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For 2020, I’ve Learned from My Mistakes & I’m Switching Up My Approach to Skincare


For 2020, I’ve Learned from My Mistakes & I’m Switching Up My Approach to Skincare
Leo Louie
Leo Louie

Jan 24, 2020

For even the most experienced of us, skincare is a never-ending journey of discovery, lessons, and trial-and-error. So for 2020, one skincare professional is adjusting his approach to skincare after learning some hard lessons last year (hello, over-exfoliation!).


I’ve fallen into a sort of a yearly rhythm when it comes to planning out my skincare: Holiday season approaches, I scope out the sales, and I get a spreadsheet together compiling how I want to approach my skincare for the year, what products I want to try, what types of products I’m interested in, etc. I understand that can be way too intense for a lot of people, but as this is very much a hobby for me, I find a weird sense of joy and fun when I have 12 different tabs open to different company websites, reviewing videos and blog posts talking about all the options I have for the year.


It’s also interesting for me to look back at the spreadsheets from previous years because I can see how much my interests and philosophies surrounding skincare have changed. And honestly, the tail end of 2018 and early 2019, I went wayyy too hard with the active ingredients. I had more than a few instances of texting my friend (@Jude in particular) about how I over-exfoliated my skin this time around, and the number of different retinoid products I tried was concerning to say the least.



approach to skincare
istock/Sofia Zhuravets



After figuratively, and almost quite literally, being burned by my skincare choices in 2019, I definitely felt the need to switch up the gears for the new year and decade. The ideas I’m moving forward with are completely new concepts to me, and I think they are helping my skin be healthier after just a few weeks of adopting my “new year, new me” skincare routine. So here’s how I’m switching up my approach to skincare for 2020.



Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should


There’s a few “races” going on in skincare at the moment that I’m seeing in the industry, but one of the major ones that has been ramping up over the last three or four years, and shows no signs of slowing down, is the aggressive nature of acid exfoliants. It doesn’t really matter if we’re talking about toners, serums, or masks that are supposed to exfoliate your skin; the percentages just keep getting higher, the pHs keep getting lower, and it’s getting insane, y’all. I understand everyone’s skin is different, but just because someone’s skin is capable of handling a 10% lactic acid solution with a super low pH on a nightly basis doesn’t mean it’s a great idea.


When we’re talking about skincare, we’re often talking about cumulative effects of products over several weeks to several months before we see true results. I could go run a 5k every morning on the hiking trail near my home, but my lower back and knees will protest if I keep pushing it. Much in the same way, going super hard with acid products can cause irritation and sensitivity over weeks and months of usage, even if the introduction period of said product is super smooth.





All of this is to say, I’m dialing things way back in regards to percentages and concentration of these active ingredients. I really have little interest in seeing if my skin can “take on” more aggressive products because constantly putting my skin through the gauntlet over this past year definitely did more bad than good over long stretches of time. Just because I use something and it doesn’t give me trouble for a few weeks doesn’t mean I will then be searching for something stronger or try to dial up my usage. Slow and steady may not win the race, but it certainly minimizes the risk of red, irritated, flaky skin.


Less is more, when it’s more


Hand in hand with what I discussed above, I’ve also decided that using these lower percentage, gentler ingredients on a more frequent basis is how I want to move forward with keeping my skin healthy and encourage a clear, vibrant complexion. I don’t know how I got myself into this rhythm, but I spent a long time trying to find more concentrated formulas in all my acids and retinoids and then spreading them throughout the week rather than using something on a daily basis.


For example, I hopped on to the retinoid train this year, but I found myself in a space where I wanted to find these next-gen, potent retinoids and to only use them a few times a week. I think my thought process was that I wanted to incorporate them as a preventative step as I’m moving out of my 20s very soon, but I realized that I was legit nervous about using a retinoid more than three or four times a week because I was somehow going to “use up the number of times my skin can turn over” due to some videos I had watched and blog posts that I read.





When it really comes down to it, I was operating out of fear, and that’s not something any of us need to do when it comes to our skincare. (Unless we’re talking about sunscreen, and then I, jokingly, don’t mind a bit of fear pushing us to minimize our chances of skin cancer, lol.) Gentler but more often is my cornerstone approaching active ingredients this year, and I can say that making a swap from my super low pH, very aggressive acid toner that has around a 1 percent acid concentration to a middling to higher pH on a daily basis has been a great change for me.


My skin feels just as soft, and while honestly, I have noticed my pores have been a bit more congested than usual, I’d rather keep on this train for the time being to truly see if I need a more “aggressive” product to address my concerns, or if it’s just going to take more to get where I would like. I may swap out for a slightly stronger product after a few months of my current usage, but I certainly won’t be doing what I would’ve done in the past and changing things immediately to a stronger exfoliant. No ma’am.


I just don’t like it


I spent a lot of 2019 trying to force myself to like products because they were popular on the internet or I really aligned with the founders of the brands. I have a big soft spot for indie brand owners as someone who was raised by people who owned their own businesses, and I want those kinds of people to succeed. I also have a big soft spot for brands run by people with products backed by experience and transparency, and you can clearly see there’s a lot of personal investment and passion behind the products they create. It’s a very refreshing change from a hyper corporatized rollout from a huge company. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some of those products too, but indie brands have my heart.



approach to skincare
Holy Snails



Indie brands really have had a bigger spotlight in 2019, and in my desire to try new products and support these business owners, I dipped toes in a few different pools with the highly revered “hero” products from these respective brands, many of which I loved as much as I hoped I would. (Shoutout to Holy Snails Shark Sauce as one of the best brightening serums in the game.) Other times, I have had quite the opposite experience.


There are, of course, times when a product just doesn’t perform the way that we are expecting them to, and experimentation with application can absolutely make a huge difference (the way that I apply hydrating serums now as opposed to the beginning of last year is totally different), but there are also times when I just flat out don’t like the experience of using something. I don’t care how great the benefits of using a particular product are when there’s something about it that inherently hinders me from enjoying using it.


I hate oils in dropper style bottles that you have to invert to dispense the product. They’re messy and don’t work for me. I absolutely hate the combination of orange and chocolate (all I can picture are those nasty chocolate oranges that are always around during Valentine’s Day), so if a cream or mask is beautiful, but it has cacao and neroli in it, it’s a no-go for me. It doesn’t matter if the product itself is great or not, I just don’t want to use it, and I’m going to stop the cycle of forcing myself to reuse, and in some cases repurchasing (I know, what is my issue, lol) products that I simply just don’t enjoy using. I always talk about how skincare really is more for fun and enjoyment, so it’s time I walk the walk.


Where are y’all headed with your approach to skincare in 2020? Any new products that you’re wanting to try or skincare techniques or philosophies that have piqued your interest? Sound off below, and I hope y’all have a great week. :)




Leo Louie
Leo Louie

Born in Korea and raised in Washington, Leo is another 20-something member of the K-Beauty Squad that is as committed to his love of skincare as he is to wine and cheese covered snack foods. After working as an educator and trainer in the beauty industry, he joined the team at Beautytap to continue sharing his knowledge and passion for skincare and all things chok-chok. During his free time, he’s been spotted in the wild bingeing Netflix shows, blasting K-pop while playing video games, or (much more rarely) leaving his hovel to venture forth in search of cocktails and Korean BBQ.



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