skincare update

Resolved: no more “Sorry it’s been so long since I blogged” apologies when I finally blog. This is an unpaid personal blog. It’s not like I have editors breathing down my neck. I blog when I have something to say, and that’s that.

Anyway, I continue to be obsessed with skincare. I read about it all the time. I love talking about it with other people. I love giving advice. My face has become an ongoing science experiment. My anxiety coping mechanism has turned into a full-blown hobby. And I’m not alone! Apparently skincare has become a hobby for a lot of people lately.

I’ve had a few requests for an updated post with what I’m using these days, so here it is.  Reminder: I am 33 years old and have skin that tends toward dry, and I live in a dry climate. My main skin concerns are dryness and preventing signs of aging. I have been dealing with some breakouts since getting my IUD removed, but I am not generally acne-prone. I like to use “natural” products when possible, but am not opposed to being blinded with science. Let’s jump in with my current morning routine:


  1. I start with a quick swipe of Thayer’s to get any grime or oiliness off my face before I start. Rarely, if I have really loaded on oils or balms the night before, I’ll actually really wash my face in the mornings, but usually, I think a quick swipe of toner is enough for me. You can get this at Target or Walgreens or wherever (even Amazon), and it’s hydrating and happens to smell nice.
  2. I started using Timeless’s Vitamin C+E+Ferulic Acid serum because I have been dealing with some hyperpigmentation from some breakouts I’ve had since getting my IUD removed. It contains L-Ascorbic Acid, which is the most effective form of Vitamin C you can get for hyperpigmentation, and the Vitamin C is stabilized and made even more effective in combination with Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid. Downside: Ferulic Acid smells like hot dogs. Sad but true. I definitely think this is working harder on my hyperpigmentation spots than my Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum did, as the Mad Hippie uses a different form of Vitamin C.
  3. I did not want to like this Sunday Riley CEO moisturizer. It is expensive. But I got a little sample jar of it with a Sephora order and damn if my face doesn’t love this stuff. It’s super moisturizing and makes my face glowier and smoother. I’m like, mad at how much I like it.
  4. This W3LL PEOPLE tinted moisturizer has replaced my beloved Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer. I like that it’s SPF 30 and has lots of skin-benefitting ingredients. I find it looks best when applied with a foundation brush rather than with my fingers. It’s moisturizing, but not moisturizing enough to be my only moisturizer in the mornings in dry Denver. If you’re oily or live in a more humid place, you might not need a moisturizer under it. It has a “satin finish” which I think looks fine without powder, and gives me the dewy well-moisturized look I’m into. I wish it came in a wider range of shades, but that’s my only complaint. I wear “light.” Also: it’s now carried at Target! This is great for me as I always get 5% off (and free online shipping) because I have a Red Card.

Speaking of that tinted moisturizer, here’s basically the entirety of my daily makeup routine:


  1. The aforementioned W3LL PEOPLE Bio Tint, applied with a Tarte foundation brush.
  2. Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in Exposed.
  3. Glossier Boy Brow in Brown. I order this when I want to buy Milky Jelly Cleanser, and I like it a lot, but I’ve also discovered a good dupe is Maybelline Brow Precise Fiber Volumizer. Other Glossier stuff I’ve tried are the Stretch Concealer which I think creases too much, especially around the eyes, which is where I usually wear concealer, and Generation G lipstick in Jam which is literally my jam. So, Glossier is a bit hit or miss with me. The cleanser, Boy Brow, and Jam are pretty great, though.
  4. My ride or die mascara, Clinique Lash Power. I have been loyal to this stuff for like a decade. I’m not sure why I keep trying other mascaras, because I never love them like I love this stuff.
  5. My fave daily lip balm, Smith’s rosebud salve.
  6. I used to wear eyeshadow a lot, but now that I have glasses, I feel like it’s not as necessary. Sometimes I’ll dab some highlighter on my lids or something, but I really don’t wear it daily anymore. It’s much more important to me now to have my brows looking good than to wear eyeshadow.

Here’s my face wearing the above (hello, lopsided eyes), in natural light (by a window) with no filter, taken with my crappy iPhone 6:


Let’s move on to my evening routine! Note: I do not do everything every night, and some nights I mask or focus on hydration, but this is the general routine. Also, I spread this out over the course of the evening. I’ll wash my face after dinner, put on my exfoliator, start getting the kids into their jammies, then put on my retinoid, finish the kid bedtime, put on oil, watch a show, put on moisturizer, etc. This gives each layer some time to absorb/work.


  1. If I have been wearing makeup or sunscreen, I always start with an oil cleanse first. Contrary to everything screamed at us in the 90s, oil does not make your face oily or clog your pores. Oil dissolves oil and is excellent at melting away sunscreen and makeup. I am currently using DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, but I also like Burt’s Bees and Trader Joe’s oil cleansers. I massage a couple of pumps around my face for a good minute or two. Because oil is so good at dissolving oil, you may feel actual grits of sebum/gunk coming out of your pores as you massage an oil cleanser around. Oil cleansing is GREAT at dislodging sebaceous filaments and making your pores look cleaner and less noticeable. Oil cleansers, unlike straight oil, contain emulsifiers, so when I rinse this off with water, it turns milky and rinses clean.
  2. Next up I use Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser to really get my skin clean once it’s free of makeup. This is a super gentle cleanser that doesn’t make my face feel dry or tight. Some people think it smells like roses, but I don’t really smell anything?
  3. Next is a new purchase that I am also mad at. CURSE YOU SUNDAY RILEY AND YOUR EXPENSIVE SHIT THAT WORKS LIKE ACTUAL MAGIC. This, of course, is the famous Good Genes lactic acid treatment. No, I didn’t buy a $100+ bottle. I got the “Flash Fix” kit that comes with a teeny bottle and a small bottle of the Ceramic Slip Cleanser (which I haven’t tried yet) for $28. This stuff is sorcery. It clears up my sebaceous filaments (those things in your nose and chin pores that often get confused with blackheads but are not in fact blackheads), clears up congested pores, and I swear to goodness, minimizes my forehead lines (I have very expressive eyebrows, OK?) I’m going to have to get an actual bottle.
  4. Next I use The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, which is mercifully under $10 and now available at Sephora. Apparently Kim Kardashian also uses it. It’s a very gentle retinoid and would be a great first step into retinoids. HOWEVER, if your skin is not used to acid exfoliation and retinoids, I do not recommend using both on the same night. Alternate. My face is ok with this stuff, but I’ve accidentally over-exfoliated before, and it’s not fun. I do have a referral to see a dermatologist (my doc wants me to get checked for skin cancer regularly because I’m so fair and have had bad burns in the past) and I might ask about getting on actual Retin-A/tretinoin. Another note: if you use retinoids or acid exfoliation, ALWAYS WEAR SPF.
  5. Botanics 100% Organic Nourishing Facial Oil is one of my longtime loves. Super moisturizing, and has rosehip which helps promote an even skin tone. This stuff is available from Target and Ulta, and I always have a backup bottle ready to go.
  6. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion: I started using this because it has niacinamide, which is good for fading redness, which is something I deal with every time I get a blemish– the red spot lingers long after the zit is gone. This is a great moisturizer, and if you’re not particularly dry, would be great on it’s own, without an oil underneath. It layers great over my oils and serums, and I’ve been happy with it.
  7. Farmacy Honey Drop Moisturizer. This contains hyaluronic acid which is great at pulling moisture into your skin, and I find it helps my skin absorb everything I’ve put on before it. I think this is my new, more natural replacement for Clinique Moisture Surge Extra.
  8. The mysterious blue bottle is my DIY facial mist. I like to mist it on over the Honey Drop to give it one last layer to pull in. It’s just Thayer’s (see morning routine) plus some of a bottle of facial oil I was almost done with (I think it’s Mad Hippie Antioxidant Facial Oil). I also like to spritz this on throughout the day for extra hydration since I am a delicate southern flower who has moved to Dry World.


Note: none of these links are affiliates, and I bought all this stuff myself. Zero sponsors. (How I wish someone would send me free fancy skincare, but that ain’t happening!)



quickie skincare review: the ordinary’s new silicone-based vitamin c serum

The Ordinary Vitamin C 30% in Silicone skincare review | erniebufflo.comIn my first post about The Ordinary’s skincare products, I mentioned that I wasn’t a big fan of the Vitamin C serum I tried, because I found it gritty, prone to pilling, and irritating to my face. Recently, they introduced several new products, one of which was a Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone. I read somewhere that it solved the grittiness, so I thought I’d try it, especially since it’s only $6.80 and I needed to restock on Buffet and Advanced Retinoid anyway.

At first I was excited because indeed, there is zero grittiness. Thanks to the silicone, it also works WONDERFULLY under makeup. Many makeup primers are silicone-based because silicone smoothes out the skin and leaves a nice surface on which to apply makeup. I felt that this product kind of filled in lines and pores and made my face look very smooth.

The packaging warns of a possible “very strong tingling,” and indeed, I thought it stung my face. Worst of all, though, is I think the silicone and my face don’t get along. I’ve discontinued using the product (which I used for about 2 weeks) after breaking out on my chin and forehead.

I guess my search for a Vitamin C product that uses L-Ascorbic Acid and doesn’t make me break out, sting, or cost an arm and a leg continues. (I love my Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum, but it uses a different form of Vitamin C, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, that isn’t supposed to be quite as effective as L-Ascorbic Acid. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stabilize L-Ascorbic Acid, so finding a great formula at a good price has proven tricky.)

Just because this product wasn’t for me doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out. If you’re someone who already successfully uses silicone-based products, like in a makeup primer, you might really like this product for under makeup and to get the glow-inducing treatment (and boosted performance of your SPF) of the Vitamin C.

Note: I purchased and reviewed this product on my own. This is not a sponsored post in any way. Also, as with all skincare posts, everyone’s skin is different, and your mileage may vary.

dealing with a summer skin freakout

In my mind, summer is a season of barely any makeup and glowing skin. Instead, lately my face has kind of been freaking out. It’s not an all-out breakout, but my face is more congested than I-70 traffic. My forehead and chin are covered with little bumps thanks to clogged pores. It makes sense: sunscreen, sweat, still using my heavy cooler-weather moisturizers… my face is not handling it well.

Luckily, I know how to take care of this issue. Counter-intuitively, the first step is OIL. Specifically oil-cleansing. I know. When your pores are plugged up, you’re probably thinking oil is just going to make the issue worse, but “like dissolves like.” When your pores are clogged up with oils, sunscreens, and makeups, oil can dissolve it. I like to use either Trader Joe’s Facial Cleansing Oil or Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil. Put a pump or two into your hands and massage into your dry face for a good minute. Really go in on the bumpy areas, massaging in circles. Don’t be weirded out, but you might feel actually gritty stuff coming out of your pores. That’s normal! Great, even! Then remove oil with a wet washcloth (I use flannel baby wipes) and wash with your usual non-foaming face wash. Definitely try an oil cleanser. Recently, I was staying with a friend and convinced her to give it a try. I ended up leaving her my bottle of Trader Joe’s oil cleanser.

Next step: clay mask. I like the Captain Blankenship Petal mask or the L’Oreal Detox and Brighten Clay Mask. Tip: apply your clay mask with a foundation brush. Leave the mask on until it feels dry and like your nose might crack off. Remove with a wet washcloth.

dealing with a summer skin freakout |

Then: ACID. I’m a fan of the Pixi Glow Peel Pads, but I would absolutely not recommend 20% glycolic acid for acid beginners. I’m also a big fan of The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid. Start with the 5%, or if you’re used to using acid exfoliants, go for the 10%. Apply all over your face. If you use the peel pads, rinse after a few minutes. If you use the weaker acids, you can just wait a bit (I go with 15 minutes to whenever I finish whatever show I’m watching and remember to do the next step) and then move on to moisturizing.

Speaking of: I’m back on my old standby while my skin adjusts to summer life: Clinique Moisture Surge. I love the cooling gel texture and the way it makes my skin feel plumped in a baby-cheek sort of way. It feels extra soothing on skin that’s seen a little to much sun, too, and it doesn’t clog my pores. I’ve been using the stuff for over a decade now, and am still super loyal.

After one night of this, my skin texture was already drastically smoothed out. You want to do this routine once, maybe twice a week. Otherwise, I’m sticking to my usual routine and keeping up with my retinoid (Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum) and 10% Lactic Acid every other night.



skincare review: The Ordinary

erniebufflo reviews skincare from The Ordinary

One common bit of feedback on my last skincare post was that many readers and friends are looking for skincare more on a drugstore budget. I hear that. I tend to stick with “natural” and “organic” products and those are generally expensive, though I have to shout out the Botanics Line (currently I can only find it online at Ulta or Target) for offering cheap, effective, organic skincare. In the spirit of trying to help my friends and readers find affordable, safe, and effective skincare, I decided to order and try some products from The Ordinary. The Ordinary is very hip in the skincare nerd world these days for offering lots of good, active ingredients in good, scientific formulations, at what seem like bonkers prices. The problem is, unless you’ve done a lot of skincare research, it can be hard to figure out what to buy, how to use it, what order to use products in, etc. Seriously, I think Deciem, the company that makes The Ordinary should be paying the skincare nerds at r/skincareaddiction for all the service they’re performing answering thread upon thread about how to use The Ordinary products, which products do what, and in what order.

Note: I ordered these products myself, and this is just my review as someone who bought and tried the products. This is my honest opinion, and this post is not sponsored.

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how my anxiety coping obsession gave me the best skin of my life

I once read a meme that said having an anxious brain is like having a pet border collie: you have to give it a job, or you won’t like the one it finds for itself. I share my life with a bonkers border collie mix (love you Olive!) and I have an anxious brain, so it made a lot of sense to me.

In the wake of the election, I found myself suffering from obsessing over the news. I was wearing myself out with outrage, constantly on edge, losing hours and hours to reading news and opinions online. I’m not someone who can just stop reading the news, but I knew I needed a new obsession, one that wouldn’t worry me so much.

At the same time, having recently moved from the humid, mild South to dry, cold Colorado, combating dry skin had become a regular concern. I started researching skin care, and my new obsession was born.

This is my face a few months into my new routine, wearing only mascara and tinted moisturizer, in natural light, with no filters.

This is my face a few months into my new routine, wearing only mascara and tinted moisturizer, in natural light, with no filters.

Before I go further, a disclaimer: I am not a skincare expert or a doctor or an aesthetician. I am only an expert on my own skin and my own experiences. I am 32 years old, have skin that tends toward dry/sensitive, and am most concerned about preventing wrinkles and sun damage as I watch the first lines starting to appear on my face. I know that I will age. I think smile lines are some of the world’s most beautiful and hard-earned features. However, I also want to keep my skin looking the best it can at every age. I also like to use more natural/organic things on and in my body as possible. And: I firmly believe in getting enough sleep (something now possible since my kids are almost 5), drinking lots of water, and eating a plant-heavy diet.

My gateway drug was Pixi Glow Tonic. I’d seen rave reviews, it’s available at Target, and my dull, dry skin was definitely in need of a boost, so I picked up a bottle. Within a couple of weeks, I could tell my skin was looking better– smoother, brighter, and those clogged-looking pores we all seem to have around our noses were much less noticeable. It was enough of a change that my husband started using the Glow Tonic too. I wanted to know why it was working so well, and what else might work too.

It turns out I had discovered the wide world of acid exfoliation. The main active ingredient in the Glow Tonic is a fairly low percentage of glycolic acid. I know, the idea of putting “acid” on your face sounds kind of creepy and harsh, and may even conjure images of red, inflamed skin caused by a chemical peel gone wrong. However, it turns out that “manual exfoliation,” like using abrasive scrubs or electric face brushes are actually a lot harsher on your face than ingredients like glycolic and lactic acid, both of which are Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs. Acid exfoliation works by removing dead skin, promoting cell turnover, encouraging collagen production, and dissolving dirt and sebum trapped in your pores. If you have dull, rough-textured, or sun-damaged skin, AHAs will be your friend.

Once I learned about AHAs and acid exfoliation, I wanted to learn about other active ingredients, and how best to use them for maximum results. Pretty much everyone will tell you that “retinoids” are the gold standard for preventing and reversing signs of aging. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives. They work by encouraging collagen production, preventing collagen breakdown in the first place, and exfoliating. They prevent wrinkles, encourage a smooth texture, and help get rid of dark spots. The downsides of retinoids are that they can make skin more sensitive to the sun, and can be irritating and drying to the skin. For these reasons, it is best to start using them slowly, like once a week, and work up to using it nightly. Also: using it at night helps mitigate the sun sensitivity issue, though applying SPF every day is probably the #1 most important thing you can do to prevent signs of aging, and you should apply a good SPF product every day, even if you are not using retinoids. Using your retinoid at night also makes it most effective, because the Vitamin A itself breaks down in sunlight, and thus loses its potency.

Aside from AHAs and retinoids, the other main ingredient I found effective through my research was Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that evens skintone, protects skin from environmental pollutants, and even helps protect skin from sun exposure. Vitamin C is a great daytime ingredient because it helps protect your skin from the outside world all day long.

Once I knew which ingredients would have the best impact for protecting my skin and helping it look its best, I started slowly adding them into my routine. I researched products, read forums and blogs, and found new products that I believed would work for me. I focused on serums with my preferred active ingredients rather than toners or face washes, because I want these actives to really sit on and sink into my skin to do their best work.

A word of caution: NEVER GO WHOLE HOG INTO A NEW SKIN ROUTINE ALL AT ONCE. That’s a great way to irritate the crap out of your skin and end up with a bumpy, red, inflamed, itchy, flaky mess. I was already using a retinoid night serum, so that was the first thing I replaced with a more powerful serum. After I knew my skin was tolerating that well, I started alternating every other night with an AHA serum. Since both Vitamin A and Glycolic Acid are exfoliating, I don’t use them both on the same night, because that would be too much for my skin. Once that was well-established, I incorporated a Vitamin C serum for the daytime.

Another thing I did while trying to take better care of my dry skin was I ditched the foaming cleansers. Foaming cleansers can strip your skin of its natural moisture– you never actually want your face to feel “squeaky clean.” Instead, I started using a two-step cleansing process at night, washing first with an oil to remove makeup and dirt, and then with a creamy cleanser to actually clean my skin and maintain its natural moisture barrier. In the mornings, I actually started doing more than just splashing my face with water– if you’re using exfoliants at night, you need to wash that sloughed skin off in the morning, or it remains trapped under last night’s moisturizer. So, in the mornings I use a cream-based cleanser to make sure I’m starting fresh before applying my Vitamin C serum and moisturizer.

Now that you’ve read about all my research and the ingredients I decided to focus on (Vitamin C, Vitamin A/retinoids, and AHAs), here is my daily routine. It sounds like a lot, but I find the ritual soothing for my anxious mind.

Morning Routine

  1. Wash with Botanics Organic Softening Cleanser (this says to wipe it off, but I rinse)
  2. Apply 4 drops Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum (I put this on and then go downstairs to get my kids up, make coffee, make breakfast, and pack lunches. This gives it time to really absorb into my skin.)
  3. Apply Botanics All Bright Hydrating Day Cream SPF 15 (This is not my favorite, and I will be trying other SPF day creams in the future)
  4. Apply Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 plus a couple of drops of Botanics Organic Facial Oil

morning skincare routine

Evening Routine

  1. First Cleanse: Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse (This is expensive, but my one bottle, a gift for my sister, has lasted months. You get a LOT for the amount you pay, and it’s a really nice oil cleanser. In the future, I promise to test some other, cheaper oil cleansers and let you know what I think.)
  2. Second Cleanse: Botanics Organic Softening Cleanser (same as mornings)
  3. Apply either 4 drops Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum (my retinoid) or 2 drops Pixi Overnight Glow Serum (an AHA, but I’m not super crazy about this serum and again will be testing other exfoliating serums and letting you know what I think)
  4. After waiting at least 10 minutes for my serums to absorb, I moisturize with either Farmacy Sleep Tight Night Balm (love this, but it’s a bit expensive, so I may try the Botanics Organic Hydrating Super Balm) or Botanics Organic Face Cream
  5. As needed for dryness, I apply more Botanics Organic Facial Oil

evening skincare routine

Note: I am super happy with the Mad Hippie serums. Green company using high-quality, effective, scientifically proven ingredients, and a great value. I’ve been using my bottles since the end of January and have used maybe 1/3. Your Whole Foods or Earth Fare may carry them, but I usually buy online (at the links). Since I’m not loving the Pixi Glow Serum, I may try their exfoliating serum next.

So, there’s my routine. And here’s my makeup-free face, just after washing, in natural light.

erniebufflo with no makeup

Got any questions?

*Note: none of the products here are sponsored and none of the links are affiliate links.