What one skincare product should I add to my routine?
April 8, 2016 10:56 AM   Subscribe

What ONE skincare product should I add to my current sunscreen-moisturizer-cleanser routine in my twenties?

I've read a bunch of previous questions about skincare routines, but they all recommend tons of different things that are overwhelming. What single product should I consider adding to my current routine (outlined below)?

- in shower, wash face with water or with Kiehls Ultra Facial Cleanser if I remember
- apply Cerave PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
- apply Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA+++

- apply Simple Micellar Cleansing Water on a cotton pad

Caveats: I've tried a ton of different moisturizer-with-SPF products and haven't found any that feel weightless with NO white cast (on medium Asian skin) besides Japanese sunscreens. While I'd love to combine those two steps in the morning, I'm skeptical that any Western products formulated for Caucasian skin will work for me. I'm a big fan of chemical blockers and alcohol in my sunscreens, and generally dislike physical blockers.

My skin is normal-to-dry, prone to stress-triggered eczema but not particularly sensitive to ingredients, and I only get occasional zits from touching my face too much. I don't wear makeup except for lipstick. I also feel a bit too young to be bothering with retinoids since I'd have to be extra-vigilant with the sunscreen (I don't reapply and sometimes eat lunch outside in the sun).

tl;dr: What one(-step) additional skincare product should I consider? Price point <$50 for a standard size, so drugstore to Sephora/mid-range luxury.
posted by serelliya to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Snail cream has been a game changer for my dry/combo skin. I apply it in the evening. I use cosrx, in the tub, but there's a ton of different ones.

My skincare routine is similar to yours. Wash with olive oil, jojoba oil for moisture, and the same watery essense for sunscreen.
posted by Marinara at 11:01 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would add a PM moisturizer/cream. Or, just use your Cerave cream at night as well. If you want to add something new, I like Hada Labo's Hyaluronic Acid lotion (it's like a thick liquid, not a lotion) under my PM moisturizer.
posted by quince at 11:12 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

- apply Cerave PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

This may be too obvious, but, since you already like one of their products, have you tried their AM moisturizing lotion, with sunblock?
posted by praemunire at 11:13 AM on April 8, 2016

You might to look at a Vitamin C Serum. It's a good antioxidant, helps with collagen production & fading marks on the skin in some studies has been shown to help repair sun damage. The most important thing is the antioxidants which help increase the effectiveness of sunscreens & helps your skin protect itself from UV damage, which is what you want at your age to help slow down those pesky signs of aging. I also think it makes my skin look brighter but I can't find scientific evidence to back that.
posted by wwax at 11:15 AM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd go with a gentle toner; I started using toner in my mid-20s and now I consider it as important as cleanser in my routine. I like Paula's Choice but there are some cheaper options reviewed here.

Generally, I recommend reviewing the table here to get an idea of the components that you might be missing, and why would you need (or wouldn't need) them. That will also give you an idea of the types of ingredients you're looking for.
posted by neushoorn at 11:40 AM on April 8, 2016

What do you want the product to do? Clear up acne? Anti-aging? Moisturize?

Based on your routine, I would suggest:
- washing your face at night, especially because you are wearing sunscreen
- add a chemical exfoliant to your night routine. My skin responds best to BHA/salicylic acid. I use Stridex pads.
posted by pumpkinlatte at 11:40 AM on April 8, 2016

I was also going to say Vitamin C. Everything I've read said that if you want one serum, you want that.

I'd also consider rotating in an exfoliator - I hear you on the retinoids, but regular exfoliation does make your skin look good and honestly you're doing better than most on the sunscreen. I don't do it on any sort of regular schedule, but sometimes I like a chemical peel (I just use the weakest Lactic Acid one from MUAC; they have a number of good ones) and sometimes I use a moisturizer with some BHAs at night (protip: ones marketed at acne tend to be more affordable than ones marketed at aging). It's not a perfect system but it's perfect for my lazy.
posted by R a c h e l at 11:44 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Stick with the Japanese sunscreen. They are 1000000x better than anything from the US. FDA is not bothering to actually approve new sunscreens and nothing here protects against UVA nearly well enough. I just ordered more Hada Labo UV (both perfect and creamy) for my vampire-pale self. So thrilled to find something without fragrance!

Except for adding moisturizer in the evening, I'd stick with what is working for you. The BHA exfoliation pumpkinlatte suggested is a fairly low risk thing to try, though I'd not do it every night to start. And moisturize after, because it is drying. I have dry and sensitive skin, and when it is really bad or I've done something to traumatize my face I do a few days of nighttime Aquaphor slathering. I was skeptical, but it helps a lot.
posted by monopas at 11:57 AM on April 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Caveats: I've tried a ton of different moisturizer-with-SPF products and haven't found any that feel weightless with NO white cast (on medium Asian skin) besides Japanese sunscreens.

I really like Oil of Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer , it has SPF 15 which is fine if I'm going to be indoors most of the day. I buy the Sensitive Skin version, because it seems somehow lighter to me. It absorbs completely if I make sure to apply it immediately after my morning shower or after I wash my face. The good thing is you can try it out for just like $8 dollars.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:02 PM on April 8, 2016

@praemunire: Hehe, yes, I've tried the Cerave AM lotion and disliked it due to white cast. The consistency also isn't as nice as the PM lotion.
posted by serelliya at 12:03 PM on April 8, 2016

I'll enthusiastically second a product with snail mucin. It has changed my skin completely, from irritated and unhappy, to calm and peaceful. I always have at least one product with that ingredient featured prominently. (I like Benton products, but have had good results with some of the other usual suspects: CosRX and Mizon.)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:09 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be the naysayer, as I always am, about the Japanese sunscreen. The stuff is trendy, but there's really nothing magical about it, other than the fact that people have decided that Asian skin products are magic. More to the point, though, the Asian sunscreens are all full of alcohol; that's why it absorbs so well. Alcohol is super super bad for your skin. (Incidentally, I also have problems with eczema on my face and alcohol makes it way worse.)

Other than that, I would second the recommendation for a vitamin C serum.
posted by holborne at 12:48 PM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have medium Asian skin also, and I hear you on the white cast in many Western products, so I've been moving towards Asian products in a big way. I just bought my very low-effort mom some MIZON Black Snail All In One Cream, and she's been raving about it. I know some people are creeped out by snail mucin, but I've found all the snail products I've tried to be pretty great.

Another thing I use regularly, but it's not really an everyday kind of product, is sheet masks. My Beauty Diary, Etude House, Tony Moly, and LuLuLun are a few of the major brands that come to mind, but there are so many, it's laughable, and beauty bloggers go through these like candy. They're a bit of a time investment, since you generally have to leave them on for 10+ minutes, but aside from that, they basically require almost no effort and usually leave you looking refreshed. They also make you look a bit like a serial killer when they're on, which is a bonus in my eyes, but understandably not everyone's cup of tea.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:49 PM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

More sleep, more vegetables, scant smoke and alcohol.
posted by clew at 12:55 PM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sunscreen and retinol are the two proven anti-agers. Because you don't want to start on retinol yet, I'd step up the sun protection by buying either a sun hat or parasol for your outdoor lunches.
posted by mama casserole at 1:06 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Korean sunscreen is definitely superior, it's not a trendy thing. It's much much better.
It's going to take everything I've got to not spew a million suggestions at you, but based on everything everyone has said, some kind of snail product. The Benton Snail/Bee venom essence is amazing and super lightweight so I think it would work really well in your routine.
Vitamin C is a great suggestion too, you won't see results because it's about long term effects. Two pointers for using vitamin c - apply after cleansing and leave to soak in for at least 20 minutes before you do anything else to your face. It will probably feel tacky so you will probably want to splash some water on your face and rub it in a little before using your moisturizer/sunscreen. Also, vitamin c serum needs to be kept in the dark, I keep mine in the box it came in. When it turns yellow it has oxidized and needs to be replaced. A great one is the [OST] C 20 Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum. You can get it on eBay.
And agreeing sheet masks are the absolute best.
AND definitely use lotion before going to bed. Your skin needs moisture.
If you have any more questions or want more suggestions I can talk about this all day. Me-mail me!
posted by shesbenevolent at 3:01 PM on April 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Consider using emu oil as non-white moisturizer. Not quite as exotic as snail mucus.
I mix it with Shikai non-scented skin cream and apply after washing with water.
Agree with clew above.
posted by Mesaverdian at 7:53 PM on April 9, 2016

Just asked my derm this. She said a retinol and vitamin C serum, and said the vitamin C serum with actual best data from Duke is Skinceuticals, though $$$. Also said vitamin c serums actually increase strength of sunblock, which is a nice bonus.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 10:03 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use organic cold-pressed argan oil by teddie. Argan oil is a 0 on the comedogenic scale- it won't clog pores. It lasts forever, a few drops will do, and it keeps my facial skin supple. But the best part about it is that I know exactly what it is, there's only 1 ingredient.
posted by Avosunspin at 12:36 AM on April 10, 2016

This Dorian Grey anti-aging serum. Retinol but not harsh. Moisturizing. Put it on after the cleansing water, and then put a night cream on. You can use the Cerave PM or I recommend this Sake & Fermented Rice Sleeping Pack.
posted by barnone at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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