The winter before last, my skin went haywire. There's no other word for it: I had breakouts on the sides of my face; my nose was chapped from one cold after another; and I had dehydration lines so deeply engraved in my forehead that permanent wrinkles seemed inevitable. This winter has been a whole different story. *knock on wood* My face has been soft, smooth, and even-toned with nary a blemish in sight, and the compliments have been flying from acquaintances to aestheticians and makeup artists. I'm always tweaking my beauty routine based on the products I'm testing at any given moment, but after about two odd months with this routine, I think I've found what works for my complexion during the winter.
1. Morning and night, I use Shu Uemura Whitefficient Clear Brightening Gentle Cleansing Oil ($92) to cleanse my face. This cleansing oil is strong enough to remove all traces of oil and makeup and clean pores deep down, but its slippery oil-based formulation doesn't strip skin of moisture and immediately produces noticeable brightening effects. The instructions say to use 3-4 pumps, but I find for the light makeup I wear, 1.5 pumps is more than enough at night while 0.5 pump is sufficient in the morning. 2 months have passed and I've only used up the topmost 2.5 cm of the gigantic 13.5 cm tall bottle, which means one bottle is probably enough for most of a year. Make sure you follow the instructions though: Apply using dry hands to a dry face; gently massage into skin; and then use water to emulsify and wash away the oil, which will turn milky with all the gunk it's collected off your face.
2. After cleansing, I soak a cotton pad in RoC Lotion Tonique Perfecting Toner ($18 at London Drugs) and swipe it all over my face. It's suitable for all skin types and just a nice basic alcohol-free toner that calms skin with no drying effects.
3. I dab Fresh Rose Hydrating Eye Gel Cream ($47) under my eyes and all over my eyelids with my ring fingers. The gel formula is soothing and cool to the touch and the moisturizing formula keeps fine lines away all day.
4. While other people have oily shiny T-zones, it's my forehead, nose, and chin that get the most dehydrated during the winter. (I blame indoor heating and constant nose-blowing.) After I cleanse and tone, but before I apply serum, I've been swiping one drop of Eminence Organics Facial Recovery Oil ($87.90) across my forehead and another across my nose and chin area.
5. If I have a blemish, I'll apply Estee Lauder Clear Difference Targeted Blemish Serum ($43.78) at night to dry it out. The salicylic acid-based formula is so good, I promptly bought another one after my first sample ran out.
6. At night, I also apply Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II serum ($72-186 for various sizes). It's soothing and gel-like and super-hydrating, and I always wake up looking glowier and better rested when I use it.
7. Fresh Crème Ancienne Ultimate Anti-Aging Treatment ($328 for 3.5 oz) might just be my Holy Grail day-or-night face cream. It's so rich yet so light and absorbs so quickly; my skin just drinks it up when I smooth a thin veil of the product over my face. The hydration benefits last all day without feeling greasy or oily, but the texture is indulgent enough to make this an ideal night cream. A little goes a long way: 2+ months of twice daily use and I've only just used it up to where the screw top ends. Interesting factoids: the formula is inspired by the world's first ever face cream and is hand-blended by monks in a monastery who pour each ingredient into the individual jars at certain temperatures, in a certain order.
1. Once a week, I whip out Dr. Brandt's Microdermabrasion Skin Exfoliant ($90) for a 1-2 minute deep exfoliation to smooth skin texture and improve radiance. The pharmaceutical-grade crystals and lactic acid in the formula are pretty potent, so follow the directions carefully. If you have sensitive skin, I suggest only massaging it gently into skin for less than a minute and wiping off the product just shy of the 2-minute mark.
2. After the exfoliation, I apply Dior Capture Totale One Essential Ultra-Detox Treatment Mask ($100) all over and leave it on for 10-15 minutes. One side effect of this detoxifying mask for me is that I get really thirsty, so usually as I'm waiting for it to take effect I'll drink mug after mug of herbal tea.
3. I apply the contents of one of the Weleda Wild Rose Smoothing Facial Capsules ($40) all over my face and down my neck. The wild rose oil really replenishes and moisturizes my newly exfoliated and detoxified skin.
A disclaimer about the price tags
I didn't realize until after I put this post together that my current skincare routine retails just shy of $1,000. Yikes! I do believe in splurging on great products but even I blanched at the price tag, after which I joked to the boy, "If I ever stop blogging, I'll have to choose between paying the mortgage or for all my lotions and potions." I admit I'm in an extraordinarily cushy position as a beauty blogger who receives free samples, and the products mentioned herein might not fit in everyone's budget. (After all, that's partly why I'm highlighting drugstore buys in my Product Reviews all month.)
That being said, these are incredible products, especially for hydration-challenged skin in the throes of winter. Some of them—like the Shu Uemura cleansing oil and Fresh Crème Ancienne—are versatile enough to work as day-or-night formulas, substitute for 2-3 products in your current routine, and can last almost a year. If you do the math that way, it works out and makes sense to splurge, if only on one or two of the luxe skincare goodies featured here.