I don't really have sensitive skin. Let's just say it's a bit particular with the things it gets slathered with. For example, it hates chemical sunscreens and benzoyl peroxide. It also lives under the delusion that I am capable of crapping money and as such my skincare budget knows no bounds. I have repeatedly tried switching to more affordable products, but it always reacts with a vengeance, and I end up spending more money trying to placate it. My skin is also as moody as I am - sometimes dry and flaky, sometimes oily, and just when I think it's being all nice and well-behaved, it breaks out with so much violence you'd think I doused it with muriatic acid or something.
Now is one of those I've-got-my-skin-under-control days. It doesn't happen very often, so I think it's worth noting (and sharing) the things I've been using.
I always make an effort to wash my face before going to bed. It's the hardest thing in the world when you're dead-tired (or drunk :p), but it has to be done. I do a two-step cleanse; I just feel that a product that can remove all your makeup and clean your face in one go is probably too harsh.
I have been using MAC Cleanse-off Oil to remove my make-up for years now - I just purchased my third (or is it fourth?) bottle. It's a bit pricey but one bottle lasts me a year with daily use. Normally I just use one pump, rub it all over my face, focusing on the lashes to get the stubborn waterproof mascara off, and then I brush my teeth to give the oil enough time to melt the gunk off. Then I massage my face with my wet hands to emulsify the oil before rinsing it off. After that I lather up a bit of Shiseido Perfect Whip, apply it to my face, and go at it with my Clarisonic Mia.
I've had this for years, but I never used it regularly because sometimes I feel like it's making me break out. But for some reason, it's working wonders now. I use the sensitive brush head, although I'm planning to replace it with the new delicate one. I don't think the results it gives is unique to the product - you can probably get the same results with a microfiber cloth or even a wash cloth - but the one advantage that really works for me is the timer: it forces you to wash your face for a full two minutes. It's an awfully short time, really, but when you're tired and lazy and eager to go to bed, two minutes is an eternity. The brush is also a potential source of breakout-inducing stuff, so I make sure to clean it regularly with a brush cleanser, and I spritz it with alcohol after every use. Also, don't dry your Clarisonic with the cap on, because it's going to take forever. I just put mine face down on to a towel. I only use this once a day, at night. In the mornings I just use Perfect Whip, because I don't think there's enough gunk in my face in the morning to necessitate some more scrubbing.
I don't really know the purpose of toner, per se, because different toners do different things. There are oil-control toners, pore-minimizing toners, and even moisturizing toners. Personally though, I look for toners with exfoliating properties. I've been using the Proactiv Revitalizing Toner for years now, but recently I've been trying out these Peter Thomas Roth Un-wrinkle peel pads for night time.
It has more potent ingredients, but it has to be neutralized with water (you leave it on for three minutes or so and then rinse off), so it's a bit of a hassle. It also costs an arm and a leg, so I only use half a pad per use because I'm stingy like that. Seriously, though, unless your face is unnaturally huge, half a pad is sufficient.
My friend Anj got me hooked on SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, and I've never been Pitera-free ever since. Although it appears to be a ridiculously expensive product, if you take into account the fact that a bottle lasts for more than a year with twice a day use, the price point is quite reasonable. I don't use a cotton pad with this and just apply it with my fingers. It's less wasteful that way. I've had this bottle for a year or so, and I still have quite a bit left.
One of the best discoveries is this tiny bottle of 1% Clindamycin Phosphate from SOS (Save Our Skin). I believe you can get for a little under 100Php in most drugstores in the Philippines. I tested it for a full month (so I can gauge its performance during that time) with very positive results. Works so much better than the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion. Instead of drying the acne out until they're nothing but deep dark scars, this just sort of shrinks them until they're gone. No wounds and peeling and scarring. And it also minimizes blackheads. Like, I would slather it all over my face if I could. But since I'm almost halfway through the bottle already, I just apply it over my pimple-prone spots and existing breakouts. I'm not too fond of the smell, and the rollerball is a bit of a pain to use, and a wee bit unhygienic, but other than that I really love this and I plan to hoard the next time I go home.
For the existing scars I'm using the Olay White Radiance Intensive Brightening Serum. I was previously using this as a moisturizer but it wasn't hydrating enough, so I just apply it at night prior to moisturizing in the hopes of evening out my skin tone.
I like to have several different moisturizers on rotation, just in case one of them gets reformulated and I'm left seething with fury. I just went through my bottle of MAC Strobe Cream, which also doubles as a skin brightener. It's actully marketed as a primer, but it's an excellent moisturizer with antioxidants and other good stuff. It can get a bit greasy, though, especially in the extreme summer heat.
My other staple, the MAC Lightful ultramoisture cream, has been reformulated, so I thought instead of trying out this new version that is still in the very annoying jar packaging, why not get a better-packaged product instead? I hate moisturizers that come in jars because if you're scooping product out twice a day, it's bound to get contaminated eventually. So I ended up with the Boscia Revitalizing Black Hydration Gel.
It is housed in a jar, but with a very nifty push-down pump (it took me a while to figure out how to dispense the product the first time I opened it). I wish all moisturizers were packaged this way. It was a bit scary to use at first - it's this thick black-gray gel that is interspersed with what appears to be glitter (!).
But post-application my face is neither black nor glittery, instead it feels comfortably cool and smooth and hydrated. The downside is, for such an expensive product it contains so little - just a single ounce, nearly half the content of normal moisturizer bottles. But I don't really use a lot, so let's see how long it takes for me to finish this (and if I can get to the very last drop of product with that pump).
And, well, that's that. I really wish I can say I'm one of those girls who just use soap and water and nothing else, but that's for people who are naturally blessed with clear skin; the rest of us just have to work harder.