My Skincare Routine

I’m going to preface this post by saying I am not an expert in skincare and up until recently, all I really did was wash my face at night and occasionally apply moisturizer before bed if I remembered it. I’ve always thought multi-step routines were ridiculous, expensive and only reserved for hardcore skin care junkies.

My previous AM routine basically consisted of cold water rinse, moisturizer with SPF then day makeup and my PM routine was to wash off makeup with a cream cleanser using my Clarisonic followed by a heavier moisturizer. That’s all I’ve ever done since I can remember.

Then last year my sister introduced me to Thayers Witch Hazel toner. She would not stop talking it up and even her husband chimed in saying he uses it too and how it has worked wonders on their skin. So I bought it, and a year later, it has been a staple in my AM/PM routine. The alcohol free formula is hydrating and it has helped significantly lessen my adult acne. I still occasionally get hormonal breakouts in my jawline but it’s not as bad as it used to be. My skin has been oily since I was a teen and occasional acne is a persistent problem. I would get random dry spots on my cheek during winter but in general, excess oil and large pores were my normal.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

So everything new I’ve started doing and products I bought were after I binged on youtube videos by Renee of Gothamista. I discovered Renee after Megan of Undecorated Home mentioned her once on her Instagram Stories. I loved how Renee’s videos were honest in her product reviews and broke down routines and explained how one product worked with another. Sure, she’d mention ingredients with names I can’t pronounce but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t google and look up myself. I watched and rewatched several of her videos trying to determine which of the products she mentioned I would try. It was here that I also discovered The Ordinary. I’m incredibly late to this since this line has been out for a couple of years but what attracted me to their line was the price point. Every single product was under $20, most were under $10. For someone who was new to skincare and wasn’t sure where to begin, I wasn’t about to drop $75 on a miracle serum. The Ordinary’s products and packaging is no fuss with no flowery words like “Radiant Glow” or “Miracle Serum.” The names basically feature the key ingredient in each serum, and if you don’t know what those ingredients do, their website explains each one pretty clearly.

So my new routine is outlined below

AM Routine

  1. Cold Water Rinse

  2. Thayers Witch Hazel Toner

  3. Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1 %

  4. The Ordinary Buffet Peptide

  5. Cerave moisturizer with SPF - I also love Acure Brightening Day Cream

  6. Eye Cream - currently using Volition Helix AM/PM gel but also love Kiehls Avocado Eye Cream

  7. SPF - If using a moisturizer without it.

The concept of double cleansing was new to me but after I tried it, I couldn’t believe much better it was at removing the gunk off my face. I used to avoid any oil products since I thought that’s what I should do because of my oily skin but realized that oil is attracted to oil and is the only thing that can remove it. This discovery has been a game changer for me.

PM Routine

  1. Burts Bees Cleansing Oil

  2. Kiehls Oil-Free Cleanser - Also love the Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Wash

  3. Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner - twice a week, I do the Seven skin Method

  4. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

  5. The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA OR Lactic Acid 10% + HA (Cannot be combined)

    I alternate these two since the Lactic Acid cannot be combined with a peptide so I use that 2-3 times a week at night and use the Matrixyl on all other nights.

  6. The Ordinary 100% Organic Rosehip Seed Oil mixed with a few drops of the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate (I do this mostly for the smell since the rosehip seed oil has an earthy scent to it)

  7. Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream

  8. Eye Cream

  9. Optional: twice a week I sleep with Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and recently I’ve been using a clay mask once a week. I have read great things about Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay so I got myself some and will try this week.

I built my routine based on this video. I incorporated new products with ones I already use but may switch my old arsenal up after I use them up to try others. I’ve only started this routine a couple weeks ago and it typically takes 8-12 weeks to see visible results but I can already tell the difference with regards to how my skin feels. My products may not be the same as yours since every one has different skin types. Renee also discusses in one of her videos about the difference about skin type and skin condition and how the latter is affected by environmental factors and seasonal changes and should be addressed accordingly.

I now look forward to my routines, specially at night. It’s like a mini spa day when I’m washing off my day. The multi-step routine that once seemed daunting and unrealistic has now become a crucial and relaxing way to end my day.

So that’s me. The few minutes each day that I now dedicate to skin care is like my little daily self care. Hope you find the routine that works for you.

Exploring CBD

The start of the year is when I schedule all my annual doctor’s appointments. I see my primary care physician for my annual physical, my OB-GYN for my PAP and typically see my dentist around this time as well. During my PCP visit, my doctor asked me about any issued I’ve been having lately. I’m generally in decent health except for some chronic neck, shoulder and lower back pains. I always ignored this and just reminded myself that everyone suffers from back pains and it isn’t something special that needs to be addressed. My husband insisted I bring it up so I casually mentioned it to my doc. He asked if I would like muscle relaxers. He said it could help ease the pain temporarily until I find the root of my pain. I’ve never taken them before so I said I’ll try it. He did warn me that it would make me drowsy and having taken medication in the past that caused drowsiness, I said sure. I knew what to expect. I took it before bed and hoped that I’d be good and pain free in the morning. I woke up the next day feeling welded to my bed. I could not move but my alarm was screaming at me to get up and get ready for work. I felt heavily drugged and I initially thought I was just tired and about an hour in it dawned on me that I was experiencing the effects of the muscle relaxers. A feeling I have never felt before. Was I in pain? NO. But was I alive? I wasn’t sure. It was a horrible day and the side effects lasted a full 24 hours, longer than the pain relieving effects did. My husband threw the bottle of pills in the trash as soon as we got home. I was never taking that again. So now I though to myself, how do I deal with the pain now? I’ve had lower back pain since I was a teen and my mom took me a doctor and an x-ray showed that a vertebrae wasn’t sitting right in my lower back was causing the pain but it was not serious enough to merit surgery. I was told that pregnancy would be difficult for me.

So why CBD?

I’ve heard about it but knew little about it. So I went to ask my Instagram community for recommendations. As the brand suggestions flooded in, I read all I can about CBD. As much as Google gave me. If you’re here scratching your head wondering what I’m taking about and what the hell CBD is, CLICK HERE. Everyone else can keep reading. So why CBD? Well why not? I’ve tried prescription strength ibuprofen and we all know what those things do to your liver. I’ve tried turmeric too with absolutely zero effects. Even when I was at the height of my gym rat phase, exercise did nothing for my pain. Don’t tell me to take yoga okay. If someone else mentions yoga, imma lose it. Listen, I gave yoga a real try. I DID. Multiple times I tried it and I JUST CANNOT BRING MYSELF TO LIKE IT. The whole time I’m in there, I keep asking myself WHY?!?

But I digress, I decided to give CBD a try. Marijuana isn’t alien to me. I’ve heard of its benefits for cancer patients and those with epilepsy and other ailments. Recent surge of CBD has it being the cure all for pain and anxiety. And of course, I’ve been smoking that shit on and off since I was 18. Does that shock you? I don’t know who you’ve been following if any of this is surprising to you.

The recommendations poured in and I now had a big task of looking up every single product rec sent to me to see which ones I was going to try.

We couldn’t pass up a dispensary tour during our visit to California

We couldn’t pass up a dispensary tour during our visit to California

How did I pick the brands I tried?

First off, the CBD market is so saturated that if I hadn’t asked my followers for recommendations, I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. There are a ton of choices and no way for me to verify which one was better. So I narrowed it down with the number of recommendations a brand got. Then narrowed it down further with price. Then there was the issue of Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate. A good article I read on the differences between the two can be found by clicking this link. To summarize, both oils are extracted from the hemp plant. Full Spectrum is full of all the terpenes, cannabinoids, etc found in hemp, all of which have therapeutic value and create what is known as the entourage effect. This includes very small trace amounts of THC but not enough to get you high. But I’ve read taking full spectrum can give you a positive result on a drug test which brings us to CBD Isolate. CBD Isolate is just that. It’s pure CBD without all the other cannabinoids. If you read that article that I linked then you will note that CBD contains all the benefits of all the hemp’s cannabinoids combined, without the THC. So it’s great for people who want the benefits of CBD without having to worry about the legality of having THC in your system. This is great for people where marijuana is not legal or athletes who require drug testing. You will hear a lot of talk about Full Spectrum being better at delivering pain relief but there are those who will swear on CBD Isolate’s effectivity too. It’s a matter of choice and one that I will not make for you. I also read this article about what to know before buying CBD. Did I follow it? Not really. But I figured you might want that information anyway. You’re welcome.

Tinctures? Edibles? Vape oil? Balms?

There are a multitude of ways to use CBD. When choosing which kind I was going to try, I also had to decide how I was going to use it. I ended up trying one of each tincture (oils to be taken sublingually or in a beverage) in Full Spectrum and Isolate. I also decided to try a few balms and a vape oil for its convenience. I picked Pure Relief (Full Spectrum) because it was the most recommended and because they offered sample sizes of their tinctures and balms. For those not ready to commit to a full sized bottle, this is a good place to start. CBD Extreme Athlete products was VERY HIGHLY recommended by a very close friend who uses it religiously and has recommended it to his own family. You’ll notice that CBD Extreme Athlete’s marketing is directed towards athletes and is CBD Isolate. They emphasize on their product being THC and drug free. Scrolling through Thoughcloud’s website can be overwhelming given the variety of products they offer but I decided to give their e-liquids a try. I also tried CBD tea from The Brothers Apothecary.

How long does CBD take to kick in and how long do the effects last?

This all depends on a person’s health, weight, pain tolerance and method of delivery. Lots of articles available that explain this but this article explains it pretty well I think. Dosage and strength of the CBD you’re taking matters too. Start small and see how you feel and up the dosage until it gives your the relief you’re asking for. There isn’t a standard dosage for CBD, you will read and hear people saying take 1ml (a full dropper) of tincture to start but consider the strength of CBD you’re taking too. Tincture strength vary by brand and can go from 250mg, 500mg up to 1500mg or more.

How did I start?

I didn’t know what to expect to be honest. I took half a dropper of a 500mg tincture and waited. I was expecting to “get high” as marijuana usually does. The best way I can describe the initial feeling I got was gravity pulling my shoulders down. Like someone wrapping me in a weighted blanket. My head didn’t feel cloudy like being high does but my body felt relaxed like I was high but not. It was a bizarre sensation at first that confused me. It was because I was waiting for the effect that I noticed this. You don’t usually wait for Advil to kick in. This wasn’t a feeling that I felt again in the doses that followed because I wasn’t paying attention to it anymore. But did notice the pain that I usually have in my neck and shoulders has lifted significantly. I did some experiments and tried going off it some days to see how I felt and noticed the difference in how I feel towards the end of the day. Without it, I was exhausted by day’s end. Both balms I tried worked well but it works no differently than applying some Icy Hot or Bengay to your sore muscles. Again, it’s an alternative. It’s up to you if the holistic value is worth the $$.

Does it really relieve pain?

I’m not sure how to answer this since I’m still learning dosage myself. I will say that it mutes down your pain. The best metaphor I can think of is putting on earplugs to dull out your spouse’s loud snoring so you can sleep. Does that make sense? You still hear the snoring but its at a comfortable level that you get to have some sleep. This has been my experience but I’ve gotten feedback from plenty others with much more serious conditions and swear it has relieved them of their issues. So I have more to learn about this.

Why don’t you just smoke weed? Why all this fuss over CBD?

I can’t count the number of times someone sent me this. First off, I live in New York state which is still behind on marijuana legalization. Second, I am not a high functioning stoner and is the reason I went off it. It doesn’t matter which kind I take, you’ll have to peel me off the couch. I’m utterly useless when high and I’d like to be able to function like a normal adult at work so this is not an option for me.

Will I continue using CBD now?

Yes but I don’t think I will use it on a daily basis. Primarily because of cost. CBD is not cheap. I see myself taking it as often as I would if I needed to pop an Advil. I do enjoy the vape though and it’s one that I reach for more often than the rest mostly for its convenience. In the beginning I thought it wasn’t working because I didn’t get that weighted feeling I initially described but soon realized it did aid with my pain specially one a day I forgot to take a tincture and my neck pain was so intense I took a few puffs of the vape pen and relief was almost instant.

I hope this shed just a bit of light on CBD for those who have been curious and/or hesitant to try. It would do well for you to do some further research on your own so you can better decide if CBD is right for you. I am in no means an expert on this matter and can only offer information based on my own experience. Good luck!

My Immigrant Story

This is my immigrant story.

I‘ve been married once before. It didn’t last very long and it didn’t end very well. That will need to be a story for another time. The only reason I mention this is because when he decided it was over for him, I found myself in this country, with no home, little to no money and nothing more than whatever I had in two suitcases. I was lost, confused and filled with shame. I had left Manila with so much hope and everyone knew I had no plans to return and was fully intending to spend the rest of my years in San Francisco in happily married bliss. It didn’t quite work out that way. I was stuck in California, temporarily staying with my then sister-in-law who herself had no idea why or how everything turned out the way it did. Both his family and mine were in shock. I have friends in California that I hadn’t seen or spoken to much and I decided to see all of them as a distraction. I spent the next 3 months staying between her place and other friend’s apartments trying to figure out what my next move would be.

Hanging out in a friend’s garage, drinking all the beers, coloring in books and playing Garage Band.

Hanging out in a friend’s garage, drinking all the beers, coloring in books and playing Garage Band.

My former sister in law’s apartment served as my home base as I moved up and down California trying to get my things out of my ex-husband’s apartment. He refused to let me back to “his” apartment so I had pick up my things from my father-in-law’s house. I didn’t have any immediate close family in the west coast so I had nowhere to go. I discovered new friendships during this time and reconnected with such amazing people who were supportive and patient with me. My mom, who felt the need to get me out of there, reached out to her sister in New York and asked her for help. My aunt immediately reached out to me and offered to pay for my ticket to fly to New York and stay with her and I accepted. I went to Las Vegas to see one of my best friends to spend some time with her before flying east since I didn’t know when I’d be able to visit again. I was 26 years old, I had just left my whole life in Manila and my husband just left me. At this point, I was just riding the wave and going wherever it decided to take me. I landed in New York City on October 7, 2008. It was meant to be temporary. Just until I figured out what my next steps were. I had no clue this city would become my home, where I would find love again and discover friendships and connections with people I never would have found elsewhere. But the road to this point wasn’t exactly easy.

I arrived in New York City during the Fall of 2008.

I arrived in New York City during the Fall of 2008.

So I finally got here. But I was still heartbroken, had no money and despite my aunt being extremely generous with her home, I knew I couldn’t keep spending my days watching TV and eating everything in the kitchen. I avoided going out since I had no money to spend and if I did, I would wander a few blocks around her apartment in Queens. After several weeks of this, insanity was adding to the heartbreak. Outside of family, I only knew two people in NYC, a girl friend from grade school and my ex from college. My ex found out what happened and understanding my need to do something, suggested I get a job waiting tables in the city. Just so I can make a little money and have something to do everyday. I had never waited tables in my life and knew absolutely nothing of city life but I was desperate for a distraction. I had been crying in the shower a lot up to that point. I met up with him and one of his friends one day in December and armed with several photocopies of my resume, we walked around the east and west village. We went door to door asking restaurants if they were hiring. After two hours of walking, I got a job at a now shuttered vegetarian restaurant on 7th Avenue. They knew I had no experience but they had just opened a month prior and needed help. My luck was picking up.

Dressing for winter wasn’t something I was familiar with

Dressing for winter wasn’t something I was familiar with

I worked at that restaurant like a dog. From open till close most days. I started making a bit of money. But I was also commuting between my Aunt’s apartment in Queens and the West Village. She didn’t live near the subway and I needed to take the bus to and from the station. When my shift ended late at night I would often find myself standing inside a bank to get away from the bitter cold because I had just missed the bus and it ran once an hour after midnight. On some nights I would walk 30 plus blocks home from the station in knee deep of snow just to get to bed only to wake up and do it all over again. A few weeks of this and I knew I needed to move somewhere within reasonable commuting distance to the restaurant. I had met a few people and found myself roommates in a 4 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. But a certain date was coming and a decision still had to be made.

There is something I haven’t mentioned yet in this story. Everything I’ve told you so far happened under a 6 month period. Six months is the maximum length of time a person with a tourist visa who visits the US is allowed to stay in the country. My 6 month time limit was almost up. I needed to decide if I was going to leave before the visa ends or to stay. I had just reconnected with family members I hadn’t seen and made lots of new friends. I had never had an apartment that I was personally responsible for before and I was making money and paying my own bills. I was on my feet and I was feeling more myself again. My apartment was feeling like home and the people surrounding me knew little of my old life. I felt like I had pressed the reset button.

Central Park, Spring of 2009

Central Park, Spring of 2009

Roommates surprised me on my birthday by filing my tiny room with balloons.

Roommates surprised me on my birthday by filing my tiny room with balloons.

I don’t need to tell you which choice I made, you wouldn’t be reading this now if I had left all that and flown back to Manila. Call it unlawful presence, call me undocumented or an illegal immigrant, that’s what I was for the next 4 years. I couldn’t get an ID, open a bank account or get a non-cash paying job since I had no papers to show for myself. I had no credit and couldn’t get a credit card so I had to work with whatever cash I brought home from waiting tables. The restaurant I worked at soon decided they couldn’t pay me under the table and I only worked for tips. The kitchen staff was nice and they always fed me. I’d “visit” work sometimes even on my day off just because I knew they would feed me and that’s a meal I wouldn’t have to spend on. Money was hard, I cried a lot and questioned my choices but I soldiered on. I had made my bed and I had to lay in it. I worked at the restaurant until I became a nanny and kept that job for the next few years working for different families. But I constantly kept asking myself how long I could keep doing this.

I stayed single for 3 years since my separation. I went on no dates and had zero interest in a relationship. To be honest, I enjoyed this time very much. I learned a lot about myself in those 3 years and allowed myself to heal. I learned more about what I want and would not tolerate in my next relationship if I ever got to that point. I also knew the only way I would be able to obtain legal status in the US was through marriage. I had this worrying thought that if anything were to happen to my mother in Manila, that I wouldn’t be able to see her without leaving my life in the US permanently.

One of the first photos of us together. He took me to Atlantic City on the weekend of my birthday.

One of the first photos of us together. He took me to Atlantic City on the weekend of my birthday.

So I went online and reluctantly signed up for a dating website. Online dating wasn’t as common as it is now but I knew my introverted self was never going to meet someone the regular way. Two weeks later, I met Vien. Our story is better shared another time. My divorce wasn’t finalized until about a month after I met him. That was 3 years after my ex left me. I told Vien my situation soon after we started seeing each other so he knew what I was looking for. He was surprisingly open to it. A year later we were married and about 6 months after that I received my permanent resident card. Yes it was a green card marriage but it was far from a fake relationship. Whenever I’m asked how Vien proposed I always end up squirming and responding it was an agreement rather than a proposal. We’ve been together 7 years now which is the longest relationship either one of us have ever been in. New York City standard of living is expensive and we struggle with money more than we’d care to admit but we’re in it together and we make the most out of it. I finally became a US citizen in December of 2017. I applied for citizenship mostly out of a desire for the right to vote after Trump won, more than anything else.

I’m glad my first marriage ended, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, with him, living my best life. 

Photos by @WeRomantics.

Photos by @WeRomantics.

I posted a 5-part series on my Instagram feed @theaccidentalbohemian sharing details of how I came to live in New York City. This is a compilation of all five posts.