Skincare for Dummies (I am the dummy)

If you follow my instagram stories at all, you know that I’ve been coping with heaping helpings of stress by diving head first into a giant vat of eye cream. Skincare! It’s potions class for your face! It makes you feel like a chemist in your bathroom! It’s alchemy for your skin! What’s not to love?

Since I’ve started learning and sharing, I’ve gotten several questions about how I got started. Because let’s be real, the world of skincare is sort of overwhelming, and if you’re not careful, you could empty your bank account and burn your face off. And no one wants that. So here are my tips for how I got started developing my new hobby/practicing some self-care.


Study Up!

Start with Her Royal Highness the Queen of Skincare Caroline Hirons. Her blog is a fantastic resource, especially her cheat sheets. If you want to start developing a routine, start with her routine cheat sheet, then fall down the rabbit hole clicking links and reading more of her posts.

I’m in a secret facebook group of friends who just talk about vanity. It’s great, and I’ve learned a ton from people I already trusted. If you’re looking to find your group of ladies (and a few gentlemen!) to answer your questions, I highly recommend the Forever 35 podcast Facebook group. Also, add Forever 35 to your podcast feed.

Don’t blow too much cash

I started by Googling things like “Best drugstore cleanser” and “Best drugstore moisturizer,” etc. Then I headed to CVS, which has a 100% money back return policy on beauty items. Just save your receipt and packaging (I keep it all in the shopping bag and toss it in my linen closet, so that if I need to return, it’s all there). This way you can start finding things you like on the cheap. Coupon hack: CVS also has a beauty club, and for every $30 you spend on beauty products, you get $3 extra bucks. They also have awesome coupons with your CVS card. I’ve saved tons!

When you’re ready to level up, hit Sephora or Ulta, where you can get samples! Don’t be shy, ask for what you want to try (hey, that sounds like a nice lil mantra). You can also buy travel sizes of a lot of items as well. Try try try! Sephora and Ulta also have great return policies, so you don’t have to be afraid to lose money.

One word of warning: you might want to avoid Amazon. Especially with Korean skincare, you can wind up with fake stuff, and you really don’t want that. There’s just no quality control there. If you’re looking for Korean skincare, I recommend OhLolly (super fast shipping!) or Peach & Lily. Sephora and Ulta also carry some stuff. And CVS also just added an entire Korean skincare section to their stores, so you can get a lot of great sheets masks and snail mucus there (and utilize that return policy if you/your face doesn’t like it).

Start small, then level up

I started with a cleanser, toner, SPF, and moisturizer routine. Then I added eye cream. Next came serums, and that’s where things really got exciting. Acid toning came next, and an overnight lip treatment. Now I’m onto facial oils. I have not attempted retinols yet, because frankly they make me nervous, but maybe down the line I’ll get there. But if you start small and add one thing at a time, you’ll be able to monitor the reactions you’re having and know when something doesn’t agree with you. It also keeps you from shocking your skin with a quick start.

Decide why you’re doing this

Yes, skincare is a lot about vanity, but that’s not entirely why I do it. I don’t expect it to dramatically alter my appearance (or alter it at all, actually). Sure, I hope it’ll keep me from getting monster zits and maybe even out my pores around my nose and chin, but I don’t think it’s going to cause me to age in reverse. I don’t think most people will notice a damn bit of difference when they look at me.

This is a thing I do for me. I do it because a) I like the way my skin feels now that I’m treating it well, and b) I like the way I feel while I’m taking time each morning and night to care for my skin. This is my self-care, right up there with reading trashy books and eating all the donut holes I can cram into my face. I do it because I like it. If it was torture, no way would I stick with a skincare routine. Shutting the door and quietly rubbing potions into my face is relaxing, and I’ve noticed that I’ve even slept better since I started (or as well as you can sleep when you still have a baby waking you up 2-3 times a night OH MY GOD).

I think it’s important to pick what your skincare goals are and focus on those with your products. And don’t try to make everything your goal, or you’ll be miserable. Just like everything else in life, set reasonable expectations. And have fun with it!

Ok, so wanna see my routines?

Morning Routine

(Presented in the order I use it)

  1. COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – I double cleanse with this in the morning. It’s cheap ($11), and COSRX is a reliable Korean skincare brand. It’s gentle, though it’s got a fairly odd smell (akin to dipping your face into a can of brand new tennis balls?). I think it’s the tea tree oil? Whatever, you get used to it.
  2. Thayer’s Rose Petal Toner – I love the smell of this, and it’s nice and soothing. Swipe it on with a cotton pad after cleansing. They sell this one (and some other scents) at Target. A big bottle is only $6.99.
  3. Iceland Hydrating Eye Stick – this is from CVS, and I have no idea if it really does anything, but it feels good, it smells good, and it looks adorable. It’s nice on my eye bags in the morning (hi, underslept mama of two small children here!). Another Korean skincare purchase. Another cheapie, only $8.99
  4. LilyAna Naturals Vitamin C Serum – baby’s first serum! I love this gentle Vitamin C for hydration and color correction and (they say) wrinkle reducer. I’ve definitely noticed decreased redness and dark spots since using this. This is one exception to the Amazon rule, because LilyAna naturals only sells on Amazon. Make sure you’re buying directly from them! $19.99, but when I purchased they had a coupon on Amazon for $4 off.
  5. Pacifica Dreamy Youth Day/Night Cream – this is my day moisturizer. It’s light without being greasy, and gets the job done. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free. Find Pacifica at Target, Ulta, and Whole Foods. It seems like a small bottle, but a little goes a long way. One pump will cover your face. $16.99
  6. Garnier Moisture Bomb Sunscreen – you’re supposed to wear sunscreen every day all the time forever, and I definitely was not, mostly because sunscreen just felt so icky on my face. Well, that’s because I was using, you know, beach/body sunscreen. Buy yourself a good, dedicated SPF of at least 30, apply it thoroughly every day, and make sure you use enough (a nickel size amount just for your face). I like this one because it goes on with no streaks or white cast, is moisturizing without being greasy, and has a nice, beachy scent without smelling like a surf shop. You can get it most anywhere. Mine is from CVS for $17.99

Evening Routine

(presented in the order I use it)

  1. COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – yes, I know it says morning, but you can use it any time. And since I’m usually not wearing makeup, I double cleanse with this knowing I’m really just removing my SPF and moisturizer from the day.
  2. Pixi Glow Tonic – my first big leap in the skincare world was trying acid toning, because my blackhead situation on my nose and chin was little … um .. yikes, and my pores just seemed angry at me. This glycolic acid toner is seriously magic for me. My skin looks SO MUCH BETTER. The bottle says to use it day and night, but I only use it every other night to keep from over-exfoliating (it’s a thing, read up on it!). The best part? Unlike lots of other acids, this is sold at Target and is CHEAP. This sample size was $3 at Target (so try it out first!), but a full-size is only $15.
  3. Thayer’s Rose Petal Toner – after acids, you definitely want to be gentle on your skin, so I use this, with aloe vera, to soothe my skin.
  4. No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Eye Cream – I’m not 100% sure eye creams really do much, so I’m not in the market to drop big cash on one (seriously, eye creams get ‘SPENSY). I’m also not in this to eliminate wrinkles, so I don’t feel the need to go to town here. This UK brand is sold at Target, and this tube is about $20. It’ll last you forever, so don’t worry.
  5. Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil – here’s my splurge. Are you ready? A full-size of this costs $72 (oh god, I just cringed typing that). But I ordered this little free sample pictured above from Biossance (you get both this and the 100% Squalane for just the price of shipping), and when I tried it, it really REALLY agreed with my skin (I know, I was pissed … I wanted it to be a total scam so I didn’t have to buy it). I put this on as a first layer of moisture, only at night because it makes your face, well, oily. But come morning, your skin is so smooth and velvety. I love it. I also bought a full-size of the 100% squalane oil, because it’s a body hero for dry winter skin (hello knees and elbows!). It’s less than the rose oil, but not much less … but a little goes a very long way, so I expect this to last me at minimum 6 months, maybe longer. I skimp in other places to splurge here, and that’s fine with me.
  6. Burt’s Bees Night Cream – I tried 3 other night creams from CVS before I settled on this one (I returned them all, and I think they were starting think I was a scammer, but I finally found one!). I love that this one, layered over the rose oil, makes my skin super soft and velvety without feeling really heavy. And at only $18, it’s much cheaper than more luxury moisturizers.
  7. Burt’s Bees Overnight Intensive Lip Treatment – I’m a cherry carmex (in a tube!) addict during the day, and I used to just use it at night, too. But I bought this because I had CVS extra bucks, and I really feel like it’s gone a long way to hydrate my dry winter lips. And it’s only $9, so why not?

I do sheet masks and clay masks from time to time, all of which I’ve picked up in the Korean skincare section at CVS (I really love the Peach Slices masks, and they’re only like $2.50/each). I also have a Korean cleansing balm en route that the ladies on Forever 35 recommended, so I’ll sub that in for one of my COSRX cleanses in the morning and at night. But I’m feeling pretty good about this routine. I think it’ll stick around for a while, at least until I start to use things up.

And if I suddenly come into some serious cash, you bet your ass I’m trying out Tata Harper/Drunk Elephant/Sunday Riley/Biologique Recherche… Until then, see ya CVS!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s