It took me until I was past thirty to find a regular hair stylist. Before that, I’d hop around from place to place, partially because I moved so much in my twenties, partially because I never found sometime to really love, but mostly because I associated regularly visiting the same hairdresser with something that only fancy people did. Not considering myself fancy, I convinced myself that returning to the same stylist for more than one cut was somehow indulgent or spoiled or just a thing that people like me simply didn’t do. (Truly, whatever that means.) I am now someone who is very much enamored with my stylist (Christine Morris at Fringe Salon in Manhattan, ilu) no matter how infrequently I visit her or how often I allow my bangs to become a mess before getting them trimmed.
This post is not about hair, but it is about focusing a bit of time on myself and reveling in it; developing a routine and sticking to it, for a while anyway. Specifically, it’s about my face and what I’m doing to take care of it and feel comfortable in it. Mostly, it’s about finding something that’s working for me and embracing it. What works for me might very well not work for you, but so it goes. Clearly, to each their own on all of this forever and ever, amen.
As always, I try to use products that are gentle on my body, gentle on the planet, and thoughtfully made. In a few cases, the products mentioned were sent my way as press samples, but in all cases my reviews reflect my personal experience, opinions, and point of view and I haven’t shared anything here that I don’t use use myself.
Here’s what’s happening skin-wise lately:
I’m not much a face-washer generally, as you might recall. But when I recently shared that fact with a facialist (thank you James for the birthday gift; I only regret waiting four months to use it), she was mildly appalled and started saying something about congestion. Well. I’m not usually persuaded by other people telling me to add anything to my routine, but she had me convinced that perhaps at the ripe age of thirty-five I should be cleansing my skin. More than that, in pregnancy I’ve been wearing slightly more makeup than is typical for me, and I knew that I could really use something with a bit more power behind it than New York City tap water alone. This is what I’ve been using lately:
- Freegirl Kindhearted Cleaning Milk: It’s a creamy soap-free cleanser that’s gentle and mild. It doesn’t suds-up and it doesn’t leave my face feeling taut or dry. It’s also Made-Safe certified and cruelty-free which are both nice things to be.
- I’ve been rinsing the cleanser with the help of my Washable Cotton Rounds (note: this shop is temporarily closed, but will be back again soon!) or a Cotton Washcloth, both of which I’ve taken to hanging in my bathroom using one of these beauties and a magnetic hook stuck to the burning hot steam pipe.
- After cleansing, and any old time I’d like, I love to use a toner or facial spritz. It’s my longest standing skin-care ritual and not one I see myself ever giving up. My very favorite, and I’ve tried many, are the tonics from Marble & Milkweed. I just started a new bottle of Briar’s Rosehip & Calendula Tonic and it’s as lovely as everything else she churns out of her Lower East Side studio.
My skin tends to be on the dry side, especially in the winter when the steam radiators and city wind tunnels blast it into oblivion. Here’s what I’m doing to prevent winter wreaking havoc:
- Following an enthusiastic spritz with my toner, I’ve been letting a pump or two of Naturopathica’s Carrot Seed Soothing Facial Oil soak into my skin. This particular blend came recommended by my dear friend the aforementioned, slightly concerned facialist. It’s really mild and lovely. Carrot Seed Oil has been recommended to me several times by women of a certain age who have noticed their cheek creases no longer disappear so quickly post wake-up and I can confirm that it does seem to be performing something of a miracle in the way of plumping my apparently prune-like skin into something closer resembling a plum…? Anyway, I really like it.
- I’ve been following the facial oil with Naturopathica’s Calendula Essential Hydrating Cream, also recommended by you-know-who. I’ve been using facial oils for years, but I think perhaps I didn’t appreciate how much they could be improved upon with something that seals in all that goodness. My parched skin takes a dose of this golden stuff twice a day, morning and night. Would you believe me if I said the combination appears to be truly diminishing my fine lines? ‘Cause sure does seem to be.
- When I’m feeling virtuous I wear sunscreen. Sundaze C-Shells Broad Spectrum Daily Sunscreen is the one I’ve been using lately and despite being a physical sunscreen, it doesn’t leave a terribly white cast behind, which is about the highest endorsement I can give to any sunscreen.
I’m really not much of a make-up person. I never really learned to apply it properly, for one thing, and for another, I just don’t really like the way it makes my skin feel. If I ever need to wear full makeup, I spend the day with my eyes smarting and feeling like my skin can’t breathe. Still, sometimes I find it useful, even pleasant. In pregnancy, when contending with dark eye circles and blood vessels bursting to the surface of my cheeks, nose, and chin, I’ve found a bit of covering up has improved the old spirit. Here’s what I’ve been using:
- RMS un-coverup has been so handy for subtly covering areas I’d like to blend in a bit more. It’s light and easy to apply and even though I still feel like I want to wash my face at the end of the day, it’s not heavy or oppressive in the way that I find so many other similar products to be. I bought mine at a local shop that helped me find the right shade (22!).
- My go-to bit of color these days is the Marble & Milkweed Rosy Lip Tint. I use it on my lips and my cheeks and while it does need to be reapplied to maintain its hint of color over the course of the day, it’s so easy and soothing to put on, I don’t mind a bit. I love that it looks (and is) totally natural, but still makes an impact.
- I’m a fairly regular mascara-wearer and for the past few months I’ve been using Blinc Mascara. It’s a tube mascara, which I prefer over most others that tend to flake and smudge and generally leave the skin under my eyes looking like a mess. (Full disclosure: A few years ago I had a long post about mascara planned and drafted, but at the end of the day, after trying a bazillion natural mascaras, I couldn’t find any I truly wanted to recommend.) This one, on the other hand, stays put all day and washes away easily with water and without leaving even a trace behind.
- If I’m going out someplace special, I sometimes use a bit of Noto Hydra Highlighter. I usually rub it down the bridge of my nose and on my cheekbones. It’s a bit of a wild card for me and I have no idea if I really use it properly, but I like the little shimmer it adds and so that’s that.
- Finally, and only occasionally, I’ve been experimenting with eyeliner. After being photographed at an evening event where I felt like the photographer was showing me a shot of a very tired and pregnant ghost, I decided to expand my makeup collection with a bit with eyeliner. I have a hard time finding an eyeliner that doesn’t irritate my eyes, and while I can’t say this one is completely perfect, I’ve been using the Ilia Clean Line Gel Liner in Twilight and find that it’s really pretty good, easy enough to apply, and not too terribly smudgy.
And, that’s it. Written down and photographed all together, it feels like kind of a lot, but it’s really a pretty simple routine that I’ve found to be totally manageable and quite lovely. I don’t always bother with the makeup bits, but committing to the the cleansing and protecting parts have been nothing short of wonderful. Cheers to cheeks, etc.
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I like how honest your notes on these products are, and I love how this post is a nice reminder of how good it feels to take the time to attend to a skincare routine, whatever it may be. On one level I know this feels good. On another level I often forget how worth it that bit of ritual is! So thank you.
I also love to read others’ routines and recommendations, however different from mine, so I’ll add my faves in case they are of interest to anyone. When I’m taking the time I should at night, I cleanse with apricot kernel (w/hot washcloth), then put on hyaluronic acid and a layer of more apricot oil or rosehip oil. I also love occasional morning exfoliations with a konjac sponge, and trying to do a moisturizing mask of some kind once a week or so. And for makeup I am into Milk Makeup’s Kush mascara–strangely enough, I’m even into its smell.
Hope each of us finds pleasure in their own routines at this busy time of year!
Thanks for your sweet note, Genevieve! Love hearing your routine!
I had a similar struggle with clean mascara options for years, and it wasn’t till I started working with Credo that I found Ilia’s mascara (I believe it’s a newer iteration, as I had tried their original formula and wasn’t impressed). I have oily eye lids and they destroy anything I put near my upper lid but this stuff never budged. Prior to that I was wearing a non-clean alternative and the first week I started wearing the ilia I got so many comments on my lashes.
I agree! I am so picky about mascaras and have never found a natural formula I like. The Ilia mascara is NEXT LEVEL AMAZING.
Might have to try the new formula! When I used it a few years ago it left me with serious black eyes.
It didn’t work for me either! I tried it this summer. So many women love it so I don’t know why my experience was so different, maybe a bad tube?
Finding sustainable/non toxic makeup is so hard!! I know you’ve mentioned Stowaway in the past, do you use any of their products anymore? I’ve been using them for years but disappointed to learn recently that they did away with their recycling program so I’ve have been looking into other options.
You know, it can be, but I’m actually really encouraged by what a lot of folks are doing. I’ve also found it to helpful to search for items at sites like Credo Beauty or Follain which both sell a variety of vetted brands making high-quality and “clean” beauty. As you mentioned, I worked with Stowaway on sponsored posts several times in the past. I think they were on to lots of interesting things, but I don’t currently use any of their products. In terms of recyclable packaging, the RMS un-coverup I mentioned above comes in completely recyclable packaging: glass with a metal lid. And the Marble & Milkweed rosy tint comes in a compostable paper tube. With the exception of the eyeliner and mascara, everything else comes in glass containers with plastic lids. I’ve had good luck reusing my glass spritz bottles and currently have one with a homemade linen spray and one with a homemade room spray!). Another brand doing great things on the recyclable front is Kjaer Weis, which offers refills for most of their products. I’ve only tried their mascara and it really wasn’t right for me, but could work for you!
Thank you! I’ll have to check Kjaer Weis out, I’ve just recently discovered Follain, and love the site and founders message!
Hi Erin. Do you find the carrot see facial oil to perform differently than coconut oil?
Oh, I’d say definitely. While I love coconut oil for all kinds of things, I don’t use it as a moisturizer on my face. It tends to dry me out.
Mascara is the bane of my Dopp kit! Excited to give this one a go. It’s seems all mascara is destined to litter my fair skin and dark circles. Spectacular combo.
As a skincare enthusiast I LOVE True Botanicals! Their products last forever and fine lines be gone!
I’ve really enjoyed them, too! Not part of my current routine but I’ve never been disappointed!
Hi Erin! This is all so helpful and well timed for me. I know this is a post about facial care, however, you mentioned your hair as well. Do you have any recommendations for styling products that come in some type of eco-friendly packaging? I use Plaine Products for shampoo/conditioner and would love to find something similar for styling product options. Thank you so much!
Hi there! I love Plaine Products and am still using their shampoo and conditioner, but those are the only things I use in my hair besides an occasional apple cider vinegar rinse, so can’t say I have anything to recommend, but maybe another reader does!
Oway! They are a bit of splurge- but I have found them to be worth it. Coming from someone who stopped hair product all together for a few years in despair I really like how these perform. I use several products in the curly range.
I love Oway too! Their products smell amazing and my hair is way less frizzy and much more moist and shiny. I second Kalie’s recommendation!
Erin, could your share your hairdresser rec? I’m almost 40 and am still bouncing around Brooklyn for hair salons ♀️
Happy to! Included the name of stylist and link to the salon in the post!
I love Marble & Milkweed! The Rosy Lip Tint is really moisturizing and the tint would look good on anyone. I also love the Botanical Perfumes. Rose, Cardamom & Sandalwood is my favorite.
I’ve recently started using Mad Hippie skin care products . They have a recycling program, a bonus!
I resisted Mad Hippie products for years because I find their packaging a bit twee (I know, I know), but I’ve been using them for almost a year now and my skin has never looked better. Thanks for the heads up on their recycling program; I had no idea!
So interesting how marketing and packaging work, isn’t it? Agreed that the Mad Hippie branding skews quite young with a distinctly 90’s vibe. Glad to learn about them and their recycling program!
They have partnered with TerraCycle for the recycling program.
I totally understand about the packaging! Why did they go with the name Mad Hippie? 🙂
Ilia makes a multipurpose tint I love. I was never one for blush, but a teen taught me to tap it across my cheeks and connect it over the bridge of my nose, which I like so much better than just doing the apples. I love RMS! And I’ve been using Weleda Skin Food for everything in these dry times. The metal tube is recyclable, and it makes a heck of a highlighter.
We’re TTC, and I can’t use a lot of my natural beauty faves because of willow bark/salicylic. So this was very timely! Lots of love to your growing family.
Ah, yes! Skin Food has been popping up all over my radar lately and gotten me so curious. I have a Weleda foot balm that I love, but haven’t ever used their Skin Food myself.
Skin Food for all that ails you! Not only is is great on your face, hands, elbows, etc. It’s also an amazing frizz tamer! I always run some over my frizz prone curls with any excess that may be left on my hands.
Just popping in to say, that I too saw all the buzz about Skin Food and bought my first tube this year. It is everything people make it out to be, but I was surprised no one mentioned the STRONG citrus scent. It seems natural and is likely from a decent source, but I expected and would have preferred something unscented.
I must admit that when it comes to skincare, I totally forget my core values and turn into a mad scientist (analyzing active ingredients and so on). I´m using a vitamin c serum in the morning (Body Shop), and then Cerave Moisturizing Lotion and Uriage Broad Spectrum SPF50. In the evening, I use micellar water (from Avéne), and then Retin-A and Cerave Lotion. I´m portuguese but I´m sure that these products are also sold on USA 🙂 Big improvements on my skin!
Putting in a plug for products from Penny Frances Apothecary. I was on the hunt for nonsynethetic jasmine oil/spray recently and found their stuff. It’s all delightful. https://www.pennyfrances.com/
Looks so lovely! Thanks for sharing!
All superb stocking stuffer ideas!
Stockings are the best, everyone knows it!
So i heard on a blog with a derm that you should put on largest molecules last – that means oil! I was surprised but definitely noticed then when I do moisturizer then oil, things seem to absorb more cleanly. A good winter layering tip!
Interesting. I’ve heard the opposite: toner, followed by serum or oil, and finished with a moisturizer for winter layering!
Hi Erin! Curious..are you still brushing your face? Wondering about adding this to my routine 🙂 This post is very timely for me as well and have been searching for a new moisturizer. Thanks for this post!
I haven’t been doing quite as much lately—and unrelated my friend the facialist was also concerned that it might be drying out my face—but I still have my brush and do enjoy using it.
If you have any recommendations for places in NYC that happen to sell a variety of natural beauty products, that might also be helpful. I find that I don’t really know where to go, so I end up buying one thing from here, another from there, each with its own individual shipping materials and transport carbon footprint. It would be nice to have a few local options to visit and support. (If possible.) Thanks!
Sure: Credo and Follain, linked to above both have brick & mortar stores in Manhattan (among other places) and Shen Beauty is a lovely shop in Brooklyn with a new larger location opening on Court Street in the spring. Briar of Marble & Milkweed also hosts fairly frequent open studio days where you can go shop her wares in person. She announces them on Instagram and through her newsletter if you’re interested!
A couple recommendations:
1. Hold General Store. Made in small batches from a local outfit. I LOVE the facial oil and body oil (which might actually made by another outfit, but I am not sure – that’s how minimal the packaging is). I cannot speak highly enough about them. And the branding is as basic as it comes. https://holdgeneral.ca/collections/bath
2. French Girl. They are organic and made in Seattle, which is very close to me. Their packaging is also minimalist for those – like me – who need a calming bathroom routine, both in action and aesthetic. I use their facial polish about once per week and their face cleanser a couple times per week. https://www.frenchgirlorganics.com/collections/face
love the cloudy texture and price point of the washcloth, thanks for introducing me to the brand! i have terribly dry skin and mostly do oils but a salve is necessary too. looking forward to trying out the calendula infusion you share, just need to borrow a candy thermometer 🙂 made some of my regular salve to tide me over: https://tps-steph.blogspot.com/2019/04/tps-make-your-own-chapstick.html
hey steph! i mentioned in that piece that you don’t necessarily need the thermometer so long as you’re watchful and keep your heat low! if you can’t find one to borrow, i wouldn’t let that stop you!
After pregnancy, my always-reliable skin routine became not so reliable. All of a sudden, creams that never broke me out started to do so in a very high school sort of way. I’m grateful for it now because although I wasn’t using horrid stuff (all Aveda), it forced me to find something else, and that something else doesn’t come in plastic, has better ingredients, and I fully love and support the woman behind the products (Indie Lee). They make my face glow. One thing I do that feels like a little luxury in the morning is to apply my face cleanser with a sea sponge. It helps exfoliate (I think), but also just feels nice.
I know this is an older post, but I realized I forgot to read the comments for readers’ helpful tips!
I also had a similar post-pregnancy skin change (also, just a full body and mind change — in fact, I just had to leave someplace where sad music was playing because it sends my whole body into whole body sadness). I went from regular skin to what felt like supermodel skin while pregnant — no need to wash, no need for makeup, no need for mirrors. Then a month or two after birth, I realized that my skin was… different. It needed… something. It was around the time of an RMTL post about postpartum routines and it felt glorious to stake out my own little routine, including washing, exfoliating, serum, AND oil. It’s funny how you imagine that your waist (and bum and chest) will change, but you don’t realize the dermal and mental and emotional and every other change that your body might undergo. Good luck Katie!
Figuring out sustainable and good-for-you beauty products can feel so daunting. Thanks so much for sharing these products! I will definitely be checking them out because my beauty routine is embarrassingly minimalist 🙂
nothing to be embarrassed about, but glad this was helpful!
Thanks for sharing your list, Erin! I ordered the hydrating cream and look forward to trying. Do you have any current favorites for kids’ body and bath? We’ve been a Tubby Todd family so far, but always open to trying something new!
We’ve really enjoyed Tubby Todd’s bubble bath for times when convincing kids to take a bath is a struggle, but otherwise my kids use the same shampoo and conditioner as me and James: Plaine Products!
I’ve never seen Plaine! How long do you find your shampoo lastS?
All four of us in my family use their shampoo and conditioner and right now we’re on a three-month subscription plan for the shampoo and a 6-month plan for the conditioner! Hope that helps!
Enjoyed reading this post – thanks for sharing! RMS Uncover up is the best option for me, too. For some reason, since having a baby I can’t tolerate scented products anymore, even essential oils. I used to like the Ilia Lip Conditioner. A great scent-free lip product is Henné Organics Lip Tint.
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