Sometimes it feels like everyone you meet can just put whatever on their face and still have perfect skin. Trust me – I am not one of those people. It’s taken years of trial and error and an international trip for me to come up with a daily routine that has had a positive impact on my skin. I’d love to share mine with you in the hopes that it’ll inspire you to assess your own routine!
Sensitivity to Fatty Alcohols
I finally figured out this year (at the age of 20 & 9 years into my skin care journey) that I’m fatty-alcohol sensitive. That phrase is a bit controversial over on r/SkinCareAddiction, but I assure you that it’s true for me. It means that for whatever reason a certain group of ingredients in skin care products called fatty alcohols cause you breakouts. I always felt that almost every new product I used gave me new kinds of acne (and trust me, I’ve had my fair share of it). I shied away from trying new moisturisers because I was so sure I’d react badly. And not with just any kind of acne, but painful cystic under-the-skin bumps around the perimeter of my face and tons of whiteheads.
When I traveled to Japan recently, I bought a new moisturiser I’d heard great things about (Hada Labo Gokujyun Moisture Milk, if you’re curious). In almost no time, I started breaking out really badly. Here’s a series of photos of my skin over those two weeks.
And for the first time ever, I checked the ingredients list and made a note of ‘stearyl alcohol’ sitting in there. I had heard about fatty alcohols online and how some people were sensitive. I was desperate and something in me decided to drop stearyl alcohol from my routine and its siblings cetyl and cetearyl alcohol too.
Lo and behold, within a day of taking out the products with fatty alcohols my skin was MILES better. When one day I decided to try a pure Lanolin cream I yet again experienced terrible angry cystic acne springing up. I made the connection and decided to avoid lanolin alcohol as well.
Since then, my skin has been totally different. I still get a bit of acne here and there but it’s overwhelmingly clear. Other than avoiding these ingredients, I’m pretty lucky not to have any other adverse reactions. I’m allergic to walnuts which means that my years of using the St Ives Apricot Scrub *really* pissed my face off – unbeknownst to me at the time it uses crushed walnut shells as the exfoliating grit.
So if I avoid nut-based scrubs, which are too scratchy anyway, and fatty/lanolin alcohol then I’m free to choose whatever I like! The caveat is that fatty alcohols are in seemingly everything. They’re an ingredient family used to make moisturisers thick and creamy and enhance penetration. Without them, you can’t really make a rich moisturiser. So that limits the types of products I can use a bit.
My main concern is dehydration, but I’ve made do with using lightweight, hydrating lotions followed by oils. Let me introduce you to my current asian-beauty heavy routine. It’s totally fatty alcohol and fragrance free!
(Not pictured: If I’m wearing a lot of makeup, I’ll take it off by massaging with Jojoba Oil all over prior to my first step)
Firstly, I use Garnier Micellar Water on a cotton pad to cleanse my skin. I’ve written a post about why I love micellar water so go check that out if you’re curious. I’ll do this twice if I’m particularly grimy.
Next, I apply my watery hydrators. These two products are Cezanne Ceramide Skin Conditioner High Moist and Kikumasamune Sake Brewing Skin Care Lotion High Moist and they’re both Japanese brands. Cezanne contains Job’s tears, several ceramides, phytosphingosine, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, hops extract, cholesterol, allantoin, and more great ingredients.
The Kikumasamune contains rice ferment filtrate, ceramides, placental protein, arbutin, and more. I pour these into my hand one at a time and pat all over my face. I let them dry for about 20 seconds in between. The usage you can see in this photos is after 4 months of daily use – these last for ever!
As a serum step at the moment I’m using Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Hyaluronic Acid Lotion which is a gel-like liquid. It contains glycerin, hydroxyethyl urea and various forms of hyaluronic acid, making it a super hydrating part of my routine. It’s very sticky but it makes my skin glow!
To seal in all this good moisture I’ve just put in my skin, I use The Ordinary 100% Squalane. It’s a great colourless, odourless oil that doesn’t stay greasy feeling for ages. If I need something extra, I sometimes layer my Jojoba oil on top of this.
To finish off my night time routine, I warm a tiny amount of Vaseline between my palms and smooth it on to seal in all the moisture. This prevents trans-epidermal water loss and so keeps my skin hydrated over night.
In the morning, I instead use Sunplay Superblock SPF 50+ PA++++ which is a milky liquid sunscreen with both chemical and physical filters. It’s full of silicones which also prevent water loss and make my skin feel really smooth under makeup. This also means it’s sweat and waterproof which is great. I’ve just opened my 3rd bottle of this since January and still have 3 backups left!
My routine and skin aren’t perfect but I can’t wait to see what it’s like in another year’s time!