Nicole, What Are Your FAV Secret Weapons?

What a good question!

My very favorite thing on the internet is when people I think are beautiful provide a list of their MVP products (whether that be makeup or skin care) and it occurred to me that I should give you this courtesy before jumping right into talking about cleansers. The best place to find these guides, in my experience, is The Top Shelf over at Into the Gloss, which has resulted in me spending…way too much money…on more than one occasion.

Let me lay the absolute clutch products out for you at the current time, and that way you can decide what your most pressing needs are. If you follow me on Twitter I would love for you to share your own desert island products (with the obvious disclaimer that what you would want on the desert island is probably heavily sunscreen-weighted.)

The following are in no particular order, I love all my skin children equally:

CORSX Acne Master Patches: The one downside of having RELATIVELY flawless skin due to my obsessive skincare regimen is that I do not get to use these nearly as often as I would like. They are MAGICAL. If you are a picker, you can slap one of these bad boys on a zit the minute it announces its arrival. I have worn them overnight AND out and about, though the viability of the latter depends entirely on your skin tone, they’re a bit beige-ier than clear. Popped or unpopped, it’s amazing how quickly these patches will bring down inflammation and redness and swelling. All while keeping your filthy fingers off it!

Son and Park Beauty Water: I have tried many toners in my day, and found many that delight and amaze the senses, but I always find myself re-upping on my Beauty Water (I linked to Soko Glam for purchasing, which is a FAB K-beauty site and can really help you build an affordable skin system.) It contains willow bark, which I find is a really gentle but effective exfoliant, while also restoring the moisture that a harsher toner would strip away (like those original big green Clinique toners you may have stolen from your mom.) Beauty Water is the start of the rest of my Artistic Process as a skin obsessive: I must admit to being a little lackluster about deep/dual cleansing, unless I am wearing makeup. If I wake up in the morning and can’t face the idea of washing my face (don’t judge me) a cotton pad or two of Beauty Water makes me feel fresh and clean and ready to get on with it.

Shani Darden's Resurface Retinol Reform: This is INTENSELY my shit. Intensely! I had been an early adopter and evangelist for Good Genes, the expensive but EFFECTIVE lactic acid formulation that so many of us have walked into Sephora just to scam extra samples of, and I loved the way it made my skin look and feel, but I also knew I needed a retinol product and didn’t want the combination to attack my face. Lots of people get their dermatologist to prescribe them a strong retinoid, with great results, but I have found that even the pea-sized blob, even every other night, is way too much and peels me up like a MOTHERFUCKER. That’s when I started Googling around. It occurred to me that actresses never use anything that makes them look worse before it makes them look better (unless they have some serious time to hide out at their beach house), so what kind of retinol are THEY rocking. That’s how I discovered Shani Darden. This serum is the real deal. It’s a lactic acid AND a retinol, and it’s gentle enough that after a week or two I was ramped up to using it every night (when you start, go ahead and apply it a few minutes after your night moisturizer to cut the intensity, you can work up to bare skin.) I have never flaked, never peeled, and it’s life-changing. It costs a fortune, but it lasts and it’s replaced like three products in my arsenal, which for me is money well spent.

Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream: This (much cheaper, thank God) cream is what I reach for when I have pushed my skin too far: tried too many new products at once, layered different active ingredients that do not play together, etc) resulting in redness and irritation and whiteheads. I am a well-known snail mucin front-woman, I think snail slime is magic in a bottle, but there’s SOMETHING about this formulation that is overnight magic. When things get bad, I cleanse very gently (possibly just with water!), tone with Beauty Water, apply a layer of this stuff (you have to work it in a lot and it smells like a chlorinated swimming pool, that’s how you know It’s Good) and go to sleep. In the morning, it’s like you’ve been living like a dairymaid in cream for thirty years. It always bails me out of my own overly-excited choices.

Gold & Snail Hydrogel Eye Patches: If you have ever been through a hard time, and you know me IRL, I have probably mailed you a package of these bad boys. They are perfect, and they are CHEAP, you get SIXTY of the little fuckers! They seem super luxe, and they feel BEYOND luxe, but without the price tag to match. Store them in your fridge upside down, the cold is like a one-two punch for eye bags and tiredness and post-crying malaise, and the upside-down keeps them from drying out over time. It feels indulgent as heck, and you’re doing something just for yourself.

Okay, part two is coming tomorrow! Go look beautiful!