My Skincare Routine: It's Cheap!

After posting a photo of the Greek Yogurt and Honey mask I wrote about last week, I've been getting lots of questions about my skincare routine and what products I use. Seems I'm not the only one who has spent lots of money over the years trying to improve their complexion (oddly comforting)! So I thought I'd break down my routine, give a bit more background on my journey and what I've learned, and why I now opt for options that are under $10. 

Before diving into the specifics of my routine, I want to list a few truths that I've learned over the years. You've likely heard most of these, and if you are anything like me (where you click on EVERY article that claims to have the cure for acne), when you actually get to the list of suggestions, you kinda roll your eyes. Oh, drink more water... thanks, haven't heard that one before... But here's what I've learned about this seemingly innocuous list below:


Before you completely write off a solution (especially if you KEEP seeing it pop up in articles), ask yourself if you are really giving it a try. And doing something for 1, 2 or even 5 days doesn't count. You gotta commit for 30+ days before you can know if it really works for you (skin takes about 28 days to renew, so you need to do something for at least that long to know if it works for you). It's annoying, and we live in an instant gratification world, but that's just how the body works, like it or not. 

This is pretty standard for college. And mind you, I had on LOTS of make-up to cover-up scars and smaller breakouts.

This is pretty standard for college. And mind you, I had on LOTS of make-up to cover-up scars and smaller breakouts.

Things I've learned about skincare.

  1. Changing your skin (like weight-loss), does not happen over-night. It takes patience and consistent action. Most of the time you won't really start seeing any changes or improvements for 4-6 weeks (so don't believe any marketing that tells you that you can get results in 3 days...).

  2. The quality of the ingredients matter. Avoid products with parabens, synthetics, and dyes (so basically 95% of things you'd find at CVS). The skin is the largest organ in the body, it absorbs what you put on it, and most mainstream products are loaded with chemicals that haven't been properly tested in an industry that is largely unregulated (meaning companies can decide for themselves what is safe or not).

  3. Don't always trust only your dermatologist. When it comes to acne, the problem is often much deeper than a surface skin issue, and most dermatologists do not also have a background in nutrition. This is not to say that you should disregard anything they say, far from it, but if you are being given treatment after treatment that isn't working, you may need to look at your diet, not your face cream (this was the case for me).

  4. Look at how much water you are drinking. No, 1 glass sipped through-out the day isn't what I mean. Are you getting at least half your body-weight in ounces? If not, this is the EASIEST place to start and see a difference.

  5. When was the last time you had a vegetable? (fries don't count) Vegetables provide us with essential nutrients that our cells need to thrive, when you start increasing your daily intake, you'll notice a plethora of benefits, a better complexion being one of them.

  6. Limit your sugar and/or proceed food intake. And this includes alcohol. This advice feels over-used at this point, but it's so important. If you have a somewhat sensitive gut (like I do), sugar only feeds inflammation, which in turn works its way to your skin. What's happening on your face can be a clue as to what is going on internally, don't write if off as "bad genes".

  7. Figure out what your trigger foods are limit them (notice I said limit, not eliminate). For me it's dairy, peanuts, and sugar. I still enjoy these foods occasionally because giving them up completely didn't work for me (I'd end up binging later). So now I just limit them.

  8. Wash your make-up brushes often. I now do this once a week using Burt's Bees baby shampoo. It sounds timing consuming and nuts, but how many brushes do you REALLY use? And it only takes maybe 5 minutes to wash them.

  9. Be picky about what type of make-up you use. Same industry as point 2, highly unregulated with lots of nasty ingredients. My favorite make-up brands are Tarte, W3ll People, and Sweat Cosmetics.

  10. Rinse off after a sweaty workout. This is particularly important if you get back-acne. I can always tell when I'm getting lazy with this because I'll break out around my sports bra line.

It should also be noted that everyone is different, and what works for me, may not work for you. For instance the other day I read a blog post from someone who had great success with Accutane and was raving about its benefits. I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy! It was awful and didn't work for me, if anything it just made things worse because my skin was dried out AND still covered in acne!

The most important question you should ask yourself is, "is this working for me?" 

The coach in me is going to give you a little tough love and say that you are responsible for your own results. Test things out and be patient with your skin! I firmly believe (both from trial and error, and from learning more about the body) that acne is usually a symptom of deeper issues. Mind what you eat, drink up, and clear skin will follow! This is why I now use mostly low-cost products.  

Sun is my eyes, but I chose this pic on purpose, you can't hide your complexion in direct sunlight! It wasn't until the past few years that I would have volunteered to get this shot.

Sun is my eyes, but I chose this pic on purpose, you can't hide your complexion in direct sunlight! It wasn't until the past few years that I would have volunteered to get this shot.

Here is my Current routine: 

Morning (4 Steps):

Mask or Scrub + Cleanse + Toner + Moisturize.  

  1. I use 1 of 3 options: Yogurt and Honey mask, Indian Healing Clay mask (one container will last you forever!), or I mix equal parts coconut oil and sugar to make a scrub (1-2x per week).

  2. Then rinse it off using Everyday Coconut Face Wash.

  3. Spritz Rosewater as a toner (helps calm your skin / tighten pores)

  4. Then apply Trader Joe's Enriched Intensive Facial Moisturizer.

Evening (3 Steps):  

Oil (remove make-up) + Charcoal (cleanse) + Moisturize. 

  1. Trader Joe's Jojoba Oil - I have naturally oily skin, so it took me a while to get on-board with ADDING oil to my face (I was president of the oil-free products club). Using an oil like this will actually help balance your skin (takes a few weeks for your face to get on board). This is a great make-up remover, I just pour a good amount in my palms, and rub it on my face (no water).

  2. Then rinse it off using Say Yes to Tomatoes Charcoal Cleanser.

  3. Then apply Trader Joe's Enriched Intensive Facial Moisturizer.

This is it! All these products are under $10, and all last a few months at least. I rotate different face washes into the mix, but I've found that consistently doing the 4-steps in the morning, and the 3-steps at night has really done the trick for me. I've also noticed that over time my scarring has faded naturally. I'm still playing around with solutions (other than peels) on that front, will keep you posted! I'm also a sucker for nice products with pretty packaging, so my favorite splurge brands are Beauty Counter, Tata Harper, and Kora Organics.

For spot treatment for breakouts when they do happen, I literally use a dot of toothpaste over-night (I'm not kidding), or add a few drops of tea tree oil to my moisturizer at night. You can and probably will read about endless super foods you can add, other rituals to adopt, or other somewhat complicated methods (like I went on a kick for making my own skincare for a while... as in literally ordering vegetable glycerin and ascorbic acid powder and mixing concoctions in my kitchen... too much).

Keep it simple where you can. Consistency will always trump fancy powders in a smoothie. Drink more water than you do currently, eat more veggies today than you did yesterday, and mind your sugar and processed food intake, you'll be amazed to see how your body can heal from the inside out. Acne sucks, but take it from someone who has done every treatment and been on every end of the spectrum (drugs to making my own products), it can be healed if you are willing to think deeper and experiment.