Oily Skin 101: Exfoliating (Part 3 of 4)


Happy New Year!

This is the third installment in my series on caring for oily skin. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I am a big believer in regular exfoliation as part of an effective skin care routine. My biggest skin care concern, aside from oiliness, is clogged pores and breakouts. What causes this annoying problem? Lazy skin cells that don’t slough off the way they’re supposed to. They get trapped in all the excess oil, cause a backlog inside the pores and ultimately lead to bumps and blemishes.

Fear not! There is something you can do to get rid of those dead skin cells and, thus, greatly reduce bumps and blemishes. Exfoliate! I’m convinced that this is the most important step in my routine and the one that does the most to improve the texture and clarity of my skin.

There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical exfoliation involves physically buffing away dead skin cells by using something abrasive like a scrub or a washcloth. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of skin care products containing alpha-beta hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid. I do both.

In the morning, after cleansing, I use an acne treatment product containing 2% salicylic acid: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment. I’ve written a full review of this product here.


Sadly, this product has been discontinued. It truly is a shame, because there aren’t a lot of well-formulated salicylic acid treatments on the market in Canada. Most contain irritating ingredients like alcohol, have a concentration of salicylic acid that is too low to be effective, or the overall formulation of the product results in a pH that is too high for exfoliation to occur. When I use up my stash of this, I’ll be switching to the only suitable alternative I could find: Smashbox Photo Finish More than Primer Blemish Control.


This product is very similar to the Neutrogena. It also contains 2% salicylic acid and has the correct pH for exfoliation to occur. The only noticeable differences are that it has a slightly thicker consistency and is….ten times the price! It will have to do until I can find a cheaper alternative.

In the evening, after cleansing, I use a treatment that contains 10% glycolic acid: NeoStrata Glycolic Renewal Smoothing Lotion.


This product was the game changer for me. The salicylic acid treatment definitely helped, but it wasn’t until I started using this that I really started to feel like I was getting the upper hand over clogged pores. It took me a long time to figure out that glycolic acid was the missing link in my routine. It’s usually marketed as an anti-aging ingredient rather than an acne treatment. It is an effective treatment against the signs of aging, but it’s also an awesome pore cleaner-outer. It eats away dead skin cells, so there are fewer of them hanging around to clog pores. So simple!

A word of caution: glycolic acid is pretty potent stuff. This NeoStrata product is actually sold in different concentrations (5% and 10%). Go easy until you see how your skin tolerates it. My skin can handle the 10% no problem, but that might be too irritating for some folks.

Now, the chemical exfoliation takes care of bumps and blemishes, but I still get a bit of flakiness and gunky build-up around my mouth and nose. I find mechanical exfoliation is the best way to tackle this problem. About once a week I use an exfoliating mask:


I’m partial to the Cleanance mask from French brand Avene. It exfoliates without stripping or irritating the skin. This mask offers both chemical and mechanical exfoliation. It has tiny scrubby beads AND alpha-beta hydroxy acids. I like to apply this by massaging it over my skin like you would a scrub. Then, I leave it on for about 15 minutes and then gently remove it with a warm washcloth. I use the washcloth to buff away dead skin around my mouth and nose. I love this stuff. It makes my face feel like a baby’s butt.

In summary, my exfoliation routine involves the following steps:

AM – 2% salicylic acid treatment
PM – 10% glycolic acid treatment
Weekly – Exfoliating scrub/mask

I’ve been doing this for about six months, and my skin is looking the best it has in a long time.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1) Everyone’s skin is different, and my routine might be too strong/irritating for some people. If you’re going to start experimenting with exfoliating products, add them into your routine one at a time, and give your skin time to adjust. If you experience excessive redness or a burning sensation, then you might not be able to tolerate exfoliating acids. Proceed with caution.

2) Exfoliation leaves your skin more vulnerable to UV damage. Make sure you wear SPF at all times!

Whew! That was a long post! If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me!

Any questions? Ask in the comments.



I have always loved watching “Empties” videos on YouTube. You know? the ones where people hold up empty bottles and talk about products they’ve used up. I decided to start a series of “Empties” posts where I will do the the same thing, but you don’t have to actually watch me wave the empty bottles around while I blather on. This month’s empties are featured below.


1. Vichy Purete Thermale 3-in-1 Micellar Solution

I’ve already written a review of this product here, so I won’t waste too many words on it in this post. It’s a decent micellar solution and does a good job of removing eye makeup quickly and gently. I enjoyed it enough to use it up, but there are far better ones out there for the price, and there are so many others I want to try, so I won’t bother to repurchase this one.

2. Batiste Dry Shampoo

I always like to have a can of dry shampoo on hand to deal with greasy roots on my “second-day hair.” I’ve repurchased Batiste a few times and will continue to do so, but not this particular version. This is the “Wild” version, and although the leopard print can is adorable, the scent leaves something to be desired. It’s sickly sweet and kind of…..old lady-ish? Not a fan.

3. Bath and Body Works Three Wick Candle in Island Margarita

I finally used up one of my BBW candles! This was one of the summer scents, so you probably can’t get it now, but I would consider getting it again. It burned really well, had good throw and I enjoyed the scent. Kind of fruity/floral/tropical…..I’m horrible at describing scents. I liked it.

4. AG Hair Cosmetics Recoil Curl Care Shampoo and Conditioner

I can’t rave enough about AG Hair Cosmetics. Their products are high quality and actually make a noticeable difference in my hair. I’ve been a long-time fan of the Recoil styling products and decided to try the shampoo and conditioner from the same line. LOVE! I have already re-purchased and will continue to do so. Seriously, if you have curly hair with a mind of its own, check out the Recoil line from AG. They make curls soft, defined and manageable. They also control frizz without weighing the hair down or causing build-up. Customer for life! (Plus, it’s a Canadian brand, and the products are made right here at home.)

5. NeoStrata Oil Free Smoothing Lotion Level 3

This is a 10% glycolic acid lotion meant to provide some serious exfoliation, and it really works. It has made a huge difference in my skin. I’ve been using it for about 5 months, and it has definitely made my skin smoother. I also get way fewer blocked pores. I have repurchased this, but I must point out that it’s been re-vamped and reformulated. They changed the name to Glycolic Renewal Lotion. They’ve added a bit of fragrance to it, and the consistency has changed (it’s a bit thicker now), but Iuckily I’m still getting good results from the new formulation. I’ll keep buying this as long as it keeps working. It’s pretty expensive, but I don’t mind paying for skin care that works!

That’s all for now! Check back next month to find out what else I’m throwing out.

Battle of the Micellar Lotions


Back in the early days of my makeup obsession, I used to dread removing my eye makeup in the evening. The first eye makeup removers that I experimented with were AWFUL. Some burned, some made an oily mess, and they all seemed to require a bit of scrubbing to completely remove shadow, liner and mascara.

Now I look forward to removing even the most intense eye looks and it’s all thanks to my new skin care obsession: micellar lotions. AKA cleansing waters or micellar solutions, micellar lotions are really just simple, no frills makeup removers that can be used to remove makeup anywhere on your face. I prefer to use them as eye makeup removers because they’re extra gentle and rarely contain fragrance or other irritants that can bother the extra sensitive eye area.

The first micellar cleanser I ever tried was the iconic BioDerma Sensibio H20, a favourite of makeup artists. I do love that one, but it’s kind of expensive and not always easy to find where I live. Luckily more and more brands are coming out with micellar cleansers, so I’ve been experimenting with some different ones recently.

Vichy‘s Purete Thermale 3-in-1 is a nice, though somewhat pricy, option. It’s fairly gentle and does a good job of breaking down makeup. This one loses points with me because it contains vichy-purete-thermale-1301fragrance. I prefer that anything going near my eyes be fragrance free. I also didn’t care for the pump dispenser. It was tricky to control how much product was dispensed and got a bit messy at times. (It also broke before the product ran out…grrr.) I wouldn’t bother repurchasing this one since there are way better ones out there.


Next up is NeoStrata‘s Micellar Cleanser. I received this one as a gift-with-purchase, and it’s not half bad. It’s gentle and does a decent job of removing makeup. Call me fussy, but I don’t like the fact that this one has colour added. For me, a big part of the appeal of micellar waters is that they’re…well, like water. The simpler the better. This one is good enough to use up, but I won’t be running out to replace it.

Helping to drive my obsession with micellar cleansers is the fact that londonpremierethere are now some budget options available. This one from London Premiere (a London Drugs brand) was only $13 for 500ml. Since many others I’ve tried sell for around $20 for 350 ml, this one’s a steal! It’s not as luxe as the others mentioned in this post, but it gets the job done. Major points for packaging on this one. It has one of those pump tops where you put your cotton pad onto the dispenser and push down until it’s saturated. It keeps things tidy and prevents waste. This one is very gentle with no unecessary colour or fragrance added. My only gripe is that it doesn’t seem to break down makeup quite as effortlessly as some of the others I’ve tried, but that’s a minor complaint.

I saved the best for last. I think Marcelle‘s 3-in-1 Micellar Solution is as 300ml-eaumic-3in1_05good as the BioDerma if not better. It’s simple, gentle and makes eye makeup removal a breeze. It has my preferred pump top dispenser as well. And for what it’s worth, it’s approved by the Canadian Dermatological Association. (I’m picturing scientists in lab coats nodding in approval.) I will definitely repurchase this one…..when I’m done experimenting that is. Bravo Marcelle!

Are than any others I should try? Let me know in the comments.