“It’s been a while” would be an understatement, but then again, so would “I’ve been busy“, so let’s get the formalities out of the way: hey, hi, how are you, I missed you, I love what you’ve done with your hair, OKAY GREAT here’s another relentless screed about skincare.
Once upon a time, my skincare routine was ever-changing. I was chasing that dragon of the perfect #shelfie and would rotate a new product in every two weeks like clockwork. I got a lot of joy out of that, but at some point, I stopped feeling joy and just felt stressed and guilty and broke. So, I stopped. I’ve been using this exact routine for about a year now, and I love it, my skin loves it, my bank account loves it, everyone is happy forever.
(No judgment whatsoever on anyone who buys lots of skincare – I would still be doing it if it brought me any joy, but it doesn’t, so I don’t. I’m 30 going on 80 and I love my boring, predictable, delightful routine.)
Here, in all its wonderfully rote glory, is my current skincare routine:
Keep reading for mini-reviews, photos, and tenuous sports analogies.
My Skincare Team
My husband plays fantasy football the way some people, y’know, breathe, so I tend to think in football metaphors around this time of year. When brainstorming this blog post, I found myself dividing my skincare into three sections: offense, defense, and special teams.
Offense: the products that actively fight specific skin ills. Without offense, my skin would just maintain a baseline without making any forward progress.
Defense: the backbone of my skincare routine. Without defense, I open my skin up to all manner of attacks from the other team (e.g. P. acnes bacteria, pollution, sun damage, etc.).
Special teams: I don’t need ’em every day, but when a specific issue pops up, I’m so glad they’re around with their targeted skill set.
My daily offensive team consists of four products.
Stratia Vitamin C prototype: I know it’s not completely fair to include this, since no one can buy it yet, but I use it every morning. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and also stimulates collagen production, fades dark spots, helps undo sun damage, and more. I hope to launch this in the next few months!
Curology: I’ve been using Curology (née Pocketderm) for 3 or 4 years, and I have no plans to stop, maybe ever. It’s a monthly subscription service that matches you to a dermatologist, who prescribes a custom formula for your skin and ships it to your door. Mine consists of 0.02% tretinoin, 4% niacinamide, and 5% magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.
Paula’s Choice CLEAR Extra Strength 2% BHA: my hands-down favorite BHA. It has the traditional concentration of OTC salicylic acid – 2% – but it’s formulated with methylpropanediol, a penetration enhancer, which ensures that same 2% salicylic acid gets deeper in your skin and functions more efficiently. This is only for seasoned BHA users and not for the sensitive-skinned.
Stratia Soft Touch AHA: a 10% mandelic acid gel. I feel weird reviewing my own products; they are my babies. I’ll just say that I wouldn’t have launched a product if I didn’t love it and use it every day.
Heimish All Clean Balm: a great little cleansing balm. It removes makeup easily, rinses cleanly, and doesn’t have too strong a smell. What more could a girl ask for?
Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk: my super-dry skin is easily stripped by foaming cleansers, so I need a very gentle moisturizing cleanser. Honestly, even if no one ever bought a single bottle of this, I’d still make it for myself.
Klairs Supple Preparation Toner: this is a cult classic for a reason. It’s a real workhorse: it’s not flashy, but it quietly makes everything in my routine work a little better, absorb a little faster, reach a little farther. It’s essentially a hydrating and brightening penetration enhancer, which is a fantastic way to start off my routine.
Stratia Rewind: I make it, I love it, you’re not coming here for objective Stratia reviews.
Stratia Fortify: My skin can’t live without facial oils, and I make this because it’s my favorite facial oil.
Stratia Liquid Gold: Yeah, duh, I love it. Moving right along.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment: But hark, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment is the sun. This stuff is my heart, my soul, my life. It’s 40% petroleum jelly, so it’s an incredibly powerful occlusive, but it’s also got a lot of great healing, moisturizing, and anti-inflammatory ingredients. I use Aquaphor:
- As a sleeping pack (mix a pea-sized amount with 2 pumps Liquid Gold)
- As a nightly eye cream
- As an overnight intensive lip balm
- Over small cuts and burns
- Around my nose when I get a cold
I’m sure there’s more. The moral of this story is: I don’t want to live in a world without Aquaphor.
Shiseido Senka Mineral Water UV Essence (aka Shiseido Senka Aging Care UV Essence): I’ve used this sunscreen every day for about three years, and I never plan to stop. It’s the perfect sunscreen for my dry skin: slightly moisturizing, skin-like finish, 50+ SPF, completely unscented.
Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion: since I’ve been taking Evening Primrose Oil supplements twice a day, I haven’t had to deal with many deep hormonal cyst-type pimples. But when they do rear their ugly, ugly heads, Buffering Lotion is now and forever my first line of defense. It’s the only thing I’ve found that works on cysts before they surface. The second I feel that deep aching pain of a cyst-in-development, I apply this every night. It usually keeps it from ever surfacing, reducing the inflammation and healing it much faster than it would on its own.
Mario Badescu Facial Spray: this is just a special treat on hot summer days and evenings after a long day in the sun. It’s nothing magical, it’s just a beautifully simple, soothing spray.
Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water: My thirties, I think, are about embracing the person I am, rather than the person society tells me I should be. I should be a person who always has the energy and motivation to do a full double cleanse every night; I am a person who falls asleep watching Party Down reruns at 9:45. Micellar water lets me embrace the person I am: sometimes I can’t get it together to double cleanse, and that’s fine. Some of this squirted on a cotton pad isn’t quite as good as a full cleansing routine, but it’s close enough.
Makeup Artist’s Choice 25% Mandelic Acid Peel: I break this little guy out about twice a month. For a chemical peel, it’s incredibly gentle and hard to screw up. I apply it with a q-tip, leave it on for 3 minutes, rinse thoroughly, then slap on some aloe, facial oil, and a sheet mask. It leaves my skin smooth, even, and bouncy with no down time. Plus, it’s super affordable and lasts forever.
That’s my routine, and I love it.
I love this type of post – I definitely gravitate to having a more stable routine rather than something totally different day to day.
I see that you don’t use an AM cleanser – do you rinse w water or just go straight in with the Vit C?
I rinse with water in the morning! Just enough to feel like the previous night’s products are gone.
I do the same. I never used to and I won’t go back. I used to double cleanse in the morning. No more. I love your routine. I’m copying since I have dry skin. Love my korean skin care routine. Will infuse your products. Thanks so much!
What do you suggest for areas with uneven skin tone/pigment? Thanks
Hi, I’ve just repurchased 2 bottles of your Stratia Liquid Gold as well as new additions to my skincare family – Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk and Soft Touch AHA.
I would like to say that I must have really trusted you as a formulator a lot because even though I was going through a patch of horrible hormonal acne last week, I trust your products enough that I started using them as soon as they reached me. I was right! I love your Velvet Cleansing Milk and I’m gonna try your Soft Touch AHA very soon! Now I’m looking forward to trying your Vitamin C serum! Please keep formulating safe effective skincare for us! Thanks for your good work!
I see that you are no longer using Scinic Honey AIO. Any particular reason why?
I actually still do use it some days! It just serves a similar purpose to Rewind so I don’t feel the need to use both in the same routine.
YES! Vitamin C from you! Can’t wait. Also, wonderful post and definitely has me thinking of dwindling my shelfie down.
I think we have the same skin! And I could have wrote paragraph 2 myself! I’m so sick of buying product after product hoping for that miracle and going broke while doing it. Your products are new to me so I’m excited to start trying them!
I love this routine and Stratia products! Currently Liquid Gold and Rewind are staples in my routine. After reading I’m going to try the Fortify and cleansing milk. I also am going to get the SPF!!! I use everyday, religiously! I’ve battled skincancer (in the form of vulva cancer) and since been using spf all day everyday. (Obvs not there) Seeing as it was form of skin cancer I want to do all i can to protect myself. That being said super excited to give that spf a try. While I use everyday I haven’t found the “one” . I have tried many. So many. I would like to find something i enjoy. Thank you for all the great info and of course the amazing products! Super excited for the Vitamin C!! I’ve been checking back (could be considered stalking) lol regularly for its debut! Also please never stop making Liquid Gold and Rewind! 😘
Thank you for this post – because honestly it can get so easy to get wrapped up with constantly buying the “next best thing”. I recently started to feel overwhelmed. Just curious, are you still using the Banila Honey Essence? or if not, do you make something similar via Stratia?
Nope, I’m not using the Banila oil anymore – Fortify fills that spot for me now.
Wait, did you stop using the Sana Nameraka eye cream? (I love that the comments are all people who memorized your old routine)
Ahahahaha, I love it too! I usually just use Aquaphor as an eye cream because it’s already going on my face anyway and I’m incredibly lazy, but if my eyes feel raw or droopy, I’ll definitely still reach for the Sana eye cream.
This is perfect, especially for those of us who are new to your blog and products. Seeing where in your routine your skincare used is perfect. I heard about your products from Renee or Gothamista on Youtube. Can’t wait to get through some of my stuff to try your line. I have a very good feeling about it )). Oh, on the side note, I used to not use any cleanser in AM as well, just water, but now in winter weather, I started to use straight oil with a warm washcloth and it’s amazing!
I see that you aren’t using the Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask anymore – I started using it because I saw it in an old routine post of yours on reddit (I love your products, so clearly you Know Things, so when I was trying to build my own routine, my first haul was basically “everything the Stratia lady uses” lol) and I love it. If you don’t mind, why did you stop using that one?
I still love it but I love my Liquid Gold/Aquaphor sleeping mask more!
When you say you use AHA & BHA every other day, do you mean together on the same day or Monday = BHA, Tuesday = AHA?
The latter – I’ll use AHA one night then BHA then next.
Thanks for this post, I can’t wait to try some of your products! Why do you apply toner after vitamin c or acids though?
THIS. My exact question!
That’s so great to see products I also use and like. Found your blog through LabMuffin. Will definitely try your p
roducts, Im also a skin
Thanks so much for sharing this, I’m looking forward to copying some of it! (Greatly anticipating your vitamin C as well!) I see that you use tretinoin in the same night routine as AHA or BHA – do you find it irritates your skin? Also, are the actives in your Curology still effective with all the other steps underneath? Do you do much waiting in between? I’m considering starting Differin, a milder retinoid than tretinoin, but the manufacturer specifically instructs not to use while also on these acids. It would be great to have the benefits of all three though, so I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate them into my routine!
Using Curology in the same routine as an AHA/BHA doesn’t irritate my skin, because A) I use a very low percentage of tretinoin (0.02%); B) I’ve been using tretinoin for several years so my skin is used to it; C) I use a lot of non-irritating and soothing products between the acid and the tretinoin; and D) my skin is pretty resilient to irritation, plus my routine is largely so focused on moisturizing and anti-inflammatory products.
The founder of Curology actually addressed the issue of layering a while ago (I forgot where, but I promise it’s real) – using less-occlusive products before Curology (like serums and toners) won’t decrease its efficacy very much, while using more-occlusive products (like creams or Vaseline) will get in the way a lot more.
While your skin gets used to the retinoid, I would definitely cut out all acids for a while (that’s what I did) and then gradually re-introduce them as your skin adjusts.
Thanks so much for all of your useful information. Could you tell me why you use your vitamin C serum before you apply toner? After toning, you apply your rewind toner. What is the benefit to this? Could you just apply both after toning? Thanks!
Do you think you could add the amount of time you wait in-between steps?
I just tried mixing Liquid Gold with Cerave Healing Ointment at night, and it’s amazing! It really gives a moisturizing effect that lasts.
I use this exact combo (the smell of aquaphor bothers me too much) and it works like such a charm! I highly recommend it!
Quick question, wouldn’t using stratia fortify mess with the 3:1:1:1 ratios of stratia liquid gold because of the fatty acids?
Hi! I love your products and website! I tried Curology but I don’t have acne so I’m curious if it’s effective long-term for wrinkles and dark spots. My skin can tolerate pretty much the same routine as you are following, it’s not sensitive at all. I don’t have any acne so should I try Paula’s choice I love your products and website! I tried Curology but I don’t have acne so I’m curious if it’s effective long-term for wrinkles and dark spots. My skin can tolerate pretty much the same routine as you are following, it’s not sensitive at all. I don’t have any acne so should I try Paula‘s choice retinol instead of BHA? Thanks!!
I have a very similar routine as i only use stratia products.Your products have saved my skin and I cant thank you enough. I was wondering if you could provide any more info about the MUAC 25% mandelic acid peel:
1)do you cleanse your face beforehand?
2)do you wash the peel off with the same cleanser as before?
3) can you moisturize with rewind/liquid gold/fortify afterwards?
4) after how many days can you resume using soft touch AHA/ stratia vitamin c?
Any information would be helpful. Thank you
so Great post