194: I used to be a beauty editor
"My 47-step routine" is the rage-bait alternate headline.
Basically, headline. When I first started at InStyle years back, my title was Fashion & Beauty Commerce Writer, and my coverage was split pretty evenly between the two beats. I’d had fashion and media experience before, but I got the job in part because of a beauty side-project I could also point to: I’d gone deep into skincare during Reddit’s first obsessive wave and was styling and shooting original imagery with a photographer friend and writing blog-length educational captions on an Instagram account called “Skinformer.”
In my in-house role, it was literally my full-time job to test out all sorts of skincare, haircare, bodycare, makeup, etc, so that I could write reviews and put together informed best-of lists. Even after I left, and extending into this current role, I’m in touch with a lot of those PR contacts who keep me up to date with their beauty clients and continue to send me new product to try out. (I also buy my own beauty products, but this expands the sample pool from which I’m drawing exponentially.)
I’m not saying people are reaching out feverishly for me to “drop the skincare routine,” but it’s a big part of my background and still comes up often enough that I thought it warranted a post sharing what I know. And what better way than to simply tell you what I’m doing, myself?
So here it is, the current version of my head-to-toe beauty routine, which is always being tweaked and improved as I learn new things. Just this week, even, I ordered NIOD’s Copper Peptide Amino Isolate Serum after reading amazing things about the synergies with RLT and anecdotal evidence that it promotes lash and brow growth (it’s also half off right now), and on top of that, I reintroduced a nightly swipe of organic castor oil to my brows. There’s always something to fiddle with.
In the morning, I rinse with water and, if I have time, begin the day with 10 minutes under the red light of my Omnilux mask—mornings are best for reaping the mental and physiological benefits of RLT, but I’ll get to it in the evening instead if need be, always on clean skin—I’ve been using it consistently since I bought it on Black Friday, and I’ve noticed a difference in skin evenness, moisture-retention, and lightening of red inflammation; in the shower, I buff Humanrace Rice Powder Cleanser over my face and let it sit while I attend to my hair; after a few minutes, I use Lesse’s Sculpting Tool (stainless steel won’t shatter when dropped like other quartz gua shas I’ve owned) to do a quick lymphatic drainage massage and rinse off the excess cleanser; I continue my liquid diet at my dresser by splashing on Irene Forte Helichrysum Toner, which contains a few interesting antioxidants and very gentle astringents, plus hyaluronic acid, which all together prep my base for the subsequent steps (calming, better absorption, pH balancing); next comes Ilia’s Base Face Milk, a newer addition to my routine that has the consistency of a K-beauty “lotion,” which is to say its quite watery, but I’m convinced it’s helping just as much as if not more than my heavy cream to keep my skin bouncy and humid this winter; then comes the vitamin C—I’m using Image Vital C, a cream-based formula I far prefer to the alleged gold standard Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, which never did anything for me and smelled like a ham sandwich; over that, The Outset’s Restorative Niacinamide Night Cream (yes, even in the day)—I’ve really liked everything I’ve tried from the brand, including its lighter Squalane Daily Moisturizer, which was great for summer; the final step is Supergoop’s PLAY Everyday Lotion, an SPF whose sunflower extract makes it feel like a final layer of nourishing, emollient oil that I look forward to applying and am therefore very consistent with.
In the evening, I wash my face with Motif’s Abundance Cleanser—I massage my face for a full minute with it, per Reddit rules, which also gives the enzymes some extra time to gently exfoliate; I follow up with the Irene Forte toner and Ilia Milk from above, then I rub in a few droplets of The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid, whose oil-based solution gets into pores and clears out blackheads and sebaceous filaments more effectively than Paula’s Choice BHA; the sal-acid works best, IMO, when paired with the classic French-pharmacy retinol A313—I discovered the combo when traveling and it completely reversed my dry skin and buildup, and I haven’t let it go since; on top of that goes the same The Outset cleanser, and then a layer of Aquaphor (big tube!), a trick everyone likely knows but if not, you are missing out on waking up to the baby-softest skin of your life.
This was the year I got serious about addressing my fine, thin hair—I’ve been taking Nutrafol for longer than that, though, and really see the difference in my hair (and nails) when combining with collagen powder, whether Nutrafol’s own or Vital Proteins; in the shower, I owe a lot to my Jolie Filtered Showerhead, I can 100% tell the difference (for worse) when I am traveling; I have a wardrobe of shampoos I rotate through depending on what my scalp is telling me each shower—Ouai Fine Hair Shampoo to clarify when I have perceptible product buildup or an above-average amount of oil; Vanicream Shampoo once or twice a week as it contains zinc, which has been proven to promote hair growth nearly as much as Minoxidil-medicated Rogaine; and Christophe Robin Cleansing Volumizing Paste all other times (it is a grainy paste that clears off my scalp and lathers into a satisfying foam, which creates great volume at the root)—whichever shampoo I’m using, I’ll leave it on like a mask for a few minutes while I attend to my face and body; I use a small dab of Sandor Grounding Conditioner on my ends and rinse clean (side note: when I travel, I only pack this and the Grounding Shampoo, as together they come as close as possible to replicating the effects of the Jolie filter).
Post-shower, I spritz a few pumps of Christophe Robin Hydrating Leave-In Mist to my ends and comb through with a Machete acetate comb, which I find very gentle, no snags; if I’m blow-drying my hair, which I usually am, I spray in the tiniest bit of Oribe Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray and work through with my Dyson—I would probably be just as happy with any ionic hair dryer, but do believe its saved me from a small bit of cumulative damage; another trick I learned from Reddit was to add dry shampoo to clean hair, so at this point, I’ll hit my roots with a couple clicks of Klorane with Oat Milk, one of my grails after having tried every other so-called “best” dry shampoo; I’ll rehydrate the tips with a dot of dry oil, I like Virtue’s Healing Oil; if I’m going to an event and want to be extra done up, one of my Instagram mutuals turned me onto Sam McKnight’s Cool Girl Texture Mist, which has done more for my volume than any other hair product I’ve ever once relied on combined—I got over the corny name fast when I realized the power that lied in this bottle; and when the day is done, I brush my hair with a boar and nylon-bristle brush, as I read that it will help redistribute oils away from the scalp and along the shaft (have very much enjoyed the effects of this tidbit of knowledge, waking up with less obviously greasy roots)—my brush, if I should even admit this, is from The Body Shop circa the early 2000s, and it’s still serving me extremely well, but this Acca Kappa seems like a close match.
I’ve started keeping my dry brush (I have one with copper bristles that are very energy-conducive and not nearly as painful as they sound) on the ledge of my tub outside of the curtain, so I’m using it much more these days, and my lymphatic system seems to be running even more smoothly, e.g. less water retention, face is less puffy, plus that way my skin gets a nice manual exfoliation every morning; I’m just at the end of my body wash, a great-smelling and relaxing formula called 4:00 PM from House of Balance, which I’ve only just noticed is out of stock in everything on their site…hoping they haven’t shut down as I would very much like to re-up; I also use Maude’s Wash No. 1 as a lather when I shave my legs (the idea also being to extend the life of the House of Balance soap, good thing I did, I guess); I use a Flamingo Razor, after having done an Instagram campaign with the brand and realizing it was actually waaaay better than the Harry’s I was using, I guess in protest to the pink tax or whatever, but now I’m happy to have one that comfortably travels comfortably across more womanly angles; after I towel off (Coyuchi on sale, BTW!) I use a Kate McLeod Daily Stone—if you haven’t gathered, I’m very into grounding aromatics in my preening, I think it is important to the ritual—the stone is basically solid lotion that warms up as I move it around my body in a similar motion to my dry brush (from bottom to top, towards the heart), and if you’re familiar with cocoa butter, one of the main ingredients, you’ll know the deeply hydrated but not-sticky feeling it imparts (if you want to try it, they passed along a code: LAURA20); much less sexy but of as much importance is the AmLactin Intensive Healing Body Lotion I coat my feet in before slipping into bed socks for the night…this stuff is the real deal, packed with a high percentage of exfoliating lactic acid—I’ll even rub it on the backs of my arms when I feel a bit of keratosis pilaris cropping up.
Anyone looking for makeup tips should probably just go to YouTube, but since you’re here, my very simple routine begins with a swipe of Cle Cosmetics CCC Cream in Neutral Light 103 around my nostrils and under my eyes—I think of this like a liquid version of the smooth tool in FaceTune; also beneath my eyes goes Armani Beauty Power Fabric+ Multi-Retouch Concealer in 5 (its slightly yellow tinge color corrects while taking into account my olive undertones, plus the formula wears very naturally); a couple of dots on the apples of my cheeks with Merit’s Flush Balm in Terracotta, which I am SO ANGRY that they discontinued as it is my unicorn shade and looks quite literally like my own charmingly bashful flush, but better, as they say (I’m going to email them and beg for it back, but in the meantime Cheeky is close); on most days, this would be it for my face base, but if we’re really going for it, I’ll do some flirty contouring with Merit Bronze Balm in Clay—just under my cheekbones, either side of my nose, and on the underside of my jaw, buffed out with a Saie brush—really going crazy!!; moving onto brows, I’ll draw a line of Benefit Precisely My Brow Pencil in 3.5 across the bottom of each arch from just after they begin at the center to just past the end of their natural tail; I’ll either brush the drawn-on line upward with the spoolie at the end of the pencil and follow with the Benefit Fluff Up Brow Wax for a soft hold or use Espressoh’s Hey Broh for the strongest-hold soap brows I’ve ever achieved in my life; I occasionally draw on some extra fullness at the innermost point of my brows with Glossier’s Brow Flick, which is the most convincing product I’ve found for this; and lastly, a coat of Glossier Lash Slick—the fibers suspended in the formula really do add much-needed length to my abbreviated lashes.
As a little postscript, since they’re not expressly “shoppable,” but a few services I rely on to complete the whole beauty package: Raquel Medina Cleghorn is hands-down the best facialist in New York City—an 90 minutes in her hands is like a healing retreat for tired, blah skin, for which she pulls out untold scores of devices known only to those who know; for Botox/Dysport, I’ve been to half a dozen providers around the city, but have landed for now in the hands of Ever/Body, for which I got a great deal on a year’s worth of Botox on Botox Day (apparently it’s a thing)…even though I do see a different injector each visit as I book based on the time and location that works best for me, everyone has been entirely professional and extremely skilled—not a trigger-happy needle in sight; and every so often, I’ll stop by BeamBar in Greenwich Village for a one-hour teeth-whitening service, which is entirely painless and brings me up an improbable four or five shades, all while dangling from a very Millennial bubble chair and watching Netflix…could be worse!
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