The Budget Biologique

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My skin doesn't need any moisture. I swear. I know the whole fighting oil with oil routine apparently saves lives, but when I tried it for a few weeks, I only got shinier. And the breakouts—did I mention the breakouts? Now I can't even imagine doing half the things other people do to their skin. I stare in awe when someone puts cold cream on their face. How?

Whereas lots of people (particularly the people I work with) get that glow-from-within from moisturizing, my face becomes reflective the second it senses any oil or heavy cream. That's my truth. But one cannot go on Top Shelf shoots and read endless product reviews for a living without getting at least a little curious about how to better my own skin. I needed to make an effort—I needed professional help.

The top level ITGers/experts seem to turn to Biologique Recherche or that smelly, college-tuition-priced stuff from that very uptown facialist. I had to rule this out immediately. I need my skincare routine to be very financially sustainable, as I never want to stress about not being able to afford face wash. At the behest of Alexis Page, I went and checked out Thompson Chemists—a cute little Soho pharmacy stocked with everything from classics like Lucas' Papaw Ointment to Malin & Goetz and Heritage Store. I told them I'm red, oily, sensitive, and acne prone...and I don't want to spend more than $80 today—please help. And they did.

I originally wanted La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser because I kind of just liked the name (and hey—if Cindy Bruna is endorsing, I'm buying). But professionals are professionals for a reason, and they knew better as they guided me toward the Avène display and grabbed me a perfect trifecta of the brand's Cleanance line. I left the store with the Cleanance Gel Soapless Cleanser, the Cleanance Lotion, and the Cleanance K Cream-Gel—to respectively cleanse, moisturize, and spot treat. Since that day I've been deeply in love with all things Avène Cleanance, and to my surprise, the product which proved to be the best out of the three was the one I was most afraid to use. The Cleanance K Cream-Gel is sort of confusing—even its name is unsure of itself. Is it a cream or is a gel? It's got glycolic acid, salicylic acid, AHAs, and BHAs (and a ton more stuff than I, a regular consumer, don't care to look into). The most notable thing about about it is what happens when you put it on your face—it tingles! Like a lot. Maybe it even stings?...Hurts? Sometimes. The point is, you can feel it working immediately, which is good for me because, as with nearly all things in life (skincare included), I like instant gratification and constant validation.

I use Cleanance K three-to-four nights a week on my T-zone and problem areas. It's my budget Biologique (it even smells weird too!). Although, I'll never use it in conjunction with a clay/charcoal mask or more than a just few dabs as an overnight treatment such because this stuff isn't weak. I find it's best not to go balls-to-the-wall with any sort of skincare that packs a punch, particularly if your skin is a bit reactive, like mine. Sometimes I'll mix it half-and-half with the lotion, or if I'm feeling daring, I'll use it alone without adding any additional moisturizer. But since I've started worshipping at the Avène Cleanance altar, I can completely attest to it changing my skin. I'm less red, less oily, and less prone to breakouts. Maybe it's in the name, but my skin just feels cleaner.

—Tom Newton

Photographed by Tom Newton.