i know i promised to come back a little sooner with my top 10 skincare products, but i've been kinda busy lately. the move to NC and the subsequent job search have had me a little stressed lately, but i have faith that things will fall into place. my skin has taken a beating, but i'm finally at a place in my life where i have a set regimen and i can troubleshoot skin problems, sort of like what i do when i'm having a bad hair day. some of these are relatively new to my regimen, but a few i have been using for a year plus now. they are ALL repurchases in my book. unfortunately, for every product i have tried and liked, there are three more that didn't work for me. needless to say, i've experimented a LOT! i've broken them down into three categories: cleanse, treat, and moisturize. this way, i can use different combinations of products depending on what i need....or how i'm feeling.
1. desert essence thoroughly clean face wash ($8, amazon.com/the vitamin shoppe)
i first purchased this cleanser back in 2008, when i discovered the skin care boards on LHCF. it came highly recommended by user Divine Inspiration, and since i ate up pretty much everything she said at the time, i ran out and bought it. i stuck with it not only because it's 100% vegan and i am making an attempt to roll with a mostly natural/organic regimen, but because it WORKS for me. it dries up my blemishes without drying out my face, and it feels really invigorating. i used to use it on its own, but now i use it with my clarisonic and i still love it. what's more is you can get the 32 oz bottle for roughly the same price, if you buy online.
2. extra virgin olive oil (various prices, supermarkets)
the thing i love about this oil is its versatility. i've spoken about my hair's love affair with EVOO, and i was ecstatic when i learned about its benefits for the skin, too. i read a few threads on the oil cleansing method and was hooked -- i mean, getting rid of nearly every skin problem there is with something you can find in your kitchen (or in my case, the hair cabinet)? my main thing was just like most people's, getting over the fact that i assumed oil-free was the best way to go when dealing with oily skin, but i was wrong. since oil absorbs oil, it only makes sense that cleansing with oil would be so good for your skin. EVOO makes such a great base for OCM, and can readily be mixed with grapeseed oil, castor oil, sweet almond oil, or whatever you wish. in addition to being a great cleanser, it is a superb makeup remover -- so good that i no longer buy commercial makeup removers. i tried almost everything to take off my stubborn eye makeup, but nothing does it like EVOO. i always keep a bottle in my bathroom.
3. clarisonic ($149-225, sephora)
i can truly say that this is the one tool that has taken my skincare to the next level. although i have not seen some of the almost miraculous results some users claim to see, i do love and frequently use my clarisonic plus. i purchased it on ebay since they had the best price on the plus, but honestly i could have done without all the extras, such as the included cleansers and the body brush. i am glad i got the three different face brushes though, because without them, i never would have known which i needed (the gentle blue brush). while it did not fade my hyperpigmentation or completely rid my face of blackheads/whiteheads, i see a major difference in my face when i go without using it for a few days. it can be used with so many different cleansers, and it really holds a charge. i routinely go for weeks on end without setting it on the charging dock, and it always works perfectly. i love the different timers on it, as well as the different speed settings. i hope i'm never without my clarisonic!
4. stridex daily care alcohol-free acne pads ($3, CVS/walgreens)
i picked up this tip from the lovely ladies at makeupalley. they are semi-gurus on skincare on the board there, and someone once put it so plainly that if you want an effective acne-fighting medication, it shouldn't be a wash, but something that stays on your skin. i like to use products that multitask, and since i like my moisturizer to not only be that, but also a sunscreen (or a fade cream if using it at night), i decided to add this third product to my regimen. i have been through two boxes now, and i really like them. they provide me with a steady dose of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that works great as an anti-acne medication. (why do you think it's in so many products? it WORKS.) my skin is consistently clear, except for a few stubborn hormonal pimples that get through during that time of the month. even better is the price point on these pads....they are only $3 a box, and if you look inside the flap before you get to the register, you will find a $1 off coupon that drops the price even more.
5. aztec secret indian healing clay ($7, the vitamin shoppe)
this is another great multitasking product. i purchased it back in 2008 for use on my face, and hated it for the longest time -- it may have been because i was using retin-a micro at the time, so my skin was already super sensitive. i recently revisited it, mixing it with organic ACV this time instead of water, and i liked it a lot more. it really deep cleans, getting out what my other cleansers can't: blackheads and whatever gunk happens to be clogging my pores at the time. i love the tightening feeling it produces when drying, and try to use it at least once a month, although ideally i would use it once a week. what i mean by multitasking is that you can use it as a hair paste to clarify and make your curls pop; i did a blog entry on this back a few months ago. this one pound jar has lasted me forever.
6. makeup artists' choice 40% lactic acid peels ($17.75-48.75, makeupartistschoice.com)
i purchased this at the end of 2009, hoping to find something to fade my acne scars. instead, i found a product that brightens and smooths my skin, making it look almost flawless. (now only if i could get rid of the marks, i'd have dream skin!) i used to rotate it weekly with glycolic acid peels, but they are also good alone. during weeks where i do strictly lactic peels, i do them about once every three days. they are really simple to do, and the savings are phenomenal when compared to how much they would cost at a spa or derm's office. i am currently out, but will repurchase this week -- enter code august2010 for 20% off your purchase! (ends 8/16/10)
7. grapeseed oil ($5, grocery stores) + lily of the desert aloe vera gelly ($8, the vitamin shoppe)
another great find from Divine Inspiration. i started using this once i heard that grapeseed oil contains vitamin e, and aloe vera is wonderful for healing purposes. as a recovering skin picker, i put this on to soothe my blemishes and scars, and it really does help to make them less noticeable (although unfortunately the marks never completely disappeared). i do not currently use this, but when i did use it, i loved it. i may return to it in the future.
8. eucerin everyday protection moisturizer with spf 30 ($10, walgreens and CVS)
i began using this when i was on retin-a, as i needed a soothing moisturizer with a built-in sunscreen. this moisturizer definitely handled that -- no matter how raw my skin was, it never irritated it, and the sunscreen kept my hyperpigmentation from getting darker. what's best is that this bottle lasted months! i continued to use it after i got off RAM, and as a matter of fact the only reason i stopped is because i am now using a fade cream with a built-in sunscreen. i would definitely return to this moisturizer in the future.
9. cold-pressed castor oil ($5 and up, whole foods and health stores)
i originally bought a bottle of regular drugstore castor oil for my hair, but at the time found it too heavy and greasy. (since then, i have started using it differently, and now i love it!) i also added this to my OCM mix, and found success with it like that. however, recently i have been using it as a moisturizer right after washing my face before bed. i now use the cold-pressed hexane free version from whole foods. it helps to absorb oil, and thus leaves my skin less oily. castor oil's benefits as an anti-acne treatment and as a scar treatment are also widely discussed (see here), and for that reason it has become a staple in my skincare regimen. i will soon switch to JBCO for my hair, and i may try that on my skin as well. if not, i will continue to purchase and use cold-pressed, hexane free castor oil.
10. nadinola extra strength fade cream ($5, drugstores and wal-mart)
i was highly skeptical for the longest time of using fade creams, despite the fact that my mom raved about what wonders they did for her skin when she was younger. i have heard a lot about hydroquinone and how dangerous it can be, but that was foolishly before doing my own research. from what i have determined, it is perfectly fine in small doses, and i do not plan on using it for more than three months anyway. from what i have seen in the three weeks that i have been using it, this fade cream is fading my hyperpigmentation faster than anything else i have tried. of course i took "before" pictures, and even my unofficial "after" photos show a marked difference in my skin. what's even more remarkable is that for the first two weeks i was using a jar that i have had sitting in a drawer for at least two years, so it wasn't even full strength. now that i am using a brand new jar, i am continuing to see results. i am hopeful that by my birthday, my marks will have largely disappeared. moral of the story? listen to mom next time!