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Welcome back!

Hello everyone!

http://www.db18.com/graphics/hugs/I know I’ve been away for a very long time, and I apologize for that. While I’m not sure if I’m ready to come back in full force–I need to ease back into this slowly, I realize now that it was wrong of me to cut myself off from you guys.

But now that we’re here, let’s move on together. So the most common question has been about the status of my Ideal Routine guide. It likely won’t be completed any time soon. I’m pretty sure I’d just relapse back into inactivity. Lol listen to me… I sound like a drug addict or at least someone who’s afraid. Okay I am.

Still, I was wondering if you guys would like to see at least the Cleanser and Toners portions of the guide (as they have already been written), just to get a taste of what’s coming WAY down the road haha. However, please note that that some of the stuff that I discuss in the Cleansers and Toners posts may not make complete sense, because they refer to information that I plan to discuss in subsequent posts, as I had planned on publishing the entire guide within the time frame of one month.

Also, I had planned two major giveaways to coincide with the release of both the Ideal Skin Care Routine and Sun Protection Guides. I’ll most likely host them now as a thank you to you guys for sticking with me for such a long time. Also, the products are just sitting in my room. While all of them have been properly sanitized or have are unopened, all products do have a certain shelf-life…

What do you guys think I should do? Feel free to let me know your thoughts on any of these topics. Fingers-crossed that this is the start of a new journey for all of us!

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.


50 thoughts on “Welcome back!

  1. I’m very glad you have returned to your blog. I missed you.

    Posted by Rosa Lee Merz | May 25, 2014, 12:14 am
  2. Sooo when will it be posted?

    Posted by Hannah | May 15, 2014, 9:53 pm
    • I’ll start publishing them this weekend (maybe even tonight), and have the multi-page cleanser and toner series continue to roll out throughout next two weeks. I’m doing this just so you guys don’t get like 10 notifications at once, and have time to absorb each post. Unless… you guys were prefer to get everything at once?

      Posted by John | May 16, 2014, 4:33 pm
  3. I’ve just recently discovered your blog and have found it very helpful. I do have a particular question I would appreciate your expertise on. Before going to work, I’m putting on a homemade 2%-niacinamide 2%-NAG moisturizer. When I come home from work, I cleanse my face and apply a 1% adapalene cream. Four or five hours later, before going to bed, I cleanse my face and apply a 2.5% BP cream followed by the moisturizer. I feel that I get benefit from this regimen, but I want to be sure I’m getting the most out of it. I guess the question comes down to how long adapalene and BP each continue to work after application. Would I get more benefit if I applied the BP after work and the adapalene at bedtime?

    Thanks for any advice you might have for me!

    Posted by Paul | May 14, 2014, 6:57 pm
    • Welcome Paul! We’re glad to have you in our community. I’m flattered that you respect my scribbling. 😉

      As for your routine, I personally like a to recommend a more traditional daytime and evening routine. It standardizes and streamlines things. However, if you are satisfied with the results you’re getting with your current routine, you don’t have to change it. In terms of efficacy, the 4-5 hours is likely sufficient for the adapalene to do its work. You don’t have to worry about how long it takes adapalene and BP to work, so long as they’re on the skin for at least a few hours. But I do have a few questions though:

      Do you cleanse your skin before applying the homemade moisturizer? Also, are you wearing sunscreen? Which one? Are you applying enough?

      I think you mean .1% adapalene, right? Because I don’t think 1% exists, and it’d be incredibly irritating!

      What moisturizer are you using after the BP cream?

      Like I said above, while your current routine is fine, I would personally recommend a routine closer to this:

      Day: Cleanse > Spot Treat with BP > Apply the moisturizer that you’ve been using in the evening after BP (assuming that it has documented antioxidants) > Sunscreen
      Evening: Cleanse > Adapalene > Homemade Moisturizer.

      I’d prefer this routine because one, you don’t need to apply BP all over the face, unless that’s the only way you’re preventing breakouts. BP generates free radicals and I’d prefer if it is only applied where its needed. Two, retinoids work very well with niacinamide, which is why I recommend pairing the homemade moisturizer with the adapalene cream. Plus niacinamide isn’t particular photoprotective, which is what you want during the day time to enhance the overall sun protection. This is why I assumed that you’ll use an antioxidant-rich moisturizer during the day time.

      Let me know if that helps and keep me updated! And once again, welcome!

      Posted by John | May 16, 2014, 4:31 pm
      • Thanks so much! I’ll give this a shot!


        Posted by Paul | May 20, 2014, 8:27 am
      • I’ve been alternating between the Acne.org liquid cleanser and the Aveeno Clear Complexion Cleansing bar. (After reading your recent cleansers article, I may well give up the Aveeno bar once it’s gone.) I’m 53 and have had acne since I was 12. It’s not so severe now as it was in my teens and 20s, but I do get pop-ups primarily on and around my nose and on my upper lip and chin.

        I’ve been reluctant to slather my face with BP as the Acne.org site recommends because of the free radical issue you mentioned in your reply to me. I want to control my acne, but I also want my face to heal somewhat from the decades of acne and acne treatments that have gone before. That includes reducing the scarring and discoloration that have developed over the years.

        Forgive the jumping around! Because I tend to be oily, I cleanse my face about four times a day: morning, lunch, after work, and before bed. I then dab a 2% salicylic acid pad on my most acne-prone areas (nose, mostly) and where any active pimples are. Following your advice, I will now spot treat with BP in the morning.

        I somewhat reluctantly use the Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen SPF 30 – and am not regular with it. I’m rarely outdoors during the day and when I am, it’s only for a short time. Plus, the pasty white pallor that sunscreens give me is not appealing. Will look into the products you recommended on FutureDerm a while back.

        The recipe I found for the moisturizer I use is:

        2 oz pure aloe vera gel
        2 oz distilled water
        2500 mg niacinamide
        2500 mg N-acetyl glucosamine

        I get the niacinamide and NAG from BulkActives.com. If there are particular antioxidants that you think I should add to the recipe, let me know and I can do that.

        By the way, John, I’m not sure exactly how you earn your living, but you do a great service with this blog and your individual attention to the people who write to you. If you want to go to med school and become a dermatologist, you might consider crowd-funding to help raise the money to do just that!

        Thanks again for your thoughts and advice!


        Posted by Paul | May 20, 2014, 9:29 am
        • Well, the Aveeno bar cleanser is actually a syndet bar, not a true soap. (Note that its salicylic acid content will not do anything for your skin as the pH of the product is not low enough). You just have to decide which one cleanser you prefer. You can try washing one side of your face with one cleanser, and the opposite side with the other product to really see if there’s a difference. Now, washing your face four times a day is definitely not doing your skin any favors. I’ll be discussing what over-cleansing does to your skin in the rest of the Cleansers series that I’m publishing; but basically, you’re damaging your skin’s natural ability to protect and repair itself. This can lead to increased dryness (superficially), increased oil production, redness, irritation, among other things.

          And I get that you don’t wear sunscreen when indoors. I too, don’t wear sunscreen when I’m indoors because I close all my curtains, etc.. And there are no sources of UV light around me. At work, there are also no windows near me. (phew). So as long as you aren’t around windows, etc… you do not have to wear sunscreen when indoors. This brings me to my next point. Because you’re so oily, try just blotting your face with a tissue paper or napkin throughout the day, instead of washing your face again and again. You can also use a moisturizer that has a built in matte-finish that will also helps to absorb oil. Clinique makes a good one. It’s called the Universal Superprimer. It has some good antioxidants in it, though nothing spectacular. But for the price, it’s quite excellent. I’d imagine that you’d like that product a lot. I know it seems a bit expensive ($27 for 1 oz), and may be out of your comfort zone, but I’d really recommend that you go to a department store and at least ask for a sample.

          But other than these additional recommendations, stick to the first routine that I recommended for a few weeks at least. See how your skin responds. And do wash your face only twice per day.

          As for my work, I’m feel like I’m sort of at a point in my life that it’s too late to become a dermatologist. My rationalization is that yes, it’s too late; but also that I can do more good (in a numbers sort of sense) pursuing another career choice. But taking your advice, I actually put up a PayPal donation button! I also took away the advertisements because they really are quite distracting. I didn’t realize how so until I saw that EVERY photo has an ad. I mean, seriously?! But yeah, this changes nothing in terms of what I do here. It’s just another way for readers to say thanks. 🙂

          I hope that helps and please keep me updated on your situation!

          Posted by John | May 21, 2014, 8:49 pm
          • Thanks for this, John!

            Beginning tomorrow, I’ll definitely make the effort to refrain from over-washing! I already feel good about cutting the BP back to once-daily spot treatments.

            The info on the SA in the Aveeno bar is interesting. Is dabbing problem areas with a 2% SA Stridex pad between cleansing and treating with BP or adapalene also ineffectual? Is it better to get one’s SA in a moisturizer?

            I’m glad you now accept PayPal donations. Friday is payday, and I plan to express a little monetary gratitude to you (though not nearly enough for the expertise you’ve already shared with me).


            Posted by Paul | May 21, 2014, 9:35 pm
            • You’re welcome, Paul!

              While you can use SA with BP and adapalene, I’d recommend that for the time being, let’s keep the SA pads out of your routine. You’re already using BP and adapalene, and we want to help calm your skin down, while still treating the acne. We can always reintroduce SA in the future. And note that where you get your SA from does not make that big of a difference, so long as it is comes from a leave-on product.

              Now, let’s see if I can remember this correctly. Your routine should look like this, assuming that you stay indoors:

              Morning: Cleanse. Spot treat with BP. Apply Clinique moisturizer (You can reverse the order and spot treat after, depending on what you prefer).

              Throughout the day, just blot the skin. Don’t cleanse again.

              Evening: Cleanse. Apply adapalene. Apply the homemade moisturizer.

              As for your donation, you really don’t have to do that! You only just joined our community. I mean, you don’t really know me. For all you know, I could be some insane psycho that’s manipulating my readers to do crazy stuff to their skin! Okay, maybe I’m not THAT bad. 😉 But really, the satisfaction I get from seeing everyone improve is enough! 🙂

              Posted by John | May 22, 2014, 12:46 am
  4. When I saw that you had made a post, I literally squealed. I’ve been reading your blog for some time, but never actively commented, but this momentous occasion prompted my participation. Welcome back! Please excuse me if I become a blubbering mess as I beg you to never leave me again.

    Posted by Cindy | April 28, 2014, 9:59 pm
    • LOL thank you! I’m flattered to be part of this moment. I’m super glad to have you with us, and please, feel free to comment on any topic. 😉

      Posted by John | April 29, 2014, 4:23 pm
      • I actually did want to ask you about your retinol metabolism post. When you say that vitamin C needs a pH of < 3.5 and that level of acidity doesn't allow for optimal conversion of retinol to its intermediates and ultimately to tretinoin, does that mean that retinol products which contain vitamin c are ineffective? I was contemplating purchasing PC's skin recovery antioxidant serum with retinol, as I want to introduce some retinol to my skin regime, but if the product will be ineffective due to the combination will render both ingredients less effective, than I'd rather stick to the regular super antioxidant serum.

        Additionally, do you have to wait any amount of time after applying a glycolic acid serum [such as the olay regenerist night resurfacing elixir] and a vitamin c serum, or the super antioxidant serum? What I've been doing recently is applying my olay AHA product, then waiting for it to dry [approximately 5 or so mins] and then mixing the PC super antioxidant serum with the PC C15 booster, and applying that combination to my face/neck/chest. Does doing so render any of the key ingredients in any of those products less effective?

        Posted by Cindy | April 30, 2014, 2:24 pm
        • Hey Cindy,

          The key word is in the second sentence: “optimal.” Products with both retinol and vitamin C, which are rare, can certainly still be effective. However, it may not be as effective as using the ingredients separately, as there are better ingredient “combos.” As for your question about the PC retinol product, you don’t have to worry about the vitamin C and retinol interacting because the vitamin C is not in its water-soluble form or L-ascorbic acid. It’s present as a derivative of vitamin C, which doesn’t have the pH issue. I personally find that product ineffective not because of any potential “combo” of ingredients, but rather because the retinol content is very low (by my estimates), almost too low. There’s also the issue of the non-aqueous delivery system.

          As for using vitamin C (that uses actual L-ascorbic acid, not a derivative) with glycolic acid, you can certainly do that. Just be careful because using the two together at once may be too irritating. If it’s not, go for it!

          Posted by John | May 2, 2014, 6:08 pm
          • Thanks! That helped a lot, it certainly clarified the worries I’d been having about purchasing the product. And yes I have read that many people think the retinol content in the skin recovery serum is so small as to be negligible, I suppose your concurrence simply cements that speculation. I suppose I’ll just keep searching for a good topical retinol product that won’t make me cry over my empty wallet.

            I’ve found actually that using the glycolic and vitamin C products in tandem have not been irritating at all! I suppose my skin isn’t that sensitive? In any case I’ll continue employing that routine, I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect but I feel as if my skin has been brighter since I incorporated that skin care combination into my regime.

            Again, thanks so much for taking the time to respond to the comments on your blog! Your replies are always so well thought out and precise, it’s such a treat reading them. It can’t be easy to maintain both this blog and your personal life at the same time, at least, I know I probably couldn’t do it, haha! You’re awesome.

            Posted by Cindy | May 2, 2014, 6:24 pm
            • You’re welcome! I’m not saying that PC retinol product can’t be effective, I just find that there are much better products available. Plus, I only recommend retinol products that reveal the % of retinol, because we all know how hard it is to estimate concentration based solely on the ingredient list.

              I’m glad to hear that you can use glycolic acid and L-ascorbic acid together! They certainly can enhance the efficacies of both ingredients. Glycolic acid thins the stratum corneum, which allows more vitamin C to penetrate into the skin. 🙂

              Posted by John | May 4, 2014, 8:14 pm
              • John, you coming back is music to my ears!! We missed you dearly! I hope you are well and I am looking forward for the next post!

                about this comment above – I really want to use the best retinol product on my face (which is super oily – yes, testosterone levels are low, I use a very delicate cleansed self made, I’ve reached the point where all my other cosmetics are in tune with my skin’s issues), and I chose so far paula’s choice’s body treatment with retinol (for the face, yes!) and the retinol serum (silicone based). Both from Resist .

                Now you say that there are better choices…. any examples? Maybe I will do some shopping across the pond 😉

                Posted by Simona | May 4, 2014, 11:07 pm
                • Hi!! Yes, I’m so glad to be back too.

                  As for the retinol comment, well I generally believe that the “best” retinol products are ones that are water-based and reveal the amount of retinol present. This is so that we–the consumers, can more accurately evaluate if a product is appropriate for our skin type. So for my list of retinol product recommendations, neither PC product would be featured. I mean, I have to draw the line somewhere. That being said however, if the products are really “in-tune” with your skin, there’s no reason to change, unless the product isn’t doing what you need it to do or if you want more.

                  But it has been confirmed that PC will be coming out with a 1% retinol product at the end of this summer. I’d most likely recommend that product, though I’ll have to hold a final judgment until I see the actual ingredients list.

                  Posted by John | May 16, 2014, 3:21 pm
              • Cindy, you mentioned you were looking for a good topical retinol product that won’t make you cry over your empty wallet… I’ve heard of one affordable brand recommended, which I’ll share, but I also want John to chime in about if he would recommend any of these retinol products from this brand (and if so, which one he’d most recommend). There are three strengths available.


                John, do you recommend a certain strength percentage of retinol to start with or for sensitive skin or what would you recommend looking for in that regard? I’ve heard good things about other brands, but they are pricier.

                Posted by MsFireGlow | May 8, 2014, 9:13 pm
                • Thanks for the contribution! Since you’re curious, the only retinol products that I’d recommend are ones that are water based, and also reveal how much retinol is present. (Of course, it has to be packaged properly, etc…) So I wouldn’t recommend the linked products unfortunately.

                  As for what percentage to begin with, it depends on many factors like vehicle, the person’s skin type, etc… As with most things; it’s all about a personalized and tailored routine. But anyways, but I’d generally start people off with 0.5% retinol and have them apply it every at night once every 2-3 days. Then move up from there.

                  Posted by John | May 16, 2014, 3:42 pm
  5. Do whatever makes you happy John! Speaking for myself, any info., at any time, from you is so interesting and highly valued! Don’t overwhelm yourself 🙂

    Posted by Linda | April 28, 2014, 7:26 pm
  6. Welcome back, your site is such a good resource! Oh and are you still using the Shiseido sunscreen or have you found a better one? I’ve been messing with the sunscreen simulator all day and it seems impossible to find a sunscreen with high uva protection that wont put a dent in the wallet.

    Posted by Grace | April 26, 2014, 7:03 pm
  7. Welcome back!!! You have been (and will continue to be) such a great resource for many. I’ve learned so much from you. And yay for cleansers and toners. Even with Paula’s Choice and Beautypedia–I still need your help. Thanks so much for all you do!

    Posted by Amy | April 23, 2014, 2:14 pm
  8. I’m so happy you are back! I’ve missed you too. Love this post. Anything you are willing to share with us in whatever form they are in, we as your subscribers enjoy reading. You had a cool idea, but it seems like doing it in pieces might be easier on you… and us 😉 I can easily get information overload myself. Plus, it’s probably easier to address more specific topic questions than be bombarded with questions on all aspects of the skin routine at once for you.

    It sounds like people are interested in the cleansers and toners section first (I will find it interesting too as I have sampled more from various lines at this point)… and then perhaps after posting that, considering the shelf life of those products you have, you could do the giveaway and it would be a way to bring people back to your blog and promote even more awareness of the information about cleansers and toners 🙂

    I remember finding you after and through discovering Paula’s Choice products, which helped me a lot this past summer, then as colder weather came my skin leaned more dry and I was thankful to find someone with a similar skin type as me in the winter… she has a blog called Skin & Tonics. Eventually, I’ve been learning more about Korean skin care from her blog too, and on my own some have been rediscovering Clinique (tried your recommendation for sunscreen and like it too). I’ve always found Estee Lauder products interesting and would like to learn more about them (there was some talk about a serum here… I’ll have to check it out and what your thoughts were on it).

    I’m trying to make more informed skin care choices/purchases (still trying samples first whenever I can) and have been learning a lot more about what my specific skin type (combination leaning more oily in summer and combination leaning more dry in the winter; acne-prone, sensitive, red-prone) likes as well as doesn’t like/is sensitive to, this last year. And I’m excited to say I haven’t had an acne cyst in a while/even recent memory! I’m sensitive to probably most physical exfoliators, a camel’s milk moisturizer, a serum with an ingredient I grew to love but had fragrance added to it… I’m avoiding alcohol in toners and chemical exfoliators for the most part. I’m choosing anti-irritants and making sure my skin is more hydrated/moisturized. I’m sensitive to ascorbic acid at the more effective concentration levels. My skin is also sensitive to other citrus types of oils/fragrance, despite me finding the smell pleasant. I focus on salicylic acid, vitamin A/retinol, sometimes glycolic acid, aloe, licorice and some other ingredients I’m still learning about. Thank you for being a part of my skin care awareness journey, I really feel like you were a big part of it and I’m excited to learn more from you in the future 🙂

    Posted by Cynthia | April 23, 2014, 8:25 am
    • Wow!! I’m so thrilled to hear that you’ve discovered specifically what works for you and what doesn’t. That kind of knowledge is power. Truly. I mean, don’t you feel empowered to be able to better navigate the cosmetics world? I’m truly flattered and grateful to be somewhat of a guide on you fantastic journey.

      I’ll definitely be posting the parts separately, out of necessity unfortunately (haha), but hey, I’ve realized my mistake and I’m trying to correct it.

      And the giveaways are just for you guys, for sticking with me through thick and thin! It’s so nice to see you again, and keep up the great work!

      Posted by John | April 29, 2014, 4:41 pm
      • 🙂 Makes sense. And yes, I totally feel more empowered; it’s an awesome feeling. I remember the feeling of hopelessness I used to feel regarding my skin and it was easy to not know where to start, want to give up on trying anything because my skin often wasn’t happy with my random choices or make excuses and say to myself that my skin was impossible to fix or rely too much on people that didn’t know my skin as well as they claimed. Professionals are a great resource, but getting results at home without the professional expense in a more sustainable way confirms that I know what I’m doing 😀 It took some patience at times, but well worth the benefits and learning. Being able to evaluate why I might like or dislike a product (either before purchasing or after a personal experience using the product) has been immensely helpful.

        I’m still not good at doing a consistent skin routine (meaning using the same products all the time), but when I got in the habit of having a regular skin routine that I customized as I felt like it, that felt like a big accomplishment for me. And rotating products has actually brought me more clarity regarding which ones my skin liked and which ones I was sensitive to, in a way I might have otherwise missed. This year also taught me that I’ll likely or possibly want different products in the summer and the winter, or want to try to find a happy balance of needs satisfied by products I can use year round, but figure out which, if any skincare products I like I’ll consider for a certain season only as a preference or for practical reasons. I still have much to learn, but I’m also still excited about how far I’ve come 🙂 I’m having conversations about skincare topics at a level I could not have fathomed a year ago, lol; it’s definitely fun.

        Posted by Cynthia | April 29, 2014, 5:11 pm
        • You have no idea how happy that makes me feel. You are the picture of what I’m striving to achieve with everyone in this community. You are in a place of security, while knowing that there’s always room for improvement. A million thumbs up. I’m definitely going to frame your comment. 😉

          Posted by John | April 29, 2014, 10:12 pm
  9. glad your back

    Posted by Robin | April 23, 2014, 8:10 am
  10. Hi John. I’m glad your back! I learned to much from your blog that I just discovered a month ago. I bought a lot of products because of you (Paula’s choice BHA, Peter Thomas Roth fusion retinol amongst others) and my skin never looked better

    Posted by Judith | April 23, 2014, 4:18 am
  11. Welcome back, John. Your witty, quirky, and informative posts have been missed, but the truth of the matter is that posting on a blog is not nearly as important as living a real life and so I hope you’ve been getting yours on track and that you are feeling less frustrated than you were all those many months ago.

    I’m sure all of us would love to read the sections about skin care that you’ve already written. If, as you claim, some of it doesn’t quite make sense, we can always ask questions. Perhaps if we bug you a bit, you’ll feel inspired to write some more 🙂

    Posted by Eileen | April 22, 2014, 9:33 am
  12. Great to see you back at it. And YES to posting the cleanser/toner portion immediately.
    Also, i saw your tweet on the Estee Lauder Perfectionist serum and had to laugh. I started using it a few weeks ago and am loving it as well but had been wondering in the back of my mind if it was a John Approved Product.

    Posted by janine | April 22, 2014, 8:38 am
  13. Hi John – good to see you back, can’t keep a good man down for long!

    Personally, I’ll take whatever you can give us by way of information whenever it’s available and be most grateful.
    Please present the cleanser & toner post as soon as you are able, coincidentally I am needing that very information right at this time. There is nothing on the net to compare to your valuable inspires and conclusions – you have been missed.

    Robyn Hurren

    Posted by Robyn Hurren | April 21, 2014, 11:46 pm
  14. Welcome back! Any information / recommendations you can give would be greatly appreciated!

    Posted by Julie | April 21, 2014, 9:01 pm
  15. Never too late to start again….you go!!!

    Posted by Bobette | April 21, 2014, 7:29 pm
  16. Hi John! Wowowowow! You’re really back! It may start slow, but who cares? You’re back! DO post your articles about cleansers and toners! We can just read it again when you’ve put up the related posts. Great to hear from you John!

    Posted by Belle | April 21, 2014, 7:18 pm
    • Yay!! It’s great to hear from you. I’ll be sure to publish those posts. You’re absolutely right, if things don’t make sense, rinse and repeat later. Why didn’t I think of that?! 😉

      Posted by John | April 22, 2014, 9:40 am
  17. do what you want since retype 😀

    Posted by Rafael (brasil) | April 21, 2014, 5:27 pm

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