Gooood morning, good morning!
(I sing this song to June when I go into her room every day. It’s still stuck in my head.)
Today I’m updating my skincare routine blog post to ensure it’s as up-to-date as possible, so if you’re looking for my favorite skincare products, you’ve come to the right place!
If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll notice most of these products haven’t changed for a couple of years now (although, there are a couple new ones thrown into the rotation!) Much of my routine is Beautycounter because that is the brand that has continued to perform the best for me–but several others are from Sephora!
My Daily/Weekly Skincare Routine
*Remember, skincare is unique to every person*
Skincare is so unique and what products work for you may not be the same as the ones that work for me. It’s important to note that I’m 33 years old and have normal to dry skin, so my main skincare goals are hydration and anti-aging. So if that’s your skin type, you will definitely get the most out of this blog post!
If you have a different skin type, this routine isn’t going to work for you like it does for me–however, there are a few products on this list that I think are universally beneficial no matter what kind of skin you have. (And I note that in each description as best I can!)
I focus on using exclusively cleaner brands (without sacrificing performance!) so that’s what you’ll see here! This is just a personal choice and I know it’s not a priority for everyone, and that’s totally ok! I simply like to limit the harsh ingredients/chemicals when I can–control what you can control, you know? (More on that below.)
Tip: Buy your products from somewhere with a generous return policy
Again, skincare is SO individual, what works wonders for one person may be not be suited for another. It’s just the way it goes–finding the right products for you will always take some trial and error, which is why it’s key to buy from somewhere with a good return policy.
Everything linked here comes from either Beautycounter or Sephora, both of which have very generous free return policies! (Beautycounter’s is 60 days for full reimbursement, Sephora’s is 30 within days for reimbursement, 60 days for store credit!)
When ordering from either, make sure to save your packing sleep/return label while you’re testing out your new products, so you can return anything that doesn’t suit you!
A note on “pregnancy safe” skincare:
I am commonly asked, “can you share some pregnancy safe skincare?” and I would like to address this because I don’t think a lot of people understand that there is no such thing as a standard definition of “pregnancy safe”–just as there is no regulation of what can be called “clean” or “nontoxic” or “natural” in the US. The only no-no skincare ingredient that is widely agreed upon to avoid during pregnancy is Retinol (and other Vitamin A derivatives).
Some OB’s also say to steer clear of Salicylic acid, but that one is more of a grey area. Depending on your OB, they may have a longer list, they may not. They also may say Salicylic acid is just fine. It really seems to vary by doctor.
Here’s the thing though–there are VERY few studies on the safety of personal care products in the United States. There is virtually no regulation on what companies can put in beauty and skincare products. So it’s up to us as individuals to do our research.
There are a lot of ingredients that are banned in Europe and Asia, for example, due to concerns that they may contribute to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, and more–that are still widely used here in the US, where we have virtually no cosmetic safety regulation and where products are not required to go through testing in order to go to market.
We aren’t told to avoid these ingredients in cosmetics by our American OBGYN’s because the FDA doesn’t have the power to regulate them, therefore, nobody knows how safe or unsafe they actually are as our government has very limited information on these ingredients.
Is your pulse quickening yet? I know right. It’s a lot.
This grey area can turn into a deep dark spiral very quickly–which is why I just prefer to avoid the scary rabbit hole and try to use products that qualify as “safe” by say, EU standards (this list is a helpful place to start if you’re wondering) whenever I can and then it helps me sleep better at night.
(This is why I like buying from brands and retailers that choose to exclude all or most of these ingredients–like Beautycounter, Sephora’s “Clean” section, Credo, and Follain– although all of their “approved/not approved *safe*” ingredient lists vary slightly. I’m not saying I’m going to worry myself and spend hours of time poring over ingredient labels. But I think an 80/20 rule, like anything in life, is where my sweet spot is. If I can find great clean products and use them 80% of the time, I feel pretty good about that. Because #life.)
Anyway–absolutely not trying to scare anyone, but what I’m saying is, there is no standard definition of “safe” or “pregnancy safe”–so it’s just something to be aware of!
Now, to get back to the original question–the products listed here are all considered “pregnancy safe” by the above standards. (AKA they don’t contain retinol–there’s one that contains salicylic acid and it’s noted below!) I have used these products before, during, and after pregnancy!
A note on what you NEED in your skincare routine:
If you are happy with your skin, let me be the first to tell you, you don’t need any new products. When something works, STICK WITH IT. But if you have been wanting to incorporate a new product to target something specific, I hope these suggestions are helpful!
If I had to choose ONE product: It would be this anti-aging serum. (More on that below!) I’m going to include multiple options below for certain “steps” of your routine–all products I love–but it doesn’t mean you need all of them, or that you should be using as many products as I do–etc. Do I get the chance to do my FULL skincare routine every night? No. Definitely not as often as I used to! So if you don’t have time for a five + step routine, I feel you. I got you. On the other hand–if you are looking to add some new products into your routine to make it work harder for you–I got you, too.
Okay–enough chattering away!! Let’s jump into what you came here for.
Products I use regularly in my skincare routine:
My morning skincare routine:
Originally this post was called “My nightly skincare routine” and it caused so many people to ask “but what’s your morning skincare routine!?” that I decided to change the name when I updated this post to clarify.
My morning skincare routine is pretty much non-existent. As mentioned above, I have dryer skin. So washing my face in the morning is not a good choice for me. As washing your face will dry it out, no matter how gentle your cleanser. In the AM, I’ll simply apply more moisturizer and then face sunscreen if I happen to be leaving the house. (I shared my favorite face sunscreens in my Sephora favorites post!) That’s it! It’s what works for me. If you also have dry skin, I’d recommend skipping a wash in the morning as well.
If you feel that your face needs some refreshing in the AM, consider giving it a sweep with some toner (or essence if your skin is dry) and that might do the trick as well! Again, I will make a judgement call based on what my skin feels like it needs.
However, if you have oilier skin, you will likely want to wash your face. And do your prep and moisturize step in the AM! Everyone is different, and it may take some playing around to figure out what’s best for you!
My nightly skincare routine:
As a rule of thumb, a skincare routine can include a cleanser, a toner and/or essence (called a prep step), a treatment step (AKA a serum, peel, etc–what kind will be based on your individual needs/goals and may even rotate throughout the week), a moisturizer, an eye cream, and an optional facial oil, if you’d like.
If you are happy with your skin right now, honestly, I don’t think you need the full shebang of products. Unless you just genuinely are into skincare. Having a minimal skincare routine is TOTALLY fine! So if you’d like to stick to the basics, I’d recommend choosing a cleanser, a treatment serum, a moisturizer, and an eye cream. I’ve listed my favorites below that are in my usual rotation (as well as some other reccos that I just genuinely think may be helpful)–hopefully these are a helpful place to start!
Note, these are listed in order of application!
[ggheading style=”light” size=”4″ text=”Step 1: Face Wash”]
I know, it’s ridiculously expensive for a face wash, but a little goes a LONG way and it lasts me forever. This product is a great first step of a double cleanse–this is what I typically use to remove my makeup but it does a great job of gently cleansing as well. I’ll rub it in very well (on dry skin) and then splash water on–which makes it transform from a gel into a milky cleanser. Then I remove it with a super gentle microfiber washcloth. If you love a good oil cleanser, you’ll love this. It’s the best oil cleanser I’ve tried.
If I’m doing a double cleanse, this is step #2! And if double cleansing isn’t your thing, and you’re looking for an all-in-one cleanser for dry to normal to combo skin, I LOVE this one. While I typically like to double cleanse (using this after I remove my makeup with BC oil cleanser) this totally does the trick and removes makeup all in one if I’m too tired. It’s super gentle, non-stripping, and I swear it’s helped tame breakouts, too!
Okay not a face wash, BUT, an amazing thing you need to know about! (I use this on a clean face, post-washing!)
I am someone who is very skeptical of physical exfoliators (note: there are physical exfoliators, that slough off dead skin physically, and there are chemical ones, that use ingredients to loosen and remove top layers of skin!) Often, physical exfoliators can be too harsh (i.e. an apricot scrub) and damage your skin, but this one does not, and it’s amazing. It’s made of silk floss so it’s non-irritating and so gentle but you can totally see the stuff it’s sloughing off. I use this once or twice per week on VERY CLEAN skin! (Don’t use with soap!) They also make one for body that I love too! I also love that the company is a small woman-owned brand that conveniently sells her products on Amazon!
[ggheading style=”light” size=”4″ text=”Step 2: Toner/Essence”]
A toner is step two after washing your face and will remove dull, dead skin cells, excess oil and impurities, and balance the skin. If you have dryer skin, you may not need a toner and may want to skip to an essence (below). I typically will use this as part of my weekly routine when my skin isn’t dry (AKA when the weather is a bit warmer as that’s when parts of my skin can get on the oily side and my skin is more congested with sweat, sunscreen, etc) or I’ll use it a couple times a week on breakout-prone areas of my face as more of a spot treatment. (Also helpful with maskne!)
However, if you have combo or oily skin, adding this into your daily or weekly routine is a really great choice! I love that it has 2% BHA and is gently exfoliating without stripping (alcohol-free!) so it’s not harsh!
An essence is also considered a “prep” step like a toner, but it’s meant to hydrate and soothe. If you have dryer or dehydrated or easily irritated skin, this essence will be your BFF as it helps to repair your moisture barrier and rebalance the skin. I love the way it smells and does a great job of locking in moisture and prepping your skin to better absorb your other products!
Again, I really adapt my routine to what my skin needs at that given time (which may change by the day or season). Sometimes I use both of these, sometimes I won’t get around to using either! Because sometimes I’m just too tired and that’s fine! ???? But if you’re up for it, and you’re hoping to adjust more moisture/balance in your skin–this is a great product!
[ggheading style=”light” size=”4″ text=”Step 3: Serums”]
If I could pick one product as my absolute favorite in my entire routine, it would be a toss-up between the first two. These are my skincare routine powerhouses that have become tried and true for me. I’ve tried a lot of similar products, but personally, these give me the best results with no irritating side effects. I also think these are beneficial to use regardless of your skin type.
I use this 4-5 nights per week, alternating with the Overnight Resurfacing Peel on the other nights (below). I think this serum is an absolute game-changer. *When I’m VERY tired–all I do is wash my face, put on this serum, and follow with a moisturizer** That should tell you how important it is in my routine. ???? If your #1 goal is anti-aging, this is the pick for you!
It contains Bakuchiol, which is considered to be a natural alternative to retinol with comparative results and none of the harsh side effects. (See study here!) If you’ve seen Bakuchiol popping up in anti-aging products everywhere, that’s why!
This serum does a great job of targeting fine lines (most noticeably the ones on my forehead), improving skin texture, and over time I feel has really helped improve my skin tone. I stopped using this for a while because I got lazy, and noticed a really big difference once I wasn’t using it anymore! I think this serum is great for all skin types and tones.
What I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for years! If you have issues with patchy/rough/flaky skin (which sometimes can happen to me in the winter) you want this product. If your skin is dull and blah, you want this product. If you want help targeting dark spots, you want this product! I find that I probably use it more in the winter as for me, winter brings along all the aforementioned skin issues, but I do use this all year round. Impatient people like me will also appreciate that they will see results in the first couple of uses (hooray! That never happens!) Apply post-washing, pre-moisturizer, to DRY skin. (Make sure it’s not still damp from washing!) Wait until it no longer feels tacky (let it absorb for a couple minutes) and then follow with your moisturizer.
How to get the best deal: Right now you can get the peel as a gift with a purchase of $50 or more (along with my favorite charcoal mask, below) when you join Beautycounter’s rewards program (it’s on sale for $19 right now, and does not auto-renew!) You’ll also always earn 10% cash back to use toward your next purchase and free shipping with orders over $100! (So it’s kind of like Amazon prime but way better rewards!) I recommend if you plan on spending $50 on BC products anyway, to add this to your cart because it’s such an awesome deal!
Marie Veronique Intensive Repair Serum:
So this is more of a specialty product, but I bought this on Ashley’s recco when I was experiencing some skin flare ups/breakouts during pregnancy and it REALLY helped! So if you have breakout-prone or congested skin, consider giving this a try! I would say there are a lot of similarities between the Beautycounter Overnight Resurfacing Peel and this–so you likely may not need both. I usually use this when I can feel a breakout coming on and use the Beautycounter peel the rest of the time–but if you often have breakouts, you may just want to use this one regularly over the peel!
[ggheading style=”light” size=”4″ text=”Step 4: Moisturizers”]
The moisturizers I use currently are the top two. But I’m also including two others that I love and recommend often!
I will admit, the brand sent this to me last year in a press mailer and I did nothing with it until last winter. For whatever reason I decided to finally open it and give it a try and I fell in LOVE. Heaven for those with dry skin. It’s a ceramide cream, which really helps lock in moisture and sooth any irritation you might have. (I’ve had friends say this is great for eczema too!) It is VERY RICH but doesn’t make skin greasy! It makes your skin baby soft! I have been re-ordering it religiously ever since.
Tip: Don’t miss your lips when applying this! It helps winter lips immensely!
I’ll use this during the day or on a night where I don’t feel like I need as much moisture as the ICE cream, so if you don’t need intense moisture but want something nice and hydrating, this would be a great pick for you! (Usually in the summer months I’ll use this more as winter I tend to get dryer). I love this lotion and I love how soft it makes my skin without feeling heavy! It also contains Bakuchiol, so I love that it’s anti-aging in addition to hydrating! **If I had to choose ONE anti-aging product though, it would be the Countertime serum, so if you want to save $$ somewhere, splurge there, and go with a more budget-friendly moisturizer!
A great alternative to the above if you’re just looking for moisture benefits (not anti-aging). This lotion feels so light but gives your skin JUST the right amount of moisture that it needs. While I use the above more often now, I still recommend this to everyone with all skin types because it’s an awesome product. Note: This product does contain salicylic acid, which some OB’s say to stay away from during pregnancy.
If you’re on a budget, Weleda is always the brand I recommend! I was first recommended this by a makeup artist who was doing my makeup for a shoot in NYC several years ago, and it was such a good suggestion! My skin was so dry so she slathered it with Skin Food lotion! (Great for dry hands, feet, etc too!)
You can get Weleda at almost any drugstore, their products have super clean ingredients and are awesome basics. They don’t have anything fancy like actives or any anti-aging ingredients, but if you’re not looking for anything fancy, they’re an awesome brand!
Note: the Skin Food lotion is VERY thick (almost like a paste) and is super hydrating, so if you don’t need that much hydration, I recommend going with Skin Food Light!
[ggheading style=”light” size=”4″ text=”Step 5: Eye Cream”]
You guessed it, the Bakuchiol magic is also great in eye cream! This is the first eye cream I’ve ever used where I have seen marked improvement in fine lines around my eyes and I also think in general it just makes me look more well-rested, lessens the appearance of dark circles, etc.
[ggheading style=”light” size=”4″ text=”Step 6: Facial Oil”]
(Always facial oil after moisturizer! Oil should be the last step in your routine!)
Equilibria came out with this face oil last year and it’s been a staple in my nightly routine ever since. It only contains 7 ingredients, one of them being CBD, which helps all kinds of skin issues–redness, dryness, any form of irritation (so it’s especially helpful for calming breakouts!) It helps heal breakouts at record speed (especially paired with the Marie Veronique above).
Plus, it smells divine–I truly look forward to putting it on before bed every night! A little bit goes a LONG way and will last you a long time!
I like to apply it to face (oil should be the LAST product on your face at night–pat it in gently!) and then rub any leftover product on my hands! (Also effective as a body spot treatment on rough patches, rashes, etc–CBD is so great for that!)
Tip: Like your moisturizer, don’t miss your lips when applying the oil, it will really help chapped lips!
Use code JESSKEYS for 15% off your first order (but make sure to read this blog post first because I highly recommend their other CBD products too for help with stress, sleep, muscle pain, and more–and you can only use my discount once, so you’ll want to make it count!)
[ggheading style=”light” size=”4″ text=”Masks”]
For hydration: Glossier Moon Mask
The product on this list I have used the longest–I don’t know how long it’s been but I know I started using it when I lived in a shoebox with my three other roommates so it’s been a LONG. TIME. When my skin needs extra hydration or something soothing, I love this mask. It’s also only $22! (Note: FWIW Glossier is not the CLEANEST EVER but it’s also still better than most! For such occasional use that is washed off vs. absorbed, it does not give me a lot of concern, but just wanted to throw that out there!)
For exfoliation/brightening: Caudalie Clarifying Mask
Another heavy hitter I’ve been using for years and years. I love this clarifying mask and it’s great for when you need a little extra exfoliation or brightening. Makes your complexion feel fresh and new!
For breakouts/clarifying/pores: Beautycounter Charcoal Mask
This is probably the mask I use most often, usually as a spot treatment to target breakouts as I don’t usually need it over my whole face! In the summer when I need more oil control, I apply it to my t-zone and nose (great for targeting pores on your nose). II always recommend to those who are trying to control maskne breakouts too! Note the more oily you skin, the more you’ll probably want to use this. If your skin is dry, use this as a spot treatment once or max two times per week.
How to get the best deal: Like I mentioned above, right now you can get this mask as a gift with purchase of $50 or more in their “welcome set” along with the overnight resurfacing peel (above!) when you join Beautycounter’s rewards program called “Band of Beauty.” (It’s $19 per year, but does not auto-renew!) As part of the rewards program you’ll also always earn 10% cash back to use toward your next purchase and free shipping with orders over $100! (So it’s kind of like Amazon prime but way better rewards!) If you plan on spending $50 on BC products anyway, I recommend adding this to add this to your cart because it’s essentially spending $19 to get both the charcoal mask and resurfacing peel! (Read all my favorites here.)