Even as I write this, my skin is layered with a nice squeeze of vitamin C and a kick of retinol and peptides, my rose quartz Gua sha stone is chilled and ready to slide, and I come to realize, my daily ritual of serum application has turned into a full hygge experience. But that would be just scratching the surface of the world of grown-up skincare, wouldn’t it?
A few months ago, I turned 29—a year short of a whole other life for your skin, as I’ve been told. And just like you used to take a peek at your textbooks in the summer holidays before the term started (oh, just me?), I decided I’d like to dip my toes, or fingers rather, in a slew of anti-ageing solutions that the modern world has to offer. Any derm will recommend you do this around your mid-twenties, but here we are—better late than never.
So off I ventured to explore everything from serums to face tools and face workouts, because let’s face it – we all want to age like JLo. But how do you get there? Well, I figured I’d start with the basics, and sometimes, it takes a pandemic to mentally chalk out a quaranskin makeover plan from scratch.
So, step one: you can’t troubleshoot your skin issues without properly identifying them. Does your skin need firming and erasing? Are large pores denting your look? Is brightening what your heart desires? Listing them out helps picking your products.
Secondly, start from the bottom. Switch out your cleanser if it has things like parabens, propylene/butylene glycol, alcohol or synthetic fragrances—only once you cut out the counterproductive, can you expect the good stuff to start working, right? Upgrade to a moisturiser that actually delivers what your skin needs—is it dry or oily? Is it acne-ridden? Does it need an antioxidant boost to combat the effects of light from devices and pollution? Do you need to graduate to a more serious dermaceutical brand? Your everyday products need a fresh review.
And finally, once I’d tossed out the bad, it was time to welcome *drumroll* serums into my life. If you still don’t know what exactly a serum is, no judgment—they tend to be pretty elusive at first but can be quite an indulgence once you get to know them. Kinda sorta like cats.
But in a line, serums are a whole category of lightweight water- or oil-based formulas that deliver highly concentrated active ingredients to deeper skin cells by penetrating past the outer layer of skin—something you can’t expect from a typical moisturiser or toner. Serums just hit different.
In fact, for a hot minute there, I even ditched my moisturiser (it really depends on your skin if you can do that), but serums being lighter, go on first either way, sinking in and targeting a range of specific skin concerns.
Having stocked serums the past three months, like Mariah Carey does Louboutins, lined up on my dresser like bottled promises, I’m now eager to share my findings. General rule of thumb: layer skincare from thinnest to thickest (word of caution: be mindful, not all formulas go well with each other, especially when dealing with retinoids).
Also, don’t get me wrong, you really don’t have to napalm your face with acids to pushback ageing. Tailoring a routine for yourself begins with discovering what each ingredient delivers to your skin, starting with a minimum of three weeks to see visible results.
Furnished below are the specs of serums and oils that get my vote. What I planned for: using each of them for a minimum of two weeks, both solo to see their direct result, and layered to concoct different combos depending on how my skin was feeling that day. What I didn’t plan for: having my mom compliment my “glowing skin” for perhaps the first time in my life (besides DMs from unbelieving friends).
So this is me paying it forward. Give them a go if you will, and happy glowing up while growing up!
Biotique Bio BXL Youth Serum
A light, botanical, ultra-concentrated, quickly-absorbed formula that brightens skin, this is a good starter to begin smoothing away lines and fading dark spots and highly pigmented cells. It claims to be powered by an exclusive BXL Complex, which is a blend of vitamin E, nutmeg oil, and pure dandelion, and can be applied day or night underneath your moisturiser.
Neemli Naturals Hyaluronic & Vitamin C Serum
While the state of being hydrated now carries social weight too, hydrating serums are a dream. Hyaluronic acid holds 1,000 times its weight in water, and vitamin C is everything you want in a serum, if you ask me. This one is a super light, a potent shot of both (a decent 12% of vitamin C) in one serum that I love reaching out for, because no jokes, it almost instantly plumps skin, and gives even better results overnight.
Neemli Naturals Retinol & Peptide Serum
While retinols (and retinoids) are a whole universe by themselves, this one gives your skin a nice introduction to the vitamin A derivative, boosting collagen production and speeding up cell renewal. The peptides (made up of amino acids), which are pretty much the fundamental building blocks of skin, add a bit of bounce too. Plus, it smells like cocoa butter.
Dr. Sheth’s CICA & Ceramide Overnight Repair Serum
If you’re wondering what ceramide is, it’s essentially the moisture magnets that bond your skin cells together to create a barrier within the skin’s surface. In other words, this is what you need to nourish your skin. Combine that with cica, a plant-based, sensitive-skin friendly ingredient frequently seen in Korean beauty that calms inflammation, redness, and irritated skin, and you have an overnight winner.
Facial oils are a whole other vibe—best enjoyed with a jade roller and back to back episodes of Peaky Blinders. We know rosehip oil (a natural alternative to retinol) rose to fame recently for its superior cell-regenerating powers. Miranda Kerr swears by it as the reason for not getting post-pregnancy stretch marks, so that’s huge. This blend features helichrysum that lowers inflammation along with the healing powers of rosehip oil to effectively erase any blemishes and scarring and really does a great job of it.
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil
Remember when I tossed out my moisturiser for a bit? It’s because this lovely syrupy oil made for a fair stand-in when I preferred feeling blanketed on my skin. It delivers a blend of nine super oils blended along with a tiny dose of retinol and vitamin C to keep your skin moisturised; it also improves skin texture, and makes for a nice, slippery face massage.
Photograph: Matias Indjic