The Step-By-Step-By-STEP Skin-Care Routines Of 8 Refinery29 Editors

Having an encyclopedic knowledge of beauty products is our editors’ literal job, whether we’re penning detailed product reviews, grilling Rihanna on her pregnancy beauty routine, sussing out every single drugstore mascara under the sun, or amassing a small army of editors to put the so-called “ultimate” red lipstick to the test. We’re also always striving to serve our own skins’ unique needs, looking for that perfect boost of hydration for dry winter skin or a targeted, inflammation-reducing acid to soothe cystic acne. If you keep up with our relentless investigation of every cleanser, toner, serum, oil, cream, and powder on the internet’s digital shelves, you might find yourself wondering which products we actually buy — and even repurchase after our supplies have been exhausted.

Well, skin-care fans, today is your lucky day. We each took a moment to assemble our favorite products and break down every single moment of our individual skin-saving processes, both morning and night. If you've been craving a sneak peek into our editors’ medicine cabinets, keep on reading to see which worth-every-penny products you might want to add to your own routines.

Sam Baker, VP Commerce & Partnerships

Skin profile: “A few years ago my skin was constantly in break-out mode with cystic acne. I tried a lot of products, and these are the ones that transformed my skin.”
Age: 33

In the morning, I just wet my face with lukewarm water and then do five minutes of the Nuface. Then, I put the Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner on (and usually empty the dishwasher while it dries down). Next, I apply the azelaic acid from The Ordinary — a game-changer for anyone with cystic acne or redness. (It also helps with overall texture.) From there, I apply Volition Beauty Snow Mushroom Water Serum, which is great for hydration, the Clarins eye cream, and my moisturizer, Drunk Elephant’s Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer with Ceramides. I always end my routine with sunscreen from Missha: the All Around Safe Block Aqua Sun Gel in SPF 50.
At night, I double cleanse with lukewarm water, a muslin cloth, and the Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm from Elemis, [followed by] another wash with the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, and then [a variation on my morning routine]. I also do a face mask every Sunday — my favorite is this Clarins V-Facial Intense Wrap, which helps depuff and brighten the skin. I ALWAYS use this facial before a big event. I was at a friend's wedding in November and the makeup artist told me my skin "looked like glass" and all I did that morning was the Nuface and Clarins mask. I also really like the Me Clear Anti-Blemish Device, which along with a consistent skincare routine, basically cleared my cystic acne.

Sara Tan, Beauty Director

Skin profile: “My skin type is normal/dry. And my two skin-care goals for the day are to stay moisturized and protected from the sun.”
Age: 35

In the morning, unless I manage to squeeze in an A.M. workout, I skip cleansing my face and just splash it with water or use a cotton pad with a little bit of micellar water to create a fresh foundation for the rest of my routine. I start with a milky toning lotion that my skin just slurps up. Not only does it soothe and hydrate my skin, but it also primes my skin so it can effectively absorb the rest of my products. Next, I use a Vitamin C [serum]. This is going to help brighten my skin while also providing the antioxidants to help my sunscreen better protect my face. After, I'll use a moisturizer to lock in all the hydration and follow up with my absolute favorite facial sunscreen. I'll finish with a conditioning lip jelly that has peptides and will nourish my dry lips.
In the evening, I'll use my trusty milky toning lotion and then go in with a very expensive but very good serum from Augustinus Bader. This serum has truly changed my skin texture. I don't use retinol every night, but when I do, I use a gentle formulation, like this one from Versed. Lastly, I'll seal all that goodness in with the No. 1 de Chanel Revitalizing Cream, which is extremely moisturizing, keeps the fine lines and wrinkles at bay, and smells delightful. Some nights, I'm really tired and lazy, so I'll skip all of the aforementioned products and just use the Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum. I also use this when my skin is angry or irritated and find that it is a miracle worker in a bottle. I cannot go to sleep without slathering my lips in a mask or jelly, like the one from Facile

Karina Hoshikawa, Beauty & Wellness Market Writer

Skin profile: “I have oily, breakout-prone skin, and after years of dealing with stubborn acne, I feel really good about my skin-care routine, which I’ve more or less stuck to for the past two or three years.”
Age: 28

Cleansing is a really important step for me. In the morning, I swear by a gel cleanser like Aesop's pricey-but-worth-it In Two Minds Cleanser or the Sephora Clean Skin Gel Cleanser — nothing too harsh. Next, I use a clarifying serum like The Ordinary’s Niacinamide Zinc, followed by a lightweight moisturizer and sunscreen — always.
At night, it’s all about the double cleanse! I remove any makeup and leftover SPF with a balm or oil cleanser, followed by a more intense cleanser to help keep my skin clear. Once I’m out of the shower, I do a few minutes of LED light therapy with my bougie LED face mask. (I can’t say it’s dramatically transformed my skin, but I definitely feel like my overall radiance has improved.) Next, I use a brightening serum followed by an AHA or BHA serum to help keep my pores clear. Then, I’ll use a slightly more intense moisturizer than my morning one to hydrate and pamper my skin before locking it all in with a non-comedogenic face oil.

Alexandra Polk, Lifestyle Writer

Skin profile: “My skin and I have a rocky relationship, meaning it took some years to figure out what to eat, buy, and avoid in order to achieve a lovely glow. I don't want to point fingers but my dad's genetics gave me the gift of hormonal acne. I don't know who said acne stopped in adulthood because I still get oily T-zones, dry patches, and pimples if I don't stick to my routine or if I ghost my dermatologist. My skincare products mostly do damage control on my cheek acne flare-ups and oily skin."
Age: 24

My nighttime routine is the most extensive: After I oil cleanse my makeup off with Dermalogica’s Precleanse, I wash my face with Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser (La Roche Posay’s Gentle Cleanser in the AM) I start with my Heritage Store’s Rosewater Toner because it’s moisturizing, natural, and functional — in other words, it’s not just overpriced water.
Then, I use a dermatologist prescribed Retin-A to chemically exfoliate. Next, I begrudgingly apply Caudalie’s expensive but incredibly effective Skin Perfecting Serum and rub in a few droplets of Iunik’s Tea Tree Relief Serum. Finally, I splash on a little more toner and moisturize with Neutrogena’s Hydroboost Gel Cream For Extra Dry Skin. If it’s the AM then I put on Neutrogena’s Hydroboost Water-Gel Sunscreen. It's a little nuts, but that’s the whole shebang.

Amanda Mitchell, Senior Beauty Writer and Stories Creator

Skin profile: "I've always been lucky enough to have good skin, even great skin, with an even skin tone and few blemishes, so my main concern is maintenance and moisture. When I’m dehydrated, my skin is the first to show it, so keeping it hydrated and balanced is key."
Age: 30

I don't wash my face in the morning, since I don't want to dry out my skin any further. I use my Pixi Glow Tonic, a product I singlehandedly attribute to the excellence of my skin for keeping it plump and juicy, and then follow up with a vitamin C . I'm loving the MARA Vitamin C, but my other go-to's include Common Heir and Murad's. I'm admittedly a Vitamin C snob, and know not all of them are built alike. I follow that with a hyaluronic acid, right now I'm using  the Lancôme Rénergie H.C.F. Triple Serum. I just love to get a last burst of hyaluronic acid with my vitamin C. Then moisturizer — I always love a thick, juicy girl in the winter, something ingrained in me from stealing my parents' Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream in my teenage years, but I'm really loving this one from Matter of Fact. Finish it up with eye cream and sunscreen. The Black Girl Sunscreen truly has no right to be as good as it is, and I will use it over and over again. Bathe me in it, ya know? I finish up with the KosasSport Lip Balm, which is the closest I'll ever get to sports.
For the evening, I double cleanse using a cleansing oil or balm and then, depending on what evening it is, [that] dictates which cleanser I use. The double cleanse is to take off both makeup and sunscreen — meaning I double cleanse even if I'm not wearing makeup, because I am (nearly) always using sunscreen. I can't say I do it always, I'm not perfect! Once or twice a week, I'll exfoliate both my face and my lips. If I'm using retinol that evening, [my] goal is to keep as much moisture and hydration in my skin to combat the extra-dryness from retinol as well as minimalize the routine as much as possible so as not to exacerbate my dainty precious baby skin!! To prep for retinol, I wash with a creamy cleanser like Cerave Cream-to-Foam Cleanser, before toning with Renee Rouleau Moisture Infusion. Shani Darden's retinol is my absolute favorite – the MARA retinol is also a great option, especially if you want to keep your routine low-effort.
Then I apply a face oil and top it with a sleeping mask to really help the efficacy of all the good-good. If it's not a retinol night, I cleanse with Tula The Cult Classic to purify and clarify my skin without being drying and gross. I'm loving Tatcha Texture Tonic for the evenings, and if I didn't use the H.C.F that morning, I'll use it here. Follow that up with a moisturizer, sleep mask, and some Aquaphor on the lips and it's off to snoozeville for moi.

Kate Spencer, Affiliate Strategist

Skin profile: “I've been lucky to have naturally problem-free skin all of my life, so take all of my picks with a grain of salt — I am far from an expert and have never had to solve any big skin issues.”
Age: 31

This is my evening skincare routine. I don’t do much in the morning besides rinse my face with warm water and sometimes put on some moisturizer. When I wear makeup (which is very rare), I use the Bioderma Makeup Remover and a reusable cotton round to take it off, followed by the Biba Gentle Cleanser that I’m just about to purchase my third bottle of. It’s really gentle and the original version used to have a scent that was super nostalgic to me (it now has an unscented formula).
I swear this stuff — the Natrium Niacinimide Serum — changed my skin. I’ve never been prone to acne or large breakouts (besides the hormonal ones here and there), but I always seemed to have these tiny bumps on my forehead. I literally searched “how to get rid of forehead bumps” on Youtube and some skincare guru convinced me to buy this serum. After using the product nightly for a few months, my skin became SO much smoother and I’ve used it religiously ever since.  All I’m saying is I promise I’ve been using the Biba Plant Stem-Cell Serum before Hailey Bieber ever mentioned it. I love the Sunday Riley Auto-Correct eye cream. Not only is the packaging A+, but I like how I can use it both morning and night. It’s super hydrating and I feel like it instantly makes me look a little more awake… I even got my mom hooked on it. 

Finally, Avene Skin Recovery Cream. This French drugstore brand makes me feel like I'm a Parisian girl that's cool, but doesn't try too hard? I've been using its skin recovery cream for years. It’s simple, unscented, and doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin. 

Mercedes Viera, Associate Deals Writer

Skin profile: "I have pretty dry skin, especially during the winter months when my psoriasis flares up around my eyes/brow area. But I also get some breakouts. So, it's very important for me to keep my hydration high without it being too much."
Age: 25

I normally don't do an AM routine unless I wake up with particularly dry skin or I'm going to wear makeup and need to prep it with some hydration. The main fun starts at night with my current fave cleanser from Kate Somerville, followed by either a chemical exfoliator (either the First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads or the Moon Juice Acid Potion) or a physical one (nothing beats the Fresh Sugar Face Polish).
Then, my ride-or-die #1 skincare product I will always repurchase — drum roll, please! — the Herbivore Lapis Blue Tansy Oil. This stuff is everything to me. You need this. If there's one thing you take away from my routine, it should be to get this Herbivore face oil. Lastly, I finish it off with First Aid Beauty's Eye Duty Brightening Cream (this stuff is amazing! It gets rid of dark circles and leaves it super soft) and the famous Ultra Repair Cream (a true life savior for winter).

Megan Decker, Beauty Editor

Skin Profile: "My skin type is normal to dry (that's what facialists and aestheticians have told me). I am primarily concerned with brightening and hydrating, which is why I like to do light layers of skincare."
Age: 26

I start my day by splashing my face with cold water, mostly just to wake myself up. Then I dry off with a towel and apply my CE Ferulic serum to clean, dry skin. This stuff is expensive, bright orange, and smells a little bit like hotdog water, but it sinks right into my skin and makes it glow almost immediately. Because I'm dry, I follow that up with a hyaluronic acid serum; currently, I'm loving the H.A. Intensifier, also by Skinceuticals, but I'm not too picky.
Then I use a vitamin c eye cream, the Summer Fridays Vitamin C helps to brighten my perpetually dark under eyes. I follow that with a moisturizer, my favorite is the collaboration between Victoria Beckham and Augustinus Bader — it's incredible. My all-time favorite sunscreen is Saie Slip Tint, it's SPF 35 plus a little glowy tint, so I don't need foundation, and sometimes can go without concealer, too. For my dry lips, I've been using the Lawless Beauty Lip Mask; it's supposed to be 'plumping', but I just started using it a few days ago, so TBD.
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