Skin Care: Part 1


Ok, let’s talk Skincare! If we’re being honest, I only started caring about my skin a few years ago…riiiight around the time when my age started showing. Coincidence much? 😉

Anyway, I had NO idea where to start, what kind of skin I had, or what the heck “ferulic acid” was, aside from the fact that it sounded like it would melt my face off (newsflash- it WON’T!)

So where did I start?

First, I booked myself a facial at a trustworthy spa.

I was lucky enough to get an extremely knowledgeable esthetician who listened to my concerns, answered my questions, and didn’t push products and treatments on me. She walked me through what I should be doing for my skin and suggested a few key products. I then went on to research and learn more myself…it’s been overwhelming, but totally fun at the same time!

While getting a professional spa treatment was great, I understand that it’s not always an option– and that’s totally ok, too.  Lucky for us, my amazing friend Samantha, who happens to be an esthetician, has been kind enough to chime in on my routine & products!

**And before we get started, here’s a quick (& embarrasing) BEFORE & AFTER of my face (I can’t believe I’m showing you these!) Left was taken a year ago when I first started my skincare routine (I’ve added/changed products over time) The photos on the right were taken this week. Look at how the pigmentation & dullness has faded and how much more consistent and hydrated my skin looks now! I have no makeup on my face in these photos (Although I had lash extensions in the “before pics”) and my skin has not been edited and do I even need to state the glaringly obvious: “NO filters applied!”



Ok, now let’s get YOU started on your own face transformation! I hope this little guide we put together helps you find some new products and establish a routine that works best for your skin!


*A NOTE* You might notice my love of Drunk Elephant products below. While I haven’t perfected “clean product usage”, I do try my best to select products that are natural, organic, and paraben-free over other comparable products and to buy brands that are “ingredient conscious” as often as possible! One of my fav parts about Drunk Elephant is that they give you testers of their products in most of their full size product boxes. I collect them for when I travel! 




Ok, here is a no-nonsense cheat sheet of my basic skincare routine steps, to give you a little overview before we dive in….


Now let’s get down to business and break these steps down!



STEP 1. Cleanse


What I UseWell, I USED to just splash cool water on my face in the morning…until Samantha came into my life. She taught me the importance of morning cleansing (and DOUBLE cleansing in the evening) and introduced me to my new favorite products: Eminence Stone Crop Cleansing Oil and Tata Harpers Purifying Cleanser  (Both natural & organic!) But, why TWO cleansers? Read below…

  • Samantha Says-
    • Morning- I regularly apply acids & retinols to my skin during my night time routine, so it’s important for me to get in a quick cleanse in the morning to remove products and any build up of dead skin cells. I usually reach for my Eminence Stone Crop Cleansing Oil – keeps my skin soft and hydrated without compromising my acid mantle, but gently removes all the rest. Steer clear of face washes that foam as these usually contain surfactants and will strip your skin of essential moisture and can create an alkaline surface that’s favorable to bacteria – ew! If I’m in a rush and don’t have time to wash, I do a quick wipe down with Bioderma Micellar water on a cotton round. This removes heavy emollients, sweat, and shedding skin cells from the night before & will help your daytime serums & treatments be most effective.
    • Evening- I double-cleanse in the evenings if I’ve worn makeup or SPF that day (so, basically always). I start with a balm or oil cleanser – my Eminence Stone Crop, or I also really love Clinique’s cleansing balm (the balm, not the oil!) – and then follow that cleanse with either Tatcha’s Deep Cleanse, Tata Harpers Purifying Cleanser, or I just use my oil cleanser again. I have combination, aging skin, and neither of these cleansers leave my skin feeling “stripped” or tight, but they’re both equally as effective for my husband who has combination skin and loves that “clean” feeling. win-win!




STEP 2: Tone/Exfoliate


What I Use-  I use  Thayer’s Alcohol Free, Witch Hazel & Aloe Vera Rose Petal Toner for a gentle, hydrating toner in the morning and Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 PIGM 400 for my acid toner (exfoliant) at night.

What it Does– Toners can be confusing, so I’m handing the mic over to Samantha …

  • Samantha Says- Let’s break toners into two main categories:
    • 1. gentle, hydrating (ie Fresh’s rose toner to balance PH),
    • 2. chemical exfoliants (ie Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 ). I swear by P50. But if you can’t get your hands on it I would also recommend AH Liquid Gold, Pixie Glow Tonic (affordable option & sold at Target!), or Dr Dennis Gross Peel Pads (I take these when I travel,  because they’re convenient and fool-proof). Be sure to wear SPF and/or cover up if you apply these in the daytime to avoid skin damage- or just save them for night!
    • Toning is one of the most important steps for prepping your skin for the serums and moisturizers you use after. Toners were originally thought of as a second cleanse – to remove any remaining makeup/sebum/cleanser – but toners are SO MUCH MORE than that. A toner can either help to rebalance your skins neutral PH and provide additional hydration, or you can use acidic toners that help to exfoliate the skin, and challenge it in a safe (and non-abrasive!!) way. Think of acid toners as the new “St. Ives Apricot Scrub” exfoliator for your skin- but, like, WAY better for your skin!  When you apply an acid toner to your skin, you put your skin in an acidic PH state, make the pores act like little vacuums; pulling anything applied to it more effectively and deeply. This method is frequently used by estheticians during chemical peels, applying vitamin A/retinol to the skin when its at its most acidic state to drive it deeper into the epidermis.


STEP 3: Serums


What I Use- SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic in the morning and Drunk Elephant TLC Night Serum at night (with a few others occasionally mixed in!) Another option would be to use Vitner’s Daughter (2018 Glamour Award Winner for Best Natural Beauty Product).

What it does- Ok, yes…CE Ferulic  is a SPLURGE for sure, but I seriously love it so much & it lasts forever! “It features an antioxidant combination of ferulic acid, pure vitamins C and E, and it enhances your skin’s protection against environmental damage. It helps neutralize free radicals induced by UVA/UVB, infrared radiation, and ozone pollution. It also improves signs of aging and photodamage, and reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles while firming and brightening your complexion.”  [taken from DERMSTORE] If CE Ferulic isn’t in the budget, try  Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum instead! But definitely apply some form of Vitamin C every day! Next, The TLC Serum I use at night has glycolic acid (a natural exfoliant) so it resurfaces dull skin and gently lifts dead skin cells away for a clear, smooth, and even looking complexion. I like using this one at night because it enhances the performance of other products by clearing the way for maximum absorption [info taken from Drunk Elephant & ]

  • Samantha Says– I have a rotation of serums that I interchange depending on what my skin is telling me it needs –  for hydration I use Hydrafacial brand, for additional exfoliation Sunday Riley Good Genes never fails me for added exfoliation & pigment concerns, and for tissue repair Kate Somervile Deep Tissue Repair with Peptides is a creamy treatment that can be used in this step or as your moisturizer.  Listen to your skin and switch up your treatments, or even better, COCKTAIL your serums together to feed your skin what it needs. I’m a mad scientist in my bathroom mixing multiple serums together – have fun with it!



STEP 4: Moisturize


What I Use- Derma-e Purifying Oil-Free Moisturizer for the day if I’m feeling dry or  Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Serum for a light, skin-plumping moisturizer. I use Drunk Elephant Polypeptide protein creme moisturizer at night!

What it does The Derm-e is a silky, lightweight formula that re-hydrates, detoxifies and replenishes nutrients during the day. The Water Drench is a serum so you only need a tiny bit to make your skin glow & feel hydrated all day, without the heaviness of a lotion based moisturizer. I. FREAKING. LOVE. THIS. STUFF!!! The Drunk Elephant Protini’s formula “delivers younger, revived-looking skin, almost from the first application. Lines, wrinkles and signs of sun-damage appear reduced; depleted skin feels strengthened and moisturized.” Sign me up! Love this stuff for my night time routine! 


  • Samantha Says– Hi. My name is Samantha, and I’m addicted to Skinbetter Science Intensive AlphaRet overnight cream for my nighttime moisturizer. This retinol + glycolic + lactic acid blend is POWERFUL. Goodbye wrinkles, texture, dullness, and frankly, my thirties! It also contains antioxidants, peptides, ceramides, and more. Holy. Grail. For another moisturizer option, Jordan hit the nail on the head here…Drunk Elephant Protini is really, really, REALLY good. It’s very rich, and best suited for a “normal” to dry or aging skin type. Kate Somerviles Goat Milk moisturizer is another favorite.
    • My oily girls – if you don’t like the heavy feeling of a moisturizer AND an SPF during the day, feel free to skip a moisturizer altogether! Instead, use a hyaluronic acid serum (like Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum to boost hydration and then go straight to your SPF. Side note: if you’re oily and you’re skipping your daily moisturizer and then cleansing at the end of the night with a cleanser that suds, STOP. Oil cleansers will change your life!


STEP 5: Facial Oils (I typically only use oils at night!)


What I Use: Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Face Oil or Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil

What it Does- The Marula oil isLike rehab for your skin, this wonder-working, luxury facial oil…helps to moisturize, rejuvenate and nourish skin while restoring a youthful glow. Straight from the “pip” of the marula fruit…Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil is untouched by any chemical or fragrance, natural or synthetic and remains in its purest form.” [Drunk Elephant] The Sleeping Oil is a Retinol & Blue Tansy based oil. I use it a few times a week in the place of my other oil, because- duh…this tired mama needs some retinol in her life! (I only use facial oils at night because they tend to be a bit too heavy for me to have on all day.) Other Options- Le Prunier Facial Oil (LOVE! Could replace the Marula Oil),  Mad Hippie Facial Oil, Honest Beauty Organic Facial Oil

  • Samantha Says-  I apply Luna Sleeping Night Oil over my night cream to lock everything in and keep my skin hydrated but still working for me. This is a great retinol starter if you’ve never used a retinol or for anyone who finds that other retinols are irritating to their sensitive skin. A bottle lasts for what feels like forever.



STEP 5: SPF (daytime only)

What I Use- Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte and Supergoop spf 50 Refreshing Mist (for sunscreen touch-ups OVER make-up!)

What it does- Love this stuff! The Umbra Tinte has just the slightest amount of tint, with an spf 30 protection.  I use it as my “foundation” every day! I love using the supergoop spray on-the-go when I need to reapply sunscreen without messing up my makeup. Other Options- La Mer SPF 30 Skin Tint OR for a non-tinted option, get Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer

  • Samantha Says– If you are staying home all day, no need to apply spf. If you’ll be outside (overcast days included!) or even in your car for more than 15 minutes, apply sunscreen. I like NeoGen Day-Light Protection 50+++. You need to reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours if you’re in direct sunlight (ie beach days, sitting at the park, etc.). I avoid moisturizer/sunscreen combo products because I invest in really high quality (and often times $$$) skincare and don’t want those ingredients being diluted by sunscreen. I don’t need to wear SPF all day, everyday so applying it separate from my moisturizer just makes sense for me.


And the last, BEST thing you can do for your skin? Water, water, water! Drink up, ladies! Nothing will work better than hydrating your skin from the INSIDE, OUT!



Need some help digesting all that info?

I know it might seem like a lot, so here are some little cheat sheets for you. Print them out, stick ’em to your mirror, and voilà…just like the spa at home. 😉


And here’s a blank copy of my chart for you to download, print & fill in with the products you’ll be using. It’ll helpful to keep in your bathroom for reference the first few weeks until it becomes second nature:  Blank Skincare Steps Chart




Have Questions?

Check out this fun segment below!



I chatted with a few friends while putting this post together and asked Sam if she would be so kind as to answer a few of our most burning questions! Hope this helps!


1. A proper cleanser that removes makeup & spf but isn’t drying or irritating (if you don’t know if your cleanser is right for your skin take the 2 hour challenge – wash your face and apply NOTHING, wait two hours, then assess your skin. Is it tight and dry? If so, switch to something that isn’t stripping your skin of moisture, ex: an oil or milky cleanser, not something that suds.)
2. Sunscreen! Sun damage is SO aging and preventing it is so EASY and inexpensive. The neutrogena spf at Target will do just fine! If you’re investing in good skincare and not applying spf you’re just wasting your time and money.
3. An oil or cream, preferably one that contains antioxidants and other skin boosting ingredients. If you’re washing your face and not following up by feeding your skin the moisture it needs you’re going to have dull and often times wrinkly/crepe-paper looking fine lines caused by surface dehydration.




This is a tough one because it’s very age related, but if you already have the items above and are looking to really invest in your skincare I would say that anyone over age 30 should start using retinol in their nighttime routine, and if you’re currently using physical exfoliants (St Ives Apricot scrub, anyone?) to instead invest in a good chemical exfoliant/toner/serum like P50, Drunk Elephant TLC, Sunday Riley Good Genes, etc. Physical exfoliants can be so so damaging to the skin, and many of the chemical exfoliating serums mentioned above also contain other great ingredients for your skin and benefit a wide range of skin types and conditions.




YES!!! I sleep on a SLIP pillowcase every night, and I’ve even splurged over the years on extras for my daughters and husband because they’re just so great!! You spend a third of your life in bed, and if you’re like me, you sleep with your face squished against the pillow just begging for wrinkles. Silk pillowcases reduce friction by more than 40% and that benefit spans beyond just your skin – less tangled, damaged, bed-head hair is another perk! Cotton pillowcases are also far more absorbent and I’m not investing in quality skincare just to see it absorbed by my cotton pillowcase. 😉




This is a rabbit hole…
Are you only breaking out around your time of the month? Are your breakouts around your chin area (a usual sign that it’s hormonal)? Are your “breakouts” deep under the skin or on the surface with visible white heads? Looooots of factors here. (Please feel free to message me personally if you have specific skincare concerns, I am happy to help you in a more targeted way here!!)
If you’re already using a retinol and chemical exfoliant toner/serum and still having significant breakouts I would start first by determining if your “breakouts” are true acne or a reaction to products you’re using (overexfoliating, overly dry and stripped skin, or an allergy, etc). Second to that I would eliminate dairy. I did this after having my second daughter (she had allergies) and was SHOCKED by the dramatic change in my skin.
Acne spot treatments are great for treating what’s already there. Salicylic acid is an oil-eater and exfoliant and is best used on black and white heads, as well as those bumps that don’t seem to come to a head. Benzoyl peroxide treatments are best for those big, red, puss filled zits as it kills bacteria.



Ok, here’s the deal. The concern is with overexfolition, and PH. Vitamin A (retinol), the holy grail of skincare, is an antioxidant and works on a cellular level supporting cell production, collagen, and fibroblasts that keep your skin firm, plump, and visibly less wrinkly. Acids, on the other hand, work on the surface of the skin to slough away dead skin cells. While retinol does cause cell turnover, it is not an exfoliant. If you are noticing significant redness, dryness, peeling, and irritation, CUT BACK; alternate using retinol every other night until you’ve built up more tolerance, or find a formula with a lower percentage of vitamin A (an over the counter retinoid like Luna Night Oil is a great place to start) What you really need to know is that keeping your skin hydrated and protected from the sun is the most important thing you should do because as your skin sheds the “adult cells” and reveals new “baby cells” they are fragile and the sun can cause loss of firmness, pigmentation, and wrinkles, and that goes against everything we’re working towards!
Vitamin C + retinol is another concern people have, but fear not. Vitamin C remains stable at a low PH level and previously the concern was that retinol would be ineffective at that PH but that myth has since been debunked. So mix away!

Here’s a great article if you’re interested:


You can follow me on my skin specific Instagram @heyskingirl (I have been inactive recently while getting settled into our new home state, but this was just the motivation I needed to get back at it!), my personal account @samantha.m.hawes or email me at

**Tip: Things getting pricey?! Try the Drunk Elephant “The Littles” kit. You get to sample eight products for under $100! Also, I built up my collection over a year…don’t think you need to go buy everything at


Ready for MORE?

For my favorite skincare tools, masks, eye products, etc. check out Skincare: Part 2  where we chat about face tools, eyes, lips, masks and more!




4 thoughts on “Skin Care: Part 1

  1. I read an article that said sometimes you need to be careful when ordering a product from Amazon when it’s a third party because it can be counterfeit. I noticed some of these products do come from Amazon. Is it better to order directly from the supplier?
    Thanks for all of the great info! I am always ready to try new items for my face!

    1. For sure! There’s always a 3rd party risk! I’ve never had an issue though. If you feel more comfortable, most of these products are available at Sephora too! 🙂

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