My skincare routine for combination skin (hormonal & fungal acne-prone)

natural non-toxic vegan cruelty-free skincare routine for combination acne-prone skin

As you may know, I’ve been struggling with hormonal acne ever since I got my IUD. And in the past year, I’ve tried so many products to try and tame the hot mess that is my face, mostly to no avail.

But I’m happy to report that although my skin isn’t completely clear, I actually have a better relationship with my skin than ever before. Desperate to figure out how to return to the good old days of clear skin, I’ve been forced to get to know my skin better. I’ve learned what triggers my acne and what the condition of my skin says about my general health. And I’m much more mindful of what I put on my face as well as what I put in my body.

Here’s the lowdown on my current skincare routine! In conjunction with eating less sugar and dairy, I’ve found that my skin is generally happier (and clearer!!) with this routine. In case you’d like to try out any of these products, I’ve included some discount codes/links at the bottom of the post!

Update (7/25/18): Since writing this post, my acne still flares up (besides a magical 3 weeks when I was on Whole30 and my skin was actually very clear…but that diet was too restrictive for me). I’ve updated this post with new products that have helped, but for me, I think the only way to completely clear up my skin is to take my IUD out. More on that later, but I am considering other birth control options because unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that my acne is going away with time.

Note: The items from Derive Botanicals were gifted to me by the company in exchange for an honest review. I have provided an honest review of the products, but unfortunately, my partnership with the brand ended in a way that really hurt me. If you would like to read more about this, I’ve opened up about the situation at the end of this post.

The situation (aka what’s going on with my face)

My skin type is combination oily and normal or dry depending on the weather (I know, lucky me—the best of both worlds). I have frequent breakouts on my forehead and around my hairline, where my skin gets oily, and I also less frequently get breakouts on my jawline, chin, and least frequently around my nose and on my cheeks.

Okay, so I JUST discovered that the “acne” on my forehead isn’t acne at all, which is caused by bacteria, but fungal acne. Fungal acne is characterized by tiny, uniform bumps that look like whiteheads, may be itchy, and usually affect hair follicles. I’ve been having these all over my forehead and hairline since getting my IUD, and noticed that they didn’t seem like regular pimples, but had no idea at the time that fungal acne was a thing. Apparently, fungal acne can just happen in areas that get oily, and getting an IUD was like flipping a switch that turned my skin type from super dry to super oily. Basically, my IUD gave me a yeast infection…on my face.

This COMPLETELY blew my mind, but it finally all makes sense why nothing I’ve tried before has worked. And, it makes sense why my current routine does! I’ve been using a toner that contains tea tree, which has antifungal properties. Wow, science.

My skincare routine

When it comes to skincare, I try to stay away from trends; instead, I pick the products I use based on their ingredients (and of course, I try my best to go vegan and cruelty-free). Every product I use has ingredients that serve a purpose for my specific skin problems and I also try to stay away from toxins and unnecessary stuff that could irritate my skin, like fragrances.

I’ve created my current skincare routine to naturally nourish and heal my skin while preventing breakouts. All of the products I use are non-toxic and do not contain ingredients that irritate my skin or clog my pores.

I’ve been using this routine for about a month, and combined with lifestyle changes like cutting down on my consumption of dairy and sugar, my skin is definitely clearing up and healing! Thanks to a lot of trial and error and a bit of luck (bless u, tea tree oil), my skin is the clearest it’s been since before getting this godforsaken IUD.

Without further ado, here’s my routine!

Morning:

natural non-toxic vegan cruelty-free morning skincare routine for combination acne-prone skin

Cleanse: Peet Rivko Gentle Cleanser

This is an all-natural, milky/gel textured cleanser that doesn’t dry out my skin (review).

Update: I now use Farmacy’s Clean Bee cleanser, which contains honey—another powerful anti-fungal ingredient! It’s a gentle, non-drying foaming cleanser that even my boyfriend loves and steals sometimes.

Tone: Derive Botanicals Witch Hazel and Ylang Ylang Hydrosol

Witch hazel naturally shrinks your pores and controls oil while ylang ylang soothes and moisturizes.

Hydrate: Derive Botanicals Tea Tree Hyrosol, mixed with Camellia Seed Oil

The tea tree water-based toner has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to help prevent breakouts, while camellia seed oil is a “dry” oil that absorb quickly into the skin without leaving a greasy residue.

I mix the tea tree hydrosol with the camellia seed oil and apply all over my face. Mixing the oils with the hydrosol also helps the oils absorb more quickly, because oils absorb better into wet skin.

Camellia seed oil naturally contains squalane, which closely resembles your skin’s natural oils and “tells” your skin to produce less sebum. Squalane is also great for treating fungal acne because it’s one of the few oils that doesn’t “feed” the fungus. I’ve also tried The Ordinary’s 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Oil, which is pretty much the same thing, and thought it was a great deal at the price.

Night:

natural non-toxic vegan cruelty-free night skincare routine for combination acne-prone skin

Cleanse: Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil, followed by Peet Rivko Gentle Cleanser Farmacy Clean Bee cleanser

I cleanse first with my Biossance Cleansing Oil, which I just rub onto my dry face and rinse it off to remove makeup or anything else on my face. It easily removes even waterproof makeup without drying my skin. I follow this up with my Farmacy cleanser and rinse to double cleanse. Double cleansing also helps remove sunscreen and other dirt or bacteria that might find its way onto your face during the day. Using two gentle cleansers can be more effective and easier on your skin than using one harsher cleanser that may dry your skin out.

Tone: Derive Botanicals Witch Hazel and Ylang Ylang Hydrosol

Hydrate: Derive Botanicals Papaya Leaf Complexion Perfecting Spray, mixed with Camellia Seed Oil

Papaya naturally contains an enzyme which acts as an exfoliant to gently remove dry skin and bacteria, and helps reduce hyperpigmentation and acne scars over time. With active breakouts, it’s better to use a chemical exfoliant such as fruit enzymes rather than a physical exfoliant such as salt, sugar, or other large physical particles that can actually tear your skin and cause more breakouts.

I use this the same way I use the tea tree hydrosol and oil in the morning (mixing in my palm and patting on my face).

You may notice that I skip moisturizer, and that’s because I find oils hydrating enough that moisturizer isn’t necessary for me (although I’m currently looking for a sunscreen that won’t break me out, because the sun has returned from its three-month hiatus here in Seattle!).

Update: I love my COOLA sunscreen! More info here.

Masks: Farmacy Honey Potion mask and 100% Pure Anti-Acne Sheet Masks

Farmacy’s Honey Potion mask is a wonderfully hydrating mask that I use 2-3 times a week. It comes in the cutest little jar and I love the tingly feeling when you apply it. I like that it hydrates without breaking me out.

100% Pure’s Anti-Acne Sheet Masks are AMAZING! They instantly reduce inflammation and redness, so you get the instant gratification of seeing clearer skin the next morning. I use these about once a week. They’re made of sustainable bamboo so I feel a little less guilty about the waste of using sheet masks.


If you’d like to try Derive Botanicals, you can use code ‘DERIVE20/R’ for 20% off all individual items, or ’70FREEOIL’ for a free oil of choice with your purchase of $70 of individual items (excludes sets).

I know this was a ton of info, but hopefully this gives you some ideas for lifestyle changes and skincare products you can try if you have similar skin problems.

If you’ve been struggling with acne, too, let me know what has helped!

Other discounts: 

Get $15 off at Biossance

Disclosure: I was gifted product in exchange for an honest review and this post may contain affiliate links. No amount of money or product is worth more than my relationship with you, and I strive to provide transparent and honest content.


Addendum (on collabs going south & cultivating trust with brands):

I debated for a long time about what to say, or if I should say anything when a brand collaboration goes wrong. It’s not my intention to publicly blast anyone, but it doesn’t seem right to me that I feel like I have to hide my negative experiences with brands. Ultimately, this is my little corner of the Internet, and I want to be able to share stuff with you all (even the ugly!).

I met one of the owners/founders of Derive at the Waikiki Farmer’s Market while I was on vacation in Hawaii. I grabbed a business card and looked them up later, and loved their natural, non-toxic approach to skincare. I felt that we could be creatively aligned and contacted them offering a review in exchange for product. I don’t normally solicit unpaid collaborations, but I knew they were a new, small company and wanted to support their business (as you know, I love supporting small businesses).

They responded enthusiastically and sent me their full product range for review, which I agreed to do for product. They also wanted to do a paid collaboration, including a giveaway, and agreed to my rates.

When we discussed the giveaway, I suggested having fewer requirements to encourage more entries.

A week passed before they responded, abruptly canceling the giveaway and other sponsored content. I asked why they were backing out of a partnership we’d agreed upon, and told them I had already done the work for the collaboration.

I got a long response back that essentially said they didn’t appreciate me “shutting down” their giveaway ideas, along with some other accusations, including that I “obviously didn’t want to work with them” because I had initially only wanted to do a review in exchange for product (in my original pitch, I said I had wanted to work with them regardless of whether they had marketing budget to pay me or not, so I found this statement particularly hurtful).

Hoping to clear up any potential miscommunications, I responded saying that I did not mean to offend them in any way, and had only offered my suggestions based on what I had thought would benefit their business the most. I also said that I wished they had voiced their concerns rather than cancelling our collaboration without any explanation.

No response.

Nevertheless, I’m upholding my end of the deal and posting this review with their discount codes because I do appreciate that they sent me their products, and that their products have helped me.

Honestly, though, this whole situation nearly broke my heart. I was so excited to work with this company and wanted to support their small business. I thought they really valued my work, too, since they were so generous with sending me their entire line and initiated a paid collaboration even though I only asked for product.

In the past couple of months, the wholesome and respectful exchange I had with this company sustained me whenever I got annoying e-mails from other brands asking for free labor. When all of this broke down and ended in a long, passive aggressive e-mail that completely disregarded the value of my work and pretty much blamed me for everything that went wrong, that kind of crushed something inside of me.

I try so hard to support businesses that I think are doing commendable things, that are changing the industry for the better. I give discounted rates to small businesses. I write glowing reviews and put long hours into creating beautiful and well-written content. I probably work just as much on my blog as I do at my full-time day job. So, yeah, it was crushing to have all of my effort and hard work thrown in my face.

I guess it is, in the end, a learning experience; it’s never a bad thing to be reminded that clear and close communication is key to a successful working relationship and it’s something I can improve on myself.

I’m not sharing this to dissuade you from buying their products (I do believe they are good products), but I feel like these issues aren’t discussed enough within the blogging community and perhaps within businesses. How do we work towards better, truly collaborative and trusting relationships between brands and influencers?

For now, I’m stepping back a little and working with fewer brands. I want to make sure that I can take the time to nurture beneficial relationships with each brand that I do work with. I want to make sure they’re brands I can trust, and that you can trust.

If you’ve read this through, thanks for taking the time and caring about me beyond my “content.” I totally did not intend to turn this post into an impromptu diary entry, but like I said, it’s my little corner of the Internet. As always, thanks for coming by.

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4 thoughts on “My skincare routine for combination skin (hormonal & fungal acne-prone)”

  • Appreciate your transparency…and your good character for still offering an unbiased review. I love reading your posts, so don’t let that dampen your hard work and enthusiasm! Btw, I have the Mirena as well. Instead of face acne, mine arrived as bacne…UGH!! Salicylic acid has been helping, but it still flares up occasionally. My back used to be one of my favorite parts of my body. Not so much anymore. I am getting a new IUD next month called Liletta. We’ll see if anything changes. Good luck to you!

    • Thanks so much for your support, Heidi. I care way too much about this blog and my readers to not share something that might still help you, and their products really did help me. Ugh, I totally feel your pain! Good luck with your new IUD! I’m sticking it out with mine for now since it seems like my acne is clearing up, but I’ve been sooo tempted to get it removed.

  • The IUD skin is so real! With my Mirena, I’ve had worse chin and upper back breakouts than I ever did in high school. I’m currently in the purging (read extra awful skin) stage of a new routine, but fingers crossed that it works out.

    • The Mirena is the worst! Good luck with your new skincare routine. I know how tough it is to wait and see if it works 🙁

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