Our Beauty Expert Reveals All of Her Insider Skincare Secrets in This Exclusive Guide

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Nearing close to a decade as Good Housekeeping’s Beauty Director, I’ve tested just about every beauty product under the sun and then some. That’s why I’m always happy to wade through the sheer amount of options and trends out there to pin down what’s worth it. Like a beauty guru-ing big sister, I’ve got years of insider advice that can majorly upgrade how your skin looks and feels.

Of course, skincare isn’t a one-size-fits-all method, but with these tips and tricks, you can curate a daily skincare regimen that works for your specific skin type and needs. To get you started, here are the most commonly asked questions I get, with an inside look at all my skincare secrets and techniques for upping your a.m. and p.m. routine.

What am I missing from my skincare routine?

If you have mature or aging skin…

  • Keep hyaluronic acid on deck. Tackle droopy eyelids and jowls with this liquid serum. It offers a plumping effect that’ll perk up tired complexions.
  • Double up on eye creams to prevent makeup from settling into fine lines. Drop the eye primer — prepping the under eyes with two layers of eye cream keeps concealers from drying down while keeping the area hydrated.
  • Consistency is key. When starting a new anti-aging product, follow its directions to a T. In our studies, we see minimal skin improvement starting at just four weeks of use.

If you have sensitive skin…

  • Reset your routine, aside from SPF, and pair a mild cleanser and a plain, fragrance-free moisturizer when irritation hits. Try this out for a day or two until your complexion bounces back to its natural state. I do this whenever products or other factors make my eczema flare up and it works. Sometimes, basic is best.
  • As someone whose skin often gets irritated or dehydrated by harsh face cleansers, I’ve found cleansing oils and balms to be a saving grace. They are often based on plant oils or butter to help melt away impurities yet keep skin feeling soft — and they feel so indulgent.

If you have oily or combination skin…

If you have dry skin…

  • Try layering hydrating skincare products like an essence, serum and face oil or balm at night in addition to your usual face cream if you are extremely dehydrated. I’ve found that this really helps lock hydration into my skin so flaky patches don’t pop up throughout the day.
  • Save time by applying a face mask in the shower. I smooth it on when I step in, let it work with the steam while I do my routine, then rinse it off at the end. It’s like a mini facial for my dry, sensitive skin.
  • I’m a big face mist proponent for giving skin a quick refresh and dewiness, whether you have makeup on or not. Plus, it helps wake you up during an afternoon slump. Choose a formula made without alcohol, which can be drying.
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OK, what’s retinol and how do I use it?

Though a notoriously tricky skincare ingredient, retinol gives a major payoff. The derivative of vitamin A is one of the few skincare ingredients clinically proven to reduce wrinkles, among other benefits like unclogging pores and reducing dark spots. It speeds up skin cell turnover to increase collagen production and decrease its breakdown, which both minimizes and prevents lines. Here’s how you can introduce the anti-aging product into your daily routine:

  1. Find a retinol product that works for your skin type. For combination, oily or acne-prone skin types, serums and lotions tend to feel lightweight. If you have normal or dry skin, creams offer richer hydration.
  2. Start slowly. Begin introducing retinol into your skincare routine by applying it every other day, or use a moisturizer as a buffer. (This base ensures the skin absorbs the treatment more slowly.)
  3. After a week or two, your skin will be fully acclimated, so you’re all clear to start experimenting with reversing the order and applying retinol before your moisturizer.
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Do I really need to apply sunscreen?

Yes! Like a liquid shield, it protects from the sun’s harsh UV rays, preventing skin damage, sunburns and dark spots. I am serious about wearing sunscreen every day and always err on the side of choosing a higher SPF, usually 50 or above. The GH Beauty Lab testing has found that people apply on average only one-third of the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the SPF level on the label. Never depend on tinted moisturizers, BB creams or foundations with SPF for primary sun protection. Most don’t offer a high enough SPF, or we simply don’t apply enough of it.

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How often should I clean my makeup brushes and sponges?

It’s essential to spend at least a few minutes each week getting the gunk out to prevent bacteria growth, acne and more gross skin issues. Ideally, you should clean makeup brushes every time you use them but the likelihood of that is pretty low. So, here’s what you can get away with:

  • For brushes used with powders, clean once or twice a week for brushes used to apply blushes and bronzers.
  • For brushes used with liquids or creams, rinse daily to remove leftover liquid foundations, concealers and eyeshadows, since they are more prone to harbor bacteria that can potentially cause infections.
  • For makeup sponges and beauty blenders, clean daily after every use; they can harbor bacteria much easier than brushes as they are used wet and stay wet for a while after use.
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Is exfoliating good for skin?

Scalp, body and face exfoliation is key for smooth, glowy skin. The regimen lifts the skin’s outer layer of dead cells and removes dirt with friction so its surface is smoother and clearer and reflects light, which makes it appear luminous. Any skin type, from oily and acne-prone to dry and sensitive can (and should) exfoliate. When it comes time to scrub down, grab an exfoliating glove and follow the steps below:

  1. Exfoliate every other day or every third day, alternating between a chemical exfoliator and a physical one.
  2. Make sure you are not using any other exfoliating or retinol products that day to minimize excessive redness and irritation.
  3. Pat, pat, pat. Instead of rubbing a washcloth on your face, gently pat skin dry to avoid causing irritation.
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Does vitamin C serum actually work?

Yes! Our beauty pros agree it makes a visible difference by preventing hyperpigmentation, brightening skin and giving ample antioxidant protection when used on a daily basis. Simply apply the vitamin C serum to clean, dry skin twice a day — in the morning and at night — for best results, and follow with your favorite face moisturizer to seal in the serum and further hydrate skin.

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What are your favorite products right now?

As a beauty pro, the number one request I get is for my skincare recommendations. Check out my current top buys — including some Beauty Lab-approved picks like Beauty Award winners and Seal holders:

Clear Proof® Deep-Cleansing Charcoal Mask

Mary Kay Clear Proof® Deep-Cleansing Charcoal Mask
Credit: Mary Kay

Mini Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+

CLINIQUE Mini Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+
Credit: Clinique

Ultimate Eye Cream for Dark Circles, Wrinkles and Puffiness

Olay Ultimate Eye Cream for Dark Circles, Wrinkles and Puffiness

Now 30% Off

Credit: Olay

Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen Lotion

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Milk Body & Face Sunscreen Lotion
Credit: La Roche-Posay