finding things to help improve your skin. I’ve been on the reddit sub /skincareaddiction and find a treasure of info.. one thing with the Vitamin C serum is that you can actually make your own that seems to be better than commercial products. Here’s a link to a Youtube video from a woman near 60 that makes the serum using pure vitamin C powder and distilled water.. lasts 2 weeks in the fridge and a bottle of powder lasts very long. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n69F-qMfW8s

  11. K says:

    I love a good recap of potions!

  12. Maureen says:

    I had really bad skin in my thirties-I would get painful deep cysts. It was awful, I had some acne as a teenager, but it was pretty clear sailing after that, at least till I hit about 34! Nothing really worked until I was diagnosed with rosacea, and once that was under control, my skin cleared up nicely. I use ivory soap on my skin, with Clinique Dramatically Different moisturizer-I feel like a slacker when I see your skin care regime!

    I would love to know if anyone has a favorite wrinkle cream-I am 53 and expect to have wrinkles, but would love to hear if anyone uses a product they think really works.

  13. Laura says:

    Interesting post – going to read through it again later. I’m always struggling with skin care issues. I have redness issues as well as occaisional acne. *sigh* Oh and the whole anti-aging business is creeping in to my choices as well. I’m on a drugstore kick lately, but am itching to get back into Sephora and try some other stuff.

  14. Lisa says:

    You should check the Today Show videos from today. They mentioned several anti-aging products and a vitamin C serum was one. I think the brand was Skinceuticals. You have inspired me to bump up my routine!

  15. missysoupy says:

    Ok, so really… REALLY… is the Clarisonic worth it? If you had to chose between a Clarisonic and the Philosophy pads, which one would you choose? I’m thinking this girl cannot convince her hubby that I need $200 worth of skincare right now, but really… I sort of NEED $200 worth of skin care. Right. Now.

    Thanks for the recommendations!

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