Other Hot Messes: New Skincare Routine & Review

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Wait, isn’t this a site centered around sex & sex toy reviewing? I mean you’re not wrong – but I did include “and other hot messes” for a reason! I could argue that sex toy use (and masturbation) is technically “self care” – and this is a post about skincare – which is kinda self care, so they’re related, right? Let’s just pretend.

Before this blog was born I’d spent countless hours bitching to friends, posting lengthy write-ups on Facebook, and editing hours and hours of takes for YouTube beauty review videos. I’m not incredibly comfortable on camera, so written reviews regardless of subject are my bread and butter. I think I’m just someone that gravitates towards reviewing – not because I feel like my opinion is especially unique or necessary, but because I like the research aspect of things – and if I can prevent someone from wasting money on something, whether it’s a vibrator or an eyeliner – I’m going to try. (And if something is awesome – I’m going to want to shout it from the rooftops, and my close friends shouldn’t be the only ones to hear about it!)

So, this is…some sort of skincare review. Not unlike sex toys, it’s also not one-size-fits-all (or even most!) and I might not be doing it right – but I’m doing it anyways.

I’ve bitched about my skin for years. I don’t think there’s any point from 12 to 25 where I haven’t been complaining about my skin. And I’ve tried a hell of a lot – even to the extent that I developed an allergy to entire lines & multiple active ingredients in my quest to fix whatever the fuck is going on with my face. I’ve bought $25 cleansers, I’ve tried every spot treatment I can get my hands on, I’ve even figured out in my quest for decent skin that I have a severe thyroid issue. (Now managed, for the record!) But, here I am again – trying another skin care routine and continuing the struggle with adult acne.

Because I’ve had (what I describe as) “shit skin” for most of my life – I also have a decent amount of scarring, milia under my eyes, and pores that are like looking directly into the sun. I’ve been wearing full-coverage foundation since I first started wearing makeup because of it – even on a “good skin day” I feel like I have to cover the damage, even if there isn’t an active break out. 

So – in an effort to gain any sense of normalcy in tumultuous times, along with “routine” calming my nerves (and making me feel like I’ve “accomplished” something even on a bad day.) I’ve been trying to build an actual skin care routine. Like you know, one for an adult with actual steps – not just “vigorously scrub with Godforsaken St. Ives™, cry in the shower, pick at your face for twenty minutes, and apply spot treatment on broken skin” type shit that I was doing ten years ago.

Obviously, a multitude of things can impact how your skin looks or how frequently you’re breaking out. Water & sugar intake, medications, touching your face, hormones, whatever. For the purpose of this review – I drink hella water, I limit my sugar intake, I do my best not to touch my face – and I’m on hormonal birth control (which I was originally put on to help my acne!) which means I can dictate when I’ll get my period. (So, one week every three months – I run the risk of hormonal nightmare break outs. Other than that? Not a worry.)

As I’ve gotten older I’ve also gotten more strict with the products that I’ll use, and after trying things for so long I have a laundry list of  “requirements” for what products are supposed to do. So – what I want to know is if cruelty free, vegan skincare is available for someone on a budget, with sensitive combination skin, that’s beyond acne-prone. So, armed with Leaping Bunny’s list of approved brands, DoubleCheckVegan.com, and $50-or-less for three months of skincare – I got to work. Here’s what happened in the first month. (Click here to skip to the bottom line, if you’re in a hurry.)

Week One: How’s It Going? (& Routine Overview) 

I’m doing this piece in parts – so who knows when it will actually go up on the site. Skincare takes time, and with some things you might be waiting six weeks or more to see any type of result. This is just one month of progress. For reference – here’s what was going on with my face before I started my new skincare. (This also isn’t my skin “at it’s worst” – for the record, it’s how it looks on average.)

A pretty decent example of what my skin looks like “all the time” – this was May 11th (pre-new routine) Don’t worry, I switched to uncropped photos without flash but….yikes.

Building The Routine Itself

I’d picked a cleanser – Yes To Tomatoes Activated Charcoal Bar Soap ($3.79 at Target) – which is fine for face OR body. I’ve used “yes to” skincare in the past, and my face mostly agrees with them as far as sensitivity goes. I’m sure someone will come at me about how I’m stripping too much moisture from my skin – but if you’re immediately moisturizing afterwards to replenish that, does it matter? 

The only part I’m holding on to from my “old” skincare routine is the Coachella Naturals (by Dermapeutics) Tea Tree Oil serum. It’s the spendiest – and I think it’s been discontinued, so most listings I’ve seen for it online are from $15-33. I think I bought it at Marshall’s, and I was using it in place of a moisturizer for an…embarrassing amount of time because I liked what it did to my breakouts. When it runs out, I probably won’t be replacing it. *I stopped using this during Week 2.

Moisturizer-wise, I bought Alba Botanica’s “Hawaiian Oil Free Moisturizer” with aloe & green tea – about $11. My only complaint is the packaging, I don’t like dipping my fingers into pots (grimy!) so you’ll need a spatula if you’re a fellow germaphobe. (Also please, wash your fucking hands) First impression is just that it smells good (maybe if Fruity Pebbles weren’t artificially flavored? It’s not a strong scent – maybe that’s just what green tea smells like?) and is a bit more heavy-duty than my old moisturizer. Alba Botanica is “vegetarian friendly” meaning the majority of their ingredients are plant based – but they can’t be stamped as 100% vegan as a whole because some of their lip products contain beeswax, and a few others contain honey. This one doesn’t. 

To go above and beyond the call of duty, I also snagged Simplified Skin’s basic eye cream – ($9, Amazon) because oops, I have fine lines from making judgemental faces all the time, and being as pale as I am dark circles are inevitable. Out of the box I’m glad it has a pump – but jesus christ is that a lot of product. It’s super slippery so very much a little-goes-a-long-way, in my first attempt I accidentally pumped like, a dozen faces worth of eye cream out. Oops. 

Obviously, I’m not going to see some incredible difference the first time I use something. So, I’ll check in and add to this as the week goes on. I also ordered a couple products from The Ordinary (in an effort to cut physical exfoliation out of my routine, and try to fix some acne scarring) and they’re set to arrive next Friday (the 22nd) – we’ll see how they fit into this.

Taken May 15th – official “first week”
This honestly isn’t “bad” for me. Usually I have a handful (or a dozen) spots threatening to cause an issue, at least one spot healing, and some grease. This is what a “good skin day” has looked like for me for the past five years or so.

Things I’ve noticed this week:

  • Active breakouts – things have seemed to heal quicker. The breakouts themselves haven’t decreased and a few things “brewing” in my week one photos did turn into the most painful whiteheads possible, but what I thought would be a month-long red spot (especially near my mouth) looks pretty okay after only a few days.
  • Milia – some of the milia around my eyes is a bit smaller. Not sure if it’s related or just aided whenever I consistently use something around my eyes, either way I’m not mad about it.
  • I’m really bad at judging the right amount of moisturizer to use if something isn’t in a pump container.

Day 7, and Week Two: 

My routine so far has been this:

  • Cleanse in the morning, eye cream, moisturizer
  • Cleanse in the evening, serum*, eye cream, moisturizer

In addition to that, I’ve had Queen Helene’s Mint Julep Masque as part of my skincare routine forever – whether as a spot treatment or a once a week mask. (They’re cruelty free as well, and when I emailed them to find out if the glycerin in the mask was animal or plant derived I was told it’s plant-derived. Nice!) So, a couple times a week I’ll throw a dab on an active breakout overnight if it looks especially bad to keep myself from picking at it. I’ve had one, giant, horrible whitehead in the past week but I’m attributing that to hormones & my lip balm – overall the rest of my skin is fairly calm and the grease factor is steadily decreasing.

*I stopped using the Tea Tree Serum every night about three days into the week because well, it gets really heavy & I just didn’t want to use it because I would rather focus on seeing how everything else works instead.

I don’t have a decent photo, but I’ve also had an eczema patch under my chin for most of my life – and since I can’t gauge how much moisturizer I need to use each time I’ve been rubbing the excess down as far as possible, and it pretty much just feels like normal skin now. 

Finally, natural lighting that shows off my close relation to Casper the Ghost. Look at how much less “slick” my face looks, though! Taken May 22nd.

Things I’ve noticed this week:

  • Active breakouts – Despite being hormonal as shit, nothing to write home about here. Horrific whiteheads from last week have chilled, nothing new has surfaced completely. Texture overall has smoothed out a bit. Nice!
  • Milia – Smaller again, but not gone completely. What was 4-5 bumps under my right eye is now two, so that’s pretty cool.
  • I posted a post-moisturizer, unflattering lighting, late night photo on Twitter this week and a stranger described my skin as “clear”. That’s the first time I’ve heard that since I started breaking out at like….eleven.

Day 14, and Week Three: 

Finally, the rest of my skincare arrived. I probably won’t be able to write about any big changes until the next-months installment of these updates but I snagged both The Ordinary “AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution” and their “Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution”. I haven’t really messed with heavy-duty chemical exfoliants so I’m going to try the Peeling Solution first (and see if I can implement it once a week or a couple times a month) give my skin a few days to chill out, and try to work the toner into my routine. ($8.70 & $7.20 at Ulta respectively – that’s putting our current running total at $39.69 – and all of these products are big enough that I can see them lasting for a few months, but we’ll see.)

My routine this week has been this:

  • Cleanse in the morning, eye cream, moisturizer
  • Cleanse in the evening, toner, eye cream, moisturizer
    + Peeling Solution once a week (no toner after)
  • I haven’t used my QH mask (or used it as a spot treatment) because surprise, I haven’t needed to.
For reference – taken May 29th. Probably the best lighting I’ve been able to catch, weather here has been a bit of a mess. You can almost see the difference in what’s a freckle and what’s a dark spot from acne, now!

Things I’ve noticed this week:

  • Active breakouts – Shit is just not happening. Nothing new has popped up despite stress & how hot out it’s been, last weeks bumps have been smoothed out almost entirely
  • Milia – It’s barely hanging on. I’m not expecting any huge progress past this point but it’s much better than it was three weeks ago!
  • Overall texture is loads better (and smooth!) – I feel like I could get away with light coverage foundation at this point which is bonkers as someone that’s never worn full coverage foundation in their life.
  • Not really bothered by how fuckhuge the pores on my cheeks are cuz every other “problem” has been diminished.
  • No sensitivity to the toner or peel – thank fuck!
  • No improvement of my dark circles (if anything, they’ve gotten worse as the months gone on) but I’ll credit that to staying up until 5am on Twitter

Day 21, and Week Four: 

No news is absolutely good news. Routine has stayed the exact same as last week, and likely will until I run out of product. Doesn’t show as leaps & bounds of progress in photos but like….even 5% progress is cool so I’m happy shit hasn’t changed. I know the majority of this doesn’t seem like a huge deal in photos but…yeah dang.

Things I’ve noticed this week:

  • Active breakouts – Absolutely nothing to report on here, there haven’t been any! Discoloration is still calming down & smoothing out, though.
  • Milia – Itty bitty. If it stays like this (like I said last week) it still counts as improvement.
  • Can I point out that my skin actively feels smooth for the first time ever? Cuz yeah. Good shit.
So what’s the verdict?
  • Yes To Tomatoes Activated Charcoal Bar Soap – 8/10. I don’t feel like it’s doing anything incredible, but it’s cheap and seems to be doing something. Plus after a month there’s still a ton left, can’t beat that.
  • Alba Botanica Hawaiian Oil Free Moisturizer – Absolutely slaps. 9/10. Only gripe is the packaging, would recommend to my fellow oily & combo skin friends.
  • Simplified Skin Eye Cream – 6/10. I don’t feel like it’s doing anything incredible, it’s basic as hell and serves its purpose and that’s about it. Probably won’t be replacing once I’m out.
  • The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution – 9/10, one point gone just because I can never tell how much I’m supposed to be applying but it’s cheap as shit and does it’s job well – especially paired with the toner.
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution – 9/10. Having a toner that doesn’t burn but still exfoliates is awesome. I’ll be buying it again for sure.

So. The question remains. Is it possible to build a cruelty free, vegan, skincare routine for acne prone, sensitive skin for under $50? Fuck yeah it is. (Total is $39.69 – the toner is the only thing I can see having to be replaced frequently.) I would happily recommend the majority of what I’ve used this month to anyone with combo/oily skin – even if you don’t have a huge acne problem. (You just might want to look into a better eye cream!) My skin is certainly better off than it was four weeks ago, and fingers crossed that that sticks around!

What do y’all think? Is including beauty reviews here weird? Got any inexpensive, CF faves? Want to suggest something else for me to review? Let me know in the comments!

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I purchased all of this skincare myself – and was not paid for this review. This post does not contain affiliate links. If you’d like me to review one or more of your products – feel free to contact me! I would love to hear from you.

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4 Responses

  1. Tia says:

    SO! No skincare routine is complete without sunscreen. It keeps our skin from getting leathery and gross, prevents skin cancer, AND I found one that’s vegan. My issue with any sort of lotions is that I have OCD and certain textures make me want to die. Sun Bum sunscreen is a nice even texture that absorbs quickly, smells okay (it’s very lightly scented), and it’s vegan, cruelty free, hypoallergenic, and reef friendly. Bonus: it’s light enough that I was able to put it on my face without it feeling oily and gross and a little goes a long way. Lasts 80 minutes swimming/sweating heavily and I finally tested it out today with no sunburns in sight. All in all: 11/10 will probably use forever.

    • Kitty Kitty says:

      Omg, score! I’m gunna have to take a look for it the next time I’m out, I’ve been using up some cheap BS brand for a while cuz the whole sun allergy thing makes me avoid going outside so much but UGH, YESSSSS.

  2. Carni says:

    Sooo happy your skin has agreed to a skin care routine and you’re happy with the results!!!!

    • Kitty Kitty says:

      Seeeeriously right! Thank you, I’m super over the moon about it even though I still have a handful of icky face days aha.

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