Makeup free me.
18 Steps Every Night for a (nearly) Flawless Face
How many steps should you have in your skin care routine? Depends on who you ask. Experts and individuals alike will probably tell you that despite there being a list of steps that are generally agreed-upon (toner, moisturizer, eye cream, etc.), the number of products you use on a daily or weekly basis is a personal thing that depends as much on your skin type as your willingness to use a product as often as you should.
Are you a makeup wipe or micellar swipe kind of person? Or do you remove your eye makeup, suds up with a gentle foaming cleanser, slap on a sheet mask, moisturize, and hit the hay? Or have you not yet quite caught on to the new craze of, uhm, NOT FALLING ASLEEP WITH YOUR MAKEUP ON!? (Seriously? Do you still do that? Don’t! C’mon now…)
I’m probably on the more severe end. You read the title right: 18 steps. Almost 2 dozen products. Nightly. As in every night. Before bed. EVEN WHEN I’M TIRED. Some people who I’ve told about my routine are shocked, or think it’s excessive. I will tell you that, I’ve been doing this routine for over a year now, and have suffered no ill effects. (If I was overloading my skin or doing major damage, it probably would’ve shown itself or surfaced and become apparent by now, no?) On the contrary, I always receive tons of compliments on my skin! And that makes me feel good, and makes all my efforts worth it! In fact, most people are floored when I tell them that I’m not wearing/I don’t wear foundation. What? I don’t! I find it heavy and gross and besides, BB cream or tinted moisturizer with SPF suits me just fine (in cooperation with an illuminating primer, of course).
Inspired by the mega beauty hub of Korea, I remember reading about how some of them sometimes have nighttime beauty routines with steps numbering in the double digits. I’m probably the complete opposite of someone who likes to follow the “keep it simple” mantra of skin care. One-step systems (micellar water, serums that pull double-duty of toning and moisturizing, etc.) were not marketed for a person such as me. I say, “The more the merrier!”
It’s not that I like complicating my life (quite the opposite, in fact). It’s not that I have stacks on stacks to spend on multiple high-priced skin care items (HA! That is laughable). It’s just that I have come to enjoy and look forward to my nightly 30 minutes that is purely about me, myself, and the mirror.
The ritual certainly is calming, and that’s no surprise. Nighttime routine can often help us sleep as it signals the brain that it is almost time for bed. That’s the case for me, for sure. But it also has to do with pampering myself. After a long day of piloting this shipwreck that is my life, (I kid… although at the end of some particularly rough days those are my sincere thoughts), all I want to focus on is the equal parts meticulous and relaxing art of an extra-long skin care routine. I’ll shut the bathroom door, maybe play a bit of soft music, and really go to town.
Wow that sounded dirty. I’m still talking about washing my face, fyi.
But that’s enough talking about it. I’m sure by this point any sensible (sane) person is probably going, “How tf do you manage that?! What could you possibly be doing that takes 18 steps, 20-some odd products, and 30 minutes?)
Scroll down, and I’ll lay it out for you in magnificent detail.
I use probably 3 or 4 cotton rounds per evening, if I wore makeup that day. If not, usually only 2 (for the micellar water and toner steps).
1. Remove Eye Makeup
Soak a cotton round in eye makeup remover (I’m partial to Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover) and get all that mascara and eyeliner off lids, lashes, and brows. Be gentle, as the skin around eyes is the thinnest and most susceptible to wrinkles.
2. Remove Face Makeup
Remove makeup from the rest of face with a face wipe, (my favorite are the Burt’s Bees face wipes… The cotton ones for sensitive skin are pretty amazing and smell wonderful.) If you save an unused corner of the wipe ‘til all the washing is done later, you can wipe off those raccoon eyes that always seem to form with your leftover mascara, no matter how effectively you removed the eye makeup! Every. Time.
This is literally a staple in my bathroom. Works like a charm and smells good, too!
Sloughing dead, dull skin from face is essential to keeping it clean, smooth, and radiant. Luckily, there are a few different ways of doing that. You can find your favorite method, or do like me and switch it up throughout the week. Here are a few options for exfoliating:
- Exfoliating mask: I’ll use a product that is like a combo of mask and exfoliator. I love the CVS brand Charcoal and Black Sugar Dual-Action Scrub Facial Mask. Apply a fair amount to all areas of a dampened face (avoiding eyes and lips), let sit for 3-5 minutes, then gently scrub and rinse off. I use this 3-4 times a week, and always feeling I’m getting a fresh set of face skin when I’m done.
- Glycolic acid face wash: Only to be used a few times a week, tops, and always in substitution for your nightly exfoliator. This product uses chemicals to get the dead, dull skin out of the way. I like Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser.
- Microdermabrasion: You may have seen this word somewhere on the internet in articles about trendy, expensive facial treatments. Microdermabrasion (similar to dermabrasion, and microneedling) was something I was super interested in after reading about—essentially, it’s using tiny crystals or an abrasive surface (in my case) to get rid of dead, dull skin, as well as slightly aggravate (for lack of a better word) the surface and allow for other products (serums, moisturizers, etc.) to sink in deeper and therefore have an enhanced effect. It helps battle several different signs of aging skin, as well. Neutrogena has an amazing Microdermabrasion kit that, upon first trying, made my skin the smoothest and softest I had ever felt. It didn’t hurt, like I suspected, or turn my skin red (like my other exfoliating products always do), and the powerful vibration (it has 2 speed settings) was quite enjoyable. I definitely didn’t mind running it over each section of my face for 1-2 minutes. This is something only to be used twice a week.
- Exfoliating cleanser: Ah, the classic. Probably the most simple and common item on this exfoliating list, and the one that can be used the most often (I use it almost every day).
Massage the Neutrogena oil into a dry face, rinse off. The Mario Badescu one needs to be wiped off rather than rinsed. Different oils, different directions. Find one that works best for you!
4. Oil Cleanse
For cleansing, I love Neutrogena Ultra-Light Cleansing Oil (if you haven’t picked up on it yet, Neutrogena has a lot of my faves), but Mario Badescu (also a big fan of this brand) has a Cleansing Milk with Carnation & Rice Oil that is really amazing. I’m part of the growing ranks of people that aren’t afraid to put oil on their skin. Jump on the bandwagon, people! There’s nothing to be afraid of, even if you have oily skin (like I kinda do). Oils are great for cleansing as well as moisturizing. You just gotta find what works for you!
Different cleansers, different consistencies, different results. I like to switch these up!
5: Foam or Cream Cleanser
I use a vegetable fiber or Konjac sponge in gentle circular motions all over my face for the length of 2 run-throughs of the alphabet. Rinse. Some of my favorite cleansers right now are Tony Moly Deep Bubble Foam Whipping Cotton, Burt’s Bees Brightening Daily Facial Cleanser with Daisy Extract, and Burt’s Bees Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream (the Burt’s Bees ones have the consistency of thick lotion, and are so moisturizing and heavenly smelling. They always leave my skin soft and satiny). I was a little surprised reading about how many people don’t properly or effectively wash their face. I find that these 3 washes, usually each long enough to mentally sing 1-2 run-throughs of the alphabet, are the most effective for me. Some people may find that this is over-washing. Always listen to you skin and do what’s best for you.
Pro Tip! While rinsing, I always follow 2 rules: 1) once your face feels like it is all rinsed off, rinse 3 more times to ensure that you really got everything, and 2) follow-up with 3 quick splashes of cool water, so your pores aren’t quite so gaping after washing.
Doing a Dead Sea mud mask while touching up my hair color. Multitasking, folks.
Extra Step! Why haven’t I really mentioned masks, yet? Well, I haven’t forgotten about them! Masks are probably my favorite skin care thing, ever. There are so many: peel-off, clay, mud, sheet, you name it! I love them all, and I’m always buying and trying new kinds. At this point in my routine, after washing but before toning, I’ll use a mud, clay, or other mask that needs to be rinsed off, every other day or every third day. I usually do masks 2-4 times a week, depending. It’s not a set thing, I just kinda do one whenever I feel the need.
6. Micellar Water
Wet another cotton round in micellar water and hold and swipe over all areas of face. Micellar water is a really hip product that is being touted as a one-step facial routine for all you low maintenance people out there. It has tiny micelles in it that act like a magnet to pull out dirt and gross bits. I especially like it because it pulls out the harmful minerals from hard water. I like using it, but not by itself; however, even after 3 washes, the micellar soaked pad always comes away a bit dirty. It’s amazing how much it helps to clean the last little bit you normally wouldn’t see or even know is there!
Wet one last cotton round with toner and gently wipe over skin. I love Elizabeth Arden Refining Toner Lotion (right now I’m using the one for normal skin, but I’ve used other kinds as well). It works really well, smells amazing (addictive, somehow equal parts alcoholic and luxurious), and is cheap and readily available (I get mine for $5.99 at T. J. Maxx!) Toner is a great tool that also helps by balancing your skins PH levels after all that cleansing!
Cult favorite for a reason. Rosewater is amazing!
8. Rose Water
Simply close eyes and spritz lightly over face until slightly damp. I’ve tried a couple of different brands, including Reviva Labs Rosewater Facial Spray and the more popular cult favorite, the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater. Another trendy item on this list, rosewater has numerous benefits and as such, has accumulated quite a fan base. It is hydrating, helps with redness and inflammation, and smells darn good!
Everyone looks good in a sheet mask!
Extra Step! Remember a bit earlier I mentioned masks? Another favorite of mine makes an appearance at least a few times a week. I’m speaking of sheet masks! At this point in the routine, after I’ve spritzed with rosewater but before I add any essence or serum, I’ll go ahead and slap on a sheet mask for 20-30 mins. After that, I’ll pat in the remaining moisture and continue the rest of my routine where I left off, starting with some essence. Again, I add this step about 2-3 times per week, give or take.
Pro Tip! Consider adding ampoules to your routine. Ampoules are similar to serums, except that they are not usually for daily use. This is because they are kind of like a mask: great for helping with skin that is in dire need of something a little extra. They are quite potent and another joy from the beauty hub, Korea. When you do decide to employ them, use them before your essence and serum. Truth time: I never have used one before, but in my research I’ve found that they could be a valuable addition to my already formidable routine. Check out my blog post about products on my wish list for more on that.
If you haven’t heard of essences until now, you’re welcome.
Apply a bit of essence to face while it is still damp with rosewater and gently pat to absorb. My all-time favorite essence is hands-down May Coop Raw Sauce. It’s a whopping $40 at Sephora, but you only need a bit and the huge, stylish bottle will last quite a while. I also know that you can get a smaller bottle for $14 online. I also like the Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Hyaluronic Essence. It comes with a dropper applicator… and I LOVE dropper applicators! The citrus-y scent is nice, too. I’m always surprised by the sheer lack of people who have ever heard of essences. It’s definitely one of my absolute favorite products. It’s light, lighter even than a serum, nearly water. You put it on before serum or moisturizer and it helps with hydration. Most faces can never get enough hydration—I know I can’t! Especially in the winter!
Serums are essential. The dropper is just fun.
Apply serum to face, neck, and décolletage, gently pat in to absorb. I love all the memes going around about how people my age (young adults, millennials) should already be using a serum (as well as an eye cream, more on that later). I whole-heartedly agree! Prevention is the name of the game. I’ve been trying different serums, organic and not, and I have a couple of favorites: Dermapeutics Hyaluronic LIFT Serum with MDI Complex, and Sukin Facial Recovery Serum (organic).
The current one I’m using (Dermapeutics), like my current essence, ALSO HAS A DROPPER APPLICATOR! And that makes me so happy.
Helps moisturize and fight acne, without irritating my skin or leaving it too dry or taut.
11. Acne Fighting Moisturizer
Apply a dime-sized amount all over face (I especially concentrate it on problem areas of my face like my forehead, nose, and chin). I get a good-sized bottle of Up & Up Dual Effects Moisturizer (oil-free, salicylic acid acne medication) from Target for cheap and it lasts forever. It’s my favorite one so far. I actually really like acne fighting moisturizers, as they really do seem to help with my acne while not leaving my skin tight, parched, and stinging. Of course, I do use this in addition to both other acne fighting products as well as other moisturizers, and have noticed that on nights in the past when the acne fighter was the only moisturizer I used, my skin was crying out for more hydration.
You’ve heard of eye cream, no doubt. But have you considered trying an eye gel?
12. Eye Cream
Dab a few dots of eye cream on the surface area of your eye that would be covered by Jackie O sunglasses, avoiding the part of the eyelid that touches the eye, as that can cause vision problems. Right now, I’m switching between Skincare Cosmetics Retinol Eye Gel and a Shea Moisture Superfruit Multivitamin Renewal Eye Cream (w/ Grapefruit Seed Oil & Lotus Seed Extract), I like them both.
Pro Tip! I put on eye cream in between moisturizers because I like to give my skin at least a minute or two to soak in one product before I slather it in the next. Doing my eye stuff is a good buffer for in between face steps.
All 3 of these have different results and feels to them. I like to switch it up throughout the week!
13. P.M. Moisturizer
Apply a decent amount of nighttime moisturizer on face and neck, gently rub in, and allow it to fully sink in. I have tried literally tons of different ones. One of my favorites is Ellen Tracy Nighttime Hydrating Cream, it is kinda heavy and has the consistency of gel, but I awaken to see it has absorbed into my skin in a sheer veil of angel-soft smooth skin. I also have a SheaMoisture one that matches the eye cream mentioned above (SheaMoisture Superfruit Multivitamin Renewal Crème). And then there is O2CH P.M. Face Nutrient Moisturizer that is slightly lighter-feeling but still quite moisturizing. A few times a week, I also add a bit of organic coconut oil to my moisturizer. I feel like this really helps with hydration and gives me that healthy, coveted glow everyone is always going on about.
Rapid growth, skin repair, miracle oil!
14. Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Using a clean sample mascara wand (or your finger will suffice if you don’t have one), apply a teeny, tiny dab of the oil to brows, upper lashes, and lower lashes. I would recommend definitely using organic, cold-pressed, pure oil. Right now I am using Shea Moisture 100% Pure Jamaican Black Castor Oil. Jamaican black castor oil is a marvelous, wonderful treat from nature that helps with rapid hair growth, as well as skin and hair health. I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, almost nightly, and have suffered no ill effects at all; quite the contrary, I’ve seen a remarkable difference and improvement on volume and length. Definitely do your own research before starting using anything like that; and when you do start, be sure to start off using it only every other day, and only a little bit of product, so that you can most safely and carefully gauge your reaction, if any, to the new product. I’ve read some gnarly stories of some people’s eyelashes or eyebrows falling out, or worse. Nature is a gracious giver of gifts, but she is also a cruel and mysterious wonderland full of dangerous things. And that’s my poetry for the day, you’re welcome! Heehee.
The smell is pleasant, calming, and relaxing; this product will leave your skin satin-y smooth in the a.m.
15. Overnight Moisturizing Mask
Apply a generous amount of the mask to all areas of the face. It will absorb like a cream, and can be washed off in the morning. I love another CVS brand mask for this job, it’s the Honeydew and Chamomile Overnight Cream Facial Mask. I’m sure there are others out there that work really well, too. I’ve just stuck to this one for a while because it makes my skin super soft and smooth, and the smell is wonderful. I don’t even like honeydew as a fruit but this scent is amazing and calming.
Apply a small amount of pure petroleum jelly around eyes, lips, and any other dry spots, patches, or problem areas. I love Vaseline. It is an amazing, simple, and cheap beauty hack. You can use it for so many things. It is a staple for me that has a permanent place in my routine. I use it around my eyes (like Tyra Banks and Khloe Kardashian do!), as well as on and around my lips (you may have some other lip mask or balm you like to use at night, by all means! Use that and save the jelly for other face parts); and I put some in the creases under my nostrils, as they tend to get dry, cracked, and stinging in the winter and when my face is parched.
Works like a charm at making blemishes vanish overnight!
17. Acne Spot Treatment
Dab a tiny amount of acne spot treatment cream to problem areas. I like Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment. It’s good because it has 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, which is the highest amount you can get in a product over the counter, before you need a prescription. I’ve tried other things, like E.L.F Acne Fighting Gel, and I’m interested in those little acne dot things that are all the rage. But this is my tried-and-true cream that always seems to suck my blemishes dry and help them vanish in only a few days. My nose and chin area right beneath my lips can get greasy, too, so sometimes instead of dabbing the cream, I’ll rub a small amount in to that area to help balance it out a bit.
Kinda futuristic, no? Super fun, though!
18. Light Therapy Mask
Use a light therapy mask as per the instructions. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the slightly warm, trippy light mask for 10 mins. Of course I use the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Treatment Mask! It is my favorite beauty purchase in quite a while. It is supposed to be used every day. It comes with an activator that keeps track of 30 uses. When done, purchase another applicator for 30 more uses (it costs about $16.99). It seems to work really well, and is a thoroughly enjoyable experience (plus, makes for some fun selfies!) While I’m waiting for this mask to finish, I usually journal, write a To-Do List for the next day, or catch up on social media before bed. This mask is really the signal to my brain that it’s about time to shut it all down for the night. It’s usually the last thing I do before crawling into bed.
Cool sci-fi selfies are really one-of-a-kind.
And there you have it! My amazing 18 (sometimes more) step beauty routine! What do you think? Too much? Not enough? Am I ruining my face and I don’t even know it? Did any of these steps seem like too much? Let me know what you took away from this. I love skin care! It’s one of my greatest obsessions! There are worse things to follow religiously, right? I’m always looking for the newest, most popular, most fun, most interesting, most effective, most obscure, most unknown (lots of conflicting points in there, I know) thing to try. Let me know if you have any suggestions. And thanks for reading! Hopefully I’ve interested you or convinced you to add one or more steps to your own routine that you never would’ve thought of.