New Year’s Resolution: A Healthy Skincare Regimen

My beautiful 84 year old grandmother-in-law has perfected her skincare regimen. Now it's your turn!

My beautiful wrinkle-free 84 year old grandmother-in-law has perfected her skincare regimen with decades of dedication. Now it’s your turn!

With the new year comes renewed resolve, and this post is for anyone out there who is determined to get on a good skincare regimen! This post is near and dear to my heart because prior to last year, I rarely used sunscreen and moisturizer. (I cringe now when I think back to the years of wrinkles I could have prevented!) That all changed when I sat down with my mother-in-law during Christmas last year and she went step-by-step through her skin care regimen, perfected and handed down through three generations of women with flawless skin. After doing more research and making just a few tweaks, I present to you the ultimate skincare regimen that you should start using this year.

Your new nightly routine:

Step 1: Start with the double cleanse, first cleaning your face with a cleansing oil and then doing a second wash with a foaming cleanser. I typically use my Clarisonic Mia 2 cleansing brush with the foaming soap. This combination will do a better job cleaning out your pores, removing dead skin and sebum, and taking off all traces of makeup. If I am wearing heavier, more stubborn makeup that day, I start off with a vitamin-enriched makeup wipe before the double cleanse.

Step 2: Non-alcoholic Toner: A lot of cleansers are alkaline in nature and can raise the pH of your skin. Toner helps by restoring your skin’s natural pH, remove traces of oil, and help tighten pores. I’d suggest choosing a non-alcoholic toner (avoid words like “witch hazel” or “astringent”) because those can dry out your skin. I use toner almost every night except when my face is feeling extra dry and irritated from other drying products like Retinol (see below). I use a Neutrogena alcohol-free toner that you can buy at any drugstore.

Step 3: Essence, Serum, or Ampoule: This is where skincare regimens can get pricey! Essence, serums, and ampoule are all designed to be high-potency moisturizing solutions for hydration, wrinkle-prevention, nutrient delivery, and skin firming. I have been splurging on SK II Facial Treatment Essence for a year now, and personally, I feel that there may be better products out there that are more “bang for your buck.” (At $165 for 5 oz, the SK-II essence is definitely not easy on your wallet.) More on that in a later post perhaps.

Step 4: Eye cream. The skin around your eyes and on the eyelids themselves are extremely thin and prone to wrinkling. No one wants crow’s feet at a young age, so eye cream is a crucial step in this regimen. I use the Shiseido Benefiance Eye Cream which is light enough to use during the day as well.

Step 5: Facial night cream or steam cream. A thicker night cream is necessary because your skin dries out at night while you sleep. I personally use the Shiseido Benefiance Advanced Super-Revitalizing Cream and I alternate that with Nature Republic Fresh Steam Cream designed for combination skin. The steam cream was a gift from one of my girlfriends from Korea, and its main ingredient is high quality Shea butter from Africa, mixed with a variety of other soothing and moisturizing oils, all exposed to high temperatures to provide lightweight but lasting hydration to your skin as you sleep. I am a huge fan of this product!

Step 6 (last but not least!): Prescription strength retinol (Tretinoin 0.05%). Retinoids are the only proven medication to lighten dark spots, reduce wrinkles, boost skin cell turnover, and improve overall skin appearance, and they are every dermatologist’s secret weapon! I am going to dedicate an entire post to prescription strength retinol soon enough, as my skin is still going through the red, dry, stinging phase while it is getting used to this more potent formulation. Stay tuned.

If you are extra busy and need just the bare bones routine, I suggest using foaming cleanser, toner, and eye/facial night cream. Those are the minimum needed!

Extras to be used as needed:

2014-10-28 00.53.191). Exfoliating scrub: Lately I haven’t been able to use this because my skin is so sensitive and raw from the Retinol, but before, I used the Skin Food brown sugar scrub once or twice a week. It leaves my skin feeling so smooth and polished!

Laneige hydrating gel2). Face Mask once to twice a week (20 minute leave on masks or overnight masks that act as hydrating gel). I love using the Innisfree It’s Real face masks about once a week and the Laneige Water Sleeping Pack EX once to twice a week. The water pack feels like a thick gel that you leave on overnight, functioning as an intensive night cream. I reviewed both of these and the Skin Food scrub here.

3). Pore clay mask. It is ridiculously hard to get rid of enlarged pores, but with a good cleaning routine, it is possible. I use the Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, a thick formulation of volcanic ash designed to absorb sebum and cleanse pores, about once a week. It’s a little messy and sticky, but does the trick.

4). Ultra moisturizing eye mask once a month: I use the Shiseido Benefiance Pure Retinol Express Smoothing eye mask whenever I feel like the skin around my eyes is getting especially dry.

That’s it! Happy new year!

Read more about my reviews of all of these products plus other favorites here.

What do you use as your nightly regimen? What are some of your favorite products?


18 Comments on New Year’s Resolution: A Healthy Skincare Regimen

  1. lifeunrefined
    January 1, 2015 at 6:25 pm (3 years ago)

    I can’t believe your grandmother has no wrinkles! She looks amazing! I love Shiseido and will definitely look into the products you recommended. Do you think its absolutely necessary to put on toner? When I’ve tried it in the past, I haven’t noticed much difference and I’m so lazy I’d rather take as little steps as necessary. 😛 Lastly, how do you get the prescription Retin-A?

    • Joyce
      January 1, 2015 at 11:46 pm (3 years ago)

      @lifeunrefined, thanks for the comment! I’ll be sure to pass on the compliments to my grandmother 😛 For the toner, I think it depends on how well you do step 1, the cleansing step. In the past a lot of cleaners affected the pH of your skin, but nowadays many have been formulated to be less harsh so you don’t absolutely need toner if you choose your cleanser well. For me I like using toner to help get last bits of stubborn makeup off. I haven’t been able to use it recently though, because the Retin-A is completely drying out my skin and I can’t handle any more drying products. The Retin-A can only be obtained with a prescription; if you go to any doctor (primary care doctor, ob/gyn, dermatologist, etc.) and ask for medication for resistant acne, they will usually be happy to prescribe it. I went to my ob/gyn doctor and she was able to prescribe it to me over email. The price of Retin-A went from $255 to a mere $5 with insurance coverage! Such a huge difference!

  2. petiteish
    January 2, 2015 at 9:08 pm (3 years ago)

    Your grandmother in law looks very young for her age indeed! Maybe this is heresy to say to a future dermatologist, but I’ve always been of the mind that nature wins over nurture, with the obvious exception of sun exposure, in the arena of good skin. Also, I always felt like it was against nature and 80k years of evolution to over “dress” the skin, either with makeup or even products designed to counteract aging (especially since they seem to go through ingredient fads), and that this can lead to accelerated aging (not sure if this gut feeling is at all scientific!). On the other hand, I’d love to hear about any effective products out there and clearly your grandmother is doing something right. My skin care has been stagnant for probably the last 15 years (oil of olay sensitive skin w/ spf 15 in the am, clinique dramatically different moisturizer at night, cetaphil face wash if I’m wearing any makeup), but I’ve definitely noticed changes in my skin as I age (dryer, less plump, forehead wrinkles, oh my), so I’ve been wondering about adding serums and curious to try things like serums, japanese skin care products (i’ve heard that asian skin is more delicate and drier – do you know if there’s any real basis to that?), and oil cleansing (there’s an australian optometrist who has beautiful skin and swears by it: I am excited to hear your experience with retinol! Do share!

    • Joyce
      January 3, 2015 at 10:54 pm (3 years ago)

      @petiteish, I definitely agree that some people are born with better skin. I know of a few guys out there who barely wash their faces and they still have nice smooth skin (so unfair!). Good genes can only take you so far though; you can get through your teens and early 20’s with great skin thanks to youth but over time, sun damage and wrinkles will start to show. That’s why maintaining a good skincare regimen is so important – you start that early and you’ll reap the benefits later. I’m a fan of using less makeup on a daily basis because I agree with you that unless you wash the makeup off completely and consistently (which few people do) heavy cakey foundation will only clog pores. I think for your regimen you can try toner and essence, and maybe add an oil based cleanser for days of heavier makeup use. The retinol is definitely optional but from what I’ve heard, it’s supposed to yield amazing results. I’m still struggling through the adjustment phase and my skin is so red and flaky from the medication! I’ll definitely post about it because using retinol has been an adventure…

      Thanks for your comment, and stay tuned for the retinol post 😀

  3. V.
    April 5, 2015 at 12:22 am (3 years ago)

    Hey there,
    Are retinoids really the only proven medication to lighten dark spots, reduce wrinkles, boost skin cell turnover, and improve overall skin appearance? Well, you say “medication”, so I was wondering if you made a deliberate differentiation from skin care ingredients in general. As far as I know, AHA is supposed to aid cell turn over, too.
    Also, I was wondering why avoid “witch hazel”. I agree with avoiding alcohol – dries out and can irritate. From what I know, however, witch hazel, on the contrary, fights inflammation and is very soothing to the skin.
    I’ve never used retinoids myself, so I am looking forward to your post on prescription strength retinol for more infos on the topic.
    Keep up the great work!

    • Joyce
      April 5, 2015 at 10:55 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi V,

      Thanks for your awesome comment! I spent some time just now looking through the scientific literature for studies done on AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and there are definitely some promising results. There are several in vitro studies showing benefits of AHA on skin thickness and elasticity in cells, and there are some very small studies looking at effects on humans. However, I didn’t find convincing evidence in the form of the strongest trials (randomized control trials). Definitely an interesting area to watch though!

      Witch hazel is a great anti-inflammatory used to treat skin conditions causing dry thick skin like eczema and psoriasis, but it a strong astringent that can dry out normal non-diseased skin. I would recommend using it with caution or double checking the percentage of witch hazel in your product before using.

      • V.
        April 5, 2015 at 11:15 pm (3 years ago)

        Thank you for your reply!

        Personally, I had no reactions from witch hazel so far, but then again the concentration might have been low. I’ll be more careful about it in the future!

  4. Khaing
    July 6, 2015 at 7:51 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi there! It’s me again. Question – since sheisiedo ultimune is out of the picture, what essence or serum you’d recommend for combination skin? Thanks so much in advance!

  5. nyashanicole
    December 24, 2015 at 9:38 pm (2 years ago)

    I love this post. Just wondering though.. is it absolutely necessary to use all these things? Is it okay to just go with a cleanser and moisturiser, i find that toners make my skin darker :(
    And you are right about serums being expensive!

    • Joyce
      December 25, 2015 at 12:00 am (2 years ago)

      Hey Nicole! You bring up an excellent point. When I’m super tired and can’t go through all the steps I tend to simplify to just makeup remover, foaming cleanser, face and eye cream. I think those are the basics and if you do that on a nightly basis, you’re 90% there.

  6. Chic in Academia
    January 1, 2016 at 11:28 pm (2 years ago)

    I’m definitely going to try this routine!!

    • Joyce
      January 2, 2016 at 12:53 pm (2 years ago)

      Let me know which products you end up liking! Good luck B!

  7. Kelly
    February 8, 2016 at 7:35 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Joyce!

    Thanks so much for the skin advice! I’m also using Retin a micro and I was told to use it after washing my face followed up with my moisturizer. I guess I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time! I was also wondering if you’ve heard of using AHA and VItamin C in conjunction with Retin a. Do you know where in the skin routine to use these products and if it would be good for the skin? I’m in my early 20’s so I’m not sure if this routine would be too much for my skin. Thanks so much!

    • Joyce
      February 9, 2016 at 6:57 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Kelly! I think there is no right or wrong way to put on your retinoid; my retinoid cream used to cause too much irritation on my skin so I liked to use moisturizer under it to decrease the irritation. If you don’t have a problem, you can continue to use it as you have been.

      AHA like glycolic acid or BHA like salicylic acid are good exfoliants that can reduce redness and pimples, unclog your pores, and even out your skin. You can try using one for exfoliation and then see if that in conjunction with the retinoid is too irritating for your skin. Retinoids also do some exfoliation, though it is through a different pathway than AHA/BHA.

      I came across this article that I thought would be highly educational and relevant for you! I just read it myself and learned a huge deal about AHA/BHA exfoliants, vitamin C, and retinoid products.

      I think you should experiment with what works for you, and if the combo of products is too drying and irritating for your skin, then just keep it simple. Retinoids are still my favorite go-to, even when used alone :)

  8. K
    January 23, 2017 at 10:23 pm (1 year ago)

    Hey Joyce! I was wondering if you ever came out with a separate post about Retin a. I’m always checking back to see if there was anything so that I could ask a question about it. Since I can’t find the post, I was just wondering if you knew if I should apply retin-a before or after toner and essence? My toner and essence are both from SKII and I believe the toner has some AHA ingredients in there. I really appreciate it! Thanks so much!

    • Joyce
      January 24, 2017 at 4:01 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi K, great question. I really am working on a retinoid post, I swear! :) Our general rule of thumb is to apply medication on FIRST, closest to the skin so that it absorbs the most. So retinoids, then serum, then moisturizer/eye cream. I generally don’t use AHA + retinoids in the same night; I use one or the other because they are both irritating and drying, and it’s wintertime so your skin is already taking a beating. I personally think that toner is not as necessary anymore either because it was originally developed to rebalance the ph of the skin after cleansing. Most soaps nowadays have been reformulated so they do not alter the skin’s pH. Most people use toner for the other ingredients and benefits like vitamin C, AHA, aloe vera, etc. Read more about that here. Hope this helps!


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