My skin is, currently, looking the best it ever has in a while. Obviously this is all YMMV and what works for me may turn your face into a complete crater, though probably not. Read on, but follow my routine with some caution, always check ingredients against your allergies.
These products can pretty much make up your entire routine, barring cleanser and sunscreen. Step by step in this order: toner, aloe vera gel (on its own or mixed with a drop or two of rosehip oil), cicapair cream, then turmeric cream. The Sidmool zinc cream is best for spot treatment.
Dr.Jart+ Cicapair Cream ($28). The one in the tube, not the one in the tub with SPF. Ingredients here. There’s a lot of imitators of this line from mid-range brands, I think pretty much all of them have got some kind of ‘cica___’ or ‘mild care’ lines that incorporate a lot of centella asiatica, Etude House Soon Jung and Innisfree Bija Cica lines coming to mind, but honestly in this case it’s worth shelling out for the Jart original. It’s a bit pricier, but you get 50 ml and you really do need very little product per application. It’s thick, it’s got shea butter and beeswax as ingredients, and if you’re clog-prone it could well clog up your pores. Having said that, there’s something superior about this cream’s formulation over its cheaper counterparts, and it does a fabulous job of soothing and calming skin, and most likely has occlusive properties. This is responsible for fixing weird breakouts I get overnight. Like I said, you don’t need much, I’m still using my tiny 5 ml sample tube after several weeks. The 50 ml tube is going to last at least a year. Good enough for the price.
It has some fragrance, very… mild and herbal and slightly earthy? It’s not a perfumed smell, and most likely it smells like this due to the ingredients, and the smell is completely different from Jart Ceramidin line. Milder but a bit less conventional. Goes away quick, though.
The Face Shop Jeju Aloe 99% Fresh Soothing Gel ($9.65). Hey look, it’s one of those super size products that clock in at a whopping 250 ml. The ingredients are pretty standard for aloe ver gels peddled by mid-range brands, and it does have alcohol denat. Having said that, the percentage of alcohol is little enough I never catch a whiff of it, and I haven’t had any issue. It’s a big product. You can use it as a hair mask, you can use it on the face, you can smear it all over the body. Nothing fancy, but what I like is that it dries down well and mixes very well with thicker moisturizers, creamy masks, or oils. (My preferred oil is rosehip; it can do magical things.) Per the ingredient list, this does contain actual fragrance, and it has this generic artificial aloe vera scent. Not my favorite thing about it, but the product’s good and it doesn’t bother me a lot.
Vicco Turmeric Cream ($5-10). Ingredients. This is cool. Real cool. Actually it’s literally cooling when applied, but not like when a product contains eucalyptus or menthol. Turmeric applied topically has a lot of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, and might help with acne scarring. The Vicco cream particularly has a super-short ingredient list, contains a HUGE amount of turmeric (it’ll stain your pillowcase, yes, so watch out) and some sandalwood oil–there’s a version without the sandalwood available–and when you first apply it, it can sting a bit. But afterward it’ll completely mattify and soothe your face, and you can use it for daytime prep before applying makeup or at night. This cream comes in various sizes, at various prices, but it’s cheap enough you can just slather your face in it without fear. Obviously don’t pick it up if you’ve got an allergy to sandalwood oil.
One warning, the smell of the sandalwood oil is VERY strong and it’s going to linger on your face.
Sidmool Dr. Troub Skin Returning Zinc Cream ($21, 60 ml). Ingredients. I agree broadly with RatzillaCosme here (and her review is what persuaded me to give this cream a try) but what she doesn’t mention is that this cream is thick. The zinc content, at 10%, is pretty high and that makes it fantastic for fighting inflammation and breakouts (also works for bug bites and allergic rashes; diaper rash creams, like Sudacrem, also have a high zinc content) but that much zinc means this thing is almost impossible to spread until it’s been warmed up by your skin or has been mixed with a more emollient moisturizer, or an oil. However, once it has spread, it’s actually pretty comfortable on the skin and leaves a tacky (not greasy) finish. I can’t speak to whether it’d make a good pseudo-primer for foundation, but it does have this odd quality where it blurs your pores a bit even though there’s no silicone in the formula. There is a white cast if you haven’t rubbed the cream in enough.
For comparison, Laroche Posay Cicaplast Baume is similar in that it’s also a zinc-based cream designed to calm inflammation, but personally the Sidmool works much better for me. Cicaplast Baume is easier to spread, but once on the skin it’s much less cosmetically elegant and just sits on your face instead of absorbing, and leaves a weird, unpleasant texture.
Secret Key Witch Hazel Pore Clear Toner ($9). Ingredients. A lot of people swear by the Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner, I swear by this. It’s cheaper (the bottle contains 243 ml), has a pretty nice ingredient list, and does a great job of being a cleansing, slightly astringent toner without being stripping. There’s some alcohol, but not so much you can smell it. It’s somewhat fragranced and that might bother some people, but I’d say it’s fairly mild.