My Skin Has Never Been Brighter: Here's My 4-Step Morning Skincare Routine
Don't cringe, but for a long time, I didn't really have a morning skincare routine. In fact, for all of high school and most of college, I would simply wake up with whatever was left of my nighttime routine (which pretty much consisted of cleanser and moisturiser), slap on some SPF, and begin my makeup application. As you can imagine, this didn't bode all that well for my acne-prone combination skin type. That being said, even when I did start washing my face every morning and incorporating more expensive—and what I considered to be "strategic"—skincare items into my routine, my breakouts only got worse. The problem: Realistically, I had no "strategy." Instead, I would try anything with pretty packaging, a buzz-worthy brand name, or five-star reviews from my friends or family. Not ideal.
It's taken a few years, but after lots of trial and error, I've finally found my holy-grail morning skincare routine, which is actually pretty basic (cleanser, toner, serum, and an eye cream if it feels necessary). Slowly but surely, this exact routine has whipped my skin into far clearer, healthier, glowier shape, and now, for the first time pretty much ever, or at least since middle school, I actually get compliments on my skin—even when I'm completely barefaced. Ahead, you'll find my go-to morning skincare routine, which I've also catered to three different budgets. Whether you're into saving, spending, or splurging, there's something for everyone. Keep scrolling!
Step 1: A Breakout-Busting Cleanser
At just $22, this dermatologically tested cleanser lacks all the things acne-prone skin doesn't want (sulfates, comedogenic oils, soaps, and fragrances) while boasting all the things it does want, such as skin-brightening niacinamide, plumping ceramides, and glow-enhancing antioxidants.
Seven to nine months ago, my face was ridden with acne scars, whiteheads, and a perpetual fresh crop of pimples. However, after working closely with celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, who diagnosed my skin Type 4 (oily, combination, sensitive, and prone to occasional breakouts), I finally have a stringent skin care regimen strategically catered to address my main gripes. And my skin has transformed into a glowy, clear, virtually unrecognisable version of its former self. Every morning, I use this purifying formula from Rouleau, which deep-cleans pores while maintaining hydration and suppleness. (It also calms my redness and has significantly brightened my complexion over time.)
Though it is, indeed, spendy, this is one my all-time favourite cleansers for keeping finicky skin calm, radiant, and healthy. And though all of Tata Harper's cleansers are amazing, this one is specifically curated for oily and combination skin types—strategically clarifying, exfoliating, and hydrating acne-prone skin simultaneously. It starts out as a gel (if I'm using this one in the morning, I'll use a few hearty pumps), and then as you massage it into your face, it subtly lathers into a light, luxurious foam. Truly, it's dreamy.
Step 2: A Hydrating Toner
Even if you're oily and acne-prone like I am, keeping skin hydrated is still key to maintaining a healthy complexion. And, unfortunately, many toners can be horrifically dehydrating. If you're on a budget, both wellness editor Victoria Hoff and I swear by this rose, aloe vera, and witch hazel toner. The perks: tightened pores, decreased oil, and increased hydration. I recently used this for almost a week straight instead of my usual morning cleanser, and my easily riled skin wasn't phased in the slightest.
I'm obsessed with both Tammy Fender, herself, and her dreamy and holistically designed skincare line. (This at-home peel made my skin look like newborn-esque in luminous translucence.) And though I've been impressed with the majority of her products, this tonic is a standout. It purifies and eliminates potentially congesting toxins while maintaining the complexion's moisture barrier. (Noticing a theme yet?) Plus, thanks to the addition of orange peel, it brightens as deliciously as it smells.
Step 3: A Discolouration-Fighting Serum
Okay, first things first: If you're going to use this mega-brightening serum in the morning, be sure to mix a couple drops in with your SPF. Or, if you're not a fan of mixing the two, simply apply this before your SPF. Significantly more affordable than lots of other vitamin C and brightening serums on the market, this formula is a game changer if you have pigmented, dull, and depleted skin. (It's a K-beauty cult favourite.)
I don't have severe pigmentation, but I have had issues with lingering scars from past breakouts. I've been mixing three to five drops with my SPF every morning for about one month now and have already seen a big difference.
This covetable serum from Vintner's Daughter is already legendary and the niche brand's one and only product. Essentially, it's a completely natural, 100% active hybrid. One part facial oil, one part serum, it helps correct pigmentation, dullness, and uneven skin tone.
Step 4: A Brightening Eye Cream
This eye cream was first recommended to me by a dermatologist after I had complained about my consistent dark circles. At $28, this eye cream is more affordable than most but still does it all in one fell swoop—de-puff, de-circle, and protect (from free radicals, premature wrinkles, and the like).
Sunday Riley Auto Correct Brightening and De-Puffing Eye Contour Cream ($89)
Simply put, this is my favourite eye cream of all time. The ingredient list is stellar and keeps my dry under-eyes supple and hydrated (think caffeine, mica, beeswax, jojoba, glycolic acid, titanium dioxide, Dimethicone, and antioxidants). It has this amazing pearlescent tint, which diffuses the appearance of even the worst dark circles and effortlessly melts into the skin without ever feeling tacky or irritating.
What I love about this eye cream from RAtionale is you only need the teensiest tiniest amount of this stuff for it to quite literally work wonders. I'm convinced it reduces circles while also alleviating the appearance of the fine lines on the outer corners of my eyes.