On Skincare

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Life / Style

Somewhere between me going to college and joining the workforce, “skincare” has turned from something I’ve casually observed my mom doing (using a simple suite of drugstore products) into this Whole Big Thing—physically and psychologically, economically and culturally.

In 2017, skincare is at once: self-care, retail therapy, a hobby, potentially a medical treatment, source of entertainment and community, billion-dollar industry, and just another routine of daily life…

Today, I’m only writing about my personal experience with skincare—the how, what, and why of building up a skincare routine.


The first time I experienced the appeal of skincare—that is, trying something new and noticing a real difference—was in college, when I picked up a 3-step starter kit from Clinique.

The set left my face feeling “baby soft” and introduced the basic concept of cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing—as opposed to just washing my face and being done with it. That’s when I realized my skin could be whatever, or it could be better—albeit I’d have to pay for the difference.

Soon after, I found out about Sephora and its alluring world of samples, rewards, birthday gifts, and just way too many brands. Meanwhile, there was the rise of Youtube beauty gurus, subscriptions boxes, that whole K-Beauty thing

So while the Clinique discovery was rewarding and exciting, actually navigating the skincare world and figuring out what else out there is good for me became very intimidating.

Finding 01: You will basically never run out of new products to add to your routine, and for every new “step,” there are like a billion brands to choose from.

This is the “overwhelmed” feeling that Glossier has very smartly capitalized on with its line of skincare and makeup that sport a pared-back look and are billed as the “new beauty essentials.” At the same time, although I’m overwhelmed, I’m also a bit proud, and want to determine what the “essentials” are for myself based on my own observed needs—and find the most cost-effective way to do it.

So I’ve yet to try Glossier. And am constantly trying to parse the deluge of skincare recommendations and endorsements from vloggers, ‘grammers, and lifestyle sites for what applies to me and what I’m willing to pay for. For me, navigating skincare these days feels a lot like guarding a baby—the routine—paying close attention to its needs, and shielding it from unnecessary temptations.

In my years of trying out different products—usually samples and occasionally full-sized items in hopes of “getting lucky”—I’ve increasingly adopted the following m.o…

Finding 02: Adding a particular “step”/type of product is more important than getting the exact Hot Skincare Item people are buzzing about; aka a less expensive variety that does similar things may be good enough.

A few examples of this in my routine:

  • Toner—Makes a huge difference in removing all the stuff the cleanser missed and the $8.50 one from Neutrogena does the job well.
  • Sheet masks—There are $17 ones, there are $1 ones; the more expensive kinds have better fit and ingredients, but until I hit the jackpot, I’ll be buying bulk packs from TJ Maxx for a skin and psychological pick-me-up on Sunday nights.
  • Serum/essence/softener/emulsion/ampoule—I haven’t figured out the exact difference between all of these things (commonly found in k-beauty routines), but from testing some, I can tell this category of products, which are more watery and go on the face after the cleanser/toner and before moisturizers/creams, does make my skin feel smoother, more dewy, and soft. I’m working on finding the best “bang for the buck” in this category, so let me know if you’ve got recommendations!


With all that said, this is the routine I’ve been working with—each of the morning and evening “holy grails” I’ve purchased at least three times.


  1. Cleanser: Currently using a sample of the Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser, which I like, but my dream cleanser has been the Point foaming cleanser in lemon from H Mart; c’mon H Mart, please restock!)
  2. Toner: Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner
  3. Moisturizer: Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
  4. Moisturizer with SPF: Murad Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30
  5. BB Cream with SPF: Dr. Jart+ BB Cream SPF 45
  6. Lip Balm with SPF: Maybelline Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm SPF 20


  1. Cleanser: same as a.m.
  2. Toner: same as a.m.
  3. “Serum”-ish: Isa Knox Te’rvina Hydrating Skin Softener and Emulsion
  4. Night Cream: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream
  5. Eye Cream: Benefit Cosmetics It’s Potent! Eye Cream
  6. Lip Balm: EOS sweet mint in stick form (!!) and Ruby Kisses Pot O’Miracle Lip Revitalizer


  1. Sheet Mask: whatever $6-for-10 box I’m feeling at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s
  2. Exfoliating Mask: Caudalie Instant Detox Mask
  3. Lip Scrub: Glamglow POUTMUD Fizzy Lip Exfoliating Treatment

I’m happy with this lineup right now, but like a good wardrobe, there’s also something to tweak, experiment with, and improve—and that’s the fun of it.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Skincare to me is…approximating flowers 😉

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