One of the most popular questions I get is around building a skin care routine. I have a lot of posts about this but try to do an updated one at least twice a year. And with the Sephora sale starting tomorrow, I thought that today would be a good day to post this.
Before we get into it, please remember that everyone’s skin is really different. This is my usual disclaimer that while I’ll always be (sometimes brutally) honest, what works for me may not work for you! I am 39 with dry skin that’s starting to show the signs of aging. I have some fine lines and some dullness and if I don’t exfoliate regularly my skin will have some texture issues. The biggest thing for me is my under eye area and also how dehydrated my skin can get, especially during the winter months. Maintaining my skin’s moisture levels takes work. Even drinking a lot of water and getting in a good sweat… it can get really tight. Winter skin is no joke… cold weather and the change of seasons can really take its toll.
Fall/Early Winter Skincare Routine
Also, if you are looking to learn more about skincare I cannot recommend Caroline Hirons’ book enough. She is an absolute genius, I love her no BS attitude, and while I am a blogger who LOVES skincare but can really only speak to what works for me, she is an actual aesthetician with great advice for all skin types. I devoured it and personally learned so so much! Buy it immediately, or put it on your Christmas list!
Also, three posts I absolutely recommend reading: First, this one about product order. I get so many questions about what goes on when and spent a lot of time writing this post so that I’d have a place to point people! The next is about Sephora’s skincare routine builder. If you aren’t sure what products you need I can’t recommend this enough. Their quiz is so, so helpful. And lastly, if you are on more of a budget, check out this affordable but still fancy routine! I realize a lot of products I recommend can be on the pricier side but also spend a lot of time testing out more affordable products. I personally stand behind every single product featured here!
Honestly, I think the best skincare advice I ever got was to listen to your skin and what it needs. Sometimes it needs a little extra exfoliation. Other times it needs a soothing moisturizer because it’s red or aggravated. And sometimes it needs extra hydration which is when I bring out the big guns (Weleda Skin Food).
My Evening Skincare Routine:
Wash face with Farmacy Cleansing Balm.
This is far and away my favorite cleansing balm. It’s more affordable than a lot of the fancier cleansing balms I’ve tried, takes off all my makeup, and leaves skin so soft.
If my skin is extra dirty / I wore makeup or heavy SPF that day I will do a double cleanse.
After the cleansing balm I will do a gentle gel cleanser. Two favorites are the Farmacy Clean Bee and this one from Biossance that I *just* started testing but really love so far.
Toner is the final step of the cleansing process.
Read this post to learn why you need a toner! I love the Farmacy one, and for something fancier the new Augustinus Bader one is excellent. I honestly don’t see much of a difference between the two products if I’m being honest.
After cleansing and toning I apply an eye cream.
This is something I learned from Caroline Hirons’ book… eye cream is always first! This is newly my favorite eye cream (longer review in this blog post), I really love how good of a job it does lifting and tightening the undereye area while also brightening it. I also really love this Biossance eye cream for something clean. It does a great job with lifting, you’ll notice a difference pretty immediately.
Currently I am testing out the new Olay Retinol MAX moisturizer (I really like it so far!).
So I do that after toner and if my skin is super dry will pat on a little facial oil.
If I am not testing anything, here is what I do after toner.
To be totally honest I don’t always stick to this exact schedule but wanted to provide a “schedule” as I get asked for it!
- Monday + Thursday: RETINOL. Besides the Olay (which has been fine to use every night), I also love this plant-based phytoretinol from Biossance (this is pregnancy safe) or the Shani Darden one.
- Wednesday + Saturday: ACID. This lactic acid serum is one of my holy grail, best products ever. So good for exfoliating that top layer of skin while also providing deep moisture with squalene oil.
- Tuesday, Friday, Sunday: Give the skin’s moisture barrier a break from actives and just do Dr. Bader The Rich Cream.
Depending on how my skin feels, as with the Olay testing, I’ll often apply face oil over my creams to really lock in moisture.
I like Everyday Oil a lot. It contains coconut oil and a ton of other organic oils and besides feeling amazing on your skin, it smells amazing (like palo santo!). For a fancier oil, I do really love the new Augustinus Bader one!
My Morning Skincare Routine:
Since my nighttime routine is more complicated my morning routine is pretty simple!
- Quick cleanse with something gentle (the Farmacy Clean Bee or the Biossance).
- Pat on essence – I love this one from Royal Fern. I realize that Dr. Bader doesn’t like you to do anything before his cream BUT I find it absorbs even better into my skin when I use essence before. So this may be bad advice. I’m generally a big rule follower but I have been breaking this rule and like how my skin feels.
- Eye Cream – the Neocutis one again.
- Moisturize with Dr. Bader the Rich Cream
- SPF – usually Glowscreen, my FAV! Sun protection is so important, even in the winter. Even if you are staying inside you need to protect the skin from free radicals, blue light, etc. I also like Unseen Sunscreen for those rare days I don’t want to glow.
- Lip Balm. I am absolutely loving this one from KOSAS… it’s so hydrating and has hyaluronic acid for longer term hydration and plumping benefits.
I love this face scrub. It’s only $17 but delivers serious results. I probably do it in the shower maybe 1-2x a week, depending on how my skin is feeling. If the top layer of skin feels rough I like to gently massage this into my skin for two full minutes. Skin feels magically smoother afterward!
My Wrinkle Reducer.
I do just love this serum from Kiehl’s. It makes a noticeable difference in fine lines. Sometimes I swap this into my routine instead of retinol or acid.
When my skin is tight or irritated..
I love Lord Jones’ Acid Mantle Repair Cream. The acid mantle is a fancy name for the skin’s moisture barrier. All those anti-aging products (acids! retinol! masks!) can take a toll if you are not careful. The second my skin is getting irritated I take a break from acids and retinol and slater myself in this cream. It’s really calming and suuuuper hydrating (besides calming CBD it also contains squalene and hyaluronic acid). If you are someone who uses a lot of anti-aging products I’d definitely recommend adding this to your arsenal.
I do a ton of masks. There are about a million mask reviews on my site so we actually added a “masks” category to the navigation bar. I alternate based on what my skin needs but try to do a mask at least once a week. Right now I would say that the masks I use the most are the Tata Harper Resurfacing mask, the Olehenriksen PHAT Glow Facial, and the Hanacure Mask. And if my skin is irritated I love this calming calendula mask from Kiehl’s. It has aloe vera and feels really good on the skin. Oh and this warming honey mask for hydration. It’s a little messy but I looovvvve it!
If my skin texture is rough (are you sensing a theme here? Skin is so rough lately!), I’ll do a peel… maybe once a week? Doing this would replace using an acid. (A peel is an acid, just way more intense). After the peel I’ll do a really rich moisturizer. My favorite peel pads are the Dr. Dennis Gross ones or the Goop ones! (For the Goop, make sure you get the 15% not the 5%!)
Also… a new (second favorite?) moisturizer!
I am going to write a longer post about this but given that the Sephora sale starts tomorrow, I did want to tell you about this. I have (gasp) a new moisturizer that I like almost as much as Dr. Bader. It’s the Sobel Skin Bio Hyaluronic Moisturizing Cream, and it is really, really good. This is big for me. I try so many moisturizers and am meh on the vast majority. I cannot speak to the long term benefits but I LOVE how this makes my skin feel immediately. It’s SUPER rich and hydrating, packed with hyaluronic acid, and leaves skin feeling ultra firm and LIFTED.
There you have it! I really hope this was helpful! Also definitely check out The Beauty Hub for all things beauty! I need to go in and update it with the products from this post but otherwise it’s very up to date and packed with helpful info!
I’ve really got to start applying neck cream! I never even knew they made creams specifically targetted at the neck – I usually just use my body lotion haha!
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
I think it’s okay as long as you are moisturizing!!! Not always sure you realllly neeeeed a neck cream but I like using one!
Wondering if you’ve ever tried the Foreo facial “brush”? Would love to hear your review if so! It was just recommended to me when I stopped into sephora last week and I’m curious about it!
I haven’t tried it yet! FWIW I am obsessed with my Clarisonic, so haven’t felt a real need to change that!
I have been emailing back and forth with my dermatologist to figure out what’s right for this terrible in-between season because my face is falling off, it’s terrible!
I hate to say the Kiehls Vitmain C serum did NOTHING for me. Short of causing my entire face to itch, I stuck it out for almost 8 weeks and saw no difference which was a bummer since so many people rave. Skin is weird so let’s hope I can get it under control this winter!
Oh no! I’m so bummed to hear that as it’s one of my favorite products ever! I guess it just really goes to show you that everyone is so different!
I have oily, dry and sensitive skin and I’ve noticed that even the highest quality, best intention products can aggravate my skin – and when I only wash and moisturize (SPF during day) with the occasional
glycolic serum and also Botox, my skin is at its best. I love the multiple step routine stuff but have realized it’s just not for me.
Fellow sensitive skin person here! I just wanted to comment, I cannot handle Vitamin C at all. Same with rentinol. They just irritate my skin and cause breakouts. I have found when my skin is being a pain, Vanicream wash and light lotion and then (after lotion) straight zinc cream is the BEST. My skin on my chest is my most sensitive and zinc cream is a savor. It seems to protect me from all the contact irritation from sweat, clothing, etc.
Love this, what do you use for a body moisturizer? My skin is dry and I just can’t figure out the right option. Thanks!
Right now my favorite is REN Body Serum! http://shopstyle.it/l/T37J
I’m so happy to read you still love Dr. Bader’s cream! I’ve got it on my wish list. It’s so expensive that I wanted to know what you thought after another couple of months. Thanks Grace!
Yes I am obsessed!
Hi Grace, I always love these skincare posts, thanks for sharing! Quick question though – I thought you had said that you aren’t supposed to use anything underneath the Dr. Bader cream so it’s closest to your skin? I’ve been debating whether to buy it because I am intrigued by all of the rave reviews but don’t know how it would fit in with my current routine since I really love using P50 at night and SK-11 in the morning.
You are correct! You’re not supposed to. That being said, I started using the Skinceuticals serum and stopped using my Dr. Bader and noticed a change in my skin in just a couple days so I said eff it and started using the Dr. Bader over my Skinceuticals. Honestly, I still see the same great results from it while using the serum – better actually, as the serum is really awesome.
So I am definitely breaking the rules but I love my other products too much! And FWIW I’ve also used P50 under Dr. Bader and had great results!
Hope that helps. It’s technically not following the rules but works for me!
Since I’m really older I wash my face in the am with coconut oil. Because of good genes and, started cleansing my face real early in life as the french do my face hardly has any lines except laughing ones.
Love coconut oil!!!!
After hearing that you are still obsessed with your Dr. Bader cream, I am SO tempted to pull the trigger!
It’s the best face cream I’ve ever used!
A perfect skin care routine
So into skincare posts recently so a winter routine is perfect especially with my skin getting drier as it gets colder this was a good read.
wsww.thelifestyledit.com | Alexandra
I’m so glad to hear that!!
I’m on a serious hunt to find the perfect wrinkle reducer cream.
Grace. I agree about Caroline’s book. I’m still trying to absorb the info. I think the #1 aspect of skin care is SPF and the sun is not always our friend. Always checking out your recs.
It’s seriously SO good. I refer to it constantly. She is the QUEEN of skincare.
I’ve been using Dr. Bader Rich Cream and my skin is dryer and flakier than it was when I started. Glad I was able to get a very smal bottle and will try some of the other rec since my skin is also dry and aging. Thanks!
Oh no! That bums me out so much. It really goes to show you how different everyone’s skin is! I’m glad you got the small bottle too!
really looking forward to reading your full review of the olay retinol- always trust your picks! I cant use retinol right now bc I am expecting but my skin is LOVING dr. bader, definitely a holy grail product!
Thank you!!!! And if you need a good safe retinol alternative, I love the Biossance phyto-retinol!!
Great timing with this post as we have the heat on in Texas for the first time this year and it’s so drying 🙁 going to add the farmacy toner to my sephora cart now. I made a post it note for my mirror with the order and days as a reminder LOL – thank you!
Anyone else feel like COVID/Election/life stress is destroying their skin?? No matter what I do these days I feel like I look rough and ragged
I can’t wait for your Sephora sale picks! Are you still using any of the Tatcha? I was considering the dewy skin and serum stick I found from you. Maybe even a mist 🙂
Hi Molly! I like Tatcha but don’t fanatically love it, if that makes sense? The dewy skin cream is amazing but I prefer the Sobel skin moisturizer over that. The serum stick is wonderful but was more of a travel product for me and I’m not really going anywhere right now! Their mist is great too. And I like their cleansers a lot too. But it’s not a brand I’m obsesssssed with the way I am with Bader, Biossance, Farmacy, Tata Harper, etc! But don’t let that sway you, they’re a great brand!
Do you only use essence in the morning? Can it be used at night as well?
Yes, absolutely! I just don’t find I need it with all those other actives. You can totally use essence (post toner, before serums)!
Love this post and all of your skincare recommendations! This might be a dumb question, but I was curious as to why you don’t use a vitamin C serum in your routine? Thank you!
You know, everyone asks me that and I haven’t felt the need to as my PM routine is so aggressive with lactic acid and retinol… and in the mornings I use Bader so you’re not supposed to use serum before. I have always liked vitamin C serums but just can’t find a place for them in my routine!
(not a dumb question AT ALL!)
I noticed you’ve stopped using SKII! Do you think it’s overrated/ not effective? Also do you use the Sobel moisturizer in the morning or evening?
I still think SKII is very good but prefer the Royal Fern – I just think it’s a better product! For the Sobel moisturizer I’d look at it as an alternative to Dr. Bader. So either on off-active nights and/or every morning. Hope that helps!
Oh I really need to incorporate a SPF in my winter skincare routine x
Lisa | lisaautumn.com
Thanks for this – so helpful! How exactly do you incorporate the masks you mentioned into your routine? Do you do anything different on nights you use a mask/where in the routine do they go?
Usually 1-2x a week. It’s usually the step after cleansing/toning, then when I rinse it off I usually just do Bader. Or if I’m leaving the moisture mask on, I skip the other stuff!
Hey Grace! Do you ever use any kind of spot treatment for pimples? If so, what products do you recommend and where does that step fit in?
Maybe like twice a year – my skin is soooo dry so I rarely break out. This is what I use! https://shopstyle.it/l/boA2Q
Hi Grace, do you still have a promo code with Farmacy? Thank you!
I don’t, I don’t think I ever had one! All active promo codes can always be found at thestripe.com/codes xo!
Oh darn – I must have mixed it up with another promo. Thank you for confirming!
All good! I usually load up on Farmacy during the Sephora sale.
Hey Grace! I’ve started using the Farmacy toner that I bought in the Sephora sale on your recommendation. And I LOVE it! But, I feel like I am using a million of those little cotton pads and seeing a huge pile of them in my trash can makes me feel so wasteful. Do you have any suggestions? Is there an alternative, more environmentally friendly way to apply toner?
Hi! I don’t but maybe try searching reusable cotton rounds on Amazon? I had some before but since I send my laundry out in New York had some issues with them getting lost or coming back really crumpled.