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These are my skincare staples. What are yours?

Let’s get this out of the way before I say anything else: skincare – or at least the skincare I’m talking about – is a privilege not everyone has access to. Yes, it’s self-care and yes, I consider it an essential in my life but it’s only because I have access – both financially and socially – to resources that allow me to be maarte  about what I put on my face.

With that out of the way, here we go. There’s no denying that skincare (or self-care, as it is commonly packaged) is what everyone and their mother have been into all of a sudden.

In the Philippines (and worldwide, really), it’s partly due to the sudden availability of affordable (not cheap!) skincare items that work. Globally, it’s been posited to be a response to the over-the-top Instagram makeup looks that have populated our feeds for too long. (READ: The Year That Skin Care Became A Coping Mechanism from The New Yorker

Suddenly, snatched looks and highlighters that can be seen from miles away weren’t the only go-to looks (they’re still in vogue and I personally will say yes to a cut crease sometimes). Welcome the cool girl aesthetic – think Glossier, internationally. Think Happy Skin Generation, Sunnies Face, RAWW Cosmetics, Radioactive Mushrooms In The Forest (did I just betray my biases?) locally.

Don’t be deceived though – the cool girl, effortless look takes SO MUCH effort.

Mostly, it’s because your base – your actual skin, not your foundation – is what’s crucial to that “I didn’t really try today but look at me” aesthetic.

To cut the story short, beauty (or at least, gandang-ganda sa sarili) takes effort. It takes even more effort if, like me, you are genetically predisposed to acne and are still dealing with the literal scars of bad breakouts from the past.

Short backgrounder: I have combination to oily, acne-prone (including the cystic kind) skin that breaks out just around my period and can react strongly to products that don’t work. I have pockmarks from when I refused to not pick on my blemishes and some hyper-pigmentation from years of not using sunblock and from an unfortunate experiment with a local skincare product that promised me clear skin (but gave me chemical burns).

Here’s what I’ve been using. It’s a lot, I know – and I should really cut back (or not!): 


I am a believer in the double cleanse. It is admittedly time-consuming but when you wear makeup or waterproof sunscreen, it’s a must. I use COSRX’s LowPH Good Morning Gel Cleanser at night after using the Biore Cleansing Oil.

Physiogel I use in the morning or if I’m feeling adventurous, I skip the cleanser in the morning and just splash on water.


The Pyungkang Yul Mist Toner honestly doesn’t do anything else but hydrate – but that’s fine by me. Both Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Cleansing Toner and the COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad are well-reviewed anti-acne toners that actually do the job. I tend to use the COSRX one a little less, however, because I feel that it can be a little stripping if overdone. I also cut it in half because tipid is the way to go.

Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Toner*, to me, is much like the Pyungkang Yul one – it’s okay, it doesn’t strip the skin, but I don’t think it does anything extra.


The Neogen Dermalogy Bio Peel Gauze Peeling Wine feels like a facial in a tub…scrub pad? It contains resveratrol, an antioxidant. I will stop there because I will not pretend to know what resveratrol does. I can, however, attest to the fact that this product gently exfoliates my skin and makes it feel and look bright. Still, I only use this once a week or once every two weeks max.

The Ordinary’s Vitamin C Suspension 23% with HA Spheres 2% is a product that’s fairly polarizing. Some people hate the texture – it’s gritty because that’s the Vitamin C literally suspended in the product or find it too strong. I think it’s a God-send. My skin feel instantly brighter the next day – as if it didn’t go through the stress of daily life.

Retinol is anti-aging and is allegedly a must in any person’s routine. I use The Ordinary’s Retinol 0.2% in Squalene primarily to prevent acne (because it encourages skin turnover). This kind of retinol isn’t irritating at all. It doesn’t hurt that my skin loves squalene.

COSRX’s Two in One Poreless Power Liquid contains BHAs and tannin and claims to tighten pores (or at least make them look tighter) – and it actually does just that. It’s one of those products that I wouldn’t consider as essential.

The Blackhead Power Liquid by the same brand, meanwhile, is an essential. I had a very bad bout of cystic acne two years ago and this, along with regular trips to the dermatologist, helped clear my skin.

The Ordinary’s Niacinamide and Zinc is one of my essentials. It helps regular sebum production and I believe it helps fade my acne scars as well. I literally have bottles of this on standby and I am only partially proud of this fact. 


Simple Hydrating Light Moisturizer comes with no bells or whistles but it does the job without being too greasy. I cannot stand the scent of this Lanolin skin creme but it saved my skin during a recent trip to Melbourne. Now that I’m back in the tropics, I use it sometimes as a night mask.

COSRX’s Advanced Snail Mucin Power Essence hydrates without leaving the skin sticky or oily. I like layering my hydrators/products that hydrate because I find that it helps prevent the overproduction of sebum.

Keihl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream* is okay but I prefer products that are a little more hydrating. I'm pretty sure I would have fared better with the Ultra Facial Cream. 

Human Nature’s Sunflower Beauty Oil was my gateway drug to accepting that oily skin can benefit from facial oils. I wake up with a glow after using this as the last step of my nighttime skincare routine. I also like adding this to some matte foundations.


The Ordinary’s Caffeine Solution and Full Brow’s Brighten Up Eye Cream are the kind of products that are okay but you can survive without. They deliver on their promise, which is to depuff the eyes. I don’t think they lighten dark circles though.

The Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask is an expensive necessary extra in my routine. I have horrible dry lips (runs in the family) and this prevents chapping and cracking.

Esfolio’s Snail Essence Mask and Leaders Ex Solution’s Aqua Coating Mild Cotton Masks are my favorites because they are relatively affordable (at around P50 each). I don’t consider them a must but it’s nice to have this around for an extra dose of hydrating.

I use Innisfree’s Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask once a week or once every two weeks for the most extra purpose ever – I use it in conjunction with the COSRX BHA Power Liquid to cleanse my pores. It’s an long process but I love it.


I used to dismiss sunscreen as a mere add-on. But I eventually gave in because I started getting chemical peels for said cystic acne and oh boy, was I proven wrong. Suncreen is especially useful for those dealing with post-acne hyperpigmentation because it prevents those dark spots from becoming darker and can even help hasten the lightening process. I used to love Biore's sunscreen products but later realized that the alcohol in them weren't doing me any good. 

The Saem's Eco Earth Power Pink Sun Cream SPF 50 PA++++ (what a mouthful) is a fairly affordable alternative (although it's a little more expensive by P100 in the Philippines). It's not sticky and the skin absorbs it well. 

So we’re curious: What’s your go-to skincare routine? What are your essentials? Do you, like “All Skincare, Sometimes Sass,” like to tambay in Watsons? Or do you think that I'm merely a tool for capitalism and merely adding to the mythology of skincare and self-care? 

Send us a tweet, leave us a Facebook message, and never forget to put on sunscreen. – 

Get your health & beauty staples at Lazada and enjoy their mid-year sale voucher!

* Items with an asterisk were sent to this writer by the brand/their PR agencies for consideration or as giveaways during events. Reviews and streams-of-thought, however, are still her own. The rest of the products were purchased by the writer herself. Let's not dwell on that fact.