I thought I could share the skincare routine I’ve created for myself this year. Finding my own routine was something that I wanted to do because:

  1. Skincare is kind of a long-run game with payoffs that require time.
  2. Skincare is also highly personal, while the variety of available products are many.

This is a classic situation to adopt an explore-and-exploit strategy. The goal of exploration is to quickly cover our bases, by searching wide and running through alternatives. When I find something satisfactory, I switched to exploitation by sticking with it and incorporating it into my routine, while I continue exploration for the other parts of my routine. The idea of this approach is to more or less greedily reach a routine that works for me.


Briefly, I was looking for a cleanser, toner, serum, and sunscreen. (Skipping on moisturiser because of the humidity here.) I settled on three or four products for each category based on the following criteria:

  1. Affordability, I was looking at spending no more than $20 for a product.
  2. Availability, since I would be using the product consistently, I wanted it to be readily available on e-commerce platforms or off-the-counter.
  3. Minimising overlap of active ingredients, figuring this would be most CP值.


Each product could last me several months but I was inpatient. So I alternated between products, which wasn’t the most scientific. However, I did find that some products did produce visible improvements fast. For these products, I would ‘lock’ them into their category and continue on for the others. This way, I was quickly able to build a routine that was reliable, yet still have room for exploration.

My Routine

Okay, now that I’ve shared my approach, I should talk about what that routine is, right? My skincare routine now, is divided into a morning and night routine. Both take no more than five minutes. Also, having this as a small ritual to start and end the day has been great for mental health :)

My morning routine:

  1. Cleanser: I’ve been using Hada Labo’s hydrating cleanser since forever and it has worked well for me. I like that it doesn’t leave my face feeling dry and squeaky. I just started trying Rovectin’s skin essential conditioning cleanser, I like how my face feels after using it, but it has a slight chemical smell—and also I realised that non-foaming cleansers are kinda boring.
  2. Toner: I still haven’t found one toner that really outshines others, but basically any neutral moisturising toner works for me. I’m currently trying isntree’s green tea fresh toner, which is a watery toner. I apply like a face mist, which feels fantastic in the day.
  3. Exfoliant: I’m using cosrx’s BHA blackhead power liquid. An exfoliant cleans out pores and prevents clogging which leads to breakouts. This one helped reduce breakouts and fade redness, without being too harsh on my skin. The active ingredients are niacinamide and salicylic acid.
  4. Serum: I’m using Melano CC vitamin C essence (on my second tube). This serum had previously faded some of my scars, so I’ve been sticking with it. The active ingredient is ascorbic acid and it also has sun protection properties.
  5. Sunscreen: I’m actually rotating between three sunscreens now. Primarily, they don’t leave a white cast or tacky finish. I also think they’re quite moisturising (hence, I don’t have a moisturiser). Slight differences do lead them to be suited for different occasions. Without picking any favourites:
    • Biore UV aqua rich watery essence SPF50+ — I’ve been using this the longest, and it works. However, after trying out other sunscreens, I do think the alcohol scent in this sunscreen is strong. I use this when I head out for sports or exercise.
    • Beauty of Joseon rice + probiotics SPF50+ — This sunscreen is thicker and has an organic starchy scent but doesn’t leave a heavy application. It works fine for the average humidity but if I was heading somewhere cold and dry, I would bring this one.
    • Round Lab birch moisturising sunscreen SPF50+ — This sunscreen has a texture that lies somewhere between the first two. It also has a neutral cream scent. Generally an all-rounder sunscreen, though it does take longer to turn matte after application.

My night routine:

  1. Cleanser: Hada Labo’s hydrating cleanser / Rovectin skin essential conditioning cleanser
  2. Toner: isntree’s green tea fresh toner I primarily use a toner to moisturise before the next step.
  3. Retinoids: I’m using Differin gel with 0.1% adepelene. It can only be bought from the pharmacy, and is the most expensive product I’m using ($40) but also the most potent and active. The active ingredient, Adapelene, is a retinoid which boosts skin turnover rate, preventing breakouts and improved skin texture. It’s quite drying though, hence applied after the toner. I apply this every fortnite. It is effective though, and I think has produced the biggest improvement on skin quality over all the other products.
  4. Exfoliant: Cosrx’s BHA blackhead power liquid. On days I don’t use Differin, I use this instead along with serum.
  5. Serum: Cos de Baha tranexamic acid. I’m testing this as an alternative to vitamin C, so far I do see it fading some dark spots.

So that’s it. Skincare is highly personal, so this is more a guide on how to approach it, rather than a recommendation to follow~~