The Exhaustive Guide to Skincare Lessons Learned, 2023 Edition
Botox! Lasers! Filler! Products! It's time to drop the routine.
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, tried some new things, and abandoned some old ones. So, I give you the 2023 version of this, an exhaustive guide to all my hard-won skincare lessons learned.
Timing is everything. I am re-issuing this revised and updated guide to coincide with the Sephora Savings Event, which begins today for Rouge VIB members, who get 20% off with code TIMETOSAVE. Lots of the staples outlined below are discounted until 11/6/23. VIB members receive 15% off starting 10/31/23, while the Beauty Insider tier gets 10% off.
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 ensure you’re mixing and layering products safely. When it comes to lasers, razors, or needles, just let a pro handle that.
Your skin is different than mine. 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. I get gifted many products because of this newsletter, so I have the privilege of trying many different things. Please don’t use me as a barometer to overconsume. 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 like the ice rollers you can get on Amazon, which I stash in my freezer.‘s skincare brand makes a beautiful, more elevated roller if you prefer something more luxurious. Lately, I’ve also liked facialist Sofie Pavitt’s Nice Ice, which are liquid toner pads that live in your freezer and de-puff as they melt on your visage.
I usually follow this with the best at-home device money can buy: The Light Salon’s LED red light mask. Dr. Dennis Gross also makes an excellent LED mask sold 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 times a week, dramatically evening my skin tone. Not a bargain by any means, but a game-changer.
If I’m battling TMJ soreness or sinus pressure, I use my TheraFace, precisely what it sounds like — a Theragun massager for your face. It also has a microcurrent function that I prefer to the NuFace’s. This little tool quickly became indispensable when I bought it last year.
If things are dire, I will break out the big guns: Clarins’ Instant Depuffing Mask. After ten or 15 minutes with this on your face after a big night out, your cheekbones and jawline will return. It’s miraculous stuff.
I wash my face most mornings with a gentle cleanser and cool water. 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.
I love a handful of cleansers, but for morning in particular, I like Vinters Daughter’s new cleanser — you only need a teeny bit. Its price is prohibitive, though. You can’t go wrong with Glossier’s gentle Milky Jelly Cleanser for a more budget-conscious option.
Dieux Skin’s Deliverance Serum and Tammy Fender’s Plant Milk are excellent for calming my skin. I’d consider both a maintenance tool more than anything. They keep the peace — but tag in for heavy-duty if inflammation strikes.
Next, I moisturize and dab on an eye cream. I sometimes give myself a little face massage while I do so.
La Roche Posay’s Cicaplast Baume B5 is an all-time favorite drugstore find. I even apply it to my lips as an overnight treatment sometimes.
Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream is, as the kids say, “my holy grail” item. I stock up whenever it’s on sale, like now, with Sephora’s holiday beauty promotion. People especially appreciate receiving it as a holiday gift.
U-Beauty’s The Super Hydrator is neck-and-neck with The Rich Cream. I love this stuff; it leaves my skin so juicy and dewy. It’s incredibly wonderful under makeup. The brand just released a tinted version of the formula. I’ve been playing around with it for a week or so. The coverage is sheer and buildable — it’s more moisturizer than makeup. So far, my skin loves it, and it wears well throughout the day. If you’re a minimal makeup, five-minute face kind of person, try it.
U Beauty’s The Return Eye Concentrate is great bedfellows with The Super Hydrator. On no-makeup days, this is my go-to. However, if I wear makeup, I reach for Olehenriksen’s Banana Bright Eye Cream, which I mix with a tiny dab of concealer. It does wonders to wake up my under-eyes.
Vinter’s Daughter’s gorgeous oil is something I’ll press in after moisturizer to lock everything in. My skin loves anything with anti-inflammatory Frankincense in the formula. I find cult favorite The Beauty Sandwich’s Secret Sauce very similar. I love them both equally.
Finally, and this is the most critical daytime step: sunscreen. I look younger than I did this time three years ago, and most of that has to do with the fact that I started wearing sunscreen every. Single. Day.
Sunscreen is 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 look for a moisturizing sunscreen.
My favorite no-BS, does-it-all sunscreen is by Summer Fridays. Two fingers full. It doesn’t leave my skin flaky, it doesn’t pill under makeup, and it sinks in beautifully. It’s just an excellent formula! In short, no drama. I love this stuff big.
My current “no makeup day” sunscreen is by GlowRecipe. It makes my skin look glowy, dewy, and all-around healthy.
For touch-ups, I dig Supergoop’s re-setting spray to spritz on top of my visage without messing up my makeup. This is a purse essential for when I am in Montauk or Palm Beach, and the sun is blasting.
Tinted sunscreens are a wonderful thing. I rotate several different brands. But be warned that you should still wear regular SPF underneath your tinted formulas because the amount of product you need to get proper coverage is way more than you’ll use dabbing a thin layer on with your beauty sponge. Kosas’ DreamBeam has enough pigment to even things out, but sparingly. Tower 28’s SunnyDays has yet to be topped for something coverage-wise that feels like makeup. It’s a modern classic and can sub for any CC cream. For just a slip of color, Saie makes an excellent, dewy sunscreen.
Makeup and sunscreen are no joke to remove entirely.
Paula’s Choice Cleansing Balm remains something I cannot run out of. Its thick consistency absolutely smashes through eye makeup and sunscreen. I use it every single evening without fail. It is an absolute pleasure to use.
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 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. I’m sorry; I know Clean Skin Club is a thing right now, and I get the appeal, but those single-use towels are terrible for the planet.
On the serum front, I love Goop’s new Peptide Serum; my skin gobbles it up — and I find it works very quickly to whip my skin back into shape if it’s been misbehaving. If Tret feels too severe for my skin that week (more on that below), I like Dr. Bader’s new Retinol Serum a LOT — it’s so gentle! Unlike with harsher actives, I never wake up to a red or flaky face. I’ve also been playing with de Mamiel’s Gravity Fix Solution for firming. So far, so good.