For the past several months, I’ve completely changed my skincare routine. Everything! Past items were either thrown out altogether or donated. I kept three “holy grail” items – my moisturizing cream, eye cream, and face oil. All others? Gone. After this refreshing product purge, I started to research better options for my skin. Some worked wonders, others didn’t. Therefore, I wanted to share the products that have been WOW-ing me lately, and give you a window into my winter skincare routine for daytime.
Keep in mind, I’m in my late 30’s, so investing in skincare is a whole new ballgame. No amount of oils or serums will combat the sun damage from my years as a high school lifeguard or baking in the tanning bed for homecomings, proms, and fraternity formals. However, with my new product finds, and a few changes to my overall routine, my skin is now better than ever.
My Winter Skincare Routine
In my 20’s, I never would have been able to afford many of the products below. A single prestige item would have been a huge splurge! Plus, at the time, I preferred spending my money on martinis with friends, not moisturizers. Now that I’m older (and have a disposable income commensurate with working full-time for nearly two decades), I’m thankful to be in a position to purchase more premium products.
As such, please do not feel pressured to purchase everything on this list, especially if it’s out of your price range. Better yet, drugstore deals are sometimes just as good than their luxe counterparts (see my past Olay review and the Pixi toner section below). Throughout this guide, I’ll do my best to identify some awesome affordable options that I’ve used and adored.
Lastly, please note I’m not yet making any specific effort to outline an all-clean skincare routine. My skincare and makeup regimens aren’t perfect – but I’m doing my best to be more cognizant of each step. Overall, I try to add clean products when I find ones that work for me, but I’m not fully there yet.
Without further ado, here’s an overview of my winter skincare routine for daytime!
My first step every morning? Cleanser. The two brands I keep reaching for? First Aid’s Pure Skin Cleanser and Indie Lee’s Brightening Cleanser. First Aid is fragrance-free, vegan, made in the USA, and is free of sulfates, phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals, etc. Best of all, the price point isn’t crazy, and it never dries out my skin. While slightly more expensive, Indie Lee’s version is also clean, vegan, and rich in antioxidants. A little Indie Lee product goes a long way, and the consistency is akin to a gel. Both are easy on the skin and highly effective! My go-to drugstore alternative is the Bliss Fab Foaming Oil-Free Gel Cleanser (under $10). It’s also a cleaner product, paraben-free, and I love the way my skin feels afterwards! Plus, it smells amazing.
Before diving into the next step, we need to talk about the importance of buying good quality cotton pads. Friends, it’s imperative to invest in premium cotton pads for your toner and essence steps. I used to purchase the basic pads from Target. Big mistake. Huge! The cotton pads immediately fell apart on my skin and left small bits of white cotton residue all over my cheeks and neck. Yuck!
I’ve made a point to only use these premium cotton pads, which are 100 percent organic, unbleached, and untreated cotton. They’re the most popular K-beauty product, and I can see why! For my most luxe products like P50 or SK-II, I use the Unicharm Silcot Uruuru Sponge Facial pads. In general, Korean and Japanese beauty brands are lightyears ahead of the competition when it comes to cotton pads (and many other beauty verticals).
Toner is a vital step. I love how it helps remove dirt, oil, other leftover makeup. Best of all, it balances the pH of your skin. As someone who struggles with acne, toner is crucial to keeping my skin on track for the day.
Pro tip: invest in alcohol-free toners. Check the label on the back of a product before buying it to ensure simple alcohols aren’t in ingredients on the list (i.e. denatured alcohol, ethanol, SD alcohol 40, and isopropyl alcohol, to name a few). Like most, I hate reading the teeny tiny font on the back of bottles in the store or inspecting the ingredients tab in my web browser! However, most experts agree alcohol-based toners do way more harm than good. From dehydration, enlarged pore size, and even overactive oil gland production, many alcohols are a disaster for skin. No thank you!
About four times a week, I use Pixi Glow Tonic. Wowza, this product is DIVINE – a phenomenal drugstore deal! Just search the internet, and you’ll find a billion reviews about why everyone adores it. Add to me to the super-fan list! Best of all, it’s only $15.
For the other three days of the week, I use Biologique Recherche’s P50. After reading several articles about it, I had to try it. To sum it up, it’s incredible. I love how it’s helped the texture of my skin. To see a more in-depth review, see this Into the Gloss article. Most people experience tingling and redness while using P50. Some even say that it smells like salt and vinegar chips, lol! To be transparent, P50 doesn’t give my skin a tingly sensation, nor does it turn my face red whatsoever. After I finish my P50 bottle, I plan to try the original P50 1970, which is said to be even tougher on the skin. Game on! 🙂 Lastly, be sure to watch this helpful video on how to apply P50 properly (this same application method goes for the essence step below).
Do you use essence? I started adding this small step last fall. Now I can never go back! Essence prepares your skin for serums, moisturizers, and oils. Think of essence like water for a sponge. After you wash and tone your skin, it’s a bit dry, right? Well, like water helps a sponge absorb soap, essence helps your skin take-in the subsequent moisturizing and protection steps. SK-II Essence is beyond amazing. Fair warning, the price tag is crazy. Regardless, I am seriously, seriously o.b.s.e.s.s.e.d!
Many days, after I’ve toned and applied essence, I end my morning skincare routine with Augustinus Bader Rich Cream. The cult following of this product speaks for itself (be sure to read Grace’s full review)! The stem cell-based science Dr. Bader used to create the cream is meant to account for the would-be steps of serum, eye cream, moisturizer, and face oil. I use about 2-3 pumps for my neck, face, and also underneath my eyes. I LOOOOVE this product more than I could ever say. In fact, I recently purchased the travel set for trips when I can only use a carry-on. Now, as you’ll see, Augustinus Bader has a cream and a rich cream. In short, the rich cream is a thicker formula that leaves the skin extra-dewy. It’s perfect for winter. The cream is great if you want a lighter consistency or for use in warmer/humid climates.
On days when I don’t use Bader, I go from toner and essence to the steps listed below…
VITAMIN C SERUM:
My most-used morning serums are Dermalogica’s Biolumin-C Serum and SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. SkinCeuticals has 15% Vitamin C, which is an incredibly high percentage. I especially love using any product with Vitamin C in the mornings, since it’s designed to brighten/firm skin and soften fine lines and wrinkles.
When I’m looking to change up this step, I use First Aid’s Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, which feels more like a gel than a serum. I’ve really grown to love First Aid as a brand, and this product does it every time for me!
While expensive, I can never get enough of La Mer’s Eye Concentrate – it smells like cucumber and feels incredible on the skin. One option I’ve been reading a lot about is Ole Hendrikson’s Banana Bright Eye Cream. Hoping to try that one soon!
Why use hyaluronic acid? This step helps fine lines and wrinkles caused by dehydration. I’m not perfect about drinking water at work, so I love this step to keep my skin hydrated. One of my faves is Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate. For some reason, this is the only item in my regime that stings (tolerable, but not comfortable). However, I still love it since I can tell it’s working! I’ve recently started using Barbara Sturm’s version, and it’s much easier on my skin. Buyer beware – get ready for sticker shock! The price tag is not for the faint of heart. However, I’ve been liking the results.
My go-to moisturizers in the morning (if I don’t apply Bader) is the La Mer Moisturizing Soft Cream or First Aid’s Ultra Rich Repair Cream. Read more about my love of La Mer in this post. Earlier this season, First Aid sent me a jar of their Repair Cream, and I adore how thick the product is! Super hydrating, and perfect to last throughout the day.
SPF is essential. Every single day, even if it’s cloudy outside. I love the PCA Tint Broad Spectrum 45. I read about it from Helena of Brooklyn Blonde. The product absorbs really nicely into the skin. Some SPF’s are way too sticky resulting in makeup looking awful. That’s never a problem with this product. I’ve also used Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen on many of my sunny vacations and in the summer months. I really love the lightweight consistency. My most recent purchase is the Purito Centella Green Level Safe Sun (only $15). Read this story and this NYMag article about the product. I’ll keep you posted on my thoughts!
Shop My Winter Skincare Routine Product Picks
In case you want a one-stop shop for your winter skincare routine products, here are the links to all of the must-have items for the morning below:
What skincare items are you loving lately? Stay tuned for a separate post about my nighttime skincare routine, and feel free to ask any questions below!
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