Lauren’s Note: This is Part 2 of our little skincare mini-series from our newest guest blogger, Loren! If you missed Part 1, you need to read it here. It was pretty freaking amazing. Her daytime routine is INTENSE in the best way possible. But you ain’t seen nothing yet, as her night routine is amazing and fascinating. I am learning SO MUCH. Who wants Loren to drop in more often to write about skincare? (I do!) But without further ado… here’s Part 2!
Step 1: Makeup Removal
I am not too fussy or fancy when it comes to makeup removal….usually because if I am wearing makeup late into the evening, it means I’ve had the (very rare) long night out, probably did too much squat dancing at the club, and just need to get to bed already! My quick go-to solution for makeup removal are the e.l.f. Cosmetics Studio Makeup Remover Cleansing Cloths ($3 + Cruelty Free or CF) followed by a second “wiping” cleanse with a micellar water. For eye makeup remover, I really enjoy the Physicians Formula Eye Makeup Remover Lotion ($4.69 + CF). It’s a good remover for dry to sensitive skin, as it’s a gentle, silky lotion formula you rinse off, so it does not encourage extra tugging around the eyes.
Step 2: Cleanser
Once makeup is off, I like to use the Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser ($38 + CF) in the evening. As the name suggest, this cleanser contains alpha and beta hydroxy acids, but in such small amounts they are not the “exfoliating” agents in this cleanser. Rather, the small beads it contains create a nice, gentle scrubby feeling on the skin (not talking St. Ives Apricot Scrub levels of scrub!). The base of the cleanser is incredibly milky, so this also helps the product remain gentle and softening. I feel comfortable using this cleanser with an additional AHA or BHA at night, since again the amount of those acids contained in the cleanser are minimal, and using both products does not cause me irritation.
Step 3: Toner
I like to go a little heavier and nourishing with my nighttime toner (you will find this is the “theme” to most of my nighttime routine), so I opt for the Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Skin Enriched Calming Toner ($21 + CF). It is a milky formulation that is incredibly soothing to the skin, and is also able to remove any trace amounts of makeup or dirt.
Step 4a: Retinol
Ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived to the all-star, Mohammad-Ali-level-heavy-hitting step of my anti-aging routine. Retinol is the king mother boss of all my skincare products, and is touted by all the research I have seen and specialists I have spoken to as the cornerstone of any anti-aging regimen one would like to undertake. There are plenty of effective over-the-counter retinol formulations available, but mine comes in the form of prescription Retin-A from my dermatologist. Obviously I am not really recommending this product, since it’s a medication, but just explaining how retinol is key to my routine. I will use Retin-A only a few times a week, and try to apply it to completely dry skin. It helps to keep acne at bay, fade my discolorations and minimize fine lines, and my life has not been the same since it came into my life! I do need to alternate usage though, or sometimes take a break from it entirely, as it can be irritating to my skin.
Step 4b: Exfoliation
Another vital step to any anti-aging routine, I am a big advocate of regular exfoliation. There are two types: physical or manual, which includes any exfoliants that contain scrubby particles or beads; and chemical, which refers to come kind exfoliating acid like alpha (AHA) or beta hydroxy (BHA). I will always opt for chemical exfoliation over scrubs, because those particles and shards can cause more harm than good in the long-run, as far as how rough they can be to the skin. But chemical exfoliants I love, and will apply on the “alternate” days I do not use Retin-A. BHAs are typically recommended for oily skin types and for anyone wanting to address clogged pores and bumps, as they penetrate deep into the skin/pore-lining to do their work. AHAs do not penetrate as deeply, and are good for drier skin types. Both acids will work on the skin’s surface to address fine lines and discolorations, will smooth skin, and will promote cell turn over.
My favorite BHA is the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($29 + CF). The 2% refers to the amount of salicylic acid contained in the product – it’s enough to effectively treat but not enough to irritate my sensitive skin, which is a fantastic balance! It does leave a bit of a film, but I never mind this, especially since I am always layering additional products like serums and creams on top anyway. While I love this exfoliant, I felt like I could be doing more to address my main areas of concern: fine lines, texture and discoloration, rather than clogged pores. So I decided to switch to an AHA, and have been using the CosRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid ($13.12 + CF) for several weeks. The glycolic acid in the formula does not irritate my skin (although I can’t exactly go overboard when applying), and I really feel like my skin is smoothed and brightened after several uses. It also claims to clean debris and unclog pores while it’s doing its other AHA business, so best of both worlds!
Step 5: Serum
On the “alternate” days when I do not use Retin-A, following my exfoliant, I will apply a serum – the “luxury” step in my nighttime routine! But I am diligent about finding the “right” product. By that I mean I look for serums that address anti-aging concerns or contain the ingredients my other products do NOT, because I do not want to double up on one ingredient when I could be treating my skin to something else. Because I already incorporate Vitamin C, retinol, hyaluronic acid and chemical exfoliants elsewhere in my routine, I mostly look for a serum full of nourishing peptides to address loss of collagen and firmness. Currently, I use the PCA Skin Total Strength Serum ($58.80 + CF) because of the peptides and epidermal growth factor it contains, and on the recommendation of my facialist. While this product is good, I want a product that is great! Aaaaand less pricey, if possible. So I plan to test out another product, The Ordinary “Buffet” ($14.80 + CF) serum, once the PCA serum runs out.
Step 6: Moisturizer, Oils and Boosters
The night cream scene is like a whole n’other industry onto itself within skincare – there is just so much to choose from, and I am forever sampling a new product! But after several years of testing, I now mainly switch between two moisturizers at night: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($30 + CF) and Exuviance Age Reverse Hydrafirm ($78 + CF) cream. The FAB Ultra Repair Cream is not an anti-aging moisturizer so much as it just rescues (hence the brand name!) my skin when it is at its most distressed. This is typically the night moisturizer I will bring when traveling, because I know traveling throws my skin into a whirlpool of danger and despair, and the Ultra Repair Cream is my surefire evacuation plan. It’s great for the moments my skin is red, flaking, and parched to within an inch of its epidermal life. The Age Reverse Hydrafirm, however, is my anti-aging hero product. Containing hyaluronic acid and firming peptides (“plump all the things” should really be my skincare slogan), my favorite characteristic of Age Reverse Hydrafirm is its consistency. It has a light, bouncy texture that is almost gel-like in its application. It’s also green, which I think it amazing! The cream has a luxurious feel without being greasy, and absorbs quickly into the skin. This texture also makes it the perfect moisturizer to layer over Retin-A, as it glides on smoothly without skipping or piling up on itself. I use both of these creams year round.
On the nights I use a serum instead of Retin-A, I will boost my moisturizer with the Paula’s Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster ( $42+ CF). I like these drops because they are easy to add into any cream, and contain the recommend daily amount of niacinamide for that ingredient to be effective.
Because Exuviance Age Reverse Hydrafirm is oil-free, I also like to add a beauty oil to amp up its hydrating and anti-aging scope. My preferred beauty oil to add is marula oil, either as a booster into the cream or lightly patted on top of my skin. The Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil ($72 + CF) is incredibly rich and nourishing-feeling…..and it is over $70. A comparable, much less expensive option is the Acure Organics Marula Oil ($12.66 + CF), which I have been using and adoring the last few months. I usually pat a small amount directly onto my skin as the last “whole face” step in my night routine.
Step 7: Eye Cream
My lukewarm feelings about eye cream apply here as they did above, perhaps more so since I want my night eye cream to do more than just hydrate (i.e., legitimately address fine lines, crepiness and bags). On a recent trip to Sephora, I received a sample of the Algenist Complete Eye Renewal Balm ($68), and after testing for a week, I am slightly sanguine about its potential. My under eyes did look smoother and even a little more plump, so that product is on my short list of full-sized versions to try. But at this point, I am not sure ANY eye cream is worth the high price of admission.
In the meantime, until I find this diamond in the rough of false marketing, I typically just use my evening facial moisturizer as my eye cream, and finish off with a small dab of the marula oil or another favorite product, Josie Maran Argan Infinity Cream Intensive Creamy Oil ($28 + CF) (say that five times fast!). This is basically a petroleum jelly infused with argan oil, which is every bit as indulgent as it sounds.
Step 8: Neck Cream
Neck cream is another product I know I should use (I see the older women in my family. I know what fate awaits me!) but have yet to find one that does anything other than hydrate. So this may be another one of those “just use your regular moisturizer and ignore the placebo effect” situations. In the past, I have used the Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Fortifying Neck Emulsion ($75 + CF) with some success – skin on the neck did feel smoother and more supple. But I am not sure if any fancily-branded moisturizer can defy gravity, so I may need to pony up for my facialist’s scary looking machine treatments.
And then……my night is FINALLY done and I am exhausted and ready to collapse into bed, content in the knowledge my skin is hydrated and dew-ed up enough to make a rainforest jealous.