When it comes to beauty and skincare, I am not only a fan, but I am obsessed. I daydream about it. I advise all my friends on it. Honestly, I could talk about it all day long. Probably right after my workout schedule and eating times, tending to my skin is the next highest priority.
While I may have not perfected my “Kontour” just yet (I’m much more of a strobing gal anyways), I am very diligent about my skincare routine. Why is this? Obviously, it’s because it doesn’t matter how many layers of paint you put on your face, it will all be for naught, if you don’t have a smooth, clear and plump canvas to work on. Also, who wants to workout in a full face of makeup?
So, what are the first steps to clear skin?
Well, if you have very concerning skin conditions or problems that just won’t go away, it’s always important to talk to your dermatologist first. In the past year I started dealing with really bad breakouts, and try as I might to clear it up at home, the condition stayed the same. Fortunately, a quick prescription of Retin-A (which is a lifesaver and will talk about later) turned my skin around in no time.
Once you’ve promised you’ve done this, there are quite a few products that I would recommend to just about everyone – to not only keep you in the “clear” but keep you positively glowing! There is certainly a mix between Western (American & European) brands and cult-favorite Korean brands, and the prices range so there will be something for everyone!
1. Tracie Martyn Amla Cleanser $65
When it comes to cleansers, this is my top pick and have used nothing else for at least the past 2+ years. It’s natural, gentle and smells great. It also does an exceptional job of purifying the skin and making it feel clean without stripping it of its natural oils. Yes, it’s pricey, but if you’re looking for an investment, then this is certainly the way to go. This is an especially great option if you have normal to oily skin but depending on your skincare routine, can cater to just about anyone.
2. Skinfood Black Sugar Scrub $10
Some say you should exfoliate everyday. Others still think it’s only necessary 2-3X a week. Either way, this scrub is effective enough to work its magic even if it is only used sparingly, but gentle enough to use everyday if you wanted. This inexpensive scrub packs a 1-2 punch of exfoliating crystals and a moisturizing mask. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it smells (and kinds tastes) simply divine – and for this price!
Be warned: This is only for those who do not have very sensitive skin. If you’re looking to scrub deeply and effectively, however, this brightening powder is the way to go. Simply put a little bit of the powder into your palm, add water and then apply to your face. Make sure not to scrub too vigorously or you might create small micro-tears in your skin. If done correctly, however, this powder wash yields wonderful results in just one try.
Once you have washed your face, a toner is in order. Rosewater has been my saving grace for some time now and its smell is simply magical. A few spritzes are enough to balance the pH of your skin and set up your complexion for the rest of your routine.
This is the real gateway to moisture. You know that dry feeling your face sometimes gets if you’ve washed it with warm water or too vigorously with your cleanser? A few sprays of this patted in and you will feel hydrated already.
6. Benton BHA Aloe Toner $17
It may seem redundant to add a second toner, but my skin absolutely loves aloe and yours might too. If you have to deal with open lesions especially from post acne scars, inflamed or irritated skin, aloe will be your go-to. Of course, this can’t compete with buying an aloe plant, cutting it open and applying directly to your face at the end of the night, but it’s certainly the next best thing – and it’s way less messy. My skin feels instantly calm and soothed once this glides on.
Vitamin C serums and oils are great for all skin types. Their purpose? Vitamin C has the power to not only repair skin, but make your skin tone brighter and more even. This is a beauty ingredient absolutely no one who knows skincare can do without. While Ole Henriksen has my favorite iteration of it, Paula’s Choice has a great option, as well as C20.
Besides Vitamin C serums, this is the only other serum that takes the proverbial cake. I don’t use it every night, but every time I do I wake up to glowing, smooth skin. It might be the all-natural ingredients, or perhaps the Vermont air, but it truly works wonders. It should be said that it is pricy and you get quite a small portion for the price, so there’s no need to overuse!
9. Sally’s Box Ceramide Hydrogel Masks $12 (for 3)
If there is one thing that I, personally, simply cannot do without, it would certainly be sheet masks. Yes, they do take 20+ minutes of sitting still so your skin can fully absorb the essence, but your skin feels totally moisturized and luminous right after. Currently these Sally’s Box hydrogel masks (a mask that is “jellier” in texture than regular sheet masks) are all I reach for. Use these 3 times a week regularly and you will see and feel the difference.
This may not be necessary for everyone, but if you suffer from PIH (post inflammatory hyper pigmentation) marks resulting from past battles with acne, sun or age spots, etc. then this will be your BFF. I headed to a high end skincare store in NYC in search for something to even my skin tone a few months back and was given a cream that cost twice as much for half the quantity and was only a fraction as effective. Yes, this lotion is still “pricy” but it’s also worth it! It doesn’t hurt that this formula also feels extra hydrating.
I am not a big fan of the drugstore beauty lineup. I’m sorry! Honestly, once I switched over to Korean and high end skincare I could really see the difference. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” is one that I certainly believe in. The one exception to this, I will say is this Neutrogena duo that I use both day and night. Sure, it is slightly pricier than the rest of the basic Neutrogena washes, but it really does work to brighten and even out the skin. The nighttime moisturizer contains a retinol which helps in healing and regenerating your skin cells as you sleep, while it’s also extremely moisturizing. I really attribute my lack of severe reaction to the prescribed Retin-A to having extensive experience with this first. The daytime moisturizer also contains SPF which makes it the perfect companion to retinol-based nighttime products. Never use nighttime (especially retinol) products in the day as it makes your skin more susceptible to sun burn, irritation and sensitivity.
12. Laneige Water Sleeping Pack $23
“Sleeping packs” are a very new concept for me, but they certainly changed my whole view on how my skin should feel when I wake up in the morning! Swipe this on at night at the end of your whole skincare routine and you will wake up feeling dewy and refreshed. This one is affordable and accessible. In addition, if you’re looking for a light foundation or maybe a BB cream (I’m obsessed), try the Laneige BB cushion. It’s all I use now. Seriously. It gives you that coveted dewy complexion while offering medium coverage in every season.
Eye cream! It’s a part of your routine that you should not do without. I have a lot of friends in my age group (20s) that are always like “Oh, I don’t need that!” and I tell them adamantly that it’s about prevention. Of course you can always get fillers and other injectables down the line, but why not do something as simple as moisturize your eye area now so you don’t have to deal with that in 10 years? This eye concentrate is rich and best if patted in.
BONUS: Retin A (AKA Tretinoin, Atralin, etc.)
Hands down, this was one of the best things I have ever tried in my life. Retin A is essentially a concentration of Vitamin A that is applied directly onto your skin. It promotes cell turn over which means that your pores are less likely to get clogged with bacteria and you will have less frequent (to eventually none at all) breakouts. It also helps peel back the layers of time by smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles. Sounds like a miracle right? Right. It is, and I feel like everyone should get a tube of this just because.
Moral of the story? Ask your dermatologist for advice first, but once you’ve done that, try out these products and tell us what you think! We could really talk skincare all day…
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What are some of the best skincare products you’ve ever tried?
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