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The Ultimate Skincare Routine For Those With Complicated Skin

Finding a proper skincare routine that works for your unique skin is an overwhelming task to decipher. I have tried, tested, gotten rashes, suffered severe acne breakouts, have become depressed from medications, and felt my skin burn, on the hunt to find what works for me. Therefore, sharing this knowledge is important to me because I remember how much my younger self struggled with skin issues and her overall self worth. If you have ever experienced topical creams that make your entire face flake off, or antibiotics that cause you to feel numb to everything, then I have been right there with you. Acne & my self-worth has been a life long battle.


It does not help that I have the most complicated skin. I have an oily T-zone, dry cheeks & lips, blackheads, cystic acne, AND sensitive skin. Most skincare products are not the right fit or often stop working overtime.

Good news!! Below I have listed & linked my favourite skincare products that really have been a saviour to my skin and overall happiness.

  • One important thing to note is that I am actively on birth control to help balance out my hormones, decreasing my active acne. Birth control itself does not fully control acne breakouts and so a proper skincare routine is important to manage bacteria, scars etc.  Consult your doctor before considering adding new medications. Birth control is not for everyone and it is my goal to not rely on it for skin issues in the future 🙂

Something that I have learnt very recently (seriously just until a few months ago) is that the order of skincare products and when you put the products on is e v e r y t h i n g. Some of you may currently be content with a one-step skincare routine and find that what I list below is way too overwhelming. Honestly, it is! But I feel it wouldn’t be a horrible decision to consider adding one or two new steps and see how your skin tolerate the changes. Remember slow is always better 🙂

*Please note I am in no way a dermatologist or expert in skincare, especially regarding to acne, but I do love to share what works for me incase it helps others.

** Affiliate Disclosure: With the use of some affiliate links below, I will earn a small commission if this link clicked and used to make a purchase. The commission is paid by the retailers, at no cost to you.*

The Recommend Steps for Your Skin Care Routine

  1. Cleanser
  2. Toner
  3. Mask (1-2 x /wk)
  4. Treatments/Serums 
  5. Face Oil
  6. Moisturizer
  7. Sunscreen <3

skincare lineup versed skoah cerave primer moisturizer cleanser retinol serum face oil skin

1. Cleanser

Put your hand up if you’ve ever washed your face with a bar of soap?🙋🏼‍♀️ ****GASP**** Kidding! There is no shame in this game, but if that is your current go-to then I kindly ask you to re-evaluate your skincare 🙂 Soap was not made with the intention to take care of your glorious money maker.

The cleanser theme for my skin is soft, soothing, and hydrating. Here are some of my go-tos:

Éminence Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser eminence clear skin probiotic cleanser skincare
  • Best for oily and problem skin but is also incredibly hydrating for dry areas. I love that you only need to use the smallest amount of product and mix it in your hand with water. Aka this bottle will last you forever.
  • An amazing smell of Cucumber, Almond Milk, and Tea Tree Oil
  • Cruelty-free, organic, sustainable, and they plant a tree with every product sold woohoo!
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleansercerave hydrating facial cleanser skincare
  • Best for normal to dry skin. I find this so soothing on my skin when it is feeling extra sensitive.
  • Incredibly gentle, contains hyaluronic acid, and is non-comedogenic.
  • Often recommended for those with Eczema and is incredibly affordable.
Skoah Kream Kleanser
  • My Vancouver babes will recognize this one! Best for dry, sensitive, or mature skin. 
  • Key ingredients include shea butter, antioxidants, and olive oil. It made my skin feel like a baby’s bottom.
  • The bottle lasted me for almost half a year so you are really getting your money’s worth! You can check out their products and book a facial at the same time weee!!

Christine’s Tip:

When cleansing, make sure your hands and/or towels are freshly clean! This helps reduce the spread of bacteria, which is especially critical to help minimize active acne.

2. Toners

Let’s get toned!!

Toner made an entrance into my life only just a couple years ago. I didn’t understand the need for it but now I get it! It is all about balance your skin and balance is very much my friend. If you are looking to just add one new step into your skin routine, I say toner!

As we wash our face with cleanser (and often hard water), residues are left behind and your skin’s pH becomes unbalanced. While your skin can naturally bring your pH back to normal, toner speeds up the process while also helping rid of any extra leftover make-up or dirt. There are SO many options out there so here are a few of my recent favourites:

Versed Skin Baby Cheeksversed baby cheeks skincare toner
  • A hydrating milky texture toner made up of coconut water, algae extract, & bamboo extract. 
  • Cruelty-free, free of parabens, silicones, and sulfates.
  • Versed also offers a Recycle Responsibly Program!
Empyri Hydrating Hemp Toner hemp toner vancouver skincare hydrating
  • Based in Ontario, Canada!
  • This toner is currently in my cupboard and I will be super sad when it is empty!
  • Best for acne-prone skin. Ingredients include Witch Hazel, floral waters, and root extract.
  • Note that this toner comes with a Vitamin C add-on. Personally I had a really bad reaction to the vitamin C ( I think you may have seen the results on my Instagram awhile ago haha) because my skin is so sensitive. You can try a little bit and see what works for your skin.
  • This product is Cannabis-Infused but contains no CBD or THC.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight TonerGlow Watermelon Toner BHA PHA Hydrating Pore Tight
  • Best for dry, normal, sensitive, and oily/combination skin.
  • Contains watermelon extract, cactus water, PHAs to rid dead skin cells, and BHA’s to tighten pores. Probably one of my favourites of all due to the smell!
  • Good for hyperpigmentation, blackheads, and dehydrated skin.

*NOTE: these toners above were gifted from previous brand partnerships but are included in this post because I TRULY love them.

Christine’s Tip:

Use re-usable cotton/bamboo pads for application! Once used, toss them in the washing machine and hello new pads! This is great way to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills 🙂 You can also just use your hands.

3. Masks

The only type of mask you will ever be excited to wear! I would considered myself a mask queen and it’s become my ultimate self-care moment. I tend to have a few different masks in my cupboard at the same time, with each having their own special purpose. My go-to masks are often clarifying, brightening, and/or hydrating:

Murad Clarifying Mask acne clarifying mask murad
  • OKAY so I cannot hype this one up enough! If you have seen me in my IG stories, this is what is always on my face haha. I will either apply this fully to my face for 10 minutes or I will use it as a spot treatment overnight, and damn does it shutdown a breakout fast!
  • Best for Oily and Combination Skin. This can be really drying, so I tend to avoid putting it on areas of my face where I am typically more dry.
  • Contains two rare earth clays Kaolin & Bentonite to draw out impurities, as well as sulfur to help reduce an active breakout.
  • It just like really really good 11/10 stars. *sold out right now @ Murad & @ Sephora* so keep an eye out for restocks!
Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask
  • rose clay mask skincareRose Clay is a great option as a mask. There are a quite a few brands offering rose clay such as Lush and Sephora, but I tend to go for Origins.
  • Great for Normal, Oily, and Combination skin. A two-in-one purifying mask that draws out impurities and gently exfoliates to refine skin’s texture and boost radiance.
  • ORIGINS has a whole line of masks so you can see what works best for you. Try out this gift set to see which best serves your skin.
Cocokind Resurfacing Sleep Maskcocokind sleep mask hydrating natural
  • This pillow-proof overnight treatment uses plant-derived bakuchiol to help improve skin tone and texture, while aiding in reducing the appearance of dark spots, premature fine lines, and wrinkles. Recommended for all skin types.
  • Overnight masks sometimes stress me out because I worry they will ruin my linen sheets ($$$), but the cocokind sleep mask is light, easily absorbed, and very hydrating.
  • Their source is 3rd party regulated and extracts bakuchiol from babchi seeds that have fallen to the ground (versus harvesting the plants).
  • **Apply night masks as your last-step in your skincare routine instead.

Christine’s Tip:

Sometimes it’s feel like there is not enough time in the day to add in a mask. I like to apply my mask right when I get out of the shower, and then I just work on brushing & drying my hair while I wait. OR you could sit your cute bum down to relax and watch trashy tv we all secretly love.

4. Treatments / Serums. 

Treatments can often be labelled as a mask, but I have separated them as they are harder to tolerate or take time to get used to. Many treatments/serums will mention side effects like redness, tingling, skin peeling, dryness, and require you to be a bit extra careful 🙂 They can have amazing benefits, however you need to be aware of your skin’s sensitivity and slowly incorporate them into your routine.

Skoah AHA maskskoah AHA mask enzyme skincare
  • I have definitely spoken about this mask on my Instagram stories a multitude of times. I don’t think I ever seen my skin so clean and fresh after using this the Skoah AHA mask.
  • A tingling peppermint-infused mask to loosen and lift dead, tired skin. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) is a natural exfoliator from apples and grapes.
  • Use around 2-3 times per week at night as it can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun. Start slow as the tingling can be intense!
Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Maskclear probiotic acne mask skincare eminence organic
  • Pairing well with the Probiotic Cleanser listed earlier, I LOVE this mask. This product was used on me during a recent facial and I instantly bought it.
  • It is a great solution for problem skin thanks to cucumber tones and refining yogurt (ie. Lactic Acid), which exfoliates and eliminates the appearance of blemishes. It is great at minimizing large pores.
  • Note this one can be intense in the tingle department but my skin has handled it well over time!
  • If you like this product, there is an entire Clean Skin Probiotic line that may be your new best friend.
Farmacy Honeymoon Glow Serumhoneymoon glow AHA farmacy serum skincare acne
  • This blend of 14 % AHA + BHA resurfaces dull skin, refines pores, gently exfoliates, and contains hyaluronic acid & honey to bring in hydration.
  • This one really made my skin sting. I used it sparingly as it caused my face to go a bit red. I thought this meant it was a no-go for me but I did continue to use it as overtime my skin began to tolerate it.
  • Uses clean ingredients and has environmentally friendly packaging, making it easy to recycle at the end of its life 🙂
Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serumversed retinol gentle serum skincare vitamin A
  • This gentle retinol is formulated for sensitive skin and first-time retinol users. 
  • Great for softening line & wrinkles, evening out discolouration, and keeping pores clear.
  • I have found this product to be very gentle considering it contains retinol and use it regularly.
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, and offers a Recycle Responsibly Program. 

Christine’s Tip:

Be careful to not mix too many chemical exfoliant products at once or you could damage your skin! For example, if your mask has AHA’s, you do not want to then use a treatment or serum that contains retinols. I like to do my AHA mask on one day and then go in with the retinol 2-3 days later. ALSO WEAR SUNSCREEN as these makes you more sensitive to UV rays.

A Quick Guide on Acids vs Retinols

  • AHA: Glycolic Acid -> chemical exfoliation, stronger than BHA’s
  • BHA: Salicylic Acid -> chemical exfoliation, a bit gentler than AHA’s
  • Retinol -> a derivative of Vitamin A, stimulates cell regeneration, increased collagen and decreases sun spots  *can be quite drying and cause peeling so be careful 🙂

Check out this article to get a more in-depth description on chemical exfoliants:

5. Face Oil

Biossance Squalene + Vitamin C Rose Oilsqualene rose oil biossance skincare face
  • A very recent addition to my routine but now I can’t imagine my life without it.
  • Helps brighten, firm, and hydrate all at the same time. Ingredients include: Squalene which mimics the body’s natural hydrating oils to provide weightless moisture & prevent over-drying; Damascus Rose Extract to awaken the senses and boosts healthy-looking radiance; and Chios Crystal Oil which revitalizes skin and improves the look of firmness.
  • It is also vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, and free of synthetic fragrances.
Dr. Hauschka Clarifying Day Oil clarifying day oil face skincare acne
  • Best for oily, acne-prone skin as it absorbs easily and does not leave you feeling greasy or clogged.
  • Ingredients include carrot, almond oil, calendula and neem to balance & calm dehydration. Botanical extracts help the skin’s oiliness and reduce the appearance of pores.
  • I use this when my skin is feel dry during an active breakout to not clog anything further.
Boscia Rosehip Omega Face Oil DISCONTINUED 😭rosehip oil omega skincare face
  • I am SO sad, this face oil was magical!!!!! Just putting it here incase someone can find me something very similar to it and make me happy again.
  • I love rosehip-based oil because the linoleic acid in rosehip oil will help prevent whiteheads and blackheads from forming.
  • I need a moment to process this …..

Christine’s Tip:

Make sure to put the face oil on AFTER your serums as they will block anything else from absorbing into the skin. Face oil can also go after moisturizer but not if you are going to be wearing make-up 🙂

6. Moisturizer

OK on to the next and by far the most fun! Moisturizers are nothing short of mandatory. From dryness due to acne treatments or the dramatically changing weather in Vancouver, it is so important I have good moisturizers on tap.

Super Multi Corrective Cream Kiehl's Multi-Corrective Cream Skincare firms lifts radiance healthy
  • I was first properly introduced to Kiehl’s when I got their Christmas Advent Calendar. This is how I became completely obsessed with the Super Multi-Corrective Cream.
  • Contains PhytoMimetic Vitamin A to reduces the look of wrinkles, Chaga Mushroom which targets melanin overproduction (helping skin appear more even-toned), and hyaluronic acid which visibly hydrates and smooths skin‘s texture
  • This product may be a bit irritating for some skin types so make sure to try a sample before investing 🙂
Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Creamprotini drunk elephant skincare cream peptides pygmy
  • I hate that I love it *sigh*. I got this as a sample once in my Sephora order and I so wish I didn’t. Aka IT IS TOO GOOD 👀.
  • Includes: 9 signal peptides (made up of amino acids, which form proteins in the skin) to bind moisture to skin for visibly plumping, firming ,and restoring bounce; Pygmy Waterlily Stem Cell Extract, an excellent source of antioxidants and nutrients to replenish the skin; and Soybean Folic Acid Ferment Extract, a B vitamin that plays a central role in maintaining youthful skin, and replenishes folic acid after exposure to sun.
  • This product is also vegan, cruelty-free, and fragrance-free.
CHEAP MOMENT: Cerave Moisturizing Day Cream cerave cream moisture natural soft sensitive skin
  • This is my travel go-to choice. It is affordable, comes in a good size, and I would not be too sad if I somehow misplaced it.
  • Cerave is great because it is can be used by all skin types. Being super gentle, hydrating, and non-greasy, it is hard not to like it. It is also fragrance-free, non-irritating, and non-comedogenic.
SPLURGE MOMENT: La Mer the Moisturizing Soft Creamla mer skin creme soft kelp sea splurge
  • My mother’s secret cream. No literally. I usually will get this from my parents as a gift because it’s not at a sustainable price-point for my day-to-day life but I have to give it some love. It has been one of my favourite creams EVER for my combination/complicated skin.
  • Contains their Miracle Broth™: Infuses skin with sea-sourced renewing energies to strengthen skin’s barrier, Lime Tea Concentrate: Contains antioxidants to protect skin from irritation due to environmental stressors. and Giant Sea Kelp: Support’s skin’s natural healing process.
  • I recommend finding a sample of it and seeing how it goes. Warning, you might fall in love and then be like “dammit Christine!!!!”

Christine’s Tip:

Less is more!!! Make sure you are not using too much product. Warm the moisturizer in your fingers before applying 🙂

7. Sunscreen

By far the most important part of your skincare routine. Sunscreen!!!!!!! I have started to put on sunscreen every single day, even on overcast days where you are less aware of the UV rays coming down on your skin. This is crucial for the health & longevity of our skin because we are going to be some FLY AF old people down the road.

Also NOT-SO-FUN FUN FACT: You can actually also get skin damage from the blue-light on your phones and computers. Mineral sunscreens with iron oxides are the gold standard in blue light protection. For more on this, check out this article.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Face Sunscreen SPF 50glow recipe watermelon sunscreen spf 50
  • Being on Glow Recipe’s PR list has maybe made me a bit bias to promoting Glow but again, I would truly not share anything with you that I have not tried & liked myself, just like this sunscreen!
  • With the use of niacinamide, hyaluronic acid,  and aloe, this sunscreen reduces dark spots, hydrates skin, and makes your skin glow.
  • It is water-resistant, non-comodogenic, and non-acnegenic. They also offer a Recycling Send-Back Program with their partner TerraCycle® for products that cannot be recycled locally.
  • My only con about this sunscreen is that it is not fully reef-safe.
Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 40 Badgers sunscreen kids spf 40 skincare
  • Protects with only zinc oxide, hypoallergenic, gluten free, and gentle on even the most sensitive skin
  • Water resistant for at least 80 minutes so you don’t have to re-apply as often to maintain full protection while swimming or sweating
  • Biodegradable & reef friendly to protect all our waterways!! Packaged in a 50% PCR tube, and made with solar power! COOL!
Blue Lizard Australian Face Stick Sunscreen SPF 50sunscreen face stick minerals blue lizard australian
  • I love a good face stick! This is another one of my travel go-tos, as it is so easy to fit into your toiletry bag or even your pocket for sunscreen skincare on the go!
  • This compact stick sunscreen contains aloe vera, shea butter, sunflower seed oil and vitamin E to naturally nourish skin. Ideal for sensitive skin, and is non-comedogenic.
  • 100% vegan, fragrance-free, mineral-based, and contains no Oxybenzone or Octinoxate to help protect delicate coral reefs.

Christine’s Tip:

** Go for Kids Sunscreen! It is a great option for sensitive skin and also you feel like just a baby.**IS YOUR SUNSCREEN REEF-SAFE? Learn more.

Surprise addition: Vaseline / Aquaphor

This one might put you in a tizzy. After all the above steps during my night-time skincare routine, I will finish with applying Vaseline all over my face. Now I can’t say this will work for everyone, but I find my skin is incredibly hydrated the next day.

Also known as the viral Tiktok trend “Slugging”, applying petroleum jelly has taken off. I actually learnt this tip from a Vancouver Skin Clinic and then was introduced to the word slugging and I still have no idea what it means haha.

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly vaseline petroleum jelly skincare moisture gentle
  • Original Vaseline Jelly has many uses, including personal care, baby care, and beauty. Vaseline Jelly Original penetrates into surface skin layers and locks in moisture to create a protective barrier. By restoring skin’s moisture, it assists the skin’s natural recovery to help alleviate dry skin. This can rejuvenate visibly dry skin and help reduce the appearance of fine, dry lines.
Aquaphor by Eucerin aquaphor face slugging moisture skincare cracked chapped
  • Skin protectant ointment with Panthenol & Glycerin, clinically tested to moisturize & heal extremely dry, chapped, chafed or cracked skin.
  • This version is typically recommended if you are using it on your face. I don’t use this one but have heard from others that they love it!

Christine’s Tip 

  • Petroleum Jelly is an occlusion, and therefore, creates a barrier on your skin so your skincare routine continues to do its job. HOWEVER, it is vital you do not put Petroleum Jelly on right after you apply a retinol or something that makes your skin hot, because it will only get hotter. It is best to put it on only after your moisturizer or just by itself 🙂

So that’s it!

If you have made it this far then wow gold star for you!! I hope you have taken away something new from my experiences and can apply it (pun intended) into your skincare routine :).

Remember that slow steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all. Pick one product you want to add to your skincare regime and start there! If you suffer severe skin issues, it is important to consult your doctor to find the best plan of action for you.

Which skincare product are you going to try? 

I have listed all the skincare products with their links for easy access so you can shop below or check out my shop page.

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or content you want to see in the future, please feel free to comment below. xx

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