I’m sharing my skincare routine and the products I use day and night.
Why I Love Skincare
As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a love of products, packaging and branding. The weight of a product, the way it looks, the way it’s displayed, the scent, the way it feels – these are a few of my fav-o-rite things! I suppose that’s still the ‘art kid’ in me. At any given time, you’ll find 5 skincare item tabs open on my phone, but once I find a formula that works, I’m loyal to the end. (But that doesn’t mean I won’t try something new to alternate from time to time!)
As I’ve aged, I’ve completely nixed physical exfoliants in favor of acids, I wear sunscreen every single day, and I never, ever purchase a skincare item on a whim; I’m an over-researcher to the core, and as much as I love my products, I loathe a cluttered medicine cabinet. This means that I’ll use a product to completion, instead of allowing it to get dusty in the back of the drawer. This also means I’m a pretty good test of seeing how a product performs over several months.
I’ve learned a thing or two from my mom, too (including the magic of microblading my eyebrows!). For me, skincare isn’t about defying aging, although it’s not not about aging. More than anything, it’s a form of self-care, a calming ritual to start and end my day. It’s time for me, and me alone.
About My Skin
Below, I’m sharing my AM and PM routines! And because I can’t stand a product review that doesn’t tell me a thing about a person’s skin type, here’s what you should know about me:
- I’m 39-years-old
- I’m half Italian, half Korean, with light olive skin that tans easily and rarely burns
- After our daughter was born, my combination skin began to lean more dry (and still does)
- I don’t consider myself to have sensitive skin – I love to feel the burn of a hard-working product!
- I’m not prone to breakouts, but I used to be, until I dialed in the products that keep me balanced
In order of application:
- Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, $18 | My morning go-to for cleansing! It looks similar to a less expensive Cetaphil or CeraVe, but it feels way better on my skin and does the job 100x better IMO. It’s gentle, tear-free and fragrance free. I like to massage it onto dry skin before rinsing.
- The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution, $8 | I use this as a toner to remove every last trace of retinol from the evening before. Glycolic acid is great at improving skin texture for brighter, clearer skin. To apply, I use the MUJI cotton pads.
- MUJI cut cotton pads, $6 | The holy grail of facial pads! I first learned of this brand’s cult following almost a decade ago, and I’ve been using them ever since. They’re impossibly soft and large enough to get by with just 1.
- Youth To The People 15% Vitamin C Serum, $68 | This is a new-to-me vitamin C serum, but I’ve been loving it so far! I used to apply Mad Hippie vitamin C, but I didn’t love the smell or the stickiness (despite the awesome reviews). Vitamin C is essential to my morning routine to keep dark spots at bay.
- The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane, $8 | In the palm of my hand, I always add 2-3 drops of this squalane to my vitamin C, rub together, and then smooth on my face. I also use it on the backs of my hands, in my night cream, in my hair… essentially, anywhere that could use a boost of moisture! It’s thin (like water), making it easy to mix into any of my products.
- Algenist Genius Liquid Collagen, $25+ | I received a free sample of this liquid collagen years ago, and I’ve repurchased it 3 times since! From my experience, my skin looks more glowy since adding this to my routine. My only disclaimer is that it’s heavily scented (no idea why), but I don’t mind and love the results I see enough to keep it in my drawer. I use this mostly in the AM, but I notice a huge difference in my skin the following morning when I apply in the PM, too! It’s a can’t lose.
- Algenist Sublime Defense SPF 50, $28 | After such great luck with the Liquid Collagen, I opted to try Algenist’s sunscreen, and it’s a hands-down winner. You know that heavy, somewhat-skin-suffocating feeling of applying sunscreen? This is not that! It’s weightless, scentless, and doesn’t pill under makeup. For something that I apply every single day, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
In order of application:
- Glossier Cleanser Concentrate, $20 | If I could scream from the rooftops that everyone should try this cleanser, I would. Wow. Incredibly exfoliating with added Niacinamide to reduce the look of pores. I no longer need a face scrub, thanks to this concentrated cleanser. I use 3 pumps (they’re small) on a damp face and rub it in for at least 1 minute. I think of it as my mini facial massage. (And yes, it removes all traces of my makeup, too!)
- Dermaplaning Tool, $10 for 9 | I use this 1x every 6 weeks. My BFF first got me hooked on dermaplaning, but my smooth skin and better product absorption made me keep at it. My biggest tip: Do not use this before applying a face mask or any chemical treatment. After dermaplaning, I skip straight to item #6 in this list.
- The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peel, $7 | I use this 1x weekly. You’ve probably seen this all over social media, and not only because it looks a little spooky. It works! I’ll apply it while giving Lucy a bath (she’s used to my antics, haha), and rinse after 10 minutes. It’s great for acne prone skin, and in my case, it leaves my skin feeling baby-cheeks-soft.
- Aztec Secret clay mask, $10 | I use this 1-2x monthly. Yet another social media favorite, again, because it works! I only use it 1-2x a month, because my skin will do a big purge shortly after. Trust me when I say you need to mix it with apple cider vinegar (I use this one) for best results.
- baby washcloths, $7 | When removing my clay mask, I always use these baby washcloths. They’re not too rough on my skin and act as a gentle exfoliant in the process.
- Revitalash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner, $55+ | I’d like to thank my Korean mother for my complete lack of eyelashes, but Revitalash changed the game for me! I’ve been using this consistently for about 3 years now, and I’ll never look back. Make sure to apply eyelash serum before any other skincare products, as it needs to be applied to clean, dry skin.
- Shani Darden Retinol Reform, $30+ | Since adding a retinol to my nighttime skincare routine, I’ve noticed a dramatic reduction in fine lines on my forehead (my biggest problem area). Shani Darden is the only one I’ve tried, but I recently received a Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol sample and noticed a big improvement within a week. I think I’ll pick that one up next to compare the two!
- Beautycounter Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream, $89 | After retinol, I mix 2-3 drops of squalane with this cream and smooth it over my whole face and neck, including around my eyes.
- Wildling Empress Stone gua sha facial tool, $65 | I’ve found that if I keep my gua sha on my bedside table, I’m more likely to use it! As I read a book before bed, I love smoothing this around my jawline and eyes, above my brows and down my neck. The comb edge is my FAVORITE, and it helps to relieve so much tension! I’m still practicing, but I really enjoy it.
If you’re new to skincare, this might look intense, but keep in mind that several of these products are only used a few times a week or month. That said, I love the ritual and routine! Most days I don’t wear makeup at all – or very minimal makeup – and I owe a lot of skin confidence to these products.
I’m happy to answer any questions you have! Drop them in the comments below, or feel free to share your essentials! I love learning about new products and determining if they’re a good fit for me or Scott.
PS: See all of our product round-ups right here, from candles to clothes, rugs to books.
Are there 2-3 things you would suggest starting with? I’m a 33 YO with basically zero skincare routine!
Vitamin C in the morning, retinol in the evening, and a great moisturizer (or squalane). And sunscreen! Without sunscreen, the sun is undoing everything you’re working hard to maintain.
What is the reason for removing the retinol from the night before? I use retinol at night but usually don’t wash in the morning so it stays on during the day – eeek!
Retinol can be harsh on the skin and makes it more sensitive to sunlight. That’s why it’s advised to only apply in the evenings! Be sure to take it off in the morning, even if only with a gentle cleanser. The Glossier milky jelly cleanser is a dream for mornings.
Gah! Just what I needed… an excuse to buy more lotions and potions. ;) Kidding! I’m an addict, too. Thanks for your recs. I love The Ordinary and I haven’t tried some of the items you’ve mentioned.
Which are your favorite Ordinary products?
Kim, I didn’t see your reply, but I actually came back to this post today to revisit your moisturizer suggestions. I have very similar skin to yours. By any chance have you tried The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors? The reviews sound kind of wacky. My faves are their hyaluronic acid because it absorbs so smoothly and the granactive retinoid 2% because it smells lovely. Also, if you have any pull with Glossier, see if you can talk them into offering larger product sizes – I love everything I’ve tried but I blast through it! ;)
I haven’t, I’m just addicted to their squalane and mix it into everything! But I’ve been curious about their hyaluronic acid. And, right?! I would proudly be a Glossier brand ambassador, love it all so much and wish I had more pull ????
Thank you for this post! I bought the Glossier concentrated cleanser after you recommended it a few months ago and it truly made a noticeable difference in my skin. So maybe I should just replicate your entire routine! I recently started using Mad Hippie vitamin c and like it on my skin, but I agree it’s sticky and I don’t love the smell.
I look forward to washing my face with the concentrated cleanser every night. GAH it’s so good! I have been LOVING the Youth to the People linked in this post much more than Mad Hippie!
I’m loving this post!! It would be interesting to see what you’ve tried and haven’t liked. I’ve recently gone down the skincare rabbit hole so this is perfect timing. And this comment is going to be long. ;)
A couple of questions:
1. have you tried the EltaMD facial sunscreen? If so, how does it compare to Algenist?
2. I noticed you don’t use a separate eye cream. Which of the products above do you use under the eye?
Now some recs that I’ve picked up but haven’t tried yet! (Like you, I’m an obsessive researcher and still in the info gathering phase)
1. Clarins double serum
2. Clarins v-facial intensive wrap
3. Kinship bright wave energizing + brightening eye cream
Love this! Okay, so…
1. Have’t tried the Elta facial sunscreen, but another favorite would be Supergoop! Every other brand I’ve tried – even fancy ones! – feel like a coating on my skin.
2. I used the Beautycounter around my eyes! My BFF is always on me about a separate eye cream, but I find that the BC cream and squalane does the trick for me! At one point I was using Belif eye cream, and that was pretty wonderful.
Also, I sometimes alternate my retinol with Clarins double serum, and I really like that as well!
Yes, have also been looking into the Belif aqua bomb and have heard so much about the Supergoop! Trying to decide which sunblock to get next…sounds like you’d recommend the Algenist over the Glowscreen? I do like how it’s SPF 50 vs Supergoop’s SPF 40.
If you’re ever looking to try a different face wash (although the Glossier ones sound amazing), I have also heard good things about Tata Harper’s Regenerating Cleanser.
Algenist all the way!
Oooh. So fun. 2020 was the year of starting skincare for me, and now that I’m done nursing my pandemic baby, I’m excited to add a few more items like retinol! I love The Ordinary, and just picked up the Peeling solution on your recommendation. I also love their Buffet peptide serum, their moisturizer (so lovely!) and their niacinamide for acne. Highly recommend the Elta sunscreen someone else mentioned – plus their eye cream! Also love the facial mists and cleansers (plus the deodorant) from Primally Pure!
Thanks for sharing your routine! Could you do a story about your mom’s and your own microblading experiences? I’m very intrigued!
How long after you started using vitamin C did you notice any sort of difference? I started using one in June and I just don’t feel like it’s doing anything, but I’m not sure if I should try a different brand/formula or…something else. Or go to a dermatologist. I mean I should probably go to a dermatologist anyway.
Second question – do you get any sort of white cast with the sunscreen you use? I have a sunscreen I love but the white cast is SO noticeable that I have to wear something on top of it or I look like a monster. I’d like to find something I can wear on its own with no color on top if I don’t need to/feel like wearing makeup that day.
Thanks for posting this, I’m starting to build up my routine a little and I will definitely be looking into some of these products!
I have gotten several dark marks (melasma) along my cheeks since having Lucy. That’s when they really began to appear! Since using vitamin C, some of them have gotten lighter, but they’re not getting worse, that’s for sure. My skin is prone to melasma, and I feel like the vitamin C keeps it at bay.
NO white cast whatsoever with Algenist sunscreen by the way! Not even a little.
Thank you! I’ve developed some spots on my forehead over the last few years and I never considered that they might be melasma (because I’ve never been pregnant). I’ve definitely gone through some hormonal changes in that time, though, and will continue to do so as I’m intending to change my birth control in the next couple of months, so it seems like melasma could be what’s happening. Off to the dermatologist I will go! And I might try your preferred vitamin C in the mean time ????
Love this post and the peek into your routine! I started using a dermatologist prescribed retinol about a year ago and it was my first ever, I’ll never go back! She said there isn’t a person it doesn’t help – acne, wrinkles, texture… good for it all and on my insurance I only pay $10 for a tube!
WHOA, that’s incredible!
Love this! Thank you for sharing, Kim. I’m 38 and in addition to being very consistent in my routine and application of sunscreen, I started seeing an esthetician once a month for microdermabrasion this year (which also stimulates collagen production!). That monthly visit makes all the time and $ I spend on my skin work even better for me.
Ooh, I LOVE that.
What do you mean when you say your skin purges after your clay mask?
I’ll get small breakouts and all that junk comes to the surface. Basically, my skin is clearing itself out!
I’ve been experimenting with lots of different Beautycounter products over the past 2ish years as I develop my own “adult” skincare routine (and love the Countertime cream) but I’m struggling to justify the cost. I found myself nodding to the ways that you describe your skin and the ways that these products work, and I’m excited to try some of these!
It’s pricey! But it really does have results, and my skin seems to love it.
Hi Kim. Thanks for sharing all of this great information with us! I get so overwhelmed by all of the skincare products and advice out there, that I tend to avoid the rabbit hole. I bought the Glossier Cleanser Concentrate a few weeks ago on your recommendation and have really liked it so far. (And I use Cetaphil in the morning, so I might have to try Milk Jelly now, too!)
I’d love to hear how long some of these products last for you, especially the products you use daily.
I would say that I have to buy some of my products 2x a year, and others only 1x a year. I don’t go overboard on the quantity of product, except the squalane and night cream. Those two things, I load up and let it soak into my skin all night long.
I would love to hear more about microblading your eyebrows, which are pretty much the best eyebrows on the internet. Apologies if you’ve already shared about them!
Haha, wow, thank you! I can’t imagine NOT microblading my brows now, my mom was right! I see an awesome person in Chicago, and she takes good care of me. I would say to check references, look at their work and bring inspiration photos with you!
This was so helpful, Kim! I’m definitely adding a few of these products to my Christmas wishlist. Do you use any lip masks or moisturizers? With the cold weather, I’m once again finding that my regular moisturizer doesn’t do the trick! Would also love to hear any recommendations for hand or body moisturizers too — I haven’t found one I love. Thanks again for the very helpful, approachable post!
I don’t use a lip mask, just smooth squalane in my lips and slather on a bunch of Vaseline before bedtime to seal it in.
Hi! Does the Glossier Cleanser Concentrate remove your mascara too?
omg RIP my wallet. Thank you!!
Hey Kim! I thought I was the only weirdo really into Glossier and the ordinary! Good to know I am in good company!
They’re my go-to brands for most things!
Kim! I’m a newbie to skin care, so I tried to buy just a few things from this list, but the Black Friday deals were too good to pass up and I ended up with most of it. After about 2 weeks of using them, my skin feel amazing! It’s been a big confidence boost. So much so that my husband says I’ve been talking about it in my sleep, hah! Thank you so so much for sharing. There are so many products and so much information that is incredibly daunting and I found your list and descriptions very attainable. <3
Shauna! I am SO excited for you! Love hearing this.
Hi Kim. Wondering if you are familiar with The Sunday Standard? They are in Chicago. I just got a sample from a cute little shop on Monroe St. here in Madison, and I think I’m in love.
I haven’t heard of them! Will check them out, thank you!