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My Current Skincare Routine + Life-Changing Tips!

by Bianca Shaw about a month ago in product review

Cutting out fragrances & essential oils saved my sensitive, combination/dry skin.

I am not a licensed dermatologist or aesthetician. I am merely a skincare junkie who struggled with red, inflamed, relentless cystic acne for 6 years... which felt like an eternity.

MY SKINCARE JOURNEY:

Growing up, I never really struggled with acne or skin concerns. Ah, to be young. I grew up dancing competitively, which means I was wearing a full face of makeup as a child. I commend my mom for teaching me the importance of removing my makeup before bed and developing a skincare routine. I have had a full skincare routine for as long as I can remember, but that does not mean I always used products that were good for my skin.

Trust me, I went through Proactive, Clarisonic, St. Ives Apricot Scrub, makeup wipes, pure essential oils, and worse. If you read that and thought to yourself, "What's wrong with those products?" Google will tell you exactly what is wrong with them.

When I turned 20, my skin changed. I started developing painful, stubborn, cystic acne. I went to the dermatologist and tried product after product, but nothing worked for me. My acne was so painful that it hurt to smile. I felt helpless.

Thus, my skincare obsession began! I dove into the deep dark bottomless pit that is the YouTube Skincare Community and started learning the ins and outs of how skin functioned. I put in countless hours of research, desperately searching for answers and solutions. I learned an incredible amount about my skin, and I continue to learn new things every day. After all, skincare is a journey and patience is key.

Fast forward to March 2020. The pandemic was a punch to the gut in many ways but it turned out to be a gift for my skin. After 6 years of struggling, I stopped wearing makeup, simplified my routine, and found some really effective new products.

I discovered that my skin loved gentle, unscented products. So, I cut essential oils and fragrances out of my skincare routine. Within 4-6 weeks, I kid you not... my stubborn, painful cystic acne that had been there for years completely cleared up. I mean... COMPLETELY. CLEARED. UP.

I was flabbergasted.

Turns out I was allergic to the fragrance in my foundation. Yes, the foundation I used every day to cover up my pimples! I was also having reactions to the essential oils in my moisturizer. I felt like an idiot. It was almost frustrating because it was so simple.

My skin was not "perfect" by any means, but it felt perfect to me. It no longer hurt for me to smile, and that was everything. I was left with hyperpigmentation and scarring from picking my spots (DO NOT PICK YOUR SKIN), but the bumps were gone. My confidence came back, and for the first time in my twenties, I felt beautiful without makeup.

If you are currently struggling with acne or other skin concerns, I feel your pain. I know how anxiety-inducing it can be to leave the house. I know what it is like to not want anyone to look at you. I understand that acne can directly affect your confidence and self-worth. I understand the toxic cycle of covering blemishes with makeup, breaking out, and using more makeup to cover the spots, only to make it even worse.

I am here to tell you that you are not alone. You are so much more than your skin issues, and it will get better. Your skin concerns are not permanent, and there is hope. Remember that everyone's skin is different. Frustrating as it may be, skincare is all about trial and error and finding what works best for you. Go see a dermatologist and get the help you and your beautiful skin deserve.

ABOUT MY SKIN:

I have very sensitive, combination-dry skin. My cheeks are often dry/dehydrated, but I have an oily, congested T-zone.

My skincare routine focuses on moisturizing, strengthening, and targeting hyperpigmentation.

I am going to walk you through my current skincare routines and share some life-changing tips I have learned along the way (based on my personal experience)!

Morning Routine!

CLEANSER: I do not use a cleanser in the AM, because my skin is clean and pretty plump from my PM routine the night before.

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1. TONER: OLIVARRIER - Dual Moist Toning Lotion ($22)

I squirt 2-3 pumps onto a reusable cotton round and sweep that over my face. This removes any dust or fuzzies that may have settled on my skin overnight. If you want to add a splash of extra hydration, a pump of this elixir into your palm and straight onto your face/neck will do the trick!

This toning lotion is hydrating, strengthens my skin barrier, soothes, moisturizes, protects, and is full of antioxidants.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Organic Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Green Tea), Hyaluronic Acid, Artemisia Annua Extract & Squalane(derived from olives)

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2. EYE CREAM: THE INKEY LIST - Caffeine Eye Cream ($9.99)

I struggle with dark circles, so I apply a small amount of this caffeine-rich eye cream to my under-eye area in the morning. This light gel eye cream absorbs quickly and leaves my skin feeling bright, smooth, and refreshed.

This formula is brightening, moisturizing, and packed with a Matrixyl 3000™ peptide complex that plumps fine lines & wrinkles.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Caffeine, Jojoba, Squalane & Matrixyl 3000™ Peptides

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3. ESSENCE: COSRX - Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($25)

I massage 2 pumps of this beautiful miracle essence into my skin to hydrate and prep my skin to receive all my upcoming products.

This essence is gentle, calming, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, plumping, hydrating, heals acne scars, brightens hyperpigmentation... it is compatible with all skin types and truly is my holy snail product! I could not recommend this product more highly!

STAR INGREDIENTS: Snail Mucin (96%) & Allantoin

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4. MOISTURIZER: BIOSSANCE - Squalane + Omega Repair Cream ($58)

I use a pea-sized amount of this rich cream. This is the best moisturizer I have ever used, and trust me I have tried a lot of moisturizers. This product is definitely pricy, but one jar of this lasts me 3-4 months. Biossance offers generous samples on their site, so you can try before committing to the full size.

This luxurious cream is reparative, protective, moisturizing, plumping, and hydrating without feeling greasy.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Squalane (derived from sugarcane), Glycerin, Shea Butter, Ceramides, Jojoba, Linoleic Acid & Oleic Acid

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5. OIL: BIOSSANCE - 100% Squalane Oil ($32)

This oil helps prevent trans-epidermal water loss. Trans-epidermal water loss is the process of moisture escaping from inside your skin. I use a drop of this oil, to lock all the moisturizing goodness in my skin all day long.

This oil is super lightweight, noncomedogenic, protective, nourishing, moisturizing, and never feels suffocating. Squalane oil is skin-identical, meaning that is almost identical to the oil our skin naturally produces, and it is compatible with every skin type.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Squalane (derived from sugar cane)

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6. SPF: BIOSSANCE - Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen ($30)

I use the two-finger rule when applying sunscreen. The two-finger rule is when you draw a line of sunscreen down two of your fingers to make sure you are getting the proper amount of protection your SPF claims.

This dewy, invisible, lightweight formula is non-toxic, reel-safe, nourishing & moisturizing.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Zinc Oxide (14%), Squalane (derived from sugarcane), Glycerin & Nymphaea Alba Flower Extract

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7. LIPS: CHAPSTICK - Moisturizer Original with SPF 15 ($1.30)

I struggle with dry lips, so I frequently rotate between products. During the day, I prefer to use a lip balm with SPF.

This lip balm is moisturizing and protective against the sun.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Aloe & Vitamin E

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Nighttime Routine!

1. OIL CLEANSER: KLAIRS - Gentle Black Fresh Cleansing Oil ($24)

I apply 2-3 pumps onto dry skin and gently massage it into my skin to break down the makeup or grime from the day. Once everything is lifted, I add a bit of warm water to emulsify the oil. I massage a bit longer, making sure I get everything off, and then I rinse completely with warm water.

This cleansing oil is gentle, non-irritating, calms redness, nourishing, moisturizing, softening, rich in antioxidants, fights free radicals, and improves texture.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Vitamins A, B, C, Sunflower Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil & Black Currant Oil

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2. CLEANSER: KRAVEBEAUTY - Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser ($16)

This cleanser is so gentle and beautiful. My skin always looks so bright and alive after I use this cleanser. I use a small amount and work it into my already wet skin. This cleanser also replenishes my moisture barrier, instead of stripping it.

This cleanser is moisturizing, antioxidant-rich, soothing, reduces redness, and helps build a healthy skin barrier.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water (Green Tea), Glycerin, Sweet Almond Oil, Oat Kernal Extract & Vitamin B5

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3. SPOT TREATMENT (as needed): THE KLOG - Soft Shield Pimple Patch ($6)

These pimple patches have been such a blessing in my life! Applying these patches helped me quit picking at my spots. I apply these patches on clean, dry skin directly after cleansing.

These patches protect, encourage healing, and help absorb oil and impurities.

STAR INGREDIENTS: 100% Vegan Hydrocolloid

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4. EYE CREAM: BIOSSANCE - Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream ($54)

Most nights I will bring my moisturizer up by my eye area, and I will not need an eye cream. Lately, my eyelids have been a bit dry, so I am sampling the Biossance Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream. I love this eye cream. I use less than half a pinky nail's worth because it is so thick and rich.

This eye cream lifts, firms, smooths the look of fine lines & wrinkles, and moisturizes.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Marine Algae Peptide Complex, Squalane, Glycerin & Jojoba

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5. ESSENCE: COSRX - Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($25)

I use this the same way as I described in my AM Routine, and it has all the same incredible benefits I listed above. Again, I cannot recommend this product enough!

STAR INGREDIENTS: Snail Mucin (96%) and Allantoin

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6. TREATMENT: PAULA'S CHOICE - 10% Azelaic Acid Booster ($36)

When I started using this product, I noticed a significant difference in my hyperpigmentation and acne scarring within a few weeks. I use a small dollop of this treatment all over my face. This has been a miracle for reducing my redness, inflammation, scarring, and clearing my pores.

This booster is pore-clearing, fights acne/blemishes, brightens, reduces redness, and improves skin texture.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Azelaic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Licorice Root Extract & Allantoin

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7. SERUM: KRAVEBEAUTY - Great Barrier Relief ($28)

GREAT. BARRIER. RELIEF. Say it again for the people in the back! This serum is one of my favorite skincare products I have ever come across. If your skin is sensitive, reactive, or going through an allergic reaction this serum will help calm and soothe. This is a great product to reset sensitized skin and get it back to a healthy and properly functioning state. This product can be used as a moisturizer on its own or as a serum. I use 1-2 pumps under a moisturizer, or as needed.

This creamy serum calms, soothes, reduces redness, moisturizes, nourishes, plumps fine lines and wrinkles, and helps build a healthy skin barrier.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Tamanu Oil, Niacinamide, Safflower Oil, Rosehip Oil, Glycerin, Squalane, Ceramide NP, Oleic Acid, Oat Kernal Flour & Lactic Acid

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8. MOISTURIZER: BIOSSANCE - Squalane + Omega Repair Cream ($58)

I use this the same way as I described in my AM Routine, and it has all the same amazing benefits I listed above.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Squalane (derived from sugarcane), Glycerin, Shea Butter, Ceramides, Jojoba, Linoleic Acid & Oleic Acid

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9. OIL: BIOSSANCE - 100% Squalane Oil ($32)

I use this the same way as I described in my AM Routine, and it has all the same wonderful benefits I listed above.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Squalane (derived from sugar cane)

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10. LIPS: PRIMERA - Clean Berry Lip Mask ($20)

This is hands down the best lip product I have ever used. If you struggle with dry lips like me, this is a true gamechanger. Other lip masks I have tried create a protective shield on top of the lips, but do not soak in and nourish.

This lip mask is hydrating, moisturizing, protective, and softening.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Squalane, Shea Butter, Rice Bran Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Murumuru Seed Butter & Glycerin

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More Products I Love & Use A Couple Times A Week!

OIL CLEANSERS: THEN I MET YOU - Living Cleansing Balm ($38)

This cleansing balm feels so luxurious and smells so fresh and vibrant. The only reason this is not always my go-to cleansing balm is the price point. Massage a small amount of product onto dry skin, add water to emulsify, massage, and then rinse completely.

This balm is Anti-aging, rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, softening, protective, brightening, and nourishing.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Olivie Fruit Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Vitamin E, Babassu Oil & Diospyros Kaki Fruit Extract

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CLEANSERS: THE INKEY LIST - Salicylic Acid Cleanser ($9.99)

When my skin is feeling congested, this is my go-to cleanser. It gives a powerful deep clean, without completely stripping my skin. This cleanser makes my skin feels super soft and clean.

This cleanser clears pores, fights acne/blemishes, and brightens.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Glycerin, Salicylic Acid & Allantoin

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RETINOL: SHANI DARDEN - Retinol Reform ($88)

Retinol is a fairly new addition to my routine. I was nervous to give retinol a try since my skin is so sensitive, but my skin has responded very well to this product. I use 2 pumps and use a 5 dot method to apply it evenly across my face - one dot on the forehead, each cheek, chin, and nose.

This product targets Fine Lines/Wrinkles, Dullness, Loss of Firmness/Elasticity and can even act as a wonderful spot treatment! Alongside other exfoliating, brightening, and anti-aging ingredients, this product utilizes encapsulated retinol. Encapsulated Retinol slowly releases over time, so it is less irritating for sensitive skin types.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Glycerin, Apple, Lactic Acid, Lactobacillus Ferment, Retinol, Plankton Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (Green Tea), Aloe, Niacinamide, Linoleic Acid & Rice Bran Extract

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TONERS: SOME BY MI - AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner ($16)

This exfoliating toner changed my skin! Currently, I use this a few times a week, depending on when I use other exfoliating products. As the name '30 Days Miracle Toner' states, this product is gentle enough to use every night. If you are using this product, do not use other exfoliating products with it or you might overwhelm your skin and damage your skin barrier.

This toner is superb at fading dark spots, hyperpigmentation, encouraging cell turnover, soothing inflammation, and brightening.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Niacinamide, Tea Tree Leaf Water, Papaya, Lentil Seed Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Extract, Allantoin & Salicylic Acid

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SERUMS: AMPLE: N - Ceramide Shot Ampoule ($20)

Winter is coming! When the weather gets cold, I am all about layering moisture and packing my skin with barrier-strengthening ingredients like ceramides.

This ampoule nourishes and soothes dry/irritated skin, strengthens the skin barrier, prevents trans-epidermal water loss, and improves skin texture/elasticity.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Niacinimide, Forsythia Suspensa Fruit Extract, Ceramides, Allantoin, Rapeseed Oil, Cholesterol & Macadamia Seed Oil,

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LIGHTER MOISTURIZER: KRAVEBEAUTY - Oat So Simple Water Cream ($28)

Whether it is summer, you have oily skin, or you are just looking for a lightweight moisturizer, this gel moisturizer is a great option! Whenever my skin feels irritated, this product is a great way to calm and reset my skin.

This moisturizer is super lightweight, hydrating, calming, soothing, plumping, and reduces redness.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Squalane & Oatmeal Extract

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OIL: THE ORDINARY - 100% Plant-Derived Squalane ($7.90)

This oil is an affordable alternative to the Biossance Squalane Oil.

This oil is super lightweight, noncomedogenic, protective, nourishing, and never feels suffocating.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Squalane (plant-derived)

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MASKS: THE ORDINARY - AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution ($7.20)

This is the most effective at-home chemical peeling solution I have ever used. I used this mask once a week or so, depending on how often I am using other exfoliating products. The product suggests you use this mask for 5-10 minutes. If you have sensitive skin, I suggest you try it out for 5 minutes and see how your skin responds. My sweet spot is 7 minutes.

This peeling solution fights blemishes/breakouts, improves skin texture, and brightens.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid & Aloe

OR!

HERBIVORE - Blue Tansy BHA and Enzyme Pore Refining Mask ($48)

I love this mask! This mask exfoliates, calms and clears my skin like a dream. Apply a thin layer and leave on for 15-20 minutes, or until mask is dry. Remember, double the product does not equal double the effect.

This mask fights acne, blemishes, clears pores, improves skin texture, and brightens dull skin.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Aloe, Papaya, Pineapple, Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Willowbark Extract, Neem Leaf Extract, Blue Tansy Oil & Turmeric

OR!

INNISFREE - Pore Clearing Clay Mask ($15)

If you are looking for a gentle clay mask that clears pores and blackheads, without drying your skin, this mask will be your best friend! Leave on for 15-20 minutes, or until mask is dry.

This clay mask fights oily skin, clears pores, brightens, and improves skin texture.

STAR INGREDIENTS: Volcanic Ash, Kaolin, Lactic Acid & Glycolic Acid

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Tips! Tips! Tips!

Do not use physical exfoliants. If you have active acne, physical exfoliants can break open spots and spread the bacteria around your face. Physical exfoliators can be harsh, irritating, and can cause microtears in the skin.

Instead, use AHA/BHA/PHA chemical exfoliants. Though 'chemical' may sound harsh, chemical exfoliators are actually a much more gentle way to sluff off dead skin cells. (SPF is so important post-exfoliation because your skin is extra vulnerable to UVA/UVB rays!)

  • AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids): Glycolic Acid & Lactic Acid (Good for anti-aging, wrinkles, uneven texture, hyperpigmentation, getting rid of dead skin cells)
  • BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids): Salicylic Acid (Good for oily, blemish-prone skin, acne, blackheads, milia - BHAs dive deep into your pores to clean them out)
  • PHA (Poly Hydroxy Acids): Gluconolactone, Galactose & Lactobionic Acid (Good for sensitive skin because it has larger molecules than AHA/BHA, meaning it cannot penetrate the skin. PHAs work solely on the skin's surface)

Do not use heavily scented products or products with essential oils. If you are a person who LOVES your rose-scented moisturizer and it works for you, you do you and go for it. But if you are having breakouts or irritations and do not know why, I suggest you turn your product over and learn that ingredient list. If you see perfumes/fragrances/essential oils, try cutting them out and see if you notice a change. I did!

Instead, use gentle, unscented products.

If you have trouble cutting out fragrances 100%, I suggest you try the 80/20 rule! Try having 80% of your products be unscented. This way if you use a few scented makeup or skincare products, the risk of irritation will be lower.

OR!

To compensate for using unscented products, spray yourself with your favorite perfume as part of your routine. This way you get some aromatherapy benefits, without the risk of irritation. I do this!

Do not pick your pimples! EVER! I was so guilty of this, so I understand how tempting it can be. Trust me, picking your spots will only irritate, inflame, and spread acne-causing bacteria. You will be left with hyperpigmentation and possible scarring. Plus, popping your pimples can actually push the bacteria deeper into your skin, causing even more pain and inflammation. Ouch!

Instead, use pimple patches to cover your spots. Patches encourage the spot to heal and absorb impurities, instead of creating an open wound on your face. Physically covering my spots helped me stop picking.

Do not use makeup wipes. They can be irritating, drying, full of preservatives, and cause you to tug harshly on your delicate skin. They may be causing your breakouts, without you even knowing it.

Instead, use an oil cleanser/cleansing balm & water-based cleanser duo.

Don't want a complicated 5+ step routine? That is perfectly fine. The best routine is one you will actually use, so do not overwhelm yourself with products you will never use. All you need for an effective routine is a good Cleanser, Moisturizer & SPF.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck on a splurge, splurge on serums! Look for specific ingredients you want to incorporate to strengthen, hydrate, or target problem areas. (ex: peptides, ceramides, niacinamide, AHAs, BHAs, PHAs, etc)

USE A MOISTURIZER even if you have insanely oily skin! Often, people with oily skin are afraid of hydrating and moisturizing because they do not want to risk making their skin more oily. I used to be one of you! Turns out my skin was overproducing oil because it was thirsty! If your skin is producing that much oil, it is practically BEGGING you for moisture. Applying a simple, lightweight gel moisture will send signals to your skin that it does not need to produce as much oil.

REACTIONS to products show up immediately after product use. Discontinue use if your skin turns red, burns, itches, or feels irritated.

ALLERGIES to products may take several days to appear, so it is important to slowly introduce new products by only trying one new product a week. This way you will be able to pinpoint what your skin is reacting to.

ALWAYS patch test products before using them on your full face. This will allow you to see if you have any unusual reactions before continuing use.

ALWAYS bring your skincare all the way down your neck.

ALWAYS wash your hands before washing your face/applying products.

ALWAYS use a clean towel to pat your face dry! Wet towels can be a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria.

ALWAYS use SPF! Every. Single. Day. This is the most effective and proven anti-aging method.

Other contributing factors: Get proper sleep, try to maintain low-stress levels, eat a healthy diet, live an active lifestyle, drink plenty of water, do not touch your face, and wash your pillowcases & makeup brushes!

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Thank you for checking out my current skincare routines & tips! I hope these tips help you find skincare bliss! My wish for you is healthy, happy, glowing skin. Be patient and find a routine that works for you.

What is your skincare routine? Favorite products? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Tweet me @BiancaAnneShaw

If you liked what you read, please give this a '<3' and subscribe! If you choose to leave me a tip, thank you in advance. Any amount is appreciated!

product review

Bianca Shaw

Skincare | Horror | Comedy | Sci-Fi

Studied comedy & screenwriting at Second City. In 2020, my screenplay "Quinn Cooper and the Marvelous Mane" was a SEMIFINALIST in the Screencraft Action & Adventure Screenplay Competition. @BiancaAnneShaw

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