Superficial Skincare UPDATE

January 14, 2020

A few weeks ago, a reader asked for an update on my skincare rituals. Many of you commented on the original post – so many fun and interesting product ideas!

I am now ~4 months and 2 Sephora orders into my current routine, so I figured I’d just provide an update.



  • Mild (drugstore) cleanser in the shower (Cerave)
  • Every couple of days — Ole Hendikson pore balance facial sauna scrub
  • Vitamin C serum — I tried Drunk Elephant but ended up preferring Sunday Riley’s CEO. However, I am looking for a cheaper alternative (Any devotees of The Ordinary or specific recs?)
  • Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue with SPF — I really like this product and have re-bought it!
  • My usual fairly minimal makeup (eye shadow, mascara, SOMETIMES little lip stain, nothing crazy)


  • Fresh Soy Cleanser
  • Aesop B&T Toner (to remove last dregs of makeup and for extra clean feeling)
  • Alternating use of Sunday Riley Good Genes (Lactic Acid) and Luna Face Oil (which contains Retinol). I find that every day is too often with this products, but every other feels right. This is good because they are $$$.
  • Algenis eye cream (alternating with a Drunk Elephant Vitamin C eye cream sample which I do like, but am not sure I want to spring for long term!)
  • Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve moisturizer

I have gone from someone who only halfheartedly SOMETIMES removed my makeup to someone with an actual skin routine! I have missed a handful of days over the course of the last few months, but am otherwise pretty consistent.

And the results? I now get carded!

Just kidding. I don’t think I really look different. HOWEVER, I have been acne free since I started this, and that’s a big deal for me (~2 months ago I also started hormonal birth control pills to treat my PMDD, but even before that I was able to cycle without the usual painful zits that tended to pop up just in time to make my luteal phase THAT MUCH WORSE). My skin feels just . . . calmer and less inflamed, and more moisturized.

I have not seen much improvement in a couple of dark spots on my face (thought perhaps the Vitamin C would help, but I don’t see a difference). I also have not seen any real change in aging signs, although I will say the Good Genes tends to have a plumping quality so that my entire face seems to look a little better the mornings that I wear it overnight.

So, there you go. I am pretty happy with the routine. With respect to cost, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how long some of these products have lasted, even with daily use. The full size Fresh moisturizer and cleanser have lasted since I got them in September and still appear to have at least a month left, so that’s pretty impressive. My Aesop toner has also lasted months. The Sunday Riley products I bought were sample size (bought the same kit twice) and only last a month with daily use. I do really like the Good Genes and Luna though, so I am probably going to invest in the full sizes. Eventually. Unless someone has some great DUPE suggestions.

So what’s the point of all this? I like my routine! I like the changes in my skin (even if subtle) and the feeling of self-care that comes from following it. It only takes a few minutes, but I feel like it has a small but significant positive role in my day. Therefore, it will stay.

note the top of my head where I bent down to take this VERY professional pic. ha!

(On a tangentially-related note – I was asked about my manicures and how long they last and whether I’ve considered gels / powder dip. I find that my nails are passable for about 1 week — a small chip or two may develop, but they still look reasonably good until that ~7 day mark. I am not interested in gels/powder . . . just seems like too much!)

((There was a great Forever 35 episode recently with Chemist Confessions! I really enjoyed hearing their scientifically minded thoughts on the skincare industry and product development.))


  • Reply Omdg January 14, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Maybe go to a derm and get a retin a rx? I bet that would help with the dark spots. I have a couple on my cheeks, but fortunately(?) my profession keeps me out of the sun, so knock on wood I’ve been ok so far. Also, can’t say enough good things about Botox. Forehead wrinkles are really aging, though not sure this is an issue with your skin (it’s a problem with mine).

  • Reply haya January 14, 2020 at 8:26 am

    that episode with chemist confessions was awesome and i am now listening to the chemist confessions podcast! super interesting, most specifically because i got into formulation of products several years ago (primarily bath/body care more than skin care) and so it is pretty cool to hear their background on all the ingredients.

  • Reply Alyce January 14, 2020 at 9:40 am

    My skin looks and feels better when I have a consistent routine. Like Gretchen Rubin says, what you do every day matters more than what you do occasionally.

    We have similar steps, and some product overlap with the Sunday Riley. They do cost more than I want to spend on skincare but I like the results so much and I unsatisfactorily tried cheaper alternatives so I accept the pricing. I’m on my third or fourth bottles of both now. Last I calculated it, Sephora’s sample pack of just Good Genes and Luna is cheaper per ounce than the full sized products. But I’ve bought the full size products during Sephora’s annual sale and they’ve lasted me a full year (which I realized because I was always buying during their pre-Thanksgiving sale). So the trade off of not having to remember to reorder all the time is kinda worth the slightly higher per ounce price of the full sized products.

    Re: Vitamin C – I also did not like the Drunk Elephant version. I quite like the Mad Hippie version, which I’ve also been using for years now.

  • Reply Ali January 14, 2020 at 10:12 am

    I really like the Ordinary products. I use their lactic acid and glycolic acid (I alternate these at night) and use the bha/aha peel once or twice a week. I use their retinoid nightly as well. I haven’t tried their vitamin c but do use one from Seoul Ceticals (I think that is the brand? It’s on amazon and is supposedly a dupe for skinceuticals) also. I’ve been doing this approx 6 months and think it has reallly improved the texture of my skin.

  • Reply Taryn January 14, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Have you tried the Beautycounter overnight resurfacing peel? This was honestly a game changer for me for evening out my skin tone and lessening dark spots.

  • Reply Kate January 14, 2020 at 11:01 am

    I use the Ordinary ascorbyl glucoside solution (12%), and I’m a fan! It’s definitely brightening. I’m 35 and got carded (for real!) last week.

  • Reply Erica S January 14, 2020 at 11:10 am

    I got a dip manicure in December because I had to travel and had 3 big events in a 14 day timespan, and didn’t feel like worrying about it. It was lovely and I really like how it held up. BUT getting it off was a pain. They had to sand it down, soak in acetone, and there was still some leftover and my nails look and feel really unhealthy now. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again.

  • Reply A. January 14, 2020 at 11:52 am

    I find that the simplier my routine is, the better my skin looks. Clean it with castille soap, moisture it with a natural cream and protect it of sun damage all year long. Exfoliation can be done just with a mix sugar and coconut oil. And I think that we cannot undo the damage cause by the sun exposure during our life, I started using daily protective cream for sun when I was 20, I am 36 and I see clearly that my skin looks a lot younger than 30ish women. Sun exposure is really what makes the difference, not the moisturizer.

  • Reply Bridget January 14, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    I am a long time user of The Ordinary ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate 20% solution in vitamin F. It’s not abrasive and makes my skin look brighter. I apply it every morning under moisturizer. I am also a huge fan of Curology – a web based prescription skin care treatment. I just use the treatment piece and love that it is tailored to your needs. I wanted prescription strength retin-A and this has been fantastic and affordable. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s completely simplified my skin care. Other than moisturizer, this is the only thing I use at night and my skin looks a lot brighter and more refined. And no hormonal breakouts!

  • Reply Lori C January 15, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    This is great thanks for the update! Just curious about the brands you selected. Did you piece together the routine yourself? Or did someone recommend the combination of face wash/ toner/moisturizer brands? Just curious because I tend to buy a “set” of wash/toner/moisturizer and I guess I never realized I could stray away from a particular line and mix/match brands!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 16, 2020 at 5:02 am

      I think a lot of people mix and match these days! I just kept trying things and then re-bought favorites 🙂 An evolution of sorts!

  • Reply Tyra January 20, 2020 at 4:27 am

    Yay for more skincare!

    I’ve been using the DE vitamin C lately, and it’s fine but I definitely want to see what else is out there. I think I’m going to try either skinceuticals CE ferulic (exxy but everyone raves about it) or Melano CC essence (K beauty, you can buy it on YesStyle and not very expensive)

    And I’m going to move on to a prescription retinol soon too. There’s lots of info out there about how to ease into it gradually, and it’s way cheaper here (I just realised it’s probably PBS subsidised for us, I assumed it would be cheaper over there as well but now I don’t know?)

    Look up Dr Drey on youtube, she’s really no nonsense in her approach to skincare and actually gives evidence based advice!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 20, 2020 at 10:11 am

      I really want to try the skinceuticals CE Ferulic – can you report back??

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