When I was a teenager and started experiencing hormonal acne, my first instinct was to run to Target and buy everything.
My philosophy then was “if it’s tingling it’s working,” which probably ended up doing more damage than good, but what did I know? I was getting my skincare tips from Teen People.
In my twenties, I moved to New York and started experimenting with other products and discovering some high-end brands. At this time, I also had the luxury of working in publishing. Luckily for me, the beauty editors let me try everything from seaweed serums, caviar-infused creams, to sake-derived essences. One slather on the face and I was hooked.
I now work as a casting director, which has led me to get tips and product recommendations not only from models but also from some of the best beauty insiders working behind-the-scenes at fashion shows and photoshoots for major brands all over the world. Admittedly, I can probably find dupes or similar items that cost less, but I’ve found that these pricier products are dependable and work well for my skin type – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
I’m no expert on anyone’s face but my own, but as someone who has some atrophic scarring, hyper-pigmentation, and is prone to breakouts, this skinvestment is more than worth it to me. Fortunately, I also have a bit of melanin in the bank. As I get older, I know diversifying my portfolio may cost a bit more upfront but will undoubtedly lead to better dividends in the future.
So if you have some cash to spare, meet a few of my favorite liquid assets.
In the morning I like to wash my face with something light so I don’t strip it of its natural moisture. I love using Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Darker Skin Tones Foam Cleanser ($70). She created this collection with none other than Angela Bassett. It’s mild but amazing at keeping my skin clean without over-drying it. Two times a week I use Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Darker Skin Tones Enzyme Cleanser ($75) which gives me a nice deeper clean.
Hands down the one thing I have not been able to stop raving about since I first started using it is Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 ($120), which I wanted to try ever since [Very Good Light founder] David Yi told me about it. Everything you’ve heard about it is true: the vinegary smell, the stinging, and more importantly the glow you get the next morning! I use this every day except when my face is feeling sensitive or red from being outside. On days I use a retinol (we’ll get to her later) I’ll skip the P50 and use Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Balancing Toner ($75) which calms my skin down and helps to balance the pH level. This also gets rid of any lingering dirt and bacteria and is so soothing.
When I reached a certain age and my smile lines were more visible even when I wasn’t smiling, I made it my mission to never laugh. And because that never worked out, I just set out to find better serums. I discovered Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($190), which I use every morning. I swear to you, it has made my skin so much brighter that I can’t stop smiling.
After that gets absorbed into my skin, I use Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Acid For Darker Skin Tones ($300) for extra moisture. I use this day and night, and before a flight, I use an ampoule to keep my skin looking hydrated – even after I land.
If I’m shaving, I pat iS Clinical Hydra-Cool Serum ($94) on my jawline afterward to prevent inflammation. At night, I use the iS Clinical Active Serum ($138), and this has kept my acne at bay and is a super anti-aging serum. It’s phenomenal at clarifying your skin with ingredients like white willow bark and billberry extracts.
I recently got put on to Renee Rouleau through my friend Chrissy who loves this mask and now I completely know why. I started using the Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($89) once a week, leaving it on for an episode of “Sister Sister” (now on Netflix!), and can’t believe how much brighter this has made my skin look in just a month. When I come back from traveling and my skin needs a little bit of extra loving I use a Hanacure mask ($55) which has been my post-fashion week ritual for about three years. It completely hydrates my skin and looks so much firmer and healthier instantly.
At some point or another, you’re going to need to turn to retinol. If there’s one retinol that is absolutely worth your money it is without a doubt Shani Darden’s Retinol Reform ($157). I started using this and it has been incredible at reducing the fine lines on my forehead. I only use this once or twice a week maximum. As with any actives, acids, and retinols, you want to make sure you don’t strip the skin barrier too excessively or too often.
The first product I ever tried from Renee Rouleau was the Anti Bump Solution ($50) and it worked well on two breakouts that weren’t cystic. After they went down, I used her Renee Rouleau Post-Breakout Fading Gel ($42) to spot treat and the hyperpigmentation diminished drastically vs. if I weren’t to use anything.
COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch ($13) might be the one thing I wish existed when I was in high school. These work magic on whiteheads and make them go flat overnight. I keep them in every toiletry bag.
For my eyes, my favorite serum I have ever used is Verso’s Super Eye Serum ($80). My eyes get puffy in the morning and I tend to get dark circles especially after fashion week, but this helps to brighten and makes my eyes look less tired. It smells amazing and absorbs really well. I wear it right before bed every night.
Last year during fashion week in Milan my friend Giuliano was putting on moisturizer during a particularly stressful day. I asked him what he was using and he pulled out a shiny blue bottle and dispensed a little on the back of my hand. I was immediately amazed how well it absorbed into my skin, so I was keen to try it.
My verdict? There are good and great moisturizers, and then there’s The Cream from Augustinus Bader ($265).
The PPC Renewal Cellular Cream is formulated with patented TFC8 and contains aloe, amino acids, and vitamins A, B, C, and E to refresh and hydrate the skin and protect it from free-radicals. It has a cult following and a legendary price tag to match but if there’s only one thing you can splurge on, this would be my pick!
Ask me a year ago what facial oil I was using and I would have laughed so hard. For as long as I can remember I was 100% against facial oils. Something about adding even more oil to a face I just cleansed didn’t sit right with me until I tried Agustinus Bader Face Oil ($230). I love that it’s lightweight, unscented, and formulated to restore and nourish your skin without making it look greasy. Call me a face oil convert because I now see the light.
If you ask any aesthetician or dermatologist, they will all agree that a cardinal rule of proper skincare wearing SPF. Period. Contrary to any myth you’ve read, every skin tone and type needs SPF.
As I got older and my skin was more prone to getting sun-damaged, I made it a mission to wear it daily even when it’s gloomy, rainy, or even if I’m working from home. I use Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Sun Drops SPF 50 ($145) and I like mixing it with her Anti-Pollution Drops ($145) which adds an extra barrier of protection against free radicals caused by blue light emitting from electronic screens and helps it to absorb better.
Because you can’t do it all with skincare alone, I try and go for a facial regularly. Downtown I go to Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Spa in SoHo for the Brightening or Clarifying Facial, which are my favorites for a deep clean and seriously rejuvenated skin.
Midtown I visit Joanna Vargas’s Spa located right near Bryant Park. They have treatments galore for basically every skin concern but my favorites are the Supernova and Oxygen Purifying Facials. I haven’t met Joanna yet, but maybe when I go to L.A. in the winter I can swing by the Sunset Tower for her facial that started it all: The Triple Crown Facial.
If you’re not drinking water regularly, I’m sorry to report that even the best thousand-dollar serum can’t help you. My best bougie skincare tip is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water every day. Voss or Fiji water, preferably.