I have worked at women’s magazines for my entire career, which has given me access to all the beauty products in the world and all the celeb and expert secrets for how to get glowing skin. Yes, a total perk of my job is getting to try out all the newest beauty products and treatments. For a beauty junkie, it’s like Christmas day every day at my office (or home these days). But I’m actually super low-key when it comes to my beauty and skincare routine. I rarely wear makeup, and I only use a few key skincare products that I swear by for getting clear, glowing skin.
I have super sensitive skin, and I have suffered from acne almost my entire life. As an adult, I finally got it under control — a combination of Accutane (read about my experience here) and a foolproof skincare routine I rarely ever stray from after years spent perfecting it. The only exception has been when I’ve had to swap out some skincare products during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Luckily, I find my skin natural glows during those times (thanks hormones.)
I think that the fewer products we use on our face, the better, both because I’m concerned about the ingredients in products and because I think that we need to be aware that we’re being sold the need for a million serums and creams by companies that benefit from having women believe they need 10-step beauty routines. I’m all about doing what makes you feel good, and if your beauty routine is self care and you love using tons of products and it’s working for you, do it. Everyone is different. But for me, I’ve found that I’m more likely to stick to my routine if it’s simple (and I never missed a day), and the fewer products I use, the more glowing and clear my skin looks. I also find that you only really need a few really effective products to fight breakouts and sunspots and wrinkles. And most of them need to be pretty strong. I’d rather invest in a few high-quality products than a million that may or may not be effective. With that said, I will offer a disclaimer here: You can buy every product a blogger or company is shilling at you. But I promise you, the only real effective treatment against wrinkles and signs of aging is botox and lasers. I’m not saying you should do it, but creams can only do so much.
The second point I’ll make (although I don’t always follow it) is that for the most healthy, glowing skin, you really need to take care of yourself from the inside out, and that means diet and exercise. I breakout when I eat a bunch of sugar and gluten and dairy. I still eat them sometimes, but I know my skin will pay. I also know that when I exercise on the reg, my skin looks better — it literally glows and that’s when I get compliments on it. It’s annoying and not as much fun as eating entire bags of Red Vines while I sit at my computer all day, but it’s much less expensive and far more effective than any skincare routine.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am very wary of the chemicals I use in my home and on my body, especially after dealing with infertility. I am trying to keep what I put on my skin as clean and free of harmful or unknown ingredients as possible. Still, I’m not perfect and my routine is not completely chemical free as you’ll see below. It’s a balance, but I do my best to stick with the least toxic ingredients and clean products. One last thing before I share the products I use for glowing skin, I want to make it very clear that I am not a doctor or expert by any means, and you should definitely do your own research and talk to your derm before trying a new skincare routine.
Ok, so now for what you actually came here to read. These are the only 5 skincare products I use and swear by.
Note: I do not use this when pregnant or breastfeeding, so I haven’t used it much in the past four years. But Retin-A is the key to younger, dewier, glowier, clearer skin. There is nothing better. Unfortunately, it’s by prescription only, but it’s well worth that trip to the derm. I promise you, any editor you see who seems to have perfect skin and not age, uses Retin-A (and gets botox and laser treatments because a cream can only do so much). I use it both to treat and prevent acne, and to help fight age and sun spots and encourage cell turnover. Cell turnover is the key to glowing skin, and it occurs less frequently as we get older. It is drying, but I have super oily skin so that hasn’t been an issue for me, and I have been using the micro which is less intense.
I use this every night to remove pollutants from the day, any makeup I’m wearing (I know, don’t @ me, but I don’t use any other makeup remover but I also rarely wear face makeup), and to exfoliate. Again, I have super oily skin so I can exfoliate daily without drying out or ruining my skin. I find this really gets into my pores to prevent blackheads and whiteheads as well. I do not wash my face in the mornings so I think that helps maintain moisture and then I just use this at night. I also love that it’s free or parabens, fragrances etc., so generally a lot cleaner than other face washes but more effective than the nontoxic ones I’ve tried that aren’t an exfoliant. Not all of St. Ives products are made with just clean ingredients, so make sure to read the ingredient list if that’s important to you. I will say that if you want glowing skin, exfoliant is the key to it, but most people who don’t have super oily skin shouldn’t use an exfoliator and prescription exfoliating product (which Retin-A is) daily. On the average person, it would be irritating and drying. When my skin is being more sensitive, I’ll sub the St. Ives for a super gentle cleanser like Cetaphil.
Want to avoid wrinkles and sunspots? Wear sunscreen every. single. day., regardless of whether you’re in direct sun. Yes, even on days I’m staying in side all day, I wear sunscreen — light gets through windows people, and chances are I’m going to run outside for a second to walk the dog or grab a package or force the kids to run off their energy. I’ve spent years reading studies and interviewing cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, facialists, and it’s always their number one tip and the best thing you can do for your skin. I feel like the reason most people hate applying sunscreen is that it leaves a white pasty residue on your face not to mention it’s an extra step in the morning. Supergoop’s City Serum is a lightweight moisturizer with SPF that goes on so smoothly. It’s great under makeup or on its own, and it’s not an extra step because you can use it as your moisturizer. I cannot say enough good things about it. It’s life-changing. Trust me. As a bonus, it’s free or parabens and other questionable chemicals, making it one of the cleaner, safer sunscreens/moisturizers out there.
Disclaimer: If I’m using Retin-A, I don’t use this as well — unless I have a monster zit I want to spot treat. But this is what I’ve been using for about the past four years, since you can’t use a retinoid when pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding. (With that said, check with your doctor before using this if you’re any of the above.) This is the best over the counter zit medicine I have used, and trust me when I tell you that I’ve tried EVERYTHING. I have really tried to focus on clean products and ingredients, but when it comes to fighting acne and preventing breakouts, I, unfortunately, need something stronger than just tea tree oil. I have mild PCOS and I still break out on the regs, especially since having kids — my hormones are still all out of whack. I took Accutane years ago and it did wonders, but I still break out, especially when I’m stressed, so I’ve found that using this cream after washing my face at night has been the best way to treat and prevent breakouts. I slather it on in my T-Zone, hairline, basically all over because I get breakouts all over. It works. It is drying, but as I said, my face is an oil machine, so it’s not an issue for me. But you may want to use more sparingly or every other night if it dries out your face.
Skin feeling blah? Looking pasty and pale? Have an important Zoom call, photo session, or event? These glow pads are the best thing that will ever happen to your skin. They’re like a facial in a wipe. I always get compliments after I use these, and it takes 30 seconds, and you’re done. No mask or fancy tool required. It’s the laziest beauty trick ever, and it’s worth every penny. When I’m at work in the office and have tons of events etc, I’ll use these once a week. These days, it’s more of a once a month type deal. But every time I use one, I instantly feel better and get compliments on my skin.
And literally that’s it. I don’t use a separate eye cream — it’s all Retin-A. I don’t use fancy masks or serums. I am a firm believer in the fewer products you use, the better.