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Come Out! (With Your Skin Care)

Come Out! (With Your Skin Care) Mia Abelhammer!


Mia has what appears to be combination skin, which is oily in the T-zone and dry everywhere else. The climate she lives in is humid, which exacerbates the oily areas, while slightly relieving the dry ones. Fortunately, despite the constant humidity and oiliness, Mia only breaks out occasionally with whiteheads. However, she does have to deal with constant redness, especially when exercising, which indicates a thinner and more sensitive skin type. This is further evidenced by the fact that Mia’s skin is easily irritated by products containing strong fragrances and even various essential oils. All of this sensitivity may stem from the fact that Mia was diagnosed with eczema when she was younger, though she claims to not have symptomatic manifestations anymore.



  • Cleanser: Clean & Clear Morning Burst Facial Cleanser
  • Toner: 100% Witch Hazel
  • Moisturizer with SPF: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture, SPF 15
  • Eye Cream: Yes to Carrots Eye Cream


  • Cleanser: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash AND Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash
  • Toner: 100% Witch Hazel
  • Eye Cream: Yes to Carrots Eye Cream
  • Moisturizer: Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer
  • Acne Treatment: Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment


Unfortunately, this current routine is honestly, quite AWFUL! Especially considering how sensitive Mia’s skin is… Hello eczema! 😦 Let’s review these products by category.

Cleansers: All three of the cleansers contain large amounts of either menthol or menthol derivatives. Menthol, which is what gives the skin that tingling and cooling sensation, is one of the most irritating (measured by protein denaturation) ingredients found throughout all of skin care! While it does enhance penetration slightly (it’s less effective than say linalool, which is a commonly used fragrance that Mia is most likely sensitive to) it is very irritating! Irritation can lead to inflammation, which may aggravate acne, and inhibit skin barrier repair. Though these are only cleansers and therefore, not present on the skin for long periods of time, I can’t recommend them for Mia’s sensitive skin! Not to mention that all three cleansers (triple punch anyone?), contain this ingredient. Though two of the three cleansers contain salicylic acid, the duration that the cleanser stays on the skin will not allow for salicylic acid to penetrate into the skin all that much.

Toner: Witch hazel in itself, can be quite calming to the skin due to its catechin and flavonoid contents, which are families of antioxidants. However,depending on the person, it can also be quite irritating because of its essential oils and tannin contents. However, the main issue with this toner isn’t the witch hazel itself, but the carrier solvent that is used. Witch hazel, an essential oil, is not manufactured and prepared by itself. It needs some kind of carrier fluid, and in most cases, is ethanol, which is the alcohol that we consume. Ethanol as most people know, is very drying and with continued use, will definitely inflame the skin, especially when applied directly to the surface!

Moisturizers: The Neutrogena Moisturizer with SPF is a dull formulation that doesn’t contain any antioxidants, but more importantly, doesn’t provide UVA protection. I’d strongly recommend discontinuing use of this. The nighttime moisturizer, the Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer contains 0.5% salicylic acid in an appropriate pH solution or base. But once again, this contains a menthol derivative, menthyl lactate. Though some of the lactate may convert to lactic acid, since the pH is correct, the resulting menthol makes that potential benefit irrelevant.

Eye Cream: While the Yes to Carrots Eye Cream contains several ingredients that are great for dry skin, it’s packaged in a jar… As readers who are familiar with my blog know, I detest jar packaging. It allows for rapid oxidation of antioxidants and other ingredients; all you’re going to be left with are the base ingredients like stearic acid and cetearyl alcohol. While they are moisturizing, that’s the only function they serve, and Mia deserves better than that!

Acne treatment: The final product utilizes 2.5% benzoyl peroxide to address blemishes. And while the clay base can help dry out whiteheads, the benzoyl peroxide will do absolutely nothing for Mia’s breakouts. This is because, like I said in my second Temptalia post on the stages of acne (found here, which I recommend everyone to read), benzoyl peroxide is anti-bacterial and addresses papules, pustules, and cysts, not whiteheads, which are just sites of follicular congestion, where P. Acnes, the bacteria involved in inflammatory acne, is not yet present. Not to mention that that benzoyl peroxide in itself, is irritating.

Now, we’ve reviewed every product in detail and here are the end results:

  • Total number of products used: 8/8
  • Products with irritating ingredients (either menthol or benzoyl peroxide): 6/8
  • Products that don’t fulfill their purpose: 2/8. Arguably 1/8 because the eye cream does still moisturize the skin without adding irritation…

And what type of skin does Mia have? Very sensitive, with past bouts of eczema!


There isn’t much to discuss as it is evident that most of the problems are born out of the routine itself.


My goal is to calm and protect Mia’s skin while addressing the occasional whiteheads that pop up. The first step is to stop using everything from the above described routine. Then, we need to find appropriate alternatives that won’t break the bank; Mia describes herself as being very frugal!

First we need a cleanser. There are numerous cleansers from the drugstore such as the Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin. The Olay Foaming Face Wash for Sensitive Skin is a great option as well. The latter is also excellent for removing makeup, due to its glycerin and surfactant contents. It also contains aloe, which is a commonly used anti-irritant.

As for the toner, I’d suggest the Paula’s Choice CLEAR regular Strength Targeted Acne Relief Exfoliating Toner with 2% Salicylic Acid. Like I said in my second Temptalia post, salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory because it inhibits several prostaglandin pathways, and it also exfoliates the skin, which should reduce the number of whiteheads that Mia experiences. Because Mia has quite sensitive skin, I’d recommend using this during the daytime.

For a daytime moisturizer, like I said for Lisa and Jessica, I can’t know what kind of makeup is worn and what kind of properties are desired when choosing a sunscreen. Something with adequate UVA (think 3% avobenzone or > 5-7% zinc oxide) protection along with UVB protection (there are too many to name), would be fine. Some antioxidants would be very helpful as well. If Mia or anyone has questions about a specific sunscreen, please don’t hesitate to ask!

For the nighttime moisturizer, I’d recommend the Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment to be used every other night. I’ve been recommending this to all three of the people (Mia, Lisa, Jessica) whose routines I reviewed, because this is such an excellent product that can be used for virtually every skin type. It contains 5% glycolic acid, which will smooth the skin and thin the stratum corneum to allow for better penetration of everything else! I’ll also makes any foundation look that much better. This product also contains large amounts of palmitoyl oligopeptide, which in vitro, has been shown to stimulate collagen production, as well as ceramide 2, and many other beneficial ingredients. This product will be reviewed in my personal routine, as I love it!

On the nights that the above product isn’t used, I’d recommend the Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream. It’s a slightly thick formula that contains a low amount of retinol (probably around 0.01% to 0.1%), and similar amounts of green tea and vitamin E. The only reason why I’m not recommending a product with more retinol is because Mia’s skin is sensitive. Should Mia so desire, products from Paula’s Choice have higher amounts of retinol and are still comparatively affordable. Retinol will address acne and aging issues (they are briefly addressed in my second Temptalia post); a more detailed post on retinol and its relatives is already in the works! 

As for an eye cream… I’m not sure if one is absolutely necessary. I’m thinking this because Mia’s dry skin may be the result of all the irritating and drying products she’s been using. If she follows my advice, her dry areas may very well disappear as those ingredients aren’t being used to impair the skin barrier any longer. If however, Mia chooses to still use an eye cream, any well-formulated facial cream for dry skin will suffice beautifully! If Mia or anyone has any questions about a specific one,  once again please let me know!  

To summarize the recommendations, here’s what I’d like Mia’s updated routine to look like:


  • Cleanser: Olay or Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Wash for Sensitive Skin
  • Toner: Paula’s Choice CLEAR Regular Strength Toner
  • Moisturizer with SPF: Mia’s choice! 


  • Cleanser: Olay or Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Wash for Sensitive Skin
  • Toner: None
  • Moisturizer*: Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treament OR Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream

*Note that these two products need to be alternated every other night because retinol can’t be used with hydroxy acids; the latter will inactivate the former by denying retinol’s conversion to tretinoin.

The resulting facial routine is simple, but elegantly so! And the price won’t break the bank either. Mia states that her current routine sets her back about $100. This new routine, while containing more expensive but fewer products, is similarly priced: Cleanser = $5, toner = $20, moisturizers/treatments = $25, $15. $5 + $20 + $25 + $15 = $65$100$65 = $35 leftover for moisturizer with SPF and the optional eye cream! Looks pretty reasonable to me!

Like I said above, I think that if Mia chooses to follow my advice, she will see markedly smoother, more radiant, and less ruddy skin. And in the long run, the retinol and broad-spectrum sunscreen will go far to making her appear younger than those around her! And THAT’S something to cheer about!


I’d like to thank Mia for trusting me with her insecurities and with our help, she will be as Bobbi Brown quotes, “Pretty Powerful!”

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments down below. And if anyone would like for me to review his/her routine in a similar fashion, click here.

Like I’ve mentioned before in the Disclaimer, I am not a medical professional of any kind, so if you decide to follow my advise, do so knowing that you bear full responsibility.

About John

The Triple Helixian is an unbiased science and research-based site that attempts to clarify and elucidate questions about skin care, while aspiring to be the most thorough and complete source of information.


14 thoughts on “Come Out! (With Your Skin Care) Mia Abelhammer!

  1. Okay, wow, thanks John, for a second round of complete thorough analysis!

    Yes, I will definitely try this out…. I need a little time though. As John wrote in the original post, I am a frugal person, and in fact I have to be because I’m currently a college student who is very heavily in debt. I’ll need some time to get some $$ together to get all of the stuff. But it will happen. The only reason why I have one high-end product on my list (the Origins) was because it was a Christmas gift. Lolz.

    Oh yeah, John said in the original post he didn’t know what type of makeup I used – I actually don’t use any foundation, blush, bronzer, etc – no face makeup at all. I use concealer for my undereyes and eye makeup (eyeliner, mascara, primer, eyeshadow). That’s it! I went to the department store counters a few years ago, and all of the ladies there told me to not wear any foundation or whatever. They said my skin didn’t need it.

    The reason why I use two cleansers is really because of my self-consciousness: One of them by itself does not remove all of my oils, and I feel like my face is really oily (my T-zone) after just using one. So I use two to make sure all of it is gone. That’s the true reason.

    Another thing to ask – I wash (shampoo) my hair every night, because I break out along my forehead line in the morning if I don’t. I know this is really bad for me, but is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening without having to shampoo my hair every night? (Which is really bad for me, according to just about everyone. If it helps, I have long, straight, East Asian hair)

    Thanks for EVERYTHING!!! seriously! You’re amazing at this! I wish you could be my dermatologist =D


    Posted by Mia | March 6, 2012, 12:32 am
    • Thanks Mia! Of course, take your time. Nothing about skin care happens overnight. Make do with what you have until you can go forward. No rush. Even with my suggestions, it’s not like your skin would suddently become amazing. Though it sounds like your skin is already amazing enough not to have foundation. Lucky!

      As to the two cleanser reason, I think the new cleanser should remove most of the oil, and you can always just use more cleanser. Of course, it’s personal preference. If using two cleansers makes you feel better, go for it!

      As someone with short hair, I shampoo every night because it’s so easy and my shampoo is mild; I don’t use a clarifying shampoo or anything like that. If the breakouts are only limited to the forehead line, then just apply the Paula’s Choice Regular Strength Toner that I recommended a little bit higher than you normally would. Because of it’s toner or liquid vehicle, it shouldn’t leave any residue or stickiness to your hair. However, if you have acne all over your scalp… well, that’s a whole other story. You’d have to use something like special salicylic acid or ketaconazole treatments/mask. Let me know!

      And thank you once again! I hope my future patients are as gracious and appreciate as you are. 🙂

      Posted by John | March 6, 2012, 12:43 am
    • Oh, let me also say, that if you decide to use Paula’s Choice products and you suffer any negative effects, or if after a few weeks of use you find very little to no improvement, DEFINITELY email customer service about it and they will most likely give you a refund or exchange it if you think there’s a different one you want to try–they are pretty diligent about even responding to people who leave reviews. They have a nice return policy–they give you 60 days, so there should be enough time to try out the product and see if it works. You can just pack it up with the return slip, but I suggest contacting them first, just because they are usually quite helpful.

      Posted by Lisa | March 6, 2012, 5:27 am
    • Or just try samples–just make sure you get enough to give the product a chance to work.
      I’m not affiliated with Paula’s Choice either, just in case you were wondering. 🙂

      Posted by Lisa | March 6, 2012, 5:36 am
  2. Hi, I’m “Mia”. Thank you, John, for your very very thorough analysis! I’ve got to say I didn’t think of the irritation factor when I decided to use those products; I kinda had the mindset that “more is better.” Where do you get the Paula’s Choice stuff?

    P.S. The only thing I dislike about Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Wash for Sensitive Skin is because it has SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate). That stuff seriously irritates my skin. I think I’ll try the Olay Wash.

    This part is for Lisa:

    My skin routine has changed a bit from the last time I e-mailed John. Especially because I ran out of some of the products. Now, my routine is:

    Origins Checks & Balances Cleanser
    Clean & Clear Finishes Even Tone Cleanser
    Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture, SPF 15 (I looked at the back of the bottle, it has protection against UVA and UVB rays)
    Yes to Carrots Eye Cream

    Origins Checks & Balances Cleanser
    Clean & Clear Finishes Even Tone Cleanser
    DIY aspirin toner (basically a dissolved aspirin tablet immersed in 86% witch hazel and 14% alcohol)
    Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer
    Yes to Carrots Eye Cream

    After reading John’s posts, I understand why jar packaging is so bad. I’ll definitely try the products he recommended. I just gotta first finish my Yes To Carrots cream!

    Thanks again,

    Posted by Mia | March 4, 2012, 3:06 am
    • Hi Mia, thank you for responding! It’s so heartening to hear back from one of my reviewees! 🙂

      Okay I’m going to answer a few of your concerns and my concerns as well of course!

      Firstly, the Paula’s Choice products can only be found online at http://www.paulaschoice.com. They often have sales, so check frequently. And I’m only recommending a lot of PC products because they’re very affordable, while retaining an excellent group of products! I mean Estee Lauder has equally great products more or less, but products from that brand cost… well a lot more.

      Now, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a bit different from sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), so I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. SLES is always known as sodium lauryl ether sulfate. Basically, the difference is that SLES goes through a process called ethoxylation, while SLS does not. The result is that SLES has a larger “head,” which gives it a less potent ability to remove sebum and denature stratum corneum (SC) proteins, which is one of the markers for irritation. It might still be too potent for you, but just letting you know the facts first!

      Also, I know you didn’t ask me to review your updated routine, but I’m going to address some things anyways. Lol!

      I still don’t understand why someone who has so sensitive skin requires two cleansers both day AND night. You really don’t need to cleanse your face twice! And if you do, I’d suggest using one cleanser twice: the C & C cleanser is preferred over the Origins one because the latter is quite alkaline (like bar soap) and contains the lavender, spearmint (which contains menthol…), and geranium essential oils, which (in the amounts present0 will most likely cause irritation.

      As to the Neutrogena Oil Free SPF 15 Moisturizer, I just checked on the official Neutrogena website, and the claims do include one stating that it provides both UVA and UVB protection. It’s lying though! I checked the ingredients, which are also listed on the website, and it only contains oxtinoxate, octisalate, and oxybenzone, none of which provide ANY UVA PROTECTION! The only chemical sunscreen that protects against UVA rays is avobenzone! Trust me, I’m not trying to trick you. My original advice still stands!

      As to the DIY aspirin toner… aspirin can be quite anti-inflammatory because of its similarites to salicylic acid; it works to inhibit several prostaglandin pathways. However, like I said in the original review, witch hazel and alcohol really are not necessary and are in fact irritating! I can’t stress how important you and everyone needs to avoid irritation because years down the road, it will have permanent physical manifestations!

      I’ve already addressed the Dual Action Moisturizer as well.

      I know you don’t know me, but I so strongly recommend you to try the suggested products at least once before going back to the old routine, just to see what happens. I promise you won’t regret it.

      Once again, thank you Mia for allowing me the chance to give you additional information. As always, I’ll be here in the future! 🙂

      Posted by John | March 4, 2012, 10:36 am
    • I would really suggest you try John’s full recommendations. It can’t hurt (unless, I suppose, you are really allergic to something in one of the products–and even then, you just have to find an alternative). I don’t claim to have perfect skin, but I don’t have any major problems–my only issue is blackheads on my nose and an occasional zit. However, since I have started being more careful–reading ingredient lists and using Paula’s Choice skincare (mostly), I have had even less issues wtih my skin and have gotten quite a few compliments about how good my skin looks. John’s analysis is thoughtful and carefully supported with scientifi evidence. So please give it a try!

      Posted by Lisa | March 5, 2012, 12:02 pm
  3. I am eager to hear how this works for Mia, and what she ends up using. I have normal-to-oily skin and witch hazel is just too irritating and drying, whereas Paula’s Choice toners give me most of the moisture I need.

    Posted by Lisa | February 27, 2012, 3:57 am

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