Skincare has been a passion of mine since my early college days.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and is one of the most obvious physical indicators of your health.
Taking meticulous care of my skin over the years has not only boosted my physical health, but it’s also helped my mental health. Having a solid skincare routine grounds me through its structure, calms anxious thoughts, and increases my self-esteem. It’s my favorite form of self-care.
Just like the rest of yourself, your skin is ever-evolving. It changes with age, hormone levels, weather, and environment.
When I was a high schooler in California, I broke out in cystic acne from stress. I wore foundation every day so I could comfortably leave my house. Now, I live in New York where it can drop below freezing and I spend countless hours outside commuting on foot.
A recent selfie with no makeup on. My skin looks its best when I don’t wear makeup regularly, eat whole foods, and treat it with care.
For reference, I am in my mid-20s and currently describe my skin as:
- normal to dry
- not acne-prone, unless under stress or eating a poor diet
- fair with golden undertones, tans quickly
Because we’re always changing, there is no one-size-fits-all skincare routine. But it’s important to have skincare essentials that can adapt to the changes in your life.
I wanted to share the skincare essentials that have gotten me through the past 6 years. These are the tried and true products that I’ve repurchased more time than I can count. While I may swap out other products, these products form the backbone of my routine.
You’ll be able to tell that I’m an avid fan of Asian skincare products. Asian skincare philosophy focuses on building a gentle routine that allows your skin to fight for itself. These products use clean and non-toxic ingredients, are incredibly soothing, and can be purchased on Amazon or other online retailers for around $20 or less.
I only recommend introducing one new product to your skin at a time. This way, if you have a bad reaction, you’ll know what is causing it. You should also wait 4-6 weeks between adding new products so your skin has time to adapt.
Without further ado, here are my all-time-favorite clean skincare must-haves listed in the order of use.
Clean Skincare Essentials
1. Oil-based cleanser: THE FACE SHOP Rice Bright Cleansing Oil ($11)
Oil-based cleansers remove oil-based impurities such as SPF, makeup, and sebum. I love this oil cleanser because it cleans my skin well without making it feel stripped. It’s a gentle, light, and nourishing cleanser. If I’m wearing eye makeup, I’ll make sure to remove it with petroleum jelly first since it smudges eyeliners.
2. Water-based cleanser: Hada Labo Tokyo Gentle Hydrating Cleanser ($12)
Water-based cleansers remove water-based impurities such as sweat and dirt. It’s important to use both an oil-based cleanser so you get a thorough cleanse.
This is the most hydrating and soothing foam cleanser I’ve ever used. It leaves my skin clean bright and clear. This cleanser is also pH balanced with a pH of 5.5. The skin’s natural pH lies between 4.2-5.5 and research supports that a cleanser’s pH should fall between this range.
3. Hydrating toner: Etude House Wonder Pore Freshener ($18)
To complete the cleansing part of my routine, I gently wipe my face down with a cotton pad soaked with this toner. This toner has many benefits: it clears away dead skin cells, shrinks pores, is hydrating, balances the pH of your skin (4.5 pH), and helps with sebum control. Sometimes when I’m not wearing makeup and want a quick refresh, I’ll also use this toner to gently wipe my face.
This giant 500mL bottle is only $18 and lasts for many months.
4. Moisturizer: HADALABO Gokujun Hyaluronic Lotion Moist ($13)
I cannot rave enough about this moisturizer. As you can see in the pictures, it’s not the consistency of your average moisturizer. It’s extremely thin and looks almost like water. However, don’t be fooled. This is the most refreshing, soothing, light, and hydrating moisturizer I’ve ever used. Applying it on your skin feels like a treatment in itself. It absorbs quickly and easily and feels light and cool on my skin. It also gives my skin a healthy sheen to it.
You can also mix it a few drops of acids (AHA/BHA/vitamin c) into it before applying. The result is moisturized skin and an even, gentle application of the potent acid.
5. Essence: COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($20)
Snail has been one of the holy grail ingredients in Asian skincare for years. It’s slightly thick but spreads easily, leaves a cooling sensation on the skin, and absorbs well. I know it sounds strange putting snail mucin on your skin–but trust me, it’s dramatically changed my skin texture. It’s made my skin brighter, smoother, and more radiant. I also use it when I need an extra boost of moisture.
6. Sheet Masks: My Beauty Diary ($1-2/ea)
Unlike the previous products which I use every day, sheet masks are one time treatments I use whenever I like. During the winter when my skin is peeling from the dry air, I reach for these for a hydrating treatment. I also love putting these in the fridge and then using them in the summer months to cool myself off. As cheesy as it is, I feel like royalty after pampering myself with a sheet mask. These also make great gifts because they’re so universal, low commitment, and come in an array of different ingredients.
Bonus: Vitamin C serum: Dear, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop ($20-22)
As a bonus, I wanted to share a new product I’ve been testing and have enjoyed over the past 2 weeks.
Vitamin C is a more advanced skincare product that boosts skin regeneration and thus brightens, reduces redness, fades hyperpigmentation, and evens out your skin tone.
I met a girl on my flight to Vietnam with incredibly beautiful skin–really, I was taken back. When I asked her what her HG products were, she mentioned this serum and the Klairs Vitamin E mask. I’ve since purchased both but am trying this product first.
Since using this serum, my skin is on a new level of smooth, clear, and bright. This acid is strong so I add only 1-2 drops of it into my moisturizer to apply.
Thanks for making it through my second blog post! I hope this was a fun read for you. You can click here to read my first post on building healthy habits while in quarantine.
If you have any recommendations or suggestions for me, please share! I’d love to hear them.
Stay happy, healthy, and well.
Until next time.