Dehydrated & Damaged Skin Barrier: Emergency AM + PM routine

Dehydrated & Damaged Skin Barrier: Emergency AM + PM routine

When I wrote this post about adapting to certain skincare-related changes in my daily routine, my skin was breaking out in the T-zone, felt a little tight with uneven dry patches. Before believing that my skin barrier was damaged, I first thought I needed to exfoliate the dead skin away. Turns out, they were never dead skin piling up on my nose because despite exfoliating twice a week, my sebum production kept increasing, my concealer went on patchy and of course, the dry patches were still there. That’s when I realised that my skin barrier has been compromised. 

Let’s admit, I am not a skincare expert. I was never a beauty blogger either and I have no intention of labeling myself as one. But I am a skincare junkie and I do watch quite a lot of skincare videos from informative skincare youtubers so I pretty know what it means when I say my skin is dehydrated. It’s also a very common temporary skin condition often experienced but not limited to combination and oily skin gals who overdo things  — over-exfoliate, over-cleanser, over-everything. Unlike dry skin, dehydrated skin lacks in water and therefore compensates that by producing even more sebum and possibly acne as well. 

Long story short, I was quite frantic about it. For the longest time ever, I’ve been living life as a greasy hot dog (only in the T-zone though!) and finding products that can minimise or regulate my sebum production has always been the main focus in my regime. Like most oily skin gals, my obsession with reducing sebum production resulted in me neglecting my skin’s need of hydration. In the end, I had my first intensely dehydrated skin-slash-damaged skin barrier experience last week with no idea whether to slather some sleeping mask, face oils or create a moisturizing cocktail of hydrating serum and face oils. If it sounds really confusing to you right now then it probably is, especially if you have no idea what causes your skin to be severely dehydrated in the first place. 

With that said, let’s not be boring and get down to the actual business: the products, the routine and the saviours.

General rule of πŸ‘πŸ»

Be extremely gentle; in general, dry and sensitive skin requires really gentle regime and in my opinion, dehydrated skin should also be treated like so. The only difference between taking care of dehydrated skin is that ‘dehydration’ refers to ‘lack of water’ and not oil, which is something dry skin lacks in. Still, it all funnels down to the same idea — be gentle, do not cause friction and use very, very gentle products. In fact, I would look for products that are targeted for sensitive skin. 

No physical friction; personally, even if I do not have dehydrated skin, I just don’t dry my face with a face towel. Once I’m done cleansing, I always let it air dry to avoid unnecessary friction to my face. Again, the keyword is to be very gentle with our skin no matter the condition. Other than the friction from towels or cotton pads, this also means no physical exfoliator. 

Cleanse less, with water or super gentle cleansers; this means no foaming cleanser or worse, one that contains antibacterial or acne-fighting ingredients such as BHA, tea tree oil or salicylic acid and opt for really gentle, hydrating cleansers made for sensitive skin. Sometimes, if possible, I cleanse with nothing but water and only use first cleanser on my T-zone. More on this later. 

No active and harsh ingredients; I stopped using my niacinamide serum from The Ordinary and dropped all direct acids such as exfoliating toners with AHA and BHA and azelaic acid which I sometimes use once or twice for my rosacea T-zone. Likewise, stop all antibacterial, acne combating products because they tend to be too harsh. 

No long, warm or hot shower; in general, hot shower isn’t ideal for our skin and that’s because it can elevate transepidermal water loss (TEWL) that may even lead to unwanted fine lines and wrinkles in the future. Long story short, heat and skin aren’t besties.

Stay away from heavy makeup;
this means no full coverage cake on foundation, concealer and/or powder. Let the skin breathe as much as possible and if you can’t, opt for spot concealing instead. Following my #FoundationFree challenge, I now swear by spot concealing and dusting a light veil of powder on my T-zone. 

In the end, what you want is to retain as much moisture as possible!

AM 🌞 Routine

Cleanse: Cosrx low pH first cleansing milk gel 

A milky, jelly-like cleansing gel that is free from parabens, sulfates and phthalates, I love this cleanser way more than their classic low pH good morning cleanser. I still like the latter but not for every day use as I find it a little too drying now. Compared to the Good Morning cleanser, this lightweight gel-cream formula does not lather at all. Even though it’s marketed as a ‘first cleanser’ to remove impurities, dirt and makeup, I still use it as my primary morning cleanser and it works just fine. Technically speaking, if this doesn’t count as a second cleanser then that just means I’m only washing my face with water which is fine too.

I’ve also heard that this can serve as a cheaper dupe for Glossier’s milky jelly cleanser but since I don't have Glossier’s with me, I can’t really say that.

Tone: Laneige Cream Skin Refiner

This πŸ‘πŸ» product πŸ‘πŸ» is πŸ‘πŸ» magic πŸ‘πŸ» and this is a pretty hardcore claim coming from someone who spends so much money on skincare, enjoying certain products but never found one I can quite label as my holy grail. Okay maybe I do have one — the Hada Labo gokujyun lotion but even that is going to be replaced by this milky white moisturizing cream toner-slash-emulsion wonder. Made from white tea leaf extract that has been formulated for 26 months through the Dutch extraction method to obtain higher amino acid content, the cream skin refiner was created to fortify damaged skin barrier and brings back hydration. I only need about two drops of this product and a little bit goes a long way. It can be quite pricey (because all Laneige products are pricey) but I find it really worth it. I find that dry skin gals will definitely love this.

Jenny from Geekyposh, aka one of my favourite skincare-junkie bloggers, wrote a thorough review on this product.

Moisturise: The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors + HA 

I don't mean to sound like that b*tch but… The Ordinary really do have amazing products at such an amazing price point. Though I haven’t tried a lot of their products (so far, I’m enjoying their niacinamide 10% + zinc 1%, AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution, azelaic acid suspension, rosehip oil and the moisturiser), I appreciate their basic moisturiser that does its job at keeping my skin hydrated. It’s a little waxy feeling but it sinks in just fine and doesn’t break me out. It really has no fancy ingredients, which I appreciate because I want all those fancy treatment in my serums instead, so don’t expect any groundbreaking effects other than good hydration. I personally think this is a great moisturiser for combination to oily, acne-prone and sensitive skin type but not so much for really dry skin gals.

Sunscreen: Apieu Madecassoside Sun Cream

I am loving this sunscreen! It’s my second mineral sunscreen ever and I can positively say that I’ll be religiously wearing this without fearing I might get clogged pores or acne. Like its name suggest, the Apieu sun cream contains madecassoside, a highly raved ingredient within the K-beauty industry. Like the ingredient ‘cica’ which is another name for the wound healing and soothing plant centella asiatica, madecassoside is a molecular component from the tiger grass itself. To put it simply, both madecassoside and cica or centella asiatica serve the same purpose and that is to soothe irritated, inflamed skin.

Once I’m done with sunscreen, I’ll spot conceal using the classic cult favourite Maybelline Fit Me concealer and dust a light veil of no sebum powder from Innisfree. Alternatively when I don’t feel like using concealer, I’ll rely on Dr Jart’s Cica Re-cover which is a green colour correcting treatment that turns into beige, skin colour to cover redness. 

PM πŸŒ™ Routine

Double cleansing is a must and it’s something I swear by even though I’m not wearing any makeup. In case you’re wondering why, double cleansing isn’t just to remove your makeup; it’s also meant to remove excess sebum, debris from pollution and of course, sunscreen. Since sunscreen is compulsory to use every day, double cleansing is a mandatory for night time routine. I can’t say much about my absolute favourite cleansing balm yet but I’m currently trying out the green version of Banila’s Clean It Zero, the one made for oily skin. So far, I like it better than the original pink (I’m suspecting that the pink one broke me out but don’t quote me yet.) 

For second cleanser, I’m currently trying out Purito’s low pH cleanser which, according to a lot of people, is more hydrating than the Cosrx one. Of course, it’s not a hydrating cleanser by any means so I’m not expecting sudden intense hydration from it. Here’s a comparison between the Purito cleanser and Cosrx good morning cleanser.

Tone: Laneige Cream Skin Refiner or Hadalabo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion

For toners, I constantly switch between the Laneige cream skin and my old but trusty Hadalabo lotion. The reason is because even though my skin was craving for water, I wanted to hydrate it in moderation if that makes sense. I didn’t want to bet on it like it’s an actual dry skin that requires lots of layered moisturisation as that can be risky for my oily T-zone. So for me, I use the hyaluronic acid on Monday, Wednesday Friday and Sunday; the cream skin on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Of course, schedules might change depending on my skin that day.

Unlike the cream skin, the Hadalabo’s job is to draw moisture either from the air or from our skin. Considering my skin was severely dehydrated for two weeks, I took a few additional steps when I used hyaluronic acid as my hydrating toner — more on this below.


While other brands have been boarding the cica train for a while now, it’s not until recently did Laneige reveal their cica product in the form of sleeping mask. Unlike other cica products, Laneige’s version of cica does not come from madecassoside. In fact, it comes from a patented powerful ingredient called ‘forest yeast’ which is exclusive to Amorepacific, the parent company of Laneige and other known brands such as Etude House, Innisfree, Sulwhasoo, etc. The active compound in forest yeast is known to provide much better soothing and rejuvenating property than madecassoside by 119%. Another notable ingredients found in the sleeping mask include squalane, asiaticoside, asiatica acid and madeccasic acid; palmarosa oil, tea tree oil and hinoki cypress (chamaecyparis obtusa) for soothing purposes.

Long story short, this sleeping mask will calm irritated, sensitive skin and will work on all skin type. I haven’t tried their original, blue sleeping mask, however, I can tell you that my rosacea is loving this product very much! It boosts hydration overnight and allows me to wake up with very glowy, plump skin. I think compared to Laneige’s other sleeping masks, this one is the most interesting and innovative one to try.

In case you need more convincing, here’s an article as to how beneficial a sleeping mask can be, especially if you’re looking for a super potent moisturiser overnight.

I was never an advocate for face oils yet I have several that I actually quite enjoy putting on my face. Rosehip oil, a natural form of retinoic acid, is one of them that I don’t mind using once every few days due to its ‘dryer’ texture compared to other oils that are high in oleic acid. ‘Dryer’ oils are high in linoleic acid, therefore making it suitable for oily, acne-prone skin. I can go on and on about linoleic vs oleic acid content in face oils but it’s probably best to read it yourself, especially if you’re wondering why some people swear by rosehip oil to clear their acne. I can’t say I’ve sworn by rosehip oil yet but so far, I’m liking it.

Now, the Klairs midnight blue cream is something that’s perfect for irritated, stressed skin. Some people say it’s meant to be used as a spot treatment hence the small size for a pretty expensive price point ($24.50 for 30ml though it’s also available in 60ml) but I personally use it as a regular night time moisturiser since it includes glycerin and sodium hyaluronate to hydrate the skin. Besides, I have rosacea too. For the main ingredients, the cream contains centella asiatica extract and guaiazulene, a skin calming agent from camomile oil that produces the cream’s beautiful blue colour. Texture-wise, it’s hydrating and sinks into the skin pretty quickly and is surprisingly not greasy despite the thick consistency. Oily, sensitive and acne or rosacea-prone skin will likely enjoy this cream; dry skin, however, might need a booster (maybe an oil?) to mix this product with if they’re using it as a night moisturiser.

Spot treatment: the miracle worker Tamanu Oil

The thing with dehydrated skin is that it comes in a package with acne; following the breakout, I will then most likely get post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It doesn’t matter if I pop my pimple out (yes, I’m guilty of this) or let them heal on their own — I will definitely have scarring and marks. With hyperpigmentation, there are numerous products ranging from retinols to vitamin C to niacinamide (which I use and love, so no hate) but what if there’s an even cheaper alternative to those serums? Liah Yoo, my recent favourite skincare Youtuber, has raved about the power of tamanu oil on her channel multiple times. She is obviously a huge tamanu oil fan. I decided to buy one from Life-flo, one for me and another one for my mother and her dark spots. She has been religiously using it every night and has told me that she’s seeing results, which is amazing. I also find that it helps reduce my acne scarring although I still have them. It’s like they’re blurred, you know? I’m definitely going to continue using it and will probably review it in the future.

*I still use topical acne treatment for active, inflamed acne because I always want a faster solution. The one I’m using contains sulphur, salicylic acid and isopropylmethylphenol.

Finally we have reached the end of this long post! Again, I am no skincare expert and I'm not here to tell you what to use or how to take care of your skin. But I'm here to give you recommendations on products and habits you might be interested in trying. With that said, I would love to know what your emergency skincare routine looks like so do share them in the comments below πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡