I’ve been tweaking my skin care routine lately to try to figure out what was causing a sudden rash of breakouts. After months of trial and error, I think I’ve finally got it under control. So, here’s my updated skincare routine along with the process I went through to get here.
OK, so if you’ve read my other anti-aging skincare posts, you know that last winter I started using Retin-a, Vitamin C, and Glycolic Acid to combat wrinkles, age spots, and overall dullness. I did a lot of reading before deciding on this approach, and my research showed that these are the 3 most tested and proven anti-agers, and that they are at their optimal effectiveness when they work together.
I already knew that one or a combination of them could cause skin sensitivity which I had experienced first hand a few years ago when I first tried retin-a and vitamin c. Back then I got a 0.1% concentration of retin-a and also used Skinceuticals C+E Ferulic. The combo caused peeling and stinging and I stopped using both. This time I was more careful. I got tretinoin (generic retin-a) in the 0.05% strength and eased into it over a few months. I gradually added in Timeless 20% Vitamin C+E Ferulic serum, and Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA. I had very little peeling, and no stinging or burning. Before & after pictures showed an improvement in my skin. I was a happy camper!
Everything was going along just fine, then suddenly just as summer hit and I started wearing more sunscreen and less makeup, my face started to break out. Was it the sunscreen? Or maybe the increasing heat & humidity were the culprits. I would have 6-10 pimples going at any given time, mainly concentrated on my lower cheeks and jawline. I looked for topical treatments that were gentle yet effective staying away from salicylic acid, alcohol, and benzol peroxide. I found a natural tea tree oil toner and a tea tree oil spot treatment as well as a sulpher based powder concealer, but sadly, the zits just kept coming, and those that had gone away left their calling card of dark spots that take forever to heal.
Then I read on a blog that the silicones in skincare products combined with the heat and humidity of summer can cause breakouts, so I began a journey into silicone free skincare. Well, the good news was that none of my anti-aging products contained silicones so I could keep using them as normal. I replaced my moisturizers, cleansers, sunscreens, and makeup with all silicone free options, but my skin kept pushing up those lovely little cones!
Later in the summer while on vacation, I ran out of my vitamin c serum. I ordered more when I got back home, but in the 2-3 weeks I wasn’t using it, my skin started to clear up! This was a new twist, so I started looking into reactions to anti-aging ingredients and sure enough, overuse of anti-agers can cause skin to become overly sensitive and produce reactions like I had before (redness, stinging, flaking), but they can also cause breakouts.
Over the last month I’ve added my silicone moisturizers and sunblocks back into my routine and left out my vitamin c serum and my skin has been gradually improving. I’m not saying the vitamin c alone was the culprit, but rather, that it was the combo of all three that my skin developed a sensitivity to. I’m hoping to be able to add the vitamin c back in sometime over the winter because using all 3 was working just fine for a while.
I had gotten so used to putting on a “treatment” product morning and night in the 6-9 months since I started focusing on anti-aging that without my vitamin c serum, I felt like I wan’t doing enough to combat the signs of aging. So I decided to increase my tretinoin use to every night, and move my AHA to the morning and use it every day. I’ve been doing that for about a month and I’ve noticed an improvement in my skin. It looks clearer and more glowy. Using the glycolic every day does cause some stinging and more exfoliating, so when I feel the burn, I skip a day or two of the morning treatment and that seems to bring everything back to normal.
But, there’s the problem. I’m right back to over-using the anti-agers! Yeah, I’m down to 2 from 3 products, but I’ve gone back to the same frequency of applying a treatment every morning and every night. I feel like our culture is so convinced that “more is more” that it’s hard to stop, or even cut back. I for one have to start listening more closely to what my skin is trying to tell me, and to realize that everyone’s skin is different. So, just because I read on a dermatologists blog that the best anti-aging skincare is to get to the highest concentration of retin-a and use it every night along with glycolic and vitamin c doesn’t mean that my skin can actually handle it.
The net-net is that I’m still not entirely sure why my skin broke out so badly, and I only came to the anti-ager-overuse conclusion when I accidentally ran out of one of my products. For all I know, it could be all hormonal. . . I am in peri-menopause after all. My skin still isn’t totally clear, I’m still getting one or two pimples a week. The good news is I’m due for my annual trip to my derm for my whole body scan, so maybe I can gain some insight on this when I go. . .
Now that you’ve slogged with me though the backstory, here’s my new routine:
Wash face with Eucerin Calming Face Wash using just my hands
Apply 2 pumps of Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum
Apply 2 pumps of CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30
Apply 1 pump of Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum to eye lids, under eyes, and around mouth
Wait 15-30 minutes and apply a pea sized amount of Tretinoin 0.05% Cream