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I’m looking at feedback from my reader survey and many of you have wanted to know what I really use each day, not sponsored, not promoted, but legit what I use for my face, body, hair, and makeup. My beauty routine is often changing; I get bored and well, I get paid by a brand to try something new. These are my favorite beauty products right now, and nope, this best beauty products post is not sponsored. If you have any questions do ask in the comments and I’ll answer honestly!
The Best Beauty Products for your Morning Beauty Routine
When I wake up I wipe my face with Pixi’s Glow Tonic. It has glycolic acid in it which reduces fine lines, acne, blackheads, dullness, oiliness and uneven texture, but it’s not super harsh. Then I put on Colleen Rothschild’s Sheer Renewal Cream and head to the gym.
When I get back from the gym, I take a shower. Usually I just rinse my face with water, sometimes if I was extra sweaty I’ll wash with CeraVe and my Clarisonic.
After I do my many-layered moisture:
- Eye cream: Perricone MD’s Cold Plasma+. After my fishy review, the brand updated their formula and sent me some. I really like how the eye cream absorbs and I think it’s helped with fine line and sagging skin and no fishy smell! BTW their Cold Plasma+ face cream is also good but I used it all up. I have a lot of products right now so I am trying to use anything good I have first before buying more.
- Treatment: This varies, but right now I’m using Drunk Elephant’s Vitamin C serum. They sent me their Littles pack to try and I’m liking this enough to finish it. Before I’ve done Pixi Glow Tonic again, I’ve done The Ordinary’s Squalene mixed with a bit of Philosophy’s Turbo C powder, and Paula’s Choice AHA Lotion. I like all of these, but this is a part of my skincare routine where I try new things with less risk of reaction.
- Oil or Serum: In the morning I put my oil under my moisturizer so the SPF isn’t affected. Right now I’m using Colleen Rothschild Face Oil No9 and like how it’s not super greasy. Sometimes I switch this up and use Paula’s Choice RESIST serum or a serum I got a sample of, but until it gets really hot and humid I’m appreciating the moisture from the Colleen Rothschild oil.
- Moisturizer: My current regular is Paula’s Choice Restoring Moisturizer because it has SPF 50 in it, hydrates, and doesn’t irritate. However, it takes a lot to rub it in and not have it white all over my face. My ultimate favorite moisturizer is Colleen Rothschild’s Sheer Renewal Cream but unfortunately it doesn’t have SPF. I use it on days when I know I’ll be home.
What Makeup I Use:
- Face: I apply Cicapair (this is the same stuff that's out of stock at Sephora, just different packaging) while my skin is still dewy from my moisturizers. I tap on my cheeks, forehead, jaw, and chin and rub it in pretty hard. If I have a photo shoot or a special event, I’ll use DiorSkin AirFlash foundation in 300 and pat on with a damp BeautyBlender. Most days all I wear is Cicapair without concealer or foundation.
- Concealer: With a brush like this one, I pat on Becca’s Brightening Corrector and then use the same brush and pat Glossier’s Stretch Concealer in Medium over it and anywhere else that needs concealing (usually under the nose and parts of the chin). I set it with IT Cosmetics’ Bye Bye Pores (I apply it with this brush so I can get it under the eyelashes and around the nose).
- Blush: NARS in Sex Appeal is my favorite and has been for years. It’s like a kinder gentler Orgasm. Not as dark and no sparkle. I'm old school and still put it on the apples of my cheeks. I never mastered contouring and I like my blush to look as though I'm blushing, I think it looks more youthful on me. I recently got NARS Liquid Blush in Orgasm thinking it would look nice in the summer since it's not a powder. The color is pretty – darker like Orgasm but not too strong and no sparkle. It blends beautifully and looks pretty natural!
- Highlighter: I keep trying highlighter but I always think it looks fake on me. The only one I ever found that I adored was Estee Lauder X Victoria Beckham but they no longer make it. NYX sent me their Wonder Stick in Light and it’s not bad, but I still feel goofy with it. I usually only do highlighter if I’m going out at night and don’t want to do a bold lip. I’ll pair it with nude lips and liquid liner and a bit darker of brows. I still have my Mary Lou Manzier, but I usually use it when I want to be super shimmery for a special occasion. In general, a face mist gives me the effect I desire.
- Brows: I tweeze my own brows then get them professionally shaped maybe every other month maybe longer from the same gentleman who does my nails. I fill them in with NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Espresso (they sent this to me recently but I was already using it and loving the tiny point for natural lines) and then Glossier’s Boy Brow. I have used Tarte Amazonian Clay brow mousse and still have it, but lately I feel it looks too drawn on since I'm wearing less makeup in general. But I still think it's a fantastic product.
- Eyeshadow: Most of the time I don’t wear eyeshadow. Sometimes I use Perricone’s No Eyeshadow Eyeshadow which covers veins and gives a natural yet smooth effect. It also makes for a great shadow primer. I do have a few shadow palettes, and sometimes play with them. My favorite is Urban Decay’s Naked Ultimate Basics, though I also have this one NYX sent me and Urban Decay sent me this palette which is pretty perfect for summer.
- Eyeliner: I wear eyeliner more than eyeshadow, but it’s not a daily thing. But when I wear it, it’s always Maybelline Line Stilletto in Brownish Black. I love this so much I always have a tube or two still in packaging waiting in the back of my dressing table drawer. I have a couple colored liners from Lancome and Pixi that I’ll also use when I’m playing with color shadows but these days I’d rather add color on my lips.
- Lashes: Since I switched to tubing mascara life is amazing. No raccoon eyes, no irritation, and easy to wash off. Since writing about it, I'm now using this mascara from DHC and it's amazing for creating long, glossy, but natural looking feathery lashes. I use the Kevyn Aucoin lash curler.
- Lips: I either do red or nude. My favorite red is L’Oreal Riche Matte in Eva’s Red. My favorite nude is NARS Pigalle with a bit of Carmex over it for shine. I have other lipstick colors, but they’re usually for specific outfits or situations. But in the summer, I often like a hot pink (Revlon’s Colorburst Lacquer Balm in Vivacious) or an orange (Revlon’s Hot Coral) with a flushed cheek and lashes.
- Setting Spray: I always set my makeup with a mist. It makes everything blend and gives a dewy natural look. I just got one from Supergoop which has SPF in it. It’s a great one to have in my bag to refresh and add SPF throughout the day. However, my go-to for decades has been Body Shop’s Vitamin E Mist.
- Makeup Bag: I carry a bag that has NARS powder and a puff for touchups, Maybelline Line Stilletto (in case my eyes water or if I want to amp up my look for evening and am on the road), Pigalle and Eva’s Red, Carmex, a setting mist, Living Proof’s dry shampoo, and a tiny “picture day” comb which is great for bangs.
The Best Beauty Products for your Evening Beauty Routine:
- First Cleanse: I start with Garnier’s micellar water. I wipe my whole face with a flannel cloth soaked in it and then press it to my lashes for a few seconds to dissolve my mascara and liner. I think Bioderma is a bit more effective, but I buy what is best for my budget.
- Second Cleanse: Then I pat my face dry and rub on Colleen Rothschild’s Radiant Cleansing Balm. I adore this stuff, nothing else can compare for my skin. I wet a washcloth with hot water, squeeze it so it’s not sopping wet, and place it over my face, eyes closed, turned to the ceiling. I press the washcloth against my face and leave it there until it cools, and then I wipe off the cleanser. Do note I get Colleen Rothschild products for free from the brand, but I continue to use it because I actually love it.
- Lash Serum: I still use Rodan + Fields’ LashBoost. That stuff WORKS! I apply it every other night and get a new tube every three months because even though the tube isn’t empty it loses effectiveness.
- Exfoliate: I shave my face with Tinkle razors. I do this at least once a week, usually every other night or so. I pretty much do from cheek bone to under my chin. It gets rid of visible hair, but also the peach fuzz and makes makeup look smoother, gently exfoliates, and I think also keeps little zits at bay. If you forget to shave no worries, the hair doesn’t grow back thicker or darker.
- Eye Cream: Perricone’s Cold Plasma+ again.
- Treatment: This varies. Right now, I'm mainly using Paula’s Choice Retinol. However, I switch it up. Sometimes it’s Drunk Elephant’s glycolic treatment, and when I have money it’s Peter Thomas Roth's Retinoid.
- Serum: I also switch this up. Paula’s Choice recently sent me their Peptide Booster so I’ve been using it. I can’t tell if it does anything but it doesn’t irritate so I’ll keep using it for now.
- Moisture: I use Colleen Rothschild’s Extreme Recovery Cream. It’s not greasy or heavy, yet is quite effective.
- Oil: I put oil on after my night cream. Currently I’m using the Colleen Rothschild Face Oil No9; before the CEO went bonkers I was using The Ordinary’s Rosehip Oil. I got a mini bottle of Drunk Elephant's Marula Oil and I liked it enough that I used it all, but not so much that it stood out in the crowd of oils.
- Bedside: At my bedside table, I have sweet almond oil, L’Occitane Shea Butter hand cream, Carmex, and a jade roller. I slather myself in almond oil from neck down (and a bit under my eyes), put on the hand cream (with any extras on my elbows), and coat my lips. I then rub my face with the jade roller while reading a chapter in a book.
Masks, Treatments, and Tools:
I do a mask maybe once a week, sometimes more sometimes less. When I use Lancer’s Caviar Peel my skin looks uh-may-zing. It smells like lime Skittles and really is effective, but not cheap. I have a bunch of masks I get free from brands or as samples with Sephora orders and will use them, and I also dig sheet masks for a boost of moisture. I should be more consistent but I’m not. When I have an event or a long flight I love these under eye patches. I'll put them on right after my shower and keep them on until I'm to the point of putting on my makeup. I got these acne patches and they're great for a zit that has popped and now needs to disappear overnight.
I mist my face all the time. I have a bottle of Colleen Rothschild’s Beauty Water in my commuting backpack and one on my dressing table. I have a bottle of Supergoop in my purse’s cosmetic bag. I have Body Shop Vitamin E mist and traditional rosewater with glycerin sitting on my dressing table, and usually one or two at my desk.
I have a Clarisonic. I don't use it more than once a week or else my skin gets mad at me.
I tried a NuFACE and yeah, that thing was possessed. I never got around to buying another but I did find it effective. I now have a jade roller and that doesn't have a mind of its own and its easy to use while reading a book or scrolling through Instagram.
I wrote about dry brushing years ago, and I still do it. It's the best way to wake myself up in the morning before working out and meditating, without drinking coffee. It gives enough of a perk to get functioning plus it makes my skin look amazing. Seriously, buy a $12 dry brush (this looks like the one I own) and you can get away with cheaper body washes and moisturizers and you don't need as many scrubs and such.
What Best Beauty Products do I use in the Shower:
- Shampoo: Most days I use HairFood because it’s cheap and effective. If I was a millionaire I’d use Oribe every day but I’m not so I only whip out my bottle for my first post-coloring wash and special occasions. I only shampoo 2-3 times a week, usually I just rinse or wash with conditioner.
- Conditioner: When I “wash” my hair with conditioner, I use HairFood. When I’m feeling fancy, I use Oribe. When I use real shampoo I follow up with Pantene’s Three Minute Miracle. FYI, this stuff is also amazing if your kid has easy to tangle hair.
- Body Wash: If I was a millionaire I’d use Molton Brown’s Ylang Ylang every day. But I’m not so I use Everyone Soap 3-in-1 in Coconut Lemon (my whole family uses it). I use a scrubbing towel with it so I can exfoliate while washing. I also use Ivory bar soap to wash pits, feet, and privates; I just feel it cleans more deeply than just body wash and it doesn’t irritate.
- Face Wash: CeraVe. My whole family uses it.
- Razor: Honestly, it’s whatever is on sale and I don’t use a shave gel. I think being on swim team my teen years and a lifeguard all through college made me a shaving pro. I can get it done lickedy split without razor burn, cuts, or any special products. I’ve never been waxed and though I’d likely love it, never got laser hair removal.
Body Care Products:
- Moisturizer: I take a lotion a brand sends me for free and use it on my elbows, knees, and ankles. This winter it's been Curel Ultra Healing which is pretty fantastic. Then I slather my body in Neutrogena Body Oil and wrap up in a bathrobe to let it all soak in. I love the idea of Jergens Natural Glow and buy a tube every few months and then never use it because I don't know how to fit it into my routine and not give up my Neutrogena Body Oil. Do you have a suggestion? Seriously, if I could have my perfume and hair products smell like Neutrogena Body oil I'd do it. I wish I could find a candle that smells like it.
- Deodorant: I hate to admit it, but I gave up on natural deodorants. I started smelling like cat pee, which is worse than B.O. I tried several and none worked out. So I am back to Degree, which seems to work the best for me. When I remember and when I haven’t showered and shaved before bed, I’ll apply Certain-Dri.
- Menstrual Products: For years I used a Diva Cup; after having Emerson it didn't fit as well as it did and I tried several other cups finally settling on the Lunette cup. After I got an IUD cups stopped being reliable or comfortable. I now use Lola tampons, which are organic, are shipped to my house monthly, and the company donates hundreds of thousands of tampons to shelters.
Hair Products and Styling Routine:
I add a pump of VERB Ghost Oil to wet hair and with an Aveda paddle brush, sweep my bangs side to side under the dryer (this one with the nozzle on, which I got as a gift from Dermstore) until they’re dry and usually let everything else air dry. Then if I’m going anywhere, I’ll fix frizz and scraggly ends with a curling iron, blast the bangs with Living Proof dry shampoo, and maybe a few hits of Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray for volume and to hold things in place.
If I wash my hair at night, I’ll mist my bangs with water in the morning and re-dry them so they’re not sticking up. Depending on how much time I have, I’ll either mist the whole head to let it re-set, or I’ll gently brush it and then put big sections in the curling iron and separate the curls with my fingers that are lightly covered with VERB Ghost Oil. Sometimes I'll use VERB Ghost Dry Oil spray. As the temps rise, I add conditioner into my spray bottle; it's the best way to revive curls and keep them from being frizzy. No need for a fancy conditioner, I usually use the little hotel bottles of conditioner for this, about a tablespoon in the bottle and don't spray it close to the roots or bangs or it can look greasy. Do note I often get VERB products for free from the brand but the relationship started when I tagged them on Instagram because I had bought the Ghost Oil with my own money and became a fan.
One of the best things I got for my hair and my skin is a shower filter. It will keep your hair and skin soft and your hair color won't fade as quickly. Years ago I had the Jonathan shower filter but when we got a new shower head it didn't fit. A year ago I got this one which is cheaper and has far cheaper replacement filters and it really does help if you live somewhere with hard water.
I’ve decided to embrace imperfect hair, so this result is a bit ‘70s, a bit frizzy, a bit messy, and a bit IDGAF. Seriously, the older you get the fewer effs you have; life's too short to spend so much time on hair that doesn't want to cooperate.
My hair is thin, and I don’t care as much that it affects volume as much as you can see so much of my scalp. I really like the Toppik powder for hiding thin spots on my scalp. I use the nozzle and it stays in place all day and night, even if I sweat or get caught in the rain. I got the aerosol version and it’s messy. Run your fingers through your hair or comb your bangs and you’ll have brown stuff on your forehead and under your fingernails. But the Toppik powder is money and I swear by it.
I get my hair cut and colored every 6-9 weeks by Billy at Scissor and Comb salon in Takoma Park. I think he does a fantastic job and it’s gotten to where I just let him suggest things and I do it (he suggested the bangs and the lighter color I’m sporting for spring). I used to color my own hair, but it never looked perfect and the ends would often get too dark and straw-like. Considering my job is to look cute in photos, I find it a smart investment to leave my grays to a professional.
I have sensitive teeth so I use Sensodyne, the whitening formula and have a Sonicare toothbrush. I use the Listerine without alcohol, and I love to floss. Seriously, I floss a minimum of once a day, often twice and I carry flossers in my purse. I grind my teeth so I wear a mouthguard at night.
I shared my tooth whitening experience; since then I lost my top teeth bleaching tray so I ordered a kit from Sporting Smiles to replace it for less than my dentist. I’m awaiting the replacement tray. This is the exact bleach I got from my dentist.
I’ve been wearing Burberry London for Women for over a decade and am getting a bit tired of it so I’m trying new scents. I love Le Labo Santal 33 but Karl thinks it smells like hay so I only wear it when going out without him or when I am on business travel. I have Maison Margiela Replica Beach Walk roller ball and I like it when it’s on the parts of me that heat up and change the fragrance, but when not heated it up it’s a bit too sweet for me. I got a custom fragrance from Waft Fragrances and I like it, but don’t love it. It’s not… complex enough and it doesn’t last as long as more expensive fragrances. So, I am still on the hunt and am open to suggestions!
Nails, Facials, and Esthetic Treatments:
- Nails: I get my nails done at the salon every two weeks. I get powder dip acrylic nails from Billy at V Nails in Beltsville (yes, another Billy!). My go-to is OPI’s Big Apple Red but especially in the summer I get creative and try different colors and looks. In the winter I rarely get pedicures unless I have an event or sponsored shoot with open toed shoes. In spring and summer, I get one every 4-6 weeks in OPI’s Big Apple Red and do touch-ups at home with my own bottle.
- Facials: I’ve had four facials in my life. I’d love more but I just can’t justify the cost.
- Lasers, Injectables, etc.: I got Botox in February. That’s all I have done thus far. I know I owe you a post about it; it’s on hold because I got it free and want to be sure my review is cool with the office that gave it to me (my experience was mixed, you can see details on my Instagram highlights). I don’t know if I’ll do more Botox in the future, but I’m not ruling it out. I’d love to do something about the sun spot on my cheek and another spot that is growing under one eye but I don’t have any plans right now.
Vitamins and Supplements:
I got Vital Proteins collagen peptides in the past and took them when I wasn’t eating much red meat and they made me sick. But now that I am working out regularly I eat a lot more meat so I tried these again. I usually mix them in my morning shake, and when I do my knees are less crunchy and my hair seems happier.
Each morning I take loratadine, Quercetin, a B complex, Borage Oil, Stamets 7, D3, fish oil, and MegaFood Skin, Nails & Hair. Seems like a lot, but it’s become routine and when I don’t take them I feel achier and my allergies are worse. A couple times a week I have a spoonful of Hanah One with my morning coffee. Karl makes us an afternoon green smoothie/juice and puts trace mineral drops in it.
So yeah, that’s it! It may seem like a lot, but my appearance is my job. I’ve spent over a decade in this field and had the opportunity to try a lot of products for free, which helped me find great products from a variety of price points and see the benefits of a through beauty routine. Also, as I get older I see the value of spending less on clothes and makeup and more on skincare and health.
A lot of the best beauty products I use are from your recommendations. If you have any products you swear by, do share in the comments to help me and fellow readers out!
Claire May says
Great comprehensive post, thanks for sharing. I am also a fan of Paula’s choice as it really improves my skin.
Alison Gary says
It’s a great skincare line!
Alison – what is the difference between a treatment and an oil or serum? What is a jade roller for? Great post! Thanks for sharing! So many products…so little time!
Alison Gary says
Usually a treatment needs to be directly against the skin and has some sort of activation – fading or exfoliating or something like that. A serum sometimes has similar function, or could boost the treatment, or provide hydration or soothing or some other result. An oil is just more moisture. And a jade roller supposedly helps firm the skin and increase circulation! 🙂
There are so many good nuggets in this post I’ll have to read it a few times! I already ordered the razors and some supplements! Thanks!
Alison Gary says
My pleasure, I hope they work out for you!
I love this post! It’s so interesting to hear about what products other people use and how their routines work. Thank you for such an awesome, comprehensive post!
Alison Gary says
I love posts like this so it was fun to do one myself!
I have a few products that I love and they are very inexpensive. I’ve used higher priced products off & on but lately, I’m happy with these. Soap for the shower—Nivea. It smells so clean & fresh! Right now, I’m also using Nivea body lotion. It moisturizes well and doesn’t break me out (as I’ve aged, my skin seems more sensitive and it doesn’t take much to have a weird rash spring up on my legs or hands), in the summer, I usually switch to Bobbi Brown’s Beach lotion—even if I’m nowhere near a beach, that lotion makes me feel like I am.
Right now, I’m using Trader Joe’s Nourish facial cleanser & TJ’s Enrich Moisturizer face lotion in the daytime. I love them & they are SO inexpensive! I have inherited pretty good skin so that probably helps a lot, but I’ve also been religious about taking off makeup & washing my face since I was a teen. At night, I wash with the TJ’s wash & then apply CeraVe nighttime moisturizer—another inexpensive product that is working well right now. Sorry for making this so long—it’s fun to talk about this stuff!
Alison Gary says
Thank you for sharing all of these! I love reading what everyone uses!, I agree it’s fun to talk about beauty products!
I love how comprehensive your list is!
Alison Gary says
Thanks, it was fun to put together!
Which of your vitamins are supposed to be helpful for allergies, and are we talking pollen allergies? I’d gladly try anything that would make me less sneezy during the nice weather.
Alison Gary says
Quercetin is awesome. My husband’s cousin recommended it and it’s a game changer!
My blood counts came back with a form of anemia related to low B12. Since I started taking B12, my allergies have improved significantly. My GP also recommended switching up allergy meds periodically, as you can get used to them.
Personally, I have to take magnesium with B12, or else I get twitchy muscles and middle-of-the-night Charlie horses. And drink a lot more water, the B12 makes me thirsty.
YMMV, of course. Good luck!
Alison Gary says
Thanks for this!