Winter has finally come to San Jose, which means that the rainy season has come and the average temperature has consistently dipped into the 50s and below. With that change in the weather comes a change in my skincare routine.
But before we begin, here’s a few caveats. Everyone’s skin is different and mine is more well behaved than most. I never struggled with acne growing up and I’ve only gotten occasional hormonal acne (aka my advanced period warning system) in my 30s. I have pretty normal skin that leans towards the dry side come winter. My routine is more about maintenance than combating any skin issues.
Also: I’m not a dermatologist, just a skincare junkie who likes writing about herself. With that in mind, let’s open up my bathroom cabinet.
I’m not all there before my morning coffee (which I’m usually drinking as I’m getting ready) so I like to keep things simple and straightforward as I get my skin ready to face the day.
Step 1: Get clean
I don’t like frothy face washes. I prefer something with a gel texture that I can massage into my face and then wash off.
It has has almost the same texture, it’s much cheaper, and I can buy it at Target instead of being forced to order it online or drive 5+ hours to the Glossier store in LA. It smells like coconut instead of rosewater like the Glossier version, but I like both scents so I’m fine with the change.
Step 2: Hydrate or diedrate
During the warmer months of the year, this would be I’d be using the Pixi Glow Tonic as an exfoliating toner. But in the winter, my skin tends to be drier. So I skip that and go straight to something hydrating. Right now, that’s a combination of hyaluronic acid serum and a hydrating spritz.
HA can hold up to 1000x its own weight in water, so I use it immediately after cleansing and before doing the rest of my routine to help my skin absorb everything. I’ve been using the Fourth Ray Beauty Rainfall 2% HA serum pretty consistently over the past year because the $15 price tag is a pretty good deal.
As for facial sprays, I’m not very loyal. I’m finishing up a Yes To Coconut Milk Mistified Moisturizer ($13) now and I have a Grace & Stella Rose Water Facial Mist ($25, but I got it in a fabfitfun box and would never pay that much for facial spray) waiting to replace it.
Other favorites of mine in this category include the Pixi Hydrating Milky Mist ($15) and the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Chamomile and Lavender ($7). Not a fan of the scent of rosewater version of the latter, though. I think it smells like a grandma’s rose perfume.
Step 3: Vitamin C
Using Vitamin C serum in the morning is like a glass of orange juice, but for your face. (This metaphor sounded good in my head, but we’ll see if I don’t edit it out.) The reason I use it in the morning is that, among other benefits like brightening and evening out your skin tone, it helps protect against UV rays. But not enough to replace sunscreen, which we’ll get to eventually.
Spoiler alert: don’t skip sunscreen.
Anyway, I have tried a lot of Vitamin C serums. It all started when I tried a mini of the Drunk Elephant C-Tango but didn’t want to pay eighty dollars for a full size.
I got a mini Ole Henriksen Truth Serum ($22) in a Sephora Play! box and repurchased that a few times, but the mini size I was purchasing was only half an ounce and I wanted better value for my money.
The Target beauty aisles led to me to the Pixi Vitamin-C Serum ($25), Versed Stroke of Brilliance Serum ($20), and the Derma-E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum ($20). These were a better value since they cost about as much as the Truth Serum but were a full ounce, or two ounces in the case of the Derma-E.
However, if you don’t mind ordering online, I’m really enjoying Fourth Ray Beauty’s Raydiate Vitamin C Elixir ($15) right now. The brand goes on sale pretty often, so I usually wait for one of those to stock up on skincare things I’m running low on to get an even better deal.
As in all things, pick a serum that fits in your budget and has the active ingredient pretty high up in the ingredients list. If it’s too low, you might be paying less but not getting as much of the good stuff.
Step 4: Moisturizer
During most of the year, I prefer a lighter water cream. I just finished my second tub of the Bliss Drench & Quench Moisturizer ($18) and I found it indistinguishable from pricier versions by Tatcha ($68) or belif ($34).
But in the winter, the wind and the cold call for something a little more thick and nourishing. Currently, I’m using the No BS Day + Night Hyaluronic Cream because I got it in my last fabfitfun box. However, I wouldn’t pay the full $45 price tag and neither should you. Save the complicated stuff for your serums. Moisturizer should be simple.
Constantly getting samples of basic moisturizers in my Ipsy bags means I almost never have to go out to buy one. Find one you like that doesn’t cost too much and doesn’t irritate your skin.
If we’re talking about thicker moisturizers for winter, I enjoyed using the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream ($30), the Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($25), and Bliss Rose Gold Rescue ($19) in winters past.
Step 4.5: Eye cream
Does it actually do anything? Is it just expensive moisturizer in a smaller container? The world may never know.
I like to use something lightweight here, which means that I’ll often just use my moisturizer here in the summer. But once winter hits, the thicker moisturizers I switch to feel uncomfortable under my eyes and they don’t sit well under concealer.
I picked up Glossier Bubblewrap ($26) back in Seattle because I’m a sucker for their aesthetic. It’s everything I like in an eye cream: a lightweight texture and a hygienic dispenser. Dipping my grubby fingers into a tub of eye cream every day? Kinda gross when you think about how long they last. Tubs of moisturizer don’t thrill me either, but at least I go through them quickly before they can incubate anything gross.
I just… don’t know if I can keep justify playing more than twenty bucks plus shipping for something I get in my Ipsy bag relatively often. On the other hand, as a Woman of A Certain Age, society dictates I have to at least make an attempt at keeping my crows feet (punishment for laughter!) in check.
Step 5: SPF
If you do nothing else for your skin, wash your face and wear sunscreen every day. All the work you put into caring for for your skin means nothing if you don’t protect it.
I like clear sunscreens because I don’t like anything that gives me a white cast. My two favorites are Glossier’s Invisible Shield ($25) and Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen ($32). Invisible Shield has a quick absorbing serum sort of texture while Unseen Sunscreen’s silicone texture has smoothing effect on the skin that makes it double as a primer. It really depends on what I’m in the mood for.
But I repeat: WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY.
While my morning routine is the same day in and day out, my evening routine is where I’m more likely to change things up.
Step 1: Double cleanse
Since I wear makeup most days, I wash my face twice. The first time is to get the makeup off and the second is to wash my face.
For my first cleanse, I like something balmy and oily that will melt my makeup off. The solid oil half of Pixi’s Double Cleanse ($24) used to be my favorite, but I only really loved that half. The Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm ($18) has a very similar texture and you get a whole tub of it instead of half for less. I scoop a bit out and rub it all over my face. I love the eucalypus scent of it at the end of a long day, but it may be a bit much for some people. Consider yourself warned.
However, if I didn’t wear much makeup that day, I’ll go for a liquid. I’m finishing up a Skin & Co Truffle Therapy Cleansing Oil ($30) that I got in a fabfitfun box, with Fourth Ray Beauty’s BFD Cleansing Oil ($14) waiting in the wings as its more wallet friendly replacement. Squirt a bit into a cotton pad, gently wipe off my makeup, nothing complicated.
For my second cleanse, it’s back to what I used to wash my face in the morning. But this time, I use this e.l.f tool ($20) to give myself a face massage + deep cleansing combo. Is it a knockoff of other devices that cost several times as much? Certainly. But it works well enough for me.
Step 2: Acid or retinol
At night I tend to use two active ingredients: acids and retinol. They don’t play nicely together and do slightly different things. I use them on different nights, usually alternating between one and the other with the occasional night of skipping both to give my skin a break.
Once upon a time, I fell in love with a sample of Sunday Riley’s Good Genes. It left my skin feeling incredibly smooth, polished, and clean. Beyond my pores and all the day down to my soul clean. Then, I saw the $105 price tag (hard yikes, my dudes) and went on the hunt for something more reasonably priced.
Lactic acid is the star ingredient of Good Genes, so I’ve looked for that in other products. I used The Ordinary’s 10% Lactic Acid + HA for a while and it did a decent job. I’m currently using Fourth Ray Beauty’s Reveal 10% Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum ($15) and really enjoying it. Its exfoliating ingredients are lactic and glycolic acids, which means my skin’s not missing the fact that I retired by Pixi Glow Tonic for the winter.
Or, if I’m super lazy (aka I stayed up late and want to go to sleep), I’ll slap on The Shortcut Overnight Facial Peel by Versed ($20) and go straight to bed.
I started using retinol as I entered my 30s because it’s supposed to help with fine lines and wrinkles by telling your skin to produce more collagen. It can be harsh for some people, so I built up my tolerance to it over time.
Right now, I’m using use the Pixi Retinol Tonic ($15) first (though the active ingredient is pretty low on the list so I’ll probably move on after I finish it) followed by the Overnight Retinol Oil ($24).
Step 3: Moisturizer
You can repeat the same moisturizer you used during the day, which I typically do in the winter because I always prefer something thicker at night.
However, because I am just that extra, I picked up the Laneige Lavender Water Sleeping Mask ($25). I had a Sephora gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and I was in a #treatyoself mood.
I know some people are sensitive to lavender or other scents in the skincare, but my skin’s never had a problem with it and the scent of lavender helps me sleep.
Step 4: Oil
Finally, I seal in all this juiciness in with an oil. Another fancypants favorite of mine is the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate ($49) I picked it up last year during a Sephora sale and it’s still going strong. It has lavender and evening primrose oils in it, among other things. Basically, it smells like a grown up version of the Bath and Body Works Moonight Path scent that I was obsessed with in high school.
More budget friendly favorites I’ve used in the past include the Pacifica Super Flower Oil ($16) and the Fourth Ray Beauty Marula Oil ($8) — which is nearly as good as the infinitely more pricey version ($72) from Drunk Elephant.
But what about face masks?
While I do love a good face mask, I wouldn’t consider them part of my daily or nightly routines. They’re more for when I have a specific skin issue or when I’m in a #treatyoself mood. Also, you’ve gotten though over two thousand words on my skincare routine already. Let’s save that topic for another winter’s day.
What about your winter routines? Are you just a wash your face and go (at least add sunscreen!) kind of person, do you have a full blown 10-step ritual, or you somewhere in between like me? Let me know!