In preparation for my wedding this past September, I got pretty serious about my skin care routine only during the final four months. The odd truth is: Because I’m sent lots of beauty products for my job as a beauty editor, I’m constantly jumping between products and never get to experience a formula’s full long-term effects. I feel obligated to be informed on all the new things and I never want to feel behind. The downside of this is that my skin actually reaps fewer benefits. So with my big day coming up, I finally entered into a sacred commitment with a small arsenal of products that really made a big impact.
The curated roster is quite potent and, yes, a bit extra. It took some ramping up for my skin to tolerate the consistent use of all of these formulas and I used some of them in a “skin cycling” style where I alternated them every few nights. I also made sure to listen to my skin and turn to non-active formulas when it felt sensitized. But the end results after four months meant I didn’t need lasers, peels, or intensive facials to get the skin I loved. I do use Botox and Juvederm for forehead wrinkles and to help reduce undereye circles, respectively (shoutout to my longtime derm Dr. Dendy Engelman), so the skin care products were really about the quality of my skin. By the day of the wedding, I was very happy with how my complexion looked: smooth, glowing, and supple with hardly any spots of hyperpigmentation.
Please note: You do not need all of these. In fact, some experts would probably tell me this is too much altogether (I can’t help myself). I feel that just one of these alone would make an impact on skin quality because they are all that good. I also want to share that there were several other products I used in my routine, like my favorite cleanser and eye serum, but because those aren’t products that left me with big “wow” results, I left them out of this story here and stuck with the heavy-hitters. So, without further ado, here are the tried-and-true, transformative skin care products I used for my wedding.
Vitamin C — Isdin Isdinceutics Flavo-C UltraglicanAmpoules
Skin care studies show vitamin C can improve skin texture, brighten skin tone, and prevent sun damage. But vitamin C is notoriously fickle and can become inactive easily, which is why Isdin delivers the ingredient in these tiny airless ampoules that keep them potent. You crack it open fresh and one ampoule lasts two to three applications. This formula also contains hyaluronic acid and it leaves an instant look of freshness on the skin (it has a slightly sticky quality that I actually really like and you can’t feel it once other products have been applied on top), but the glow really starts to show after a few weeks of use. I applied this on freshly washed skin every morning and let it sit for a few minutes before applying moisturizer and sunscreen.
Retinol — Environ Retinol Serum 2
While we’re on the subject of study-proven and doctor-approved skin care ingredients, there is none as respected as retinol (except sunscreen for its preventative ability). You can use a prescription version of this vitamin A ingredient like tretinoin, but I chose to use a reputable over-the-counter retinol option and used it at night every three nights. This particular formula from Environ is highly regarded by estheticians and dermatologists and comes in a three-formula step-up protocol so you can build tolerance. Retinol speeds up skin cell turnover and skin can become dry and peel when you first start using it. I had spent the spring getting my skin adjusted to retinol by using StriVectin Advanced Retinol Nightly Multi-Correct Serum (also very good) and then transitioned straight to Environ’s second-level retinol formula.
Exfoliating Toner — Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970
The night after my retinol nights, I would use this exfoliating and anti-aging acid toner that has a massive cult following. It’s been around for half a century (hence, the name) and I’ve gone in and out of using it for about a decade myself. To apply, douse a cotton pad or gauze — no need to get it soaking — then press it into your skin. The trick I learned from Diana Yerkes at Rescue Spa is to press, press, press the pad into skin in small upward motions so the formula absorbs without the friction of swiping. The immediate and long-term benefits are glowing and smoothing skin, and I also know people who have used P50 for several years and they truly have the best skin ever.
All-In-One Spray — Violette_FR Boum-Boum Milk
I have such a love affair with this formula because it is so hydrating, leaves a nice shine on my skin, and smells delicious. I use it all. the. time. Morning, midday, and evening — specifically, on the third night or “recovery night” of my three-night skin cycle. On those recovery nights, I would just use Boum-Boum Milk after washing and massage it into my skin before bed — it maintains a nice slip for about a minute.
Serum — Tower 28 SOS Intensive Rescue Serum
So, admittedly, I was putting my skin through a lot. Only a few times did I feel like my skin was telling me to chill out (getting really red, easily flushed, or stingy), but if it did, this SOS Serum was my go-to. The main ingredient is hypochlorous acid, which soothes skin, and helped this product get the seal of approval from the National Eczema Association. It is highly anti-inflammatory and a very simple formula.
Skin Tool — ZIIP GX Series
This microcurrent and nanocurrent tool delivers electrical currents to skin to help firm and contour. This tool is the most expensive of everything I used at home for my wedding skin prep and I want to explain why I stand by it. First, while I know people absolutely swear by their LED light panels, I need something I can use while watching TV. Otherwise, it’s just not going to happen. Second, I get immediate effects from ZIIP and they include sculpting and depuffing, which are really important to me as this is not something you can really do with topicals. I used ZIIP about two to three times a week, and did a long session the day before the wedding. My favorite program is called Founder’s Favorite which delivers nanocurrent all over skin and gives you that double-take, “oh, I look good today” effect when you look in the mirror.
Eyelash Enhancing Serum — Obagi Nu-Cil Eyelash Enhancing Serum
Because I applied this lash serum while doing my skin care at night, I think of it as a skin care product. This formula undeniably works. For the record, I have heard that more affordable formulas also work well for many people, but because this is the first one I used and it worked so well, I stuck with it. Within a month I definitely saw results (and got plenty of compliments!), and on my wedding day, my makeup artist and I both agreed I didn’t need false lashes!
Sunscreen — Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40
If you are going to use any active skin care products (my faves above or otherwise), I’m here to tell you there is really no point unless you’re also using sunscreen on the daily. That’s why you have to find a sunscreen you absolutely love so it doesn’t feel like a chore. I adore Glowscreen because it’s like a subtle full-face highlighter that’s nearly makeup but not quite. I personally use it as my sunscreen and base makeup, and then just use concealer as needed. In fact, I like the effect so much that I sometimes apply it at night for no other benefit than cosmetic.