Beauty & Skincare

My Beauty Routine: 20 Products I Swear By

by Grace Bonney

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been someone who saw my face as the primary place I lived. It’s where I feel most comfortable and my full body had just never been that place. (Please tell me someone else knows how that feels?) Maybe I should blame online culture and the way we’re always reduced to tiny floating head avatars. But I think it’s also because taking care of my face and skin has always felt like a small way to indulge in my “I need to control as much of everything in my life as I can” tendency.

I know I can’t control how the world around me unfolds, but in that tiny mirror, it feels like one small patch of life I can tinker around in and feel safe.

So, over the past 15 or so years, I’ve allowed myself one primary indulgence: investing in skincare and all the tiny rituals that come with it. And for someone who doesn’t dare touch the realm of proper beauty bloggers, I think I’ve tested as many skincare products as the people who do this for a living. While some people might spend money on shoes, fancy coffee, massages, clothing or nights out on the town, my indulgences are what Julia likes to call my, “potions and lotions.”

Over the past few years very little about my regimen has changed, and I have a mostly healthy complexion to thank for that. The products I’ve grown to trust and swear by are the same ones I’ve loved since I was 25, with a few rare exceptions. I’ve been posting them here and there on Instagram stories, and the response has been so much more enthusiastic than I ever expected. So today I’m sharing my routine, my Top 20 Trusted Products (that I have a standing re-order for) and why I believe in them. For all of you who love a good face ritual, I hope you’ll enjoy these as much as I do. Here’s to small moments, in whatever form you enjoy most, of self-care. xo, grace

*If you have unused beauty and skincare products you’d like to donate, please check out these organizations that connect those products with those in need. 

I have a strict routine I follow for skincare that’s served me well for the past 10 years, so I’m sticking with it. It looks like this:

AM: Wake up. Wash with a gentle cleanser and do my version of a DIY lymphatic massage (this is the most calming practice ever). Tone. Add one to two serums for special issues. Add moisturizer and go.

PM: Double wash with a gentle cleanser. Tone. Add one serum if there’s a spot issue (like a zit or dark spots, etc.). Use 2-3 drops of sleeping oil with retinoids. Top with a thicker brightening night cream.

During the day if I feel grimy after a trip to the city or an intense hike, I’ll use one of these inexpensive coconut cleansing wipes for a quick non-drying cleanse.

Here is my arsenal of beloved skincare products and why I use them — and love them.

Cleansing + Moisturizing

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($8.69): It’s hard to beat the value of this trusty drug store cleanser. It’s gentle, but it works. I have combination skin and like a cleanser that foams, so this one is perfect. I’ve tried fancier and more beloved cult cleansers, but this works just fine. As they say, if it’s not broken…

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel ($27): I’ve been through the ringer with moisturizers over the years and finally switched to a gel version — and it made a HUGE difference. No more mid-day oil slick forehead. I associate Clinique with those tri-fold lighted mirrors all the 80s-era moms had when I was growing up and I don’t love the yellow color, BUT it seriously is the moisturizer I’ve been missing my whole life. It’s light, but does its job. I can layer it in winter and I still don’t get oily or too dry. I have a new steady and it feels great.

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Oil ($55): This is a new addition to my beauty tools and after I bought it, I immediately felt guilty. It was so much money to spend on OIL (keep in mind, I don’t buy all these products at once and some of them, like oils, can last a whole darn year), but I’d been wanting to work a retinoid into my routine and some omega 3, so this packs in both and sinks into my skin nicely. Most people layer this over moisturizers, but I layer it under — that’s just how it works best for me (I’ve tried both). I’ve been using this every night for two months and it feels great. I’ll definitely re-up this in the mini size when I run out. I’m super sparse with fancy products like this so I’m hoping to get as much of the year out of this tiny bottle as I can.

Belif First Aid Overnight Brightening Mask ($34): I love love love almost everything Belif makes. And this overnight mask (which is really just a thick moisturizer) has been my go-to for over two years now. Belif is a Korean beauty brand (K-Beauty’s famed 10 step process is all the rage on beauty blogs, but it’s a few too many products for me) that has really got the moisturizing/brightening game on lock. I haven’t found any brightening or moisturizing mask that can compare to how this makes my skin look when I wake up in the morning. I love it.

Toners + Serums

Biologique Recherche P50 PIGM 400 ($30): Okay, let’s start with this game-changing product. This is an exfoliating toner with lactic acid. I’d read about this on every beauty blog ever and when I saw Anna from Door Sixteen pen an ode to it (she has stunning skin) I decided to try the trial size. I didn’t end up liking the classic version everyone else uses (“1970”), but I did end up loving the one for pigmentation called PIGM 400 and have reordered it ever since. Exfoliation is KEY for my skin (congestion, blah) and this took away my need for ANY other exfoliation. I stopped using peels, scrubs and electronic brush thingies. All out the window and I have not had a breakout in almost 8 months now. I use it twice a day and apply it right onto my skin so I don’t waste any product on a cotton pad, etc.

Glossier Super Bounce Serum ($28): Glossier’s products have a lot of hype. A lot. Some feels accurate, some not. Though I have to admit I love the simplicity of their hot pink bubble mailer bags. I get it, though — they’re literally selling me pink packaging material and I’m falling for it. Anyway, back to the serum. Hype and packaging aside, I love this hyaluronic acid serum. People have told me to switch to The Ordinary’s version of this, but it works well that I’m sticking with it for now. This is what I use under my moisturizer morning and night and it feels like it softens everything and really helps pull in the moisturizer and keep everything dewy — but not oily.

Glossier Super Glow Serum ($28): This is Glossier’s Vitamin C serum and I use it every morning. It feels like it really wakes up and brightens up my face. I use it in small amounts under the Bounce Serum and that combo (plus the Clinique lotion) has gotten me through summer and fall without any major oil moments and without any dry patches. Score!

Masks + Specialities

Mario Badescu Azulene Calming Mask ($18): I discovered this mask in a tiny travel size form when I was out on the road for our first 37-city book tour. The tour was a nightmare in terms of travel and stress and getting sick, so the only time I had to myself was often spent in a hotel bathroom doing face masks and trying to recenter a bit. This mask had the most powerful real-time change I’ve ever seen in my face for an over-the-counter style product. I steamed my face, put this on and in 20 minutes it was like a new person was in the mirror. Well, maybe not a new person, but a much more well-rested person than had been there before. I’ve reordered this consistently for six years now and use it twice a month.

T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial ($80): This was another product that came with a lot of hype and honestly I didn’t want to like it. But then I got a trial size from Sephora and it was like reliving my favorite mask moment (above) all over again. This mask has a large dose of AHA/BHA exfoliants and you can feel them at work. I don’t ever feel the “stinging tingly” feeling most masks like this say will happen, but with this I do. Which I like. It makes a noticeable instant difference and that’s what I like in a mask like this, which I use once a week.

Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum ($65): I ignored every rule my grandmother told me about my skin when I was younger. I picked at it, poked at it and ended up leaving a ton of darker spots from all the times I took matters into my own hands (and sometimes still do). But then again, this was the same woman who wore coconut oil to the beach instead of SPF, so who knew she’d be right about the first one? Anyway, I now use this twice a day on sun spots, dark spots (am I old enough for age spots now?) and any other spots that stand out when you’re super duper pale like I am year-round. I noticed a difference after only a few days so I’m sticking with it.

Aveda Intensive Hydrating Mask ($25): Aveda!! My forever skincare bestie. I didn’t know what a facial was until my first NYC roommate took me to get the discount facials at the Aveda School where they train students. I had never felt so relaxed in my life. I’ve used this mask twice a month for 13 years now and it’s excellent. It’s a clear gel consistency (they recently changed the packaging) and it smells lovely and botanical.


Ok, let me get real for a second. I strongly dislike makeup. Except for the three super sheer lip conditioners below, I feel most unlike myself when I’m wearing any makeup. I wish I didn’t feel that way because I see how fun and happy it seems for some people. But for me, makeup is mainly about something I feel like I should wear when I go to meetings or have to represent Design*Sponge in some way. My goal with skincare has always been to keep my skin healthy enough that I don’t need makeup to “hide” anything, so when I turn to makeup, it’s with extreme unease. So when I say that I stick with things I trust here, I really mean it. I’ve had all of these products (except for two new additions) for almost seven years and don’t think I’ll ever change them.


Ilia Beauty Lip Conditioner in Arabian Knights and Pink Moon ($26 each): Ilia is the only brand that’s ever designed a piece of makeup I’ll wear when I don’t “have” to. I literally own 4 tubes of Ilia’s Arabian Knights lip conditioner and have one in the bathroom, on my dresser, in my purse, and in my suitcase. It’s so perfectly light and sheer but it’s beyond buttery and soft and it leaves your lips feeling better than they did before you put it on. And I feel like a million bucks in it. I love Ilia so much that I reached out to Sasha, Ilia’s founder, and we collaborated together on a new color, Pink Moon, two years ago. It’s a pinker version of my favorite, Arabian Knights, but with the same rich cocoa butter base.

Burt’s Bees Moisturizing Tinted Lip Oil in Showering Sunset ($5.12): I’ve literally never worn a lipstick or lip gloss that wasn’t Ilia until this year. I picked up this “tinted lip oil” in a pale pink while buying a new bottle of Cetaphil and I’m so glad for this impulse buy. I now have two (two!) colors to choose from when I need to get dressed up for a meeting. It’s a little glossy, but not too sticky, which I like.


Nars Cream Blush in Cactus Flower ($29.50): I bought this blush 11 years ago when I got my first job working at Condé Nast. I thought I needed to look grown-up, so I bought makeup in a harried rush. I ended up never using the rest of it except for this. It’s the perfect vivid shade (that feels light and sheer on) and it’s creamy. I didn’t buy a second container of it until two years ago when someone on a photo shoot set pointed out that it was gross that I still used the same container from almost a decade ago.

Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Powder ($32): I was so excited about the Fenty Beauty launch and wanted to buy something right away, but I knew that it needed to be practical since I don’t do regular makeup on a well, regular basis. Since I’m prone to shininess, I picked up this blotting powder and not only does it work well (yay!), but it comes with a really nice brush as well. I’m just happy to support any business that Rihanna creates, especially one like this with such an important goal.

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer ($44): Oldie but a goodie. I buy a new tube of this maybe every other year? Mainly because, like the blush, I’ve been told it’s not super sanitary to keep using the same tube for 10 years straight. I love this moisturizer because it evens out my skin tone and makes me feel a little bit more pulled together. Now that I top it with the Fenty Beauty powder it really helps the whole “look” come together when I need to up things a notch for a special event.

Eyes + Brows

Neubrow Eyebrow Enhancer ($66): Ok, I need to confess something: I’m one of those people who’s fallen hard for the “big bold brow” moment that’s happening right now. Of course I’m also one of those people who over-plucked my brows in the 90s so they were sharp little angry lines above my eyes. “Just like Guinevere Van Seenus!” I told myself. Sure, Grace…

Now I’m trying to grow them back big-time. I got a good kickstart with a session at Jimena Garcia‘s studio where she dyed my tiny still-growing-back eyebrow hairs with vegetable dyes to help me find the natural shape and grow into it. Now my mission is to NOT TOUCH THEM except to add this eyebrow serum that helps with regrowth. Note: this stuff works. Almost too well. I guess I got sloppy with my application (because if a little is good, a lot must be great!) and started growing small hairs on the sides of my eyelids and under the lower lid, too. (I think it combined with my face oil and spread south) It was a little bit Teen Wolf for a moment but it’s back to normal now and my goal is to never need a pencil to fill in sparse patches again.

Anastasia Brow Wiz in Soft Brown ($21): Speaking of pencils, this is the only one I swear by. Tiny, soft and easy to use, it works for eyebrow tails and for sparse patches. Also, everyone says to get the same color or darker for your pencils, but I always go a few shades lighter and I prefer that softer look.

Pacifica Dream Big Lash Extending Mascara ($13.14): I got a sample of this product in a Target press kit when they were promoting natural beauty products (this one is vegan) and I ended up loving it. It’s light, doesn’t make my eyes itchy and teary (like most mascara) and it makes your lashes feel natural, just a bit longer and more defined.

Glossier Haloscope in Moon Stone ($22): I don’t wear blush very often, but sometimes I wear this as an alternative when I don’t feel like adding any color. It’s such a nice soft glimmer — rather than glitter. This makes me feel how I think other people feel with a tan. The tiny bit of shimmer makes me feel summery, which is always a good way to feel, in my book.


**Note, thanks to readers who pointed out I didn’t include an SPF recommendation. I’m sorry for the oversight. I do use SPF (it’s a must) every day, but the brands I’m testing now aren’t ones I’m loving 100%, so I didn’t feel comfortable recommending them. I’m currently using both this one and this one, but they’re pricey and I don’t love them (too oily and too thick for me) so I don’t stand by them as something someone should invest in. That said, SPF is absolutely something we should all be using to protect our skin, so here are some recommended by blogs I trust.


***Peach bathroom images above from Emily and Andy Cosnotti‘s Pittsburgh home tour, photographs by Emily Cosnotti

Suggested For You


  • I want to share some feedback although I must first acknowledge that it’s just a personal opinion and not criticism. This list makes me a little sad: you did a wonderful job framing and phrasing it all — for you skincare is a form of self-care, it’s something that people have asked for more of, it’s not anti-make-up, it’s not a beauty to-do but rather a personal list of favorites. Still it feels a teeny bit like a mainstream publication telling women the many products they need, whether they realize it or not. If it happens to be advertising, I totally understand but wish it were labelled as such because it would feel more transparent. Either way, I absolutely love and appreciate what Design Sponge offers and all you do to make it possible. You really make sure there is something for everyone, and that’s a great thing. Mentioning how “tiny floating heads” have become our online avatars these days is fascinating and something to think about.

    • Lena

      I’m so sorry you’re feeling like this is an ad or an attempt by me to tell you what you need. It’s neither. I wasn’t paid or gifted any of these products or paid to do the post (I would have disclosed that right away). I’m genuinely sorry if this feels like a list of things you “have” to buy.

      I’m asked on a weekly basis about my skincare buys on social media, so I thought I’d so a post about it here to have to serve as a sort of FAQ post I could link back to since it’s such a common question.

      Going forward, can you let me know a way this topic might be covered that would feel less like something you “have” to buy? Do you feel like that about all product posts we do, or just beauty? I want to make sure I keep that in mind going forward to try to make anyone feeling that way feel more comfortable. Thanks for your feedback.

      And yes, I think about that “tiny heads” thing all the time. The way we’re reduced down to these eensy versions of ourselves that play up one specific part of ourselves.


      • Grace, thanks so much for your response with the clarification and your openness as always! In the years I’ve read Design Sponge, this is actually the first and only time I’ve felt this way about a beauty and skincare post. Perhaps it’s because the other articles generally focus more on the people behind products, their stories and creativity processes and business strategies. For example, I especially liked Monday’s feature on 5 Beauty Companies Made By (And For) Women of Color: the products are all amazing on their own but hearing the back stories as well as seeing the D*S stamp of approval sealed the deal.

        Hmm, I guess it’s maybe that Design Sponge is a place I like to come online to “escape” from the beauty products and tips found on so many other lifestyle sites. However, as you said, it’s definitely something that appeals to many readers. I think it’s neat that you’re branching out and, overall, the personal essays and anecdotes have become my favorite features at Design Sponge. What a compliment to have so many people ask you for your sources and how kind of you to share, especially without any financial benefit. I apologize for having assumed it might be an advertisement because sponsored posts, which I am truly OK with, are generally (even always?) labeled as such here. Thanks again for listening and responding.

        • Lena

          I hear you. We don’t do many product posts here anymore for the reason you described. We do them for holidays, again because readers request them, but we try to stay away from them as much as we can so we can stick to deeper stories. But every now and then it’s fun to switch it up and talk about something lighter. I almost always prefer writing longer essays, but little lists like this (That I believe in and trust and have personally tested) are a nice break for me. But I’ll be sure to keep in mind my tone to do my best to ensure people don’t feel pressured to buy or do anything.


      • Hey Grace, I absolutely love DS. I was a little surprised by this specific post though. Right above it in the homepage there’s a link to a story called “How to Let Go of Things: One Essential Tip To Make Minimizing Easy and Sustainable”.
        Most of the products listed here are not organic or cruelty free. And 20 is a lot! Just wanted to note this inconsistency. This is not an attack, I would just love if DS could focus more on sustainability. Thank you so much for all the inspiration and amazing community.

        • Hi Sylia

          Thanks for your feedback. Can you clarify what about this post feels out of line with minimizing? I may have more skincare products than some people, but I probably have fewer of some things than other. I don’t think there’s a certain number of anything that equals minimalism or maximalism…for me (which I tried to explain in the post), it’s about only really living with things that you love and work. In this post I explained why these are the things I love and that work for me. So I just want to better understand the disconnect.

          I completely understand the concern about cruelty-free products and it’s something I’m looking into based on emails from readers. But I don’t see that being “inconsistent” with the earlier post. Or what that a separate issue?


      • Oh how odd, I actually had a totally different experience when reading this post! I really enjoyed all the explanation around why Grace enjoys each product, and the tone felt honest and so carefully thought-out, which was refreshing in light of the recommendations I see elsewhere that are obviously paid or based on extremely short-term use of a product. Several of these are things I’d been curious about, so it was really nice to see a well-vetted opinion on them vs untrustworthy reviews on retail sales pages or paid content. I didn’t read it as “you should use these!” at all, but rather an apologetic “I get asked this a lot and people really like it when I talk about it, so here’s what I love and why”.

    • This is my honest opinion about the post and your reply. When I first saw the “title” I was tickled pink (please don’t take a run on that) I have always thought Grace had a beautiful complexion and she would know more then your average person what’s out there and what works. Then I saw how many products and got overwhelmed! So I decided to go thru it as if it was a tutorial that I could pick which one I needed, and having the prices definitely helped! So thank you Design Sponge I needed, can afford and trust your opinion. Because that’s exactly what it was and stated…….your opinion. Btw the I have the same brow problem so I am going to give your way a try. Thank you Linda Merritt

        • Grace, I love this post! And your curious and gracious reply. I was the same as Linda above, a little overwhelmed by the number of products, but read through it and thoroughly enjoyed it, and bookmarked the ones that sounded intriguing! Uh, big thick eye brows again? Sign me up! Thanks for sharing your beauty secrets with us!

      • Throwing in my two cents here, I was also excited to see this post. I really wish my skin looked better, and Grace’s always looks so fantastic. I’ve never found any products I really like, and my skin has always been tricky to care for due to severe acne, but I’m definitely interested in some of the stuff mentioned in this post. Thanks, Grace!

  • Awesome post!! I wear Ilia’s Pink Moon at work (light enough that I don’t have to worry about precision application and it wears off well) and I’m extra happy to hear you had a hand in it! I love skincare and I love makeup and your post was a delight. Thanks for sharing!

  • LOVE this. I am addicted to buying skin/makeup products, but really only use the same 10 or so. I also have the craziest skin allergy to fragrance – you’d be surprised how many makeup products have fragrance in them, so I love seeing new products that I can actually try without my face going crazy. (and ps you would also be surprised how many skin/makeup products bill themselves as “all natural” and are not! i’ve found out the hard way).

    • Nora

      Me, too! I’ve had to go fragrance free in pretty much everything. I can handle herbal things or natural scents like real rose, but SO many things have mega mega fragrance, which is a bummer.


  • I rarely comment but I love this post! I’m a huge beauty junkie and went from wearing only oil of olay moisturizer to becoming very familiar with almost all of the brands you listed above! I’m a big fan of Lactic Acid. It’s transformed my skin. I use the Ordinary Brand. And I’m definitely going to try the Murad Age Spot. I haven’t found anything that worked yet and ugh everyday I’m seeing more age spots on my face :(.

  • I don’t use very many beauty products at all, but I love your recommendations each time you share. Thanks so much!

  • Thanks for sharing. I love these detailed skin routines a la Into the Gloss. I made a lot of my skin care products until my late 20s, when I started getting hormonal acne and my very basic routine wasn’t good enough to make a dent in those conditions. I’ve found some holy grails (Sunday Riley’s Good Genes and Luna are clutch), but I’m still trying to identify products that work for me. It’s hard to figure out given the hype on products and how commonly products fail to do what they advertise. So I appreciate this coming from you more so than I appreciate ITG precisely because I don’t feel like you’re trying to sell me a product, and it’s clear you’re not a product junkie looking for the next it product, even though your collection is robust.

    I also struggle with finding products that work well but aren’t laden with chemicals that are known to be harmful, or chemicals that have been insufficiently researched that we don’t know whether they are or are not harmful. And where I’m willing to compromise because of the efficacy of an ingredient (such as with retinol), it’s hard because they often come packaged with unnecessary and harmful ingredients (like why does Luna have blue dye in it? It adds no value). Anyways, I enjoy skincare, but it’s also tough. Maybe one day I’ll have what works for me figured out…

  • Love this post. i also just discovered the Luna sleeping oil and it is a game changer. I have seen a difference in my skin in a week’s time. I am 44 years old and like you, skin care has been my thing since I was a teenager. My mom used to always laugh at all my little jars :)

  • I’ll admit, I haven’t taken very good care of my skin over the years, and it’s something I truly regret. I keep promising myself I’ll be better, but it’s hard to know where to start. I just never knew how to find the right products, because I never knew how to discern which products were actually quality products, and which just had great marketing departments behind them. It all seemed so daunting. So thank you so much for your guidance! The list is wonderfully helpful, because yours is an opinion I truly trust.

  • Thanks for sharing! My skin pretty much hates everything, so I try to keep my skincare routine as paired down as possible, BUT last year I tried Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy Mask and it’s the one thing I have added to my routine in the last 10 years. It’s AHA/BHA + Azulene and it’s amazing. When I travel for work I use the Blue Tansy mask and Pacifica’s Under Eye Brightner and people tell me I look well-rested (I am usually not!)

  • Thanks for the tips! I was wondering though what you do about sunscreen. Do you add it on top? I think the Laura Mercier moisturizer has some protectant but if you aren’t wearing that, how do you protect your skin from sun damage? I seem to have most of my skin problems from sunscreens and am always looking for a better way to protect my skin.

    • Hi Bertie! Since you specifically mentioned having trouble with sunscreen – I’ve been using Glossier’s invisible shield daily sunscreen since May and I love it. I have very, very fair skin and burn easily (ie, at the beach I used SPF 110 everywhere, reapplying every hour and mostly staying under an umbrella), and have had trouble finding an every day facial sunscreen to wear under makeup in the past. I love this one – it goes on very easily and is magically clear and wears really well under makeup (I don’t wear much, just a sheer skin tint, but it goes over the sunscreen really well). I’ve also found that it provides really great every day protection when just being in and out of the sun when going about a normal day. It’s a little expensive but I found that using daily one bottle lasted me about 4 months.

  • Grace, do you have any go-to daily sunscreens that recommend? (Did I miss it in the list?) Thanks for the round-up!

  • I share the same philosophy as you! Focus on the face and splurge on skin care. I remember a post you did in a similar vein a very long time ago because that was how I discovered Ilia and I’ve been wearing Arabian Knights ever since, it’s so so nice. I am one of your readers who loves product posts, I appreciate how much time it takes to find and source great stuff online when the selection can be overwhelming. Thanks for some more recommendations to check out.

  • At the risk of being annoying – where is your spf? This is most important “anti-aging” skincare product and prevents cancer… doesn’t get much better than that.

    • C

      Great question. I use one, but didn’t include it in this post because I’m not 100% sold on the versions I’ve used lately, so I don’t stand behind these specific products as great things to invest in. But you’re right, I should have mentioned that as a must-have, even if I don’t have a brand I feel comfortable recommending yet.

      I’m currently using a trial sized Shiseido SPF but I don’t love the way it feels (too oily). So I’m still testing to find one that works without causing breakouts. My backup is always UltraLuxe’s SPF, which is good but also a little too thick for me.


      • Grace,
        Have you tried Elta MD’s UV Clear sunscreen? I find that it sinks in really quickly, doesn’t smell like sunscreen or leave that white cast, and it’s for blemish-prone skin so has some extras in there (zinc and something else) to help combat that. It is definitely on the pricier side, but is about the same price as the Shiseido one you linked to in your post and the bottle lasts a while. I really enjoyed your list, thanks!

  • Thanks for this. I learn of these kinds of things through information exchanges with my friends and I feel like this is what this is. I totally get what you are saying about living in your face—I’m not too terribly in touch with my body! I recall (I hope correctly as it’s been a while) a passage in The Handmaid’s Tale where she tells of hoarding bits of butter to rub on her dry hands. That’s my face. Without my lotions and potions, my face would crack and fall off. I am also on my third tube of Ilia lip conditioner in Shell Shock and I recommend the mascara too—nice and light and zero flaking or smudging. My other standby is Hush + Dotti balm and face oil. It’s also always fun to read what Salli Hughes has reviewed in the Guardian.

  • Hi Grace,
    I’m a little late to this post, but after years of barely any skin care have decided to try to take a little better care of my face. I am easily overwhelmed by beauty products, and I know myself–anything more than three everyday steps will be a waste for me. I got the toner, because I’ve been contemplating it ever since Anna wrote her post. But can you say more about the masks making a noticeable, instant difference in your skin? I know everyone’s skin is different, but I don’t even have a frame of reference for what that might mean since I’ve never used anything that’s made me go, oh wow, that really worked! Also, do you think the Belif overnight “mask” could be used just as a regular night time moisturizer? Is it scented (I don’t do well with scent)? Thanks for any feedback you might have. I feel a little out to sea on this stuff!

    • Hi Jen!

      Belif’s overnight mask is totally a really rich night time moisturizer. I use it every night for that purpose and love it. No real scent and it makes my skin look bright every morning, which is always an issue with me bc I have (skin) congestion issues.

      In terms of really working, for me that usually means a skintone that looks more even (less red or blotchy) and brighter.


  • Until I got to the comments section, I genuinely believed this to be a parody piece. I am saddened to learn it is not.

  • Thanks, Grace. I for one loved this post! I hesitate to spend too much on products and love your approach that it’s self care, and I really appreciate real world, unsponsored feedback since so many products are an investment. The whole time I was reading, I kept expecting to come across something from Beautycounter since you mentioned sensitivity issues and strike me as someone who appreciates natural products. I do not sell for them myself, but I have a kind friend who does and isn’t pushy but just suggests things at the right time, like when they’re running a promotion, and I have loved everything I’ve tried and feel good about the ingredients. You specifically mentioned the Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer as something you would never replace, and I used to feel the same way until I sampled the Beautycounter Dew Skin! It’s about the same price, and I love it with a layer of the mattifying powder on top. I read this today and it made me think of your post again: http://www.instyle.com/beauty/best-beautycounter-products-facebook. Just wanted to throw out a company that you might not be familiar with or hesitant to try :)

  • Grace – I love this post because I really like to know what other (regular) people are trying and liking on their skin on a daily basis. I respect the time and effort bloggers and vloggers put in to purchase and test products on their own (not sponsored) and report back valuable information to people wading through all the options offered by a billion dollar industry determined to get our $$ for products that may not do what they claim. You cannot just stroll into a Sephora without a plan… it’s too overwhelming!
    Deciding to do make skincare a priority didn’t come naturally to me because I was lucky and as a teenager never suffered from acne. In my 20s I didn’t have dry or sensitive skin so I was strictly wash and wear type. I think I used St Ives Apricot Facial scrub into my 30s and not a drop of moisturizer or SPF ever! Well, now I’m 44 and I’ve got some lines, a significant amount of sun damage, and large pores from a chronically oily t-zone I never addressed. Makeup has never been my thing so hiding my skin issues isn’t an option. I decided a couple of years back to start taking care of my skin and try to undo some of that sun damage. My skincare routine looks a lot like yours with retinol, glycolic acid, and good moisturizer being at the center of everything. I noticed you weren’t loving your SPF so I wanted to give a recommendation. Like I said, I have a naturally oily t-zone and all SPF really turned me off because it just made my face a shiny mess. Based on recommendations from several skin care/beauty bloggers I started using Paula’s Choice RESIST Super Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 and it has been a game changer for me. It goes on ultra sheer and is so wonderfully mattifying. It has a slight tint to it so that you don’t get a white caste from the SPF. It’s got antioxidants to protect against free radicals. It goes on over any serum beautifully. It’s fragrance free and not tested on animals. I seriously cannot say enough good things about it. I’m actually wearing SPF every day and loving it. I use it as the last step in my AM routine and my complexion is balanced and even. I don’t need a BB Cream, mattifying gels, or blotting powders to control oil and even skin tone. This is all I use. I would not recommend it for anyone with dry skin, but for combo oily skin it’s the best SPF out there!

  • I found the comment stream on this post so interesting and a little disturbing… women can be so hard on other women in a way I still find kind of shocking.

  • I really, really like MyChelle Sun Shield sunscreen for my face. It feels very light, has a great rating in the EWG Skin Deep database, and it’s easy to find and reasonably priced. Even though it’s all mineral it doesn’t leave a white cast. I do find that it goes on best if my face is already moisturized — it is not really moisturizing itself.

  • There is an awful lot of animal-testing going on with these products :(
    Please be open to posting about cruelty-free beauty products as well in the future. I would be very interested to see an article about those items :)

    • Patricia

      Sometimes posts really touch on or trigger something unexpected in communities. I’m trying to better understand this and am hoping to create more conversation beyond the initial comments here. I’ve always written about skincare a few times a year and people have always responded (in the form of comments, I don’t know what they’re saying in private obviously) positively and this particular post was overwhelmingly requested via our social feeds and email. But it seems like it’s hitting some people the wrong way. Aside from concerns about animal testing, which I completely understand, I’m still trying to better understand issues that people are expressing because for me I don’t see the disconnect between this and any other product post (or other beauty posts) we’ve shared here over the years.


  • It seems to me from the comments that people would prefer for you to lie and pretend to not have any material possessions. Thank you for being real, and I’m sorry that sharing your personal self-care is so offensive to people.

  • Hi Grace, really enjoyed this post – thank you for the recommendations! Going to try one or two things for sure :)

    Personally I’m a big fan of multi-purpose makeup since I don’t have a lot of extra cash and don’t tend to carry a bag or purse – since you’re into lip/cheek color, have you tried the RMS lip/cheek tint? It was my fave out of the ones I tried that scored well on the EWG toxicity database, and the tiny glass container it comes in is small enough for a front pants pocket but is crazy tinted so generally lasts me 1-2 years (even using daily on lip/cheek)! Just thought I’d throw out my favorite rec, since you were kind enough to share yours :)

  • I also love this post, happy to hear what people have success with. design sponge could be the first blog I ever heard of – and one I’ve never stopped reading, unlike many others. One day a blogger is sporting a three thousand dollar it bag and I’m supposed to believe she chose all those old navy outfits two days later. People need to make a living, I get that. Thank you for keeping me from my work a few minutes each day, keep up the great work.
    Thinking of you and your kitty.

  • Hello –

    Thanks for posting this! As soon as I walk into Sephora dread and anxiety wash over me because I have no idea where to start with skincare. I then feel like I’m getting ripped off. I just want to take care of my skin, but it’s so confusing. I will definitely check some of these out!

    • Kelly

      I hear you- most markets like this have a lot of snake oil salesmen, so to speak, and so I thought it could be worthwhile to share the things I trust and use and invest in- without any sponsorship or anything like that attached :)


  • I enjoyed this post, but I’m obsessed with skincare. I DO think this is minimalist, because it’s really about skincare. There’s very little makeup mentioned. Surprises me that you got such pushback. (PS – I LOVE all The Ordinary products, and they are SO CHEAP and they don’t animal test.)

  • Grace,
    Thank you for this post. As someone in her early 40s with a minimal skin care routine, I’ve come back to it a couple of times already and I’m finding it really helpful.

    One way of approaching the presentation of this kind of content so readers aren’t overwhelmed by the number of products might be to organize by frequency of use. Headings like “Daily,” “Weekly,” “Monthly” could work nicely.

    Thank you again. This is so helpful for someone like me who’s late to the lotions and potions game.

  • Nice article! There is a huge collection of products to create a good skincare routine in this article. I will definitely use some of them in my skincare routine. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.