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Advice for beginner!!

Hello. I'm very new to skincare and would really like some great advice on a routine. I have combination skin and very sensitive skin. I have breaks out on my forehead, nose and above my jaw line. I would love to get rid of these breakouts and hydrate my skin. Any advice would be much appreciated. I started using Drunk Elephant beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser and it feels like it chemically burnt my face and I've only used it 1-2 times a week!!!  Another question I would like to ask is, would you guys recommend ph balanced cleansers and toners??? Do I need eye cream? Retinol??? What masks do you recommend? I'm 25 years old and live in Florida. I mainly look for clean or vegan products. 

Re: Advice for beginner!!

My advice would be to just stop. Stop trying multiple products, and masks, and make-up, and whatever.  When you keep trying different things, looking for a "solution", whatever might have initially caused it is gone, and it just becomes a vicious cycle of inflammation in response to new things. Or not.  I don't know, but neither will you until you get off the merry-go-round.


There are many reputable dermatologists that you can see thru Telehealth, right over your phone or computer, now.  Do that.  While you are waiting to see them, go to the drug store, buy some Cetaphil cleanser, some Eucerin Face Lotion with SPF.  Stop using makeup. Stop using acne treatments. Stop using any sort of tools on your face.  This is your "elimination" diet.  Make sure you are using dye and fragrance free detergents and fabric softeners, at least when you wash your pillow case. Take a selfie once a week... only once a week... to track your symptoms.  


Good luck.  Sometimes it takes a long time to sort these things out.  And sometimes it's really disappointing to learn you have sensitive skin and can't just grab any ol' thing off the shelf and play.

Re: Advice for beginner!!

Hi @ashton1012 ! Sounds like your main skincare goal is to treat your breakouts. Since you have very sensitive skin, my first recommendation is to see a dermatologist if you can. Your breakouts might be symptomatic of a skin condition. A derm can diagnose that and provide personalized treatment options. Even if you can't see a derm in person, you could try an online derm service like Apostrophe (if you're in the US), or maybe see if some local derms will do video consultations. 


Meanwhile, I'll suggest a fairly basic routine: 


Wash with a gentle hydrating cleanser. 

My favorite is Paula's Choice RESIST Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser, a no-lather cream cleanser. I use it primarily in the morning. Paula's Choice has other options worth exploring; I usually use one of their gel cleansers (Hydralight) at night. 

Have you ever tried CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser? That's usually a good option. Heck, sometimes I use my CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar on my face as well as my body while I'm in the shower. 

I also love to use The INKEY List Oat Cleansing Balm at night, let it sit on my face for 5-10 minutes as a soothing oat mask, then gently rub another cleanser (either my usual nighttime gel cleanser or the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar) over it and rinse everything off at once. On some mornings, I use this oat cleansing balm instead of the Paula's Choice hydrating cleanser. 

Treat acne, assuming your breakouts are indeed acne. 

BHA (salicylic acid) is the usual go-to for acne: it's oil soluble, so it can get down into your pores to attack acne-causing bacteria and clear out the blocking gunk. The INKEY List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum looks like a good option. My favorite BHA products are all made by Paula's Choice. I recommend using BHA exfoliants only 1-3 times a week, so you don't over-exfoliate and break your skin barrier. 

A non-BHA option is azelaic acid. It also attacks acne-causing bacteria, plus it can lighten "acne scars" (dark marks left behind by acne, aka PIH—post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). This is something you can use more times a week than BHA, but since you have very sensitive skin, I'll warn you that it might make your skin very itchy at first. You don't have to use it on your whole face; you can just apply it where you have acne. I'm currently alternating between 2 OTC products: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% and Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster. The PC product also contains salicylic acid, so I try not to use that one more than 3 times a week. 

There are other things that can help acne, like benzoyl peroxide which, I dunno, your sensitive skin might not like very much. I can't use it at all because I'm allergic to it. 😞 A retinoid can also help acne, particularly adapalene which you can get OTC as Differin or La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel. But before you jump straight into a retinoid, wait til your skin's recovered from your DE Beste beatdown (for the record, my skin also hated that cleanser) and maybe discuss options with a dermatologist. 

Hydrate with plain ol' water and maybe also a humectant. 

If your skin has dried down by this point in your routine, mist or tap some water on your face to get it damp. Then immediately apply a humectant that'll bearhug that moisture and pull it into your skin. 

My skin's favorite humectant is hyaluronic acid in all its forms, including its very popular salt form, sodium hyaluronate. This ingredient's already in many skincare products. If you really want to use a toner (which is arguably unnecessary, since most cleansers aren't formulated to be very harsh or alkaline these days; your skin can rebalance its own pH without the help of a pH balancing toner), think of it more as a hydration and skin-soothing step. I use e.l.f. Hydrating Water Essence in the morning as my hydrating "toner" because it's loaded with hydrating ingredients, including hyaluronic acid. At night, I often use COSRX Centella Water Alcohol-Free Toner which comes in a spray bottle; I mist it all over my face. Centella asiatica (aka cica) is an anti-inflammation plant extract my skin likes a lot. 

You can also try a hyaluronic acid serum, or a serum that contains lots of that ingredient. My favorite of those is The Ordinary "Buffet" 1 oz/ 30 mL which also contains lots of hydrating skin-strengthening peptides. Or you could try The INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum , or maybe The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 1 oz/ 30 mL . 

Honey is another humectant to consider. My skin has a love-hate relationship with honey, so I don't frequently use it. But Farmacy is a brand known for their honey-based products, and COSRX has a honey-based line of products. 

Moisturize with something that contains occlusive ingredients that'll actually prevent moisture loss—especially while your skin's healing from your DE Beste experience. Make sure your skin's still damp before you apply moisturizer: you want to give this product some hydration to seal in. 

The only DE product I've tried that my skin tolerates is Drunk Elephant Lala Retro™ Whipped Moisturizer with Ceramides . It's a very good moisturizer with marula oil as the occlusive ingredient. But honestly, you could try a far less expensive CeraVe moisturizer and get just as good (if not better) results, depending on your particular skin's sensitivities. Some folks are actually sensitive to dimethicone, which is in CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. That product also contains petrolatum, which is a FANTASTIC occlusive moisturizing ingredient and is not dangerous for skin, no matter who claims otherwise. So if you're not sensitive to dimethicone, I recommend trying the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. 

Another good occlusive ingredient is shea butter. Some folks are also sensitive to this, so your mileage may vary. But you could try The INKEY List Peptide Moisturizer which is shea butter based. 

Squalane is another good occlusive ingredient. Try Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer which contains lots of squalane plus ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and a peptide. 

My skin hates Drunk Elephant Protini™ Polypeptide Moisturizer 1.69 oz/ 50 mL , and if you happen to be sensitive to coconut derived ingredients, I'll warn you to steer clear of this product. If your skin has no issue with anything in this moisturizer, a good less expensive dupe is Acure Radically Rejuvinating Whipped Night Cream, according to a friend who's substituted all her DE products and was a longtime Protini user. 

Use sunscreen (minimum SPF of 30) each day your skin's exposed to the sun, no matter how overcast the weather is, all year long. And be sure to reapply every 2-3 hours you're out in the sun. 

Which one you use depends on your preference for chemical or physical/mineral sunscreens. My current favorites are Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Sheer Mineral Sun Spray SPF 50 and Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 , but I rotate through several other brands and types of sunscreens. CoTZ also makes very good mineral sunscreens; if you're in the US, Ulta carries them. 


As for eye creams, masks, and other products: that'll depend on your skincare goals and any issues you want to address. Eye cream isn't necessary unless your full face moisturizer isn't enough for your undereye skin. Instead of using products marketed as "eye cream," I just use a facial oil or a balm (either Aquaphor Ointment or CeraVe Healing Ointment) under my eyes if they're super dry and my full face moisturizer's not doing enough for them. I do use various sheet masks (and occasionally some wash-off masks—in fact, the Oat Cleansing Balm I mentioned earlier can be used as a mask). But whether you need any of this stuff depends on what you want to get out of them—what you expect these products to do for your skin. 🙂 


Welcome to the overwhelming world of skincare! Seriously though, once you nail down a good basic routine, you can assess your skin once or twice a month to identify any other issues you want to address, then look up ingredients that can address those issues, and seek products that contain those ingredients. That's my approach to skincare: I'm VERY ingredient-driven. This approach helps me quickly weed out bad-for-me or subpar products during my product searches. 

Re: Advice for beginner!!

Thank you so much for the information! 

Re: Advice for beginner!!

@ashton1012 skincare is a deep topic. If Drunk Elephant isn't working for you, maybe skip it for now and try something else? The Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser 8 oz/ 237 mL is really gentle. I try to stick to ph balanced cleansers so they're less stripping on my skin. If you want a chemical exfoliant to help with breakouts you need something more acidic. Look for products with 1-2% Salicylic acid. Or you could also try the The INKEY List Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) Gentle Exfoliating Toner . Start once or twice a week and build up tolerance from there. Follow with a hydrating serum like the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair® Hydrating Serum although there's lots of other options, just keep it basic at first. 

Don't forget to use sunscreen! try Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 . Youth to the People also has a really nice moisturizer Youth To The People Mini Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream with Ashwagandha + Reishi 0.5 oz/ 15 mL . I recommend you build up your skin routine slowly so it doesn't freak out. Start with a few products to address your main concerns. Once you get those incorporated, try adding a vitamin C serum and a low percentage retinol once or twice a week until you build up tolerance.

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