I've Finally Found a Skincare Routine That Gives Me a Plump, Breakout-Free Complexion

After a summer of trial and error.

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I used to be a summer person, so it hurts me to say that those days are over. It's hotter than hell, everything is expensive, New York City is jam-packed with tourists, and sharks have been sighted at my go-to beach. I wasn't ready to admit defeat, but the straw that finally broke the camel's back was the way the humid, wet air and endless sweating tormented my fragile, problematic skin.

This summer, my skin has been excessively oily, easily irritated and inflamed, and my pores are perpetually congested. And thanks to my hyperpigmentation, each one of these issues leaves behind dark spots on my skin.

Though it's easy to find a singular product that works well, it's not always easy to get those products to cooperate together. But through dozens of iterations of similar (but slightly varied) regimens, I have finally come out the other side with skin a routine that is diminishing my breakouts into near oblivion, fixing my dark spots and uneven texture, and unclogging my pores. Plus, it's given me a radiant, glowing, and plump complexion.

Below are the five products that have helped me achieve the state of skin glory you'll bear witness to in the below photo. (From this list, I've left out the products I found to be interchangeable, including face wash, eye cream, and moisturizer.)

Skincare Routine That Gives Me a Plump, Breakout-Free Complexion

Facegym Skin Changer Two-in-One Exfoliating Essence-Toner


Shop now: $48; usa.facegym.com

I'm convinced that people who think toner is superfluous are devoid of oil glands. It's perhaps the most important skincare product to me. When my summer of epidermal chaos began, I realized that my previous toner was too gentle and micellar water-like. It wasn't exfoliating my face, and the result was clogged, congested pores. I went through a few products before I landed on FaceGym's Skin Changer. (It's an apt name for a product that does exactly that.)

To me, the most important ingredients in this formula are succinic acid, gluconolactone, and pumpkin extract. The first two ingredients are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and work in unison to chemically exfoliate skin. Pumpkin extract detoxifies, and dissolves all of that grossness lurking inside your pores and cells.

I can tell it fights and prevents further blackheads, exfoliates and brightens my skin, and smooths out the texture.

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic With 15 Percent L-Ascorbic Acid


Shop now: $169; skinceuticals.com

Ok, so it smells kind of like deli meat — but otherwise, all of the good things you've heard about Skinceuticals' $169 C E Ferulic Acid serum are true. I was pleased to discover that despite the high concentrations of acne-banishing ingredients, this serum doesn't usually irritate my sensitive skin.

The dermatologist-approved serum really packs a punch. First, C E Ferulic Acid counteracts the aging accelerating effects of free radicals — it firms skin, prevents the breakdown of collagen, and brightens my overall complexion. The potent vitamin C diminishes and prevents the development or worsening of existing dark spots and keeps my hyperpigmentation at bay.

Tower 28 Beauty SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray

SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray

Shop now: $28; sephora.com

Tower 28's SOS Facial Spray made its way into my routine via TikTok. A user who, like me, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and a plethora of hyperpigmentation and acne-related issues, said that this spray helped combat redness, acne, hyperpigmentation, and irritation.

It's a simple formula that relies on hypochlorous acid to reduce redness, while softening, nourishing, and soothing inflamed skin. It does exactly that, and also provides light hydration which is great for someone like me who sometimes skips moisturizer altogether.

Strivectin Multi-Action Super Shrink Pore Minimizing Serum

Multi-Action Super Shrink Pore Minimizing Serum

Shop now: $72; ulta.com

By the end of the day, my skin needs another clarifying treatment to rid my pores and skin of all the sweat, dirt, and debris it's picked up. After washing my face, I apply a few drops of Strivection's Pore Minimizing Serum to my face, focusing on my T-zone. The BHA provides gentle chemical exfoliation that prevents clogged pores and buildup, while the red clover makes my skin feel tight.

Drunk Elephant A-Gloei Retinol Oil

Drunk Elephant A-Gloei™ Retinol Oil

Shop now: $72; sephora.com

Thanks to my job, I have access to an obscene amount of skincare products — and because of my skin's temperamental nature, my routine tends to require small adjustments regularly. This is all to say that it's rare for me to completely run out of a product, but Drunk Elephant's Retinol Oil is an exception — I love it that much.

I apply and massage the retinol oil into my skin at night, and when I wake up, I definitely have less hyperpigmentation and a more hydrated, plump complexion.

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