what i put on my face: a love story

I’ve been in an uphill battle with very dry skin that also needs regular exfoliating for the past 25 years, and all genetic signs point to another 75 years of the same. Even though I read a lot of skincare roundups when I’m trying not to finish work and/or scrambling to figure out The Cure For Aging, I struggled to write this post. What if it sounds vapid? What if it is vapid? What if I sound like I’m trying to sell something sleazy? What if skincare is all just a scam anyway?

In the end, it was my unofficial internet pantheon of big sisters I’ve never had that did me in. I was particularly moved by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s open and honest look at her everyday skincare routine: she’s a powerhouse national leader; but for a moment, it felt like I was hearing from my best friend’s big sister. Another favorite is Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge—Grace’s tried-and-true methods are accessible and delightful, just like the rest of her work. When I’m feeling terribly ambitious, I gawk at this roundup from nurse and student Clare.

My whole routine takes about 5-10 minutes, and I was lucky enough to receive most of these products as gifts at one time or another. I’ll share a few things I’ve been slathering on lately, with the caveat that you shouldn’t buy anything without at least trying a sample size first.

STEP 0: Eye Patches

Holy! Cow! I didn’t know about these until recently, but I love using them first thing in the morning, especially if my husband claims the shower before I do. They’re cooling and moisturizing and make even the early-morning email sprint feel luxurious. I use them once every three or four days.

STEP 1: Ivory Bar Soap

I have bananas sensitive skin, and Ivory soap is about the only soap that doesn’t give me actual hives. I use this every day, no matter what else. Most weekends, it’s all I use on my face.

STEP 2: Aveda Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant

I use this most days—just three little dabs on a washcloth is more than enough, and a bottle can last me about six months. Some nights, I’ll follow up with the creme cleanser from the same line. I received this exfoliant as a gift and really like it, but here’s a more affordable option that still works famously.

STEP 3: Aveda Botanical Kinetics Oil Control Lotion

This lotion acts as a moisturizer and a primer for me. Living in hot Texas, I’ll take all the oil control I can get. I use a pea-sized amount, and one of these little guys lasts me about 5 months of everyday use. This can also get a little spend-y for a normal day, and I’ve had great experiences with an Aveeno alternative.

STEP 4: Extras

Serums: I don’t use these every day, but I swear by The Ordinary’s salicylic acid to kill problem breakouts overnight and the squalane to wear as a nighttime moisturizer if I’m feeling scaly. I bought them over a year ago, and I’m not even halfway finished with them.

Masks: I use a mask about once every two weeks. I’ve used the Shea Moisture masks lately, and I really like the L’Oreal line when it’s on sale at the grocery store. Of course, Queen Helene always knows how to do it right. The Aveeno In-Shower Facial is also great once a week or so.

Seasonal: The Aveda Outer Peace wipes are my go-to in the hottest part of the summer. If you, like me, don’t have central air, these pads are a lifesaver at the beginning and middle of the day when you just need to deal with all the gunk on your face. I use these twice (let’s be real, three times) each or cut them in half with sanitized scissors, and one container can last me the whole summer. Another way to do it would be soaking reusable cotton rounds in the Thayer’s toner in the fridge overnight—anything to cool your face and get the gunk out.

Makeup: This powder and this mascara are my ride-or-dies, so to speak, and I love using a little bit of this foundation. (Rides-or-die? Please assist.) For everyday lip stuff, I use the tiniest bit of this Burt’s Bees in rhubarb topped with a generous swipe of this Burt’s Bees in cucumber mint. It mimics the effect of the Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers, which I love. If it’s a fancy day, I’ll use a bit of Clinique Black Honey—a tube can last me well over a year, but I don’t think I’m supposed to hang onto things that long.

photos by sarah crawford