The Experiment, Part One: In Which Things Are Normal, And We Set The Scene

Published on August 20, 2017 by   ·   No Comments

Sometimes you just gotta go all in and get a little cray.

Skin 03I’ve got my skincare game pretty well worked out, but everyone likes to mix it up from time to time.  And as a current subscriber to ipsy and a former subscriber to Birchbox, not to mention someone with an unhealthy obsession with Sephora, I accumulate a large quantity of samples, deluxe minis, and other goodies ready for the experimenting.

Since I’d accumulated a shit ton of these goodies and I was about to spend two weeks in the sweltering heat of Phoenix in late July and August, I decided that it was the perfect time to try some new things.  My skin was already going to be freaking out with the heat and aggressive sun exposure, so why not hit it with a few tricks I’d been socking away in the “to be reviewed” drawer of my makeup storage cart?

And if you’re going to try new things…why not try ALL of the new things?!

That’s right – as I announced earlier, I decided that for those two weeks I would use nothing but these samples and minis and travels sizes and, with a couple of exceptions I’ll note below, that’s exactly what I did.  In this first part, I’m going to set the stage by telling you a little bit about my regular routine and how I take care of my skin.  In part two, we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of the experiement, what I liked and what I hated, what worked and what didn’t, and how my skin reacted to all of the shenanigans!

As I said before I have gotten into a pretty good routine with my skincare, and it’s heavily influenced by a training program I took part in more than a decade ago when I had a brief stint as an Avon rep.  It was called the Beauty Advisor program and was meant to give reps some basic skincare and makeup training to better hock their wares to potential clients.  I never was very successful (I almost always spent way more than I ever made!), but I’ve used that skincare education ever since!

Skin 05The principles are pretty simple: Cleanse, Tone, Treat, Moisturize, SPF.

First, cleansing your skin will remove most of the surface dirt and oil that can dull a complexion.  Once you do that, use a toner to do a deeper clean and help balance your skin’s pH levels (if you are acne-prone, alcohol-based products can be used as part of this step to help dry up super oily skin).  This is the step that people skip most often, but it’s important especially if you’re an oily beast like I am.  Next, apply any of your treatment products – eye creams, hydrators for extra moisture, AHAs or other acid treatments, etc.  Once you’ve cleaned and prepped the skin, here’s where you apply all of the products that you want to sink into the skin and get to work.  Then you apply your moisturizer; not only does a good moisturizer help soften and treat the surface level of skin, it tries to create a barrier to keep that gross gunk you took care of in steps one and two from getting back in!  Moisturizer should be your last step, with one exception: if your moisturizer doesn’t have SPF in it, your last product applied should be one that does.  That’s how the Beauty Advisors do it, and it’s done a pretty bang-up job on my skin the last 15 years or so!


Skin 01First, I am not a dermatologist or esthetician; any advice given in this article is based on my experience trying products on my skin type (oily) and my opinions.  This is not meant to be viewed as medical advice and I would always suggest that you consult with your doctor or dermatologist before you make any radical changes in your skincare routine.

Second, the products and techniques that I talk about and that I recommend I am recommending from my own experience.  I can’t guarantee that they will work for you, that you will like that, or that we will always agree.  If you hate something I love, let me know down in the comments what you use instead!  Tell me what you don’t like about it.  I’m always looking to hear other perspectives!

Third, as I’ve mentioned I have oily skin and part of why I decided to write this and to do more posts about skincare is because I have a hard time finding article or videos written from the perspective of people with very oily skin.  And when I do, I often find claims that, based on my personal experiences, find unbelievable or that don’t seem to be legitimate – I swear to Christ if one more “oily” blogger tries to sell me on the wonders that Argan oil can do for my skin I’m going to scream!  I’ve tried it in several sample products, and every single one turned my face into an oil slick.  I felt disgusting.  If you love it, then more power to you, but you’ll never find a recommendation for Argan oil in one of my posts!

With that said, let me first tell you about my regular skincare routine and my favorite products:


CleanserMy cleanser is the product I’m most likely to switch out and play around with, and I think this is the one that you can probably save a little money on.  You’re washing off surface dirt and oil, and I’ve found a lot of inexpensive options that do the job quite nicely.  I like First Aid Beauty‘s cleanser, except for the smell – it’s a weird medicinal/chemical smell that just doesn’t give me any sort of pleasant feelings.  But at only $10 for 2 oz and $20 for 5 oz, you can satisfy your budget-conscious impulses while also getting a great cleanse!  But I like to be a little bit bougie, so my favorite cleanser that I’ve been using for about a year is the GlamGlow ThirstyCleanse mud to foam cleanser.  I’m so glad they recently lowered the price down to $29 for 5 oz; you know a bitch still paid for it when it was $39, but it hurt my heart!  This one is actually formulated for dry skin, but I use it because I tend to use a lot of astringent products to dry out excess oil, so I like to get some good hydration in as well!

I suppose this is as good a place as any to note: oil isn’t necessarily bad for your skin!  Your skin naturally produces it’s own oil, called sebum, as a natural protectant; people like me who tend to have very oily skin have sebaceous glands that for whatever reason just aren’t good at self-regulating.  Gee, that doesn’t sound anything like me!  The trick for my oily-skinned peeps is to get rid of the excess oil while maintaining the good kinds of moisture and additional ingredients.  I love the way my skin feels after using this cleanser and if it’s still feeling a little heavy, my toner clears that right up!


BeesAs I said above, toner is the step people are most likely to skip and they really shouldn’t.  Not only is it really important to get some good, deep cleaning to your skin, it’s also the step where you can get great results and save the most money.  Toner doesn’t have to be expensive!  I’ve tried a ton of toners at a wide variety of prices, and my two absolute favorites are a steal – you can purchase both of them for less than $20 combined!

My absolute must-have toner, my ride or die bitch until the end of time, is Burt’s Bees Garden Tomato Toner.  The frustration: no matter how much of the Burt’s Bees line any store carries, they all seem to have teamed up to vex me because they never carry this one product!  The only store I can ever find it is the Bartell’s in downtown Seattle on 5th.  If I’m even halfway through my current bottle and I happen to be in Seattle, you can bet I’m walking my happy ass down to Bartell’s and buying at least one bottle.  At about $12 a bottle, multiples are not out of the question!  I love and adore this toner – it isn’t harsh or overly drying, and it has a fresh, sharp scent that I really enjoy.

My other favorite that I will occasionally break out if I’m having some breakouts is some good old Neutrogena astringent – total flashback to my pimply teenage years!  I can usually find this for about $6 at Wal-Mart, or $8-10 elsewhere online.


DrinkThis is probably where you want to focus the bulk of your skincare budget, as these are the products that are actually meant to have direct benefits to your skin – the first two steps clean and prep the skin, the last step hydrates the outer layer and creates a barrier, but these are the products that you want to penetrate deep down into your skin.  I use a lot of rando samples and stuff but as of now I only have one everyday treatment product and it’s a hydrator: tarte’s Drink of H2O.  I’m new to this whole “hydrator” thing and at first I thought it was first class hucksterism, but as I did some reading and research it started to make sense.  Most moisturizers are meant to provide moisture to the very outer layer of skin and create a barrier to help keep out dirt and debris.  Because the focus is on the surface, it doesn’t penetrate down as far and hydrate the lower layers of skin which also need a drink on the reg.  I love this one because it’s a very light consistency and I don’t feel greasy when I use it.  I’m currently looking at some more regular items to add in, especially an acid treatment to do some “heavy lifting” as I’m getting older.  I keep hearing rave reviews of the Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, but that price tag?!  You know this bitch has no problem spending money, but $158 is steep even for me!

This is a good time to mention the two things I’m looking for when I want to try new products that will work with my oily skin.  First, if something advertises itself as a Gel formulation, it’s probably good for oily beasts like myself.  Creams have a lot of emollients, and some of them can be heavy; when something is formulated as a gel, it still has great hydration and emollients but it’s less likely to use heavy oils as they want to create that light gel texture.  The other thing I look for is anything that advertises itself as mattifying.  When you get shiny during the day, it’s because your skin is pumping out an excess of sebum, so anything that attempts to mattify your skin is going to be combating excess oil.  It’s no guarantee the products will work, but at least it indicates that they had us oily folks in mind when they were creating it.


OleIf treatment is where you put the bulk of your budget, Moisturizer should probably be number 2, though you can find some decent moisturizers at pretty much any price range.  As an oily person, however, I would probably expect to go for at least a mid-range product if you don’t want it to feel heavy; it seems like a lot of the less expensive emollients used in moisturizers are really heavy (at least they have always felt that way on me!).  My previous favorite was the Ole Henriksen Nurture Me and I’m not sure why I like it – it claims to be for dryness and it’s called a “crème.”  Usually when they bust out that fancypants French spelling you know the product is going to be greasy as fuck!  But this one always felt light and gorgeous on my skin, and I never felt like it was too much.  Maybe it’s just me?  Anyway, I love it and at $40 for a jar it’s not a bad deal (the Sephora site doesn’t give the volume, but it looks to me like a similar size to the product I’m going to talk about next).

GlamWhen I ran out of the Nurture Me last time, I was in the mood to try something different and I’ve been seriously loving on some GlamGlow products (though I absolutely DON’T love the pricetags!) and they had just released some new moisturizers so I thought, “What the heck?”  I picked up the GlamGlow Volcasmic Matte Glow Moisturizer and even though it’s $54 I absolutely love it!  It has a stiffer formula that you have to sort of dig out of the jar but then it just melts so beautifully into the skin!  I’m starting to get low on this one and I’ve started percolating on my next purchase; I was thinking about going back to the Ole Henriksen and put that extra $14 into something more glammy, but I think this moisturizer has made a believer out of me!  I really love it, and it does do a pretty good job of keeping me from getting too shiny on a long work day.

In terms of application, I was taught that you should always move in an upward, circular motion.  Gravity is already doing its work trying to pull your skin down and down – why help it by pulling down every day when you do your skincare?!  Be especially careful around the eyes – unless you have products that are specifically formulated as eye creams, you probably want to keep your eye area clear.


SPFThe last product you put on should have your sun protection in it.  If your makeup has SPF, you can skip this in the skincare step – paying more for SPF in a moisturizer makes no sense if it will get messed up when you put makeup on!  If you don’t wear makeup daily, either look for a moisturizer with SPF in it to avoid an extra step or, if you don’t mind more work or are just feeling a bit extra, you can get a separate SPF product to put on as your final step.


I didn’t mention this above because exfoliation shouldn’t be a part of your everyday routine.  This is where I get a bit nervous – for the products I brought with me for this experiment, I didn’t notice until I got to Arizona that three of the four cleansers were all exfoliating cleansers.  Remember how earlier I said that you shouldn’t take my advice as medical advice?  That’s still 100% true, but if you’re thinking about exfoliating every single day, whether with a gritty cleanser or a separate exfoliating product, I’m begging you to talk to a dermatologist before you do this.  That is NOT a good idea.  Yes, exfoliating is an important step as it helps remove old, dead skin cells that can dull the complexion.  But the gritty materials that are used in these products also create small abrasions in the fresh, living skin underneath and those need some time to heal.  If you give your skin time to recover, it won’t matter – they are miniscule and you’re pumping your skin full of hydrating, vitamin-rich products!  But if you do it every single day (or even worse, multiple times a day!) you won’t have enough time to heal, and over time you can do irreversible damage.  Please, please, please get medical advice before you start using a daily exfoliation treatment – or better yet, just don’t do it.  Like booze and Tinder hookups, exfoliators are best enjoyed in moderation.

I don’t invest in a regular exfoliator; I used to keep a tube of Burt’s Bees Apricot Scrub in my shower to use once, maybe twice a week, but it’s super gritty and aggressive.  Now that I’m getting close to my 40s, I’m being much more selective in my exfoliating products and choosing much finer grains.  Plus, there are great products out there (like the Good Genes mentioned above) that also exfoliate through a chemical process rather than a physical one so you can really lay off the grit most of the time!

Masks and “Special Occasion” Products:

JulepFor me, this is where skincare just gets fun.  These are the once in a while type treatments that you do because you want to pamper your skin and maybe put a little extra emphasis on problem areas.  My absolute favorite is a good face mask, and the best I’ve ever found for my oily skin is a steal: you can usually find it for less than $5!  It’s the Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask and it’s still the mask that I judge all other masks against.  I used to get this in Wal-Mart, but the ones in Grand Forks stopped carrying it (not sure about elsewhere); in Detroit I found it – and the rest of the Queen Helene line, which has some great products! – at an ethnic hair and beauty supply store.  The link above is to Amazon and includes a few different sizes and, of course, price and delivery options will change over time.

I first discovered GlamGlow when they were selling just their “masks” in Sephora.  I reviewed them and the Peter Thomas Roth masks and while I felt that both brands were passing off what was probably better described as treatments as “masks,” the effects were so good I totally wasn’t mad about it!  And both GlamGlow and Peter Thomas Roth regularly offer travel sizes and collections of samplers so you can try them out and experiment without the hefty price tag.  My favorite thing to do for these is to put one on right before I go to bed and let it just sit on my skin overnight – but more on that when we publish part 2!

Bubble Mask

So that’s a basic rundown of my skincare routine.  I sometimes skip days or I’ll leave a step out here or there if I’m not feeling like I need I know that product is going to do (which maybe isn’t the best decision making process) but overall I feel like my skin is in pretty good shape for my age.  And I think I owe that to the fact that I have been doing some sort of skincare – even if it wasn’t ideal – pretty much steady since I started college, and even some treatments (especially for acne) before that.  Something is better than nothing, so use whatever you feel you can afford.  You’ll thank me later!

So that’s a rundown on what I’m using currently.  Stayed tuned for part two, where I take all of that sound advice and good planning and chuck it out the window in favor or trying LITERALLY EVERYTHING, and all at the same time.

Gee, what could go wrong?!

Now Go Forth & Get Painted!


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