The Best Skin Care Products To Buy During Sephora’s Spring Sale

Now that there is some—albeit incredibly vague—info on how we can reenter the world when coronavirus finally GTFO, I am feeling eager to get my skin back on track. I don’t know about you, but when I go out to dinner with my friends for the first time after being locked in my apartment for what will be at least two months, I want to glow. Luckily for me, Sephora’s annual spring sale is upon us! As always, Sephora is offering different deals and savings for each of their three member tiers. From April 17th through May 1st, Rouge members can save 20%; from April 21st through April 29th, VIB members can save 15%; and from April 23rd through April 27th, Insider members can save 10%. I am a proud Rouge member, so let’s f*cking do this. 

If you’ve read any of my articles, you know that there are more skin care products in my medicine cabinet than there are food items in my pantry. I have no shame in my game. It took years of trial-and-error to discover which products are the best, so you can trust I know what I’m talking about when it comes to my recommendations. 

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II, $72

The only YouTube channel I subscribe to is Klossy, which belongs to, you guessed it, Karlie Kloss. I don’t care who she’s married to, I love her and will continue to do so for the rest of my days. Anyway, Karlie has the best skin I’ve ever seen, so when she recommended this night serum, you better believe I went out and bought it, and I am happy to report that it works. My skin isn’t really problematic, but I want that dewy, plump look, and that’s what this serum delivers.

Like any skin care product, though, you have to use it consistently and for a while before you start to see the effects take hold. I started to notice how good my complexion looked after about three weeks. It’s incredibly moisturizing, smells delicious, and it’s the perfect consistency. What else you got, Karlie??

Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask, $28.50

I buy this twice a year for one specific purpose: visiting my parents in Florida. My skin may be able to withstand the pollution and whatever the f*ck is coming out of manholes in New York, but it cannot deal with the Florida humidity. My skin gets really oily and then I start to break out, so I visit my parents pretty infrequently. The one thing that absolutely saved my skin is this specific charcoal mask. I have tried about 10 types of charcoal masks in my lifetime, and this Clinique one is that actually works.

It feels like you’re spreading a thick, goopy paste on your face, but after about 30 minutes, it dries and hardens and, something magical happens in that phase of the mask. When I rinse it off, my skin is soft and supple with zero traces of excess oil. I’m obsessed.

Bobbi Brown Hydrating Fresh Cream Moisturizer, $60

This product was my first foray into skin care. I bought it when I was a sophomore in college after talking to a Bloomingdale’s salesperson for way too long. As the name suggests, this is a very lightweight moisturizer that falls between a gel and a cream. Because it’s so lightweight, it’s perfect for summer. Also, all Bobbi Brown moisturizers are made with a built-in primer, so you can save a few seconds in the morning when you’re getting ready.

Caudalie Beauty Elixer, $18

This toner is another Karlie recommendation for when you’re traveling, because planes really dry your skin out. Before I went on my study abroad trip, I asked my mom to get it for me and she said, and I quote, “Who do you think you are? You’re not a jet-setter!” Rude. To spite her, I bought it for myself and I have no regrets. I use it as a toner and spritz it on my face right before I put on my moisturizer.

My dermatologist suggested that I massage my moisturizer into my skin while it’s still damp from the toner because it will absorb better, which makes sense because, if you think of your skin like a sponge, it won’t absorb a thick cream when it’s bone-dry. This doesn’t really do much, but it smells amazing, isn’t that expensive, and it’s something else I have in common with Karlie Kloss.

Murad Vitamin C Dark Circle Correcting Eye Serum, $62

I recently learned that vitamin C is an essential ingredient in skin products for anyone who wants nice skin. I incorporated it via an eye cream because I wanted to test it on a small area before I introduced it to my whole face. Safe to say, it works! This eye cream is really moisturizing, which is important because the skin around your eyes is much thinner than the rest of your face and is usually the first to show signs of aging. Yikes! Using a product that protects against free radicals (something vitamin C does) and moisturizes is a really good way to slow down aging around the eyes. It also smells fantastic.

Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Sheet Mask, $12

Until I tried this mask, I always thought sheet masks were kind of stupid. Like, you pay all of this money for something you use once for a few minutes then throw away. Then I tried this mask and I’m questioning everything I once believed to be true! Tatcha is a brand you’ll likely find in any high-end natural beauty store, and the products are 100% worth it. This mask is made with vitamin E, fatty acids, nutrient-rich rice, ginseng (which has a calming effect), and a bunch of other sh*t that gives you an instant glow.

And for anyone who’s wondering, sheet masks are packed with nutrient-rich serums that absorb best into your skin when you’re wearing the sheet and looking like Hannibal Lecter, but the serum is still very much on your skin when you take the sheet off, so they aren’t exactly a waste.

Dior Lip Glow, $34

I am weirdly specific when it comes to a tinted lip product: it can’t be sticky, it has to be the perfect shade, and it has to last through my morning coffee. This Dior lip product is literally perfect. First of all, it’s incredibly moisturizing. Secondly, it goes on clear and within a few seconds, changes color due to a bunch of science I don’t really understand. For me, it transforms into rosy pink with a coral undertone, but for my friend, it becomes more of a purple color. I’m truly baffled by this magic, but I won’t question it.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser, $21

Until recently, I was a firm believer in all cleansers being the same, so paying more than a drugstore price was unnecessary. This cleanser is the definition of a super basic (in a good way) product that does exactly what it says it’s going to do. Wet your face and massage this into your skin for a few seconds and rinse off with warm water. Boom! You’re cleansed! It leaves your face feeling soft and clean, but without stripping your skin. I’ve said this before, but if your face feels tight and dry, your cleanser is too harsh!

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, $30

Double cleansing is an important part of any skin care-lover’s daily routine. The first step involves taking off your makeup and the second one is cleansing. This Clinique balm is unparalleled at removing makeup, so I highly recommend getting yourself a tub ASAP. It has the consistency of soft wax, but it works. Scoop a little out with your fingertips and move it around in your hand to break it down a little. Then, once it’s slightly softened, move it around your face and it literally melts your makeup right off. Don’t believe me? Use this then dab a clean white towel on your face and you won’t see any residual makeup!

Tan-Luxe The Body Illuminating Self-Tan Drops, $59

This purchase was a catch-22 because, on the one hand, authentic tans are horrible for your skin, but on the other, my natural skin tone is concerningly white. This self-tanner is unreal and legit impossible to f*ck up. I always strayed from self-tanner because I feel like it always looks fake and streaky—especially on people’s wrists, ankles, elbows and knees. This, though, is different! You mix a few drops with your go-to lotion and then spread it all over your body and it always turns out even and natural-looking. I’ve used this on my legs many, many times and I’m always impressed with how good it looks.

Images: Mercy / Unsplash; Sephora (10)

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What Happened When I Ditched My Complicated Skin Care Routine

I first started hearing the words “skin care diet” back in January, when everyone was trying out their favorite wellness hack in honor of the new year. The premise was simple: after ODing on expensive skin care products and indulging in complicated, ten-step routines, some consumers were now deciding to scale back the time and money spent on skin care. Ironically enough, the skin care diet trend (or “minimalist skin care routine”) is also a K-Beauty trick—specifically, one invented to “decrease irritation” caused by overly complicated, multi-step routines. By paring back down to the bare minimum, the theory goes, you’ll slowly coach your skin back to life.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a trend at all if everyone’s 10-step routines were going perfectly. Vice interviewed a number of people embarking on their own skin care diets, and all affirmed that, ultimately, the fancy, active ingredient-laden products they had been so excited to buy only made things worse. For several of these skin care dieters, they only realized there was an issue after seeing a dermatologist—others realized after a change in environment, where they were temporarily separated from their skin care products, made them realize that layering on serums wasn’t the best way to control their skin.

me: skincare!
my other organs: please help us .

— sam (@smeezi) July 26, 2017

For the dermatologists Vice spoke with, this is an increasingly common occurrence. Rachael Cayce, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles, said she’ll have patients come in who list arsenals of 15+ products they’re using—daily. Cayce invariably tells them to cut back: “I see 30 patients a day and I’m having this conversation with 15 of them,” she says. “Usually what I’m doing is just decreasing their products.” KraveBeauty founder Liah Yoo agrees that this decrease is necessary. “People have been piling on so many different products that they’ve developed redness, sensitivity, and even worse—contact dermatitis,” she shares. That’s why she’s now recommending a simple routine of cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. The key? No “harsh active ingredients.”

I had my own come-to-Jesus moment a few months back, when my skin—for lack of a better term—shut down. All my special toners, moisturizers, and anti-redness gels, so lovingly applied, sat on top of my skin: refusing to sink in, and (I imagine) laughing at me. I had many theories about why this was happening, and like a devoted skin care student, I ran right to my dermatologist. This is the first and only time I’ll dermatologist bash (maybe she was having an off day!) but essentially, she told me it was all hormonal, that oil production increases as you get older (rude!), and that I should (I’m paraphrasing) chill out. Then she gave me some moisturizer samples (score) and sent me on my way.

My derm to me:

do a face mask and move on

— ?? (@romanrochelle) January 16, 2017

As anyone who’s read my articles on mental health will know, “chilling out” is not something I engage in lightly. Instead, I remembered the accounts of skin care diets that I’d read back in January (this Byrdie one and this Very Good Light one I both find a little excessive, but solid). While the accounts I read still included products like serums and essences in their scaled-back routines, I stuck with the bare-bones approach recommended by Yoo: cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. My only addition was twice-daily Finacea, a dermatologist-prescribed rosacea treatment I didn’t care to live without. Yoo also recommends that you don’t wash your face at all for a full week to “reset” your skin before starting. But in the interest of not losing my job, I opted out of that step too. Finally, most of the skin care diet plans I read about recommend not washing your face in the morning—just using a swipe of toner or micellar water.

me w/ scars,acne, oil: cleanser, toner, gel, moisturizer, topical cream
person w/ smooth clear skin: i use water sometimes soap pic.twitter.com/8KYumMwPNd

— have analis’s kids (@AK1NNA) April 4, 2017

The results? I bet you wish I had pictures, but to be honest, the biggest change wasn’t something that would show up on camera. After about a week, my face finally felt smooth to the touch again. Not sticky with stubborn moisturizer residue, not greasy with excess oil production, and not that super-pleasant roughness I’ll sometimes get in dry patches on my cheeks. In the end, I wasn’t using so many excess products I needed to cut out: I wistfully stopped using my amazing-smelling toner, I stopped cleansing and moisturizing in the morning (but still applied SPF!), and I chilled out on the drugstore masks I’d been applying three times a week.

To be honest, I was shocked that this actually made a difference—I’d been thinking of the toner as my saving grace all winter. Maybe my dermatologist was (partly) right and I’d had a hormone shift, or maybe the warmer weather was making my skin react different. Either way, I spend less time on skin care than I have in years, and tragically, it did the trick. My skin’s not suddenly a luminous, pore-less version of itself (I’m still convinced I would need Kylie-level money and a team of professionals to achieve that): but the stubborn texture problems I was having finally went away.

the first person to exfoliate their face had 2 have done it accidentally right, like tripped and face planted in the sand- wow feels smooth!

— pw (@petewentz) September 13, 2017

Like I said before: no one would be doing this if they were already reaping the benefits of a rich and full skin care routine. All the people who wrote skin care diet accounts were dealing with inflammation, flare ups, and acne that none of their products could fix—and that’s when they opted for a reset. So if you’re happy with your skin care products, please don’t throw out $400 worth of moisturizer after reading this. (Send it to me instead, for when I decide to switch things up again in a month.) If you’ve been cycling in new serums for as long as you can remember, and are still struggling with flare ups, though, a skin care diet could be exactly what you need.

Images: @smeezi ; @AK1NNA ; @romanrochelle ; @petewentz / Twitter

I Actually Believe In Day And Night Creams Now—Here’s Why

As someone who reads and writes about skincare on a daily basis, I find myself hitting something I call “skincare fatigue.” Just when I’d mastered toner (kind of), I start hearing about serums, retinol creams, and whatever the f*ck an “essence” is. Thankfully, the concept of day cream vs. night cream isn’t new to me—but actually using a different moisturizer for morning and evening is. I’d always kind of figured that “needing” two different moisturizers was just a way for companies to sell you more products. But three weeks in to my new regime, I’m sold. Here’s why.

Night Cream Needs Time To Sink In

The purchase that kicked off this whole venture is Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Cream, a moisturizer I feel confident in calling pure magic. From the moment I got my hands on all that silky lavender goodness, I loved it so much I wanted to take a bath in it. This moisturizer has brought my skin back to life after a night out, scared burgeoning pimples back into hiding, and—praise be—NOT activated my rosacea, which just about every other celeb-approved moisturizer does. (Looking at you, La Mer. I wanted so badly to love you.)

Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream

Now that my shameless Tatcha evangelizing is out of the way, on to the real point. Because I was so excited about this moisturizer, I was using it morning and night—and quickly realized my mistake. I have a four-step routine I stick to: cleanser, toner, treatment, moisturizer. Because the sun exists, and because my skin is so dry that sunscreen alone does not moisturize it, I have to follow up that four-step routine with an SPF cream in the morning—all before adding any makeup.

Now, anyone who’s tried to quickly apply five different face products and then add foundation on top will immediately see the problem here. My beloved Tatcha moisturizer is on the thicker side, which is perfect for my dry skin—but it takes a solid 15-20 minutes to be completely absorbed. That would be fine if it were my only morning skincare step, but I also have to give my toner and treatment steps 5-10 minutes each to sink in. That gets us up to 30 minutes on pre-make-up skincare, minimum. In my week of trying to use the Dewy Skin Cream as a day cream, I don’t think I managed to put foundation on once. Since I never had enough time to let the moisturizer sink in all the way, even my sunscreen was barely getting absorbed—which means I was going out looking like a greasy, white-tinged mess.

Note: Dewy Skin Cream isn’t advertised specifically as a night cream—there’s a different night cream from that product line—but that’s how it works best for me. As a rule, night creams will be thicker than day creams, and are formulated to moisturize while you sleep.

Me, waking up post-Tatcha moisturizer:

Day Cream Protects; Night Cream Repairs

Day cream, I learned, has one major job: to protect your face from the sun, so basically to contain as much SPF as you can stand. (For reference, I use SPF 46—do not come at me with your SPF 15 liquid foundation). Like I said before, I have a special breed of lizard skin that requires me to pair said SPF 46 lotion with a second day cream—but if you have the option of combining these steps, I strongly recommend you do. I love this one from Origins (so brightening), or this SPF 50 IT Cosmetics CC cream. (No, I don’t know what a CC cream is, and my head will explode if I research further.) I own this cream, and would refer to it as somewhere between light coverage foundation and tinted moisturizer.

Scott Disick knows what’s up, a sentence I never thought I’d utter.

If you are like me, and SPF products aren’t moisturizing enough on their own, I recommend a super lightweight cream that sinks in quickly. My personal fave for this is Cerave, which makes both a day cream and a night cream.

While day cream bears the brunt of sun protection, your night cream can and should have active ingredients too. We’ve already discussed the benefit of adding retinol to your daily routine, and 2019 is heading toward being the year of glycolic acid. These ingredients are both great, because they help speed up cell turnover, AKA get rid of the dead skin and bring in the new, better skin. Very scientific, I know. However, both of these ingredients also make your skin more sensitive to the sun. I can personally attest to this—this past December, I used a retinol oil and then went out for a day of skiing. Within 24 hours, I developed dark, rough patches of sunburn on my face like I’d never seen before, and they lasted well through New Year’s Eve. Happy 2019 to me!

So, while retinol and AHAs are a good addition to night creams, they should absolutely be avoided in your day creams. On the flip side, you’re welcome to put on SPF at night—but unless you’re sleeping at a campsite, I’m not sure why you would.

Ultimately, you could just say f*ck it and use the same lightweight moisturizer with zero active ingredients for both day and night (plus sunscreen, obv). But if you have skin that’s on the dryer side, I highly recommend investing in a thicker night cream—and not making the mistake I did of piling it on in the morning, too.

Images: Tatcha; Giphy (2)

Skin Care Diaries: My Four-Step Routine For Highly Sensitive Skin

As you can probably tell from the title, this skin care diary entry will be less sexy than others we’ve published. Welcome to the world of sensitive skin. I graduated college a little over two years ago, and it’s been an absolute whirlwind watching my skin and metabolism compete over who can deteriorate faster. I’ve never suffered from serious acne (*knocks on every piece of wood in the tri-state area*), but my post-grad skin has offered up plenty of dullness, dryness, and increasingly visible pores. I also developed what I refer to as “my problem cheek,” and my dermatologist refers to as “rosacea.” Basically, one stubborn patch on my face is perpetually red with some bumps—not quite pimples but just not smooth.

Before I finally caved and saw a dermatologist about it, I was convinced I had chronically dry skin and was layering on fancy oil-based serums and thick moisturizers every night. I genuinely believed that the more I spent on a skin care product, the better it was for me. But here’s the honest, tragic truth about my (highly sensitive) skin. Just about anything I do to it beyond doctor-recommended cleanser, treatment, and moisturizer only makes it worse. As my dermatologist explained, the rosacea means that my skin barrier is damaged. So any products I’m applying don’t actually soak in. They just settle in the top layer, creating that fun bumpy texture I was describing.

Long story short, many of the fun, bougie skin care products I’d love to try are off-limits to me. All those “intensely moisturizing” products I used to swear by? They make my oil-prone areas worse, and ultimately clog my pores. Any physical exfoliants just activate my redness-prone rosacea patches. And forget about face makeup. Any time I go for a full face of foundation, or—God forbid—highlighter, which I seem to be allergic to in every brand, I accept that my skin’s overall appearance will take a hit for the next three days. So, I’ve worked very hard to assemble a routine that keeps my sensitive AF skin smooth, even, and pimple-free. If your skin is more dramatic about a change in routine than you are when asked to attend a 9am meeting, read on. Here are the products I’ve found really work.

My sensitive skin every time I try to introduce a new product:

My Routine

Face Wash: I wash my face morning and night with CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. My dermatologist recommended it, and it makes my face feel crazy soft. I’ll double cleanse on days when I bothered to put on make-up, or if I skipped my routine the night before. And while I’m sure that a Clarisonic or the equivalent would make it even more effective, I frankly just do not have the time or patience to use one. Plus, I kind of hate reusable skin care accessories because I’m a germophobe and convinced they’re growing bacteria. This is a problem I imagine could be alleviated by like, cleaning it, but once again I am lazy/perpetually short on time.

Toner: I follow (most) cleanses with Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract toner. In the words of my dermatologist, it’s “not really doing anything,” but she graciously invited me to finish the bottle I’d just purchased. Despite her (rude) commentary, I like the idea of an additional cleansing step while living in the cesspool of dirt known as New York City. Also, it smells refreshing and makes me feel fancy. As I mentioned before, most products that fit that description give me some kind of weird reaction, so I really appreciate the ones that don’t.

Prescription: Once my doc determined that problem cheek = rosacea, I was given a prescription for an azelaic acid called Finacea Foam. It treats the redness and bumps caused by rosacea, and I use it twice a day after cleansing and before moisturizing. While it hasn’t 100% cleared up the problem, I’ve gone from having bumps spread across both cheeks to one small patch (damn you, problem cheek!). The overall texture has also greatly improved, and what was once a weird blotchy redness now shows up as more of a flush after hot showers/working out. Highly recommend.

Spot Treatment: This is not dermatologist-approved behavior, but if I see a pimple coming on I’ll dab some spot treatment with salicylic acid on the area before locking it all in with moisturizer. It’s a little annoying because I have to wait for an additional layer to dry, but fully worth it if you can stop a burgeoning zit in its tracks. If I go a little too nuts and start using it daily I end up getting dry and triggering some redness, but in moderation I find this kind of product to work wonders. My two faves are Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment and Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel.

Sunscreen: I use EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 every morning, at my dear dermatologist’s behest. Apparently rosacea can be triggered by sun exposure, so I guess this plays a role in calming it down. Honestly, I struggle to get excited about any product from which I don’t see immediate effects, but I know it’s good for me and I feel lightly smug for using it for that reason. Also, it sinks in quickly enough and replaces my moisturizer in the morning.

Moisturizer: I use CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion every night and some mornings, depending on how dry my skin is feeling. I love it because it’s lightweight, has the same silky feel as their cleanser, and doesn’t sit on top of my skin like all those fancy jar moisturizers I was buying for years did. Does it make me feel rich and chic? No, but it also doesn’t cost me $50 every six weeks, and my skin is way softer. I’ll take it.

Serum: Eminence Facial Recovery Oil. My dermatologist all but begged me to throw this out (in her words, “I don’t think more oil is what you need right now”). But I’ll still dab a little on my forehead every now and then because I can’t help myself. Nose, chin, and cheeks are off-limits for this riskier product, but I’ll mix a little in with my moisturizer and apply to my forehead a few times a week. It smells amazing and my sister swears it’s improved her fine lines.

Wednesday

Morning: Cleanser, toner, Finacea, sunscreen. I have a week-old pimple on my cheek, and last night I put on a bunch of spot treatment and extra Tretinoin on the area, plus Neosporin since I keep picking it open. (Don’t @ me, it works.) The pimple is finally fading from view, but I see two to three more bumps lurking below the surface. Problem Cheek, will you ever set me free??? I’ve tried changing pillowcases, changing what side I sleep on, never holding my phone to that side of my face… nothing works. I take a few pictures in hopes of taking you on a visual journey, but I’m on week 7 of a 10-week shoot and the bags under my eyes/general lifeless demeanor are a little much to take.

Evening: Cleanser, Finacea, moisturizer. No spot cream or toner because I just worked 14 hours. Moisturizer I applied lying down maybe three seconds before passing out. I manage to apply more Neosporin to my cheek spot, though, because at this point I’ve been wrangling it for nearly 10 days and it’s all I can think about. To anyone reading this: do not pick your face until it bleeds, no matter how fun and genuinely helpful it seems in the moment! I fall asleep praying it will heal overnight.

My poor, picked-at skin:

Thursday

Thursday morning I don’t have to be at work until 9am. This would be better news if it didn’t mean I’ll be there until 11pm. However, the extra time in the morning means I can cleanse, tone, apply Finacea, and put on sunscreen all in the comfort of my home. I’m sad to admit I sometimes apply sunscreen on the subway, which I am aware makes me gross. I have a thing about layering products too quickly. I worry I’m just diluting one product with another if I don’t give them time to dry. If I’m totally wrong on this, PLEASE call me out in the comments. I would love to stop putting on sunscreen with hands that just touched subway poles.

I’m not home until 11:40pm, as expected. As I dutifully cleanse, tone, Finacea, and moisturize, I realize something miraculous. Cheek pimple is, if not totally invisible, highly faded. Neosporin saves the day again. I stare at my nearly clear cheek and think about how I definitely would have skipped washing my face tonight if I weren’t writing this diary. This makes me think I should start journaling my food, too. Then I eat four bite-size candy bars I stole from work and fall asleep.

Friday

Today is an exciting skincare day for you all! I’m working from home until 6:30, so I don’t get out of bed until 11. I don’t do anything to my face because I want to work out first, a dream it takes me two hours and 15 minutes of yoga to give up on. I wash my face in the shower, then put on Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque. It’s my go-to for all generalist, make-my-skin-look better needs. It’s great for calming down redness and inflammation, improves overall tone, and just makes your skin look clear.

After, my skin is looking the best it has all week. The cheek pimple is totally gone, and those bumps I was complaining about on Wednesday seem to have died down too. I add toner, Finacea, and sunscreen. After sunscreen, I add my new favorite no-makeup makeup product: Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer. This is the closest thing to foundation I can wear without triggering a breakout, and despite being sheer, I swear to God it visibly blurs away my flaws. Friday night, I cleanse/Finacea/maybe moisturize? I spent my evening getting high and watching Vanderpump Rules, so I honestly don’t remember. I do remember eating a Twix bar at 1am and thinking the single greatest thing I could do for my health is cut down on sugar, so take that as you will.

Me: I should cut down on sugar!
Also me every time I go out:

Saturday/Sunday

Saturday morning, I cleanse and tone, and get dressed in a rush waiting for toner to dry. Then I add Finacea and try to find my insurance card for a doctor’s appointment for 10 minutes. Two hours later, I remember to moisturize—hope it still counts for something. No sunscreen today, oops. Saturday night I make a genuine attempt to go out. But I still end up asleep on the couch before midnight. At least I manage to wash my face before crashing. I tell myself I’ll put on Finacea and moisturizer in bed. I don’t.

Sunday morning I’ve slept for an annoyingly long time. I cleanse, tone, Finacea, and moisturize—no sunscreen. My skin’s feeling dry since I fell asleep without moisturizing the night before, and I don’t really plan on spending time outside anyway. I go to the movies, where I realize the junk food and half-hearted skin care Saturday has resulted in two new bumps rearing their heads on Problem Cheek. I tell myself I’ll do a mask and spot treatments that night. Instead, I drink two margaritas at 5pm, and barely manage to cleanse/tone/Finacea/moisturize. I suck.

Monday

I wake up at 4:30am, regretting Sunday’s margaritas with every bone in my body. I seriously consider quitting my job for five minutes, then get out of bed and cleanse, tone, Finacea, sunscreen. Monday night, I get home “early” (7pm), and treat myself to some salicylic acid spot treatment following my cleanse/Finacea/moisturizer routine. No toner because I’m already tired at the prospect of the spot treatment, but the bumps I saw at the movie theater Sunday don’t seem to be going anywhere on their own.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning I cleanse, tone, Finacea, and liberally apply sunscreen to try and make up for the fact that I don’t have time to apply moisturizer (and wait for it to dry). At work, I read a different skin care diary in which someone who clearly has more money and better skin than me also swears by salicylic acid for clearing breakouts. Even though the salicylic acid product is the only one in her routine I can remotely afford, I allow myself a brief moment of smugness. I also remind myself that fancy $100 skincare items have never done anything but made me break out.

Tuesday night, I cleanse/tone/Finacea, and add more spot gel (Clean & Clear) to those bumps on my cheek. I can’t be sure if they’re actually pimples or just rosacea bumps, but I feel hopeless if I can’t even pretend I’m treating it. I tell myself I’ll moisturize in bed, and as I’m sure you can guess, I do not. At 3am, I wake up, realize my mistake and moisturize. It’s terrible.

All in all, the moral of my not-so-exciting skin care routine is that I’ve (reluctantly) stopped chasing Instagram-perfect skin. And both my wallet and face are a lot happier for it. I don’t use drugstore products because I’m low-maintenance and don’t GAF. I use them because the alternative is spending $78 on a moisturizer that sits on top of my broken skin barrier and makes me break out. So if you have sensitive skin like me, remember that the #1 investment you can make is a dermatologist, and when you’re rich, biannual microneedling and injections. Can’t wait.

Images: Giphy (4)

4 Face Serums For $20 And Under That Actually Work

Everyone has probably heard of face serums by now, but does anyone actually know what they do and what makes them different than a facial lotion or oil? It’s fine. I didn’t either until I Googled the crap out of it. Contrary to popular belief, a serum is neither drying nor a contributing factor to oily skin. In fact, depending on your skin’s needs, you can find one that tailors to one or the other. Much like toner, face serums seem to be one of those products you know you can probably benefit from, but don’t use on a daily basis. Turns out, you should actually consider adding one to your everyday routine asap. The water-based product is intended to deliver results directly to your face almost immediately. Of course, this usually means what you’re looking for costs a ridiculous amount of money. However, there are plenty of serums on the market that are cheaper than your next Uber ride. Here are some of the best and most inexpensive face serums for healthier, younger-looking skin.

1. Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum Fragrance-Free

This fragrance-free formula is basically your anti-aging solution in a bottle. With ingredients like Vitamin E and green tea, this serum helps get rid of wrinkles, fine lines, and dry skin by plumping hydration and resorting your skins elasticity.

2. Burt’s Bees Renewal Intensive Firming Serum

Although this serum provides your skin with much-needed hydration, it’s totally non-oily so it won’t contribute to any midday greasiness. You really can have it all! This formula helps promote firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines faster than you can say, “botox.”
 

3. Yes To Grapefruit Correct & Repair Dark Spot Correcting Serum

 

I have really tan skin, so I can definitely say I know how it feels to have annoying dark spots that never seem to fade. I’ve exhausted what feels like every option except a decent serum. Go f*cking figure. For all of you in the same boat, you’ll want to grab this super cheap one at your nearest Walgreen’s or whatever. It brightens any dark marks, evens your skin tone, and leaves you with a healthy-looking glow. Bless.

4. Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

Whether you suffer from the occasional breakout or you have generally acne-prone skin, you’ll want to go for a serum that has a ton of Vitamin C like this one. Not only does it minimize the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and basically any signs of aging, but it also balances your skin tone, clears up acne, and makes your skin feel silky smooth.

Photo: Jon Ly / Unsplash; Target (1); Burt’s Bees (1); Jet (1); Sephora (1); Ulta Beauty (1)

I Bought A $24 Dermaroller & Became Obsessed With The Results

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’m not exactly a skin care expert. My dermatologist, who gently told me to throw out most face products I own earlier today, would agree on this. On the bright side, I have now sought professional advice and am here to share my experience/her wisdom. Today’s topic is dermarolling: an at-home skincare treatment boasting celebrity users including Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Aniston, and Gwyneth Paltrow. (Yes, the one who stuffs jade eggs up her vagina. But her skin is glowing, no?) In my ongoing quest for flawless, “I can afford weekly facials” skin, I bought a $24 dermaroller two weeks ago. Here’s what you should know before you buy.

What Is Dermarolling & What Does It Do?

If you’ve heard of microneedling, dermarolling is just the at-home version of that. Both treatments involve creating small punctures all over your face. This (in theory) enhances collagen and elastin production. As your skin heals, the collagen boost helps smooth out wrinkles/fine lines, firm up sagging skin, and improve overall texture/tone. Both treatments can also improve the appearance of acne scars, dark spots, and large pores. As a general rule, microneedling will be more effective than dermarolling for many reasons. It’s kind of like the difference between doing a mask and getting a facial—the version performed by a professional with higher-tech tools is always going to come out better. Plus, microneedling tools can create deeper punctures than at-home dermarollers (for obvious reasons), so they naturally have a stronger effect. (Wondering why anyone would bother dermarolling? Because microneedling, like most things Gwyneth Paltrow supports, is prohibitively expensive, at $500-1,000 per session.)

Face Microneedle Dermal Roller System

How Do You Use It?

A dermaroller basically looks like a razor with a rolly head covered in needles on top. Before using it, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you disinfect it. Dermarolling with a dirty roller is literally injecting your skin with bacteria. (Sidenote: really love lecturing you all knowing full well that I “disinfected” my dermaroller with tequila. Whatever, at least I’m trying.)

To use it, you roll the needle-wheel (not the real name, do not refer to it as such) all over your face. One section at a time, roll five times in each direction (up/down/left/right) until you’ve covered the areas you want to treat. Redness is a known side effect, but I didn’t notice much. Just like, the amount you’d expect for having rubbed needles all over your face. After dermarolling, your skin will be primed for absorbing hydrating products—so load up on your fave serum/moisturizer to finish.

Not quite my experience, but you get the idea:

What Are The Effects Of Dermarolling?

The day after using this, I was the most annoying person on earth. I disappeared to my office bathroom maybe 60 times to take yet another “#nofilter” selfie. Even the most heinous of fluorescents couldn’t dim my #glow, and I felt like there was a noticeable difference in some roughness/bumpiness that had been bothering me on my cheeks. While effects like taming discoloration require long-term, consistent use of dermarolling (and my day-after glow didn’t really last), I definitely noticed a difference. Mostly, it was just a kind of shine/plumpness (I hate that word but I can’t think of a better description), plus the glow I won’t shut up about.

For reference, here was my scary face before dermarolling:

Dermarolling before

And here is my post-dermarolling glow:

Dermarolling after

Real results. Not FaceTune.

The Warnings

All that being said, dermarolling is not without its dangers. Common side effects can include infection, inflammation, breakouts, and damaged skin. Most experts say this can be avoided with proper cleaning and technique, but unless you’re going to dermarolling seminars on the regular, chances are you could fuck up. A lot of these issues do stem from improper cleaning practice, so please buy proper cleaning solution and be rigorous about it. Or just like, replace your dermaroller fairly often—I know you spend more than $24 on less important shit.

When I asked my dermatologist about it, she didn’t say dermarolling was bad, but she didn’t say it was good either. Mostly, she thinks of it as a less effective version of microneedling, and cautioned that dermarolling on any existing inflammation or pimples was a surefire way to spread the irritation to the rest of your face. I also found out that those bumps/redness on my cheek are in fact my new, fun mild rosacea (getting older is great), so whatever improvement I noticed after dermarolling was almost certainly in my head. Whatever! At least I was glowy!

Is this a wholehearted recommendation for dermarolling? If you caught me the day after, it would have been. But after hearing my dermatologist’s advice, I’ve sobered up on the idea of making this part of my routine. While I love buying trendy beauty products way more than as much as the next girl, sometimes less really is more—especially if you’re not sure how your skin will react. A dermatologist, on the other hand, is always a good investment.

Images: Dermstore; Giphy (3); Chris Howard / Pexels

What Is Toner, Why Do You Need It, & Which One Do You Need?

Let me start off by saying that I am not a skincare expert. I am just a 24-year-old human woman. One who discovered six months ago that my college skin care routine (“washing most nights, probably”) was no longer going to cut it. I’m lucky enough not to deal with serious acne. But all the “minor” concerns (dullness, dryness, redness, inexplicable bumpiness)? You bet. SO, I did what all good shopaholics journalists do best: research. I went into a very deep, surprisingly Korean internet blackhole, and emerged with a four-step skincare routine. Cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer. Duh. Of all these steps, toner was the one I resisted most—and the one I still find most confusing. Since I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I’ve written up my findings on this v important topic. What is toner, why do we all apparently need it, and which one is best? Please enjoy.

What Is Toner?

First and foremost, toner is very different than it used to be. The toner I remember from high school was glorified rubbing alcohol prescribed by particularly vindictive dermatologists. But today’s toners are so much more. A good toner can help you even out texture and tone (duh), shrink the appearance of pores, and leave your skin super soft and glowing.  To get technical, one skin care specialist describes toner as a way to “complete the cleansing of your skin.” Apparently, cleansers “can leave a film on your face” that toner strips off. Which really makes me question why I’m using cleanser in the first place, but k.

If you want a buzzier description of what toner does, Allure describes it as “a fast-penetrating liquid that delivers skin a quick hit of hydration and helps remove some dead cells off the surface of the skin.” (Seriously, are cleansers removing anything?) And in case I have any toner nerds in the comments, I’ll also mention toner’s effects on pH level. Apparently, a good toner functions by resetting your skin’s natural acidic pH. You can read more here, or just trust me that it means you’ll look good and resist more bacteria. Two equally sexy goals, am I right?

Finally, what is toner actually made of? The general answer is water, plus some combination of acids, glycerin, essential oils, plant extracts, and more. Kewl. Some toners still contain alcohol, but it’s not recommended unless oil is your main problem.

TL;DR: Toners are a water-based product will give you a more thorough cleanse, prep your skin to absorb your moisturizing products, and overall improve skin’s appearance and texture over time.

How Do I Use It?

You should think of toner as a chaser for your cleanser and a primer for your serum/moisturizer. If you’re particularly anal, you should apply toner no more than 60 seconds after cleansing. Apparently, that’s when your skin will absorb it best. After, you apply any serums/moisturizers/eye creams. My favorite explanation for how this works is given by Charlotte Cho, co-founder of Soko Glam. “Your skin is like a dried-up sponge,” she says (adds up). “If you put thick cream on a brittle dry sponge, it won’t accept it.” If this doesn’t make you spiral into self-doubt about every time you’ve put $70 moisturizer on your bone-dry face, congratulations. Can’t say the same.

As for like, how do you literally put it on your face—you have two options. You can read the instructions on the bottle (some recommend cotton pads while others say to use your fingers).  Or you can really make a day of it and attempt to follow the K-beauty “7 Skin Method.” I’d make a joke here about “who has the time for that,” but I watched a full season of American’s Next Top Model last weekend. I have the time for that.

Patting tips as you try the '7 Skin Method' : Start from the U-zone (cheeks – chin) to T-zone (forehead – nose) and finish with a massage on the neck in an upwards motion. Your U-zone is naturally drier while your T-zone is oilier, so you want to start hydrating the drier parts of the skin immediately after your cleansing step. Katie and I had a blast ???? today sharing our tips and demo'ing layering our fave essence toners on @glowrecipe's Facebook live ???? Thanks everyone for tuning in, we really enjoyed talking to you guys! If you're curious about this #kbeauty trend, my review is on our blog ????link in bio #sarahglowtips

A post shared by Sarah Lee (@sarah_glow) on

Okay, What Kind Of Toner Should I Buy?

Now you’re asking the important questions. The answer, of course, depends on your skin type. Generally speaking, Korean brands like Soko Glam will have great options, because their toner never went through the gross alcohol phase that American toners did. But beyond that, you should figure out your skin’s needs (or see a dermatologist to find out) and pick ingredients based off that.

For sensitive skin, chamomile, aloe vera, and amino acids all help calm/soothe. Some good picks include Mizon Intensive Skin Barrier Emulsion and Exuviance Soothing Toning Lotion. For oily skin, alcohol will help kill oil and shine, but so does witch hazel—and the latter is less drying. Belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner is my personal fave, and Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic is another beloved one on the market. For dry skin, glycerin, essential oils, and rosewater are all key hydrating ingredients. Try the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner or Caudalie Beauty Elixir. For dull, uneven skin, try Son & Park Beauty Water, which has both exfoliating and hydrating properties.

Oh, and whatever you do, stop buying Neutrogena toner. I usually love Neutrogena, but their crazy-drying alcoholic toners (yes, even and especially the “Alcohol-Free” toner) are the reason it took me so long to come around to real toner. I used that shit for two weeks and I may as well have been washing my face in Svedka. If you need any further convincing, take a look at their spokesperson. I rest my case.

That’s all the wisdom I have today! But my recent skincare tear is showing no signs of stopping, so stay tuned for upcoming reviews of dermarolling, Hanacure, and how to file for bankruptcy when you’ve spent all your money on Korean beauty products.

Images: Giphy (2); sarah_glow / Instagram

Betches may receive a portion of revenue if you click a link in this article and buy a product or service. The links are independently placed and do not influence editorial content.

Essential Travel Beauty Tips So You Don’t Look Gross After Flying

Travel is without a doubt one of the greatest parts of summer. First of all, there’s the crack-like (I assume) rush of turning on an “out of office” email reply. Chase that with a daily routine of margaritas for breakfast, followed by triple-digit likes on a “look at my ass this beautiful view” ‘gram, and I’m decidedly living my best life. Unfortunately, even the highest of vacation highs tend to come crashing down within 24 hours of returning home. Not only did your “out of office” reply deter exactly zero people from emailing you multiple times, but you now have to deal with the ravaging effects of whatever public transit hell you were subjected to on your return home. (I’m primarily discussing air travel here, but let’s not pretend that buses/trains don’t leave you feeling pretty icky as well.) Here are some travel beauty tips for avoiding and even reversing the damaging effects of air travel.

Start With A Clean Face

If you’re one of those people who can’t leave the house without a full face of makeup, I have bad news. No one believes you woke up like that, and you should absolutely never fly in makeup. If you absolutely have to roll up to the airport made-up, at least take it off ASAP once you’re in the air. Makeup wipes like these Philosophy facial cleansing cloths are a must, given the state of airport bathrooms and the fact that your bougie-ass cleanser definitely won’t make it through TSA. Alternately, you can go with a (travel size) no-rinse micellar water—just please God use cotton pads, not airplane toilet paper. Ew.

Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleansing Cloths

Embrace In-Flight Skincare

Ok, so now your face is clean. Sadly, your work is just beginning. One of the biggest damaging factors on airplanes is that they dry you out like crazy. This means you’re looking at red patches, flaky skin, and the overall pallor of a three-day-old corpse (just me?). Luckily, there are ways to avoid this—though they do involve giving exactly zero fucks what the people in your row think. For starters, it seems like every celeb on earth applies a hydrating mask while flying. Luckily, there are “invisible masks” like the Origins Drink Up Intensive,  or Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Masque, both of which you can leave on for hours to absorb maximum moisture, without getting dirty looks from flight attendants. For those a little less shameless, the Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask goes on like a regular mask (that you’ll have to rinse off with a warm towel, somehow), but it provides hydration and anti-inflammation without any harmful ingredients or artificial fragrances (it’s also vegan). If you’re brave enough for a sheet mask, Chrissy Teigen and J Lo swear by the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Masque

Once you’ve removed the mask, it’s recommended you follow up with your preferred serum/moisturizer/eye cream. (Or if you’re prone to puffy under-eyes (hi), consider some cooling pads like these skyn ICELAND firming eye gels.  Emma Stone swears by argan oil for long flights, but your heaviest daily moisturizer should work fine.

skyn ICELAND firming eye gels

skyn ICELAND firming eye gels

As a final, extra-luxe step, invest in a face mist. Celeb stylists love rose-water infused options (try Khloé Kardashian’s preferred Jurlique version), but regular old Evian is fine too. If you’re reallyyyy trying to get extra about this, the Caudalie Beauty Elixir is another celeb fave. (It’s a toning spray, but don’t ask me what toner does). Or,  you can follow up your SK-II celeb-approved face mask with their Facial Treatment Essence. (Seriously, do not ask me what essence does.)

Stock A Full Mom-Purse

You know that one friend whose purse is always fully stocked with Kleenex, lip balm, gum, etc? Yeah, you’ll want to emulate that to an extent. In addition to all the face wipes and hydrating essentials mentioned above, you should never board a flight without hydrating lip balm, hand lotion, and more water than you usually drink in a week. This final point is especially key, because in addition to making your outsides dry AF, your insides are also dying from dryness when you’re on a flight. So drink, drink, DRINK. Even though it’s annoying to get up every half hour and use the bathroom, you’ll thank me when you don’t arrive bloated and constipated (ew), not to mention the fact that the simple act of getting up and moving frequently is proven to help beat in-air bloat, and can help prevent blood clots. Woo!

Be Careful What You Eat & Drink

Oh, and speaking of drinking—I have another bubble to burst here. As you know from waking up at 3am with desert mouth after a night of drinking, alcohol dries you out—which means drinking on flights is a big no-no (same is true for caffeine). Yes, air travel is definitely one of those memories I’d prefer be a little hazy, but the pounding headache and exaggerated dehydrating effects all around are not worth the 25-30 minute buzz. Save the drinking for your final destination.

When it comes to eating, you’re better off the less you ingest while actually on the flight. Sugar-free foods and gum escalate an already gassy situation (sorry—I don’t make the rules), and chewing gum makes you literally swallow air, which, you guessed it, escalates both the gas and the bloat. The same goes for high-sodium foods and any carbonated drinks. So yeah, even your beloved La Croix is a no go. Some experts suggest to avoid eating anything on a flight, since flying may cause your digestive system to slow down, and the restarting process will be all the more unpleasant if there’s new food to digest rolling around in there. Whether or not that’s 100% scientifically proven, many people who avoid eating on planes say they feel more rested and hydrated after, so it’s worth a shot. Were you really that hyped about airplane food anyway?

That’s all from me (though TBH, it’s plenty). I purchased maybe six more products over the course of writing this article, as I’m currently in the throes of post-flight bloat and ogre skin myself. Learn from my mistakes and help slightly soften the blow of going back to work by not having to deal with a pimple the size of a third eyeball taking over your forehead. Really takes away from the glamour of an overseas vacay.

Images: Giphy (2); Sephora (2)

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