Sunday Self-care, Episode 5: Not that Ordinary Skincare

For many years my skincare routine was quite simple. In the morning, it was a face cleanser and a tinted moisturizer with some sunscreen properties. And in the evening, the same face cleanser was used again (a single cleanse since I didn’t use too much makeup) and a simple moisturizer. Sometimes I would use a random serum sample from a GWP (though, it was just a handful of otherwise trusted brands, such as Shiseido, Dior or Estee Lauder). The most exotic item in my day-to-day skincare was a softener from Shiseido (I’m not sure why; I think I just liked the scent and the feeling on my skin).

I kept telling myself that I would start doing more once I get older… But I kept postponing it, mostly because without a good understanding of what was supposed to be used with what, in what sequence and, what was the most important, for what purpose, it felt like a big fraud and attempt to get me to pay money for something I didn’t need.

Many skincare brands’ websites have some type of a step-by-step wizard that after asking you about your skin type and age group moves onto your skin concerns. Until very recently, reading those questions, I couldn’t figure out what to choose since nothing offered as an option seemed like a serious enough concern for me to do a targeted intervention.

Today, looking back, I suspect that the may reason for my attitude was that, despite my lifelong struggle with mild acne, my skin was in relatively good shape. My skin was never dry, and it isn’t that oily either any more. Signs of aging? Sure, but who of age 25+ doesn’t have those? Uneven skin tone? Of course! All my life I had freckles that I didn’t really like but kept under control with the year-round SPF and a tinted moisturizer. Acne is a different story, but I’ll do a separate post on it later in this series. All-in-all, I was reasonably happy with what I saw in the mirror.

And then I didn’t. First, I started noticing some dryness under my eyes. Then I suddenly realized that some areas of my face have visible pores. Then, as I described in the Fun out of the Sun episode of this series, I discovered that my skin tone got much more uneven than I ever remembered it to be. All that didn’t happen in one day (or even month), but at some point I started thinking about trying to counteract at least some of these effects.

My “gateway drug” into the new skincare reality was a Glass Skin Discovery Kit from Peach & Lily. I can’t remember how I discovered it, or why suddenly it spoke to me. But the idea of having a full set – a four-step skincare routine – suddenly felt very attractive. I bought the set and then even before I finished it, I got full-size products.

Has my skin gotten even a step closer to the mythical “glass skin”? I don’t know, probably not. But I like using this brand, so I keep it in the rotation.

Peach and Lily Skincare

And then I discovered The Ordinary. Of course, I heard about it at least several years earlier, it has been raved about even in perfume blogs and was considered as some type of a skincare revolution. Since back then I didn’t have any concerns they promised to help with, I wasn’t interested. But once I became interested, I wanted to try EVERYTHING.

I read through pages and pages of blog posts and articles, viewed numerous videos and went through the Regimen Builder of the brand’s site. I couldn’t figure out what I needed. I combined multiple recommendations and bought my first batch of The Ordinary products 8-9 months ago.

The Ordinary Skincare

After it arrived, I started panicking: I had no idea what could be combined with what either inside the set that I bought or between The Ordinary and all other products that I had. For the first time in my life, I had products that among the recommendation for use had instructions “do not use with other XXX.” It was scary because I wasn’t sure whether what I shouldn’t have combined with these new ones was in the products I already had: it’s not even enough to read labels since those tell you the specific ingredients’ names but not their generic/group name. So, I didn’t use any of them for a couple of months waiting until I would figure that out. Slowly I built some understanding of how products of the set that I got could be combined, but I still wasn’t sure what other products could be used together with them.

After approximately 6 months of using The Ordinary products, I can tell with a conviction that their Caffeine Solution works: it does reduce an under-eye puffiness within minutes. Everything else? I can’t say one way or the other: I don’t see any drastic improvements, but I’m not sure what I could expect after a half-year use. What I do know is that I do not enjoy that DIY lab-style skincare where I need to work hard on figuring out the allowed combinations.

I’m not sure that I or my wallet are ready to switch to Sisley or La Mer (while I still have doubts in my mind as to how much the topical solutions can do), but I think that my next stop will be brands that do at least some work of combining ingredients into something that resembles a finished product. I have many higher-end skincare samples from my recent epic GWP haul, so I plan to go through them figuring out if I want to give any of those brands a try. What I mean is, I know that it’s impossible to get any real results from a trial version of the active product. But since I have my doubts as to the effectiveness of any products, at least I can try to choose those that I enjoy using.


How do you build your skincare regimen? Do you have a good understanding of the ingredients that the products you use have? Or do you rely upon someone’s recommendations? Or do you not care?


Images: my own


31 thoughts on “Sunday Self-care, Episode 5: Not that Ordinary Skincare

  1. I have used so many different skin care products! My am routine is fairly simple – Maelove Glowmaker vitamin C serum, moisturizer (gel in summer, cream in winter), eye cream, mineral sunscreen. Evening I use Curology (tretinoin, azelaic acid) alternating with Farmacy Honeymoon Glow (AHA); DRMTOLOGY Needle-less serum (peptides); eye cream, and in winter moisturizer. I also like Paula’s choice BHA exfoliant but don’t have any at the moment. I have used the Ordinary Lactic Acid, Granactivr Retinoid and Buffet. Thought they were all excellent products – and price point is great!


    • I have all three The Ordinary products you’ve mentioned (have we read the same recommendations? ;) ). I’ve never hears of Maelove Glowmaker before. How did you learn about them?
      Have you been with Curology for a long time? How do you like their service?


  2. I use mostly Skinn by Dimitri James (from my TV shopping channel, in Canada). Recently I’ve fallen in love with his entire honey line, especially the face oil. For my hubby, I’ve gotten several The Ordinary Vitamin C items. I also plan on getting their Squalene for myself and have used their makeup primers. I have liked everything from The Ordinary so far.


    • I was curious to read that Skinn by Dimitri James is an LA-based brand. I’ve never heard of this one before. I do not have any oils in my routine now (other than some argan oil from Trader Joe’s), so I might look into adding some closer to winter time.


  3. I use La Mer and have been using it since ummm 2013 or thereabouts. I also occasionally use Estée Lauder, in particular the Night Treatment line.

    My cleansing routine is whatever gel or cream cleanser I have on hand, only in the evenings. If I wear make up (but nothing for my eyes because it is too much trouble), I use Neutrogena or Pacifica makeup wipes first, then the cleansers.


    • I might go for La Mer at some point (I’ll probably wait for the end-year sales/gift card events/etc.). In the past, I tried one or two products from the line, but I remember not being impressed enough to include it into the daily routine.
      I remember liking Estee Lauder’s Futurist serum many years ago. Since then, they’ve created Idealist and, I think, Perfectionist, but I’ve never warmed up to those.


  4. I use a mix of western and Asian. Cleansing with hadalabo gokujiun foaming or cerave hydrating cleanser plus Kose deep cleansing oil. Toner is Gokujiun Premium lotion plus different other Asian toners. Some vitamin c product in the morning, niacinamide in the evening. In winter I mix a bit of squalan oil into my skincare. I use different face creams, depending on the season, some lighter, some more nourishing, mostly AB. But the workhorse is tretinoin gel. I never have peeling or redness, because my other skincare is so soothing. And of course sunscreen every day, even in winter. This combination is cheap and effective.


    • Where do you learn about those Asian skincare products?
      Other important question: how do you decide what to combine with the tretinoin gel? I’m using retinoid products, and it’s a constant balancing act for me to decide what would not be an additional irritant for my skin in addition to Differin.


      • You can find lots of info on Reddit Asian Beauty.
        If I use tretinoin, in don’t use other irritants, just hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, centella, fermented toners and honey based products. Plus vitamin c as an antioxidant in the morning. Sometimes I do an acid peel, but do not use tretinoin the same day. This works fine for me. But my skin is relatively resistant.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ha! See, all that long list of what you CAN use with tretinoin wasn’t that obvious to me when I started :) Besides, if I were to use one of the “ready-to-wear” anti-aging creams from, let’s say, Estée Lauder, I wouldn’t easily understand whether those “anti-aging” ingredients are such that can be combined with my other “actives” or not.
          I know, I know – the first World problems :)


  5. I was caught up in The Ordinary excitement but agree that their single ingredient style is not for me. You buy a load of products when you could buy one with a complete formula.
    I’ve followed Caroline Hirons for 8 years now and have found what actives work for me. A vitamin C in the morning and tretinoin at night. During the summer I swap out the tret for an acid. I like smaller, science-led brands like Oskia, Medik8 and Sunday Riley. I honestly don’t think La Mer are worth the money. Have you looked into Kate Somerville? Higher end but more results driven.
    For uneven skin tone I’d look for a niacinamide product and for the dryness, a multi weight hyaluronic acid. We can always chat more skincare over email :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have samples from all of the brands you’ve mentioned, so I’ll go through them (and some of your post on the topic – you’ve been a constant inspiration for me in the area of skincare), and then figure out what to do next. I’ll come with questions :)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “or do you not care?” Check :)
    My daughter is really into skin care and every once in a while gives me certain products to use and insists that I use them. That lasts about a month or two. I have dry skin so I just rinse my face every morning in the shower and after apply Trader Joe SPF face lotion. If it is particularly dry some jojoba oil. I am so ridiculously lazy.


    • Do you feel fine without a moisturizer? Even not talking about the vanity aspects of skincare, if I don’t apply at least something, my skin feels tight – and I don’t even have a dry skin.


  7. Very interested to read your post, as a “late to the party” carer of my own skin, which I could best describe as “mature problem skin” – combination, with acne (still after 45 years – have a lone spot as I type!), eyelid eczema, big pores and melasma, from years of taking the pill and antibiotics before going out in the sun. Oh, and a Vitamin E allergy which is properly tricky to cater for. Like Tara, I am a fan of Caroline Hirons and recently read her Skincare book and made a couple of tweaks to my regime. It has to be simpler than what she recommends though, or the eczema flares up – and tretinoin is sadly a complete non-starter. When I resume blogging I plan to write about some of my recent discoveries. I have dabbled in The Ordinary (the more basic, cheaper ones in their range of not very expensive things to start with!), but didn’t find much benefit.


    • From reading your previous posts and comments on Tara’s posts, I came to the conclusion that you started using a more methodical approach earlier than I (well, maybe not in absolute “age years,” but definitely chronologically relating to when all the information on the topic started being wider available).
      My eyelids allergies at least temporarily got better (until the next seasonal fires? :( ), so I am a little bit more adventurous with my skincare at the moment.

      Are you sure you can’t use tretinoin or retinoids? For years I thought that I get bad reaction to it, but recently I tried Differin again, and moving more carefully than most of people probably would, I’m building some tolerance to it.


      • Well, I do plan to mount that experiment, maybe with the “Purple Paula” product or something fairly entry level, but not in the summer when my skin is so jumpy from seasonal allergies. All the dermatologist blogs warn people off it though, but never say never. I do find the Vitamin C in the serum T and V got me onto is pretty fierce already (even after getting the dose right, hehe), and I can’t put anything much stronger than LRP Ultra Yeux (that you gave me one time, and which I have rebought) around my eyes. As of yesterday I acquired another eye-related complaint during a routine sight test at the optician’s: meibomian gland dysfunction, where the oil ducts in your lids have got blocked. Also known as ‘posterior blepharitis’. It seems to be my pattern – get a test, get an oddball (‘odd eyeball’ in our present instance!) result. ;)


        • V, maybe you should rethink your approach to getting those tests? :)
          In general, it feels like the more we check, the more we confirm that something is wrong with us.

          I’m not advocating for using something that doesn’t sit well with your numerous known (or not :) ) issues. I’m just saying that maybe if you go suuuuper slow (like using half of the doze once or twice per week), you’ll be able to train your skin to tolerate it better while still getting some benefits from it. I wish a good dermatologist had explained to me 10-15 years ago that it wasn’t “all or nothing” (I quit using several prescription creams at some point because the side effects were worse than what I was trying to fix because I didn’t know that I could build tolerance if I were to go with lighter dosage then advised by my then doctor).


          • Trust me, all the tests I had were not of my own making, haha. In fact the last doctor I spoke to made that very point that most people would throw up a bunch of abnormalities IF they were tested as much as I have been lately. I think his colleagues were on some kind of investigative roll. ;)

            I agree with you about challenging your skin to gradually accept something: I had a problem with a bad reaction to a very bland Drunk Elephant cream initially, but I persevered, and can use it with no bother now. I guess it is all about trial and error.


  8. I’ve been using mostly Paula’s Choice products for years: toner, BHA exfoliant, & retinol serum. They’ve split their Beautypedia off onto a separate site, & I’ve referred to this when looking for more affordable but highly-rated products, like cleansers (Clean & Clear Essentials Sensitive Skin, even though I’m moving into my mid-60s). Paula’s Choice does a pretty good job of explaining how products & ingredients work or don’t work together. They’re pretty no-frills, but I’ve been happy with the results.


    • I use some Paula’s Choice products. The basic ones do not irritate my skin (which for a couple of years was a significant achievement since I developed bad skin allergies in response to wild fires we had in the Northern California), but on the other hand, I wasn’t getting any noticeable results either. I will keep using some of their products, but I’m slightly more skeptical now when they became majority-owned by Estée Lauder.


  9. I love this thread :)I love skin care and creams but sometimes I resent the prices. How many men think about their under eye circles/ But I actually do love skincare. I work in petroleum distribution, and we sell automotive and industrial lubricants. The claims are proven, backed up by testing. I find it funny that with cosmetics there is much less testing and sort of pie in the sky claims about some products.

    I think my favourite moisturizers are Chanel le 10, because its unscented, has ten ingredients, and works wonders on my combo skin. I’ve had loads of accidents and so I have scar tissue which needs to be kept happy-fewer ingredients seem to keep redness to a minimum. I also like La Mer-the original one. It’s just a good basic cream that suits my skin. I don’t tend to use too many serums and extras. Sometimes I use the By Terry line-like when it’s seventy percent off lol. Oh and I have tried the Sisley stuff-it’s $$$ but they’re super generous with samples. Some of their products have shea butter which doesn’t suit my skin. I’d advise talking to a counter sales person with that line, not just buy it online-it’s too $$ if things go wrong. I do like their masks, tho.


    • Now, as I got more interested in … let’s say, slightly more advanced skincare AND got to… khm… more advanced age ;), I’ll be paying more attention to what different brands can offer. And whenever I buy anything full price, I tend to do it at a store with an SA who I know. Unfortunately, our local Nordstrom has a very limited set of available brands. So, I’ll probably have to cultivate relationships with some SAs at NM…


  10. I wonder how the $$ exchange works-could you shop at a Cdn dept sotre, and save money, cause your dollar is worth more than ours?


  11. There’s no VAT here-taxes differ, depending on the province. Holt Renfrew is what I was thinking about-they carry some luxury brands, like Sisley and La Mer. I think your dollar is worth $1.3 in CDN.


  12. Pingback: Saturday Question: Skincare – Scented, Fragrance-free or Unscented? – Undina's Looking Glass

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