Skin diaries: how one acne-prone 29-year-old keeps her skin glowing

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October 22nd, 2019



Our Skin Diary series dives into the skincare routines and products of our Apostrophe team (and hopefully beyond!). For this entry you’re hearing from your very own Lead Writer, Kathleen Morrison 👋. I’m taking a break from writing and researching other blog topics today to tell you a little bit about my skincare routine (it’s a juicy one). Read on to learn how I handle breakouts while fighting fine lines!

Age: 29

Skin type: Oily, acne-prone, and fair (I sunburn very easily).

Skin concerns: Hormonal acne, big pores/ blackheads, fine lines, and some hyperpigmentation. My mom is Chinese and fairly dark-skinned, and my dad is white and very, very light-skinned (he can’t get tan at all, he only burns when out in the sun). I definitely lean towards my dad’s coloring with lighter skin and eyes so fine lines are more of a concern now that I’m almost 30 (too many bad sunburns in high school 😭). My mom has developed hyperpigmentation as she’s aged (it’s really common with Asian skin), and I’m starting to see some of that in my skin as well, although it doesn’t bother me too much.

Lifestyle: Lately I’ve been working out 3-4 times a week with a mix of cardio and calisthenics, and I’ve been doing my best to eat well. For me that means being mindful of my carb intake, even though (or maybe because) I love pasta, bread, and rice. I also love to explore new bars and restaurants around Oakland which means alcohol is a fairly regular part of my diet (I am a sucker for a fancy cocktail). Not the best for acne-prone skin, but I aim for balance!

Location/climate/environmental concerns: I live in Oakland, CA which is sunny for most of the year. I grew up in the Northeast where winter months serve to protect you from a decent amount of sun damage, but out here I’ve been aiming to apply sunscreen every day, rain or shine (which you should do no matter where you live!).

My approach to skincare: Consistency is key! I’ve dealt with acne since I was a teen so I know the value of sticking to what works. That being said, now that my skin isn’t as acne-prone as it has been in the past, I’m able to try more new things without dreading a new breakout. I've also been embracing my natural oils more now that I'm older and leaning into hydrating products and dewy looks. I've learned its better to work with your oils rather than against them!


  1. Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask ($7) → My dermatologist recommended this to me when I was in high school and I’ve never stopped using it! Since I know my skin doesn’t react to it, I can still use it when I’m not sure what is causing me to break out (this happened when I moved across the country in my early 20s and the new climate did not agree with my skin 😬). Its key ingredient is benzoyl peroxide, one of the staple ingredients dermatologists still recommend to treat acne.
  2. Caudalie Vinoperfect Anti Dark Spot Serum ($79) → This. Stuff. Is. Incredible. I first tried it as a free sample size from Sephora and I fell in love. It makes your skin feel plump and hydrated, but it isn’t heavy at all. It improved my skin tone after just a few days and my skin is definitely more radiant when I use it regularly. The $79 price tag is steep, but well worth it.
  3. CeraVe PM Face Moisturizer ($16) → Another tried and true product recommendation from my high school dermatologist! It’s so light, but gives me plenty of moisture throughout the day. It contains niacinamides which are great for smoothing the skin without leaving an oily residue. This is super important if you are oily and acne-prone like me.
  4. Neutrogena Hydroboost Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 30 ($8) → This is the best sunscreen I’ve found at this price point that sits well under makeup. I find that most sunscreens will make my makeup look cakey as I get oily throughout the day. While this one does add a bit of glow, my makeup stays smooth and cake-free.


  1. Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser ($8) → Just like your grandma used to use! Seriously though, this stuff has stuck around because it WORKS. I melt a two-finger dollop between my hands and then thoroughly massage it all over my face, being sure to rub it into my mascara until I look like a raccoon. Then I soak a clean washcloth with hot water to wipe away the cream. Not only is this process more eco-friendly than disposable makeup wipes, it also removes makeup more thoroughly than wipes and my skin doesn’t feel stripped afterwards. As a bonus, it feels really refreshing and relaxing after a long day.
  2. Drunk Elephant Beste™ No. 9 Jelly Cleanser ($32) → I usually hop in the shower after I take off my makeup and I wash my face again with this Drunk Elephant cleanser, or another sample size of something I’m trying out. The first time I used this I did not think it was worth the $32, but after a few cleanses I really started feeling the benefits. It’s like washing your face with nothing, but somehow… better? It’s unbelievably gentle and my skin always feels perfectly balanced after using it – never tight or dry, but still clean. And before you ask, yes, it works better for me than the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ($14).
  3. Here is where my skin routine starts to get a little wild. I have a few different products I rotate through depending on how my skin is feeling.
    a. I’ve been incorporating Apostrophe’s Tretinoin Formula 0.05% ($75) into my routine by mixing a pump of it with the CeraVe PM Face Moisturizer. I typically apply that two or three times a week and it helps fight the fine lines on my forehead AND my acne (2-for-1!).
    b. Tretinoin can sometimes leave my skin irritated and flaky. If that’s the case, I’ll skip the Tretinoin Formula and swipe on The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid Toning Solution ($9). The acid in this toner helps exfoliate flakes and dead skin cells to leave my skin smooth and ready to soak up a moisturizer like Drunk Elephant’s Protini™ Polypeptide Moisturizer ($68). I’ve only been using this for about a week and a half, but I’m loving it so far. I got this as a free sample size from Sephora, so we’ll see if I end up splurging on the full size when I run out.
    c. If my skin is looking a little dull, I’ll use Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum ($90). It never fails to give me a glow, especially when I layer my CeraVe PM Face Moisturizer on top for light hydration. The chemical exfoliation also helps keep zits at bay, especially in the week leading up to my period.
  4. SkinMedica Uplifting Eye Serum ($60) → I used to think eye cream was a scam before I started using this serum. It really keeps me looking refreshed after a late night! My dark circles are much less pronounced now than they were before I started using it. The office used to get this product for free, but sadly we no longer receive it. I’ll have to find a good replacement, or maybe just lean into a heavy eyeliner look.
  5. Latisse ($110)Latisse has made a big difference with my short Asian lashes! They aren’t as dramatic as some of my friends’ lashes have gotten with Latisse, but the extra length keeps my mascara from smudging (I have oily lids). It’s been an unanticipated side effect, but all of my mascaras are now performing better than ever, which I definitely appreciate.


  1. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution ($7) → Ok I’m not going to lie: Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask ($80) is a better product that leaves your skin feeling like a baby’s butt. BUT when you consider the $7 vs. $80 price point, The Ordinary has Drunk Elephant beat. The Ordinary’s peel gets the job done with an intense chemical exfoliation that clears pores and dead skin, leaving your face soft and supple. I use it about once a week and apply Drunk Elephant’s LaLa Retro Whipped Moisturizer with Ceramides ($60) afterwards for a truly luxurious dose of moisture.
  2. I Dew Care Cake My Day Hydrating Sprinkle Wash-Off Mask ($25) → Not only does this mask smell EXACTLY like Funfetti icing, it includes hyaluronic acid that makes your skin unbelievably soft and smooth. I apply it in the evening and put on my trusty CeraVe PM moisturizer afterwards to lock in the hydration.

Have a skin routine that is killing the game? Share your secrets with us by filling out our Skin Diary form! We’ll take care of the rest!

Welcome to the fine print! Just so you know, this article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. It’s always best to talk to a doctor for that stuff.

Prescription medication should only be used according to doctor's instructions. Do not use medication if you are allergic to one of its ingredients. Full list of safety information can be found at: and

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