Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and I don't have much in common. I'm not a world-known supermodel, I haven't been in any of the Transformers films, I haven't founded a glittering digital beauty destination called Rose Inc., and, perhaps most sadly, I'm not married to Jason Statham. However, Rosie and I do share a couple of very important traits; we're fanatical about beauty (and trying gorgeous new products, in particular), and we've both struggled with acne for most of our adulthood.
I follow and look up to Rosie for multiple reasons. I admire her prowess as a hugely successful businesswoman, I dote on her makeup and beauty aesthetic, and I appreciate how open and candid she's been in regard to having imperfect, acne-prone skin amid an industry that demands 24/7 flawlessness.
Recently, I stumbled across a video she created for her namesake beauty website Rose Inc. in which she opened up about her ongoing skin struggles. Not only did she discuss the mental toll stubborn acne has wielded on her self-esteem over the years, but she also divulged frustration with our product-saturated industry. As I watched and listened, I found myself nodding and agreeing with every word, vehemently.
So many skincare formulas are labeled as oil-free or safe for acne-prone and sensitive skin, but as Rosie points out, few of said products are able to walk the walk that their labels so boastfully talk. As someone who has also dealt with belligerent adult acne, I've had similar frustrations and lost track of the number of times I've tried a new "miracle" skincare product that claims it will clear my perpetually bump-prone skin once and for all. All too often, however, I'm hugely disappointed, and my complexion emerges more inflamed than it was to begin with.
In the video, Rosie explains that while her skin had actually been on good behavior while pregnant a few years ago, after she gave birth, she dealt with a wave of congestion—persistent bumpy skin texture and closed comedones (which kind of look like whiteheads) largely located along her chin and jawline. Following the often prescribed protocol for this type of acne (it's exactly what I struggle with), she'd see a facialist and get everything extracted only to find herself back in the same boat of congestion just days later.
Importantly, Rosie provides a disclaimer right away in the video that she's not an expert on the topic of skincare, but on a quest to better her skin, she's done a lot of her own research and leaned into the expertise of top facialists like Biba de Sousa to help educate her on noncomedogenic skincare products, or, translated into English, skincare products that won't clog your pores.
"Comedogenic ingredients are essentially pore-aggravating ingredients," Rosie explains. "Even if a product says it's noncomedogenic or oil-free, it might not actually be that." So first and foremost when researching new products, she shares that she discovered a helpful website called Acne Clinic NYC, which has a very cool feature where you can input the full ingredient label of a product you're currently using or want to use, and after clicking "check," it will tell you whether or not the product is truly noncomedogenic and therefore whether or not it's likely to aggravate your pores or propensity to break out. (So handy.)
In addition to schooling herself on ingredients and some of the other root causes of acne (she references this book called Acne Rx by James E. Fulton as superbly helpful), Rosie mentions a friend also recommended she see Los Angeles–based celebrity esthetician Biba de Sousa, who is a kind-of acne whisperer. Not only does she give amazing A-list-approved facials, but she also sends her clients home with a helpful little tablet listing any and all products known to be comedogenic. Thanks to all of these helpful factors, Rosie shares that in the past 10 months or so, she's cultivated an acne-busting skincare routine that's finally helped heal and prevent breakouts.
Now, I know more than anyone that just because one product or regimen works for someone else's skin or type of acne doesn't necessarily mean it will work for my skin or type of acne. (Even if Rosie and I do seem to share similar breakout patterns and types of pimples!) That said, as I've been doing my own research and am working to hone my own acne-prone skincare routine, I thought it would be interesting to try out and review Rosie's newfound skin-clearing regimen to see if it might prove effective for me (and possibly anyone else struggling to find the right products) as well. Keep scrolling for all of the products Rosie currently keeps stocked on her vanity and both of our testimonials.
The Morning Lineup
Rosie's take: "I start every morning with this product from IS Clinical. I've talked about this product many times before. I'm such a big fan of this Cleansing Complex. It has a low lather to it, it's incredibly gentle, it's great for removing makeup, it doesn't strip the skin, and it has a little salicylic acid in it, which is great for resurfacing the skin. It's a clear, lightweight formula, and it's gentle enough for hypersensitive skin and can really be used for all skin types—even if you don't have acne."
My take: I was so thrilled when I realized Rosie uses and loves this cleanser. Even before starting this experiment, I had been using it most morning and nights with fabulous results. Unlike other cleansers with actives and acids, this one is, as Rosie says, gentle enough to use daily, and my skin has become noticeably smoother, brighter, and more even since I started using it regularly. I can't recommend this cleanser enough, and if I had to choose just one face wash to use for the rest of my life, this would be it—I'm obsessed.
Rosie's take: "Another product that I've been using for quite some time now is an IS Clinical serum called Super Serum Advance+ ($155). I love this product so much because it is loaded with vitamin C. It's important with my skin, as I'm using salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, that I'm also replenishing my skin and giving it a lot of hydration and giving it the nutrients it needs. This serum safely brightens the skin, helps anyone with an uneven skin tone, which is me, and it also helps with reducing fine lines and pigmentation.
"I like to apply this in the morning and add about three to four drops into the IS Clinical Hydra-Cool Serum ($94), which has a gel-like texture and is light blue. It hydrates and cools the skin, and for someone like me with congested skin, gel moisturizers are a really great option. I rub the combination into my skin and then pat and push the serum mixture into my skin versus just rubbing and smoothing it all over."
My take: First and foremost, I'll tell you right away that I have been using IS Clinical's Hydra-Cool Serum for a while now, and it's by far one of the best things that have happened to my skin. The blend of hydrating hyaluronic acid, nourishing vitamin B5, and healing Centella Asiatica has done wonders for my acne, and I apply it every morning. That said, I was nervous to try it with the Super Serum Advance+. Recently, I've discovered my skin is sensitive to vitamin C (a common problem that's rarely talked about), and despite the ingredient's holy-grail appeal within the industry for brightening, it typically causes me to break out. Sadly, while I did love the dewy and bright consistency of this serum, and while I DID feel like it helped brighten the overall tone of my face, I experienced a fresh crop of pimples I was forced to attribute it to. Again, I want to emphasize that this isn't an issue with the serum. It's noncomedogenic and lovely; it's just a personal skin quirk that I can't tolerate vitamin C. However, if you're able to use vitamin C within your routine and are looking for a new formula, I would suggest this one.
Rosie's take: "I get lots of questions about my favorite noncomedogenic moisturizers, and one of my favorite moisturizers is from my facialist, Biba. It's a botanical moisturizer that's perfect for daily use. It's really lightweight, it's not a heavy cream, it's great under makeup, it's super easy to use, and I don't have to think about it. It has a nice, citrusy scent and I've been using it over the past 10 months and have just seen great results. It keeps my skin really hydrated but not oily or greasy or heavy."
My take: I'm so with Rosie on this one, and I am excited I discovered this product. I've actually been lucky enough to meet Biba in real life and receive one of her game-changing facials, so I completely trust any formulas she creates. This daily moisturizer is so lush and feathery light. It keeps your skin soft and supple, but it absorbs into your skin quickly so you don't feel like you have anything on (which I love). So many moisturizers that are oil-free still aggravate my skin, but this one has kept my complexion completely clear and devoid of congestion. I'm a fan!
Rosie's take: "This can work as an SPF or as a daily moisturizer, and I wear this, of course, every day in the summer or any days I know my skin is going to be exposed to the sun. This is one SPF I've found really, really works for me and is great under makeup."
My take: So, I have to disagree with Rosie on this one. I'm sorry to say it, but I struggled with this SPF. Granted, it bothered me less the longer I wore it, but I immediately had some major issues with the formula. First of all, it was incredibly tacky and sticky—so much so that I couldn't even fathom applying makeup on top of it so therefore didn't attempt it. Also, it was extremely ashy. I have extremely fair skin, and while I do apply self-tanner to my body, I typically don't tan my face. I noticed that this made my hands (which are tanned) look almost gray, and it made my fair complexion look almost blue. The effect seemed to lessen a bit after I had worn the product for a while, it didn't seem to clog my pores, and it did what it's supposed to—aka protect me from getting burnt during my afternoon outside, but it's definitely not an SPF that I'd want to wear regularly. (If you're looking for another option, I'm absolutely obsessed with Versed's new, ultra-clean formula which melts into the skin, doesn't leave behind any residue or color, and is altogether just magical.)
The Evening Lineup
Rosie's take: "Another one of my favorite cleansers I've been using recently is this Purity Clean formula from Cosmedix. It's an exfoliating cleanser that has a little bit of lactic acid in it. I actually like to keep it in my shower, and I use it in the evening. It has a light tingling effect to it but is quite gentle, and again, I look for products with a mix of acids in them (like salicylic, glycolic, and lactic) because they really help resurface the skin and strip the skin of dead skin cells so they have that exfoliating quality to them, which is something that's important to do when you have acne."
My take: I know tons of celebrities and fellow editors who are huge fans of Cosmedix, and while I have dabbled in a few of the brand's skincare products over the past couple of years, I've never used anything religiously. I agree with Rosie that incorporating a gentle exfoliating cleanser is, indeed, extremely important if you get acne or congestion. Sadly, however, this particular formula didn't agree with my skin, and I've found Renée Rouleau's AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser ($36) to be a better option. Or, if my skin craves something less aggressive and more calming at night (which honestly, is most of the time), I'll use Shani Darden's noncomedogenic Cleansing Serum ($38).
Even though the Cosmedix cleanser gets the green light from a noncomedogenic standpoint, I noticed that it seemed to clog my pores. (Just proving that everyone's skin is different and can react uniquely to ANY ingredient.) After skimming the label, I spotted coco-glucoside, which is found in many cleansers as a natural foaming surfactant but which, without fail, always provokes my skin. That said, I truly wanted to love this cleanser. It's a beautiful turquoise color, and since it contains peppermint, it leaves the skin feeling clean and refreshed. Plenty of people would probably be able to use this formula with success, but unfortunately, I had to discontinue it in my routine.
Oil Control Pads
Rosie's take: "The most recent new skincare product I've been using which I discovered about a month ago, are these ZO Skin Health Oil Control Pads by dermatologist Dr. Obagi. These are little peel pads that I like to use in the evening after I cleanse my skin. I use them all over my face and neck area, and they're beneficial because they remove all dead skin cells and any dirt or impurities sitting on the skin. They also contain salicylic acid which treats acne, and it also has a really nice cooling, tingly effect which makes my skin feel so clean. I've noticed when I wake up in the morning since using these my skin has a more even tone and color—I'm a big, big fan."
My take: I am obsessed. To be honest, I was extremely worried these peel pads would be far too aggressive and harsh for my skin. I've gone through phases in which I was too heavy-handed with exfoliating products, acids, and actives, and I was concerned using these peel pads alongside an exfoliating cleanser would be too much for my skin to handle and would result in a retaliatory breakout. (If you strip your skin TOO much, it disrupts the pH and skin barrier, which can lead to worsened skin symptoms.) However, out of all the products I tried from Rosie's regimen, this had to be my favorite and the most effective for healing and preventing my breakouts. Current pimples withered in size and redness, no new pimples emerged, and some stubborn, uneven texture I had (closed comedones and a little bit of keratosis pilaris) completely flattened out. These are magic, and I'm so thankful I discovered them. At first, I was alarmed by how cold and tingly my skin felt after I swiped my face, but now that I've gotten used to it, I'm truly so pleased with the results.
Rosie's take: "I've talked about this product so much over the years, and it's the Active Serum from IS Clinical. It's one of the most popular products they have in their range, and it's a great product for me to combat any congestion, and it also helps in the reduction of any fine lines or hyperpigmentation. It smooths and softens the skin, and it has a kind of tingling-like effect. I apply it about three times a week before I put on any moisturizer. It's an investment product, but it has really, truly changed my skin over the years, and I can't live without it."
My take: I pretty much agree with Rosie verbatim. I began using this holy-grail serum from IS Clinical a little less than a year ago, and I am so thankful I discovered it. Like Rosie, I use it roughly three times a week (it's intense and you don't want to overdo it) before layering on my moisturizer. Without fail, my skin looks and feels softer, smoother, and more even the next morning when I wake up. It's expensive, but a little goes a long way, and the results are so good I personally deem it worth the splurge!
Rosie's take: "This is a moisturizer I would describe as a thick cream—it has a lot of body to it, and I like to use it in the evening because it's a little bit heavier. It's great for all skin types, and I know with Biba, anything she creates and recommends is going to be noncomedogenic. It has water-based hydration and has structured barrier protection, and it also has anti-wrinkle firming peptides in it. I like to wear this in the evening if I feel like my skin is a little bit dry. It's really lovely and smooth."
My take: Holy cannoli, folks. This stuff is thick. Since I almost always steer WAY clear of anything that looks like frosting, the sight of this luxurious cream made me nervous. How could something with this much viscosity not clog my pores? Well, miraculously, it didn't. I'll admit that right off the bat, it kind of feels like you're slathering glue on your face, but then suddenly, it starts melting into the skin in the dreamiest way. Despite how thick it starts, it actually ends up feeling less heavy than you'd think it would, and it makes your skin look radiant, dewy, and ultra-hydrated. I haven't had any issues with this cream breaking me out, but I still prefer something a little lighter most nights, so I keep this on standby for when my skin needs an extra hug of moisture or TLC. This might be a controversial statement, but I love it more than Augustinus Bader's iconic face creams.
Rosie's take: "Another moisturizer I recently discovered is by SkinCeuticals. My makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes recommended this to me, and she said that everyone she's recommended it to has loved it. It has a real replenishment-type treatment to it."
My take: As much as I do like how lovely and thick the cream from Biba is, this highly rated moisturizer from SkinCeuticals has become my go-to moisturizer most nights. It still feels supremely nourishing and hydrating, but it's lighter weight and absorbs more efficiently into the skin. It hasn't caused any new pimples or clogged my pores (yay!), and I also think it's made my skin softer, plumper, and healthier-looking. I typically use it at night, but if I wake up with skin that feels extra parched (it's that time of the season, after all), I'll also use it as a daily moisturizer. As I mentioned, since the acids and exfoliating agents in some of the other products I'm using can be a little harsh or drying, a formula like this brimming with ceramides and fatty acids is just what the doctor ordered.
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Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.
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