What’s more important than any individual product is having a solid routine. This determines how your products work together overall, and a weakness in any one category, such as a cleanser that primarily sits on the surface, can ruin the efficacy of the entire routine. I’ve learned that, like most healthy things in life, implementing a good routine requires discipline, and that good skin is a journey, a marathon, and not a sprint.
I’m often asked why I prefer “green” products, and my answer is that I just like high-performance products. The green products I use aren’t just a blend of oils tossed together, but rather highly scientific formulas that contain a greater concentration of skin-beneficial ingredients than is typically found in traditional skincare. As the largest organ of the body, I think the best approach is one that nourishes the skin with good things rather than using harsh actives that try to challenge it. I’ve found that approaching my skincare as self-care has greatly benefited the outcome.
Cleansing: First and Second Cleanse
I really prioritize cleansing because it sets the stage for everything that comes afterward. There are two types of cleansers: a first cleanse that is meant to remove make-up and sunscreen, and a second cleanse that works on the skin. While there are some cleansers that claim to do both and many that really slot into either category, I find that having distinct, specialized performance produces better results.
If I’m wearing make-up, and have a heavy-duty waterproof SPF on, I like to take it off with a cleansing oil like Kahina’s Oil Cleanser. It’s a good textured oil that gives the right feel on the skin where you can feel the make-up and sunscreen dislodge without ever pulling on the skin, or feeling like the oils are disappearing into the skin as you massage. It emulsifies well with water, and rinses off quickly without any stubbornness. Plus, there is a pleasant, light fragrance with notes of neroli and sandalwood much like their roll-on fragrance Essaouira, that is refreshing, and uplifting.
Once this is rinsed off, I begin my second cleanse. YÜLI’s Halcyon Cleanser, has been a tried-and-true holy grail cleanser for me. It’s a light gel emulsion made from botanicals that instantly refreshes the skin. There are so many clinical ingredients including Vitamin C, amino acids, and peptides, that it’s almost like a cleansing serum. It’s engineered with a chemistry that mimics natural tears for gentleness, optimizes pH to 5.5, and beyond the skin nutrition, there are also clays, enzymes, and adaptogens to do some serious heavy lifting. What I really love about this cleanser is the way it leaves my skin in that perfect state of supple, comfortable nakedness afterward.
Skin Toning: Face Mist
I’m a big believer in skin toning to prep and condition. However, I don’t love that most traditional toners are astringent and acidic, which is not conducive in a daily routine. The reason for this is that most traditional cleansers used soap-based surfectants to foam which have an alkaline pH, and so toners were the step to realign or ‘tone’ the skin which required for them to be acidic. However, with the above cleansing regimen, there is no need because the skin pH is not being imbalanced. So my skin toning step is a face mist to provide the things the naked skin needs after cleansing: hydration, barrier strengthening, and rapid nutrition from water soluble actives, which is why I use YÜLI’s Metamorphic Elixir. It has the highest concentration of actives in all three areas, and works like an essence-as-mist. This really helps to soften and plump my skin, and work flawlessly with oils.
Serums: Water and Oil Soluble
Serums are the MVPs of active skincare, they’re where you’re going to find the most impactful nutrition and highest concentration of actives. Traditionally, serums are water-based, however some (including me) also consider oils to be a new type of serum given how nutrient-dense they are. If you have not noticed, the foundational steps (which is what I’m covering here) of my skincare routine are all by YÜLI. It doesn’t mean I only use them, as I do like to change things up. It’s just that I find YÜLI products incredibly well-considered, thoughtfully formulated, and full of so many actives that I never have fear of missing out, while always reliably free of things that later trend as a skincare scary. And whenever I’m on a consistent YÜLI routine, my skin is just happy, healthy, and resilient.
The first serum I use is Ambrosia Beauty Nectar, the water-soluble serum that should go on before oils. There’s a lot going on here, to the point where writing a review for all the benefits ended up leaving me lost for words. Here’s what you should know: it’s a ‘super-serum,’ the kind of singular serum you see at plastic surgery centers from brands like Skinceuticals, or Skinmedica that feature sci-fi levels of scientific ingredients. And if that type of stuff leaves you feeling a bit lost, let’s break it down:
- It’s the most powerful hyaluronic acid serum you’ll use, with 18+ variants in the HA complex, it is comprehensive and serious about genuine, clinical hydration,
- It’s also the most forward-thinking anti-aging serum that actually makes skin more youthful rather than just promote endless cycles of turnover, and the actives responsible include next generation epidermal growth factors sourced from algae which are far more bio-compatible and impactful, and pharmaceutical-grade antioxidants, the difference being where ordinary antioxidants are good for free radical scavenging and atmospheric aging, these antioxidants are bottled from marine actives that regulate processes like healthy cell division, and prolong lifespan. Here’s what I know through years of using this stuff, when my skin is on it, it is next level, and everything just comes together.
Sometimes I mix Ambrosia Beauty Nectar with my oil, other times I apply oil on its own right after. There are so many oils that I love, but again, YÜLI’s approach is immaculate that I have to give love to their universal oil, M.E. Skin Fuel. The concise summary of this oil is that it’s everything I thought Vintner’s Daughter’s nearly $200 bottle of oil should have been, at half the price. There’s 19+ organic and wildcrafted ingredients, no citrus/essential oils, only botanical actives that benefit the skin, yet beautiful ingredients that work like a multivitamin cocktail for the skin. And it’s the perfect texture, and feel on the skin. Just all the good stuff you’d want in an oil.
Day/Night: Vitamin C or Moisturizer
I’ve been using Vitamin C during the daytime, and moisturizer at night. I really like Marie Veronique x Kristina Holey’s C-Therapy Serum, a gentle yet effective Vitamin C serum that is meant to work even with the most sensitive of skins. This contains 4 types of Vitamin C meant to provide different benefits at different levels of the skin from clearing hyperpigmentation to stimulating collagen. Then there’s Ferulic Acid, Vitamin E (hello CE Ferulic Acid!), and L-Glutathione, a master antioxidant. The skin feel of this silky fluid brown serum is excellent, and you’ll feel your skin get firmer and brighter over time.
Plus, it layers wonderfully under SPF, which I consider to be THE MOST important step. For those wondering, I didn’t photograph my SPF because I’ve been going between SO many after deep diving on Youtube’s Asian Beauty sunscreen reviews. My current favorite sunscreen is from Beauty of Joseon, a KBeauty sunscreen with the modern Asian filters. It’s hydrating, leaves no white cast (it’s primarily Asian chemical filters which hold up much better), and gives skin that dewy glass skin look and finish. I’ve been recommending it to everyone, and haven’t heard of anyone turning back once they try this.
At night, I really love Luzern Lab’s Force De Vie Luxe, originally recommended by the guys at Garcons World. It’s not cheap, but a jar of this lasts a long time, and whenever I use this line, I just think to myself “if La Prairie was actually good, this is the type of product they’d be making.” I read that they’ve converted a lot of La Mer users, but I feel this Swiss brand has the technology and heritage that aligns them closer to La Prairie. It feels great, has incredible ingredients, and makes me think of a luxurious skincare version of a yogurt. It’s at once soothing and moisturizing without any hint of greasiness or heaviness, and is packed with anti-aging ingredients.
Supplemental Beauty Ingestible
When it comes to beauty, and skin health, there is no question that ingestibles are a big part of the equation. For one thing, many studies say that Vitamin C does more for the skin as an ingestible than a topical if you want the collagen-activating benefits, and other studies have shown that ingestible antioxidants can almost be thought of as an inner form of sunscreen that increases the skin’s resilience to ultraviolet radiation. The irony is that many “skin supplements” are actually not that great for the skin long term because they end up providing an overabundance of synthetic supplements like Biotin, Vitamin A and Vitamin E that have had a detrimental impact on the organs, and a correlation to all-cause mortality. Translation: many skincare supplements, especially those from synthetic origins, not only hold no significant health value, but may be a long-term net negative.
So, one supplement I’ve stuck with is MIJA’s Superstar, a daily ingestible made entirely from organic superfoods (no synthetics here), which is clinically formulated to benefit all 12 of the major systems. This also makes it the perfect skin supplement, because the skin is our externalmost organ used for defense, and in terms of priority, is usually the last to get nutrients and even hydration. By benefiting all 12 of the major systems, that means it allows the body to then dole out nutrition to the skin since all other systems are cared for. Additionally, it has ingestible Vitamin C from the camu camu fruit, which is so powerful that skincare lines like Dr. Peter Thomas Roth use it as the centerpiece of their Vitamin C line, and natural sources of anthocyanins and beta carotene, the antioxidants responsible for that ingestible SPF benefit. Also its base is matcha and moringa, which are both rich in detoxifying chlorophyll, and catechins which reduce skin aging and improve skin elasticity, as well as master antioxidants that balance internal oxidative and inflammatory stress. Finally, there are adaptogens that are a class of herbs like Chaga mushroom that help the body better respond to and manage stress, which is one of the leading contributors to poor skin health. Basically, if you want beautiful, lush skin, I really think Superstar is the way to go, and I drink it daily to get my beauty from within.
I avoid complicating my routine when it comes to supplements because it’s hard to gauge how they may interact, or foresee any long term unintended results. I sometimes add in Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, to my Superstar tonic. Collagen Peptides are relatively well researched, and results are showing that they do help in adding suppleness and hydration to the skin from within. Additionally, it is relatively stable, and recommended for mixing with whole foods, which is essentially what the Superstar is made from.
Well that’s my detailed list of my current routine. If you made it all the way, I hope you found this insightful. I know I always find it helpful to see full picture approaches to routines, rather than just constant product reviews. Keep in mind, these are my constant foundational products, and day-to-day I do like to change out and experiment in small ways. Please let me know if you have any questions!