I have sensitive, oily, acne-prone skin. As a result, I have struggled in the past to find products and a routine that wouldn’t make me a greasy mess, clog my pores, or cause a reaction or breakout. But, since turning 30, I have really focused on finding good, affordable products to create a minimal 6-step morning routine. So, I’m sharing my easy everyday morning skincare routine that I follow.
STEP 1: CLEANSE
I switch it up between two facial cleansers throughout the week — depending in on the weather, or how oily/dirty my skin is feeling.
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
8 fl oz, approx. $12 at Target
If I need a good cleanse or feel like my face is really oily I use this. It’s a really gentle chemical exfoliating cleanser with salicylic acid and is both non-comedogenic (specially formulated so as not to cause blocked pores) and fragrance-free. Between my migraines and having sensitive skin, I always strive to use fragrance-free products. I usually use this 1 to 2 times a week in the winter and 3 to 4 times a week in the summer.
Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for Normal to Oily Skin
16oz, approx. $9 – $10 at Target
This is the other cleanser I use. It doesn’t have any chemical exfoliants (BHAs like salicylic acid or AHAs) and is really gentle. It’s also non-comedogenic. While it has masking fragrance, it’s really mild and doesn’t bother me. If my face is feeling extra sensitive or irritated, or on the rare occasion feeling a little dry, I’ll for sure use this. Otherwise, I generally use it anywhere from 2 to 6 days a week.
Neutrogena Body Clear Oil-Free Body Scrub
8.5oz, at Target
I have used this for at least the last 10 years every single day. I use it as the last step in the shower right before I get out to wash my chest, shoulders, upper arms, and back. It has salicylic acid in it, and really helps combat acne and breakouts as well as those little bumps (known as Keratosis Pilaris) that I sometimes get on my upper arms.
STEP 2: SALICYLIC ACID TREATMENT PAD
Oxy Rapid Treatment 3-In-1 Pads, Maximum Action
90 count – approx. $7 at CVS
I have used these since I was a young teen / pre-teen. It was probably the first skincare product I ever purchased. It has 2% Salicylic Acid as the active ingredient. I prefer the “maximum action” version (with the orange/red label). In the last 5 to 8 years, this product has gotten harder to find. They used to carry it at Target, but now I usually get it at CVS or Walgreens.
If I need more and can’t find Oxy Pads anywhere, I get the Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads, from Target, but they’re more expensive (60 count for approx. $10).
STEP 3: TONER
Thayers Facial Toner with Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera, Unscented
12oz, approx. $10 at Target
I apply this with a cotton round after my face has dried from the Oxy Pad. It is gentle and alcohol-free, which is really important for not drying out my skin too much. (Astringents often contain alcohol, which I find to be too drying after using an Oxy pad.)
Before I started using the Thayers toner though, I really did not know the difference between toners, astringents, essences, micellar waters, etc. Here are some good articles and infographics from Thayers (here and here) and Allure as well as a YouTube video from Beauty Within describing the differences and purposes of each. But essentially, toners are used to:
- draw water into the skin (which helps to moisturize and hydrate the skin)
- help soothe the skin
- balance pH levels
- prime the skin for moisturizers and serums
STEP 4: SERUMS
The Ordinary’s Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
1oz bottle – $6.70 at Ulta or Sephora
To apply I put a pea-sized drop on my pointer finger, rub my two pointer fingers together and than lightly press it into the skin under my eyes. This serum is supposed to help to reduce puffiness and dark circles.
The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
1oz bottle – $5.90 at Ulta or Sephora
To apply I fill up the dropper and put a generous drop on each of the tips of my four fingers (without refilling the dropper). Then I rub my the four finger tips with the serum together with my other four finger tips to spread out the serum a bit. Then I apply it to my face and neck and rub it in. Sometimes it foams a little because I’ve used salicylic acid in a previous step. That’s ok. If I keep rubbing it in the foam disappears. This serum is supposed to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion, balance visible aspects of sebum activity, and brighten skin tone. It is especially good for oily and acne-prone skin.
Both of these serums are oil-free, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free as well. Bonus: The Ordinary is a cruelty-free and vegan brand.
STEP 5: SPOT TREATMENT (AS NEEDED)
I’ve used different ones over the years, including:
Neutrogena’s Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel
0.5oz tube, approx. $10
The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
1oz bottle, approx. $5
*I don’t reccomend this. While it’s less expensive per oz. I don’t like the how liquidy it is. I’ll use it up, but won’t repurchase and will likely start using something else.
STEP 6: MOISTURIZER
L’Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care for Normal/Oily Skin
3oz, approx. $17
According to the L’Oréal website, this moisturizer is formulated to offer lightweight hydration with quick absorption. It was specifically developed for normal to oily skin and therefore formulated with aloe water and hyaluronic acid to provide both 72 hours of mattifying hydration.
While it is a lightweight gel without any noticeable fragrance, I’ve been disappointed with it. It dries down, but then about two hours later my face looks rather greasy. Using one of those blue oil-blotting sheets helps. I paid $17 for it, so I’m going to finish it. But for sure I won’t be repurchasing it.