The 2022 Exhaustive Guide to Skincare Lessons Learned
This issue has everything. Morpheus 8! Filler! Spiro belly! Better sunscreens! Retinol peelies!
First, some background: In 2020, I wrote an exhaustive skincare guide for a group of friends and family, and it blew up. It came along after guinea-pigging what I felt was every product on the Internet during COVID. After all, what better time to test something that might break me out than during quarantine? That’s when the skin tinkering began, and I tried everything. And I do mean everything.
Fast forward to now. I’ve had more time to see results. I’ve made some tweaks and modifications, I’ve tried some new things and abandoned some old ones. And I know even more since the last update I made to this guide in 2021. So I give you the 2022 version of this, an exhaustive guide to all my hard-won skincare lessons learned.
I’m not a dermatologist, an injector, or an esthetician. PLEASE talk to your professional squad before implementing new products, especially those with acids or retinoids — I sure do. Not everything plays well together, especially on different skin types, so make sure you’re mixing and layering products safely. When it comes to lasers, razors, or needles of any kind, just let a pro handle that. The at-home stuff will mess you up my dudes.
Your skin is different than mine. My routine works for me and may not work for you. I am in my 30’s, white, with fair-medium olive-toned skin. I have combination skin, meaning oily in my T-zone and dry elsewhere. My primary concerns are hormonal acne, fine lines, sebaceous filaments (those tiny pores on your nose that look like blackheads when clogged), loss of volume, and most importantly, avoiding skin cancer.
Most of this stuff is nice-to-have, but not vital. All you really need is a cleanser, a moisturizer, and sunscreen.
First, I do battle with morning puffiness and redness.
If I’m puffy (ahem, wine face), I really like the ice rollers you can get on Amazon, which I stash in my freezer and use after I wash my face.
I usually follow this with the single-best at-home device money can buy: The Light Salon’s LED red light mask. Dr. Dennis Gross also makes a great LED mask they sell at Sephora — no difference in results, just a hard shell mask vs. a flexible one. I rock red LED for ten to twenty minutes 2-3x a week and it dramatically evens out my tone. Not a bargain by any means, but an absolute game-changer.
If I’m battling allergy season, then there is a more extensive routine, which I wrote about here. It includes my blessed microcurrent device, NuFace. If you use it consistently, you’ll see results.
I used to wash my face most mornings with a gentle cleanser and cool water. But these days, I just splash water on my face and dab with a towel to dampen it for my serums to have something to grab onto. If my skin is happy that morning (no irritation), I use a Vitamin C serum. For me, it goes a LONG way to brighten dull skin, and these days I use it more mornings than not. I follow that with a soothing Cannabanoid serum.
Skinceuticals C-Ferulic is considered the gold standard of C serums, but it is expensive. It’s a genuine workhorse, and I’ve since replaced the Allies of Skin with this in my morning routine.
Dieux Skin’s Deliverance Serum is wonderful for keeping my skin calm. I’d consider it a maintenance tool more than something you should expect significant results from. It maintains peace.
Next, I moisturize. I sometimes give myself a little face massage to de-puff. I have lots of moisturizers, and I like them all for different reasons. Some live in my medicine cabinet, some in my purse, some on my nightstand.
La Roche Posay’s Cicaplast Baume B5 (all-time favorite drugstore find, but good luck finding it. If Amazon’s got it in stock, do not dilly dally.)
Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream is, as the kids say, “my holy grail” item. I have one on my vanity, one in my desk drawer, and one in my bag. I stock up whenever it’s on sale!
Dr. Jart’s Ceramidin Cream (second place, but will pill under heavy makeup FYI)
Finally, and this is the most important daytime step: sunscreen. I swear I look younger than I did this time three years ago, and I think most of that has to do with the fact that I started wearing sunscreen every. single. day. Even when I’m inside!
Sunscreen is kind of annoying because its consistency is all over the map brand-to-brand. I am always trying new brands. Fiddle around and find what works for you by shopping with a retailer like Amazon or Sephora who will make a return if you don’t like it. (I wrote sunscreen its own exhaustive guide here, if you’d like to dive deeper.) BTW — If your skin is oily, you can probably skip moisturizer and just look for a moisturizing sunscreen.
My new favorite no-BS sunscreen is La Roche Posay. Available on Amazon or at Target, and freakin’ works.
My current “no makeup day” sunscreen is by GlowRecipe. It makes my skin look glowy, dewy, and all-around healthy. I keep this one in my desk for WFH days.
For touch-ups on makeup days, I dig Supergoop’s new Re-setting spray that I can just spritz on top of my visage without messing up my makeup.
Makeup and sunscreen are no joke to fully remove, and I used to double-cleanse, first with an oil cleanser to break everything up, then with a gentle cleanser. BUT that has changed — because of Paula.
Paula’s Choice Cleansing Balm has become something that I cannot run out of. Its thick consistency absolutely smashes through makeup and sunscreen. I use it every single evening without fail. It doesn’t dry my skin out and it’s an absolute pleasure to use. I wipe it off with a warm washcloth.
Forever still in my shower though: K-Beauty brand DHC’s Oil Cleanser
La Roche Posay makes my favorite eye makeup remover. It gets through even the most stubborn waterproof mascara.
Instead of disposable cotton pads, try sustainable reusable ones. I just toss them in the washing machine. Buy lots and keep them in a tub under your sink. I also have black washcloths designated for makeup removal. For travel, I rely heavily on a makeup eraser.
Okay, so now, let’s talk about actives and retinoids.
About two nights a week, I follow my cleanser with one or the other
Actives first (here’s a good breakdown of what an active is). Good acids will sweep that dead skin off for you and de-gunk your pores.
What do I truly consider a miracle product in this category? Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. You’ve heard of Salicylic Acid? Well, this formula is it, sis. I splash a little on my hands and rub it all over my face, chest, and shoulders. Truly nothing has cleared up my skin like this stuff.
Alternatively, I’m feeling lazy and I don’t want to do much after I wash my face, or if my skin is just looking dull, GoopGlow’s Overnight Glow peel is a great one-step.
Can’t forget the iconic cult favorite Lotion P50, which stinks to high heaven but does the Lord’s work if you’re dealing with acne. The only legit place online to get this is Rescue Spa. I get it in Atlanta at Artisan Beautè.
Now — Retinoids (not to be mistaken with Retinyl or Retinol — ack, confusing!) After cleansing, I used to apply it on bone-dry skin, but it was pissing my skin off, so now I add a little layer of protection underneath. I apply my Tretinoin (more on that below), let it sink in for 15 minutes, then follow that with a gentle moisturizer. That’s my whole routine that night. Do not pair with actives on the same night!
Tretinoin (aka Retin A) is really the best anti-aging topical out there. It’s only available by prescription, but when it comes to legit results, this stuff is untouchable. There are some online derms like Apostrophe (which I use) that will prescribe this to you via the web. No doctor’s office! It plumps up fine lines, fights acne, and improves the overall texture + tone of my skin. You only need to apply a tiny pea-sized bit once or twice a week, depending on skin sensitivity. You can build up a tolerance! Be warned: Tretinoin is a long game. like Tret take at least six months to see results and are meant to be used routinely for a lifetime. You might see a tiny breakout at first if your skin is purging stuff that’s been hiding under the surface, which is why you may have heard the term “retinoid uglies” before. It’ll pass. And it’s worth it. Age backward, my bb!
I reach for Krave Beauty’s Great Barrier Relief as a base layer on Tret nights. It keeps my skin from getting irritated. TikTok is obsessed with this stuff. I’m not sure how to describe its consistency, which has to be somewhere between a serum and a moisturizer. It goes a LONG way to proactively protect and soothe my skin barrier.
Adapalene is a good prescription-strength retinoid alternative to Tretinoin, and you can pick it up at the drugstore as Differin or Effaclar.
Then comes moisturizer. I again use Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream. I’m sorry. I know it costs an arm and a leg. I would like to tell you it isn’t worth the money and give you an inexpensive alternative, but then I’d be fibbing to you. The Rich Cream genuinely improved my skin over time, and I really love it.
This is the moment for your face oil. When it’s cold, I use Vinter’s Daughter. It’s another investment, but one bottle lasts a whole year. I do NOT use this on retinol or active nights!
So many of us baby our faces and then completely neglect the skin on the rest of our body!
Necessaire has an amazing lineup of body care, including an AHA Glycolic acid body wash, a quick-absorbing moisturizer, and nourishing body oil. Everything is gentle, efficacious, reasonably priced, widely available, and a pleasure to use.
I love a good luxe body oil. The sexy sheen and subtle scent it leaves on my skin’s caused me to collect a handful of good ones, my current favorites are this one by Acqua di Parma and this lovely whipped one by Josie Maran, which went viral on TikTok.
The Hard Stuff! Pills, Lasers, Injectables:
Speaking of prescriptions, going on a low daily dose of Spironolactone all but eliminated my hormonal acne. Ask your dermatologist about it. Again, online derms like Apostrophe will hook you up with this. I did notice it feminized my body a bit (boob and belly weight distribution), so chat with your doc — most folks have zero side effects though.
With the exception of consistent sunscreen use, pretty much no cream in a jar will give you dramatic results like injectables. I do several units of Botox between my eyebrows (my “11’s”) and in my forehead to ease lines.
I have been going for a series of fractional micro-needling treatments called Morpheus8 in the skilled, safe hands of my practitioner Lauren Bays at Artisan Beautè in Atlanta. The results are subtle and slow, but the lift is real! Be aware this one definitely hurts so go get numbed up for an hour or so before your treatment. I equate the feeling to little rubber bands snapping on my face.
My PA injector Mary Ellen Bishop (also at Artisan Beautè) talked me into chin and cheek filler, and she was right to steer me. I love the results. Super subtle. I just look rested and my jawline’s a touch sharper. The chin filler did leave me sore for a few days after, but the injection process itself was pretty painless. Mary Ellen is so skilled, and her touch is so light. Plus she’s very patient with the needle-phobic like me.
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