Skincare Routines + Choosing Products

It’s easy to get lost on social media, admiring new product releases that brands are constantly surprising and impressing us with- and we have no shortage of these temptations in green beauty. In addition to seeing so many products, we are always surrounded by information and articles on what ingredients are good or bad, and many can seem contradictory. Through all the marketing, advertising, and information overland, it’s important to keep yourself grounded. I myself am guilty of seeing/reading about that new product popping up on my feed and feeling like I “need” it or I “need” to change up my skincare routine to somehow fit it in. My mistakes, however, are what help me help you. I’m an engineer, not a dermatologist or skincare professional, but I have spent a lot of money and maneuvered the world of green beauty for 3-4 years now, and will be voicing my experience through this post as well using the voice of actual skincare professionals.


So, let’s jump into the discussion.

(1) Your skin is different. Choose wisely.

(2) Know the brand.

(3) Empower your skin not your products.

(4) Create your routine.

(5) Know when to change and when to remain the same.


(1) Your skin is different. Choose wisely.

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When I don’t like how my skin reacts to a product, I give it to my mom or sister (just like how I illustrated through my post Balmboozled). We each have a different skin type: I’m oily/sensitive yet dehydrated, my sister is dry/combination, and my mom has mature/normal skin. Where our skin types fall pretty much covers the skincare spectrum, so it makes for a great team to test out products. When that balm is too rich for my skin and causes me to breakout, I’ll give it to my mom and she’ll end up adoring it (The Super Blend by Maya Chia). If something helps my breakouts, I’ll also tell my sister to try it. If I find a product rich yet non-comedogenic, I will tell my sister to use it (Active Vital Balm by Josh Rosebrook). Sometimes all three of us will love a product! I feel good using or recommending these items because I have already looked into the brand and product, and I feel confident in its purchase. This is why I try to incorporate their opinions on products I don’t like in my reviews, so readers can get a better understanding of whether they should try a product or not. If a product doesn’t work for me because it’s too rich, it’ll work with someone for drier skin. If it’s too light, it’ll work for someone else. My reviews are me talking about my personal experience with a specific product and how I reacted to it. That way others with the same issue can maneuver the beauty world better. However, that being said, just because we do share the same skin type, it doesn’t mean we have the same skin. Every single person is so unique, and products will work for some and not for others. This is the reason, actually, that I don’t have any subscription boxes- I feel like every month’s products will not be suitable for everyone’s skin types. Of course, a lot of care of effort is put into curating these sets, and I’m sure it’s created to suit many people. However, I’d rather assess and choose the correct products for my skin. For now anyways, this is just my preference.img_3176

A great video by Jordan Samuel (click here) talks about how your skin isn’t a ‘trend,’ and how just because someone famous or popular uses a certain product, doesn’t mean you should buy it and expect it to work on your skin type. A lot of the popularity and reviews behind products sound like every movie critic review: “The best movie of the year,” “a masterpiece” – how can 100 movies be movie of the year though. When you are looking at your own social media feed, reading reviews, or getting hyped up by the latest trend, just remember to ask yourself whether your skin will truly benefit from it, or don’t ask but sample first. It is our own responsibly to research ingredients and assess whether we think a product will be a good fit, and we should own up to it for our sake- to get great skin takes a combination of multiple products, good habits, and knowledgable choices. In addition to not falling for products that are trendy or used by many people, be weary of what brands themselves sell to you and what miracles they promise you. In another ‘Skin Talks’ episode with Jordan, he talks about this important topic (found here): Are the studies companies cite actually valid? Do they just put fancy claims without any proof that it’s necessary, i.e. vitamins, oils, new skincare technology? Is that ingredient even included in a non-negligible concentration? Bottom Line that I couldn’t have put better myself: “Steer clear of those marketing claims like […] this new skincare technology has fairy diamonds and vitamin B gluten-intolerant free lactose soy based dairy products.” Hah!

To bring myself forward as an example, I used to have acne when I was in my teens, to the point a doctor recommended Accutane. I refused, however, and began my journey of internal/external healing for my skin and body through healthy living/practices. I made many mistakes over the years for how to treat it, but now my breakouts are mostly hormonal (during the luteal phase of my cycle), and my skin has drastically improved. It’s not perfect of course, but it’s much, much better than before- did I say much already? Knowing what to use or not through your own experiences can often be just as valuable as reading articles by skincare professionals. Sometimes we can get so confused listening to the advice of others, whether it’s our friends or dermatologists or nutritionists. I remember looking at so many different articles and videos online to the point I would overwhelm myself and start trying out everything. In the end, however, you have to use your common sense and instincts in determining what advice to take into practice. If it doesn’t work, that’s fine, you can try something else and learn from it. Just know that there won’t be one product to ‘rule them all’- for one category of skincare yes this can be the case, but in no case will a single ingredient or product will be the ultimate solution for all your particular skin woes.


(2) Know the brand.

One of the responsibilities of assessing a product aside from ingredients is through really taking the time to understand the brand philosophy and founder; the founder’s own beliefs will influence the skincare products they make. I’m oversimplifying here but here are some examples: Skinowl founder credits a specific ingredient to clearing her acne, so that ingredient makes up her star product.  Moss founder Celestyna creates products to address adult acne and combines nature and safe synthetics: the Daily Antioxidant Primer uses synthetic antioxidants that “boast numerous times the power of Vitamins C & E against a broad spectrum of free radical species [with] greater stability” while simultaneously utilizing Bamboo Extract and Muru Muru butter to replace silicone. May Lindstrom focuses on the experience/aesthetic of a product as well as its results. Earthwise Beauty founder Celestyna aims for very pure ingredients she discovers through traditional and ancient uses across cultures and continents. Josh Rosebrook exclusively focuses on using plants over synthetics: he chooses to use Botanical Hyaluronic Acid found in Indian Senna Seed in the Active Vital Balm and Advanced Hydration Mask products. Agent Nateur founder Jena is all about sourcing the best ingredients. Not every brand is for everyone’s own skin type, and once you find which you feel you can trust the most, try the sample sizes out first if you like! Overall, however, try to aim for transparent companies who source and extract quality ingredients though quality methods. Understanding their philosophy will help you decide which brand attracts you more.

I made this comment once to Ava of Earthwise Beauty, and I’ll bring it up again here. I really feel like it’s easier now a days to spot out great brands because particularly within green beauty, the companies start out small but mighty, so you get the luxury to really understand the brand’s mission and understand who the formulator is. Since the companies (some of them) began because the founders actually care about bringing safe products to individuals, they also happen to be more transparent as well. There are SO many green brands popping up lately as well (be careful with copycats though). Due to all of this, I feel like it’s hard to go into purchasing a product without understanding if it will have potential to address your concerns. It took me a while to understand what doesn’t work for my skin, and that was only through experimenting, but now a days I know better what to look for. I don’t have a 100% perfect decision streak, but most of the options I end up trying, I like. Not because I’m easy to impress, but because of the reasons mentioned above, I can more easily target what I think will work for me. If I choose a product that costs 5$ to make and is full of toxic additives, then it would be on me when my skin reacts negatively. If I choose a product from a brand that I know focuses on quality ingredients and extraction methods, there’s a much higher chance I will end up liking it- it’s common sense right? I’m choosing to be conscious and the fact is there are a lot brands who are just doing a great job in what they’re making. I have so many favorites in every category and that’s a great thing to have, that possibility of having so many wonderful, safe products when before it was a rarity.

On a closing note, not calling this a case of copy-cats, but rather mirror-images: if you look at certain products from different brands, you will notice a lot actually will have similar ingredients. Do you need to try out another clay-based mask to detoxify your skin? Do you need another face oil that has coconut or sunflower or pumpkin seed in it? Do you really need that balm that sounds like every other balm on the market? What sets that certain product aside from other brands? Assess as much as you can the quality and source of the ingredients, the thoughtfulness in its formulation, and the science and technology (whether traditional or modern); this way, you can choose just exactly which product to go with. When I reach the point I truly respect a brand in all/most of these aspects, it’s a no-brainer for me to try out new products they release (granted it’s for my skin type), since there is already a promising history in place. Some brands that have reached this total trust level? Moss skincare/AMBAR, Josh Rosebrook, Earthwise Beauty.


(3) Empower your skin not your products.

Back then, we didn’t have to use so many products, whether topically or internally. Contrary to ‘beauty belief’, our skin can function and be efficient on its own. Sadly, we are constantly looking for a “miracle” product or ingredients which will “fix” our skin. We feel like we are incapable without layering on so many products, because we need them to change our skin. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to want to get rid of our acne, discolorations, or lines, but what is wrong is the mentality we take towards our skin. Take the following tips from Josh Rosebrook (excerpt from here) in understanding why we should shift our mentality from this to one more empowering of our skin‘s natural abilities:

“The misunderstanding stems from the focus being placed on the product/ingredients changing the skin verses a more accurate “skin empowered” perception, which views the product/ingredients assisting the skin in its own innate healing process. The products/ingredients are not actually changing the skin, they are supporting an acceleration of the skin’s healing ability.  When you cut yourself the body heals, it mends on its own, and creates new tissue. If we apply topical, herbal treatments, those treatments aren’t “healing” the body – they are supporting an acceleration of the bodies own natural function. The body heals – products or ingredients do not heal the skin, they support it’s process…This also holds an acknowledgment of the body, giving credit to the skin and it’s magnificent, inherent power, and gratitude for the natural process that is already present the skin.”

This was a very important mentality shift that I myself had to make- we have to trust our bodies more because they know what to do better than we think. We’re not ‘broken,’ we simply need some help in some areas. At one point last year I ran out of some products and remember almost spazzing that I was only cleansing, moisturizing, and using an spf. I felt that my skin needed more products and would not properly function without more. How awful is that? We’re ingrained that we “need” all these products to make our skin look good, when in reality we need to stop taking our body’s own capabilities for granted and understand our skin won’t fall off if we stop using everything- we’re simply using products to help it out. Taking supplements for our health internally applies to this mentality as well.


(4) Create your routine.

With this, it’s on you to find what works for your own skin. Start with the absolute minimum: a cleanser and a serum/moisturizer. Then start adding in different products for specific concerns and assess how your skin reacts. My own cabinet consists of the following products: cleanser, toner, serum, oil, moisturizer, spf, masks/exfoliators. Just as Jordan Samuel advises, be consistent in your routine a.m. and p.m. until it stops working for you. You do NOT need to go crazy and have a 15 step routine morning and night which differs every single day.

I’ve been testing out some new products and thus my skincare routine is different this month, but if you’re curious here is a preview of what I’m currently using and will be using for a while:

My morning routine:

Cleanse: Moisture Cleanse by Josh Rosebrook

Toner/Hydrate: Rose Treatment Essence by African Botanics / Hydrating Mineral Gelée by AMBAR

Moisturizer: Cloudburst Moisturizer by African Botanics

Heavier Moisturizer/Primer: D.A.P. by AMBAR / Tigress Balm by Earthwise Beauty

Sunscreen: Tinted Day Cream by Josh Rosebrook

My Nightly Routine:

Oil/Makeup Cleanse: Vitamin B Oil Cleansing Oil by OLO / Amazon After Dark by Lilifox

Second Cleanse: Micellar Cleansing Water by AMBAR

Toner/Hydrate: Rose Treatment Essence by African Botanics / Hydrating Mineral Gelée by AMBAR

Moisturizer: Potenci by moss Skincare / Cloudburst Moisturizer by African Botanics

Serum/Balm/Oil: Illumina / Aurum by moss OR Ressurection Serum by African Botanics OR Ruby Facial Oil / Tigress Balm by Earthwise Beauty

This may be either too excessive or not enough for your own skin, but notice how I make sure to cleanse, hydrate, get my water-based and oil-based moisture in, and also alternate with more powerful serums at night. I can never imagine being without Potenci/Illumina by moss skincare, and I rely on Earthwise Beauty for oils/balms as they are so pure and effective. This shouldn’t be a “formula” of products that you should necessarily replicate and use on your own skin, but it’s a formula that is so far working for me. However, the inclusion of hydric moisturizers, hyaluronic acid/tamarind extract, gentle cleansers, and oils can be beneficial for you as well.


(5) Know when to change and when to remain the same.

There is a lot of reasons we can’t stick with one “does-it-all,” “perfect” product from Day 1 on, with the best explanation simply being that external/internal factors are always affecting our skin. Diet, hormones, seasons, these all play a factor in influencing our skin care choices. Thus, having a few products from the same category is in fact not ‘extra,’ but with justification. It doesn’t mean you need to own 500 items per category and use a different one everyday of the year, but it does mean your morning/nightly choices will differ as well as your choices every so often (whether that’s in 1 month, 36 months, etc).

I know that I am loving the Complete Moisture Cleanse by Josh Rosebrook in the mornings so much that I don’t see that choice changing for a long time, even though I still love some of the other cleansers I own (Black Clay Facial Soap by Osmia Organics, Halcyon by Yüli). They’re all great choices, but for now the Moisture Cleanse is my go-to. Summer will most likely prompt me to change it up and use Halcyon/Black Clay Soap in my am or pm routine to give me a stronger cleanse. This is an example of knowing what not to change, for me.

Now for the other decision, knowing when to change: I don’t know if this applies to everyone, but has it ever happened where just by looking at an item of food or a product, you just feel whether you want/need it or not? It’s like my body/skin knows on an instinctive level what it wants/needs. Last month, I was using Tigress Balm day and night, alongside other oils, and my skin was loving it. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling my skin is “blah” and starting to get oily again. I had to backtrack until I realized I’ve been so into testing products that I haven’t been noticing what I’ve been missing. We have to make sure we’re paying attention to how our skin feels/reacts to know when to switch gears.  How you use or don’t use a product will definitely differ over time since your original usage, with those changing the least being products addressing consistent everyday needs such as hydration. It doesn’t mean that product isn’t ‘amazing’ anymore, it just means for now, your skin may be needing something else.

One of my favorite articles that I’ve mentioned a few times already is this article by Celestyna Higgins of moss/AMBAR (click here) where she discusses how to use facial oils correctly. The fact of the matter is, we may be using too much oils, and the incorrect ones at that. It’s very important to properly hydrate our skin with water-based moisture and not just rely on oils. When I was mixing and solely using 3-5 different oil products a.m. and p.m. (which means like 15 different individual oils total) a few years ago, my skin was SO oily it was disgusting. However, it was trendy and touted to be the solution for oily skin- use more oils! I took it too far. Little did I know my worsening issue with oily skin was because of my skincare routine. The same thing was happening this month, albeit on a smaller scale- I was forgetting my water-based moisture! Especially since my bottle of Potenci ran out, my skincare consisted of a lot of oils. I don’t need to tell you- they are in our cleansers, our toners, our moisturizers, our serums, our straight-up oils, makeup, etc. My skin was trying to finally tell me- yo, I really enjoyed this last month, but enough. Celestyna makes the following comment to answer why you’re oils won’t absorb properly into your skin anymore:

” (1) How long/how consistently have you been using it? If you have been using this oil daily for over a month, your skin may be telling you that the oil did its job, helped the skin rebalance, and now the skin is “full.” You should take a break from oils at this point, or perhaps go down to using the oil as a special weekly treat.

(2) Is this the right oil for my skin type? Is oil (of any sort) the right skincare choice for my skin right now? Perhaps not…”

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My case was number one. As a result, I’ve been incorporating products formulated with a lower concentration of oils as well as those with hyaluronic acid or tamarind extract, i.e. the Rose Treatment Essence from African Botanics and the Hydrating Mineral Gelèe by AMBAR. Besides these, Potenci is a must-have product for me in my routine because it exceeds in repairing and addressing so many concerns while limiting the amount of oils in the ingredients: it contains ceramides, rice peptides, an antarctic bacteria that helps the skin retain moisture, pomegranate phytosterols, and N-Acetyl Glucosamine (a skin identical ingredient that helps the skin manufacture its own hyaluronic acid and collagen). I don’t have any knowledge on that antarctic bacteria, but I do know there is enough science behind ceramides for example that make me appreciate that ingredient. The results of Potenci are the major factor that results in the continuous repurchase of the product, not because I get swayed by the inclusion of ‘antarctic bacteria’. In addition to Potenci, the Cloudburst Micro-Emulsion Moisturizer by African Botanics contains “fruit enzymes, minerals, uniquely extracted botanical humectants and a high concentration of antioxidants”, and is a new item I’m testing out. There are a part of my everyday routine because hydration should be an every-day focus all year long. In this way, I can still use my most-loved oils/balms as my last step at morning/night, albeit less frequently than before. After all, these concentrated products come with their own powerful benefits – it’s just all about balance and moderation. I’ve already been using my new routine for two weeks now, and I can tell you my skin is already doing so well- and when I do use my oils, I wake up with better skin, not ‘blah’ skin.

Seasons can play a role in our skin’s needs, stress, etc, but just listen to your skin- do you need richer products, more focused on detoxifying, lighter products, etc and adapt. You don’t need to change up your whole routine, or maybe you do! See what suits you. Don’t be afraid to change it up, and don’t be afraid to remain the same. I mean, if oils make your skin flawless, stick with only oils! It’s all custom.


Final Words…

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Of course there is SO much more that can be said on this topic, but I do hope this post helped you out. Does this mean you or I won’t be tempted anymore by new product releases or ones that have a cult following? Nope! But hopefully it encourages both of us to discover products at a slower rate and listen to our skin better. I do love testing out new products for you guys though, so I don’t mind switching up my products more often than the norm and sharing my honest opinions about them. However I myself am making a conscious effort to focus on trying less new products, and stick to listening to my skin. I love seeing pictures of skincare junkie shelves and all those beautiful products lined up, but I also know that no one needs that. That’s why I don’t post daily pics of different routines- you need consistency and time to test products, and you certainly don’t need a different routine for every day of the year. Don’t get me wrong, do I want that? Heck yes, I myself am a skincare junkie and purchase products more than the average joe. But am I going to make an effort to discover new products at a slower rate? Yes- if something is working, why jump ship so soon to test out another product? It’s all about trusting our skin more and also focusing on supporting it internally, not just externally. As of right now, my product discovery is centered around the brand African Botanics, and my goal is to not buy another skincare product unless I feel I need to.

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But don’t expect me to apply this same mentality to masks, the more the merrier for me hah! 😉

…Oh and…when it comes to makeup…change it up and buy as many lipsticks or bronzers as you want, because here temptation is allowed to be indulged ;).