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How To Improve My Skincare Routine?

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I'm an Asian 18 yo female with oily/combination skin (one or both of those, not sure actually). My biggest concerns right now are hyperpigmentation and enlarged pores/blackheads (on the nose and t-zone area to either side of the nose). These are the two skin issues I find to be the most difficult to solve. I have a nasty habit of squeezing out my blackheads/pores because they annoy me so much and there doesn't seem to be any other effective methods for getting rid of them.

Below is my current skincare regime:

Morning:

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser for senstive skin

Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner

Use vitamin E skin oil as an antioxidant and apply to the undereye area and to hyperpigmention (I'm thinking about switching to a vitamin C serum)

Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer with SPF 35 (including undereye area)

Night:

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser for sensitive skin

Retin-A Cream 0.05% (including undereye area as sort of an eye cream)

[after waiting until I feel like the retin A has absorbed a decent amount] Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer for sensitive skin (including undereye area)

Does anyone have any tips on how I can modify my regime (is my order wrong? Should I use toner at night also? Etc etc), I would greatly appreciate it. Also, if you know of any tips for my two issues, please share!

Thanks so much!

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Toners are unecessary most of the time, and there's nothing special about Neutrogena's toner that's worthwhile. I'd stop using it.

Vitamin E alone doesn't do much for hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C is okay, but it's very unstable. A lot of people like the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, but I'd only get it at a derm's office because I don't trust online stores for ingredients that unstable and in eyedropper packaging. I'd opt-in for a glycolic and/or salicylic acid moisturizer.

Hydroquinone is the most effective for hyperpigmentation. You can get 2% OTC, but there are stronger concentrations for prescription. It ranges anywhere from 4% to 10%.

Ask a derm for which products you can use next. Retin-A can be tricky to use because it can worsen irritation when used with other products.

Good that you're using Retin-A! :)

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@Michelle Reece - Thanks for the tips!

Isn't hydroquinone a skin-bleaching agent? For some reason that sounds like it could potentially give me adverse results. Is there anything that just heals hyperpigmentation?

So how would I pair vitamin E to help hyperpigmentation? And yes, why is vitamin C unstable?

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Vitamin C (specifically, L-ascorbic acid) is a good electron donor. When L-ascorbic acid loses its second electron, it oxidizes and turns brown. L-ascorbic acid can easily lose its second electron with (prolonged) exposure to air and light. When L-ascorbic acid turns brown, it loses effectiveness. It's troublesome for chemists to effectively stabilize L-ascorbic acid, which is limiting its use at least in the USA.

Yes, hydroquinone is a bleaching agent. There are some side effects, like irritation and rarely, exogenous ochronosis (blue-black pigmentation). Exogenous chronosis occurs more in darker skin types and/or using resorcinol and phenol peels.

Vitamin E isn't really used by itself. It's an antioxidant that can stabilize other ingredients, like L-ascorbic acid.

To clarify, prowlings: Do you mean hyperpigmentation as in "red marks", or brown spots/melanin? There's not much you can do about red marks when a pimple is healing, but you can do a few things about brown spots.

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Okay, thanks! No wonder why you recommended a vitamin E/C combo.

Definitely the brown marks. I actually think of them more as scars, except they're neither raised nor indented.

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No problem! :)

L-ascorbic acid, even at 15% to 20%, likely isn't as powerful as 4% hydroquinione, but perhaps a little stronger than 2% hydroquinone. L-ascorbic acid's depigmenting effect takes longer than hydroquinone. This is especially true when it's used just once daily. It's difficult to use 2x a day or more when you're using prescription retinoids.

Other ingredients that you can possibly use with your current regimen is kojic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and niacinamide. None of them are stronger than hydroquinone, however, but they can help. Kojic acid can cause (allergic and irritant) contact dermatitis and so can niacinamide (irritant), but the former is likelier. Glycolic acid and lactic acid can irritate and dry out skin, too.

L-ascorbic acid + Vitamin E is often recommended by dermatologists for antioxidant protection, but in my opinion glycolic acid, lactic acid, and niacinamide is more cost-effective and user-friendly (not to mention more stable) if we're talking about OTC. It'd be best if you talked to your derm for hyperpigmentation options. ;)

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Aren't glycolic and lactic acid also exfoliators? Wouldn't it be too harsh paired with retin A? I guess I'm looking for something really gentle and unlikely to do things like scab my skin or make my hyperpigmentation worse.

Also, do you happen to have any suggestions for blackheads/large pores?

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Yes, they are. Glycolic acid and lactic acid can irritate (especially the former) at 10%+ concentrations. Right around 4% to 6% they're decent humectants/moisturizers.

Combinations of glycolic acid and salicylic acid are good for acne/blackheads/unclogging, but often pricey. One of the cheaper ones are Peter Thomas Roth's AHA-BHA Clearing Gel at $54 (!)

I kind of don't like it because it doesn't have an occlusive agent.

The best, most easily available one I can find with SA + GA is Paula's Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment.

If you're following directions to Retin-A to the letter and you've gotten past the irritation stage, you can probably add a few more things to your routine (with your derm's approval, of course). You really don't need to use much OTC acne treatments anyway--a dime-sized amount will do.

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if you are an asian, who can your vitamin c is unstable ? you should eat oranges and sit in the sun light, it will improve your vitamin c,.


I am Marrie and i love *Moderator edit, URL removed – please read the board rules*


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To help with hyperpigmentation I have added a few natural products to my routine. I love using natural oils. I have used tea tree oil in the past to help with my uneven color and to fade scars, with time it definitely worked. I now use a maracuja oil from the brand Tarte which I found at Sephora. This has vitamin C and other vitamins in it, my skin always feels so refreshed and smooth. My texture has improved over the month I have started it! Another natural product I use every so often is fresh lemon juice. Just squeeze it into a contained and dab it on your face with a cotton pad. I started this up again last week and my red marks have diminshed by so much! I leave it on over night, but some people leave it on for 20 minutes and rinse it off. It may sting at first because of the acidity but it will fade after a few minutes! Hope these options help! :)

-Marlene

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