Here Is the Skincare Routine I Use to Get Glowy for a Big Event

Or for a trip to Target, as one does

arm holding up bar of soap with lather on arm

Right around the time I turned thirty, it finally kicked in that I wasn’t treating my skin as well as I should be. Maybe it was just moving into a new decade, but suddenly I realized this skin I had… that was it. I wasn’t going to roll magically backward toward youth, so at this point, I needed to take care of it. I’m a makeup artist by trade, so I was lucky enough to have a clue about what I should include in a skincare routine. But that really wasn’t what was happening. And on top of that, I didn’t want to be spending my entire paycheck on skincare.

I’d gotten myself into a bad routine of constantly exfoliating because everything felt so dry all the time. And while exfoliating is a great idea every now and then, doing it all the time is basically just taking sandpaper to your face… every day. So after treating myself to a long overdue facial, I chatted with my esthetician about what I was doing wrong and came up with a game plan to get back on track. And since unlike me, you might not have a PhD in makeup (not a real thing, but… you know) and an esthetician to chat up, I thought I’d spill the best industry secrets and affordable products. Plus, since we just talked about our fave makeup products, we gotta get your skin ready for ’em!

But here is the real deal: while good product is clutch, it’s getting into a solid routine that will make your skin thank you later. Because you can stack your shelves with product, but if you spend your nights failing to remove your makeup and your days not moisturizing, your skin isn’t gonna thank you. And if there is one thing women older than me are all firm about, it’s this: take care of your skin. You’re going to need it later.

So here’s a breakdown of my new and improved routine to help get your skin glowing for your wedding, or the cold weather ahead, or just so you look epic on that weekend Target run. (No judgment here.)

Cleansing

While this seems like an obvious step, many folks aren’t doing it quite right, or at all. One thing I learned was makeup wipes do just that, wipe. Not remove, not clean, but wipe. Which means all that makeup, dirt, pollution, and excess oil doesn’t actually get removed.

Glossier milky jelly cleanser bottle sitting on shelf against pink background

To get squeaky clean, start by applying your cleanser to dry or slightly damp skin. Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser is so good that I’ve converted half the APW team to using it. Plus it smells like rosewater (the real thing, not some weird fake chemical rose smell). Also? It’s affordable, one bottle lasts forever, and it’s absolutely a champ at removing makeup. They use the same cleansing agents found in contact solution, so it’s super eye friendly! (In general my eyes can’t handle removers, but Meg swears by this one and it gets everything off in a snap!)

Clear pouch holding Eve Lom muslin cleansing cloths

Next, you need to actually get that cleanser (and that stubborn eyeliner) off your face. Using a washcloth is far too abrasive for your face, and again makeup wipes aren’t doing you any favors (plus they’re super wasteful). So when I first tried the Eve Lom Muslin Facial Cloths I was completely sold. You get a pack of three and I just rotate between them, throwing them into the wash at least one a week. (I’ve been using the same pack of three for well over a year and am in no way needing to replace yet.) And they just get softer after washing, so they’re gentle enough to use on delicate eye tissue to really get that makeup off. Eco-friendly and makes your skin happy? Win!white bottle with silver cap of Dermaquest peptide glyco cleanser

Every couple days I use a glycolic acid cleanser to exfoliate chemically versus mechanically. When you exfoliate with rough, abrasive materials you end up doing more harm than good causing your skin to either dry out or create more oil to compensate. Apply this to dry skin right when you get into the shower and let the tingles begin! (That’s how you know it’s working!)

oval-shaped textured light blue face brush from Foreo

I use a face brush that sends pulsations through the cleanser to help it lather more and really get in to all those nooks and crannies. The Foreo Luna 2 is totally waterproof so I just keep it in the shower for my exfoliating days. It comes in varied textures depending on your skin type. Plus, it’s like a massage for my face, and who doesn’t want that? Also, Foreo’s devices hardly ever need to be charged, making them perfect for keeping in the shower or traveling. If you want to try out Foreo’s technology without as hefty of a price tag, check out Luna Plus Play (which uses replaceable AAA batteries, $49) or the Luna Play (which lasts for about a hundred uses, or a few months, if you use it every day for the full recommended minute, $39).

Moisturizing

So now that we’re all cleaned up, it’s time to get hydrated! As we’ve all heard, drinking water is a huge factor in keeping your skin dewy fresh, especially in summer and winter and as you age. Your skin naturally has a tendency to dry out and lose elasticity, so do it a solid and keep it hydrated.

Bottle of Glossier Super Bounce serum on desk with headphones and passport in background

As soon as I hop out of the shower, while my face is still a little damp I apply a dropper of Glossier Super Bounce (the best of the Glossier serums, by peer review APW staff review). Serums act like a barrier and help to hold in moisture before you apply sunscreen and moisturizers. The pros say that you should really rub your serums into your face, and then let them sit two to three minutes before you put on moisturizer. And if you travel a lot, this is a great product to fight dryness from long flights.

Pink and white tube of Glossier priming moisturizer on gray background

Nothing is worse than getting your face feeling soft and clean, and then lobbing on some tacky, thick lotion. All moisturizers are not alike, and what you use on hands and body isn’t what you want to be putting on your face. My fave daily moisturizer is the Priming Moisturizer from Glossier. It’s light enough to go easily under makeup, but it still packs a hydration punch. Plus, it’s easy to layer on. So apply and continue getting ready, and if you feel like you need a little more, go for it!

(I know, I know, I’m recommending a lot of Glossier. But pretty much the whole APW staff uses most of their line. They’re quality products, at really affordable price points, and women owned and run. Plus they come with cute stickers and pink bags.)

Jar with pink lid with Glossier skincare priming moisturizer rich cream

At night I follow the same routine, but instead of using a light moisturizer, I go for the big guns. If you tend to be very dry all the time, you can totally use Priming Moisturizer Rich in the morning without feeling like you’re wearing a mask. I love the light lavender smell before bed. Helps me get into relaxation mode. Pro tip: Don’t forget your neck! Be sure to apply to your neck in an upward stroke toward the face.

pink and white tube of glossier skincare balm dotcom universal skincare salve

Like many folks, I’m a chapstick addict. But did you know that many commercial balms and chapsticks actually dry your lips out MORE, causing you to need more product? Who’s surprised though, really? So look for brands that use minimal, natural ingredients and avoid having alcohol in them. Glossier’s Balm Dotcom works wonders and is great for cuticles too! I keep one on my desk and one in my purse. And when I want something a little fun, I go for the Milk Bar x Glossier collab, Birthday Balm Dotcom. Hello cake flavor and subtle shimmer!

Eyes

The tissue around your eyes is super delicate and needs its own special treatment. I’ve tried countless eye creams and always found them to be very irritating. I get eczema on my eyelids (especially during winter or dry spells) and can’t ever use liquid makeup removers without some reaction. 

silver tube of dermalogica skincare multivitamin power firm eye serum gel.

So when I found this gel/serum hybrid eye cream from Dermologica I was totally in love. No reactions, super hydrating, and it can also be used to help with those fine lines around your nose and mouth. Anytime a product can be used in multiple ways, I’m all for it.

Moving gif of Iris pink eye massager from Foreo.

Now when it comes time to applying eye creams and serums, you can’t just go rubbing it in. I can’t emphasize enough how delicate and easily stretched out the tissue is around your eyes. So to help in making sure I apply it with the proper pressure I’m a huge fan of the Foreo Iris. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, how is this sex toy–looking thing going to help my eyes? But Foreo worked with aestheticians and dermatologists to mimic the tapping motions that are used for eye massage and applying products properly all in a handy little device. Not only does the Iris help get product applied properly, it also helps clear up dark circles, which are formed when too much blood gathers in the area under your eyes. This gets everything moving again, and only takes a couple minutes to use.

Sunscreen

Hi, my name is Kate, and I wasn’t wearing sunscreen daily until last year. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about why. I HATE the way sunscreen feels and smells on my face. It’s oily, it’s heavy, and it’s the exact opposite of what I want to feel on my face all day. But even if you’re inside a majority of the day as we all are, you still need a daily SPF in your skincare routine.

gold tube of epicuren skincare x-treme cream propolis sunscreen SPF 45+

I played around with a number of sunscreens before settling on this one from Epicuren. While it’s not super, super light, it’s far from being an oily disaster. Plus it applies like a dream, so you really only need a little tiny bit. I only use about a large pea-size. Once you work sunscreen into your daily routine you’ll be set for those joyous moments when you find yourself outside on lunch breaks.

Treatment

Now we’re entering the skincare bonus round, but honestly it’s just as important, especially if you’re running into issues like hormonal breakouts, extra dryness, or just feeling bleh. But I mean really, let’s think of this as the TREAT YOURSELF category. Get that #selfcaresaturday into full effect!

Purple jar of Glamglow skincare firming mask with applicator brush propped to the side

So, maybe I love this mask from Glamglow so much because A) it comes with the cutest mini brush, B) once applied you look like the Tin Man, and C) peeling it off is oh-so satisfying. This mask not only helps everything firm up (remember our talk about losing elasticity? Yeah, it’s real), but also it leaves you feeling so, so soft.

White jar with silver lid of Glamglow supermud clearing mask treatment

When it comes to getting those pores cleared out I’ve got a couple product faves and the Glamglow Supermud mask is one of them. This mask literally helps suck out the excess yucky oil hanging out on the surface of your pores. You can literally see it working too, which I find to always be super helpful.

box of Bioré ultra deep cleansing pore strips

Okay, this isn’t some revolutionary new product but it’s been a staple in my skincare arsenal since middle school for a reason: it works. I love these Bioré Ultra Deep Cleansing Strips because they really grip and get those pores cleaned right up. And do not even try to tell me you don’t LOVE looking at the strip once it’s removed.

blue box of Differin gel acne treatment

I was lucky to not have bonkers acne and breakouts during high school, but literally, when I turned twenty-five it kicked in with a vengeance. I tried a few different retinoid prescription topical spot treatments and found that Differin .3% really helps me the most. But get this: last year Differin started offering its .1% version over the counter at major retailers across the country! It works great and doesn’t require a visit to the doctor! Plus, unlike most spot treatments (especially prescription versions), it’s not overly drying. Because nothing is worse than a breakout AND dry skin in the same spot. 
white product box with magenta Foreo espada bluelight acne treatment tool

This is the newest addition to my regime and it is awesome! The Espada uses blue light technology, just like dermatologists use, but in a handy at-home way, to help kill acne bacteria. My breakouts tend to primarily happen across my chin thanks to hormones. (You can learn more about the cause of your breakouts by checking out a face mapping chart like this one.) The good news is I can usually time when my breakouts are going to happen and be ready. It’s definitely not an instant result tool, but I did some A/B testing in my first week of using it to see if it really was doing anything. I used it just on one side of my face and it totally helps cut down breakout time for me, by a couple days. Each application only takes thirty seconds, and trust, I can find thirty seconds to kill pimples for sure.

What are your skincare faves? Are you a super primper or the less-is-more type? Any of you starting to see the rewards of caring for your skin as you get older?

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