How I’m Getting My Skin Ready For My Wedding Day

Photo: Courtesy of Nicolette mason.
With the official countdown to my wedding underway (we’ve just passed the somewhat terrifying two-month mark), I'm taking a serious look in the mirror and making an inventory of the parts of my beauty routine that are actually worth reevaluating before our big day, and not just things that are hyped-up and forced onto brides-to-be. I’ve had suggestions for every treatment known to womankind thrown at me — from tanning-bed schedules to laser treatments to shrink wraps, and even fillers. While these things might be just what one bride needs to feel confident as she walks down the aisle, they are not for me, and I kind of hate that anyone is pressured to create a checklist with all that madness on it in the first place. That said, if there's one area of my beauty profile that I've always been a bit self-conscious about, it's my skin. I struggled with acne for years — deep into my 20s (so, like, now), and my face still holds the scars to prove it — in part thanks to hormonal breakouts, my habit of picking (just being honest), and my keloid-prone Middle Eastern genes.  Plus, I’m a true millennial in the sense that I love instant gratification. See, I’m a logical person in that I've always known the right thing to do is invest time and energy into addressing the problems I have with my often blotchy complexion, but instead I became a victim to cakey makeup and a completely disjointed skin-care regimen. I've been in a years-long vicious cycle of wearing super-heavy layers of concealer, foundation, and powder that were probably doing more harm than good. And, that's just the tip of the iceberg — my travel-heavy life and long work hours in two highly polluted cities mean that my still youthful visage is getting exposed to serious toxins and stressors that have the potential to cause major signs of premature aging. As for my skin-care “routine”? Once I took stock of the products I was putting on my face every day, I counted an amalgam of 12 different items across brands and lines.  It was time for a skintervention. I went to facialist-to-the-stars Joanna Vargas; she's the go-to expert for megastars like Naomi Watts and Julianne Moore, and takes a holistic approach to skin-care that addresses the inside and out. I arrived with a rarely-seen-in-daylight completely bare face, and I was ready to hear the law laid down — hard. I went in with my list of 12 products — multiple serums, a trifecta of cleansers, toner, moisturizer, spot treatment, eye creams, healing oils — and laid out all my confessions (yes, even the picking). I was ready for a full-on smackdown, but Joanna cut straight to the chase: Sure, a cocktail of products isn’t necessarily bad for you. But, systems are created as systems for a reason; they work better together, and often the active ingredients in one skin-care program could cause negative chemical reactions with the ingredients in another — leading to clogged pores and new breakouts (of course, there are exceptions to this rule, so check in with your dermatologist or facialist on what works best for you). With that out of the way, and the encouragement to streamline my routine to a cleanse-tone-moisturize process (and to definitely ditch my $300-a-tub “old-lady cream”), Joanna gave me a handful more practical tips: Makeup
Following my facial with Joanna, I decided to give my face a “detox” of sorts — ditching my concealer/foundation/powder mainstay entirely for a few days, and finally replacing it with a light, tinted moisturizer. I’ll be completely honest: This was a really terrifying step for me, but it made me realize that I was beyond unrealistic about the quality and state of my skin. Yes, I was definitely getting the occasional pimple, but my complexion was actually pretty okay underneath all that makeup (and looked super-glowy after my JV signature facial). I was actually getting compliments — and it felt good. All these years, I’ve had myself convinced that I needed 10 layers of foundation to conceal some horrifying mess! Even though my makeup had a much more minimal approach, I promised myself that no matter how many tequila-soda-limes I "accidentally" drank on a Friday night, I would always remove it; I’m only human, and we’ve all woken up with last night’s makeup at least once — but this was the end. 
Skin Care 1. Streamlining your skin-care routine is essential.
Following my skintervention, my 12-step routine was no more, and I was happy to say sayonara to my pricey face cream (besides, I was reaching the end of the tub and the idea of shelling out another $300 for moisturizer alone was nauseating). I simplified to cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer — with a once-a-week exfoliating mask thrown into the mix. Using the same products morning and night not only left my skin feeling cleaner and tighter, but it saved me an enormous amount of time — something that became especially helpful after exhausting work days. And, I immediately noticed my pores shrinking and scars fading. Joanna also suggested that I be more mindful of my water intake, and continue to focus on whole foods; I felt totally validated in lugging around my heavy (but chic) reuseable glass water bottle.  2. Facials. Get them.
Next, to help maintain an even complexion (especially for those who are acne- and/or scar-prone), maintaining regular facials at an ideal every six to eight weeks is a worthwhile investment. It’s understandably a huge luxury and privilege to enjoy frequent facials, but I’m now budgeting out the money I would be spending on excessive makeup on them — something I’m sure I’ll be grateful for when I’m older. 3. Post- (and during-) travel care makes a difference. 
For frequent travelers (like me), the 411 is to exfoliate and hydrate immediately after your flight — and keep the water coming for as long as your aisle-or-window-seat can allow you. Misting with a rosewater spray (I love Glossier’s Soothing Face Mist) will help keep your skin hydrated without clogging any pores, and for really long-haul flights, Joanna recommends a collagen mask.
4. Bring the spa home.
Finally, there’s an entire world of inexpensive, at-home gadgets that can enhance your skin-care routine. Joanna recommended an LED therapy, like IlluMask, to help prevent new acne from developing. The $30-a-pop masks use LED lights to help dissolve bacteria deep inside your pores and fade existing scarring, and I’m happy to report that I bought it and it works for me. Full disclosure: I look like an idiot while I’m using it; it’s a Jason Voorhees-looking white mask that glows — but, really, it works. While there’s lots of pressure on brides to look “perfect” on their wedding day — “flawless” skin with not a fine line or blemish to be seen, and plenty of bride-to-be deals on Botox to be found, I want to shine as, well, me: the person my partner proposed to, and the person she’ll be spending forever with — without having to rely on a glamsquad and an airbrush. After all, the more I love my skin as a blank canvas, the less I’ll be inclined to cover it up. On your wedding day, your future spouse, your friends, and family should be seeing you — with your natural glow, freckles, and birthmarks. Unless, of course, that’s not your thing — and that’s fine, too. But, this is what's working for me so far, and I'm just happy to be loving and revealing my best skin, yet. 

Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page!

More from Skin Care

R29 Original Series