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When I posted this routine on Instagram a few weeks ago it got a lot of questions, so I thought I would break down the entire lineup on the blog and explain how and why I used each product. One of the reasons I wanted to do it is because it worked so well for me. Even though skincare can only do so much, I am still very grateful for what it can do because in this case, it saved my skin from a full on meltdown. The other reason is that a lot of the questions were about some of the newer products in my stash like CAIS 5%, the Mahalo and Siam Seas balms and then others simply wanted to know about the “FM 5-day cycle”. I know I have mentioned my own personal 4-day routine cycle (that post is coming soon) but this is completely different to what I did here because it was based around using NIOD’s brilliant Flavanone Mud for five nights in a row.
Before I get into the actual routine I will quickly explain what happened. As you will know if you follow me on Instagram, my skin has been doing really, really well since around November/December thanks to some of the products here and the new streamlined, consistent approach to my routines. The problem is, when this happens I get super lax about my dietary restrictions (I’m moderately lactose intolerant) and on this occasion I was having dairy in some form pretty much every day for about a week or so. Now, unlike when I have a whole mess of dairy all at once and I immediately get sore/red/itchy bumps, what happens here is a slow but steady buildup of inflammation and congestion that starts to develop over the next 2-3 weeks. My skin actually stayed clear throughout the dairy bender, but then one day I looked at it in the light and it was as if I had a full face of acne, except it was all under the skin waiting to pop up one by one. NO. After having my skin look so good for such a long time there was no way I was going to let that happen and it didn’t thanks to this routine.
For my first cleanse I wanted to use something that was gentle, didn’t need a washcloth to be removed and wouldn’t leave a film on my face. One of the reasons I don’t really like using washcloths, especially when my skin is freaking out, is for my mildly sensitive skin I find it can cause more irritation and that’s the last thing I want. In this routine I used the de Mamiel Pure Calm Cleansing Dew because aside from being a complete joy to use it emulsifies perfectly with just water and don’t leave any residue behind. I like to have a clean canvas when I mask so there is no barrier between my skin and the ingredients that will be treating my issues. On other days I used the OSKIA Renaissance Cleansing Gel when my skin felt a bit drier and Whamisa Organic Flowers Cleansing Oil when I was removing makeup. What you use is completely up to you, but I would definitely recommend something like these that will perfectly prep the skin for the next step.
Second Cleanse & Mask
Ingredients: prunus amygdalus dulci (sweet almond) oil and in-house phytonutrient infusion* [medicago sativa (alfalfa), arnica montana (arnica), calendula officinalis (calendula), symphytum officinale (comfrey), centella asiatica (gotu kola), ocimum sanctum (holy basil tulsi), azadirachta indica (neem), scutellaria lateriflora (skullcap)], persea gratissima (avocado) butter*, macadamia integrifolia (macadamia) oil*, helianthus annuus (sunflower) oil*, jojoba esters, mangifera indica (mango) butter*, theobroma cacao (cocoa) butter*, astrocaryum murmuru butter*, theobroma grandiflorum (cupuacu) butter*, argania spinosa (argan) oil*, cera alba (beeswax)*, ricinus communis (castor bean) oil*, cetearyl olivate (and) sorbitan olivate, non-gmo mixed tocopherols, salix alba L. (willow) bark*, plukenetia volubilis (sacha inchi) oil*, coco glucoside, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf*, calophyllum inophyllum (Polynesian tamanu) oil*, cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil* & papain*, lecithin*, montmorillonite (french green clay), citrus lemon oil*, agonis fragrant (fragonia) oil*, elettaria cardamomum (cardamom) oil*, zingiber officinalis (ginger) oil*, schinus molly (peppercorn) oil*, frankincense sacra oil*, melaleuca quinquenervia (niaouli) oil*, citrus aurantium var. bergamia (bergamot) oil*, commiphora myrrh oil*, rosmarinus officials (rosemary antioxidant) extract*. Hand blended in small batches by MAHALO Skin Care in Hawaii, USA. *clean ingredients: organic + local and/or wild harvested (when available).
I was lucky enough to receive a sample of Mahalo’s The Unveil back in October or November from my lovely friend Ing and it was love at first use. It is pretty much exactly what I have been looking for in a cleansing balm and it is one of the products that kept my skin looking great all winter and inspired my “cutthroat cabinet” (more on that here). It is insanely gorgeous with the loveliest ingredients and I will have a full blog post on it soon. For now, I will tell you that in this routine it served as my first line of defense against inflammation thanks to ingredients like green tea, avocado, fragonia, skullcap and gotu kola and also as a very gentle exfoliant. I took about a pearl sized amount and massaged it in for a few minutes, then left it on as mask for about an hour before rinsing with warm water. One of the reasons I love this cleanser so much is it completely rinses clean for me leaving nothing behind, which like I said, is exactly what I want before I apply my treatment step.
Second & Main Mask
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Montmorillonite, Kaolin, Bisabolol, Glycerin, Silca Cetyl Silylate, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Panthenyl Triacetate, Glucosyl Hesperidin, Perfluorodecalin, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Argilla, Butylene Glycol, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Hydroxyresveratrol, Glycosphingolipids, L-Arginine, Alteromonas Ferment Extract, Naringenin, Xanthan Gum, Acacia Senegal Gum, Mica, Quartz, Sucrose Palmitate, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
I first wrote about Flavanone Mud over a year ago when it launched (read here) and ever since then it has been a total staple. I reach for this when my skin is freaking out and it never fails to calm things down and get everything back on track. I decided to implement the “Accelerated Method” as I hadn’t really masked in quite a few weeks and knew it was exactly what my skin needed. This “method” is basically using the mask for five days in a row and it seriously works wonders for me. So, after the second cleanse I apply a thin, even layer and leave it on for as long as possible. NIOD recommends 10 minutes and if it’s your first time or you have sensitive skin then I definitely recommend that. I don’t need to do that anymore as I’ve used it many times, so over the five days I kept it on for a minimum of one hour, all the way up to five. Yes, five! The reason I do this is unlike typical clay masks this doesn’t just suck all the junk out of your skin then dry and start to flake off, so I like to keep it on for as long as possible. It is purifying, yet still healing and helps to restore calm and balance. I won’t go in to too much detail about the mask because in addition to my first impressions post (here), I also wrote about it in my NIOD June Favourites (here), so you can read all about it in those posts. Just know that there is nothing quite like this mask and it’s what I instinctively reach for when my skin is in trouble.
First & Main Treatment
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Glycerin, Ethoxydiglycol, Pentylene Gltcol, Copper Tripeptide-1, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3, PPG-26 Buteth-26, PEG40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxythanol.
THIS. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this stuff. I have used and been obsessed with CAIS 2:1 (full review here) ever since it launched almost two years ago now, but this is my everything. I remember reading Brandon (Deciem founder) say that the average consumer doesn’t need to use CAIS 5% because in a year of using the 1% your skin would be in the same place and at the time it made total sense and I completely overlooked it. That changed when the legend that is India Knight declared this as one of her “5 Beauty Must-Haves” (article here). I immediately pulled it out, mixed it up and slapped it on my face and oh my – this is CAIS 1% on steroids. Obviously this should work “better” than the 1% because it’s 5x stronger, but because of what (naughty) Brandon said I didn’t think it would be that much of a difference but it is, it absolutely is. I pretty much credit this for everything now – even skin tone, reduction in breakouts, healing my congestion/inflammation, improving texture etc etc. Everything that CAIS 1% does, this does it more. I am going to have a full blog post on this because I honestly think it has been massively underrated and it completely changed how my skin responds to retinol. Obviously I stopped using anything like that while I was doing this method, but I didn’t care because this does it all. I applied it to dry skin after removing FM and then just waited five minutes before moving on. This is a superstar of a product and since my blog post won’t be up for a couple more weeks, I will say that if you’re a “picker” (semi-reformed over here) then you need this. It heals my skin like nothing else and for that alone it is completely worth it.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Hamamelis virginiana leaf water, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
Luckily, almost all of the blemishes healed before they formed, but two did manage to make it to the surface and on those I used the Salicylic Acid 2% Solution. The new acids range from The Ordinary is pretty brilliant and I love how non-drying this is compared to my other SA products. It contains both witch hazel and synthetic salicylic acid in a water base formula that absorbs really well and doesn’t ball up when you apply other products on top. This has been working so well for me and helped to heal the two blemishes quickly and with less “skin trauma” involved, although I will note that it does somewhat “lather” as you rub it (this is due to the inclusion of cocamidopropyl dimethylamine, which is an antistatic agent, but is also classed as a cleansing/lather ingredient due to how it functions). I applied this to the blemishes and then let it dry for about 10-15 minutes before carrying on with my routine. I have always loved salicylic acid (BHA) because the molecular structure allows it to penetrate into the pores, tackling the blemish from the inside out. There is a blog post in the works featuring all The Ordinary acids coming soon, so keep an eye out for that one.
Ingredients: de Mamiel, Josh Rosebrook, Tata Harper
For this step all I needed was a lightweight layer of hydration that would soothe, protect and nourish my skin. Hydration is extremely important when it comes to healing and preventing blemishes, but when my skin is breaking out I don’t like to apply lots of heavy feeling layers. Instead, I reach for a toner/mist with elevated ingredients that go beyond hydration and that’s exactly what these three provide. In this routine I used the Josh Rosebrook mist because it is jam packed with skin loving ingredients that make it more like a serum, just like the de Mamiel mist and Tata Harper essence. You can use whatever you have on hand, just make sure it doesn’t contain alcohol. I apply a liberal spritz of this (or whatever I’m using) all over and then quickly move on to my next step because I want to apply it while my skin is still damp.
The Final Step
Ingredients: Garcinia Indica (Kokum) Butter**, Madhuca Longifolia (Mowrah) Butter**, Cannabis Sativa (Hemp Seed) Oil*, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Oil*, Tiliacora Triandra (Ya Nang) Herb**, Thumbergia Laurifolia (Laurel Clock Vine) Herb**, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola)**, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil*, Pentaclethra Macroloba (Pracaxi) Seed Oil**, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin Seed) Oil*, Hydnocarpus Wightianus (Chaulmoogra) Oil, Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Oil*, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbyl (Vitamin C Ester), Artocarpus lacucha (Lakoocha) Extract**, Rosa Canina (Rose hip) Oil* Jasminum officinale (Jasmine Absolute) Oil*, Rosa Damascena (Bulgarian Rose) Oil**, Helichrysum Italicum (Immortelle) Oil*, Boswellia sacra (Frankincense) Oil**, Lavandula (Lavender) Oil**, Ravensara aromatica*, Commiphora myrrha (Myrrh) Oil*, Zingiber cassumunar (Plai) Herb**, Citrus Aurantium (Neroli) Oil*, Tanacetum annuum (Blue Tansy)**, Rosa Damascena (Rose Bulgarian Absolute) Oil**. * Certified organic ingredient. ** Organically grown/wild crafted Ingredient
Along with my obsession for the Mahalo cleansing balm, I have Ing to thank/blame for my love of Siam Seas SEAS Elements Beauty Balm. She also sent me a very generous sample of this and like Mahalo, it became an instant favourite and when I compare the ingredients, I can see why as they both contain a lovely mix of oils and butters as well as beautiful herbs like gotu kola. This is another product that inspired the “cutthroat cabinet” simply because I couldn’t help but use it every day and the results were absolutely visible. This is sincerely the best facial balm I have ever used. It is healing, soothing, brightening, purifying, hydrating, all while smelling absolutely beautiful. I apply this to toner/mist damp skin to help absorption, but I also just like doing it that way. I find that balms and oils penetrate the skin quicker/better when used with water based products, which is what I want. I apply a pretty generous amount of this because it absorbs so well and because I like how it sort of cocoons the skin. You can use any balm you have, but if you have acne prone, oily, or easily congested skin then I would seriously look into getting this because it was made with these skin types in mind and it works wonders.
I did a variation of this routine for five days straight and at the end of it virtually all under the skin congestion was gone and my two blemishes were pretty much healed. I cannot recommend the core products in this lineup enough. The Mahalo balm, FM masque, CAIS 5% and Siam Seas balm have done so much for my skin and now I can’t be without them.
Ingredients: Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, Retinol 1%.
Now, while I tackled the majority of my reaction with the previous routine, I ended up with an additional breakout to deal with and that’s where these three come in. After my skin was pretty much all healed there was a tiny cluster of maybe 5 blemishes that were under the skin, but not inflamed or anything, just needing to be extracted because the “pus” (yuck) was hard and dry. Because they were so small I didn’t really worry about them and because I was so busy, I actually forgot they were there until I woke up one morning and the 5 tiny spots had morphed in to a giant red and sore monster! As I didn’t need to treat my whole face I incorporated these to target the blemish and it worked a treat. So, at night I alternated between the Saliyclic Acid 2% Solution and the Retinol 1%. I did this because as I said the salicylic acid deep cleans the pores and for me, retinol speeds up the life cycle of a blemish by increasing cell turnover. During the day I covered the spot with the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% because it contains silicones so it “protected” the spot from any makeup etc and is also an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It also inhibits the growth of p.acnes (bacteria) and regulates the production of skin cells. I love these three for not only getting rid of spots, but also preventing them from even happening. If you suffer from frequent breakouts I would definitely recommend looking into all three because they continue to work so well for me and I will have full blog posts on them all soon.
Even though skincare has improved so much over the years it can’t do it all and it is up to us to make sure our diet (among other things) isn’t causing a problem. For me, I know I have to pretty much stay away from dairy, but also reduce my intake of sugar, red meat and soy (I think). These foods can cause inflammation in the body, compromising the skin barrier, which starts a chain reaction that leads to breakouts. When I was regularly eating these foods I found myself in a constant cycle of clear skin, then blemishes and back again. Without them my skin is more stable and less reactive and I (obviously) much prefer it that way. I’ve always said that the food you eat is something that absolutely has to be addressed if you’re trying to heal your skin, but these products here will definitely help, too.