(Photo via Les Beehive)
If developing a skincare regimen seems like a daunting process, try thinking about it this way: A month without washing off your makeup ages your skin by a decade. After the Daily Mail reported those findings, re-framing my skincare regimen as a multi-functional form of stress-reduction came easily. Why? Because taking the time for a little self-care in the morning and night is giving my skin the best shot of having a vibrant (and wrinkle-free) future.
My K-Beauty source explained it to me like this: An elaborate skincare ritual is as much a part of her daily life in Korea as is going to the gym — or in my case, yoga. My morning Vinyasa flow class is an essential part of my self-care regimen in the same way an eight-step skincare process is a part of hers. The thing is, it shows. In fact, her skin is so luminous that it totally fueled my growing interest in indulging in luxury skincare.
Still, the issue of layering can pose a struggle. A general rule of thumb to remember is to order products from from thin-to-thick, but it takes a certain degree of product-familiarity to really get into the swing of things. One of the most helpful lessons I've learned from K-Beauty — from Peach & Lily in particular — is how to layer skincare products properly (i.e. in their most effective order).
I made this K-Beauty informed guide to layering your skincare products as effectively as possible to cleanse, prep, and prime your skin to receive the most potent nutrients and active ingredients in the necessary order to lock moisture in.
1. Cleanser: The Double Cleanse.
K-Beauty purists got me hooked on the "double-cleanse." Jamie Chung has been quoted saying that skipping one night of cleansing ages your skin three times as fast, and ever since I have remembered: cleanse with oil first, then water.
The first step is an oil cleanser to remove the makeup and residue from your face. Oil attracts oil, so it's a fabulous way to get rid of grime and makeup in an extremely gentle way. An industry go-to is DHC Deep Cleansing Oil ($25). This top-rated cleanser is antioxidant-packed, olive oil-derived, thoroughly rinses off, and is consistently named as a leading industry favorite. My personal favorite cleansing oil is Camellia, as found in Tatcha One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48). You can always try it out by getting the tiny-sized Tatcha One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil Mini ($15), but this is an essential step in any anti-aging skincare regimen.
Balms are another fab way to get in on oil-based cleansing. My editor adores Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil ($39) — which leaves your face crazy soft — and Eve Lom Cleanser ($50) is considered one of the best. In fact, Byrdie just named it as one of their editors holy grail products.
After removing the bulk of your makeup, follow-up with the regular, water-based cleanser of your choosing. I have been using Lancer The Method: Cleanse ($55) which leaves my skin unbelievably silky. Note that Dr. Lancer suggests using his Polish before it, which I do on days when I am going makeup free. While it also comes in a blend for blemish-prone skin, Lancer The Method: Cleanse Blemish Control ($55), as I go green-er in the new year, I would actually suggest trying the top-rated, clean Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser ($32) next.
2. Toner: Balance pH.
Toning your skin rebalances the pH — helping to protect the lipid barrier of your skin — while it treats and hydrates. A number of powerful blends are formulated to target specific skin concerns, from blemishes to hyper-pigmentation. One of my favorite toners for sensitive skin is S.W. Basics Toner ($20) because of its gentle, holistic ingredients, like apple cider vinegar and witch hazel.
However, I've heard great things about Indie Lee COQ-10 Toner ($32) which contains hyaluronic acid for plumping and hydration, while clarifying skin, reducing pore size, and keeping you shine-free and balanced throughout the day. (It is next on my list.)
By now, you have obviously heard of the O.G. French beauty water, micellar water. This gentle form of cleanser contains oily micelles that remove grime and makeup, while toning, softening, and hydrating your skin. The only area in which this miraculous skin product falls short is exfoliation... until now. K-Beauty has solved this shortcoming by creating exfoliating water-blends like Son & Park Beauty Water ($30). This top-rated baby does it all and can be used as a toner while also removing any leftover product lingering on your face.
3. Essence: Prep and Prime.
Next up is a step that is optional in America, but not if you want the glass skin rocked by K-Beauty enthusiasts. Skin essences are extra-concentrated hydrators that go on after your toner to prepare your skin for maximum absorption of your upcoming active ingredients. A K-Beauty practitioner might have tons of essences to choose from and take her time layering them one on top of the other, packing on nutrients and hydration galore.
When I use one, I grab SK-II Facial Treatment Essence ($99) — which I won't be re-buying it because it's not cruelty-free. I'd definitely be down to try Huxley Oil Essence Secret of Sahara ($58), which won the Glow Recipe Game-Changer award. It fights off free radical damage (i.e. anti-ages) and applies healing vitamin E, calming the skin to a heavenly satisfaction.
4. Exfoliate: Remove + Resurface.
Many experts recommend exfoliating 2-3 times per week to prevent clogged pores, to remove dead skin cells, and to promote cell turnover. This also results in a brighter, more even complexion. This step is also important for preventing breakouts, evening skin tone, and reducing the appearance of scars and hyper-pigmentation. Look for ingredients like AHA/BHA's, or daily peel pads containing ingredients like Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, and/or Lactic Acid, to dissolve dead skin cells on the surface of your skin.
My dermatologist recommends the 2/2 concentration of glycolic and salicylic acids, as found in Replenix Acne Solutions Gly/Sal 2-2 Pads ($18). You can also try out a small size of the Sephora best-seller, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Mini ($17), as another option that is gentle enough for daily use. Look out for names like Cane + Austen or Malin + Goetz, but their pads do tend to get pricey.
Lancer The Method: Polish ($75) is a textured exfoliant designed for everyday use, whereas Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment ($105) is considered a holy grail treatment by many — myself included. After applying it, you will notice your face look plumper and more even thanks to the Hyaluronic acid it contains. My boyfriend actually complimented my skin after I applied it just the other day! These are two luxury buys that I absolutely swear by for smooth, breakout-free skin.
5. Masks: Treat.
After you exfoliate, your skin is perfectly prepped for a mask. Whether a serum-soaked sheet mask, a hydrogel eye patch, or a concentrated formula from a jar, you can choose different masks to meet your every need.
For an all-around skin healer, I would turn to May Lindstrom The Problem Solver ($100). However, I also adore two masks by Renée Rouleau — Rapid Response Detox Masque ($60.50) to combat an oncoming breakout, or her Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($86.50) — a favorite of Demi Lovato — to exfoliate and brighten your mug like no other.
Of course, sheet masks are another great way to apply masks in single application packaging. Vitabrid C12 Dual Mask: Age-Defying & Firming ($8 each or $35 for 5) just launched this anti-aging all-star at Barney s New York, which uses roots in bio-technology to boost collagen production in our faces. Using two patented solutions to topically apply brightening vitamin C and anti-aging peptides in a world-renowned DDS (drug delivery system), it is also vegan, gluten-free, and cruelty-free! The high-tech face mask will make your skin younger with each application.
When it comes to eye patches, I have tried quite a few and tend to gravitate to those by Patchology and Klorane. However, Verso Skincare Reviving Eye Mask with Retinol 8 ($55) is on my list. It uses a super-gentle form of Retinol to stop crows feet in their tracks. Plus, the clean skincare line is supposed to be fab.
6. Serum: Vitamin C for Day + Retinol at Night.
Next come serums, which deliver potent antioxidants and active ingredients to target specific areas of the face. Dr. Harold Lancer recommends using a vitamin C serum for daytime because of its protective effects against sun damage, making it the ultimate anti-aging combination when used along with SPF. Come nighttime, you can whip out your retinol-containing blends to get on top of your anti-aging skincare game.
I absolutely swear by Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum ($85) for day. It brightens your face like woah and helps provide you with extra protection from sun damage thanks to its ultra-potent form of vitamin C, THD Ascorbate. I am also dying to try Root Science Youth Facial Serum ($120) and, of course, Vintners Daughter ($185).
When it comes to your nighttime blend, a gentle Retinol ingredient is one of the most potent anti-aging ingredients on the market. It is a world-class resurfacer (AKA it amplifies your skin renewal process), strengthens the skin, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. I have been using and LOVE The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion ($9.80), but since it is so hard to come by right now, check out Sunday Riley Luna Oil ($105) for a product that beauty editors go completely nuts for. Of course, Verso Skincare Super Facial Serum ($120) is known for their extra-effective — but gentle — formulation of Retinol 8. I am literally trying this industry-leading formulation after I use up the retinoid emulsion by The Ordinary.
7. Moisturizer: Plump + Hydrate.
The trendy ingredient in moisturizers right now is Hyaluronic Acid, which allows your skin to grab water molecules out of the air for serious hydration. I am currently using Lancer The Method: Nourish ($125) and have absolutely no complaints with it whatsoever. I also have a jar of Sunday Riley Tidal Cream ($65) — which contains two forms of HA — that I have not even begun yet. For greener buys, I would turn to Youth to the People Age Prevention Superfood Cream ($48) or Herbivore Pink Cloud Rosewater Moisture Creme ($48), a new launch from a beloved line.
Obviously, this is also when you apply your eye cream, too. Right now, I switch off between Sunday Riley Autocorrect ($65) and Lancer Eye Contour Lifting Creme with Diamond Powder ($95). Skincare addicts swear by La Mer The Eye Concentrate ($205), but my personal trick is to lock hydration in with an oil post-application (so you do not even need to splurge).
During the daytime, you absolutely do not want to skip your SPF; especially when using ingredients that exfoliate and resurface your skin, your baby-soft face will be more sensitive and vulnerable to UV rays.
8. Oil: Seal Moisture In.
If you want to use an oil to seal in the moisture, this baby comes last. People rave about Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil ($72) and you cannot go wrong with a facial oil by Sunday Riley or Herbivore. Another newcomer of note is Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil ($72), a green and luxurious topshelf oil to try.
Still, when it comes to luxurious facial oils, a luxury green favorite to note is Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil ($68), which I got my mom hooked on. I have even seen facial oils designed exclusively for the eye area, which I find truly elite.
Sleep masks, sleep packs, and oils are all great overnight treatments to apply to your face a few times per week. Going overboard will result in clogged pores, though, so never forget to give your skin room to breathe!
The products you buy and try should typically fall into one of these general categories and will hopefully make your regimen easier. Once you get started, good luck — it is so easy (and fun!) to get addicted.