My Skin Is The Best It's Ever Been: A Very Detailed Guide

Not trying to brag, but my skin is great. Here are my best product recommendations, tips and tricks for getting your skin clear and glowing.
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Not trying to brag, but my skin is great. Here are my best product recommendations, tips and tricks for getting your skin clear and glowing.

Me and some of the products you're about to read about.

Me and some of the products you're about to read about.

In my last post, I received some lovely comments from you guys about the state that my skin was in. Yes, I had these pictures taken by a professional photographer who had a really fancy lighting set-up, but in terms of editing afterwards: nada. They took the photos and then burned the files to a CD for me. Resizing the photos at home, I didn't do anything to adjust the look or tone of my skin.

The truth is, I take really great care of my face, and I pride myself on that. As a hormonal tween and teen, I had horrible breakouts, some that resulted in scars that are still hanging out on my face years later. Shout-out to the tiny moon crater next to my left eye that was the result of an allergic reaction and some furious skin-picking.

As I got older, I came to realize that my skin was, in fact, sensitive and not actually acne-prone. It was never oily, and the reason it was breaking out was because I was using teen-tailored, foaming, acne-fighting cleansers that stripped my skin of every last drop of moisture, leaving it "squeaky clean" and basically, terrified.

I broke out on my cheeks, hairline and jawline and anxiously picked at everything I possibly could. It's a wonder my face ever bounced back, but the cool thing about skin is that it's constantly regenerating. Hooray! Everyone has a chance, even those of us who have treated our skin like total garbage in the past.

I'll start off my giving you guys a description of my skin type, as most of the product recommendations that are going to follow are specifically tailored to it. My skin is crazy-dry and loves thick, gooey moisturizers. Those of you with oily skin are probably squirming right now, so I'll recommend you just glance over the recommendations and move down to the general skincare tips instead. You're lucky, though, as oily skin is known to age at a slower rate than those of us with parched faces. Sigh.

My skin is also quite sensitive, particularly to fragrances. Additionally, I have a really intense, horrible allergy to medical adhesive, which means I can't wear band-aids of any kind. If you put a band-aid on me, my skin burns like a vampire exposed to sunlight. If you listen closely, it can be heard hissing. Plus, I pretty consistently have hives from November to March, thanks to the dry winter air.

What this all boils down to is that if I treat my skin gently and give it loads of moisture, it flourishes. Kind of like a house plant. So let's get started on my very in-depth guide. Put on some tunes and get reading.

MORNING

In the morning, I tend to keep things simple. I'll splash some cold water on my face to get some blood flowing, since I'm usually pretty puffy (I'm a stomach sleeper, and a face full of pillow doesn't give one the most attractive morning look). If I look extra Michelin Man-esque, I'll soak a cotton washcloth in icy-cool water, wring it out, and drape it over my face for about 20 seconds.

Then, I towel off and apply drops of Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution all over and massage it in in an upwards motion. When I decided to start using Kiehl's BB Cream (which was a big leap for me as I'd avoided BB creams in the past since previous ones made me break out like crazy), I was given this recommendation to wear underneath during the day to help correct any dark spots, scarring and sun damage. I freckle easily in the summer, even when I wear SPF, so I'm using this to make sure those freckles don't turn into permanent sun spots. I've only been using it or about a month and a half now but a recent zit scar has significantly faded and is barely visible, so I'm giving it a thumbs up.

After the serum has sunk in, I apply SPF. The BB cream has SPF 50, which is great, but I only wear enough of it to even out my skin tone, so I need extra SPF to make sure I'm well-covered. My all-time favourite is Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer SPF 30. I've been using this for almost three years now; I go through bottle after bottle after bottle (because I wear SPF every day, even if it's cloudy or raining or the dead of winter). It offers protection from the sun, it's moisturizing without being greasy, and it's safe for all skin types.

I massage a quarter-sized dollop into the skin on my face and another blob goes on my neck and chest. Once all that is done, I go about applying the rest of my makeup, and that's it for skincare.

Using Mario Badescu's Cleansing Milk With Carnation and Rice Oil, a longtime favourite of mega-babe Patti Hansen.

Using Mario Badescu's Cleansing Milk With Carnation and Rice Oil, a longtime favourite of mega-babe Patti Hansen.

EVENING

I am pretty diligent about cleansing at night. I will say, I've had those nights where I tell myself a baby wipe is enough, but for the most part I do my full routine seven nights a week.

I start with cleansing. I'm really not picky about cleansers, except for the fact that I prefer the formula be oil- or milk-based. My two favourites in these respective categories are Shu Uemura Fresh Pore Clarifying Gentle Cleansing Oil (Annie is a fan too!) and Mario Badescu Cleansing Milk With Carnation And Rice Oil. I prefer these types of formulas because they break down makeup (even waterproof formulas) exceptionally, are gentle, and don't require you to splash water all over your face. (I hate getting my bathrobe sleeves wet!)

I'll start by washing and drying my hands, and then I'll pump a bit of my chosen cleanser into my palms. I'll rub my hands together and then start working the product into my dry skin, focusing on my eyes (where I wear the most makeup). When I can see that most of the makeup is starting to break down, I'll get a cotton washcloth and soak it in hot hot hot water, wring it out, and lay it over my face and then slowly wipe away the cleanser and dirt. This step feels so relaxing. I can feel my pores opening up and all the grime of the day coming off.

Then comes toning. I never use any alcohol-based toners, and I prefer to have the shortest ingredient list possible on the bottle, which means I usually just end up using Heritage Products Rose Petals Rosewater Spray. It's gentle and soothing. I spritz a bit onto my super-soft Shiseido Facial Cotton (these little splurges make me feel fancy pants) and wipe all over my face until I don't see any debris left on the cotton.

After that comes serum. (I know, this is starting to seem like a lot, but once you get the hang of it, it just comes like clockwork.) I love serums because they deliver highly concentrated amounts of superpower ingredients to your skin, giving it a much-needed boost overnight (the time when it is doing the most regenerating and recuperating--beauty sleep is real!).

My two favourites are Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair and Clarins Double Serum. I use the Clarins the most, because it really boosts moisture and gives you a serious glow. Once I've massaged it in, I feel like I don't even need to use a moisturizer after. If my skin is a little "down in the dumps," (i.e. I've recently had a breakout or I'm looking a little dull) then I reach for the ANR. It's a best-seller for a reason, and I trust it to help breakouts heal and give my skin a much-needed boost.

I let my serum sink in while I floss and brush my teeth, and then move on to moisturizer and eye cream. I have a few different moisturizers that I trust. In the winter, if I'm crazy-dry and distressed, I love Fresh Creme Ancienne and Mario Badescu Protein Night Cream. My apartment gets so, so dry that I break out in hives, but if I use either of these, I can wake up the next morning and still have skin that feels dewy to the touch.

If it's just a regular night, Mario Badescu Kera Moist Cream or Peptide Renewal Cream gets slathered on, with a big flourish of dancey fingertips and circulation-boosting massages. The Kera Moist Cream is especially helpful for anyone who suffers from rosacea and redness.

My eye cream is usually Clinique Even Better Eyes Dark Circle Corrector. I like it because the cooling applicator tip soothes any puffiness, the formula brightens darkness and softens fine lines, and you don't even have to use your ring finger to delicately tap it in. It's pretty foolproof. I've found that a lot of eye creams give me tiny little bumps around my eye which is NOT COOL.

Another that doesn't irritate my eye area is Mario Badescu Chamomile Eye Cream which is gentle as all get-out, and if you end up with any leftover on your finger, tap it around your lips and mouth to prevent any lines around that area--it's just as tender as the skin around your eyes and can always use some extra TLC.

SPECIAL SITUATIONS

Everything listed above is my pretty standard routine, but every once in a while I need to change things up because my skin is protesting.

If I'm dull, breaking out, or extra-flaky, then I will lather on a bit of Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser in the shower and work it in with my Clarisonic Mia II for approximately 20 seconds.

My skin is way too sensitive to give it the full two minutes with the Clarisonic, even with the super-soft brush head, and I find that a quick once-over my entire face with the vibrating bristles gives it the perfect amount of exfoliation and gets rid of any gross little flakes that might be hanging around.

The cleanser is great for breakouts, which I sometimes get in the Summer when I'm super-sweaty. It's also great if you're experiencing breakouts on your shoulders and back. Just put a little bit on a bath pouf and lather it up.

If I notice any zits, I'll apply Mario Badescu Drying Lotion at night (this works best on under-the-surface, whitehead-type zits). If I see a tiny red something-or-other pop up, I'll use Sephora Collection Acne-Fighting Roll-On Gel. I like this because it's clear, so if I'm doing my makeup and notice something, I can roll it on and go about my day knowing I'm invisibly fighting the little pest.

Enjoying my Rose Hips Mask. I think I'm on my third tub now.

Enjoying my Rose Hips Mask. I think I'm on my third tub now.

Then there are masks, which I love almost as much as I love serums. My favourite is Mario Badescu Rose Hips Mask, which is super-brightening thanks to the rose hips, naturally loaded with vitamin C, a proven skin-brightener and booster of collagen, which we need to keep our skin "elastic"--that is, plump and baby-ish. If I notice my skin being dull, or if it's just in need of some cell turnover during the healing process of a breakout, I'll slather this on after cleansing and before toning and leave it for 15 minutes while I watch TV.

Another favourite mask is the Eve Lom Moisture Mask. Yes, it is pricy, but holy crap, it makes your skin look like it belongs to a small angelic child. If you need any proof that Eve Lom is incredible, I present to you Nigella Lawson. She's a huge fan of the brand and is 53 years old. What? How?

Smooth it on after cleansing (with the very chic included applicator spoon), let it sink in for 15-20 minutes and then tissue off any remaining product. You can pretty much just leave your skin be after that, or you can stand in front of the mirror and marvel at how healthily FAT your skin looks. Yes, skin should look fat and juicy and plump, at least in my books. And this mask does that, giving you a Gerber Baby-esque complexion. I use this when my skin is dry or tired, and I'd recommend it after a long flight or before a first date to make you look effing ethereal and marriagable.

AND FINALLY... SKIN-SAVING TIPS

Everything I've mentioned above are products that I've used for extended periods of time, products I've been recommended by people who know their stuff, products that are tailored to people who have skin like mine. My best recommendation for you is to find out what your skin type is, which can sometimes be determined my a simple glance in the mirror, but is best figured out with the help of a dermatologist or a licensed aesthetician.

Then you need to try things out--and really try them! Nothing is going to work wonders after one week. Most products require at least six weeks of diligent use before you notice dramatic results, so be patient.

Other than that, there are a few things you can do to help your skin along the way.

  • My skin is prone especially to hormonal breakouts. Hormonal breakouts, brought on by PMS or stress, usually happen on the chin and jawline. I keep these at bay by trying to manage my stress (easier said than done!) and dealing with the PMS-related stuff in advance. Being on the Pill, I know when to expect my period, so a few days before I make sure that I'm drinking tons of water and taking evening primrose oil or other supplements rich in omega fatty acids. Evening primrose oil specifically is known to help balance hormones, so taking three capsules a day for the days leading up to and at the beginning of my period keeps everything leveled out so my skin isn't thrown off balance when Shark Week eventually begins.
  • Like I mentioned above: WATER. It really does make a difference. When I'm being a lazy, unhealthy jerk and living off of coffee and salty food, my skin rebels against me. Most of the time though, I just drink water. When I go to restaurants, I usually just order water. And at home? I live with my sister and we don't actually have coffee in the house, or soda or hardly ever juice. Do we sound like crazy people? I don't know! We just have our Brita filter and that's all we drink, other than tea. Sorry, we're nerds, but we have good skin.
  • Do your damn laundry. I have two sets of cotton pillowcases, and I change my case out in the middle of the week, every week. The dirty cases get thrown in the wash and the clean ones get put on, and it's a neverending cycle of never letting my skin touch pillowcases that have been dirtied by leftover hair product and sweat. Same goes for towels. If you're drying your face off, make sure those towels are getting washed on a frequent basis.
  • Eat fatty. I mentioned above that I like supplements rich in omega fatty acids. Omegas are all around wonder products, helping everything from brain function to heart health, and they work exceptionally well on keeping your skin healthy too. I love super-fatty salmon, I could eat pounds and pounds of it. Just ask Marci: when I'm in the office I will sit at my desk eating salmon from the deli. I'm sure the people around me love it. If I want a snack that is not only delicious but great for my skin, I'll eat an avocado with a pinch of ground pepper and sea salt. I know I'm not breaking ground here telling you that what you ingest is directly correlated to how your skin looks, but it's important to keep in mind.
  • Adjust your phone habits. If I'm calling someone, I plug my earbuds into my phone and hold the microphone in front of my mouth, as opposed to holding the phone to my ear. Chances are you have a touchscreen phone (it is 2013). That means your fingers are constantly swiping across it, and as soon as you hold your phone to your face for a chat, all your hand grime gets transferred. Phone screens are greasy! I wash my hands about 300 times a day and my phone screen is still gross as hell. I don't want that stuff touching my face.

Phew. So, this is for all of you who were wondering what I use on my face. That's it in a nutshell. I get the chance to test out a lot of things but most of the time I give skincare products away because I'm really happy with what I currently use.

What are your "holy grail" skin products? Any of the ones I mentioned? Let me know what you think of my crazy routine.