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How to Start a New Skincare Routine

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

I cannot tell you how brilliant your holiday gift guides are. I’ve already crossed my mom and three cousins (two teenagers and one almost-1-year-old) off my list. In November! I’m pretty sure it’s a Christmas miracle. More importantly, I’ve found something awesome for my own wishlist, namely the Philosophy Makeup Optional gift set.

I’m 23, and the acne that started in high school is just now abating. I stopped wearing makeup about a year ago, before my wedding, so I wouldn’t have to worry about covering as many blemishes on the big day, and my skin improved. There are still some red marks from previous acne and the occasional blemish (*cough* PMS *cough*), but I think I’m better off with a bare face than wearing heavy makeup to cover the blemishes caused by the makeup.

Right now I wash my face with Neutrogena Acne Wash in the shower when I think of it (2-3 times a week, I would guess), and put cleocin gel on any blemishes or blemishes in the making. So, umm, not the best skincare routine. I’ve heard lots of good things about Philosophy, and I’m excited to get started, but I’m not quite sure how.

I’ve been burned in the past. Proactiv, when used according to the instructions for two weeks, turned my face red and burned. It also bleached my pillow cases and my now-husband’s favorite hoodie. Neutrogena face wash and moisturizer, used twice a day, results in dime-sized pores and an oil field where my cheeks should be. I’ve tried sticking to it to give my skin time to adjust, but the results are not pretty.

So my question to you, oh wise and beautiful Amalah, is how to start my new skincare regimen. How much do I use to start, and when? How long should I stick with a new routine to give my skin a chance to catch up? How do I adjust if my skin gets too dry or too oily? Awesome Christmas presents should not cause this much stress!

-This is my confused face

I generally say that you give a new skincare regimen at least two weeks. It’s not uncommon for your skin to freak out a little bit, particularly skin that tends to be a little on the oily/blemish-prone side. This could be total scientific/psychobabble hogwash, but sometimes a new skincare routine can act a bit like one of those master cleanses — things actually look and feel worse right at first, as your pores purge deep-rooted nastiness, and only after all the toxins and crap have risen to the surface will you actually see the real benefits of your new products. At least, that’s usually how my skin reacts.

There are exceptions: An obvious allergic reaction (hives, swelling, eczema) is a big old stop-right-now sign. And if, after two weeks, your skin STILL seems worse, it MIGHT be worth sticking with the routine for another two weeks, just to be sure. I’d hate to toss something aside that WAS actually on the verge of giving me deeply clear skin. And during those last two weeks is when I’d probably start changing up the frequency and order of product use.

To start, I’m generally a fan of following package directions. Philosophy is an A.M./P.M. regimen, designed to be used twice a day, every day for optimal balance. For women with oily skin, it might seem unnerving to use a moisturizer that much, while women with dry skin might blanch at the idea of washing twice a day. But it’s worth a try — I was washing my face twice a day already (I’m oily/shiny in the morning, need to remove makeup at night), but by NOT moisturizing after those washings I was throwing my skin out of balance. And the Makeup Optional kit is designed for women to STOP over-treating one condition (oil or dryness) and finally achieve real balance.

So. To start, wash every morning with Purity. Follow up with Hope in a Jar (a very little bit) and the eye cream. At 23, you PROBABLY don’t need to worry about the When Hope Is Not Enough serum — it’s a premature aging thingie, so maybe once or twice a week, dab a little around your eyes, lips, that spot right between your eyebrows, but don’t stress about making it part of your daily regimen. It’s mostly for us Olds. Wash and moisturize again before you go to bed. Go cold turkey, too. Don’t mix in one product while you wait to run out off your existing stuff, at least not during the initial two-week evaluation window.

If you aren’t pleased with your skin results after two weeks, I’d say….eh….skip the nighttime ritual, but ONLY if you really are going make-up free. I’m hesitant to recommend this, since there’s just so much environmental crap that ends up on our faces by day’s end, and twice a day moisturizing is SO GOOD for staving off the signs of aging later on…but since it does sound like your skin does a decent job of staying balanced pretty much on its own, you could try this and see how it goes.

Personally, the only problem I had with the basic Philosophy line-up was the PMS-related breakouts. I’m super irregular so I never really know when they’re coming, but when they do, UGH. It is Makeup Required. So I had to tweak my regimen and add in the Hope in a Bottle salicylic acid moisturizer. I use this once a day, in the morning. Hope in a Jar goes on at night, except on Really Bad Hormone Days. Then it’s double-time on the acne-fighting, but only with the moisturizer and a spot treatment. Same wash, same eye cream, no other harsh masks or toners. You probably will want to hold on to your blemish spot treatment since the Philosophy kit doesn’t contain one.

So! Good luck! I must say, from where I sit (in bed, with my laptop and a greasy morning face) that I think you’re choosing the perfect regimen, since it sounds like you have fundamentally Good Skin and have simply been making the same mistake millions of us do, when we choose products that are simply too harsh for us in the face of battling mild acne. Proactiv is way, WAY too much for someone who only occasionally breaks out, and your reaction to it was pretty normal. (Plus, the active ingredient, benzoyl peroxide, does indeed stain. There’s nothing like that in the Philosphy products.) And as a decades-long user of drugstore-brand acne washes and creams, I can say that I know exactly what you’re talking about when it comes to the Neutrogena stuff. Sometimes you have to stop fighting the acne battle to really win it.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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