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New skin care routine

Hi guys! I'm new here. I am practically brand new to skin Care and would just like some help for finding a routine! My skin type is very dry and my skin is very sensitive. My only concerns would be blackheads really I think everything else on my face is fine other than trying to stay moisturized. Anything helps, thank you!

Re: New skin care routine

Hi @Emmy3546 ! I have mostly-dry combo skin that's fairly sensitive and prone to inflammation. Do you happen to know of any specific ingredients your skin hates? (I know you're brand new to skincare, but so was I decades ago when I first discovered my face haaaates benzoyl peroxide.) 


Makeup remover (PM only, if you wore makeup that day): Can be micellar water, an oil cleanser, cleansing balm, or even just water + a microfiber cloth (like a Makeup Eraser). 

I always use Paula's Choice Gentle Touch Makeup Remover (the liquid, not the wipes) to remove eye makeup. For nearly anything else, I use The INKEY List Oat Cleansing Balm 5 oz/ 150 mL . 

If I only wore brow pencil and maybe blush, I skip this step altogether because my facial cleanser can easily remove that stuff. 

Cleanser: Any gentle hydrating cleanser will do. 

I currently use CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar at night, while I'm in the shower (it's also my body wash). It's kinda like the bar version of the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser many folks love. The vast majority of cleansers—even some loved by many others, like the Fresh Soy cleanser and Youth To The People cleanser—are much too drying or irritating for my skin. Eh, you might have better luck with those than I did. 

In the morning, I either wash with Paula's Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser (a gentle no-lather cream cleanser) or just wipe my face down with a wet microfiber cloth; usually I have to wash my face in the morning. You might not have to do that, but I strongly recommend washing at night to remove the day's crud and bacteria. 

Exfoliation/blackhead treatment (no more than 3 times a week): consider using a salicylic acid (BHA) product after your cleanser. 

Unlike AHA (alpha hydroxy acids: glycolic, lactic, mandelic, malic, tartaric, and citric) which is water soluble and works primarily on the skin surface to remove dead skin cells, BHA is oil soluble. That means BHA can get down into your pores to attack acne-causing bacteria and clear out gunk. No AHA can do that. BHA can also exfoliate the skin surface. All my favorite BHA products are made by Paula's Choice, and Sephora USA will soon start carrying this brand. 

If your skin can tolerate a leave-on BHA exfoliant, a good one to try is Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. That product's a cult favorite of customers and dermatologists. It comes in a travel size you can try before committing to a full size bottle. Another option I've never tried that looks decent is The INKEY List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL . 

You could also try a BHA cleanser if you find a leave-on product irritates your skin: 2 options are Paula's Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser (contains just 0.5% BHA) and The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Cleanser 5 oz/ 150 mL . Lather up your face, let the cleanser sit for a couple minutes so the BHA can do its job, and then rinse it off. 

Whichever BHA product you choose, use it no more than 3 times a week. Otherwise you risk over-exfoliating your skin, which allows more acne-causing bacteria to invade and set up shop in your pores. 

Oh, and don't buy The Ordinary's 30% AHA peel you tagged in your opening post. If your skin's very sensitive, you'll want to build up tolerance to something that strong—if you can use it at all. It's a good product, but might not be good for your particular skin. In fact, you may not need an AHA at all for now. BHA alone works fine for blackheads and surface exfoliation. 

Aaaannnd I feel obligated to also suggest benzoyl peroxide, even though I can't use it since I'm allergic to it. This ingredient's great at killing acne-causing bacteria. If you find a leave-on product is too irritating for your skin, consider a wash-off product. The Paula's Choice CLEAR line has both types of benzoyl peroxide products. You can also consider Panoxyl, a drugstore benzoyl peroxide wash. 

A clay mask might loosen blackheads, and can draw oil and gunk out from your pores. 

My dry skin is okay with Paula's Choice Pore Clarifying Charcoal Gel Mask, which is a mix of clays and charcoal plus hydrating and soothing ingredients. I also like Origins Mini Clear Improvement™ Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pore 1 oz/ 30 mL , though I tend to use it only on my oily zone (on and around my nose). The INKEY List Kaolin Mask 1.7 oz/ 50 mL is another nice clay mask to consider. A product to consider that combines clay mask with BHA is The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque 1.7 oz/ 50 mL .  I use a clay mask after cleanser. I don't use them every day or night... maybe just a few times a month. 



The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid serum you tagged is a good choice. Hyaluronic acid is my skin's favorite humectant. In fact, I'll recommend a product I think is even better: The Ordinary "Buffet" 1 oz/ 30 mL . Buffet contains hyaluronic acid plus hydrating and strength-building peptides, and it's one of the few The Ordinary serums with a nice texture in my opinion. 

Use this or any other hydrating serum on damp skin after cleansing. (On days you exfoliate, use after exfoliating). Then apply moisturizer and (in the morning) sunscreen. 

You also tagged a retinol serum. Before you start any retinoid product, wait til your skin's used to a routine of cleanser, occasional exfoliant, perhaps a hydrating serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Retinol can help with acne among other things, but I don't recommend rushing into it with very sensitive skin until you've got a good basic routine down. 


Make sure your skin's damp when you apply moisturizer. This gives your moisturizer some hydration to seal in, rather than sealing in dryness. If your skin's dried down by the time you reach the moisturizer step, you can just wet your hands under water and then tap/press some water onto your face. 

For very dry skin, you probably want a very occlusive moisturizer: something that can truly prevent water loss. The most occlusive skincare ingredient is petrolatum. It's in Vanicream Moisturizing Cream and CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, 2 very good and inexpensive moisturizers. I've used the CeraVe cream in frigid weather. Sometimes I even use CeraVe Healing Ointment or Aquaphor Ointment as a moisturizer, either on my whole face (to protect against windburn on very windy subzero Chicago winter days) or just on my driest areas. Those 2 petrolatum-based balms are wonderful at locking in hydration. You could even use plain ol' Vaseline or a generic brand of petroleum jelly instead of those 2 balms. 

For my combo skin, my favorite AM and PM moisturizer is Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer. It doesn't contain petrolatum, but it does have squalane which is a nice moisturizer and emollient ingredient, plus this moisturizer's loaded with ceramides. A similar product is CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

I could recommend a pricier moisturizer but honestly, drugstore options may work wonderfully for you. 

Sunscreen (AM only, all year long, regardless of weather or season): 

This depends on a few personal preferences: chemical vs. physical/mineral sunscreen, tinted vs. clear/invisible vs. "eh, a slight white/grey cast is fine," and what finish you prefer (dewy, matte, or natural). Just make sure its SPF is at least 30 for UVB protection. Bonus points if it has a UVA protection rating ("PA+": 4 + signs is the max; note that this rating system's not perfect, but it's at least a general indicator of a sunscreen's UVA protection). And be sure to reapply the sunscreen every couple hours as long as the sun's up, regardless of weather or season. 

Some of my personal favorites: 

  • Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Sheer Mineral Sun Spray SPF 50 4 oz - a truly invisible mineral sunscreen; gives me a natural radiant finish; DDG might be discontinuing this 😞 
  • Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++ 1.7 oz/ 50 mL - still one of my favorite chemical sunscreens; gives a natural finish; works surprisingly well as a primer 
  • Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV (clear shade) - a mix of mineral and chemical sunscreen agents, including newer chemical UVA protectants not available in the US yet; makes my skin VERY dewy 
  • CoTZ sunscreens - this brand makes only mineral sunscreens, either tinted or non-tinted; some are a bit too greasy on me, so I "set" them with a powder foundation or the next product on this list 
  • Supergoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 PA+++ Translucent (also comes in 3 shades) - actually I use the old version of this product that's no longer available at Sephora, but I assume this new one works the same way; it's a great way to tone down a too-dewy or greasy sunscreen, and it's cheaper than Colorscience Sunforgettable Brush-On SPF 50—though to be honest, the Colorscience is probably the better product 


Re: New skin care routine

Oh goodness, that's a lot. I guess I messed up then considering I just bought lots of stuff from the ordinary brand. I got the AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution so I guess I'll return that. I got the granactive retinoid 2% emulsion, the ascorbic acid 8% + alpha arbutin 2%, and then the hyaluronic acid 2% plus B5. So, do you think I need to return all of it? I have used hyaluronic acid in the past and it doesn't upset my face unless I don't use enough water, but all of these other things are very new to me I have never used them and I can't test any of them right now because my face is in an uproar from having an allergic reaction to aquaphor healing ointment out of all the things. I will definitely buy the Cerave hydrating cleanser you recommended though and as well as the SPF! Thank you so much for all the help though before I ruined my face

Re: New skin care routine

Hi! 👋 I agree with @LilaMJ that using a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen is key. She provided a great explanation in her post, so I will elaborate by providing my recommendations. 


Cleanser: Because you have dry skin, I recommend finding a gentle cleanser that is suitable for all skin types. I usually cleanse in the evening. I use Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser, and I like that it contains natural ingredients, like kale, spinach, and green tea. I have combo skin (normal to dry) with blackheads in my t-zone and find that this cleanser works well with my skin. 


Serum: An excellent product I use to clear acne and blackheads is Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum. You could also mix it with Drunk Elephant B-Hydra™ Intensive Hydration Serum 1.69 oz/ 50 mL for additional hydration. During the day, I like to use Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops 1.35 oz/ 40 mL as my serum step. 


Moisturizer: Using a moisturizer is crucial and helps lock in the active ingredients from your serums. As Lila MJ mentioned, hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient for dry skin types. I highly recommend Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer 1.70 oz/ 50 mL. When my face looks dehydrated, I like to apply Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask with Vitamin C 2 oz/ 59 mL on top as an overnight mask.


Sunscreens and additional treatments: For sunscreen, I also recommend Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 1.7 oz/ 50 mL. I like to exfoliate with Summer Fridays Overtime Mask 2.25 oz/ 64 g because it is gentle and doesn't leave my skin feeling stripped. Plus, it smells like pumpkin pie 😍If you want to pamper yourself, Summer Fridays R + R Mask 2.25 oz/ 64 g is another great choice.


I hope this helps! 🙂

Re: New skin care routine

Oh goodness I messed up then lol. I just bought all the opposite of these things and their all from the ordinary brand

Re: New skin care routine

@adrianamancini I love these recommendations! I’ve been thinking of trying the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops 1.35 oz/ 40 mL and Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer 1.70 oz/ 50 mL , so it’s great to know that you like them! Haha I want to try the pumpkin pie smelling mask now 🥰 Have an amazing day ❤️❤️❤️

Re: New skin care routine

@LilaMJ Thank you! 🥰 You will love them! The Summer Fridays Overtime Mask 2.25 oz/ 64 g smells incredible, which makes the experience even more delightful. I also look forward to using the dew drops and cloud dew moisturizer because of their pink color and lightweight feeling.

If you end up trying any of these products, let me know what you think! 


Have a wonderful night! ❤️

Re: New skin care routine

@adrianamancini I will definitely let you know! Yes the products are so PRETTY and nice looking. I’ve also heard good things about both brands.

You are amazing, have a great rest of your week! ❤️

Re: New skin care routine

Hi @Emmy3546 ! Welcome to the skin care community ❤️ I’d love to help, and I hope my explanations make sense.

The most important steps in a skincare routine are cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. A cleanser can be used 1-2 times a day (you may have good luck cleansing just in the evening if you have dry skin), and sunscreen should be applied every morning even in the winter! Sunscreen helps prevent aging, sun damage, pollution, and dullness, as well as skin related diseases. I would also suggest using a treatment to help with blackheads.

Step 1 Cleanser: I’d recommend First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser , Herbivore Pink Cloud Rosewater + Squalane Makeup Removing Face Wash 3.38 oz/ 100 mL , or the Cerave Hydrating Cleanser from the drugstore! Cleansing can actually be the most damaging part of a skincare routine, so make sure you’re being gentle.

Step 2 Treatment: I would suggest The INKEY List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL to help reduce sensitivity and make your skin glow. It also helps with clearing breakouts and blackheads.

Step 3 Serum: Because you have dry skin, it would be a good idea to add a hydrating serum to your routine, to give you extra moisture. Two great ones are The INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL and Glow Recipe Plum Plump™ Hyaluronic Acid Serum 1.0 oz/ 30 mL . These both have an amazing ingredient called Hyaluronic Acid, which draws moisture from the air to your skin 💧

Step 4 Moisturizer: a moisturizer is an essential part of any skincare routine. The Cerave Moisturizing Cream from the drugstore is great, and so are The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA 1 oz/ 30 mL Kiehl's Since 1851 Ultra Facial Cream First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair® Cream Intense Hydration .

Step 5 Sunscreen: I would recommend Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 1.7 oz/ 50 mL .


You may also want to try exfoliating to help with blackheads and to help your moisturizing products penetrate deeper into your skin. I love Proactiv Blackhead Dissolving Gel 1 oz/ 30 mL once a week, and The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 1 oz/ 30 mL is also a good option.


I hope this helps, and I hope the information wasn’t too overwhelming! If you have any questions about anything at all, let me know! I’m happy to help. Have a wonderful day 😊

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