My Morning Anti Aging Skin Care Routine
The most common question I am asked about, hands down, is my skincare routine. This post has been a long time in the making because I didn’t want to just throw together a list of all the products I use. Instead I wanted to explain why it is I use each specific product.
I started going to an incredible (and not inexpensive) cosmetic dermatologist around the age of 25. It was then that I was introduced to medical grade skincare. Since then my skin has barely aged, and at age 31 looks about the same as it did back then (perhaps even better?). I don’t say this to brag, but instead to help you understand that using good products can make a major difference and is COMPLETELY worth it.
If you think your skin just looks the way it is and that’s that, you are wrong. How your skin looks is not genetic. It is maybe a little bit - around 25-30% - but the rest is completely up to you. My skin doesn’t look the way it does because of genetics (I wish!), but because I have stuck to really powerful skincare routine for at least five years consistently.
One thing I do want to point out is that just because a skincare product is expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. There are plenty of products on the market right now that are at the same price point or more than medical grade products yet they are not backed by proven science like the medical grade ones are. Look at La Mer, for example. La Mer is more or less the same as Nivea creme, yet costs around $300 more. You should do your due diligence to look fully research a product before making a purchase - whether that means going to a dermatologist (your best option, by far) or learning the information yourself.
Another common barrier to entry that people hit me with when I talk about the skincare products I use is “I can’t afford that”. Spoiler alert: you can. (1) because you can make it a priority and figure out a way to eventually afford it, and (2) because medical grade products are powerful.
Because medical grade products are so powerful, you can use a way smaller amount of product than you would if it were a non-medical grade product. Often when look at it in terms of how long it lasts you will find that the medical grade products is much more financially manageable than you originally thought. Also when you consider that it actually works and you aren’t just wasting money on something for no reason ;)
So with that being said, here is my morning anti-aging skin care routine!
My Morning Anti Aging Skin Care Routine
Step 1: Double Cleanse
I start each morning with a double cleanse to make sure all impurities are removed from my skin. Double cleansing involves first cleansing your skin with an oil-based cleanser, followed by a second cleanse with a water-based cleanser. Oil cleansing is important because it removes makeup, sebum, SPF, pollution, etc. The second cleanse using a water-based cleanser removes the water-based residue such as sweat and dirt.
Do you really need to cleanse in the morning if you did it the night before? Yes, absolutely. There’s a common misconception that since you removed your makeup at night there’s no need to cleanse again in the morning but that is very wrong. While you sleep your skin secretes sebum, toxins, you sweat, etc. You also (hopefully) put on PM-specific products like retinol before bed that need to be removed before you apply your AM-specific products!
If you are short on time, at least make sure to cleanse once. In an ideal world I double cleanse every morning using my Clarisonic which my cosmetic dermatologist considers absolutely essential. I notice a huge difference when I clean my face with the Clarisonic vs. when I don’t. If you don’t already have and use a Clarisonic, I highly recommend picking one up! Click here for the one I recommend.
The oil cleanser that I use is the Banila Co. Cleansing Balm. It is incredibly nourishing and one of my favorite skincare steps. This specific version is for dry skin and uses royal jelly extract (something my mom takes in pill form to prevent migraines) to deeply moisturize along with ginseng extract to revitalize.
The cleanser itself is really cool, too. In the container it’s a solid balm but once you place it on your skin it melts into the most luxurious oil. They don’t call it a cult favorite for nothing! Click here to see the latest prices.
The water-based cleanser I use is the Cosrx Low-pH Good Morning Cleanser. It’s a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils - something I consider to be super important! All skin types can use this cleanser but it is especially great for sensitive and dry skin like me. Click here to see the latest prices.
For travel I like the Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick. Click here to see the latest prices.
Step 2: Exfoliate
The second step in my morning skincare routine is exfoliating (as needed - I don’t necessarily do this everyday). Exfoliating is incredibly important because if you are not properly exfoliated your skincare will not absorb. I don’t personally like to waste expensive skincare so I of course exfoliate regularly!
Exfoliants come in two common forms - physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants are scrubs that you can physically feel on your skin - using some kind of gritty texture to remove dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliants are ones that you can’t physically feel but instead using things like acids to exfoliate chemically. Both are great - it’s more a matter of personal preference.
The physical exfoliant I use is the SkinCeuticals Micro-exfoliating Scrub. It uses microbeads that are super mild and will not harm or damage your skin. It’s also hydrating and perfect for all skin types! Click here to see the latest prices.
The chemical exfoliant I love is Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta® Universal Daily Peel. It is a pack of two pre-soaked pads that are anti-aging and radiance providing. It takes just two minutes and provides powerful, yet gentle exfoliation plus anti-aging benefits. They are marketed as daily and suitable for daily use but I use them a few times per week instead. You can also use them at night instead if you want - it is up to you. Click here to see the latest prices.
If your lips are dry, you should also exfoliate them! I use Fresh’s Sugar Lip Polish Exfoliator.
Step 3: Tone
The third step in my AM skincare routine in toning. Toner got a bad rap here in America thanks to all of those horrible alcohol-packed astringent toners that used to run wild at the drugstores back when we were kids - but that is not the toner I am talking about here.
Regardless of whether or not you use a toner, when you are done cleansing and exfoliating your face it is incredibly important that you do not leave your skin bare. Instead, you must immediately put your next product on in order to avoid dehydrating your skin. I recommend grabbing a toner at this point, which is what I personally do.
Why use a toner? It should hopefully come as no surprise when I say tap water can be pretty disgusting. It’s not purified and can have things like chlorine and minerals in it, so it’s a good idea to remove it from your face ASAP after cleansing. That’s where toner comes in!
You can think of toners like a primer for your skincare. They create a clean base, removing any leftover residue from your cleanser, exfoliant, or tap water, re-balance your skin’s pH levels, and prep your skin to more effectively absorb the products you are about to apply.
The toner I use is Son & Park Beauty Water. It contains lavender water, rose water, and orange fruit extract which provides hydration, preparing your skin to absorb the next products. It also mildly exfoliates with willow bark and papaya extract, which is smoothing and brightening, too! It is great for all skin types. Click here to see the latest prices.
Step 4: Essence
Essences are the heart of the Korean beauty skincare routine. They are lightweight yet packed with powerful ingredients to hydrate, anti-age, and enhance your complexion.
I don’t personally use an essence every morning - only on those which I feel particularly dry. The most famous essence, I believe, is SK-II’s wonderful but incredibly expensive essence. It’s a great product but luckily there is one that rivals it for a fraction of the price. One that is said to be not just as good but even better, believe it or not!
That essence is the same one I use — Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist. It contains 90% fermented yeast, one of the most important ingredients in Korean skincare. It has a water-like consistency that repairs damage, hydrates, an evens out skin tone. It’s also plumping, texture refining, and pigmentation reducing! It helps your skin retain moisture for longer and I notice my skin is much more hydrated when I use it. Click here to see the latest prices.
Step 5: Lip Mask
The next item I apply is a leave-on lip mask. It’s technically a sleeping mask but I find it’s great to apply at this step in my routine because it preps my lips for the last step in my makeup routine — lipstick!
The lip mask I use is Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, yet another wonderful Korean skincare item. It uses hyaluronic acid (one of my very favorite skincare ingredients!) and minerals to form a protective film over the lips. This helps lock in moisture and active ingredients. I saw this product on Instagram a million times before finally taking the plunge and now I totally swear by it! If you need something super hydrating for your lips - I promise you this is it. Click here to see the latest prices.
Step 6: Antioxidant Serum
Next up — antioxidant serum! Of all the products in my skincare lineup, I would say that my vitamin C serum is one of the top three most important. Vitamin C is one of the most powerful and effective antioxidants. It protects you from the environment (free radicals caused by sunlight, cigarette smoke, and pollution) and has powerful anti-aging benefits (presentation against wrinkles, discoloration, laxity, blemishes, etc).
The vitamin C serum I use is SkinCeuticals C. E. Ferulic. I think without a doubt this is the product that has had the largest impact on my skin. I have been using it for five years now and every time I go to an appointment with an esthetician or a dermatologist they are so complimentary of my skin. I don’t say this to brag but to prove the impact of this product. Click here to see the latest prices.
I started using this product before I had wrinkles (I still don’t - thanks to this product) so it was not something that I started using and noticed a big difference with. However, since I didn’t have wrinkles, discoloration, etc. I knew for me it would be preventative and that if I stuck with it it would prove to be worth it in the long run. And my brilliant cosmetic dermatologist was, as always, 100% correct. It is a marvelous product and one I could not recommend more!
Also note that not all vitamin C serums are created equal so you shouldn’t hop over to the drug store, grab something calling itself a vitamin C serum, and expect miracles. Vitamin C is highly potent and has difficulty being effectively absorbed by skin. This is why proper formulation is so incredibly important with vitamin C serums. And also why I stick to medical grade products that are scientifically proven instead of ones found at the drug store or Sephora with nothing but clever marketing.
C. E. Ferulic contains a powerful antioxidant combination of 15% pure vitamin C, 1% vitamin E, and 0.5% ferulic acid. Once it is absorbed it remains effective for a minimum of 72 hours. Wow! It is specifically formulated to use in the morning, protecting again UVA/UVB rays, pollution, radiation, and other environmental things. Click here to see the latest prices.
SkinCeuticals has not one but two best selling antioxidant serums. The other is called Phloretin C.F. C. E. Ferulic (again, the one I use) improves the appearance of lines and wrinkles and the loss of firmness. Phloretin C. F. diminishes the appearance of fine lines, discoloration, and improves an uneven skin tone. Both are incredibly highly regarded - make sure to get one that better fits your specific skin needs! Click here for Phloretin C. F.
Also note that buying these products from an authorized reseller is INCREDIBLY important. Do not buy this on Amazon or anywhere else that is not an authorized reseller. I have linked all of the products from Dermstore which is where I personally buy SkinCeuticals and where you should, too.
Step 7: Eye Cream
The next step in my routine is one that I hope doesn’t need much of an explanation — eye cream! Eye creams help to improve the appearance of all things eye related (crow’s feet, wrinkles, dark circles, puffiness, etc.).
The eye cream I use is SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex. It is formatted specifically to fight the appearance of crow’s feet, dark circles, and puffiness. It is SkinCeuticals’ and Dermstore’s number one eye cream and the only one I have ever found that I actually love (and trust me, I tried a lot before finding this). Click here to see the latest prices.
And yes it is great for men, too!
Step 8: SPF
Last but certainly not least, SPF. SPF is something that needs to be applied every single day. Every. Single. Day. Even during winter, even while driving in the car, even if you are staying inside all day.
Why? Because UVA rays (the ones that cause wrinkles) penetrate through windows and through fluorescent bulbs. The only way that you can completely avoid them is if you are sitting in a dark room with literally zero light. Otherwise, like it or not, your skin is receiving UV radiation.
And even without sun, like in many places during the winter, UVA rays (again, the ones that cause wrinkles) are basically the same strength year-round. So while UVB rays can be weaker (the ones that cause sunburns), UVA are not. So wear SPF daily, ok? :)
I personally use SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. It is an incredibly weightless (very liquidy) tinted sunscreen that promotes natural radiance and a more even skin tone. Because it’s tinted it means there is no white cast - literally none. It provides UVA/UVB protection and contains artemis salina, a plankton extract known to increase skin’s resistance to UV and heat-induced stress (just learned that myself as I pulled up the product info)! It is great for all skin types, even very sensitive skin. Click here to see the latest prices.
When my skin is feeling extra extra dry, I will instead use La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense UV SPF 20. This is formulated specifically for very dry skin types and is incredibly hydrating. Definitely not for someone not dry. Click here to see the latest prices.
And do not forget SPF hand cream! Your hands also age, of course, and are incredibly exposed to sunlight in addition to your face. I LOVE Supergoop Forever Young Hand Cream with SPF 40 and could not recommend it more! Click here to see the latest prices.
Other Important Things
There are a few other things I do or use that I consider to be incredibly important:
Clarisonic Mia Smart 3-in-1 — I mentioned this above but I want to reiterate that this is a MUST. My Cosmetic Dermatologist says to use it every AM and PM and I consider owning and using this to be very important. And NO that Foreo Luna thing is not sufficient or the same thing.
Face towels — I use a fresh, clean face towel every single time I wash my face. Make sure to pat your face, not pull on it! I have two of these packs of 24 so that I don’t have continually do laundry.
Nurse Jamie Instant UpLift Massaging Beauty Roller — When your face is puffy, this is great for lymphatic drainage! It’s similar to those rose quart rollers you see everywhere except it’s amazing quality and will not break.
Slip Pure Silk Pillowcase from Dermstore or Sephora — If you’ve read my haircare post you already know this is an absolute must. I never sleep on anything else. It is incredibly anti-aging for your skin AND your hair. The silk can actually provide hydration and it doesn’t pull at your skin (which will of course age you). You spend 1/3 of your life in bed - this is well worth the investment.
As you can see, I use a lot of skincare products. If you know anything about San Francisco then you likely know that the storage situation in most SF apartments is pretty much non-existent.
So how do I store it all? In a beautiful, incredibly inexpensive, and amazing rotating organizer, of course! It’s one of my favorite purchases probably ever. Click here to check that out.
When I’m on the road I use a hanging toiletry bag organizer. Click here for the one I swear by!