This is my first blog post of this kind– and I've been meaning to put this together for ages. If you're newly 30– welcome to the age where everything starts to change, and not always in a good way. If you've been 30 for a minute or two, than you know EXACTLY what I am talking about.
A little over a year ago, around my 36th birthday, I looked at myself in the mirror and felt like the woman staring back at me was not the same person the day before. I looked tired. I looked beat up. My skin was changing and it seemed to have changed almost overnight. My makeup wasn't applying like it use to– and in fact, I felt like I looked OLDER with makeup on. How is that even possible?
Needless to say, I was determined to do something about it. I suffered from…
- Fine lines & wrinkles
- Dark spots/age spots/sunspots
- Uneven skin tone
- Oily skin
- Flakiness around my nose
- Enlarged pores
I spent the next 3 months researching skincare routines and anti-aging before I committed to my first round of products. That's one of the benefits of living in Barbados– I can't just amazon prime myself everything and anything. I have to diligently and patiently wait until my next trip to the states to order anything. I took advantage of that time to research everything you see below. One of my main sources was Angie's Hot & Flashy Youtube channel— a must for anyone 30 and up!
Now let's also get something on the table…
About halfway through my skincare journey, in April of this year, I got Botox for the first time. I'm not afraid to admit it AT ALL and it was a game changer. For those wondering, I get about 20 units in my forehead to prevent 11 lines and around my eyes to prevent crows feet. That shit works.
I also got fillers (more on that later) in my upper checks (in April) to help with deep eye troughs and in my laugh lines (in August) to ease the GINORMOUS crevices that had implanted themselves on my face.
But botox and fillers don't help with:
- Other fine lines an wrinkles
- Uneven skin tone
- Dark spots / age spots / sun spots
- Pore enlargement (except for your forehead)
They were both great additions to my skincare routine, but the products below are what really pulled everything together. I am telling you this upfront because I HATE when people are not honest about cosmetic procedures. They're like, walking out of the surgeons office with a full face lift and pretending IT WAS ALL THE CREAM (and yes, I sang that like Biggie). Yes, I indulged in some tweaks and I'm 100% not even scared to admit it.
So, with all that said, let's get onto the products and my 8 step daily AM/morning skincare routine.
First Things First: Where do I Shop?
I purchase almost ALL of my beauty products at Nordstrom— and for a few reasons:
- I'm a nordstrom card member— so I get a ton of perks, discounts, free shipping and those fantastic nordstrom notes (I have a free $100 note to spend right now!)
- They give a ton of free beauty products away— I have a drawer full of my favorite products in travel size that I've gotten for free– and many more that I am testing out to see if I would buy the full sized version! Who doesn't LOVE free stuff?!
- I trust their reviews— I don't trust the reviews on sites like Ulta and Sephora– since so many of them are paid for. Nordstrom doesn't roll like that, and I find the reviews to be very accurate and trustworthy.
I always use to purchase my beauty products at Sephora, but compared to Nordstrom, the perks just don't line up. I get about 5x the free stuff that Sephora gives you and Nordstrom just has way more perks!
Step One: Cleanse
I only wash my face in the morning IF I am taking a shower or wore makeup the day before, otherwise, I'll wait until the evening to wash my face. I try not to wash my face twice a day unless absolutely necessary! Why? You want to make sure you don't strip your skin of your natural oils and over washing can do that. It can also really aggravate and irritate your skin. Big no-no! When I am cleansing my face in the morning, I use one of two products:
Fresh: Soy Face Cleanser
The details: I'm on my third round of buying the 5oz size of this cleanser and I love it so much! It smells amazing (I prefer light fragrance and don't like anything too strong smelling) and is gentle on my skin while still leaving it feeling clean. I've got this in a few different travel sizes too, which is great if you travel often– no one likes lugging around full sized versions of their beauty products!
This cleanser is also great for removing makeup or any leftover makeup you might have after using a makeup remover. I use this cleanser for both my AM/morning and PM/evening skincare routine.
This product is an extra-gentle, multitasking gel formula that instantly whisks away everyday impurities and makeup—even mascara—without stripping the skin of essential moisture. Amino acid-rich soy proteins promote moisture retention, elasticity and firmness, while rosewater balances and tones the skin. It is further enriched with calming cucumber extract and borage seed oil, which helps to nourish the skin.
Did I see any results: Yes, I did– especially because I starting using this while making a promise to myself that I would REMOVE my makeup EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don't think I'd switch to any other face wash– it's gentle enough that it doesn't irritate my skin my works well enough to remove all the dirt and makeup.
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy Fresh products.
Philosophy Microdelivery Exfoliating Face Wash
The details: I've been a fan of Philosophy's products for a long time and I recently started using their micro delivery exfoliating face wash after getting a free travel sized sample. I went ahead and purchased a larger size, which I keep in my shower! I like to exfoliate my skin 1x-2x per week and this face wash is gentle enough to use everyday. You need to be careful how much you exfoliate– over exfoliating your skin can lead to a lot of issues including permanent damage. That's why it's important to only exfoliate your skin when you need to. Make sure you're using something that is gentle. This product works for me!
This product is an award-winning microdelivery 30-second cleansing mini peel with micro-exfoliating beads. It gently buffs away dead skin and impurities to reveal a smoother, brighter, more even complexion as it cleanses and lightly tones. Skin is left smoother, brighter and more even-toned.
Did I see any results: Yes! I was using a much harsher exfoliant that was damaging my skin. After using my free travel sized version I decided to purchase the larger size. Exfoliating your skin is an important part of your routine, but as I mentioned above, should be done with gentle cleansers and NOT everyday. After switching to this product I noticed my skin was no longer red or inflamed, as this is much more gentle.
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy philosophy products.
Step 2: Toner
Toning is an important part of a healthy skincare routine, and one that I think is often overlooked. Toning is important for several reasons: it helps to balance the pH of your skin while also picking up any impurities, oils, dirt and other nastiness living on top of your skin or inside your pores. Toner helps to soothe, nourish and hydrate your skin and is a really important step.
There are a variety of toners on the market– from drug store brands to bougie AF ones. I have mostly used toners in the $20 range– which tend to last me anywhere from 3-6 months depending on the number of ounces. No matter which toner you pick up, make sure your toner is ALCOHOL FREE– you don't want to be drying out your skin and using harsh chemicals! You can check the ingredients on the back to make sure you're not rubbing alcohol on your face.
Kiehls Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol Free Toner
The details: After I've washed my face, my next step is to use a quality toner. If I don't wash my face in the morning I go right into this step!
There are a lot of toners are on the market and I've just recently started using Kiehls' Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol Free Toner. I love the smell of this one too– it reminds me of an herbal tea– and it's very gentle on my skin. I apply it to a flat cotton round and gently wipe it across my face in upward motions. I'm always pleasantly surprised at how much dirt and gunk it picks up!
This unique facial toner soothes and improves the feel of skin. Formulated with allantoin and great burdock root, this gentle toner is free from alcohol and harsh synthetic drying ingredients. Allantoin, known to be a bacteria inhibitor, can soothe and reduce skin inflammation while calendula soothes and is especially beneficial for delicate, sensitive skin. Great burdock root is a gentle, natural ingredient known for centuries to help improve dry skin.
Did I see any results: It's a bit too early to tell, as I've only been using THIS brand for a few weeks. With that said, I saw huge results overall when I started using a toner– especially keeping my skin clean and getting a handle on my skin's oiliness. This product is very soothing and when I apply it, I not only feel refreshed but soothed.
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy khiels products.
Step 3: Facial Essence
In my research of skincare, I came across the Korean skincare routine which is ALLLL the rage right now. They say Korean women would NEVER skip this step, so I decided to investigate why using something called a facial essence was essential to my skincare routine. But first, what is a facial essence? The gals over at ELLE magazine explain it best:
It's a lightweight, hydrating liquid, designed to help prepare skin for your moisturiser, post cleansing. Think of your skin like a sponge – once cleansed and dried, a dry sponge cannot as easily absorb moisture compared to a slightly damp one. Essence is the hydrating layer that properly primes the skin to best absorb your fancy serums and creams.
Y'all… that's all I needed to read– that last line. And so, off I went to find the perfect facial essence. I started off with an inexpensive one, but after much deliberation, decided to up my game an invest in a cult favorite that does NOT come cheap.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
The details: OK, so remember when I talked about bougie AF facial toners? Well, the facial essence that I use is the definition of BOUGIE. It's also the most expensive product in my skincare lineup.
So, what does this expensive elixir do? SK-II Facial Treatment Essence helps improve the appearance of the five dimensions of beautiful, crystal clear skin—reducing spots and the appearance of wrinkles, improving skin texture and firmness and elevating radiance.
It contains 90% pure Pitera™ in every bottle. Pitera is a clear liquid rich in vitamins, amino acids and minerals that work together to allow the skin’s natural surface-rejuvenation process to function at its prime. This unique ingredient was discovered more than 35 years ago and remains essentially unchanged until today.
The Facial Treatment Essence is one of the brand’s signature products and is one of the most coveted beauty products around the world. Essences impart nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals into your skin to help skin better absorb your serum and moisturizer. Your skin’s moisture is left replenished to help prevent dryness, its texture is smoothed for soft, even skin and its renewal cycle is moderated.
Did I see any results: The short answer– yes. When I started applying a facial essence halfway through my skincare routine I noticed that my skin looked more plump and makeup applied evenly and more smooth. I'm a facial essence convert folks, and never skip this step in my AM/morning or PM/evening routine!
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy SK-Il products.
Step 4: All the Anti-Aging Serums
All right, so I know you're not reading this to learn how to wash your face– so let's get to the good stuff– ANTI-AGING! I use a variety of products to combat a variety of problems– fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots/age spots/sun spots, uneven skin tone, bad skin texture…. shall I continue? As we age our skin changes (… how I wouldn't go back to my 20 year old skin that I never paid attention to nor appreciated!), and I've been on a quest for the last year to figure out how I can improve my circumstances. All of the products I use I've learned about from reading online reviews and watching youtube videos.
Here are the products that I use:
The Ordinary Buffet: Multi-technology peptide serum
The details: The Ordinary brand is a cult classic– it delivers high quality ingredients at a fraction of what you'd spend with big brands like Drunk Elephant. In researching about anti-aging, I discovered that not all products are made equal; in order for these products to work properly, they have to have the right delivery agents and be formulated at the right pH. Interesting stuff of which I literally do not understand, as I flunked chemistry in high school. But that's where someone like Angie from YouTube comes in– she breaks it down for us!
I love this product (and the next one) so much I ordered 6 bottles each to have on hand at home in case I run out. So what is this product? Like an opulent feast for the skin, The Ordinary’s “Buffet” serum features an impressive array of anti-ageing wonders – at a surprisingly tiny price tag. Multiple peptide complexes combine in this lightweight serum to offer a multitude of benefits, including Matrixyl 3000 to stimulate collagen synthesis and hyaluronic acid to offer the heroic hydration that ‘plumps up' fine lines and diminishes depth of furrows. Working in synergy with 11 skin-friendly amino acids, with regular use this ultra-smoothing serum will reveal nourished, youthful-looking skin.
I apply this after my facial essence by gently working it into my skin, starting at my neck and moving upward. Any left over product gets rubbed onto the tops of my hands! The consistency is very light and my skin absorbs this product very quickly… which leads me to my next favorite…
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 30ml
The details: Hyaluronic Acid (HA) can attract up to 1,000 times its weight in water. The molecular size of HA determines its depth of delivery in the skin. This formulation combines low-, medium- and high-molecular weight HA, as well as a next-generation HA crosspolymer at a combined concentration of 2% for multi-depth hydration. This system is supported with the addition of Vitamin B5 which also enhances surface hydration.
Did I see any results: I've been using these two serums as part of my AM/morning and PM/evening skincare routine for about 3 months. I want to give it a little time before I chat about my findings– so check back here to get my thoughts at the 6 month mark!
Kiehls Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
The details: I love this product! In my research about the benefits of using vitamin C on my skin I discovered this product and compared it to several others. I decided to test it out since I really do love the Kiehls brand — and I was not disappointed. This has the consistency of a light cream and actually warms when applied to the skin. I apply this to problem areas– my forehead, “crows feet”, upper lip, and chin.
Vitamin C has a lot of benefits for your skin– it boosts collagen production to for more plump skin (and as we age, sadly, we loose that plumpness). It also helps to smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
Kiehl's original formula, infused with 10.5% pure vitamin C, now has an additional 2% of vitamin Cg for increased potency. Vitamin Cg is a vitamin C derivative that activates once absorbed into the upper layers of the skin's surface and is used in anti-wrinkle skin care products to help reduce facial lines over time. Fragmented hyaluronic acid has also been added to this formulated to help instantly smooth skin. Through clinical studies, this serum has been show to help decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin radiance and texture, even helping to reduce the appearance of forehead lines, marionette lines and deep-set wrinkles after four weeks of regular use.
Did I see results: YES! I've noticed a decrease in my forehead lines and marionette lines after using this for one year. The dark spots on my forehead have also significantly faded and are barely noticeable without makeup– and not noticeable at all anymore with makeup. This is a skincare must!
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy khiels products.
Step 5: Eyes
One area that was bothering me was my under eye. I am fortunate enough that I don't suffer with any kind of darkness or puffiness– but I do suffer with loss of volume which make my eye trough's look very sunken in. I also started noticing the skin under my eyes was beginning to become crepey.
Ever apply under eye concealer and you look worse than you did before? Yeah, that was me. Lots of fine lines and thin looking skin. Let's just say I was NOT a fan.
So, how did I start to fix that problem? Moisturizing under my eyes. I also had a little filler put in my upper cheeks which was the best investment ever (happy to chat about this more in another post– leave me a comment and let me know if you'd be interested)– it took away the sunken in look but was not responsible for helping with the crepeiness– that's where using eye cream AND the right concealer came in.
Kiehls Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado
The details: I've been using a night eye cream for over a year (more on that when I talk about my PM/evening skincare routine), but I wanted something that would help with daytime dryness– so I picked up Kiehls' Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado. It's a nourishing eye cream that gently moisturizes your delicate under eye area. This eye cream is VERY soothing and has a whipped, creamy texture. You have to be careful about applying product that is very heavy under your eye– in this instance, thicker/richer is not always better and can lead to under eye milia (I learned this the hard way).
I apply this after my anti-aging serums which gives them a little time to sink into my skin. I apply it by gently tapping it onto my under eye, eye lid and the corners of my eye. I really do like the texture and find my eyes feel very hydrated once applied. It has really helped with applying under eye concealer!
Formulated with avocado oil, this rich treatment smoothes onto the eye area for rich hydration. It features a creamy texture that does not migrate into your eyes. No stinging eyes after applying!
Did I see results: YES. My under eye is much more hydrated, which means it looks plumper and any wrinkles are less defined. Makeup glides over it and doesn't settle into fine lines. This is a win-win for me.
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy khiels products.
Step 6: Pores
As we age, our pores become more defined. Enlarged pores are caused by sun damage and loss of collagen. As we age, collagen begins to break down, and our skin looses elasticity. This makes our pores dilate since the skin tissue has become more relaxed. No bueno.
One way to combat enlarged pores is to make sure your skin is clean. Another is to simply use products that reflect light or fill them in— this product below being one that fills in your pores in such a way that they don't seem noticeable.
Estée Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher
$148.00 for 2
The details: I have some enlarged pores on my forehead, nose and cheeks — like most people — although you wouldn't know it with instagram filters. I try and keep my pores clean and use a variety of treatments a few times a month that help with keeping your pores small (more on that later when I do a post on masks/face treatments)– but this product IS AMAZING. If you suffer from enlarged pores, I encourage you to pick up a bottle (or two) of this. I use this only when I am headed out the door and not on a daily basis. I also apply this to only problem areas, as there is no need to apply it all over your face.
I love Estee Lauder products, and this one reduces the sizes of your pores so they appear one-third smaller instantly and continue to reduce in appearance with repeated use over time. It also repairs the look of uneven skin texture, flakiness and roughness, giving your skin a silky, soft feeling, and enhances clarity and luminosity, too, for truly radiant skin.
Did I see results: YES. My pores look instantly smaller and are not exaggerated by makeup– like highlighter and blush.
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy Estee Lauder products.
Step 7: Facial Oil
Y'all must be exhausted if you've made it this far and I haven't even gotten to facial moisturizer yet! Do you think I am a crazy lady? It's OK if you do– I fully embrace the fact that I am board line Meryl Streep from Death Becomes Her. With that said, let me introduce you to an optional part of your AM/morning skincare routine: facial oil. Good Housekeeping gives us 7 reasons why we should use facial oils:
- They can reduce your wrinkles. …
- They're good for dry skin. …
- They really protect your skin. …
- They're the perfect primer for makeup. …
- They can shrink enlarged pores. …
- They can calm down rashes. …
- They're great for banishing zits.
Kiehl's Daily Reviving Concentrate
The details: So, according to our friends at Good Housekeeping, this oil ticks off all the boxes we're looking for in skincare. I use this daily if I'm not wearing makeup (I want my skin to be less oily due to the heat / humidity in Barbados, so applying oil seems counterproductive when it relates to wearing makeup) and it's the second to last step in my skincare routine. Facial oils help to lock in all the product we've just applied.
With antioxidant protection, this oil helps correct the visible signs of fatigue for skin that looks radiant and healthy. Formulated with ginger root, sunflower and tamanu oils, this serum helps skin feel fresh and look energized.
I received this as part of a free sample and loved it so much, I went out and purchased the full size! I became an oil convert after trying Kiehl's nighttime oil, which I'll chat more about in my PM/evening skincare routine post.
Did I see any results: Dramatically, yes. My skin feels more fresh and has an instant glow when I put this on– plus it helps to lock in all those great products we've added before it.
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy khiels products.
Step 8: Moisturize
Now it's time for the final step in our skincare routine– actually putting on lotion / moisturizer! There are so many great products on the market, but I chose to go with something that has more of a gel texture and a light consistency. I prefer my daytime moisturizers to be light since it's so hot here (plus, I've put a shit ton of stuff on my face already). I save the big guns for PM/night time skincare.
With that said, I do add a secondary product to my moisturizer for an added benefit of Vitamin C.
Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator
The details: An addictively refreshing gel-cream that provides an instant moisture boost and is now enhanced to deliver twice as much hydration at the end of the day as it did before. You can apply it anytime of day and even over makeup to give your skin a boost. I've been using this since I started my skincare journey well over a year ago and haven't switched product at all. I LOVE THIS STUFF. Hydrating. Cooling, Light. Instantly refreshes my skin and adds the right amount of moisture. It is a holy grail product and one that I'm NEVER, EVER without!
This product is made with new auto-replenishing technology and activated aloe water , which actually helps skin create its own internal water source to continually rehydrate itself. Then, it locks in all that moisture for an endlessly plump, dewy, healthy-looking glow. Bursting with hyaluronic acid, nature's perfect moisture magnet, testing proves that it works nonstop for 72 hours, even after washing your face.
If you do anything, buy this guy. It's the best of the best.
Did I see any results: YES! This is why I am never without it and why it's such a highly rated product. It's not just me who loves this!
Purchasing notes: Nordstrom usually has free gifts when you buy Clinique products.
philosophy turbo booster c powder
The details: Philosophy's turbo booster c powder is a 99.8% high-potency topical vitamin C powder that helps prevent premature aging by acting as an antioxidant and promoting collagen synthesis, which helps improve the skin's overall tone and texture. Science has proven that the daily application of topical vitamin C will help retard the aging process by neutralizing the effects of environmental attack.
This comes with a little spoon, where you take out the product (which is a white powder) and can then add it to your favorite moisturizer or serum. I add a spoonful to my Clinique Moisture Surge each morning!
Did I see any results: Yes! I actually used this for about a year in my 20s but picked it back up again when I rebooted my skincare routine. I am NEVER, EVER without this product, especially because it has a high volume of vitamin C. Definitely the best!
Conclusion: Your Absolute Must Haves
I get that skincare products are expensive, and you're likely to purchase just a few of the ones I mentioned. In fact, I recommend starting small and adding to your routine as you go. Keep yourself accountable and if you use them items you do have (almost) everyday and REALLY commit to a solid routine, then invest in some more.
It's with that said that I want to call out the products I think you MUST buy out of my crazy 8 step process to get a jumpstart. If you want to get serious about your skin, start with these:
- Fresh® Soy Face Cleanser®
- One of the 3 toners I mentioned: Kiehl's, NARS or Clarins
- Kiehls Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
- Clinique Moisture Surge
Those 5 products will give you a really good base to start with– and then you can add more as you go!
Everyone's skin is different, so I want to encourage you to consult with an expert or your dermatologist on the products that might be right for you. The best thing you can do for your skin is to drink water and wear sunscreen– and I'm going to do a sunscreen post soon!
I hope you've enjoyed all this information about my AM/Morning skincare routine. Up next is my PM/evening skincare routine, followed by masks and treatments I use in-between.
I'd love to hear your thoughts below and if you enjoyed this post! It will help me to understand if I should create more content like this for you guys.
Disclaimer: This blog post uses affiliate links for all products linked. I make a small commission if you should choose to purchase something, and since I spent almost 8 hours writing this post, I don't think that's a bad thing! If you do purchase something, thank you.