Love your skin, love yourself

by Maria Afonso

Maria is a veterinarian currently finishing a PhD in canine and feline infectious diseases. She is Portuguese but has lived in England for the past four years. In her free time she likes to hill-walk with her dog, Joe, and bake (mostly scones, but also the occasional cake). You can find her on Instagram as @literallyviral.


If I could only say one thing about skincare it would be this: Skincare is self-care. I have always had a shaky relationship with my skin. For many years, I was enamored with make-up, keeping up to date with new trends, products and beauty v-loggers. But make-up was only a cover up, a temporary solution to hide my spots, large pores and red cheeks. As a teenager, it didn’t cross my mind that my skin needed some proper tending to address specific issues. 

Only in the past couple of years, realising that my acne would survive adulthood and that I inherited my mom’s rosacea, did I start to pay any attention to skin care. 

See, my skin is not that great (that’s a euphemism). For the past few years, well into my 20s, I had bouts of painful cystic acne. Sadly, I am not one of those lucky ones for whom the pill is a solution to all my skin woes. If anything, hormonal contraception only worsened my skin and general well-being. So I had to look elsewhere for ways to keep my skin in check. Note that I say in check, not radiant, glowing or healthy - I am still walking that path towards my ideal skin. But, at the moment, I am pretty satisfied with my routine. 

In the past year I set out on the dermatological discovery journey that has changed my skin. I started going for facials at a professional beautician every 3 - 6 months, which has definitely led to an improvement in my cystic acne. It’s painful, but so worth it. However, the true game-changer was something as simple as washing my face. Call me a walking cliché but all my life I have been too lazy to wash my face and/or take off my make-up before going to bed. I truly believe that starting to do this in addition to moisturizing (again, something I never did before) has calmed my skin a lot. I still have the odd spot breaking out just before periods but this isn’t anywhere near the huge cystic, painful, disgusting white heads I used to get in the past!

I am a scientist. Naturally, I like to experiment and that curiosity is as true for my scientific endeavors as it is for my skincare exploration! I love trying new brands and new products but, since I have a really sensitive skin (hello, rosacea!), when I find something that works I tend to stick with it! As you will see in a sec, my morning and evening routine are on the long-ish side. The main reason for this is that this routine has become a sort of soothing therapeutic ritual. In the morning, it gets me ready and energized for a new day. At night, it relaxes me before I go to bed. 

If you’re a college or postgrad student (or have been there) you know how stressful things can get. The lifestyle really takes a toll on your health: physical and mental. My skincare routine eventually became part of my self-care routine (if you suffer from anxiety or stress in general, routines are so important to keep yourself in check). 

But now onto the meat! What is my skin care routine like? 

Firstly, cleansing. Or, to be clearer, double cleansing. I start with a cream cleanser to remove dirt and make up (right now I am in love with the Etude House Baking Powder Cream) and then I wash my face with Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Foam to make it really thorough. I feel refreshed! Recently, I haven’t been using a toner (which is supposed to recalibrate your skin pH after washing your face) because I ran out of my usual facial mist but I just bought sukin Hydrating Mist Toner and I’m hoping my skin will be a-okay with it!

I then move on to moisturizing - and maybe I go a bit overboard here but hey, it seems to make my skin fairly happy! I firstly apply the original Mizon Skin Energy Hyaluronic Acid 100 Serum, which I follow with The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension to even skin tone (and help fade acne scars). The final step is Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Treatments (one for the daytime and one that acts overnight) - these are light moisturizers specific for skins prone to breaking out and I am quite happy with the results (a mostly acne-free face!). 

Finally, in the morning I always apply sunscreen. Even though I am naturally quite tanned, I go for SPF 50 (I love Bioré UV Perfect Face Milk). When I have something special on the following day I use Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask (which smells of lovely berries!) overnight to hydrate the skin and get rid of any flakiness in the lips - I absolutely love it and really feels like a treat! While I enjoy masking from time to time, the texture and weight are important factors. I hate a heavy moisturizer that leaves you feeling yucky all over! Which is why I much prefer serums and light moisturizers. 

My skin is far from perfect and I am aware that so is my skin care routine. But I am still learning, exploring and finding what works best for me. I do take inspiration from many sources and beauty/skin-care bloggers from all around the world. For example, learning about Korean beauty routines and brands as really helped me in changing my skin-care routine for the best.

Instead of finishing with a bold statement and, since we’re now officially friends, I’ll ask you for a tip! I have combination skin and the sides of my cheeks and forehead feel quite dry right now - I don’t really want to change the products I am currently using and am on the lookout for a powerful, yet cheap (graduate student, remember? *sad emoji*) and, of course, not too sticky moisturizer to add to the mix and maybe intercalate with the other ones I’m already using. Does that sound too crazy? If not, let me know in the comments if you have any miraculous recommendations!