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#21: Feeling Beautiful with Sensitive Skin

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SUMMARY

Suri shares her tips and skincare routine, to help teens and moms feel beautiful with sensitive and breakout prone skin. Share your tips in the comments!

This episode was made using:

TRANSCRIPT – edited for clarity

INTRO: In today’s episode, I’m shifting gears to talk about a topic that every woman thinks about but not everyone publicly talks about (especially the shy ones) – it’s about feeling beautiful in your own skin. 

Today’s episode especially is for:

  • The post pregnancy mom with small kids – who’s feeling like a used up and beaten down version of your old self and looking for a way to game up your skincare routine.
  • The breakout prone woman who’s tired or trying out a million lotions and potions, that promise you everything, but deliver on nothing. 
  • The older mom who never had to deal with skin problems before, but now you have a teen or pre-teen who’s starting to have skin issues – and you just don’t know what to do.

On the other hand, if you have easy skin and only need your trusty moisturizer every day, or you already have a beauty and skincare routine that you’re happy with, tune out now. Because there is such a thing as over-information and I don’t want to confuse you or waste your time. 

But feel free to come back to this episode if things do change for you.

WORK WITH ME: Hi friends. If you happen to need a female voice talent for your Audiobook or E-book, or require support when it comes to letting go of sticky, stressful thoughts, one at a time – please check out my offerings on my website at suristahel.com or reach out at suristahel@gmail.com

Welcome to episode #21 of Doing Things on Purpose with me Suri – the podcast that empowers women to take charge of their time, health, relationships, and money by doing things on purpose.

Mom Check-In

Let’s start today’s episode with a short mom check-in: 

How are you doing this week moms? 

I hope you took the time to take care of you this morning before heading out into the world. If not, tomorrow’s another day. But please don’t keep putting yourself last. 

How is your day looking? 

As you plan and schedule time for your big dreams and intentions for the week, month and year, don’t forget to take care of the little things too. Carve out at least half an hour a day to do basic chores in the house, that just need to get done. 

Today is it:

  • Vacuuming?
  • Taking out the trash?
  • Doing the laundry?
  • Changing the bedsheets? 
  • Cleaning the bathrooms?
  • Picking up toys from the floor?
  • Washing that mesh filter in your kitchen’s extractor hood?
  • Or maybe it’s even buying a new charcoal filter if you have the kind of stove extractor hood that recirculates air instead of pumping it outside? Most people don’t even know that these need to be activated in the oven every few months and also replaced every few years.

Yes I know how this feels. It feels like the cycle never ends! 

It doesn’t in a way… Taking care of your home, yourself, your relationships, and your work will always be a continuous practice. 

So don’t think about it as a burden, but just something that’s part of life. And maybe eventually, you’ll even start to enjoy it once in a while.

Remember, a messy home today does not mean a messy home 3 years from now. Things do get better, our kids do grow up – just keep going and trusting in the process.

My Thoughts on Beauty

Jumping straight into today’s topic. I’ll be sharing my personal skincare routine for sensitive, breakout prone skin, and the exact products I use, which have remained largely unchanged for the last 5 years, or perhaps even longer.

So why do we need to purposely talk about beauty?

  • It’s just another area in our lives that we have to deal with, day-to-day.
  • Let’s be honest – it affects our sense of self-confidence, our perception of others, consumes our time, attention and of course our money.

I love the fact that we’re seeing more and more people of all colors, shapes, sizes, styles and attractiveness levels showing up in our social media platforms and in the movies. 

We still do mostly see beautiful people with flawless skins and perfect makeup take center stage. And we believe that that’s the level we need to be at, before we can show up. 

I struggle with that belief too. So how can we begin? 

With social media, know that the algorithm learns from what you consume and not consume – what you like and what you ignore.

Tip: Start searching, following or liking posts from people who show up as they are, who embrace themselves as they are, renegades with gray hair, bare skins, wonky fashion or imperfect features. People that embrace aging, that inspire you to be you, and make you feel empowered to put in as much, or as little effort on your appearance as it suits you. 

The more you support people like this with your likes, reposts and comments, the more you allow the algorithm to lift up their messages and reach other people.

On the flip side, start unfollowing or at least muting people and posts that always leave you feeling compared to or less-than. 

When you’re served something you don’t want to see, just click the three dots on the right hand side of that post, and click “not interested, show less, or hide Ad.” Yes – these are all real options that you can choose.

Growing up with Sensitive Skin

As an Asian woman, I grew up with oily skin. I never had super bad skin, but I constantly had to battle with clogged pores, pimples and black heads here and there. 

If you have oily, pimple prone skin, you know that using makeup to hide pimple scars can be a nightmare. Especially talking as a woman with a darker skin tone. Our skin can scar so easily.

Added to that, if you have sensitive skin, drugstore makeup breaks you out, all foundations only last half the day and then they either disappear or turn one shade darker. And if you choose matte concealers so it really stays on like the infamous Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, the spot you concealed ends up sticking out like a sore thumb once the rest of your foundation disappears.

Don’t even let me get started on the problem of hiding uneven bumpy skin. We’re talking about shadowing and highlighting here.

So I’ve gone through it all, it feels like. I was that girl browsing reviews online, and asking questions on Sephora and MakeupAlley. I followed dermatologists on YouTube like Dr Dray and Dr Sam Bunting, as well as beauty gurus like Gothamista, Liah Yoo and Lisa Eldridge

I’ve researched ingredients and tried them out. I discovered that what they promised on the bottle or in the lab, didn’t mirror my real-life experience of using the products at all. Non-pore-clogging did not mean they did not clog my pores. It was a lot of trial and error. 

Thankfully, these days my skincare routine is pretty set in stone, and I’m happy about that. Because unless you’re in love with experimenting on beauty products, you just want to find the things that work for your skin and finally move on with life.

It’s just like finances. You just want your money to be managed, and systems in place so you can chase and do other things with your time.

As a mother, I also wanted a routine that’s gentle and effective, that I can happily pass down to my daughter who’s turning 12 this year and showing signs of problem skin. 

So I did ask my daughter to try my routine for one whole week to see if it would help her, and it definitely did. Every day, her face just kept getting better and clearer. 

But you know, as a young teen, she’s not really that motivated to do it regularly herself. And I’m only willing to help her so much. So right now, we just do it whenever she feels like it or when she’s fed up with how things are going. In any case, she knows it’s something she can always turn to if she needs it.

If you’re interested, here’s my evening skincare routine for sensitive skinned girls and women to try. 

There’s a myth that’s still circulating that acne face wash helps, because it strips your skin of oil and treats it at the same time.

This is a myth because:

  1. Your skin doesn’t need to be stripped because it needs balance to stay healthy. After you rinse off your cleanser, your face shouldn’t feel squeaky clean or tight. It should just feel comfortable.
  2. The short amount of time that your cleanser stays on your face isn’t actually enough time for it to treat your skin. 

Step One: Double Cleanse – with gentle products

Double cleansing is when you use an emollient product like a cold cream, cleansing face balm, or cleansing oil, to break down the oils on your face, before using a gentle second cleanser, to wash off any residue from that balm or oil. 

Of course most balms or oil cleansers market themselves as products that can be used independently without a second cleanse. But what can I say? 

If I find myself having clearer skin with the double cleansing method, I’m not going to question it further. I just know it works.

The only time I don’t use oil cleansers is if I’ve had a completely makeup-free day, or in the mornings, when I just use one gentle cleanser or just water, to rinse the night off.

I’ve tried a few oil cleansers. They come in different bases, like castor oil, olive oil, mineral oil and so on. Depending on how your skin likes or dislikes certain ingredients, some can break you out or cause your skin to dry out, believe it or not.

My favorite first cleanser is Shu Uemura’s Anti/Oxi+ Clarifying Cleansing Oil. It comes in a green pump bottle. For the price, it can seem expensive, but I always buy the biggest bottle I can find online, and that lasts me a whole year or more, so it’s really good value for money. 

Apply one pump on your palm and massage onto dry skin. This breaks down the oils, makeup or sunscreen that you might be using. It’s also a good time to do a facial massage. 

Add a quick facial massage

A facial massage helps improve circulation and helps to clear up bumps in the skin even more quickly. I don’t do this every day, but I’ll share a very relaxing face massage video that I follow, made by Lisa Eldrige on YouTube.

Alternatively, you can also use a tool called the gua sha massage stone, which is a business card sized stone, made out of cut jade or rose quartz that you can use to gently scrape over your skin, jaw and neck, while having the cleansing oil on.

Gua sha facial massage stone and the Shu Uemura oil cleanser

So once you’re done massaging the oil all over your face and down your neck, wet your hands and massage again to emulsify the oil (it will turn milky). Do that twice more, and then rinse completely. 

For the gentle second cleanse, here are three products I recommend:

  1. L’occitane milk cleanser or cream cleanser, which leaves the skin soft and not squeaky after rinsing off. The problem with L’occitane is that they love to reformulate their milk cleansers – it’s quite annoying. 
  • I used to use their original shea cleansing milk which was great because it could remove light makeup and still leave the skin feeling soft.
  • After it got discontinued, I started using their Fig and Honey Cleansing Milk, which I still have. But this year, they’ve just discontinued the Fig and Honey, and reformulated the Shea Cleanser (now available as a milk or cream cleanser) – which I have not tried.
  • Reviews have mentioned that the milk is too watery but the cream cleanser has had great reviews. So I’ll probably get my hands on that (cream cleanser), when I run out of my fig and honey. 

I have no idea why L’occitane keeps doing this. Someone stop them.

  1. Cerave Hydrating Cleanser which leaves a slight squeaky feeling after rinsing off.
  2. Cerave also makes a Hydrating Oil Cleanser that’s more moisturizing. But the texture is too tacky and less slippery for facial massage, but a good second cleanser to have. OR if you’re not quite ready to invest in a proper first oil cleanser, this could be the perfect two-in-one cleanser for you to start with and see, it’s all you really need.

Step Two: Treat & Moisturize

For problem skin, we want to treat our skin both from inside the pore, and also on the surface of the skin as well. 

Again in a gentle way, because we don’t want to use something that dries out the skin so much that gunk stays trapped in the pore; and not something over-exfoliating that leaves the surface of the skin raw.

So I like to switch days between these two types of treatments:

1. BHA Treatment (Alternate Evenings)

BHAs or beta hydroxy acids, typically in the form of salicylic acid – are exfoliating agents with small enough molecules that they can penetrate the pore and help to clear it out. You’ve probably seen a lot of Ads about this on TV.

So there are many different kinds, and some formulations are dryer than others. 

The BHA product I use and love is the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid which is a Korean brand, and it contains BHA to as well as Niacinamide to boost radiance.

How do you use it? 

At the back it says to pump it on a cotton square. But with all my products, I don’t necessarily follow directions, because it can result in a lot of product wastage. 

What I do is:

  • Pump one pump on my palm
  • Use my fingertips to spread it over my face. 

Seal with a light moisturizer

A treatment I like to use in combination with this BHA is another product from COSRX which is their Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence which is basically filtered snail slime. Snail slime is hydrating, contains antioxidants, is antimicrobial and promotes wound healing. It’s actually been used for medicinal purposes since the time of the Ancient Greeks. 

Then, I top it off with a light moisturizer. I like the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream since I have slightly dryer aging skin now. But if you have oily skin, you can use the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizer, which is a much lighter formulation. I like that the CeraVe has ceramides in it, which helps to strengthen the skin barrier.

2. AHA Treatment (Alternate Evenings)

Every other day, I use an AHA treatment for the evening, which is an exfoliation for the surface of the skin.

As we age, the surface of our skin sheds and renews itself at a much slower pace. Your skin starts looking dull or more textured. AHAs help to stimulate things. My favorite type of AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) is lactic acid, because of its non-drying effects. 

For me I find that if the skin is over-exfoliated, it gets this shiny texture that doesn’t even absorb moisturizer so it really makes your skin look even more crepey. 

I’ve just learned over time that gentle, is best.

What I’ve been using is the Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% Serum by The Ordinary. A very cost effective, low priced product.

  • I use this right after cleansing and patting dry with a clean towel or tissue. 
  • Take a dropper dispenser of this lactic acid, and squeeze a drop on my forehead, one on each cheek, and one on my chin. 
  • I smooth it on with my fingertips. 

Seal with a nourishing moisturizer

Because surface exfoliants like this tend to sensitize skin, I like to use the thicker CeraVe Moisturizing Cream instead of the lighter lotion. And what I like to mix the moisturizer with, is my healing oil of choice – Tamanu oil.

If you haven’t tried Tamanu oil, it is great at healing kitchen burns, small cuts and fading scars over time – I find, even more than zinc cream. If you’re older, you know how long it takes for things to heal. It’s by no means a miracle oil, but if you’re consistent, I think you’ll see results. 

Just watch out if your skin is sensitive to it, or starts to break out. You can try less of it. 

The brand I use is from Saint Hilaire (Tamanu oil). Not all brands are the same. It should be cold pressed, have a thick consistency, come in a dark green color, and have this really distinct deep, earthy smell. 

So I mix a little pump of this with my moisturizer. Just put some dots over my face and smooth it over. 

If you have sensitive or breakout prone skin, do not over moisturize!

Top Tip: Keep The Balance.

Do take notice of how your skin reacts, and take days off from using treatment products as necessary. You shouldn’t have to live with skin that feels thin or sensitive. On off nights, just layer on some moisturizer and add tamanu oil if you need a bit more care. 

Some weekends, I don’t even wash my face to let the skin rebalance itself naturally.

My Personal Views on Makeup and Sunscreen

Makeup’s a difficult topic for me because I’ve tried so many. As I mentioned, the wrong makeup can break me out and leave my skin feeling itchy all day. I do have some tips for sensitive skinned girls though:

  1. Focus on your eyes and lips: A neat brow can make anyone look instantly more polished without the risk of breakouts. I like using MAC’s clear brow gel. Once it’s dry, I fill in any sparse areas lightly with a brow pencil.
  2. Spot-conceal with mineral makeup: I’ve tried Jane Iredale and Bare Minerals, but my favorite find is a small brand called Afterglow Cosmetics. It’s a small brand, but has a great color selection for darker skin tones. You probably have to order it online. I don’t apply it all over with a kabuki brush like a foundation. Instead, I use a small brush and just take some of their mineral foundation to cover any under eye circles, over pigmentation or scars that I have. It’s not full coverage, but it’s something that looks subtle and very natural.
  3. Consider using sunscreen only when you need it: This might sound controversial for those of you who are skincare fans, because everyone knows the sun causes wrinkles, pigmentations and everything bad. But if you’re prone to breakouts and you’re not really a sun-worshiper – I would honestly only use sunscreen when you need it. Because although there some good sunscreens out there:
    • They can be drying.
    • They’re always pore-clogging if you use them everyday. It’s like that cycle with makeup – where you’re just perpetuating bad skin. So you have to find a balance that works for you. Some products I’ve tried that I find are less irritating, have been the Ultrasun Extreme SPF 50, and the Avene Intense Protect. I’ve also tried some physical sunscreens, but I find they really dry out my skin.

So that’s my take on the basics of skincare that you need to know, if you have sensitive skin or have a teen with sensitive skin – so that you can start looking and feeling more confident, despite sensitive skin. 

Need More? Extra beauty products and supplements… 

I actually have a lot more products to recommend when it comes to extra beauty products. For instance if you’ve just had your baby, and your hormones are still wacky – you might be battling with:

  • Shedding hair
  • Bald spots on your eyebrows
  • Dull skin, after the pregnancy glow fades

Know that this too shall pass. It will get better over the years.

But if you’re looking for an emergency solution, just go to the show notes of this episode at suristahel.com/21 – scroll down to the bottom! 👇👇👇

How much would this basic night time skincare routine cost?

I’ve done the rough calculation, and I would say that I spend around $200 (USD) per year.

Which is not super cheap, but actually not expensive at all when you divide that over the months.

Here’s my rough annual breakdown of costs – price may vary depending depending on location:

  • Oil cleanser – $100
  • Milk/cream cleanser (might need to repurchase once) – $25
  • BHA treatment – $25
  • AHA treatment – $10
  • Gua sha stone (one time purchase) – 10
  • Snail slime – $10
  • Tamanu oil – $10
  • moisturizer – $15

I hope that you can try out some of the products I’ve recommended, and let me know how it goes. If you like, you can also share:

How much time, effort and money do you personally invest on your beauty routine? 

I love hearing your comments and if you have any questions, just email me at suristahel@gmail.com

OUTRO: That’s all I have for you today. Again the show notes and all the products mentioned will be listed on suristahel.com/21

I wish you well, and I thank you again for listening to Doing Things on Purpose, with me Suri. 

  • If you liked this episode, please give it a thumbs up, five-star rating or positive review wherever you get your podcasts. It can really help other people find it as well.
  • And if you’d like to connect, you can always find me on  TwitterYouTubeFacebook or Instagram

My Extra Beauty Tips!

For thicker brows

RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum works, but only while you’re using it. Be careful where you put this, as it can grow hair closer towards your eyelids as well.

For thinning hair

Rene Furterer’s COMPLEXE 5 Stimulating Plant Concentrate helps stimulate the follicles and promote hair growth.

For plumper skin

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptide powders work but they’re very hard to dissolve and taste funny. I loved the effect but couldn’t stomach it for the long term. I even tried their chocolate flavor.

For calming breakouts

During that time in the month, usually a week before my period arrives, I like to take a double dose of fish oil pills when I start to see extra spots popping up. They seem to have a visible anti-inflammatory effect, at least in my case. I don’t take these regularly anymore, but I used to for health reasons. 

I found it helped regulate my menstruation cycle which was pretty spotty for a time. I have no idea how it works, but I’ve simply noticed the changes through observation. So if you happen to already have fish oil capsules in stock, try it the next time you need a pimple to shrink down a bit, by tomorrow.

Another great thing to try is the COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch.

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