My Makeup Wouldn’t Look Nearly as Good If It Weren’t for This Skincare Routine

Some steps are nonnegotiable!

You've heard it before: the key to beautiful makeup is beautiful skin. We wouldn't want to paint the Girl with a Pearl Earring on a sheet of loose-leaf paper when we can use smooth and sturdy canvas, amirite? If I apply paint to a piece of 8x10 paper (just like I did in kindergarten), the paper would pucker up and the paint would crack. And, most certainly, it wouldn't stand the test of time. The colors would fade and the layers would chip off. But if I apply that same paint to a freshly gesso'd canvas, the paint would glide smoothly over the surface, covering every nook and cranny in one evenly applied layer.

I want to help you learn from my mistakes (the millions of them) and successes to achieve the best canvas possible.

To me, beautiful skin just means healthy, happy skin — skin that we listen to and take care of like the precious yet needy baby it can be; skin that we moisturize if it's feeling like the Sahara desert; skin that we clean, treat, and protect when it's breaking out trying to fight against all of that gross environmental bacteria.

This means a complete skincare routine as well as treating your skin with tenderness when it comes to complexion products (like foundation, concealer, color corrector, etc.). This is not something that happens overnight. It takes trial and error. It takes reading reviews and suggestions. And it takes baby steps: adding one more product into your routine at a time, "like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion."

Countless times, I've done makeup on a model concerned about redness, or dark spots, or fine lines, or dryness (because, let's be real, we all have our own unique rebellious skin moments). I'll ask if they have a consistent skincare routine and, nine out of ten times, they'll respond with a resounding no. Covering up skin instead of taking care of it is like putting a Band-aid on an infected wound. Over time, the infection will spread until you start using more and more Band-aids (which is annoying and definitely not cost-effective). However, if you had put some Neosporin on your cut before putting on the Band-aid in the first place, you might not even need a Band-aid tomorrow.

Let's remove the cause and the symptom, shall we?

Now, let me get started by telling y'all about my skin journey. I have super-sensitive, translucent skin that is very prone to redness and breakouts — especially cystic acne (you know, that painful, unpoppable, under-the-surface stuff.) I break out mostly around my jawline, which means it's hormonal, but my face likes to surprise me with the occasional forehead, nose, and cheek pimples. I am so ridiculously oily that moderately oily people marvel at the shiny, slick seventh wonder of the world that is my face. And because I'm oily, I have tremendous pores on my nose and cheeks that you can swim in that, surprisingly, don't really bother me much.

When I was a teenager, my mom took me to a dermatologist who prescribed Retin-A Micro and a sulfur face wash. These products kinda sorta worked, treating mostly the surface breakouts while leaving the cystic acne. Eventually, I experienced some wonky side effects. My oily skin started to develop extreme dry patches. And, once the acne itself cleared, I was left with dents and dark spots. My skin looked meh, and it felt even worse. And this meh skin continued until recently.

About a year and a half ago, I began to really take care of my skin. It all started when my aunt and uncle sent me $100 for Christmas to buy a Clarisonic, swearing that it would change my skin. Being the Doubting Debbie that I was, I immediately put the money toward my expensive L.A. rent (sorry you guys). But, because I am a good and guilt-ridden girl, I broke down and purchased the tool a month later. Within a week, my skin was glowing. Many of the super tiny break outs I had been experiencing disappeared. My pores were still visible, but were super squeaky clean inside. And, most importantly, my skin felt fantastic! It felt like I could finally breathe after having a small elephant sit on my skin for years.

My Clarisonic excitement sparked a whole new skincare routine over the course of a few months that brought my skin from blegh to fan-freakin-tastic. I even taught myself a little rhyme (sort of) that reminded me how to put my steps into order: Cleanse, tone, detoxify, serum, eye cream, moisturize! You don't necessarily need all these steps every single day, but depending on your concerns, you may need at least two or three.

I always start by cleansing off my makeup.

For this, I use a makeup-breakup cleanser, something specifically designed to break down my longwear products. Recently, I've been digging Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, which I can use on both my face and eyes. Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Melting Cleanser is one of my all-time faves as well.

Balm cleanser goes straight onto dry, makeup-covered skin. Starting at the center of the face and working toward the edges, I rub the cleanser all over my face in little circular motions with the pads of my pointer, middle, and ring fingers.

Once my makeup has been successfully broken up, I wet the tips of my fingers and continue with my circular motions, which helps to turn the jelly or balm cleanser into a milk. I then wet my face to rinse off all the cleanser, and watch the swirls of greige dance down the drain.

To remove eye makeup, I drip some eye-makeup remover, like Sephora Collection Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover, onto a cotton round and hold the round over my eye for about 10 seconds until the eye makeup starts disintegrating. By using this technique, I prevent myself from tugging at my eyes, causing fine lines and wrinkles.

I know many, many people are big on makeup wipes. However, they just eat up my money. When you break it down day by day, cleansers end up costing less than wipes and are quite a bit more effective.

After I break down my makeup, I'm able to actually cleanse my skin, which means removing the dirt and debris that have collected under the surface. One of my favorite cleansers is Glamglow Supercleanse Daily Clearing Cleanser which, somehow, has lasted me over a year. Crazypants! It's the Mary Poppins bag of cleansers. I put a pea-sized amount of my cleanser onto the center of my Clarisonic and apply it to my skin, once again starting at the center and working toward the edges in little circular motions.

If I were to put cleanser on top of my makeup, the awesome active ingredients wouldn't be able to reach my skin and wouldn't clean out my pores effectively. While I'm cleansing my skin, makeup is still being removed. Without the double cleanse, all the left over product would remain in my pores, clog them, and cause unwanted breakouts and texture. I'm able to wear heavy full-coverage makeup every day without my skin suffering for it. Again, you don't have to use a Clarisonic, but do cleanse after removing your makeup, especially if you're using wipes (which I know a lot of y'all are addicted to). Trust me! Your skin will be all the happier for it.

If you wanted to exfoliate, you could do that step now as well. I like to gently exfoliate in the morning with Tatcha Polished Classic Rice Enzyme Powder instead of just cleansing. It's sensitive enough to not cause redness but strong enough to leave my skin squeaky clean for makeup application.

After cleansing, I tone my skin. Lately, I've been using Belif Eucalyptus Herbal Extract Toner, but for years I used witch hazel and loved my results. While cleansing to me is a non-negotiable, toning is more optional. For me, toning does help with my pore visibility and with keeping my oil at bay. If you don't experience either of those problems, it's up to you whether or not you'd like to incorporate this step.

Next is masking! Masks are great ways to get a powerful result in just 15 minutes. Whenever my skin's deciding to do something random and annoying, like break out or be dull, I mask it. Some of my favorites are Kate Sommerville EradiKate Acne Mask, when I'm having a problematic breakout period, and the Sephora Collection Pearl Mask, when I need to kick blegh skin into gear. Just like toning, this step is a bit more optional. However, I highly suggest it if your skin is having an uncharacteristically problematic moment.

Then, I apply a serum. Serums are the most doctor-y part of skincare. They address your most major concerns, whether it be discoloration, fine lines, acne, or texture. My two favorites are Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, which addresses pretty much all of these concerns, and Lancome Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate, which I use in the morning to smooth my skin before makeup.

To apply my serum, I rub a dime-size amount between my finger tips and press the product into the skin, starting at the center of my face and working out toward the edges.

By pressing, rather than rubbing, I ensure the products penetrate deeper into my skin and work more effectively. This step is a bit more negotiable, but if you have major overall concerns, you should give one a try. You can even layer serums if you have multiple concerns you want to treat, but always work thinnest to thickest. Skin regenerates faster at night than it does during the day, so I like to use my more hardcore products and night and my more gentle serums in the morning.

Following my serum, I apply an eye cream. This is a step a lot of people skip, but I will say this: besides helping with anti-aging, eye cream helps concealer lay a lot more smoothly. Concealer can crease and cake up when the skin under the eye isn't properly hydrated. The skin will try to drink the hydration out of the concealer, leaving behind dry pigment.

I've had a lot of people ask me if they can use moisturizer to hydrate the under-eye area and, unfortunately, the answer is no. The skin under the eye is thin, like tissue paper. The rest of the skin is like cardboard. The molecules in moisturizer, which work on regular skin, are too big to penetrate through the tissue-y under-eye.

I like to use the Algenist Complete Eye Renewal Balm at night and Benefit It's Potent! Dark Circle Eye Cream during the day. I use my ring finger, which has the lightest touch, to pat the product around my orbital bone (the bone structure that protrudes under my "baggage" area).

When I'm experiencing extra puffiness, I use my pointer, middle, and ring fingers to press and roll the excess water out from my under-eye area.

Onto our last step: moisturize! Moisturizing is a non-negotiable.

If you have drier skin, you may want to use a creamier moisturizer, like Caudalie Vinosource Intense Moisture Rescue Cream — something that will penetrate the skin and hydrate the top layer, to moisturize from the inside out. If you're more oily (like me), a gel-based moisturizer is the way to go. For oily skin, moisturizer can signal the skin to stop over-producing oil. If you're not sure whether your skin is oily or dry, you probably have more of a normal skin type and, therefore, can use either type of moisturizer.

Lately, I've been using Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil at night and Tatcha Supple Moisture Rich Silk Cream in the morning. The Luna oil (a favorite amongst xoVainers) is my jam! Not only does it hydrate my skin, it is one of the only products that helps with my cystic acne. I recently started using this product after a six month hiatus (because it is rather expensive) and I watched my skin clear up pretty much overnight. It's a magic potion, I swear!

I apply my moisturizer the same way I apply my serum: patting motions starting from the center of my face, working outward.

The most important steps are cleansing (and I mean really cleansing — not just a wipe) and moisturizing. These are non-negotiables that everyone needs twice a day for great skin.

If you want to add more steps into your routine, start with one new product at a time to prevent your skin from throwing a hissy fit. When starting a new skincare routine, it is important to keep following in mind: skin takes 30 to 60 days to cycle through, so you may have to wait one to two months to see a result. Be diligent, be dedicated, and it will be worth it.

After my skincare routine, I follow up with some clean complexion makeup. Makeup has been taking a turn for the more sheer lately (perhaps as a response to the months of full coverage plus highlight and contour being on-trend). I've been using products that offer lighter coverage, like Urban Decay Naked Skin One & Done Hybrid Complexion Perfector, all over my face, and following up with a medium coverage foundation, like YSL Touche Eclat Radiance Awakening Foundation, applied with my beautyblender only in the areas where I need a bit more coverage, like cheeks and forehead, where I get more redness.

I then spot-treat blemishes with my Cover FX Perfect Pencil and apply Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer to my under-eye. This way, my skin feels light and looks more natural, while retaining a coverage I'm comfortable with. To cover spots, I draw directly onto problem areas with my Cover Fx Pencil and use little circular motions with my favorite Sephora #57 Pro Airbrush Concealer Brush to diffuse any harsh lines between the concealer and my skin. By using coverage only where I need it, I keep my skin looking soft, natural, and clean.

Just remember: skin is a diva. Treat her well, and she'll perform like Madonna, Britney, or even Cher. Mistreat her and, well... just don't mistreat her.

  • Have you noticed that your makeup looks different when your skincare routine changes?
  • What's your biggest skin-related makeup complaint?