Favorite Skincare Products Overview
When you take care of your skin, you can get away with a LOT more things (shimmery cheeks, cream blush, tinted moisturizers) than if your skin is stressed, reactive and generally hard to manage.
My #1 recommendation if you have very problematic skin (or are just generally unhappy with it) is to go to a reputable dermatologist because this saves a lot of money and stress in the long run. In my early 20s, I was plagued by moderate acne (including on my back) and was put on a course of a Roaccutane (Isotretinoin) to control it. This is a powerful drug which shrinks your sebaceous glands and dramatically reduces oil production while you are on it (but it’s also potentially dangerous so make sure you talk to your doctor in detail if you want to explore this option). In the years since I’ve gone off it, my skin is no longer quite as perfect (I get menstrual breakouts and clogged pores still), but it has settled into a normal/combination state which is manageable with the help of a few MVPs (Most Valuable Players). Some of these I’ve used for years and years; some of these are new additions which have blown other products out of the water.
If you’re curious as to what goes on “behind the makeup”, read on!
Deep-cleaning: Cleansing Oils
Many women outside of Asia are still quite unfamiliar with these amazing oils that break down ANY heavy-duty makeup and emulsify to rinse away easily with water. From what information I’ve been able to gather, these are different from generic oils because one end of the molecule is both oil-soluble and the other water-soluble.
My first bottle was a huge splurge (for a student on a budget) from Shu Uemura, which remains my favorite brand to date, but I also use cheaper drugstore versions from Neutrogena and DHC which are pretty darned good as well. I use these not jut to remove makeup but also for a long massage to clean out my pores if I’ve been sweating during a workout, or feeling particularly greasy.
Damage-repair: Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair
I avoid the sun as much as I can, but if it’s unavoidable, I make sure I apply a powerful antioxidant as soon as I am able, to reduce damage and prevent hyperpigmentation. My favorite for the last 7-8 years has been the Advanced Night Repair line because it’s packed full of various vitamins and other humectants and repair ingredients. I’ve used every product and like them all aside from the eye treatment (which gave me rashes - ugh).
To me, this is nothing fancy or magical. It’s just an effective, heavy-duty anti-oxidant which is not as expensive as Prevage (which I also like but find exorbitant). If it’s a super-hot day, I apply this under my sunblock just as an extra layer of protection before leaving the house.
Moisture/Protection: Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream
Smells horrendous (I hate camphor) but works soooo well. I’ve spoken about this many times before, and I’ll probably have a tube of this with me for the rest of my life. I have very dry skin around my eyes and on my lips, elbows, heels, etc. This is literally mineral oil, salicylic acid, and camphor, which is PERFECT.
Mineral oil gets a bad rep from organic companies trying to sell you their products. In reality, it is extremely gentle (baby products contain plenty of mineral oil because it is non-reactive and does not clog pores), and more sanitary than organic oils (bacteria cannot breed in it) due to it being inert. It’s also one of the best barrier protectants around.
Add salicylic acid and camphor and you get something that not only has mild exfoliant properties (I NEVER get milia/bumps around my eye area from using 8 Hour Cream, and flaky lips get smooth much quicker) but also helps relieve a bit of pain from chapped skin.
Acne Prevention: Proactiv Acne Repair Lotion
To kill acne bacteria, always remember that you need to apply an antibiotic or antimicrobial product over your entire face, not just in spots, because the bacteria is EVERYWHERE. This is one of those that I found is not too harsh (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide) but very effective, so I use it about 2 days (in a row) every week, just to be more thorough at clearing acne vulgaris bacteria.
Drying or bringing down spots: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion or Etude House AC Clinic Pink Powder Spot lotion
Sulfur is one of the most effective treatments for killing a broad spectrum of microbes and calming the skin, and I never travel without bringing a bottle of drying lotion with me for emergencies. When dabbed onto a blemish, this forms a soothing, antiseptic seal that can eradicate small spots overnight, and keep larger ones in control. If my skin is feeling a little bumpy and clogged, I spread this onto the worst areas for prevention and damage control. I know everyone’s skin reacts differently to treatments, but this is my absolute favorite. (I love it so much I have backups for my backups.)
I’ve been shipping mine in from the Mario Badescu site for years, before it became available in local Sephoras. (I’ll probably continue to do so, considering the ridiculous prices they are charging in Singapore…)
For those in Asia, I also use a version by Etude House (AC Clinic Pink Powder Spot lotion) but I find the Mario Badescu a bit more effective.
Puffy Face: Clarins Shaping Facial Lift
Another product that I’ve used for at least 7 years, since before the package revamp. This smells zingy, feels silky, and can get reduce puffiness within the hour.
Now no matter what the ad copy says, NOTHING can melt or flush fat from under your skin. This just drains excess water very effectively, which is especially helpful if you’ve been out partying too hard and need to look good the next day.
Just make sure you use it in conjunction with the lymphatic drainage massage technique recommended by Clarins.
Another heavy-duty anti-puffiness product is Origins No Puffery, but though both are effective, the silky serum texture of the Clarins product is better for use all over the face than No Puffery, which is an eye gel.
Pore Minimizing: Lancome Visionnaire
When I bought this at Duty Free during my last trip, I was expecting a heavy-weight repair serum. I was NOT expecting it to also calm my skin and actually control my pores.
This is not going to prevent acne or correct all your problems overnight, but I can tell you it shrank my pores in a couple of weeks, and reduced the number of clogs and bumps quite significantly. I still have to blot my face every few hours to remove shine, and I still get the odd pre-menstrual pimple, but hey - I no longer have to keep picking at clogged pores endlessly to remove oil plugs because there are so few now. The fact that it promises to evens out skin tone and correct damage is almost secondary to me!
If you don’t mind shelling out the money, I highly recommend trying this.
Multi-Purpose: BB Creams (Rachel K and Skin79 are my favorites currently)
I used to hate BB creams because I thought they all looked grey, ashy, and unnatural. Then I learnt that I was applying it wrong (pat lightly to stipple the sheerest layer over the skin - don’t smear and rub it in), and that some brands I had not tried carried much better shades for yellower undertones like mine.
Rachel K’s CC (Color Control) Cream purports to be a second-generation BB Cream, with heftier skin treatment benefits. What I find to be the breakthrough though, is the absolutely silky texture and how just the lightest layer can really even out your skin.
Skin79 also has a few with slightly deeper tones that look great on medium-light to medium skins (Hot Pink, Dream Girls and VIP Gold), and while you don’t get that feather-light matte texture of the Rachel K, those who want a slightly more moist finish would like some of the Skin79s more.
(Most BB Creams still don’t work that well for those with darker skins, I’m afraid. They need to come out with more shades!)