My Full Morning Skincare Routine: 2023 Edition
I've shared my morning routine many times here over the years, and it still hasn't changed.
I've been doing pretty much the same thing every morning for at least 6 years now. This routine WORKS for me. Why change it?!
But since I've rebranded and streamlined my skincare line, I thought it might be time for an updated post featuring my new products.
I even made a little infographic for you.
I want to encourage you to read on for more details though because I'm going to share why I do what I do and how it works for me. My routine is simple but the post is long and detailed. I'm resisting the urge to keep it concise to accommodate short attention spans because my approach to skincare isn't about short-term fixes. I'm sharing all of this because I want to help, not just to create easily consumable, aspirational "content." This kind of long, detailed, honest writing is something I'd normally save for my Patreon, but I've been so nostalgic for long-form, pre-social media kinds of sharing lately that I'm posting it here anyway. I hope you'll take the time to read and find the pieces that you can adapt to your routine, because there is no one right way, or one size fits all approach to skincare.
And there are certainly no miracle products.
I don't play that game.
To me, skincare isn't even about the products. My approach is much more holistic. It's about giving your skin what it needs to balance and heal itself because your skin is designed to self-regulate.
My products work because they support your skin barrier and allow your skin to do its job. But it takes time for your skin to rebalance and heal itself. There are no natural quick fixes. It's all very unsexy and thus difficult for me to market. It's not about finding the best new product. It's about getting enough sleep, eating vegetables, and managing stress... no one likes to hear me talk about these things, but this is actual skincare.
So if you just love shopping for the next buzzy "miracle" ingredient, or are looking for the hottest new med-spa procedures that will fix everything about your face right away, (I mean, after the burning, redness, and peeling dies down I guess,) Twinkle Apothecary probably isn't the brand for you.
But if you want to stop consuming endless new products and set yourself up with a sustainable, evergreen routine that nourishes your skin so you can get on with your life, hi.
Ok, since I'm talking about my routine (which again, may be entirely different than what works for you,) here are some things to know about me.
Here I am! This is an unedited, (I never edit my photos for transparency's sake,) up-close selfie that I snapped in my dining room the other day as I was heading out the door because I'm trying to get back in the habit of demonstrating my makeup looks for you.
Ok, makeup: Here, I'm wearing filter balm and setting powder. I did some light contouring with ginger snap shimmer balm and highlighted my upper cheeks, the bridge of my nose, and the inner corners of my eyes with highlight shimmer balm. I'm wearing mother-of-pearl shimmer powder and balm on my cheeks, and a small amount of mother-of-pearl shimmer balm (or was it sandstone?) on my lips. (I put it on but then decided to brush my teeth and didn't reapply.) I've got cocoa eye tint in my brows and on my lashes as mascara, and I'm wearing highlight shimmer powder all over my eyelids with a wash of fire opal shimmer powder (applied with a wet brush for a brighter color payoff) on my lower lids, which is only visible when my eyes are closed, but, eh. It looked cool in person, I promise.
Age: 39, I'll be 40 in April this year. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this.
Skin type: My skin tends to be on the oily side, and I've struggled with clogged pores and breakouts over the years. I used to think I had combination skin because I also had occasional dryness and flakes on my lower cheeks, but now, my skin is just... balanced. I get occasional small blemishes but nothing my acne spot treatment and pore refining boost mixed into my cleanser at night can't fix. It's just fine. I mean, nothing about my skin bothers me. I see some signs of aging but I don't feel like anything needs fixing. Overall, my skin is bright, soft, even-toned, moisturized, and clear. What more could anyone ask for?
My diet: I eat a mostly whole foods, gluten-free, plant-based diet. I'm an ethical vegan but the gluten-free thing is out of necessity, not my preference. I struggled with serious food sensitivities a few years ago, and removing gluten helped everything, darn it. I also can't eat peanuts anymore, for some unknown reason. And coffee is not my friend, but I drink lots of tea. I mention all of this here because I've learned how much eating the right (or wrong) foods affects the way my skin looks and feels. Before I found help with my food issues my face was red all the time, I suffered from constant itchiness, rashes, and eczema patches on my body, and my cheeks even felt hot to the touch. Nothing topical helped.
The allergy doctor thought it was because I work with essential oils and must have sensitized myself, but I eventually found a nutritionist and TCM practitioner/herbalist who helped me heal my gut. (This doesn't mean that I'm anti-doctors or science, by the way. I just don't think our medical system is designed to help most doctors understand or treat the root causes of many issues. Doctors are always going to poo-pooh essential oils, and for very good reason - because many people do use them irresponsibly, and, better safe than sorry! But I knew that couldn't be the problem because my symptoms were present after meals, not while making perfume. Sometimes getting healthy requires getting second opinions and trying different approaches. It does not, however, require asking me for medical advice. I have a lot of knowledge about skin, but I'm not a medical professional, and I don't want to be.) 🙂
These days, I get a little flushed if I eat something spicy but overall I feel great in my skin. It's easy for me to stick to a healthy diet because I feel so much better. I also learned that I love to cook! I don't take any supplements currently, just occasional vitamin C when I'm trying not to get sick.
My vices: Nah. You gotta feed your soul, too. Would my skin look better if I didn't drink wine? Maybe. Does sipping a glass and turning up the music while I cook dinner make life more pleasurable after a stressful day of independent business ownership and full-time single parenting? Yes. Worth it! I'm not a huge dessert fan, but I love a little dark chocolate occasionally and cookies at the holidays, etc. I'm a gluten-free vegan, not a psychopath. Oh, but I've never smoked. Skincare results are impossible to come by if you're smoking. So stop that, right now. Not just for your skin, but for your whole body!
Sleep: I tend to be a night owl but I try to get 7 hours of sleep a night. When my son was younger he wasn't a good sleeper so I spent the first 6 years of his life completely exhausted. (He's 10 now.) I finally started getting enough sleep around the same time that I got my food sensitivities under control and learned how to set boundaries around my work/life balance (and that I could just turn off the reply-to-stories feature on Instagram!) and these non-product-related things are what made all the difference in my skin.
I think my skin looks way better now at 39 than it did when I started this business at 32. Part of this is my consistent, skin-barrier-nourishing Twinkle routine, but an even bigger part of it is sleep. Sleep is when your skin repairs itself. Topical products can only do so much. (Or in the case of most mainstream products, very little at all.)
I know, I know. Very unsexy. And I can't even sell it to you. Whoops. Moms, I can only say that it does get better eventually.
My approach to beauty: I happen to think that it's extremely low-key. I got over my fear of looking pre-maturely gray and stopped dying my hair in 2019 and never looked back. (My scalp is SO much happier now!) I don't own a hair dryer, straightener, or curling iron. I don't own foundation or concealer. Not even for special events or pictures. So if I get a pimple, it's just out there for everyone to see. For reasons I can't fully explain, my absolute worst nightmare is looking overdone or like I tried too hard. I guess you want your outside to reflect your inner values, right? Being seen as beautiful isn't as important to me as being seen for my intelligence, talents, humor, or parenting skills... I'd rather be anything but pretty. For years, I thought I didn't have anything else to offer the world. Now, thanks to my 7+ year participation in the Mental Health Olympics, my top events include, "entrepreneurship," "dating in mid-life," "being a woman online," and "sole-parenting," I know my worth, which makes it easy to embrace makeup-free days more and more frequently. And yet, we can't deny the power of beauty. I know that my status as an attractive white woman affords me the privilege of showing up as I am and fitting in pretty much anywhere. I still feel like it's important to keep showing up as myself in the hope that it will allow more of us to do the same. And yes, I'm aware that my skincare routine might seem laborious or extravagant to some, but to me, it's just something lovely that I do so that I can be free to do nothing else. Do I look perfect? No! Do I care? Not so much, no.
I'm also not judging you. You can show up however you are - if you've got a perfect full face of makeup, I'm going to think you look great while marveling at your skills. If you've got unwashed hair and nothing on your face, I'm still going to think you look great while marveling at your confidence. Be yourself. I'll be me. Together, we will dismantle patriarchal beauty standards and pave the way for all of us to be free to do what we wish with our faces, hair, and bodies.
There she goes again...
Things I never do: Go to bed without washing my face. Exfoliate in the mornings. Injections, peels, professional facials, laser treatments, retinol, hyaluronic acid, collagen, etc. Shop for new products. Skip toner or oil.
I also never skip any part of this routine.
So let's break it down.
6:45 AM: My alarm goes off, I hit snooze and immediately reach for the jade crystal eye mask* I keep on a little metal nightstand next to my bed. The coolness of the stones helps me wake up, and it somehow helps my eyes feel less dry before I reach for my glaring phone screen to read emails or the paper for a bit before I get out of bed around 7.
*I used to sell these in my shop but I let go of a lot of accessories last year to reduce overhead. I'd love to stock all of the pretty things, but sadly, I have a hard time convincing my customers to buy extra little luxuries like this. If you're able to treat yourself, I highly recommend starting your morning with cool stones draped across your eyes. It's a delicious way to wake up.
7ish: I get out of bed and splash cold water on my eyes, pat them dry, and apply eye serum. Then I scrape my tongue, brush my teeth, put the kettle on, and make my bed.
So, the eye serum. People always ask - "What is this for? Puffiness, dark circles, or fine lines?" And my answer is, "Yes." All of it. Why would anyone make a product to just target one thing? That's ridiculous. But, they do, so that you will spend more money. And everything about this industry is ridiculous, so here we are.
Here's what I love about my eye serum - it does help with morning puffiness, and I believe that it has helped keep the inevitable fine lines around my eyes from deepening over the years. I don't get dark circles, but it should also help with that if you do. I thought about discontinuing my eye serum when I rebranded, thinking, "It's just a facial oil that I roll on my eyes, what's the diff? Can't I just use my new oil?" So I tested going without for a few weeks. Nope. Eye serum does make a difference for me. It stays!
Side note - I used to be extremely self-conscious about my "crow's feet." When I was an actor in my late 20s I even tried botox. (At 27 my agent kept sending me on auditions for characters that were supposed to be in high school... not his fault, those were just the only roles available! But I was going through a divorce and felt SO OLD at the time.) Then, when I had my son, I realized that his little newborn eyes made the exact same crinkles when he smiled. Turns out, I wasn't prematurely aged. What I thought were wrinkles was just the natural shape of my eyes and how my skin responds to movement and facial expressions. Thankfully, botox isn't permanent. Phew! Hopefully, this little story saves you some money - to spend on perfume and fancy jade eye masks, not neurotoxins!
7:20ish: I get my son out of bed and get him ready for school. I have my first cup of tea for the day. Bliss.
7:40: I put in my contacts, and mist my face with toner. I make myself an off-the-menu, deluxe, hydrosol/toner hybrid product, with rose hydrosol, witch hazel, aloe vera, white willow bark, and my rejuvenating essential oil blend. It's GLORIOUS. I use it for everything, instead of switching back and forth between hydrosol and toner. I offer custom toners like this to tier 2 members of my Patreon. If you're not into joining, plain hydrosol works great here too. While my face is damp, I massage in a few drops of oil (usually with rejuvenating blend, unless I have a breakout, than acne.) If it's extremely cold and blustery out (I always walk my son into school instead of sitting in the dreaded car line because that is no way to start the day,) I will follow with a little bit of butter.
I know it's like, pre-routine skincare, but I like to baby my skin, ok? I mean, it's kind of my job. Also, this quick little massage and hydration action helps my face look (and feel) more awake. I may still be in my pajamas, but my face looks like I might be a somewhat productive member of society! I also try to apply light lotion to my hands and balm to my lips before I head out, especially in the winter.
8ish: I'm back home from school drop-off and have about 45 minutes before I need to get in the shower. If I'm hungry, I'll grab a little breakfast, but I'm usually not. I'll have a second cup of tea (I make a 3-cup pot every morning) and maybe journal a bit, definitely do some yoga, and/or jump on my mini trampoline for a few minutes if I'm feeling extra energetic. (Rarely, lol! I tend to save my cardio for late afternoons or evenings when my work/sales anxiety rears its head.)
Here's the part where people tend to roll their eyes at me as if I'm living in the lap of luxury. "Some of us don't have time to do yoga every morning," "I have to get right in the shower and get to the office," etc. Listen...
First of all, I work plenty, so don't you worry.
Secondly, I lead a very small, but intentional life. I made a conscious decision to start (and not scale) a small artisan craft business so that I could set myself up to thrive mentally, creatively, and emotionally. I've traded in financial security for a bit of freedom, and so that I could be more present for my son's early childhood. Is it better or worse than the way anyone else lives? Who knows. It's not a competition. If you don't like the way your life is set up, you're the only one who has the power to change it. Even if I had to get straight to the office every morning, (which may very well happen soon if I can't inspire you to try my new products,) I'd still get up early enough to apply eye serum, make my bed, drink my tea, and do a few minutes of yoga. These things keep me sane. They keep me happy. I highly recommend taking a little bit of time for yourself in the mornings if you can. It's also great for your skin.
8:45: Time to get in the shower. Before I get in, I oil cleanse my face using unscented oil.
I keep unscented, rejuvenating, and acne oil on hand at home because A) I can, and B) because I only recently finished testing and putting the finishing touches on these products. If I were a Twinkle Apothecary customer and not the person who makes it all, I'd probably just get one big bottle of oil with the rejuvenating essential oil blend to use for everything, with a small bottle of the oil with the acne essential oil blend to use on my face the week before I start my period. You don't need them all. Get the version that sounds like it will best suit your needs.
How I oil cleanse: I massage a generous pump-and-a-half of oil into my dry skin, as if I were massaging in a cleanser. I focus on the areas where my pores become easily clogged - the sides of my nose, my chin, and my forehead. If you've never tried it, oil cleansing sounds crazy, but I find that it really does help keep my pores from being clogged with excess oil. When I skip oil cleansing, my skin is more likely to get breakouts. So, I stick with it. In the mornings, I always gua sha while my face is slick with my cleansing oil. I love the way this feels, (it's like a deep tissue massage that releases my jaw, which I tend to clench a bit while sleeping,) and I love the way it wakes up my face. I never skip it. Instead of wiping off the oil, I just rinse it off in the shower.
My shower: There are three products in my shower. Glass bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and a bar of natural soap. I hate clutter, so having bottles I can refill and nothing else just makes me happy. I use either the BKIND bars that I carry, or, Wild Lather makes a beautiful vegan, naturally-scented soap that I love. I shampoo and condition my hair almost every day. Perhaps if I blow-dried it, I could go longer between washes, but I love having fresh hair that I spend zero time styling every day. And, my scalp loves the daily exfoliation. My shampoo and conditioner keep my hair moisturized without weighing it down, and I find that they're perfect for daily use on my fine, straight hair. Also, while I'm spilling my guts here, I'll also tell you that I use my hair conditioner as an intimate wash because soap throws my microbiome off balance and quickly leads to itchiness and yeast infections. No one has complained about this yet, and I stay comfy down there.
After shower body care: After drying off, I wrap my hair in a microfiber towel, and apply oil all over my body and feet - yes, I keep another big bottle in my bathroom that's currently scented with my Be Calm aromatherapy blend - and again, customs like this are available for patrons. Then a little deodorant and my body is all set for the day.
Side note - I exfoliate my body rarely to never these days. I have a dry brush, but I don't feel like I need to use it. I mean, I shave my legs (no products there either, just the moisturizing strip on my Billie razor,) which is plenty exfoliating. My oil does a fine job of keeping my skin soft. So, consistently moisturize, and you probably also won't need extra products. But if you do, you can add a little butter or scented body butter to your body care routine.
After shower skincare: I apply toner, using a mini makeup eraser cloth to rub it over my face. Then, I mist my face down again and apply oil (I dunno, about 5-8 drops?) all over my face. Then, sunscreen. This is one of my top FAQs - I use the Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30. Yes, it's expensive. No, I can't easily afford it. But it's great. I've been buying it for years. Also, I don't spend money on any other skin, makeup, or personal care products, so it's only the best for my Twinkle face! If you'd like some advice about which natural, vegan sunscreens might be a better option for you, that's something I'd be happy to discuss during my weekly patron Q&A session.
I give my sunscreen a moment to soak in, then I apply filter balm all over my face and neck. If I have a blemish, this is where I would apply my acne spot treatment. While that soaks in, I get dressed. Then, I take my hair out of the towel and brush it out using a wet/dry brush. I apply a generous dusting of setting powder to my face right away, (using a powder puff,) to avoid transferring filter balm to my hair as it air drys.
9:10/9:15 ish: I pour my last cup of tea and tousle my wet hair a bit, flipping it from one side to the other as I do my makeup, to help it air dry a bit faster. Depending on how much effort I put into my makeup that day, my hair will either be mostly dry or will need to dry a bit longer while I make my lunch and put on my shoes, coat, etc. When it's mostly dry, I mist it down with wave spray, then use my fingers to pull it up into a loose bun at the crown, using a soft scrunchie. I mist it down with a little more wave spray and wait just a couple of minutes. (Usually, this is when I do last-minute things like, pee, brush my teeth, pack my bag, or take out the trash or something...) If I leave it up too long, I'll have weird bends in my hair, but about 3-5 minutes is enough to give my stick-straight hair a little bit of shape and movement. I also walk to my shop most days, and in Oklahoma wind, trying to achieve perfect hair is a futile pursuit anyway.
Before we walk out the door, I want to mention the new fragrance I designed for my deodorant, wave spray, (and dry shampoo, body powder, and bath salts!) When I decided to rebrand and streamline my collection, I had to think long and hard about what kind of scent I wanted to wear every single morning. (Not an easy task for a perfumer!)
I needed it to be:
- light but effective (refreshing, deodorizing)
- uplifting, a pleasant way to start every day
- easy to blend in large quantities (the result isn't so easy to make, but, worth it anyway!)
- but also not basic
- but also not overpowering
After lots of trial and error, it occurred to me that there's one scent in my collection I always turn to in the mornings to refresh and lift my spirits, and get my day off on the right foot - Madam VP. THIS is something I can smell every single morning and never tire of.
So my new body and hair care collections are scented with the middle notes from my (archived) Madam VP perfume - lavender, rose, clary sage, and copaiba balsam.
It's fancy but not too flowery. Fresh but substantial. Aromatherapeutic and uplifting, but not overpowering. I know a lot of people might be turned off by the thought of rose, but give it a shot. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. If not, there are a million other natural deodorants out there scented with perfectly boring fragrance blends, so I'm sure you'll find something else to enjoy!
Ok, 9:45ish: I take down my hair and smooth over my flyaway gray roots with a smoothing hair brush. But if it's cold I'm probably going to put on a hat to walk to work anyway, so whatever. I put balm on my lips (or a shimmer balm,) and walk to my shop. (It only takes 3 minutes. I live two blocks away so I just feel kind of silly getting in my car and driving over.)
10 AM: I'm at work! My hair is completely dry by now because the wind here is never not intense. I keep a smoothing brush at work too so I can smooth it over a bit, especially if I've worn a hat. I might smooth a little bit of balm over the top if things look crazy. But that's it!
Morning routine, complete. Congratulations, you read the whole thing!
I hope it was helpful, or at least somewhat entertaining. Stay tuned for my nighttime routine update post to come soonish, and scroll down to shop the products.
- Stefanie -