Skincare Routine, Fall 2016

My archives tell me that I haven’t written a comprehensive skincare post since February 2015 (!), and a lot has changed since then. When better to post my updated routine than on the coldest day of fall so far? Though I don’t really alter my skincare regimen from season to season, perhaps you’ll find something in here that will help you winter-proof your own face.

Before we start, a few words about my skin type and current routine. My skin is on the dry side of normal, and it’s not particularly sensitive: I don’t get hives or rashes from products, though some sunscreens and masks have been known to break me out. My skin is also quite thin, especially around my eyes. I’ve had a few fine lines there for several years, though regular moisturizing seems to have diminished them, at least for now. I used to have semi-regular eczema flare-ups around my eyes and ears, but that hasn’t happened for a few years. I reliably get a couple of small pimples every month before my period, usually on my chin, but my face tends to be clear otherwise. I’m (obviously) very pale—my heritage is mostly Ashkenazi Jewish and Englishand I sunburn and blush easily. Here’s my post-shower face yesterday, before I prettied myself up to attend a Baroque concert on campus. I take my photos with an iPhone, so you can’t see every pore and line, but I’ve done my best to give you an accurate image of my makeup-free skin. Say hello to my dark circles:

Why do I look like an extra in a bleak Soviet arthouse film?

Another day, another angle:

These photos would have looked very different if I’d written this post a year and a half ago. After twenty-seven years of more or less acne-free skin, I started developing what seemed like a new pimple every day. Because I’d waltzed through my teens and twenties with very few skin woes, I had no idea what to do. What finally turned the tide was a laughably simple solution that originated in my misunderstanding of the phrase “double cleansing.” I started to wash my face twice every evening with the same cleanser (instead of using an oil first, which is what “double cleansing” actually means), and my breakouts stopped almost overnight. After that, I began using a less oily sunscreen, changing my washcloth every few days, and experimenting with pore-clearing masks. A year later, my face is smoother, happier, and far less prone to breakouts.

It’s hard for me to stick to any routine that involves more than a few steps or products. I see bloggers with 15-step skincare routines, with serums and ampoules and AHAs and BHAs and retinoids, and here I am struggling to remember to moisturize before I go to sleep. As a result, the list of products I use daily is pretty short. I’d rather prioritize the things I really need (cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen) than try to incorporate a dozen others and end up forgetting my essentials, which sometimes happens anyway.

To the best of my knowledge, almost all of the brands listed below are cruelty-free. (Vaseline and Burt’s Bees are both owned by large corporations that test on animals, and I’ve heard conflicting reports about Skinfood and Innisfree.) As with makeup, I buy cruelty-free products whenever possible, but a brand’s animal-testing status is less of a dealbreaker for skincare than it is for makeup. If I want a red lipstick, I have literally hundreds of cruelty-free options; if I want an affordable, lightweight sunscreen that provides SPF 50 coverage and doesn’t break me out, my options are more limited.


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser: I used Lush 9 to 5 cleanser for a few years, but I switched to CeraVe earlier this year because it was more cost-effective, and I ended up liking it more. 9 to 5 and CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser are both billed as moisturizing cleansers, but that’s where the resemblance ends. 9 to 5 is thin and milky, with a pronounced fragrance and a slightly oily feel (it contains almond oil). CeraVe is clear, with a more jelly-like texture and no fragrance, and it leaves my skin feeling smoother than the Lush does. I wash my face with it once in the morning and twice at night, and I recommend it highly, with the caveat that it doesn’t do a brilliant job of removing eye makeup: if I’m wearing eyeliner, I have to wipe off the last of it with petroleum jelly after I cleanse. By the way, my mom has very sensitive skin and is terrified of using new products on her face, but she’s been using this cleanser for a year now with no ill effects.

Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence: I live and die by this sunscreen, guys. It’s amazing. Why can’t Western brands make such lightweight, non-greasy sunscreens? It doesn’t feel even a little oily, it has a pleasant lemon scent and a thin, runny texture, and because it’s made to be worn under makeup, it works like a primer, mattifying my skin slightly. Before discovering Bioré in the spring of this year, I was using a Eucerin facial sunscreen so heavy that in the warmer months, my face would start sweating profusely the second I went outside. And that was the best I could find in American drugstores! What the hell.

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion: I use this fragrance-free lotion every night before bed. Unlike my previous moisturizer, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, CeraVe PM produces visible results: when I wake up the next morning, my skin is noticeably softer and plumper, no doubt because of the hyaluronic acid. If I’m feeling especially dry, I’ll use a thin layer of the moisturizer in the morning before applying my sunscreen.

Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin Spray: My bedroom is perpetually dry because of the heat in winter and the a/c window unit in summer, so I like having this on hand for some extra moisture after I wash my face or before I apply my makeup. I’m not sure it’s actually improving my skin, but it smells and feels nice, and I can get a huge bottle for not much money. I prefer to decant the spray into a small travel bottle (adorned with Glossier stickers, of course), which dispenses a finer, more even mist.


Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: I bought this last month after spending a few months freaking out over the size of my pores. According to the Paula’s Choice website, the salicyclic acid in this product “rapidly unclogs pores, diminishes the appearance of wrinkles, and improves skin tone for unbelievably smooth, radiant, firmer-looking skin.” Because my skin leans dry, I use it every two or three nights: I pat it all over my face with a cotton pad, leave it on for 15-20 minutes (it gets sticky about five minutes in), then follow it with CeraVe PM. I’ll be honest, I haven’t noticed dramatic results, and it does make my nose peel a bit. My face feels smoother, and my pores look a little smaller (yes, I know they can’t actually shrink), but I wouldn’t say I’m breaking out less often. Still, it’s early days yet, so I’ll keep using this and see what happens.

Aura Cacia Rosehip Oil: I picked this up at Whole Foods because someone on Into the Gloss recommended it. In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t smell anything like roses; it has a not unpleasant dusty smell, like long-dried flowers. And it’s orange! I use this as eye cream at night, dabbing a few drops around my eye area after I moisturize.

Freeman Avocado & Oatmeal Clay Mask: Lyn recommended this mask, and I trust her judgment implicitly, so I bought it at Ulta back in August. It’s your standard oil-reducing clay mask—smear on a thin layer, wait for it to dry, rinse it off—but it’s lightweight and non-drying and, goddamn, the price is right. I got this huge tube for under $5! It doesn’t have the magical pore-clearing powers (or the tingling effect) of the Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, but it also doesn’t have those weird chunks of citrus peel scattered throughout. And it’s less than 1/4 the price for twice the product.

It does get caught in my eyebrows, though.

Skinfood Black Sugar Honey Mask: I bought this Korean mask as a gentler alternative to my previous physical exfoliant, Lush Angels on Bare Skin. It smells like honey and lemon and looks like a sinister potion sold on the Diagon Alley black market:

Since discovering the Paula’s Choice BHA liquid, I’ve abandoned physical exfoliation and have started using this mask only to moisturize. I apply it in the shower, wait a few minutes for the steam to melt the sugar granules, then wash off the honey to reveal incredibly smooth skin. I can’t stop stroking my own cheeks afterward. Also, my boyfriend testifies that the mask makes my face “smell like a bee’s ass,” and if that doesn’t sell you on this product I don’t know what will.


Sheet masks: In my experience, all sheet masks do pretty much the same thing: deliver a large hit of moisture in a short period of time. It’s really about the experience: the scent, the design, the glorious passivity of lolling about while the mask works its magic. I don’t buy a lot of sheet masks because they’re not terribly cost-effective (at least here in the US) and I don’t like the waste they create, but they’re nice as an occasional treat. The only sheet mask I have right now is this Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Mask, which I bought for $3 at the Asian beauty store Ume Cosme in the East Village.


Burt’s Bees Body Lotion for Dry Skin: I’m not married to this lotion: I bought it at the grocery store because I’d been out of body lotion for months and it seemed like a decent product at a low price point. It’s not bad, and I use it every day after showering, but the fake vanilla scent bothers me. I’m almost done with this tube, though, and am looking forward to exploring more options. At the top of my list right now is the Palmer’s cocoa butter lotion.

Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream: I am, however, married to this cuticle cream. I’ve lost count of the number of tins I’ve blown through in the two or three years since I discovered it. I have a nervous habit of picking and biting at my cuticles, and the drier they are the more likely I am to attack them, so I use this cream whenever I feel that urge.


Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Swivel Stick: Another longtime staple. This is a clear, cocoa-scented balm in a comically large tube that looks like a glue stick. What more can I say? Lip balms either work or they don’t, and this one works.

Vaseline Lip Therapy in Rosy Lips: I reviewed this way back in September 2014 (I’m now on my second tin). This rose-scented lip balm is even more effective than Palmer’s, though I keep it at home because I don’t like dipping my fingers into tins when I’m out and about. If I remember to put it on before bed, my lips look dramatically better in the morning. The balm is tinted, which makes me feel like I’m “wasting” it by not wearing it where people can see me, but that’s just another neurosis of mine.

And that’s it—let me know if you have any questions about my routine! Have you discovered any good skincare products recently?

12 thoughts on “Skincare Routine, Fall 2016

  1. Oooh lots of good stuff here. I still haven't tried that CeraVe PM lotion, but it's on my list. And thanks for the link–that Freeman mask is definitely my most successful extra-blog recommendation. All my friends who have tried it loved it. So cheap!


  2. I have the cerave PM lotion, I just need to find a way to squeeze into my routine somehow… I think my best skincare discoveries of the year is Josie Maran sunscreen (the only one that I managed to use religiously) and konjac sponges (the cheap ones from Marshall and TJ work just fine) as I can't handle most exfoliators out there. This year I started to put some effort into skincare and I think I might be able to survive upcoming winter!


  3. I just recently bought the 4 in 1/apple cider vinegar thingy by Freeman after it won the 'Allure Best of Beauty' award and I'm so obsessed with it. It smells like apples, (no trace of vinegar scent.) I highly recommend it! I only use it as a cleanser, but apparently it also is for use as a mask.


  4. I've–kinda, sorta, very much, gotten into skincare in the last year or so. I think it started in part from the discovery that Sephora does samples. And because there's so many locations in the city I developed a habit of popping into various ones every week to get regular samples of all the most expensive skincare brands. I'm not sure it that's terribly tacky or savy, but at this point I have so many deluxe samples and trial packets and cheap-but-fantastic Korean skincare accumulated that I barely ever do that anymore and still have enough for 5-7 step routine. However, I have a tendency to fall asleep reading or at my laptop so it's usually either an intense 7 step routine OR I sleep in the entirety of my makeup…which is awful, I know :/ I love that Burt's Bees Cuticle Cream too btw 🙂


  5. Ooh, I've never thought to try a konjac sponge! Interesting. It's started feeling like winter in the last few days, with strong freezing winds, and my skin is more parched already. I also have a bad habit of falling asleep before I remember to moisturize…


  6. If I lived within walking distance of a Sephora, let alone multiple Sephoras, I might well do the same! I'm certainly not shy about asking for fragrance samples. I can't shame you for falling asleep at your laptop with your makeup on when I do the same at least once a week. D: I have a lot of nerve writing a skincare post, honestly…


  7. Coming out of my blogger cave to beg you to beg your boyfriend to start writing ad copy like, yesterday. \”A bee's ass,\” lord, I dropped the book I've been pretending to read. I swapped my entire routine to CeraVe (AM, PM, and their cleanser for oily skin), 2% BHA pads, and jojoba oil, and my skin is the best it's ever been in my life. I had to do a pretty major overhaul after moving because the desert did not agree with my oily, dehydrated skin at all.


  8. I tell him that all the time! He always makes the point (a fair one, I suppose) that most of his descriptions involve butts. I say: if you've found your voice, go with it. CeraVe is so great!! I can't quite believe it's a drugstore brand (albeit an expensive one). And yeah, no one tells you how insanely dry SoCal is. I much prefer the dryness to the constant swampy humidity of the Northeast. When I left the house today, it was 35 degrees with 81% humidity. HOW.


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