My Skincare Holy Grails

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! Personally, this pandemic brought many silver linings – including the eradication of my daily four hour commute. Working from home, I’ve been blessed with significantly more free time to exercise, educate myself, reflect, and spend quality time with family. 

A topic I’ve delved into recently is skincare. I’ve always loved trying new cleansers, creams, and cosmetics, but I never truly understood the factors that differentiated brands or justified the luxury lines’ insane prices. 

One of my favorite skincare educators is Hyram. Through watching his videos, I’ve learned about the positive and negative effects of common ingredients, and why luxury skincare (SK-II, La Mer, etc.) can be overrated!

Below are my morning and evening skincare routines, favorite face masks, and a list of ingredients to look for when purchasing new products. Note: I have oily/combination skin. 

Morning Routine

1) CeraVe Foaming Facial Wash ($13.78/12 oz) – The perfect gentle, hydrating morning cleanser.
OR 1) Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser ($6.39/6.7 oz) – I love how this one visibly brightens my skin! I’ll use it on days I have important meetings or just need a little extra glow.
2) Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber, Green Tea ($7.00/4 oz) – My favorite hydrating face mist. I spray this all over and pat it into my skin before applying any serums.
3) Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask ($20.00/0.7 oz) – Steep price, but I can’t live without this splurge. The perfect primer for lipstick, keeps your lips hydrated all day! I have one at home and one in the office.
4) The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Serum ($6.80/1 oz) – My favorite (affordable) hydrating serum. I apply this all over my face while my skin is still slightly damp from the cucumber spray.
5) The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum ($5.90/1 oz) – This serum is MAGIC. It visibly shrinks my pores, reduces oil/sebum production, and evens my skin tone. I apply this to my t-zone, under my nose, and anywhere else that gets oily during the day! It’s drastically reduced my shininess.
6) CeraVe Eye Repair Cream ($10.77/0.5 oz) – I’ve tried Kiehl’s Avocado Eye Cream, but found this one works better (and is a lot more wallet-friendly) to reduce puffiness and dark circles under my eyes.
7) Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($15.63/1.7 oz) – The best lightweight moisturizer with hyaluronic acid for long lasting hydration. This one is perfect for oily/combination skin and absorbs instantly, locking in your serums.
8) Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 ($13.32/1.7 oz) – My SPF and makeup primer; I love how the essential soy also smoothes my skin tone.

Night Routine

1) Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water ($6.78/13.5 oz) – The best makeup remover! This one completely removes stubborn mascara and eyeliner every time.
2) CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser ($9.38/8 oz) – The salicylic acid combats acne and oily skin and removes any makeup residue for a deep cleanse.
3) Pixi Glow Tonic Toner ($18.00/4.2 oz) – My skin always glows the morning after I use this. I squeeze a little bit onto a cotton pad before wiping it over my face. Note: I use this every other night because glycolic acid can be harsh when used too often.

4. Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber, Green Tea ($7.00/4 oz)

5. Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask ($20.00/0.7 oz)

6. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($6.80/1 oz)

7. CeraVe Eye Repair Cream ($10.77/0.5 oz)

8) Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($15.63/1.7 oz) – This gel cream is a bit thicker than the blue water gel I use in the morning and does a better job of sealing in moisture.
9) Pixi Collagen Plumping Face Mask ($22.49/1.52 oz) – I only use this in the winter when my skin is very dry; a thin layer on top of my gel cream provides deep overnight hydration. My face is always so soft and supple the morning after.

My Favorite Masks

Skin Food Black Sugar Mask ($10.00/3.53 oz) – A great exfoliating scrub; I use this every two weeks before applying a clay mask.
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution ($7.20/1 oz) – A chemical exfoliant! This is a gentler option than the physical scrub and can be used up to twice/week before applying a clay mask.
Kiehls Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask ($36.00/4.2 oz) – My favorite clay mask! It visibly shrinks my pores and deep cleanses my skin, leaving that cool tingly feeling afterwards. I leave this on for 10 minutes and try to do it twice/week.

Again, these are the products that work well on my oily/combination skin. If you have drier skin, you may need to focus your routine on more hydrating products.

My Skin Rules:

  1. Before purchasing any product, check the ingredients!
    1. The first six ingredients listed will have the highest concentrations and potency. While this is great for beneficial components, it’s important that overly harsh, stripping elements are not listed in the top six.
  2. The Phenoxyethanol Trick – Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that can’t be formulated above 1% concentration in the United States. Any ingredients listed after phenoxyethanol will have lower than 1% concentration. In other words, if a cucumber moisturizer lists cucumber extract as the second to last ingredient after phenoxyethanol…you’re probably not purchasing a high-quality product!
  3. Good Ingredients to Look For:
    1. Anti-Aging:
      1. Collagen – includes amino acids that increase moisture levels and even skin texture.
      2. Retinol – reduces and prevents skin damage, but can dry out skin.
    2. Brightening:
      1. Vitamin C – reduces signs of aging, brightens skin tone, restores and soothes skin.
        1. Note: Loses potency when exposed to light/air – make sure yours is packaged in an opaque, air-restrictive bottle.
    3. Exfoliating:
      1. Chemical exfoliants include:
        1. Salicylic Acid (BHA) – targets impurities in pores.
        2. Lactic Acid (AHA) – exfoliates outer skin layers.
        3. Glycolic Acid (AHA) – stronger version of lactic acid, also targets outer skin layers.
        4. Note: BHA exfoliants are ideal to combat clogged pores, blackheads, and acne, and include many soothing properties. AHA exfoliants target dry skin with advanced signs of aging, as AHA smoothes wrinkles and fine lines, reduces rough texture, and provides deep hydration. 
      2. Be cautious when using physical exfoliants (scrubs, beads, etc.) since these are harsher and can cause micro-tears in the skin – resulting in scars. I only physically exfoliate once every two weeks.
    4. Hydrating:
      1. Ceramides – lipids that form the skin’s protective barrier and retain moisture.
      2. Glycerin/Glycerol – replenishes and restores skin.
      3. Hyaluronic Acid/Sodium Hyaluronate – boosts skin’s moisture, provides antioxidant defense, and soothes.
    5. Oily Skin/Acne:
      1. Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) – minimizes pores, improves uneven skin tone, reduces dark spots and acne scars, soothes sensitivity and redness, and brightens skin. Basically, magic.
      2. Salicylic Acid – exfoliates, deep cleanses pores, prevents acne.
      3. Zinc – reduces oil/sebum production.
  4. Harsh Ingredients to Avoid:
    1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – strips skin, can cause greater sensitivity when paired with other cleansing agents.
    2. Denatured/SD Alcohol – a highly irritating and stripping delivery agent.
    3. Citrus Extracts – known for their irritating properties, citrus extracts can also cause oxidation when exposed to UV light.
      1. Includes orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit extracts.
    4. Fragrance/Parfum – if you have sensitive skin, beware of fragrance – it may only serve to irritate and weaken your skin.
      1. Includes fragrant essential oils.
    5. Oxybenzone – clogs pores, found in sunscreens.

These are just some of the guidelines I follow when purchasing new skincare products. 🙂 Checking a product’s ingredients is the best way to prevent yourself from falling for fancy marketing. If you ever want to investigate whether an ingredient is positive or negative, take a look in my skincare Bible – Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary. She provides scientific definitions regarding the formulation of many common skincare ingredients.

Let me know if you have any questions!


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