not a professional. just crazy

I Use These Four Products Every Morning to Protect My Skin All Day Long

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton
Photo: Rio Viera-Newton Photo: Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

While my evening skin-care routine treats my acne and hyperpigmentation, my morning is all about moisturizing and protecting my skin from the outside world. A ton of environmental stressors are just waiting to tax your skin every day, including free-radical producing pollution, intense heat or cold, blue light, and UV rays, of course. Some damage is aesthetic, like collagen and elastin loss (leading to wrinkles), while others — UVA and UVB rays — can cause skin cancer.

To prepare my inflamed, sensitive, eczema- and acne-prone skin for a day of fighting all this off, I have a thorough morning routine with antioxidant-rich products (which help protect against free radicals that damage skin cells), creams packed with emollient and humectant ingredients (for properly hydrating my skin and preparing it for cold, windy days), and, of course, a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which helps ensure my skin is as protected as possible against damaging UV rays).

Below, my daily morning routine, which includes a fragrance-free sunscreen, a hydrating vitamin-C serum, and my favorite budget-friendly toner.

Unless I’ve had a really sweaty night’s sleep (gross, but a reality!), I’ll just splash my face with some tepid water and then go in with this propolis toner from K-Beauty wonderbrand Cosrx. I love this particular propolis toner for a few reasons: It’s affordable and a humectant without creating that sticky, tacky feel. In my experience, it does an equally good job of calming inflammation and redness (whether that be breakouts or just cold-weather flaky bits) as it does moisturizing my skin. As an ingredient, propolis (a resinlike substance made by bees) is said to not just be anti-inflammatory but also have antibacterial benefits. That makes it a great ingredient to reach for if you have dry or dehydrated acne-prone skin. I pour about fourish drops into my hands and press it into my skin.

Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about vitamin C but never really understood what it does, exactly. It’s a potent antioxidant that not only helps fade dark marks but also safeguards your skin from free radicals and helps enhance your sunscreen’s protective benefits. I’ve long sung the praises of the gentle, dry-skin-friendly vitamin-C derivative tetrahexyl decyl. Unlike its water-soluble, mainstream sibling ascorbic acid, tetrahexyl decyl (THD for short) has an oil-soluble, fatty-acid base, making it gentler and significantly more hydrating on the skin. It’s also more shelf stable, so it’s not going to oxidize a few weeks after you open it, which is the the annoying thing about most vitamin-C serums out there (RIP to the fancy $100 Skinceuticals Vitamin C Ferulic serum that perished after only a few weeks because I didn’t twist the cap tight enough). There are a lot of THD options out there depending on your budget, but my favorite by far is this one from Dr. Loretta. This formula is really lightweight — not too sticky or oily — and it gives your skin a beautiful glow. It also has marine peptides, which helps support your skin’s collagen and elastin.

Barrier+ Triple-Lipid Peptide Cream is rich in ceramides, peptides, and hyaluronic acid to support your skin’s natural barrier, minimize redness, and deliver hydration to the skin. The formula is quite thick — initially I thought it might be a little too heavy for daytime (this is true for most of the year), but in the wintertime my skin simply drinks it up. At over $50, this isn’t a particularly cheap product, but because it’s so rich, a little bit goes a long way.

A few months ago, I hopped on the train to visit my favorite skin-care store, oo35mm in Chinatown, which is tucked away on Canal and Mott, up a small flight of stairs. I know I’ve talked about oo35mm quite a few times here on The Strategist, but if you’ve never been, it’s certainly worth a visit — it’s jam-packed with incredibly curated beauty products from all around the world, from Taiwanese sheet-mask brand My Beauty Diary to indie K-beauty brands like Manyofactory. And the staff there is incredibly helpful — they’ve recommended to me quite a few products that ultimately became some of my skin-care holy grails.

All this is just to say when I came in looking for a new sunscreen, I immediately asked the staff which one to buy. They all pointed to Omi’s Verdio Sun Essence, a Japanese sunscreen that was allegedly formulated specifically for sensitive skin types, and seeing as the staff at oo35mm give the best recommendations, I purchased it without thinking twice. Per usual, they were right on the money. This fragrance-free, alcohol-free chemical sunscreen has a really moisturizing formula, which I really appreciate in the wintertime, as it not only adds another layer of hydration to my skin-care but also leaves behind a really nice glow. And the formula includes some of my favorite skin-care ingredients of all time, like green tea, glycerin, and aloe vera, which has anti-inflammatory, soothing, and moisturizing properties. As someone with dry and acne-prone skin, I can say aloe vera helps a lot with general day-to-day redness. This sunscreen uses the Japanese filters octinoxate, uvinul A plus, tinosorb S, and octocycle, which provide broad-spectrum protection without leaving any kind of whitecast behind.

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The Products I Use Every Morning to Protect My Skin All Day