I Went From Being a Model to a Celeb Esthetician—Here's My Recipe for Good Skin

Shani Darden's favorite beauty products of all time

The Lineup is a monthly series in which we give you an inside peek at the beauty lineups of cool fashion people, editors, makeup artists, hairstylists, and estheticians—all the people we trust the most. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at all the can’t-live-without products that make their worlds go 'round.

Some people grow up knowing exactly what they want to be. Some people think they know what they want to be until they later realize what their true passion is. Shani Darden—one of L.A.'s most sought-after estheticians—is one of the latter: She moved from New York to L.A. to be a model when she was a teenager, but after graduating from college and taking a job at a dermatologist's office, she quickly realized that skincare was her true calling—and it's a good thing she did.

Shani Darden


Michael Clifford

Now Darden has an eponymous skincare line and is the secret force behind stars like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jessica Alba, and Chrissy Teigen's celestial complexions. They all have really, really good skin—just look at any pictures of them—so you would think Darden has concocted some over-the-top skincare regimen for each, but surprisingly, she approaches each of her clients' skin the same way she does her own: a less-is-more mentality. "I think one of the biggest myths is that you need to use a ton of products to achieve great skin. It’s really not about using the most products but about using the right products for your skin specifically," says Darden, who struggled with acne as a teenager. "If you have a powerful treatment product that uses really effective ingredients and pair it with staples like a great cleanser and moisturizer, it can truly transform your skin," she explains.

We're always looking for ways to transform our skin, so we asked Darden to share her lineup of products and tips that have never failed her. From a retinol serum (FYI everyone should use one, according to Darden) to staying out of the sun (and the SPF to protect your skin daily), these are the 18 products Darden always has on hand.

"This is the treatment product I use almost every single night. Retinol Reform combines lactic acid and retinol to speed up cellular turnover to bring fresh skin to the surface, as well as boost collagen, minimize fine lines and wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation, and help keep skin clear. The best part is that it’s not going to cause dryness or flaking. This is the number one product I recommend to my clients to keep their skin glowing in-between facials!"

"I love a gentle yet effective cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin. My Cleansing Serum has hyaluronic acid, which draws moisture to the skin and helps it hold onto it, along with oat-bran extract, which helps repair the skin’s barrier. I use this morning and night, and my favorite way to cleanse is to use two pieces of wet cotton gauze. It helps to gently exfoliate and make sure all traces of the cleanser are removed."

"Finding a great moisturizer that works well for your skin type is so important. For more normal-to-oily skin like mine, I prefer a lightweight oil-free moisturizer like my namesake one, which is formulated with hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate the skin without causing any congestion. It also has hydrolyzed collagen, which helps to keep the skin smooth and supple."

"I use this every morning before sunscreen for antioxidant protection. This vitamin C serum helps to offset the effects of environmental stressors like pollution and UV exposure. It’s amazing, too, because it can also help reverse the signs of sun damage by brightening skin and boosting collagen. It’s powerful yet still very nourishing for the skin."

"A hyaluronic acid serum is always a staple for me in the morning before sunscreen and at night before moisturizer. Serum No°1 by Dr. Nigma really helps to deeply hydrate and plump up the skin through hyaluronic acid, marine peptides, and plant stem cells."

"I’ve tried so many different eye creams, and I’m really obsessed with this Opti-Crystal. It has copper complex and liquid crystals, which help to brighten, hydrate, and firm the skin. The liquid crystals give it this amazing iridescent color, which helps to mask and brighten dark circles—it’s incredible!"

"One to two nights a week, I take a night off from Retinol Reform, and I use Dr. Dennis Gross's Alpha Beta peel pads to exfoliate. They combine several different AHAs and BHAs like lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid to remove the dead layer of skin on the surface, which helps your treatment products to absorb better."

"Nourishing your body from the inside out is essential for glowing skin, and if your gut is not balanced, it will show up on your skin. Dr. Nigma’s Healthy Flora supplements help to balance gut health and improve digestion, so I take these daily for healthier, more glowing skin."

"Wearing sunscreen every single day is the most important thing you can do for your skin to keep it youthful and healthy. I love one that is lightly hydrating yet won’t cause congestion, like Supergoop!'s. I never leave the house without applying sunscreen."

"20 minutes with my Déesse Pro LED Mask is my daily ritual I can’t live without for aging in reverse. LED light is one of my favorite treatments because it boosts collagen in the skin, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles, and boosts circulation to give you an amazing glow."

"For at-home treatments in-between facials, I love the NuFace Trinity Pro microcurrent device. It’s a really effective treatment when done consistently. Microcurrent uses low-level electrical current to tone, tighten, and lift the muscles. It’s essentially exercise for your facial muscles. It will retrain your facial muscles to stay in a more lifted position. If you use this early before your face starts to drop, it will help to prevent that."

"If I ever have a blemish pop up, I love to use ZitSticka blemish patches. These contain niacinamide and salicylic acid to quickly treat zits, minimizing their appearance right away."

"This shampoo and conditioner (see below) are just so good. I’m always really happy with how my hair looks after using this. Really amazing for dry or heat-damaged hair."

"I can’t live without my Chanel lip gloss to keep my lips plump and hydrated. I always keep a few on hand so that I’m never without it."

"The Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara and Primer is by far the best mascara I have ever used. It makes my lashes long and full but still keeps them looking natural. It doesn’t clump either."

"Second to skin care, hair is my obsession. I love this Hair Oil by Ouai to tame any flyaways and add a nice little sheen to my hair."

"Love this chic perfume. It’s a really fresh floral scent without being too overpowering."