'Tis the Season (for Skincare)
I’ve been on a skincare kick since summer.
As an intern with the Estée Lauder Companies, with the range of beauty stores in New York seemingly endless, the skincare products I have been able to try and compare have been a godsend because I’m going to let y’all in on a little secret.
My skin used to be very problematic.
And I mean really. I started breaking out when I was a teenager and the acne just never went away completely. One summer — which, ironically, I also spent in New York City — when I was sixteen I had cleared my skin and felt amazing and was living life and junior year rolled around and one stress pimple became two and then three and then too many for me to handle. And I was starting from scratch, again.
So, here I am.
Guys, I am now twenty-five. It’s been nine years (wow, I’m old), since I felt like my face was clear enough to walk around without makeup on, and some days probably get a bit worse now that I actually do wear makeup, but I digress. I’m here to tell you that it gets better. It does. I promise. When I was sixteen, my skin cleared up because of two prescribed products: a retinoid gel called Epiduo, and a really intense lightening cream/steroid that I can’t even remember the name of now. I just know it was used to clear up the dark marks lingering from a rash and I started using it for my face. See? Probably not the best idea. All things you learn looking back on those high school years.
For the past three and a half years I’ve been trying to find natural products to use that will 1. cleanse my skin and 2. brighten and lighten all of the dark discoloration resulting from my inability not to touch and pick at my face. And, since this is a blog about all things beautiful, I’m going to share the top products that I’ve been using lately that have seemed to do wonders for my skin. I’m always big on trying new things, especially black-owned skincare brands, so if you have any suggestions, let me know!
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been having the time of my life. There's really nothing like the self-esteem boost that comes when you find a skincare routine that works. So, since we've long past summer and have now entered the holiday season, maybe these tips and suggestions might help in case you're looking to surprise your loved ones with the gift of clear skin.
Here’s what I’ve been on since May:
#1: Face Brush
I know the cult favorite is the Clarisonic, but I actually had the Mia 2 and it stopped working for me after a year, so I was a little more than disappointed. After that, I jumped off that bandwagon and went over to Michael Todd Beauty (MTB) to try the Soniclear after the suggestion of a friend.
Best decision ever.
No, but for real. It’s waterproof and rechargeable just like the Mia 2, (which has since been discontinued), but I change the brush head less frequently because of MTB’s antimicrobial brushes, which by the grace of God and some amazing technology are engineered to protect against stains and bacteria--something I’ve definitely noticed after multiple uses. Where my Clarisonic brushes used to look like I needed to change them, or would be stained from my black soaps or masks, my Soniclear brushes stay much cleaner, much longer. Not to mention, when you buy your Soniclear, there’s a really amazing warranty ranging from three to five years (depending on the size). I have the ‘Petite’ version for my face, even though it comes in both ‘Petite’ and ‘Elite,’ which is bigger and has different oscillating brush heads for bodies and feet.
I have three that I use religiously, because masks can be used for different purposes. I use Bentonite Clay and/or Charcoal masks to draw out impurities, and Rose Water masks to tone. As of right now, my ultimate favorites are the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, Glamglow’s ‘Supermud,’ and the Rose Mask by Fresh. While you can buy the clay mask on Amazon or Whole Foods for a great price, my Glamglow and Fresh masks, are both priced at $59 and $62 for the full sizes. Because of the price tag, I would suggest trying out the travel size. or a sample to make sure you love either before you commit to the prices.
#3: Facial Scrubs
Exfoliation is your best friend. However, there has been a stigma around exfoliants due to ingredients like fruit pits, salt, or volcanic rocks that cause micro-tears in the skin without actually cleansing. For this reason, it’s important to remember that exfoliating should be done carefully and gently—over-scrubbing is a thing, and something we should all stay away from in order to prevent scarring.
Sugar scrubs can be gentle but effective. Try Fresh’s Sugar Face Polish Exfoliator, which also starts at $25.
#4: Brightening Serum
Brightening, or Vitamin C serums are key when attempting to lighten dark marks, almost like natural peels. My favorite? Drunk Elephant.
Drunk Elephant is the truth.
And I am serious. The only thing I hate is the price, because this brand does everything that I need it to. My favorite product of theirs (because it work-works), is their C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum, which comes in a cute travel duo called Rise + Glow. It’s only $25 and includes their B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, which I love using in tandem with the C-Firma.
For an inexpensive option, try Rosen Skincare’s Bright Citrus Serum. It’s definitely strong, so put a few droplets on a cotton ball or pad to apply to skin before use.
Hydration is key. When I was younger, I used to run from moisturizers and sunscreens because I thought the application would somehow be too much product on my face after my first few steps. How wrong I was, because moisturizing your face is just as important as drinking water.
(Which, don’t forget, when clearing up everything on your face is beyond necessary. Drink your water!)
But, when it comes to hydrating externally, my new favorite brands ever? Innisfree and Laneige. They're both Korean Beauty brands and they each make a line of affordable hydrating products. Innisfree offers a set for only $29. Laneige does the same for $39 with its Hydration Dream Team.
To start though, I'd suggest Innisfree's Green Tea Hydrating Set for the essentials, or take my word for how gentle and effective their products are and test out the Green Tea Seed Intensive Hydrating Cream.
The final piece. I know I’ve just dropped six steps on you, but in the mornings, it is absolutely necessary to wear sunscreen. For something inexpensive, try The Ordinary’s Mineral UV Filters SPF 30. It's less than $10. My favorite right now is Drunk Elephant’s Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 in Umbra Tinte, because it doesn’t make me look washed out or pasty (and you know what look I'm talking about). It’s more natural for darker skin and isn’t super heavy. It can double as a moisturizer and sunscreen, so you don’t have to add that extra step if you don’t want to.
Skincare is constantly evolving, and as our skin ages, some things do and don’t work for us, even if they had in the past. Be sure to try every new product in moderation—pick a small piece of skin to test products out on before applying to your whole face.
What are your routine faves? What brands have you grown out of, and what are you looking to add to your routine? I’m constantly on the lookout for new things to try, so if you have any suggestions, absolutely let me know! In the meantime, hopefully this helps you check names off that holiday list!