I had smooth, clear, practically pimple-proof skin all through middle school and high school. And while my complexion did start to experience more turbulence in college, I still considered myself pretty lucky in the skin-health department. But once I hit my mid-20s and began to deal with some hormone imbalances, everything went haywire.
On and off for years, I've been dealing with stubborn bouts of acne (plus, a random perioral dermatitis flare-up just to keep me on my toes), but by early 2022, things had calmed down, and my skin was staying relatively clear. So I decided to dig a little deeper and zero in on the texture of my skin since whiteheads, acne scars, dryness, milia, and even some new little wrinkles were still very much a thing, and they were annoying me more than I'd like to admit.
I started to call upon all of the advice and product recommendations the best skin experts in the world have been extolling to me for the past five years and put them into effect. I became more diligent about chemical and physical exfoliation (making sure not to over-exfoliate, which will damage the skin barrier), I dusted off my skin-boosting tools and devices, I reached for lightweight hydrating and plumping products, and I rearranged my makeup routine. My end goal? To have smoother, softer skin by the end of the year. The plot twist? The products and routines I implemented were so effective my face has done a 180 in nearly half of the projected time, so I thought I'd share. Below, you'll find 26 products I've been using this year to get the baby-smooth skin I've always wanted. Keep scrolling!
The exfoliating secret weapons:
This little bottle of wizardry has been an important member of my product arsenal for years—an automatic go-to whenever I'm dealing with some extra bumps or texture issues. It's been recommended to me by three different celebrity estheticians on separate occasions (Shani Darden, Melanie Grant, and Candace Marino), and the holy-grail blend of glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, arbutin, and mushroom extract basically steamrolls uneven texture in just one application. When you feel your skin the next morning, you'll know I'm not being dramatic.
Marino says you can actually use this formula nightly, but since I have some other active products I like to alternate it with, I typically only apply this once a week or so.
I'll use anything Darden creates, but this particular serum—a hyper-effective mix of AHAs, PHAs, hyaluronic acid, aloe, and green tea to calm—is the product my skin seems to love best. It's gentle enough to use every night and visibly improves dullness, breakouts, and bumps. Again, I like to rotate my actives, so I'll apply two pumps every few nights.
If you ask any of my friends, they'll tell you I won't rest until they've added these facial-in-a-wipe peel pads to their routines. Unlike a lot of peel pads on the market that can be overly harsh and drying, these soothe and infuse moisture back into your complexion while also delivering a noticeably smooth and radiant finish.
I live by these cutting-edge sheet masks from ZitSticka, which are about as technologically advanced as something as basic as a sheet mask can get! I love instant gratification, and smoothing one of these no-slip hydrogel masks on my skin at night really flattens anything uneven or bumpy happening on my face. Fun fact: This mask uses graphene technology, which essentially syncs with your body heat so that your skin is better able to accept and absorb complexion-improving ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, niacinamide, allantoin, and hyaluronic acid.
I let this new toner sit in my "products to try" cabinet for weeks before I finally gave it a go last week, and I looked like I'd had a skin transplant after just one use. If your skin is sensitive to actives and acids, this formula's plush blend of gentle exfoliators and barrier supporters (think prickly pear extract, peptides, and niacinamide) will help smooth rocky texture sans irritation.
While I love the above collection of chemical exfoliators, a little bit of physical exfoliation is also paramount for super-smooth skin. Celeb facialist Renée Rouleau is a trusted friend and skin expert, and this luxurious and refreshing facial scrub is the yummiest on the market. The natural, more environmentally friendly jojoba beads polish away dead skin cells and uneven skin texture, and the crème de menthe base with vitamin E and peppermint oil reawakens dull, parched skin. I have a once-per-week sandwiching ritual of applying Rouleau's iconic Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($89), rinsing, using this scrub, rinsing, and then lathering on this glittering-gold gel mask for the ultimate skin detox.
I saw Sydney Sweeney use this here, and because I instantly need anything the actress wears or uses, I bought it. But oh, what a savvy purchase it turned out to be! Natural volcanic-sand microbeads, grape water, and cooling menthol do instantaneous legwork and iron out any kinks happening with my skin's texture.
The skin-smoothing gadgets + gizmos:
If I had the time and money to spend all day, every day on top of the LED bed at Darden's L.A. spa, I 100% would. That said, I've been trying to recreate the skin-healing LED effect at home (it's great for everything, including plumping and smoothing), so I've been using facialist Angela Caglia's flexible medical-grade-silicone LED mask with great results. It features both anti-aging red (630nm) and acne-nixing blue (465nm) LED treatment wavelengths along with rose quartz crystals to minimize the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and inflammation while boosting elasticity and collagen.
By far, at-home dermaplaning has become one of the most important steps for achieving the smoothest skin of my life this year. I use this tool from Versed once a month, and the quick and easy process painlessly removes skin-dulling dead skin cells and peach fuzz for immediate brightness and smooth-to-the-touch skin. Your other products will be able to penetrate your skin more effectively, and any makeup you apply will lay flawlessly. While there are lots of tools like this on the market, I swear on my life that Versed's is the best.
Believe it or not, you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive facial-cleansing devices. I got this $4 antimicrobial face scrubber from master skin expert Vanessa Lee at her skin boutique, The Things We Do, and it's the easiest and quickest way to get the most bang for your smoothing buck while you're cleansing your face.
I'm a huge fan of high-quality microcurrent devices—the key word being "high quality." There are lots of flukes out there, but when I'm consistent with my ZIIP device, I notice very real, very quick results in practically every area, including tone, brightness, smoothness, firmness, clarity… The list goes on and on. I'm fully aware it's quite the investment, but when used properly and often, it can really replace spendier things like facials and other procedures. I'm a stan.
The skin-plumping heroes:
I dedicated an entire article to this dreamy little Hydrating Serum, and I highly recommend you read the whole thing. In a nutshell, this stuff is amazing and helped quickly clear a bad case of acne and dermatitis I was dealing with. It's only $16, it's available at Target, and the milky ceramide- and squalene-rich formula makes your skin looks so plump, healthy, and dewy, which has the bonus effect of making everything look and feel velvety smooth. No matter your skin type or skin concerns, I'd bet $1 million you'll be completely in love with this serum. It's living proof you don't have to spend a fortune to get high-quality, effective skincare. Thank me later!
Everyone from derms to Karrueche Tran to my *now* 74-year-old mom to editors swears by the skin-perfecting perks of this super-charged serum from Tatcha. It's a three-in-one miracle product that smooths the look of fine lines and texture with Hadasei-3–derived lactic acid, plumps your skin to the heavens with hyaluronic acid, and locks in dewy moisture with squalane.
Paris Hilton and I are both big fans of this transformative treatment from U Beauty that you can wear like an overnight treatment mask in lieu of your normal moisturizer. I could write a novel about the ins and outs of its cutting-edge formula, but essentially, it's inspired by the turritopsis dohrnii (aka the "immortal jellyfish"), which has the rather incredible ability to turn adult, damaged, and aging cells into healthy stem cells. This treatment was designed to re-create that process by utilizing U Beauty's signature technology, the Immortal Siren capsule-delivery system. Combined with active ingredients such as salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, vitamin B6, fruit-derived AHAs, urea, and shea butter, it's the ultimate smoothing and resurfacing detox and has the added benefit of making your skin look like glass.
I'm newly obsessed with this moisturizing mask from ClearStem that I use as a nighttime moisturizer whenever my skin is feeling and looking worse for wear. Specifically designed for acne-prone skin, it helps to repair a damaged skin barrier while re-juicing the skin with moisture for maximum plumpness and smoothness.
If you buy Tatcha's Dewy Serum, you might as well go full throttle and buy a jar of this all-star cream as well. Together, they make a dynamic duo that blasts dull, uneven, and thirsty skin into oblivion. I always layer the pair when I travel to keep my skin looking and feeling healthy, and I've quite literally had strangers at the airport stop me to compliment my "glowing skin."
Augustinus Bader's Benjamin Button–like face creams will go down in history as some of the greatest skincare products of all time. Sadly, however, both of the OG formulas are a little too heavy and rich for my finicky, breakout-prone skin. This brand-new ultralight version still has all of the smoothing and anti-aging perks of its sisters sans oiliness.
Lots of deeply hydrating moisturizers make me feel oily, cause congestion, or are a total disaster under makeup. This one, created by iconic French makeup artist Violette Serrat, is the antithesis of all of the above. It's magic under makeup, features 98% naturally derived ingredients, hydrates, protects, and leaves a luxurious-looking finish on the skin.
Holy crap, this stuff is good, and to be honest, I'm still wrapping my head around the $22 price tag. If you're worried about your under-eyes, this pretty little tube smooths, brightens, and de-puffs in one fell swoop.
The makeup marvels:
Joshua Zeichner, MD, FAAD, is a go-to dermatologist among beauty editors, so you can imagine the collective excitement when he and his wife Cori Zeichner created their own skincare line starring two ance-busting powerhouses: the Daily Leave-On Treatment Mask ($52) and this completely transparent, ultra-silky primer. If you're after clear, super-smooth skin, this will be your new favorite product. It's great on a bare face or under makeup, it minimizes shine and oil, it blurs imperfections, and it helps treat existing breakouts while preventing future ones from occurring.
When I finally tried InnBeauty Project's highly beloved Face Glaze, I quite literally shrieked, "Holy shit!" I'm a glowy-skin fan, but as I've gotten older, I steer clear of the ultra-sparkly highlight powders that were a hallmark of my early 20s. Instead, I prioritize multitasking primers or highlighting gels (many of which feature loads of amazing skin-boosting ingredients) that give my skin a natural hit of luminosity, smoothness, and glow without it actually looking like I have anything on my face. Filled with ceramides, squalane, and hyaluronic acid, InnBeauty's Face Glaze smooths, brightens, and helps subtly camouflage any and all ills. I'm obsessed.
In general, I'm really not a minimal-makeup person. I often go barefaced, so if I am wearing makeup, I want some legitimate coverage—it's just a personal preference. That said, the way this serum-like skin tint effortlessly blends and sinks into your skin (while delivering a subtle yet dreamy skin-blurring effect) is pretty exceptional.
I like to add a few drops of this bronzing oil to the above skin tint before applying it to my face for even more glow and skin-smoothing benefits.
I'm annoyingly picky about makeup primers, and there are only a few I've ever loved and used regularly. This is one of them. It's a one-stop shop for smoothing, absorbing shine, and blurring the skin pre-makeup. Your makeup will look completely flawless and airbrushed, so if that's the aesthetic you're after, I highly recommend picking this primer up.
I'm super impressed with this new foundation from Hourglass, and it's one of the best if you're looking for a silky, practically poreless result. I wore it for a full workday in my 90-degree apartment, and by the time I looked in the bathroom mirror at 5 p.m., it looked the same as it did in the morning. It blends easily, but where it really excels is how lightweight it feels and how airbrushed and filtered it makes your skin look. I'm shamelessly addicted to the Paris filter on IG, but when I posted a selfie wearing this foundation, I didn't even feel the need to use it.
Oh, and if you buy the foundation above, I also highly recommend grabbing this coordinating brush. I'm not generally a brush person when it comes to foundation—I prefer my fingers and a Beautyblender—but this one is uniquely designed to mimic the delicate and precise control of your fingertips, which probably explains why it speaks to me so much. It's proved itself as a necessity within my routine, and because it's as smooth as velvet, just the act of applying foundation feels like a self-care ritual.