My Nightly Skincare Routine

I was one of those teenagers who had horrible cystic acne. And when I say horrible, I’m not exaggerating. I used to spend hours every morning carefully applying concealer to each blemish, praying that if I powdered just right, it would cover all day. This required frequent trips to the bathroom mirror to assess how well my camouflage job was holding up. Needless to say, having acne made my 15-year-old self extremely self-conscious and ashamed, and even though I knew my skin was clean, I somehow always felt dirty.

After trying what seemed to be every over-the-counter acne product on the market, I finally went to the dermatologist. The doctor prescribed Retin-A, a very powerful derivative of Vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself. It speeds cell turnover and keeps pores from being clogged. When pores aren’t clogged, pimples can’t form. It has been said to “remodel skin on a cellular level.”

When I started using Retin-A, my skin peeled like crazy but eventually, my skin got used to it and it started working. Within months, my acne was much smoother, and at the 6-month mark, I was almost blemish-free. 

Unbeknownst to me at 15, Retin-A has the added benefit of reducing wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots by increasing the production of collagen. So, when I was using it for acne, I was unknowingly also keeping my skin youthful, vibrant, and smooth.

I credit my continued use of Retin A or Retinol for the majority of the past 30+ years as the reason I have been able to age as slowly as I have. 

Using Retin-A was the kick start to developing a complete skincare routine. 

I never thought I’d ever say this, but I’m so thankful to have had acne!

I am very religious about my skincare routine, and even on nights that I really don’t want to, I always force myself to do it. Even after a surgery last year when I could barely walk, I woke myself up in the middle of the night thinking, oh no – I didn’t do my skincare tonight! 

I change up my skincare routine fairly regularly, but I always try to buy medical-grade products because they contain prescription-strength ingredients. Although more expensive than over-the-counter or department store products, they are actually a better value because they more effectively penetrate the skin, and it usually takes less product to achieve your desired result. To me, they are worth the investment because they have stronger active ingredients and are more preventive – so when you use them you are saving yourself from further issues in the future.

I also read the ingredients of every product before I purchase it. I have gotten really good at decoding the ingredient list, and look for active ingredients at the top of the list so I can gain the maximum benefit.

You may notice that a few of the products I use are made by the same brand. This is because I trust the brand’s quality, and know that they are both medical grade and filled with the most potent ingredients. And to be fair, I do acknowledge that some of these products are pricey, but I apply them to the specifications of the directions, and never use too much so they always last a long time (4-5 months). I think of it as an investment in my skin and myself, and pray they all don’t run out at the same time!

The following is what I am currently using in the evening (in order):

Step 1: Oil cleanser

The hydrating and soothing ingredients in cleansing oils can be more effective and less irritating than some traditional cleansers. And as counterintuitive as it seems, they won’t leave your skin oily or greasy. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, says “Oil absorbs oil, which means that these products can effectively remove dirt and leave the skin clean.”

The oil cleanser I am currently using Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil.

This product has 8 plant-derived oils and extracts, including squalane, plus a hefty dose of antioxidants. It is excellent at dissolving impurities and makeup, even stubborn mascara. This has been my absolute favorite for years, and I begin my skincare routine with this every single night without fail. Don’t waste your money on any other oil cleanser – this one is the very best.

Step 2: Gel or Cream Cleanser

There’s nothing better than that creamy lather you feel when you wash your face, but it turns out that foaming cleansers can often irritate and strip the skin of its natural oils. If the cleanser includes the word “foaming”, or has the ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, I avoid it.

Here are the 3 that I’m currently alternating between:

SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser:

This non-irritating creamy cleanser that calms and soothes, while at the same time removes excess oils and debris. The key ingredient is Orange Oil, which is a soothing antiseptic that helps calm sensitive or irritated skin.

SkinCeuticals Simply Clean:

This gentle cleanser removes excess oils and makeup, and leaves the skin feeling squeaky clean (without feeling tight). The botanical extracts soothe, nourish and hydrate, while hydroxy acids gently exfoliate.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser:

This drugstore cleanser removes dirt, makeup, and other debris without over stripping the skin, and the Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid help hydrate. It also has a patented delivery system that continually releases moisturizing ingredients for 24-hour hydration. And at less than $15, it’s a steal.

Step 3: Essence or Facial Mist

I don’t tone my skin in the traditional sense because I have truly never found one that doesn’t strip or dry out my skin, even the ones that say they are hydrating. Instead, I use an Essence or Facial Mist, which essentially works as a primer for your next skincare step. Because they deeply penetrate the skin, they bolster the benefits of all the other products in your routine. Another thing I love about using an essence is that they give that super-hydrated, dewy look.

I am currently using: Organic Skin Care Neroli Age Corrective Hydrating Mist:

This essence is firming and collagen boosting. It includes Neroli Oil, Coconut Milk, Coconut Water, and a Natural Retinol Alternative Complex. I spray it all over my face right after it’s washed, and then a gentle pat in. Another great thing about this product is that you can use it throughout the day to refresh your makeup and give your skin a little “pick-me-up”.

Step 4: Exfoliate

I never use a physical exfoliant because they often include harsh ingredients like nut shells or fruit pits, which can be very abrasive and cause micro-tears in the skin. Instead, I use a chemical exfoliant, which is broken down into two categories: Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs). AHAs, such as lactic or glycolic acid, exfoliate the skin’s surface, and are effective for skin that’s dry or sun-damaged. BHAs, such as salicylic acid, are anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and work well for acne-prone skin.

I am currently using:iS Clinical Active Serum:

The key ingredient in this serum is salicylic acid (a BHA), which has anti-aging and brightening benefits. It helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, redness, and acne. I also use this product on my neck and chest to combat my many years of sun worship. I’m a California girl, after all. 🙂

Step 5: Human Growth Hormone (hGH)

I know this sounds weird, and even gross, but there’s a lot of science behind why using a Human Growth Hormone works. They can restore our cell activity, boost elastin production, and increase collagen. This product is a miracle worker for aging skin because it can help reverse sun damage, large pores, hyperpigmentation, loss of firmness, and creepy skin.

I am currently using SkinMedica TNS Recovery Complex:

This anti-aging serum utilizes growth factors to visibly smooth, tone and firm the skin. It targets blood vessels, reduces inflammation, and encourages cell growth. The addition of amino acids and antioxidants help prevent free radical damage and signs of premature aging. I love this product because the first ingredient is Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media, so it’s highly concentrated.

For me, having a complete skincare routine is an essential form of self-care.

Step 6: Retinol

I spoke of the many benefits of using a Retin A in my introduction, but what I will add is that the prescription strength has somehow become too harsh for me after so many years using it. I think I may have hit the maximum amount of exfoliating! So now I use a Retin-A alternative, Retinol, instead, which provides the same anti-aging benefits, just does so more slowly.

I am currently using SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex 1.0:

I like this particular Retinol because it is especially effective at minimizing the appearance of age spots and wrinkles, and promoting a smoother complexion. This particular product is formulated for skin types that are already pre-conditioned to using retinol treatments, so if you are new to retinol, you should start at 0.25% and work your way up.

Step 7: Face Oil

There are many benefits to using a Face Oil.  Besides being the perfect antidote to dry, flaky, and rough skin, they are packed with antioxidants and can reduce wrinkles. A face oil can penetrate deep into the skin, trapping water in while keeping toxins out. They can also clean out the pores, making them appear smaller. Some people use face oil as their last step, but I like to “lock it in” and add it before moisturizer.

I am currently using Osmosis Beauty Nourish Avocado Facial Oil:

This healing product is rich with oils such as avocado, olive, and jojoba. It works to hydrate, rebalance, and prevent moisture loss in the skin, and is especially good at combating hyperpigmentation, acne, dehydration, and loss of firmness. It can be used on its own, or you can add a few drops to your moisturizer for an extra dose of hydration. I believe this one is the best on the market – and I’ve tried quite a few!

I never thought I’d ever say this, but I’m so thankful to have had acne!

Step 8: Eye Cream

Many people use their face moisturizer around the eyes because they don’t believe that the eye area needs a dedicated product. But, eye creams are more specialized and have stronger ingredients than regular moisturizers. Formulated specifically for the delicate skin around the eye, they have a lot of active ingredients aimed at helping to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, puffiness, and dark circles.

I am currently using SkinMedica TNS Illuminating Eye Cream:

This product is incredibly effective at targeting dark circles, puffiness, and sun damage. The TNS, which is a mixture of growth factors, cytokines, antioxidants, and matrix proteins, improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone, and texture around your eye area. It’s also formulated with anti-aging peptides to promotes collagen regrowth, and like the Human Growth Factor product I use in Step #5, it contains a very potent dose of Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media. ​On top of all that, it leaves behind a lovely, filter-like illuminating glow. What’s not to love?

Step 9: Moisturizer

Moisturizers and their many benefits are pretty much a no-brainer, and regular use is basically the cornerstone of any good skincare regimen. It is essential in not only providing necessary hydration, but also for fighting wrinkles and helping your skin stay youthful.

I am currently using SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2:

This product glides on like silk and is infused with essential lipids, antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients to fight free-radical damage and smooth skin texture. After continued use, the elasticity, moisture levels, and radiance of your skin will improve. The fact that it’s in a glass jar is another plus for me – there’s just something about a moisturizer in a jar that makes it feel more luxurious.

Step 10: Lip Care

I plan to write a separate blog about lip care, because if you wear red lipstick every day like me, then you have to make sure your lips are in tip-top shape! But, I’ll give you a sneak peek…

One lip balm that I am currently using is Aquaphor:

Good old Aquaphor is proof that some of the most unassuming products can be the most effective. It both adds and locks in moisture, as well as helps protect the lip area.

Above is what I have chosen to use after years of research, ingredient reading, and trial-and-error. The most important thing is to customize a regimen that works for your skin and its particular needs. But be sure to be consistent!  Taking time each day to nourish and treat your skin means that you are well on your way to achieving youthful and radiant skin.

Yes, I understand that 10 steps seem like a lot, and very time-consuming. But I can promise you once you get the hang of it, it will go very quickly – 10 minutes top. And isn’t your skin worth 10 minutes every night?

A daily and consistent skincare routine is so important because it gives your skin the nourishment it needs to age as slowly as possible and look its best. 

For me, having a complete skincare routine is an essential form of self-care.


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