welcome to SKINCARMA!

These are the musings of a skincare junkie + writer + brand guru with 25+ years of product wisdom put into action to demystify skin care. 

You can change your skin’s destiny.™


First, let me get something out of the way. I titled this blog “My PM Anti-Aging Skincare Routine”. But that’s not really what I wanted to call it. I named it that for SEO purposes — that is, to optimize the Google search engine so it would get greater exposure. What I really wanted to call it was something about skin health. My entire skincare philosophy is about using products that are pro-skin health, not anti-aging. But, talking about skin health isn’t catchy. Anti-aging is catchy. So, let’s just pretend that the title of this blog is, “How I Achieve Optimal Skin Health in 10 Easy Steps!” 🤪

I’ve been wanting to write about my entire pro-skin health regimen for a while now. But only realized that it would be seriously interesting and even beneficial during that crazy La Mer-Vaseline Skincare Challenge last month. More than a few people asked me what my normal PM routine was. What had I given up to smear Vaseline on one side of my face and La Mer on the other?

Wait. One more thing before I expose my nightly skincare routine to the world. This is a flash in time, my skincare regimen last night: Saturday, November 3, 2018. My skincare routine — especially my PM routine — changes every day. I’m constantly trying out new products as a part of my Skincarma blog so I often need to swap out what I’d normally use to make room for something else. And, I also believe that skin is like the rest of our body — its daily needs change. Sometimes I want to add in an exfoliating acid. Sometimes my skin is feeling a little sensitive and I want to go easy. And, as is obvious, sometimes my skin is on the dry side and needs more moisture. So the products I use are always changing. Oh and I know what you’re thinking: what about the morning routine? I’ll write about that next week.

So here goes…


Step 1: The Double Cleanse.

Yes, you need to double cleanse. If you’re wearing sunscreen (and makeup), the only way to remove that effectively is with an oil-based cleanser. (If you’re not wearing sunscreen everyday, stop that silliness right now. You’re needlessly accelerating your own skin aging process!) Double cleansing helps to thoroughly remove all of the makeup, sunscreen, dirty oil, grime and pollution — everything that’s accumulated on your face throughout the day. If you live in a city like I do, it’s even more crucial to cleanse properly. What’s most important is that you start out with a clean slate. Think of your skin as a painter does his empty canvas. I recently discovered this new brand Then I Met You, founded by Charlotte Cho, the creator of Soko Glam. These two cleansers, Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel and Living Cleansing Balm, are excellent. I reviewed them in a post this past week.


Step 2: Toner.

Toning is the unsung hero of every serious skincare regimen. And it’s perhaps the biggest difference in the Korean approach to skin care. (We're talking about the South Koreans here; who knows what the poor North Koreans use on their skin!) The philosophy of K-beauty rests fundamentally on hydration. Hydrated skin is healthy skin. Using a well-formulated toner is key to achieving optimal hydration. But what’s in a toner is as important as what’s not: alcohol. For some outrageous reason, Americans think of a toner as an alcohol-based astringent — part of the cleansing step. That’s so wrong, and compromises the skin barrier. And, in my opinion, it’s precisely why Koreans are known for their amazing “glass skin” complexions and Americans, well, aren’t. Toning is the first hydrating step in my skincare regimen. Skin is a system of layers, most notably three main layers: the epidermis (aka the skin barrier and the only visible layer), the dermis, and the hypodermis. Healthy skin requires the right balance of water-based hydration and oil-based moisture. And hydrated, even wet skin, draws skincare products deeper into the skin where they’re most beneficial. I think of skin as a sponge. A wet sponge soaks water up from the kitchen counter faster and more effectively than a dry sponge. Water molecules attract one another like a magnet! I love the Mamonde Hydrating Beauty Water. It’s infused with vitamins, antioxidant plant extracts and fresh rose water. The stuff is intoxicating and as stupid as this sounds, delights me. Skin care should be enjoyable, not a chore!


Step 3: Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

Speaking of magnets! Hyaluronic Acid acts like a magnet, drawing and holding water into the layers of the skin. Remember, skin health is based on hydration! So, my skincare routine starts out with a Hyaluronic Acid (HA) serum. HA comes in many forms and multiple molecular sizes, which is evident in the consistency of an individual serum — some are super watery, some are more pulpy. None of that matters much. What matters is that you’re using one. I recently discovered the simplified skincare brand The Inkey List and really like their Hyaluronic Acid serum. It’s slightly pulpy without being sticky. It’s a solid formula and available at Cult Beauty for £4.99. What’s that in dollars — about $6.50? The Ordinary’s Marine Hyaluronics is my normal go-to. That one is $6.80. For little more than the price of a good latte, you can up your skincare game exponentially.


Step 4: Vitamin C Serum.

We all know Vitamin C is good for us. Just as it’s good for our overall health, it’s good for our skin health, too. Vitamin C has multiple benefits for skin, functioning as a powerful antioxidant, prove collagen stimulant and superb skin tone brightener. Every healthy skincare routine should incorporate a Vitamin C serum in some form. There are various forms of Vitamin C and it can get quite confusing. The substance itself is very sensitive and doesn’t play well with other ingredients. Because of that, I prefer to use straight up Vitamin C, rather than trust that the ingredient is stable and effective in a compound formula like a moisturizer. Last night, I used a fave, the Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Concentrate Radiance Booster. Like most of Dr. Gross’ skin care, it’s very well formulated. Honestly, if you can’t trust a dermatologist to make legit skincare products, who can you trust?


Step 5: Peptide Serum.

Peptides. We’re wading into advanced skin care on this one. What the hell are peptides? Not to get too deep in the weeds, but peptides are made up of amino acids and are essentially fragments of proteins — the building blocks of our skin. We all know proteins are good for us, right? Well, peptides are too! And they’re great for advancing skin health. The Ordinary’s “Buffet” peptide serum is what put them on the map. About nine months ago, they supercharged the original Buffet with copper peptides. I’ve been using the new and improved “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1% serum ever since. Peptides plump and replenish skin and I actually use this twice a day. I’ve only just begun to play around with Dr. Jart’s brand spanking new Peptidin™ Firming Serum with Energy Peptides. As with Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C, I consider peptides essential to my daily routine — AM and PM.


Step 6: Antioxidant serum.

Antioxidants are everything. Throughout the day, our skin is exposed to external forces and substances that compromise its healthy functions and even damage the skin barrier itself. A weakened skin barrier is simply not as capable of defending our bodies as it needs to be. And a weakened skin barrier shows signs of aging much quicker than you want. The stronger your skin barrier, the more youthful you’ll look as you age. I recognize antioxidants as important to my skin health as sunscreen. Antioxidants help to shield skin from free radicals — and particularly, free radicals in the polluted air around us. My skincare muse Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice recently introduced an entire skincare range called “Defense” that’s focused on supporting skin’s ability to defend against external stressors like pollution. The DEFENSE Antioxidant Pore Purifier is simply a perfect formula and an ideal antioxidant serum that’s easily added to any skincare regimen. If you believe antioxidants are important, you can’t go wrong here. (Come to think of it, even if you don’t think antioxidants are important, you can’t go wrong!)


Step 7: Essence.

Remember what I said about wet, hydrated skin? At some point in my skincare routine, I always incorporate another application of either a toner or a powered-up toner, aka an essence. It’s all about keeping skin damp, plump —keeping the sponge wet! I recently discovered the niche Korean skincare brand IOPE, which infuses all of its skin care formulas with energizing extracts from plants. If you’re familiar with the iconic Facial Treatment Essence from Japanese brand SK-II, then you likely can appreciate the powerful skin-replenishing benefits of fermented rice and yeast. The #1 ingredient in the IOPE Bio Intensive Essence is Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate — the catchy name of the milky liquid formed by fermenting and filtering yeast. It’s really great for skin. And doesn’t have to cost $179 like the SK-II version. I really should just boil some rice and use that.


Step 8: Probiotics.

I’ve always got my eye on new trends in skin care— and have been paying attention to products and now entire brands formulated around probiotics. Every morning, I take a probiotic supplement from Nutrition Now called PB-8 that’s purported to contain 14 billion good bacteria in the form of lacto-bacillus and bifidodbacterium species. I do believe that I strengthen my immune system by fortifying my gut health. So, I’d been wanting to incorporate the same pro-health strategy to my skin care when I discovered the Australian brand Amperna’s
Active Probiotic Skincare.
I recently reviewed the Amperna brand here — and while I love the idea of an entire probiotic skincare regimen, the one product I cannot get enough of is the Probiotic+ DS Soothing Serum. It’s formulated with a blend of copper and zinc to help control the kinds of surface bacteria that acne- and rosacea-prone skins have little tolerance for. For me, it’s stepped up my skincare game. In fact, on days when my skin is out of whack, I rely on this serum’s skin-soothing and balancing properties to calm thing down.


Step 9: Moisturizer.

This was the first time in my routine last night that I incorporated an oil-based formula. Which is why it’s nearly the last step. Remember, water-based serums, toners, essences are applied first because they go deeper. Moisturizers, especially oil-based ones are heavier and will not penetrate as deeply. But they don’t need to; they need to remain in the surface of the skin to seal everything in — in an occlusive manner. I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with moisturizers. Actually, that’s not quite right. It’s more that I don’t trust most brands to get them right. I think the formulation strategy around moisturizers is to load them up with all kinds of stuff that can allow a brand to make wild anti-aging claims against them. And this is why the concept of anti-aging makes me crazy. All that clinical testing is complete bullshit. You can read my confession over my involvement in clinical testing as a skincare copywriter here. No need to rehash it.


Here’s what I want a moisturizer to do: moisturize!


If a moisturizer is delivering an adequate degree of plant-based oils to your skin, then you’re giving your skin what it needs to be healthy. We’re human. We love plants. Our skin loves plants. And our skin loves replenishing oils from plants — like squalane, jojoba, olive, shea and avocado. They’re all compatible with the skin and deliver what you need — all you need, in fact. Last night, I used two moisturizers. The first is the 003-Hy : Hydrating Face Cream from the cool, new, super-science brand Good Science Beauty. I recently reviewed the product here. In a nutshell, the founding scientist developed a new molecule that powers up companion ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid and Omega-3 and delivers them deeper into the skin surface. Now that speaks to me! Their Hydrating Face Cream is really just a terrific formula.

The second product in my moisturizing step was my fave moisturizing oil, the oddly named “B” Oil from The Ordinary. There must be 87,000 non-fragrant plant oils in this serum. Okay, there are actually only like 12. One of them is Bisabolol, an extract of chamomile and my fave ingredient for soothing sensitivity, however slight. If you deal with mild sensitivity from time to time, this is an excellent product for toning it down.


Step 10: Eye Cream.

I gotta admit, sometimes I don’t use a separate eye cream. That sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? I just don’t believe that the eye area usually needs something different than the skin on the rest of my face. Or yours. What it needs is hydration, moisture, antioxidants, sunscreen, and peptides. From time to time, I do want to treat puffiness and even pretend to treat dark circles, which are essentially untreatable in any real way. Get sleep, drink water. If those don’t help, use a concealer. So, because I’ve been testing out the skincare range from The Inkey List, I used their new Caffeine eye serum. It has a nice, light, and silky consistency that my skin soaked right up. Which meant that my eye area was probably a little dry.

Bonus Step! I try to use the  Ageless Beauty Wand  from Julie Lindh each night. It’s like a futuristic jade roller that uses micro-current to stimulate and tone the skin. And it’s cool AF!

Bonus Step! I try to use the Ageless Beauty Wand from Julie Lindh each night. It’s like a futuristic jade roller that uses micro-current to stimulate and tone the skin. And it’s cool AF!

Dare I say it?

That’s all!

Look, it took me a long time — 25+ years to cut through all the clutter, all the product noise, all the claims, all the marketing spin about ingredients. (Notice there’s no snail slime step. I’m good, thanks!) And I’ve worked on the inside! Everyone drinks the Kool-Aid. Everyone wants to believe one product will do something miraculous. That’s just not true. And it’s not what your skin needs.

I hope this was helpful and interesting. Hey, I’m not suggesting you adopt my skincare routine. If I wanted you to do that, I would have named this blog “Get My PM Skincare Routine So I Can Get a Free Toaster!”



The Ingredient List of the Then I Met You Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel:

Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Aqua (Water/Eau), Sorbitol, Glycerin, Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, Diethylhexyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate, Potassium Cocoyl Glycinate, 1,2 Hexanediol, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Diglycerin, Potassium Cocoate, Propylene Glycol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Extract, Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Oil, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Panthenol, Gluconolactone, Butylene Glycol, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Ethylhexylglycerin, T-Butyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Glyceryl Caprylate

The Ingredient List of the Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm:

Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, PEG-20 Glyceryl Trii-sostearate, PEG-8 Isostearate, Cera Microcristallina (Microcrystalline Wax/Cire Microcristalline), Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Ceresin, Synthetic Wax, Orbiignya Oleifera Seed Oil, Diospyros Kaki Fruit Extract, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Rosemarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Ethylene/Propylene Copolymer

The Ingredient List of the Mamonde Hydrating Beauty Water:

Water, Butylene Glycol, Rose Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polyacrylic Acid, Tromethamine, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium Edta, Fragrance, Glycerin, Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Extract, Prunus Mume Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid

The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum:

Water (Aqua / Eau), Propanediol, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hyaluronic Acid, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Phenoxyethanol

The Ingredient List of the Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Concentrate Radiance Booster:

Ingredients: Yucca Glauca Root Extract, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polyacrylamide, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Centella Asiatica Extract, Quercetin Caprylate, Pyruvic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Linoleic Acid, Bisabolol, Resveratrol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Retinol, Salicylic Acid, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Ellagic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ceramide 2, Symphytum Officinale Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Saccharide Isomerate, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ferulic Acid, Gallic Acid, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Commiphora Myrrha Oil, Copper PCA, Sodium PCA, Mandelic Acid, Tetrapeptide-21, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Glyceryl Oleate, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Zinc PCA, Urea, Laureth-7, Polysorbate 20, Disodium EDTA, Phytic Acid, Octoxynol-9, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum)

The Ingredient List of The Ordinary “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1%:

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Copper Tripeptide-1, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Pentapeptide-18, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Acetylarginyltryptophyl Diphenylglycine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Trehalose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Urea, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sodium Lactate, Citric Acid, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

The Ingredient List of the Paula’s Choice DEFENSE Antioxidant Pore Purifier:

Water, Propanediol (solvent/hydration), Butylene Glycol (texture enhancer/hydration), Ethoxydiglycol (solvent), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Ascorbyl Glucoside (vitamin C/antioxidant), Panthenol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (exfoliant), Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate (skin-brightening), Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Fruit Extract (antioxidant), Ceramide NP (skin-replenishing/restoring), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract (antioxidants), Niacinamide (skin-restoring), Phytic Acid, Epigallocatechin Gallate (antioxidants), Adenosine (skin-restoring), Ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10/antioxidant), Calendula Officinalis (English Marigold) Extract, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract (skin-soothing agents), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-replenishing), Lecithin (skin-restoring), Centella Asiatica Extract (antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sucrose Stearate (emulsifier), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract (antioxidant), Hydrogenated Lecithin (skin-restoring), Carbomer (texture enhancer), Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate (chelating agent), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing), Caprylyl Glycol (emollient), Polysorbate 20, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate (emulsifiers), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture enhancer), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol (preservatives).

The Ingredient List of the IOPE Bio Intense Essence:

Saccharomyces ferment filtrate, purified water, niacinamide, glycerin, propanediol, butylene glycol, ketoglutaric acid, saccharomyces ferment, glycolipids, natto gum, green tea extract, theanine, glycereth-26, adenosine, carbomer, caffeine, caprylyl glycol, cholesterol, pentylene glycol, polyglycerin-3, PEG-8, hydrogenated lecithin, potassium hydroxide, 1,2-hexanediol, phenoxyethanol

The Ingredient List of the Amperna Probiotic+ DS Soothing Serum:

Aqua, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 1, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Sodium-L-Lactate, Sorbitan Stearate, Magnesium aspartate, Zinc gluconate, Copper gluconate, Calcium gluconate, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Allantoin, Urea, Hyaluronic Acid, Menthyl Lactate, Titanium Dioxide, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Polyacrylate, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, DMDM Hydantoin, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum

The Ingredient List of The Ordinary “B” Oil:

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Squalane, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Bisabolol, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Isochrysis Galbana Extract, Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Oenocarpus Bataua Fruit Oil, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol.

The Ingredient List of the Good Science Beauty 003-Hy : Hydrating Face Cream:

Water, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Glycereth-7 Trimethyl Ether, Isosorbide Dicaprylate, Niacinamide, Silica, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ethyl Linoleate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Hydroxyacetophenone, Polyacrylate-13, C12-16 Alcohols, Polyisobutene, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Polysorbate 20, Palmitic Acid, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Hydrogenated Phosphatidylcholine, Disodium EDTA, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, Retinyl Palmitate, Dipeptide-2, Docosahexaenoic Acid, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Silicon, Arginine, Glycine, Citric Acid

The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Caffeine Serum:

Propanediol, Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Jojoba Esters, Glyceryl Dibehenate, Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract, Squalane, Caffeine, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax, Phospholipids, Tribehenin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Polysorbate 60, Disodium Edta, Glyceryl Behenate, Butylene Glycol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterol, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hyaluronic Acid, Carbomer, Darutoside, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Phenoxyethanol



THE SKINCARMA CHALLENGE : Vaseline vs. Creme de La Mer

THE SKINCARMA CHALLENGE : Vaseline vs. Creme de La Mer