I like to think that for about 75% of the year I have fairly normal skin; not oily or dry, maybe the occasional spot, but for the most part it’s not a problem. When the air starts to dry out, wind picks up, and I start spending a few hours in a packed commuter train to get to work, I start to veer into that other 25% of the year. My hyperpigmentation becomes more obvious, my skin feels dry and tired, and it needs a helping hand. So, in anticipation of those harsher winter months, I’ve kicked my skincare routine into overdrive for the last month. Here’s what I do every day to keep my skin healthy and happy!
Much of what I’ve adopted for both my morning and evening skincare routines has come from Caroline Hirons, queen of skincare. The goal of morning skin care is to prep your skin for the rest of the day. For a while, I wasn’t convinced that washing my face in the morning was completely necessary, but not only does it help wake me up when I’m feeling groggy, but it really does help prep my skin before putting on makeup for the day.
Step 1 – Cleanse
Mornings start every day with a warm washcloth and a gentle cleanse – I use Lush’s Aqua Marina cleanser, but any cleanser gentle enough to clear up any sweat or oil from overnight will work just fine. While my fall skin care routine is mostly new additions, Aqua Marina is an all time favorite. It’s clay based with calamine, so it’s super gentle and calming on my skin, and doesn’t dry it out at all. My face always feels baby soft after I use it.
I’m such a huge proponent of cleansing with wash cloths, as I try not to use too many harsh exfoliants, and I find that cleansing with a wash cloth does just enough to gently exfoliate.
Pro Tip: Use a fresh wash cloth every day! Reusing a wash cloth multiple days in a row leaves a damp warm feeding ground for bacteria (not something you want to put on your face!). You can buy a pack of 14 wash cloths at Bed Bath and Beyond for $10, and it’s undeniably worth it.
Step 2 – Acid Lotion
After I’ve done my gentle cleanse, I’ll go in with a bit of salicylic acid lotion to help clear up and prevent spots. Right now I’m using the Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Moisturizer, but also note that this isn’t the only moisturizer I use, as it doesn’t contain any SPF, and the acid in it can actually be drying to your skin, which is counter productive for a moisturizer.
Step 3 – Tone
Once the salicylic acid lotion is on my skin, I’ll go in with a cotton round and dab on some hydrating toner (currently I’m using Doterra’s Verage Toner, which has ylang ylang and aloe to help soothe and moisturize). This is an opportunity to replenish a little more moisture in your skin before you move on to the rest of your routine after your acid lotion.
Step 4 – Oil or Serum
If my skin is feeling extra dry, or just needs some more love than usual, this is when I’ll go in with a bit of Acure Organics Rosehip Oil ($10.99 at Target), which helps protect your natural acid mantle with vitamins C and E, and also helps to brighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation. The tiniest bit of this stuff goes a long way, so I normally use a half a pump and make it work on my whole face.
Step 5 – Moisturize
And now, finally, I move onto my last step: moisturizer and SPF. Caroline Hirons suggests these two as separate steps in your skincare routine, but as I don’t have unlimited time in the morning before work, I don’t mind getting my moisture and SPF in the same step. I’m currently using the Eucerin Daily Protective Facial Lotion with SPF 30 ($7 at Target), which I love because it’s unscented, it makes my skin feel so hydrated and healthy, and it’s got SPF 30, which is a step up from the SPF 15 that comes with a lot of drugstore face lotions.
Holy cow, I know that’s a lot of steps for a morning skincare routine. And I haven’t even gotten into my evening routine yet, either. I’m exhausted just typing it out, let alone actually going through all the motions and carrying out this routine. But trust me, it’s incredibly worth it, and your skin will thank you for it.
If you’re like me, and you wear a full face of gunk every day to school or work, chances are that by the time you get home at the end of the day, your skin is suffocating. I know this. I acknowledge that it’s probably way better for my skin to not wear makeup than it is to try to cover everything up with makeup. But I like wearing it, I’ve spent a lot of money on it, and I’m going to keep wearing it.
So to offset the daily assault I do on my face every day by piling on foundation, concealer, and powder, an equally intense nighttime skin routine is appropriate. The goal of nighttime skincare is to help your skin begin to repair and heal itself after a long day of being vulnerable in a polluted, dry, and windy environment.
Step 1 – Oil Cleanse
Evenings are when I do my double cleanse (a first cleanse to take off makeup and dirt, and a second cleanse to actually clean the skin). I start by taking my wash cloth from the morning, wetting it down and just pressing it on my face for thirty seconds or so to open up my pores and start to break down my makeup.
Then I’ll do an oil cleanse, either with just plain coconut oil, or Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil ($15.99 from Target). This is a great time to give some love back to your face: it’s been working hard all day, struggling under a layer of foundation. Really take your time and give your face a good massage; not only will it help break up all the makeup, but it stimulates cell turnover and helps to plump up fine lines. Honestly, if your skin is ever looking sallow or in need of some love, just massage some coconut oil on it for two or three minutes and rinse off – you’d be so surprised at how much of a difference it can make.
Step 2 – Second Cleanse
Use your washcloth to take off the cleansing oil you’ve massaged in, and then move on to your more intensive cleanser. If your initial oil cleanse is intended to be a pre-wash, the second cleanse is your intensive wash. The blogger Confessions of a Product Junkie has a really great write up explaining the concept and practice of double cleansing.
I’ve just started using the Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser ($45 from Sephora), and I can’t say just yet whether or not it’s been working for me, but keep an eye out for a review of some of the Sunday Riley line that’s available now at Sephora. In an attempt to go through some of the Birchbox products I’ve been hoarding, I’ve also been using the Algenist Ultimate Anti-Aging Melting Cleanser ($38 from Sephora), which seems to work just fine, but it’s nothing to write home about (and I could certainly recommend cheaper cleansers that do just as good of a job).
Step 3 – Acid Toner
Once the second cleanse is complete, this is when I’ll go in with an acid toner – specifically some form of glycolic or lactic acid. In my morning routine, I followed my cleanse with a salicylic acid lotion, which is great for preventing breakouts and keeping skin spot free. Glycolic and lactic acids serve a different purpose though – these act as a chemical exfoliant to help stimulate cell turnover and slough off dead skin cells. After using them for a while, you’ll start to see improvements in hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. I’ve been using the Pixi Glow Tonic ($15 from Target), which has a 5% glycolic acid formula. Pixi also makes higher concentration glycolic acid peel pads, but I personally didn’t want to shake my skincare routine up too much, so I decided a less harsh exfoliant was probably the best option.
A thing to remember when you’re using chemical exfoliants and glycolic or lactic acids: you’re making your skin much more vulnerable, and removing a layer of dead skin cells that would normally protect it. If you’re using an acid in your skin care routine, make sure you’re being extra careful about sun exposure – that means trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible, using a daily sunscreen the morning after an acid treatment, and remembering to re-apply throughout the following day.
Step 4 – Hydrating Toner
After acid toning, your skin is more receptive to water based hydration, so now is when you want to use more of your hydrating toner (I use the same Doterra toner from my morning routine). You can either mist your face, or if you find that a little startling like I do, spritz a cotton round and dab on your skin.
Step 5 – Eye creams
Now is when I typically like to apply eye treatments – my current favorites are the Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream ($30 at Sephora) and the 100% Pure Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream ($25 on Birchbox.com). Check out this super helpful post on The Beauty Department for a few tricks on how to best apply your eye cream.
Step 6 – Treatments and Masks
Treatments and masks are where my evening skincare routine gets intense – like, actually intense. This is where I add in more intensive treatments where my skin might need time to chill overnight. Caroline Hirons recommends doing either a treatment or face mask every night. Rather than bore you with even more face masks I love, you can check out my post on my favorites. As far as treatments go, I haven’t been too adventurous just yet, but I’ll use the Acure Rosehip Oil I mentioned above, or an emerging cult favorite: Sunday Riley’s Good Genes treatment (a whopping holy freaking what $105 from Sephora).
I’m planning on writing a full post about the Good Genes treatment after I’ve used it for a longer stretch of time, but let me just say right off the bat: if you’re looking for a lactic acid or glycolic acid treatment, you do not have to start with this one. There are plenty of cheaper options, and I can’t definitely say yet whether this one has helped my skin or not. Stay tuned for that review in the next month or two!
Step 7 – Moisturizer
After treatments are on, your skin has been through a lot for the day. It’s time for our final step: overnight moisturizer. I have a few favorites that I’ll alternate fairly frequently, including the True Cream Aqua Bomb ($38 from Sephora), Boscia Tsubaki Deep Hydration Sleeping Mask ($34 from Sephora), and the Origins Drink up Intensive Overnight Mask ($28 from Sephora). There are plenty of great drugstore options too, the important thing to remember is to not use a moisturizer with SPF in it. Overnight skin care is all about helping your skin regenerate and heal itself.
Holy cow, you made it all the way through. It sounds like a lot, but it ends up going by fairly quickly. I think spending time focusing on taking care of yourself and your skin after it has taken care of you all day is a great way to end the day. It’s time to slather on some lip balm, put on cozy socks, and climb into bed.