Skincare has been a research interest of mine for the past six or seven years. Chalk it up to being (1) a Southern woman, raised by her grandmother to prize her face creams above all else, and (2) a helpless enneagram 5. Over the years, my passion for trying new products and studying the science of skin has diminished, but my faithfulness to my routine is as strong and steady as ever.
Accordingly, here are the 8 things that have not strayed from my routine, despite testing and trying dozens and dozens of other similar products.
Disclaimer: Let it be known, lest the skincare-literate among you judge: This is not my full routine. I use sunscreen daily; I’m not an animal. I’m also still testing favorite nighttime serums and daytime sunscreens. These are just the things that rarely leave my bathroom counter, in no particular order.
Commitments from Korea and Japan
South Korea and Japan make the best skincare products—undeniably, without question, why even mention it—and their superior products typically boast far better prices than most luxury U.S. brands. The only catch is that you often have to wait a few weeks to get them in the mail. With that said, these are my steady relationships.
1. Rotho Mentholatum Melano CC Vitamin C Essence
The most effective and affordable Vitamin C I’ve ever tried. Stability is very important with facial Vitamin C, and this is an incredible value for a stable, potent product. As with all Vitamin C products, you need to apply faithfully for a month or more before you see results, but this one really pays off (for me, fading old acne scars better than anything else I’ve tried).
2. Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil
Cleansing oils are my jam, and this is the one I’ve repurchased so often I’ve lost count. It’s everything you want in a cleanser: Effective, affordable, non-stripping, and leaves your skin feeling velvety after every wash. As a Korean skincare devotee, I know I’m supposed to double-cleanse, but this is so great that I often don’t (shh).
3. Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Essence Mist
This seems like a very strange product, and it’s definitely not one that you need, but I love it so much I can’t quit it. This mist is the perfect lightweight veil of moisture for your skin, to be used at any time, but I particularly like it after the shower. My skin soaks it up. Instant glow. This essence is a treat, and a bottle lasts for ages. (I think I’ve been using my current bottle for at least a year.)
4. Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream
A much-beloved nighttime moisturizer that has become a staple in my routine, even though it’s more expensive than I’d like. Very effective at reducing redness and calming skin (especially in the winter). For no particular reason, it’s also such a pretty shade of blue, which pleases me. This cream typically comes in a tub, but I much prefer the tube, for ease of application/cleanliness.
5. Rohto Mentholatum Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Emulsion
Say that three times fast. I introduced my mom to this product, and she is obsessed, claims she can’t live without it now. She’s a great saleswoman for it, too, because her skin looks incredible and she’s very attractive. This is a thick, slimy, luxurious moisturizer—the absolute perfect thing for colder months or any time your skin needs some genuine affection.
6. Laneige Cream Skin
Also absolutely unnecessary, but I love it (apparently I have a lot of love for various moisturizers). This is another smoothing layer of moisture, as a first step in the morning, that is deeply refreshing. It’s like putting whole milk on your skin, but in a cool way, in a way that seems like… a good idea. Cream Skin is the perfect prep for the day ahead.
$15 (mini-size) from Sephora | $33 (full size) from Sephora
Commitments from the U.S.
I don’t trust a lot of U.S. brands (because they’re often way overpriced for inferior products and/or ludicrously susceptible to green-washing/clean-washing, which is another rant for another time), but I always come back to Trader Joe’s and Paula’s Choice.
7. Trader Joe’s Nourish Oil-Free Antioxidant Moisturizer
This is the best straightforward moisturizer I’ve ever tried, and I shall never stray from it. The price! The effectiveness! The antioxidants! I confess that I always panic-buy a little bit whenever I go to Trader Joe’s, picking up two or three at a time, because one of My Greatest Fears in Life is that TJ’s will stop carrying it.
$6 at Trader Joe’s
8. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
There’s a good reason this is a skincare classic: Almost nothing on the market is as effective as this exfoliant. Accordingly, it’s strong, so don’t go nuts with it! Use it at night, just two or three times a week, especially if you’re introducing it for the first time. It’s the best thing you can do for your pores.
$11 (travel size) at Paula’s Choice | $32 (full size) at Paula’s Choice
Questions? Complaints? Let me know. Later, I will write a missive about my Lifelong Quest to Find the Perfect Sunscreen. It’s a real epic.
I love this post and am curious what you think about retinol! I recently discovered Marie Veronique and it has radically changed my life (I don't even need a moisturizer anymore??) because of these two products:
...however the cost is $$$ and I'd always prefer to find an alternative.
Ah, thank you for sharing your secrets! I love a good skincare indulgence but get overwhelmed by all the options. I'd love to read a sunscreen post anytime you have recs to share! xo