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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.™

It’s summer. Orpheus and I just wanna chill!

It’s summer. Orpheus and I just wanna chill!

Inspired by the new Laneige Cream Skin, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, I found myself wanting to use fewer products on hot summer mornings. Sure, I’m taking a cue from the Koreans with the latest K-Beauty “skip-care” craze that combines skincare steps to save precious time in the morning. But, it’s so damn hot and humid, I find that my skin doesn’t need all those extra oils and treatment layers. It can get more than a little uncomfortable — especially when I’m waiting for the train on the subway platform in 187 degrees. But while I’m down with using fewer products, I’m not down with compromising my skin health. That’s just not cool!

So it got me thinking. How can I use fewer products in a smart way — without starving my skin of what it needs each morning to stay healthy? I found that it’s not just about combining steps to reduce product usage — as with Laneige’s toner plus moisturizer in one — it’s really about saving precious time. How about chemically exfoliating in the shower? I had just the right product for that! And, since I often don’t bother with a separate eye cream, I could just dab sunscreen over my facial moisturizer in my eye area and combine those steps, too.

Try saving time with a chemical exfoliant in the shower!

Try saving time with a chemical exfoliant in the shower!

It’s completely doable! So I did it. Is it something I want to do every day? No, but I now know that I can. And I’m happy to share it with you! Have a look at my super effective, slimmed down, quick summer skincare routine. Fewer products, less time — and no compromising skin health.

1. Exfoliate | Blithe Rejuvenating Purple Berry Splash Mask

The Blithe Rejuvenating Purple Berry Splash Mask is the ultimate multi-tasker.

The Blithe Rejuvenating Purple Berry Splash Mask is the ultimate multi-tasker.

This takes the idea of a “power shower” to the next level. Wait. What’s a power shower? I guess that’s what you do when you use an AHA-powered treatment to exfoliate your skin while you’re taking care of the rest of you. The Blithe Rejuvenating Purple Berry Splash Mask is the ultimate multi-tasker. I used it this morning to kick off my slimmed down skincare routine by doing just that — multi-tasking in the shower.

I’ve been using Blithe’s Splash Masks for years now, having first discovered them on Glow Recipe — back when the online natural Korean skincare purveyor quaintly offered a cool curation of K-Beauty brands. There are three versions of the innovative AHA treatment— a green tea mask for oily skin, berry for combo skin and honey for dry skin. I love the Purple Berry Splash Mask in the spring and summer. It’s powered by a high level of Lactic Acid (ingredient #3) as well as a slew of fruit acid AHAs, including Sugar Maple Extract and Sugarcane Extract. You use it on damp skin — either over the sink basin or in the shower. It has a thicker texture than you may imagine, with humectant Glycerin the second ingredient. Why is that important? Because it prevents it from actually run into your eyes (I know you’re thinking it!) — unless you stupidly stand directly under the shower head. It stays put for the 30-60 seconds it takes for me to brush my teeth — which I also do in the shower! When ready, you close your eyes and rinse it off. I love stepping out of the shower after using this to see my skin glowing in the mirror and a clear, invigorated complexion!

2. Cleanse | Mxt. x Carmine Custom Mixed Ultra-Quenching Non-Foaming Cleanser

Yes, I wash my face in the shower, too! I work out in the morning and am always dying to clean my face of sweat, grime and oil the second I get back to the apartment. This morning, I used my custom-made Ultra-Quenching Non-Foaming Cleanser from LA-based Mxt.

The non-foaming Mxt. x Carmine Custom Mixed Ultra-Quenching Non-Foaming Cleanser!

The non-foaming Mxt. x Carmine Custom Mixed
Ultra-Quenching Non-Foaming Cleanser!

I first wrote about Mxt. and their futuristic custom skin care on my Skincarma IG page a couple weeks ago — then included them in part two of my blog, Super Lightweight Summer Moisturizers. As I shared, Mxt. was founded by a team of creatives and beauty industry professionals who sought to answer a simple question: “What if beauty products weren’t always in stock, but rather were custom made to consumers’ needs and specifications?” They answered that with an AI-powered skincare brand created in order to personalize skincare formulas on-demand. Mxt. claims to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence to offer more than 40 million possible product formulations in a broad range of product forms — including scrubs, serums, mists and masks as well as hundreds of state-of-the-art ingredients like AHAs, antioxidant botanicals, vitamins, Retinol, peptides and even multiple forms of Hyaluronic Acid.

I love a cleanser that barely foams. Nothing could be more gentle!

I love a cleanser that barely foams. Nothing could be more gentle!

One of the six treatments I’ve created in collaboration with the Mxt. AI, is this Ultra-Quenching Non-Foaming Cleanser. It’s super gentle and rich in humectants and soothing botanical extracts. As the name says, it’s a non-foaming cleanser. It’s so hydrating and soothing, it could easily double as a rinse-off hydrating mask. It’s that super gentle, and leaves skin feeling clean and refreshed with no tightness or dryness. And it did the trick really quick this morning.

The Laneige Cream Skin is the one product that started me thinking about a skincare diet.

The Laneige Cream Skin is the one product that started me thinking about a skincare diet.

3. Tone & Moisturize | Laneige Cream Skin

Okay, so this is the product that started me down my skincare diet path! But what is it exactly? Well, it’s a super light, milky liquid formulated with what Laneige calls its proprietary Cream Blending Technology™that blends “a cream into a toner in pursuit of developing a hydrating skin refiner that makes the skin well-moisturized at the very first step of skincare routine.”

Laneige’s Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer is a hybrid product that literally combines the hydrating benefits of a toner with the moisturizing benefits of a moisturizer. You can read my full product review on the blog here.

IMG_1530 2.JPG

Yes, Cream Skin was inspired by the latest trend out of Seoul called “skip-care.” I’ve incorporated some really solid skincare habits from several K-Beauty trends — including my beloved 7-Skin Method, which I blogged about here. The whole K-Beauty 10-step regimen has transformed skin health across the globe, including my own!

Cream Skin is a relatively tight formula with just 15 ingredients in all — including high levels of humectant Glycerin and moisturizing Meadowfoam Seed Oil. The choice of meadowfoam oil to carry the moisturizing burden is an interesting one. According to my skincare muse Paula Begun, Meadowfoam Seed Oil is a “non-fragrant, edible plant oil originally developed as an agricultural crop in the 1950s. It functions as an emollient and softening agent in skin- and hair-care products. This plant oil is exceedingly stable because it is primarily composed of long chain fatty acids.”


There is a small amount of antioxidant Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (aka green tea) as well as Tocopherol (Vitamin E) for added moisture replenishment. But, I think the most interesting ingredient in Cream Skin is the Inulin Lauryl Carbamate — which may give the formula its power to more deeply moisturize skin in the initial toning hydration step. According to Cosmetics & Toiletries, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate has the ability to “emulsify high amounts of oil and wet several types of solid ingredients, such as pigments and fillers, in water to create either high-viscosity emulsions or fluid ones.”

That’s how you get a milky toner to both hydrate and moisturize. It’s also how you’re able to combine two of the most important steps in any skincare regimen — and shave an extra minute or two from your morning routine.



4. Hydrate | Kosmetic Immunity JKosmmune Beta Glucan Serum

Normally, my hydrating step is two-fold. My toner is the first part of the hydration equation, followed by a potent humectant — usually in the form of a Hyaluronic Acid serum. But, HA isn’t the only powerful water-binding humectant available in skin care. Glycerin is an effective humectant, as well as multiple forms of Aloe. That said, I’ve been hearing more and more about the humectant Beta Glucan recently so I was naturally intrigued by an entire brand whose formulas are all infused with high levels of the irritation-soothing molecule. My skincare muse Paula Begoun gives it her top rating as one of the best ingredients for your skin! Beta Glucan is defined as a “polysaccharide sugar derived from yeast or oats. It has some antioxidant properties and is a skin-soothing agent. Beta-glucan is considered an excellent ingredient for improving the look of redness and other signs of sensitive skin.”


If you’re curious like I was to compare it to tried-and-true Hyaluronic Acid, Beta Glucan has been proven to be 20% more hydrating than HA. A few weeks ago, I started incorporating the Beta Glucan Serum from indie K-Beauty brand Kosmetic Immunity into my routine. Their Beta Glucan powered treatment is a silky smooth serum that’s not very watery, but not very pulpy either. Kosmetic Immunity’s 99% pure, all-natural serum is a tight formulation, comprising just 7 ingredients: Water, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Beta Glucan, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract and Butylene Glycol. Because it absorbs so quickly into the skin, it’s really easy to layer — and ideal to play the humectant role in my quick summer skin care routine!

5. Antioxidant Vitamin C | Skin Regimen 15.0 Vitamin C Booster

I love Skin Regimen’s modern apothecary look!

I love Skin Regimen’s modern apothecary look!

I only recently discovered the luxurious high-science Skin Regimen brand, based in Parma, Italy. I’m not gonna a lie, I was wooed by the packaging. The modern apothecary black glass, text heavy prescriptive labels, even the caps and droppers have me smitten. Each of the Skin Regimen products looks like a work of art.

The Skin Regimen 15.0 Vitamin C Booster is, as the name implies, powered by 15% Vitamin C in the form of Sodium Ascorbate and Ascorbic Acid — the purest, most effective and most unstable form of Vitamin C. That’s why Skin Regimen keeps the Vitamin C separate from the rest of the formula, until you’re ready to start using it. It comes in two parts, what Skin Regimen calls base one and base two.

The Skin Regimen 15.0 Vitamin C Booster formula is light as water!

The Skin Regimen 15.0 Vitamin C Booster formula is light as water!

Base one contains water and penetration enhancers Propanediol and Dimethyl Isosorbide — a clear, slightly oily-feeling liquid that functions as a solvent and is a terrific alternative to denatured alcohol in a skincare formula. I wish more companies (ahem, L’Oreal and Shiseido!) would make use of DMI instead of weakening the skin barrier with alcohol to enhance penetration of actives. In addition to Vitamin C, there are several other antioxidants in the form of soothing botanical extracts.

Comprised of 92.8% natural-origin ingredients, what makes the Skin Regimen Vitamin C treatment perfect for my skincare quickie routine is its light-as-water texture. Most of the Vitamin C serums I use are oil-based, meaning I have to add in extra time for absorption and layering. This one is so watery that it absorbs instantly. But, because it’s dissolved in water, you have to use it up quickly (a month or two max) in order to benefit from the Vitamin C’s potency before it breaks down.



6. Sunscreen | NIOD Survival 30 + SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50

NIOD’s Survival 30 sunscreen is the OG!

NIOD’s Survival 30 sunscreen is the OG!

NIOD Survival 30

Okay, this one is desert island level. By that, I mean if I were stranded on a desert island, NIOD Survival 30 is the facial sunscreen I would choose to share those long, hot days with. It doesn’t hurt that it’s called Survival. Fortunately, I haven’t been forced to make that choice.

But I have been forced to buy it illegally!

I first reviewed this amazing mineral sunscreen several months ago in a blog article titled, My Favorite Facial Sunscreen Product: NIOD Survival 30. You’re welcome to read it here. In it, I fessed up that because the Survival sunscreen formulas haven’t been validated by the US FDA, I order it online from the UK-based site Cult Beauty. I usually buy a six-month supply for fear of a crackdown!


So, while NIOD Survival 30 is a pain in the ass to get if you live in the US, it’s well worth it. Why? Well, it’s super blendable and, as a mineral sunscreen, combines both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. It also leaves no white cast because Survival 30 has a skin-tone adaptive hue that’s derived from the natural ingredients in the formula. (It’s not compatible with all skin tones, of course.) With a sun protection factor of 30 (NIOD says it actually tests at SPF 33) and UVA-specific protection of PA+++, it deflects and neutralizes 97% of UV rays to prevent skin damage.


Here’s the thing that makes it next-level: Survival 30 is much more than a sunscreen. There are actually four Survival formulas — sunscreen-free Survival 0 and three with sun protection. Like all of the Survival formulas in the NIOD Survival series, Survival 30 is antioxidant-powered to reinforce the skin's defenses against both environmental and lifestyle assaults.

Hey, it’s seriously lightweight with a liquid viscosity that’s more like a serum than a lotion, making it really spreadable — ideal for my quick summer skincare regimen.


SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50

While I find that the NIOD Survival 30 can be used in my eye area, I just couldn’t part with my longtime SPF treatment for the eyes. Remember, I said no compromising skin health for the sake of time!

So, what makes the SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50 of one of the best eye creams with sunscreen I’ve ever used — and just couldn’t overlook today? Well, the innovative SkinCeuticals formula contains a 100% mineral sunscreen complex, a slight color-correcting tint, and nourishing ceramides.


The texture of the Physical Eye UV Defense is more like a light paste so it goes where you put it and will not migrate into your eyes. If you have a concern for dark circles, this is the best product for treating them — it instantly conceals and even prevents dark circles from happening in the first place.

In addition to two microfine sun filters — Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide — the formula contains something that SkinCeuticals calls “translucent color spheres.” They’re essentially iron oxide molecules that contain “a color-infused technology that enhances natural skin tone and boosts radiance while providing a universal tint for most skin tones.” I have fairly light skin — a few degrees lighter than the hue of Physical Eye UV Defense and I have no problems blending it into my skin well. So whatever those spheres are, they do work. The addition of ceramides is an added benefit that helps to nourish and plump the delicate eye area skin. It spreads easily and takes 10 seconds for both eyes. No compromises necessary!


7. Deodorant | The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner

Last week, I blogged about my favorite skincare hack — using a Glycolic Acid toner as an underarm deodorant. If you missed it, catch it here. I love a lot of products from The Inkey List — and their Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner is one of my favorites — as a daily deodorant. Of course, I used it today for just that. Just a palm full is enough for keeping both underarms odor-free all day long. Since I first published the article and posted about it on my Skincarma Instagram page, several people have told me they’ve taken the hack a step further by pouring one of my recommended glycolic toners into a spray bottle. Isn’t that genius?!


At a 10% concentration, Glycolic Acid is the second ingredient in the Inkey formula. Third is Propanediol, a glycol that can enhance the absorption of actives (such as Glycolic Acid) into the skin. Honestly, I think that’s a main factor in why it’s such an effective hack for deodorant. I don’t love the added denatured alcohol, though it contains no fragrance or fragrant plant oils that would cause irritation and perhaps even nourish the odor-causing bacteria.

One of the main concerns I hear from people surrounding the use of a glycolic toner in place of a deodorant is price. If the product is too expensive, it’s just not worth it. Most of us are used to paying $4 for a deodorant that lasts a couple months. But The Inkey List’s Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner makes more sense at $10.99. One 3.4 oz. / 100 mL bottle lasts me about 2 months.

That’s it!

Look, I get the irony of slimming down my morning skincare regimen to seven or eight products. That sounds ridiculous. But I hope you see how each has an important role to play in the health of the skin.

Why not just use a moisturizer with sunscreen, antioxidants, Vitamin C, and Hyaluronic Acid? Because that’s not an effective way of advancing your skin health. It’s like eating chicken pot pie every day and believing that since it’s made with protein and vegetables, it’s all the nutrition your body needs. It’s tempting, sure, like that multipurpose moisturizer. But…

No compromises!




The Ingredient List of the Blithe Rejuvenating Purple Berry Splash Mask:

Water, Glycerin, Lactic acid, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, 1,2-Hexanediol, Gardenia Florida Fruit Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract, Sodium Lactate, Panthenol, Propylene Glycol, Ipomoea Batatas Root Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Dextrin, Fragrance, Butylene Glycol, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Adenosine, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract(30ppm), Fragaria Chiloensis (Strawberry) Fruit Extract(30ppm), Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Fruit Extract(30ppm), Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract(30ppm), Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract(30ppm.

The Ingredient List of the Mxt. x Carmine Custom Mixed
Ultra-Quenching Non-Foaming Cleanser:

Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Liquid Endosperm, Sodium PCA (and) Sodium Lactate (and) Arginine (and) Aspartic Acid (and) PCA (and) Glycine (and) Alanine (and) Serine (and) Valine (and) Proline (and) Threonine (and) Isoleucine (and) Histidine (and) Phenylalanine, Glycerin (and) Aqua (and) Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Codium Fragile Extract (and) Aqua, CI 75120 Annatto (and) Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (and) Ascorbyl Palmitate (and) Tocopherol, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Undecylenate, EthylhexylGlycerin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate.

The Ingredient List of the Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer:

Water / Aqua / Eau, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, 1,2-Hexanediol, Polyglyceryl- 10 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Propanediol, Disodium Edta, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol.

The Ingredient List of the Kosmetic Immunity JKosmmune Beta Glucan Serum:

Water, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Beta Glucan, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Butylene Glycol

The Ingredient List of the Skin Regimen 15.0 Vitamin C Booster:

Base 1: Aqua / Water / Eau*, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Propanediol*, 1,2-Hexanediol, Aristotelia Chilensis Fruit Extract*, Carnosine, Disodium Edta, Spinacia Oleracea Leaf Extract / Spinacia Oleracea (Spinach) Leaf Extract*, Sodium Metabisulfite, Carrageenan*, Citric Acid, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Xanthan Gum*, Tephrosia Purpurea Seed Extract*, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.

Base 2 : Sodium Ascorbate*, Ascorbic Acid*.

The Ingredient List of the NIOD Survival 30:

Cyclopentasiloxane, Aqua (Water), Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Glycerin, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Propanediol, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Hexyl Laurate, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Dimethylmethoxy Chromanol, Inulin, Alpha-glucan oligosaccharide, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Superoxide Dismutase, Xanthophyll, Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract, Polygonum Aviculare Extract, Alteromonas Ferment Extract, Padina Pavonica Thallus Extract, Arginine, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Proline, Threonine, Isoleucine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Aspartic Acid, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Squalane, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Melanin, Sucrose, Tapioca Starch, Stearic Acid, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Dipropylene Glycol, Tromethamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Alumina, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol.

The Ingredient List of the SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50:

titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, dimethicone, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, triethylhexanoin, isohexadecane, talc, hydrogenated jojoba oil, dimethicone crosspolymer, styrene/acrylates copolymer, c30-45 alkyldimethylsilyl polypropylsilsesquioxane, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, aluminum stearate, alumina, polyhydroxystearic acid, iron oxides, phenoxyethanol, silica silylate, peg-8 laurate, triethoxycaprylylsilane, 2-oleamido-1,3-octadecanediol, disodium stearoyl glutamate, paraffin, aluminum hydroxide.

The Ingredient List of The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution:

Water, Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

If you can see the sun, the sun can see you! Orpheus says, “wear sunscreen every day!”

If you can see the sun, the sun can see you! Orpheus says, “wear sunscreen every day!”