What's In My Skincare Wardrobe: Actives (Prescriptions, Antioxidants, and Acids) Edition

It's time for a routine update!  Instead of posting my full routine and possibly terrifying people who get the wrong idea that I use all these steps at once, I've been loving the concept of the "Skincare Wardrobe" and posting a "What's in my Skincare Wardrobe?" series instead.  If you aren't familiar with this concept, it's the idea of having a 'closet' of options to select from rather than wearing everything all at once-- people often look at massive multi-step K-Beauty routines and mistakenly think you throw all of it at your face at once.  You don't.

In fact, I post my actual routine to Instagram on a regular basis, if you're curious to see what a 'real' daily routine looks like.  I can assure you, it does not look like this:

My current Winter 2016 Skincare wardrobe
Yes, this is a photo of my Skincare Wardrobe, from which I might select anywhere from 3 to 15+ items from in a day.  You don't wear the entire contents of your closet in a daily outfit!  You can read more about this key concept is The Painful Path to K-Beauty Wisdom: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make:
I look at my products as a 'wardrobe' of options; I may have items in my closet ranging from bathing suits to winter coats, but that doesn't mean I'm going to wear every piece of clothing I own at once.  However, having a range of skincare options is actually a good thing, in my opinion, because it populates your wardrobe with options that you can mix and match depending on the 'weather' that day.
In the first of these posts, What's In My Skincare Wardrobe: Cleanser Edition, I showed the 8 cleansers I have in rotation + what they're for + when I use them.  Mind you, if I wasn't testing things for review, I would likely need at most 3-4 cleansers, instead of 8.  Most people may be happy with just the two needed for double cleansing, and that's perfectly fine!

I've already covered cleansers, so next up in the order of product application is Actives.

Top row: current actives which don't allow use of any others.  Bottom row: what I'd be using if I wasn't using a hardcore prescription that prohibits me throwing any other exfoliants at my face.
I've held off posting this version because since switching to a prescription Azelaic acid and Tretinoin Rx from Curology/Pocketderm, I've all but dropped actives from my routine.  Why? Because I quickly learned, in the form of broken capillaries, that Tretinoin is a jealous mistress who doesn't tolerate sharing.

That being said, I still want to share the actives that I would happily pick back up and use if I stopped using my prescription, as these have been a mainstay of my routine for a long time.

I'd just like to remind people that the idea of a Skincare Wardrobe is not to have a lot of things open at once, but to allow yourself the flexibility to customize your daily routine.  That's what the multi-step Asian skincare hype is all about, in my opinion.  Customization for the win!

In this post:

  • What are actives?
  • pH adjusting toner
  • Prescription with Azelaic acid and retinoid (tretinoin)
  • Vitamin C serum
  • BHA acid exfoliant
  • AHA acid exfoliant
  • Actives that don't exfoliate
Before we jump into this, I'd just like to remind everyone that these are not meant to be used all at once.  Pick your poison and stick to it until you're ready for more.  Tread carefully.  Do your research, and consult with a dermatologist if you have question or have a specific skin concern you're trying to address.  BE CAUTIOUS.  There is a time to go in guns blazing, and acids are not it.

Just as a quick reminder: this blog uses both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and if you choose to click the fomer before you shop, your purchase may contribute a tiny amount to the maintenance of this blog.  See full details at the end of this post! #receipts

What are actives?

If you haven't come across this term before, "actives" are products containing "active" ingredients, meaning something proven by scientific study and testing to produce a measureable impact on the skin.  Chemical exfoliants, antioxidants, and retinoids are all examples of "actives" that I use myself.  There are others that I use as well, such as niacinamide for fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, but the ones in this post are those needing their own step in a multi-step K-Beauty skincare routine.  If you are in the the west, you may have seen ingredients lists with "active ingredients" called out specifically, as they are regulated by the FDA.

Actives are the "workhorses" of my routine, meaning that when it comes to actual effects such as anti-aging, anti-acne, or improvement in texture, hyperpigmentation, and overall appearance of my skin, I don't rely on cleansers, essences, serums, creams, or any other sort of skincare to have an "active" effect on my skin.  I expect cleansers to clean, and essences, serums, and creams to hydrate, moisturize, and soften my skin, but that's it.  If you want your skincare to really do something, in my experience, you're going to have to buck up and pull out the big guns, and that means actives.

The sad truth is, you have no way of knowing if that "wrinkle-fighting" cream actually contains any proven ingredients, and even if it does contain them, if it contains them in the necessary concentrations unless the percentages are listed.  Rather than gamble on marketing claims, I prefer to rely on things I know have the pedigree to get the job done, so actives it is!

pH adjusting toners

pH adjusting toners are not necessary for everyone, and they're very much a YMMV (your mileage may vary) product; some people find them pointless especially if you are already using a low pH cleanser. That being said, they're a staple for me because I've tried going without my standby toner and my skin flared up into a flaky, red, patchy, irritated mess.  I also like to use very gentle acid exfoliants which are both mild in feel and weak in effect, which means that I need the extra boost of a pH-adjusting toner to give my wimpy acids a head start getting the job done.

I use a pH adjusting toner every routine, because my skin hates the water here and will react to it if it's left on my skin.

Mizon AHA BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon AHA BHA Daily Clean Toner
Left to right: 1 backup, 2 half-empty, 5 empty. #receipts
As you can see from the five empties and my full backup, I like this toner a lot.  I accidentally opened a second one when refilling the mist bottle I use to apply this toner, but I go through this so fast that I'm not worried about having 2 open.  I'm constantly misplacing it as I shuttle it back and forth for daily routine photos, and I've managed to get both of these down to 50% already.

pH result: 4.30 with a digital meter

pH adjusting toners that didn't make the cut:
  • Cosrx AHA / BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner, because I absolutely hated how much it burned and irritated my skin.  
  • Pixi Glow Tonic, which I had a decant of and used up while I thought the Mizon was discontinued, but felt it left too much residue to be a good pH-adjusting toner.
  • Cosrx Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol, which I do/did use, but not as a pH-adjusting toner.  I feel that it leaves way too much residue behind (it is a propolis treatment after all, and is meant to be a spot treatment) to function well as an acids-prepping toner in my experience.
So, what makes the Mizon such a mainstay in my routine, so much that I've gone through bottles and bottles of it and purchase so many backups when it was rumoured to be discontinued?  It checks off all my pH adjusting toner requirements:
  1. I expect it to be a suitable pH to lower my skin's pH after cleansing to prepare it for my actives (Vit C, BHA, and AHA)
  2. I expect it not to leave residue on the skin that would interfere with the ability of my actives to work directly in my skin
  3. I expect it to be non-irritating
That's it, but it's surprisingly hard to get all these checked off, which is why this toner remains my most-purchased product of the last 2 years.  There was a scare last year where multiple sources reported the Mizon AHA BHA toner had been discontinued, but it's back in production and confirmed to be new batches, and it's back to the $20 price point so WHEEEEE!

Where to get it: Amazon Prime for $20 | eBay for $18 | Testerkorea for $25 |

Prescription with Azelaic acid and retinoid (tretinoin)

The reason the above photo of my actives has two rows is pretty simple.  Actives with a prescription is an either/or situation for me, not both.  This is going to be highly dependent on your skin, and most importantly, your dermatologist.  In all my years of scrubs, Clarisonic brush use, oil massages, picking and poking at my skin, and then hardcore acid exfoliant use, I've never given myself broken capillaries.

I now have several on my nose and upper cheeks, because my prescription made my skin fragile and then it became highly irritated by the local water here, and blam!  Broken capillaries.  Ugh.

Let me repeat this: I do not use actives- Vitamin C serum, BHA, or AHA, while using a prescription retinoid.

If you want to do so, please ask your dermatologist.  If you want to know if it's safe to use Vitamin C serum, BHA, or AHA while using a retinoid, please ask your dermatologist.  If you want to know what order you would use Vitamin C serum, BHA, or AHA while using a retinoid, please ask your dermatologist.  Please do not ask me these questions, as I am not a medical professional.  This is conversation for you and your doctor, not for Dr. Internet.

I have spoken with mine, and they have cleared me for occasional use of any of the above as I feel my skin can handle, specifically because they know that I'm hyper aware of my skin and skincare, and that I'm cautious.  Right now with the winter weather + tretinoin, I'm down to using my prescription just once a week or so, and any other actives on top of that are right out.

Prescription with Azelaic Acid and Tretinoin

PocketDerm Azelaic Acid and Tretinoin
Left: original PocketDerm Azelaic acid Rx. Right: rebranded Curology Rx with Azelaic acid and Tretinoin.
I started using Curology (née PocketDerm) last year as a means to get a domestic Azelaic acid, because it requires a prescription in the U.S. and I really want Azelaic acid in my life.

Azelaic acid options that didn't make the cut: Uniapharm Acne-Derm, which is a Polish brand.  It was ultra harsh and made my skin beg for mercy, but it's a very affordable option if you live in the EU!

Here's why I love Azelaic acid so much, take from: A Review of Curology (PocketDerm) & Why I'm an Azelaic Acid Fangirl
Why Azelaic Acid is so Exciting (Warning: Nerdiness) 
Azelaic acid is an interesting animal, and is neither an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) but has some of the properties of both.  That's exciting.  Really exciting,
  • Both AHA and BHA can have a positive impact on acne, but here's an ultra basic summary of each:
  • AHA exfoliates outer layers of skin, fading hyperpigmentation and smoothing skin texture
  • BHA penetrates into pores and clears them out, preventing buildup of sebum clogs
Yep, it has many of the benefits of BHA and AHA, fighting clogs and fading hyperpigmentation, yet it doesn't make you photosensitive and it's also used for reducing redness and inflammation.

Where to get it: From your medical provider.  I use Curology/PocketDerm because teledermatology is amazing and convenient and they're licensed in my state.  It costs around $20 per month for the consultations + prescription, and you can get the first month free if you have a referral code.  You can use this one if you need one.

Now for all the things I would be using, if I was not in slightly terrifying relationship with Tretinoin!

Vitamin C serum

I debated even including the first of these, but it shows up in my routine posts on Instagram on occasion, so for the sake of #receipts, in it goes!  I'm currently beta testing a prototype L-AA Vitamin C serum from fellow Snailcaster Chel of Holysnails, but it's not readily available for purchase and it's not something I can review or recommend because I'm only able to use it on very rare occasions (see above prescription reason) and thus it falls short of my rigorous testing standards.  If I was using it daily like I could back in the pre-tretinoin days, I would, but those days are gone-- or at least gone for now.

Holysnails Vita Sea Rum & OST C20 Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum

Holysnails Vita Sea Rum & OST C20 Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum
Left: Via Sea Rum, right: OST C20
Both of these are L-Ascorbic acid type Vitamin C serums, which means they're pH-dependent and unstable, although as cosmetic chemist Stephen of kindofstephen pointed out to me when we were chatting about it, it's the reactive nature of L-AA that makes it a good antioxidant.  In fact it was the potential stability improvements of OST/C20 that started Chel's unexpected foray into skincare formulation, which we've pushed her into through our incessant demands seen evolve from her catalyst post:  A rant on OST's C20 and C21.5 serums, and some thinky thoughts on Vitamin C

Even if the OST C20 is a problematic product, there's no denying that it's a cult product for a very good reason, and why so many people put up with it-- it works.  It took 3 months of continuous use for it to fade my hyperpigmentation and brighten my skin tone by a noticeable amount, but it definitely did work for me.  It's also worked for several others; there's plenty of reviews out there: skinandtonics, thewanderlustproject, and fanserviced-b have all reviewed it.

pH result: 2-2.75 beacuse it lowered over time as it oxidized.

Vitamin C products that didn't make the cut:  Milkydress Vita C+ Powder, because it clogged my skin terribly no matter what I mixed it with.

Where to get it: Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum is unstable and always at risk of oxidizing due to exposure to heat or light in transit.  Amazon $15-$20 | eBay $16 | RoseRoseShop $12+$6 shipping | Jolse $15

BHA acid exfoliant

BHA, or beta hydroxy acid, is a chemical exfoliant that is oil-soluble, which means that it's able to dissolve the oily sebum that clogs skin and contributes to acne, blackheads, and sebaceous filaments.

Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
Not pictured: the two empties I'd gotten through before tretinoin brought my BHA habit to a halt
This is actually my third (or possibly fourth?) bottle of Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, which contains 4% of Betaine Salicylate, which an ultra-gentle alternative to the more commonly used Salicylic acid.  This BHA was very weak (for me) but gentle enough for me to use it twice a day, which is how I went through it so fast.

Of course, those were the days before I got a prescription, so I've not made any inroads in this since September, when I stripped all irritants out of my routine in order to give my prescription free range on my face.

pH result: 3.37 with a digital meter

BHAs that didn't make the cut:  MUAC 3% Beta Hydroxy Serum, which worked fine but was ridiculously expensive. Stridex in the red box, which is 2% Salicylic acid and way to harsh for me.  I also hated the menthol.  It was not any more effective than the Cosrx BHA, partly because I could only use it once a day or every other day.

Where to get it: Amazon Prime $16 | eBay $16 | RoseRoseShop $12+$6 shipping | Jolse $17

AHA acid exfoliant

AHA, or alpha hydroxy acid, is another chemical exfoliant, which is not oil-soluble, meaning if you have sebum or oil on your skin, your AHA may be partially obstructed and not work as well.  This, along with the fact that BHA is usually in lower concentrations as well as lower pH than AHA, is why I personally apply my BHA before AHA, but this isn't a hard and fast rule.  Many people apply AHA before BHA and it works well for them, so it's one of those things that you need to research and then find what works for you.  Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snail finds this order works better for her, so it's very ymmv!

AHA works on dissolving the surface layers of your skin rather than getting down in your pores to clear crud out, as BHA does, which means that it's great for surface issues such as closed comedones, hyperpigmentation, and rough texture.  It also makes you photosensitive for a week after use ( further info and sources in this post) so a high-rated broad-spectrum sunscreen is a must.

Mizon's AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon's AHA 8% Peeling Serum
Left: current bottle, right: three empties.
I admit I haven't tried a lot of AHAs, mostly because this one was so cheap, easy to source, and effective.  I have heard that a similar product, the Cosrx AHA, smells funky, and that's why some people choose to use this one.  I prefer to use this because it has a higher concentration, and I have noticed that most studies of AHAs use Glycolic acid in a 10% concentration, whereas the Cosrx is just 7% vs the Mizon's 8%.  Plus, I have such an involved testing schedule that it didn't make sense for me to bump something else off the schedule just to sub in another product when I already had one that worked for me.

I do still occasionally use this product as a spot treatment for closed comedones that have a thick layer of skin over them, but I'm too cautious of tretinoin-fragile skin to use it all over my face right now.

pH result: 3.89 with a digital meter

Where to get it: Amazon Prime $17 | eBay $13 | RoseRoseShop $11+$2.50 tracking

Actives that don't exfoliate

So this is a bit of a misnomer, I just wasn't sure what else to call it. I mentioned earlier that the Cosrx Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol is a spot treatment, and that it did not work for me as a pH-adjusting toner because although it does have a low enough pH, it leaves much too much residue on the skin for me to like it as an actives-prepping toner.

Cosrx Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol

Cosrx Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol
Not pictured: empty bottle that I can't find. #movingproblems
That doesn't mean that it's not fine for its actual job, which is as an anti-acne treatment.  Although the amount of BHA and AHA in this product is too low to work as an acid exfoliant, there is some evidence out there that AHA and BHA have benefits even at non-exfoliating pH levels/low concentrations.  I liked this enough to empty it and then purchase another bottle, but I never loved it as much as I did the BHA and AHA and mostly just used it as a post-actives toner to wipe off any acid + dead skin residue.  It also contains propolis, so if your skin like propolis, you may like this.

A lot of people ask me if they should purchase this or the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, and while I can't answer that question because of this and this, I can say that I personally would choose the BHA Liquid hands-down because it's a "workhorse" that gets the job done for me whereas the A-Sol is is like a ... toy pony.  It's not pointless, but it's not going to be getting any serious work done, because it just doesn't have the pedigree (i.e. ingredients/concentration) to get it done.

pH result: 4.32 with a digital meter

Where to get it: Amazon Prime $18 | eBay $13 | RoseRoseShop $9+$6 shipping | Jolse $14

Final thoughts

Do you need all these steps?  Well, as you can see, I went from a "regular line-up of 4 actives" to just one.  I did find that I really needed a BHA and an AHA, because they have very different jobs.  I am really hoping that I can re-add some of these (namely the BHA and AHA) back into my routine when the weather changes, because I have noticed their absence on my skin.  This is especially true of the AHA, because I am getting closed comedones in some places (the heavily-covered ones that almost look like a tiny wart) but my skin is just way too thinned out by the prescription to be doing any other acids right now.

Have a skincare wardrobe, or even specifically an actives closet, yourself?   Snap a pic and tag me at @snowwhiteandtheasianpear on Instagram, because I'd love to see them!  Do you have several?  One true love?  Were you forced to break up with any of them?  Hit me up on IG with your 'closet', or you can also reach me on Facebook or Twitter!

All the best,

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog will receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. Hi Snow!)
    Thanks for this post, very interesting and useful!
    I have a question about Mizon's AHA 8% Peeling Serum, when do you use it in your routine?
    And what do you think about using face makeup (bb, cushion) with high spf as the only sunscreen in routine?

    1. Hi there!

      I am glad it was useful, and luckily enough, I actually have posts that answer both of your questions! :D

      Where to use products/product order: Putting your products in order, including pH dependent acids

      Using makeup as sunscreen: The Painful Path to K-Beauty Wisdom: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make

      Take care :)

  2. I am using some products by Mizon and I am really intrigued by this aha bha daily clean toner. Actually, in my post on wordpress I am precisely explaining that I am still looking for that toner. I am new to K-Beauty and right now I am using Wonder Pore (not everyday and not in all of my face) because my skin is sensitive and combination. Therefore I am careful when I have to try anything new. And I think I am going to give a try to this Toner. Maybe samples can be bought first. You have a very inspiring blog, I em enjoying your entries since I discovered certain products in it that are wonderful in my skin. Have a great week!

    1. Hi Carmen

      I haven't seen samples of this toner, sadly, but if you find some, please let me know! I found the Wonder Pore too harsh/too much alcohol for me, but I know it does work for others. :)

      Take care!

  3. Hello Snow,

    Yes, WonderPore is quite harsh, so I only apply it on a pimple here and there with a cotton swab, never outside the tzone range. Yesterday I ordered some Korean products, I had my list that needed to be updated. I will be looking for samples for this toner, and if I know something I will let you know. I bought Skinmiso Peeling for exfoliating. I am also waiting for a toner since days, that is new in the market by Rumase so I don't want to have a bunch of products that will mix with others and I prefer to go slowly. So samples is a very good option. I will keep you updated regarding them. Best wishes :)

    1. Good luck, may the patch testing saints watch over you! ;)

    2. Hahahaha... Yes! Thank you so much! Crossing fingers.

  4. Why is the BHA/AHA Daily Toner not considered an active? How is it only a pH adjusting toner if it contains BHA and AHA? If you simply need pH adjusting, couldn't you use a toner that doesn't have chemical exfoliants in it?

    1. The BHA and AHA are in ultra low concentrations, and the pH is too high for BHA anyway.

      You can absolutely use a toner that doesn't contain BHA or AHA for pH adjusting, as low as it's both a low enough pH and also doesn't leave any residue behind that might interfere with actives. :)

      Take care,

    2. Question: Since the Pixi Glow Tonic contains 5% Glycolic Acid, would it be safe to use as a pH-adjusting toner before Vit-C serum?

  5. Would it be possible to replace BHA and AHA products by using azelaic acid only?

    1. Unfortunately, I haven't found that it gives me a 100% replacement of either, but I'd say that it does more BHA work than AHA- I definitely get CCs without AHA.

  6. Hey Cat!

    I was wondering what are your thoughts on Dr. Oz's Vitamin C serum and do you have other vitamin C serum recommendations that is relatively cheap and works well?

    1. I have not, the three mentioned in the post are the only ones I've tried. :)

    2. I use Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum and love it. It along with AHA & BHA products is helping to fade hyper hyperpigmentation.

  7. Thanks so much for this post! Have been looking forward to it :) Currently trying out the Cosrx Toner with its AHA, and things are not looking too good :/ After reading your review on the toner, I'm curious as to whether it is the toner which is breaking me out or the AHA. The Vitamin C serum Chel concocted .... I'm so waiting for this one !!!

    1. Yikes, it sounds like you might have to take things back to basics and slowly re-introduce things far apart to pinpoint the culprit? I'm sorry, doing that is a huge PITA. :(

  8. Hi, this was a highly helpful post as i was just told by a the woman who did my facial that i should use a chemical exfoliant instead of a physical to decongest my skin and stop irritating existing pimples
    I was wondering if it was ok for me to use the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid on other areas of my face besides the nose, such as my forehead?

    1. I've been using it on my whole face since October without any side-effect ;)
      The only area I personally avoid applying it is the under eyes one :)

  9. Hi Cat. I just started doing chemical exfoliating and your post really help me.
    Btw I don't live in USA and unable to obtain the Mizon AHA BHA daily toner here, do you have any other PH balancing toner that you recommend? I tried Cosrx AHA / BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner and didn't work out for me, any other products recommendation? Thanks

    1. Sadly, the Mizon is the only toner that has worked for me. I'm so gloomy about it, because it looks like it's been discontinued again. ㅠ_ㅠ

    2. Hi Cat, I have a similar problem with getting a ph adjusting toner. I've read of people who wait 20mins after cleansing before applying the exfoliant - does that work, is it ok? Also, is there a waiting period between applying the exfoliant and continuing to the next step, i.e. toner/first essence? Hope you can guide me on this. Thanks

  10. I really like how you are doing these wardrobe posts! Found your cleanser post and then moved over here to this post right after. This is really kewl!!

  11. Hi cat !
    Does ost c20 serum need to be tossed after opened for 3 months?
    I almost reach 3 months, but it stll more than half a bottle left lol
    Im not using it everyday, just 2-3 times a week as it makes me flakey and just so my skin adapt to it well
    Oh and do i need a specific adjusting ph toner? Will it affecting the serum efficacy?
    Im using low ph cleanser, and usually put the serum on my bare face and continue with hydrating toner


  12. Cat, you make your "tutorials" so easy to understand. I truly enjoyed reading them.
    I learned so much from you and carefully reorganized my skincare routine now.
    Made a grave mistake by using OST C20 vitamin c with Retacnyl tretinoin cream 0.05 for a week and noticed that my eyebag got worst and my eye area sunken and my skin looked sickly pale in a confused state. It was so obvious that even my husband got very worried. After reading your blog I quickly stop Retacnyl which I have been using faithfully for 6years then prescribed by my dermatologist. I got interested in c20 that i actually added this into my nightly routine. It took 3 weeks to reverse back to original state.

  13. Great Information...For me the basics should always be to cleanse my face, then use tonner and at last i would love to use my anti aging moisturising cream for my daily skin care and my skin looks great :-)

  14. Hi Cat!

    Been reading your posts regarding K-Beauty as I've just started realizing how important my face is after all these years. ㅠㅠ

    I have a combination/dry-oily skin like yours & I wonder if the products you've recommended would suit me. As I have those little bumps on my face and blackheads as well which I would wanna get rid of.

    Would like to know where can I get the Mizon toner? As I'm from Malaysia, and I've searched some online sellers but it seems not to be available. :(

  15. This post is great :) I'm actually thinking on leaving my vit C and AHA and focus on Trietinoin only. At least as long as I've researched, it could help my dark spots, first lines and -OHPLEASE- my keratosis pilaris.
    What concentration are you using? I'm thinking on starting on the less concentrated for safety reasons.
    Love to read you <3

  16. Hi Cat, Thank you so much for the detail post, BIG HELP.

    I currently use Timeless Vit C Serum only at night. I do have Very Oily Skin, So far no breakouts(*touch Wood*) what is your suggestion for oily skin and Vit C ? Am I doing more harm than good :/ Thanks!

    1. Hi Ann,

      That's going to be a big YMMV, but I haven't heard about oily skin needing anything special for Vit C, so the Vit C world should be your oyster. ;)

      Take care,

  17. Hi Cat,

    From this note I just realised that at some point of (most possibly) hardcore acne medication, the some unevenness on my cheek is actually broken capillaries!
    I googled it and it is even depressing since articles says that it cannot be repaired except by undergoing laser treatment or surgery.
    Do u manage to get rid of it? Can u share how?

    1. Hi Amanda,

      The only treatment that I've heard of is laser treatment, but I would check with a medical professional just in case. :(

      Take care,

  18. Hi cat :)
    Thanks for providing us this useful information. It's like a bible of holy skincare 101 i've ever need.
    you see, I'm kinda confuse on where to put my secret key starting treatment essence in the active routine (the ph adjustment toner, vit c serum, and bha).

    so, after cleansing, is it better to put the ste before the vit c serum or after the bha?

    Thank you so much, cat !

    1. Hi Hasumi,

      If it's a first essence, it would be the first step of the hydrating section of your routine, so after your actives. :)

      I hope that helps! :)

  19. Hello! As an AB newbie and fellow spreadsheet enthusiast, your posts have been super helpful. Thank you!! Any insight as to why the price for the Mizon AHA serum has tripled? Amazon prime is shipping it for $72, and the ebay listings are around $45 :( I can't see paying so much for something that was once $17. Any alternative recommendations?

    1. Apparently it's now back in stock! Woo hoooo!

  20. Hi Cat!

    i have oily-combination acne prone skin..just wanted to ask if my daily skin care routine is okay?

    1. banila co clean it zero
    2. the face shop rice water bright cleansing foam
    3. mizon aha bha toner
    4. it's skin vit c serum
    5. missha FTE essence
    6. the face shop chia seed hydrating toner
    7. mizon all in one snail repair cream
    8. missha time revolution night repair science activator borabit ampoule
    9. mizon snail repair eye cream
    10. mizon snail repair gel cream
    11.mizon good night white sleeping mask

    is this alright or too much?

    1. Hi Jeanilyn,

      Your overall order looks fine, although I might put the Missha long name ampoule before the snail repair cream since it's more expensive! ;)

      As for whether this is too much, that really depends on your skin and how much product you are using, and how much your skin needs. That's a question only you can answer. ;) You could perhaps try cutting back on your products and then re-introducing them to explore how much your skin actually needs, if you feel like what you have is too much?

      Take care,

  21. Hi Cat.

    Great post- very informative, and thank you for sharing your knowledge as usual!

    Quick question: do you have any opinions on the Klairs Vitamin C product? Unfortunately I purchased it before discovering your blog, and am now feeling some hard core buyer's remorse that I didn't get the C20 instead :( That said, I live in a tropical climate so it might have been a good decision given the instability of the C20.

    1. I think I read that either the ph is too high or the concentration is too low? But yes, instability is definitely a concern with C20!

  22. Hi Cat!

    I've been struggling with clogged pores (small colourless bumps) on my forehead for a few years now. This is my current routine as of now in the following order:

    Aloe vera gel cleanser
    Pixi glow tonic
    Tinted moisturiser w SPF 20

    Garnier miscellar water to remove make up
    Aloe vera gel cleanser
    SK II Clear Lotion (more of a toner)
    Philosophy Retinoid Pads
    Vichy Aqualia Mineral Gel Moisturiser

    Any advice on whether i might have done it wrong all these while? Appreciate it! Thanks :)

    1. Hi there,

      Your overall routine looks good but I personally place my actives before my hydrators, so my routine would be cleanser > 2nd cleanser > actives > hydrators > creams.

      Do you feel like the micellar water is enough to get your sunscreen off? I find that I have to break out an oil, or gel oil, cleanser to get my sunscreen off or it badly clogs my pores. :(

      Take care,

  23. Great info! Just wondering do u use your ph-adjusting toner before Curology? I'm seeing conflicting info about it

    1. I am also interested to know it! I am going to give a cream with Azeliac acid a try (here in Europe you can easily get them without prescription) and I don't know I should go about it

    2. That's going to depend on what your prescription is and what's in it, actually! :D Some things work better at a higher pH than the acids we are used to, so the best thing to do is to ask your Curology derm. :)

  24. Thank you so much for all you do, Cat! Quick question about using the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid twice daily: My pores absolutely love it (I'm African-American but my skin issues mimic yours), but I find it leaves me super shiny afterwards? Can I use the Mizon pH adjusting toner to wipe off the BHA and then continue with my morning routine, or should I leave it on all day? At night I've no problem with leaving it on as I layer more product. I've only recently discovered that my skin is dehydrated and not just super oily, so I'm loving layering hydration as the days get colder. Many thanks for any light you can shed on this for me!

    1. Aww, thanks! The Cosrx BHA is the most moisturizing BHA I've used, which is how I ended up basically skipping moisturizers during the humid heat of summer. I actually use toner on a cotton square to swipe down my face after actives if I feel like there is a lot of residue left on my skin after using them; after 20-30 min, your actives will have already done their thing.

      I hope that helps! If it's still unclear, just reply back with whatever is still fuzzy and I'll do my best to clarify. ^_^

  25. Hi Cat,

    Your blog is very informative and usefull.
    There is some question I would like to ask. I would like to add Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid in my regime. But, I dont know how to put in the regime. In which part I should use it. And Im also have the same skin type like yours ^-^
    Here is my daily routine

    1. Faceshop rice water bright cleansing foam
    2. SKII Facial Treatment Essense
    3. SKII cellumination day surge UV SPF 35
    4. Makeup

    1. FaceShop rice water bright cleansing milk
    2. Faceshop rice water bright cleansing foam
    3. SKII Facial Treatment Essense
    4. SKII Genoptic Spot Essence
    5. SKII Stempower

    Any advice on whether i might have done it wrong all these while? Appreciate it! Thanks :)

  26. It totally helped, Cat, and I hope you had a lovely holiday!

  27. Hi Cat! Just wondering how you would layer your actives? For example, I use vit c > bha in the morning, but not sure if I could use aha after azelaic acid or vice versa?

  28. Hey Cat! I love your blog! I am also using a prescription Tretinoin and I would love to see your skin care routine while you are on your prescription treatments if possible!

  29. Hey Cat! I am also using a prescription Tretinoin to help control my acne. What does your evening skin care routine look like while you are using your prescription treatments?

  30. Hi hi!
    What an insightful post.

    My skin is so sensitive I basically only use one active per night. Do I still have to wait 20mins after applying either my AHA/BHA/Differin to apply my SU:m37 essence?

  31. Hi. Thank you for your super informative post.
    Can you please help me sort out my product order. Here is the list of products I use and in the order I follow:

    - Double cleansing with Banilla Zero and Body Shop Tea Tree foam wash
    - Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin Toner
    Now the confusing part:
    - DefyDerm Hydratin Serum- Pure Hyaluronic Acid: Its this thick gel type consistency but vanishes upon application:
    - L.Ascorbic Acid 25% Wonderful Skin serum by Be Ceuticals. Description: L.ASCORBIC ACID 20% GLYCERIN LIPOIC ACID VITAMIN B5. Maximum daily antioxidant protection
    (So what is this? Is this an active? A serum? When should I apply it)
    - Kiehl's Dermatologist Solutions Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate.
    - Tony Moly Intensive care 24k Gold Snail Cream (This is the last step)

    So please please guide me as to what products should go in what order and if I need to add something else in my routine.
    My skin concerns: rough texture with slight pigmentation here and there.
    My age: 28

    Thank you so much

  32. Just a quick question on BHA:
    How long should I expect to "purge" after introducing it? Should I gradually work up to daily use, or will my skin adapt if I go straight to daily use and go through the purging period?
    (One-time use of CosRX BHA always results in purging for me, even if I use it as part of Fiddy's BHA-clay mask-cleansing oil routine, so I'm nervous about it.) Thank you, Snow!

  33. Hi Cat!

    I've just gotten the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% from The Ordinary. I'm very excited! I hope I can work up to nightly use, but for now I suppose I should be using it weekly? Maybe twice weekly? The only other exfoliant I'm using for now is BHA (CosRX), in the mornings, but I'm hoping to introduce a retinoid after the azelaic (as a 'spot treatment' for these lovely wrinkles I'm developing, hello 28). How long would you personally take for working up to nightly use? And how long after that would you wait before starting retinol? (I'm currently looking at SkinCeutical's 0.3% "introductory" retinoid.)

    Thanks, Cat!

  34. First of all, thank you so much for this fantastic blog! I know you're a user of Curology, as am I. I am having trouble figuring out what step it should be in my nighttime routine and would love your opinion. After I double cleanse... I become lost. Lol. This is what I've been doing and just want to make sure my steps are in order.
    - double cleanse
    - vitamin c serum
    - toner (I just got Son & Park beauty water)
    This is where I get confused and just hope for the best...
    -snail bee high content essence
    -Shark Sauce
    -eye cream
    -sleep pack

    Thank you again for all your fabulous and informative posts! You rock!

  35. Hey Cat, I've really been enjoying your blog! I've been using a vitamin C serum for a few weeks and my skin is so parched after the 10 min wait time. Do you recommend splashing some water on your face before going in with a first essence/hydrating toner or would that counteract all the vitamin C goodness?

    1. I actually like to mist my face if it's dry after actives, and have a first essence in a mist bottle for that purpose :)