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Once I Hit My 30s, I Rehauled A Lot Of My Skincare Routine — Here's What Changed

There's been a lot of trial and error along the way.

Hi! I'm Kathleen. I'm a 35-year-old mother of two little kiddos with a true love of skincare. (I promise I'm so much more than that, but skincare is what we're talking about here. 😘) Here's a picture of me, low-key hanging out in my bathroom, with messy hair + morning skincare applied + lip balm + a little mascara.

The author trying her best not to feel too ridiculous while taking a selfie in her bathroom
Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

So before we begin: Everyone is beautiful. And really, all you *need* to do is wash your face, moisturize, drink water, and wear sunscreen. BUT! If you want to do — and, yes, feel — a little extra, I've found that showing your skin some love (in the form of a consistent skincare routine!) can give you some noticeable results.

My skin concerns? Yeah, pretty on par for someone in her mid-30s.

A meme featuring Ali Wong that highlights all the anti-aging efforts women go through versus men

Life is pretty busy these days, so a luxurious 15-step skincare routine isn't going to happen for me (though that sounds lovely!). Because I'm short on time and — let's be real — just too tired at night, finding products that do exactly what I need is key. 

Discovering and trying new skincare has been a bit of a journey — and there has definitely been some trial and error involved.

Take it from me: Introduce new products one at a time! If your skin has a reaction to something, you want to make sure you know which product to avoid. 

I often find new products through Instagram. When I can, I try and support eco-friendly brands in my household — and that includes beauty brands with recyclable packaging and sustainable practices. Because that's important, too! 

I also recommend consulting with a dermatologist, if you have access to one. They always seem to have the most amazing skin (makes sense), and they're always happy to share their secrets and knowledge, while keeping in mind what your specific skin may (or may not) need.

And while there are SO MANY products out there, there are ways to save time and money while you find what works for you.

The author shows off some skincare samples.
Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

Sample sizes and value sets are a great way to try something before you go all in. That's how I've discovered some great products, like this set from Biossance.

Buying all your products from the same place will help you take full advantage of membership benefits. I love Sephora's program, because with a single purchase I can usually get anywhere from two to six additional sample- or trial-size products for free. I always check the Beauty Offers.

When you find something you love, sign up for the brand's email list or follow them on Instagram. Then, you won't miss an opportunity to stock up and buy directly from the brand when it goes on sale.

And lastly, I have found some of my favorite brands for half price at Marshalls and T.J. Maxx... so don't skip the skincare section! 

OK, here are my holy grails! 🏆

There are always other products that I'm sampling and trying out for fun, but these are the ones that I'm consistently head-over-heels for.

1. First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream: My absolute favorite moisturizer, which I've repurchased MANY times already. / Via, Amazon / Via

If there is one single product I know I'm going to put on my face every day, this is it. It's a fragrance-free moisturizer that's packed with all the good stuff — like collagen, peptides, and niacinamide — and the rich, thick texture feels super luxe on my skin. Since starting it at the beginning of this year, I have noticed that my skin is smoother, the tone is better, and the fine lines are less noticeable.

Get the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream for $42 on Amazon or Sephora.

2. The Ordinary's Caffeine Solution: A super-affordable eye serum for mornings when my eyes need a pick-me-up — just like my brain. 🙃

A jar of the Ordinary's Caffeine solution
Sephora / Via

The Ordinary is one of my favorite low-cost brands because they offer products that feel high end and, more importantly, deliver high-end results. This eye serum is a go-to in the morning. It blends in nicely, doesn't feel sticky, and delivers results — like de-puffing — quite quickly. 

Get The Ordinary's Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG serum at Sephora for $6.70 or Ulta for $6.70

3. Laniege's Lip Sleeping Mask: An overnight lip "mask" that you can slather on before bed, and know that by the time you wake up, your lips will be oh-so-soft.

Laneige / Via, Amazon / Via

This was a game-changer product for me. I got a free sample for my birthday from Sephora, and months later, I am now hooked. Each night, I apply this thick (and kind of sticky, but not in an unpleasant way!) lip mask before bed. Each morning, I wake up with super soft and hydrated lips. Plus, if you use a retinol cream on your skin, it's a good way to protect your lips so they don't get dried out.

Get the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask for $16.23 on Amazon or for $22 at Sephora.

4. Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Gel Cream: A tried-and-true drugstore staple for when you need reliable, fragrance-free moisture.

Amazon / Via

Neutrogena is like an old friend — we've known her forever, and she's still around for a very good reason. Using this gel moisturizer with hyaluronic acid is like giving my skin a cup of water. It's a cool, soothing gel cream that almost instantly brings bounce back to my skin. I love how it's fragrance-free, because I'm pretty sensitive to synthetic fragrance these days. Because it comes in a plastic container instead of glass, I never hesitate to throw this one in my bottomless pit of a purse on the days I need frequent reapplication.

Get the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Moisturizer from your local drugstore or on Amazon for $17.12.

5. Glow Recipe's avocado retinol eye cream: Another before-bed staple that has been gentle enough for me to use every night.

A small jar of the Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask is nestled into an actual avocado.
Glow Recipe / Via

When it comes to the giveaway for how tired you might feel, the eyes have it. This retinol formula is gentle enough to use every night, and I've seen a big improvement in my crow's feet (seriously, worst term ever) and the overall look after using it for more than six months. Glow Recipe gets extra points from me for using recyclable glass jars.

Get the Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask for $46 on Amazon or $42 at Sephora.

6. Garnier's micellar water: A comes-in-every-size drugstore gem that gently wipes away makeup and leaves my face feeling fresh and clean, not dry or tight.

Garnier micellar waters in every size
Amazon / Via

Again, love a good drugstore find! Micellar water has been my longtime go-to for cleansing in the morning and at night. My skin can be sensitive when it comes to cleansers, and this one does its job without leaving my skin dry and irritated. I'm always trying to cut down on waste, so I use these reusable, organic cotton rounds ($8.99). I truly think they do a much better job than the disposable ones! 

Get the Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water on Amazon for $6.78.

7. SkinCeuticals' Vitamin C serum: A splurge-y serum that I gave myself permission to buy after my dermatologist (and seemingly, the entire internet) recommended it.

A bottle of the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum.
SkinCeuticals / Via

I read about this serum over, and over, and over again, but I always balked at the price. But after an enlightening convo with my dermatologist about the power of vitamin C — and some seriously good timing with a sale — I hit the purchase button, and I'm so glad I did. I feel like my skin is much brighter and more even since I've started using it. I use just four drops per day, so a bottle will last a very long time. Again, YMMV, but I think it's worth it! 

One little thing that you must know that the internet reviews sometimes don't mention: This serum smells like hot dog water. Truly. But don't worry, the smell dissipates after you put it on, and you don't spend your day wearing Eau de Frankfurter.

If you're looking for a less expensive option, I've also used (and really loved!) the Youth to The People 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum ($68). It smells like ginger AND helps you de-puff in the morning.  

Get the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic from SkinCeuticals for $166 or Dermstore for $166

8. Supergoop's mineral sunscreen: Because this list wouldn't be complete without the one skincare product that arguably makes the most important difference for just about anyone. Sunscreen!

Supergoop's matte screen, a 100% mineral broad spectrum sunscreen.
Supergoop / Via

Last, but certainly not least, is sunscreen. I always go for mineral sunscreens, and this one really works for me. It provides a natural-looking and easy-to-apply tint, and it doesn't break me out. If mineral sunscreen isn't for you, try Supergoop's Unseen Sunscreen, which is completely invisible and non-greasy. 

And pro tip: You can use your FSA or HSA dollars to pay for sunscreen. You can find FSA-eligible products from Supergoop (and other great brands) on Amazon and

Get the Supergoop Matte Screen on Amazon for $38.

I hope you found this list helpful! What are your favorite products? What are you on the lookout for next? Let me know your recs and tips in the comments!