Welcome to the Beauty Capsule series, a Who What Wear column that highlights expert-recommended, editor-tested essentials—and skips the rest. Here, I'm bringing you a tight edit of the beauty products I personally use and fully endorse to achieve real results, narrowed down to only what you really need.
As an editor and beauty enthusiast, I’m constantly testing out new products. But with constant drops in the beauty space and buzzy ingredients we’re told we need to incorporate into our routines, it can leave a lot of space for confusion about what really works and the products that are actually essentials. I’m always ready to try out new things, but I like to keep my everyday skincare routine to a tight edit of products that focus on anti-aging and achieve a glowing complexion. Even though my medicine cabinet is stocked with a huge array of bottles, I keep my daily routine to five easy products, which I’ve dubbed my glowing-skin capsule.
I first learned about the essentials from celebrity facialist Shani Darden who works with clients including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, January Jones, and Kelly Rowland, all known for their flawless complexions. I put her five-step skincare routine into practice over the last few years, and it has truly resulted in glowing skin. More than that, it has also allowed me to minimize the number of products I’m using and know that what I’m using is really working. Here, discover the five-product glowing-skin capsule I follow.
As I've met with dermatologists over the years, I've learned that diligent sunscreen use is the top recommendation they all agree on, so I never leave the house without applying sunscreen on my face and any exposed areas.
Shani Darden reiterates the importance of sunscreen. "Wearing sunscreen every day is the most important thing you can do to keep your skin healthy and youthful," Darden explains. "Many of the issues that people complain about such as dark spots, fine lines, and looser skin can all be prevented by being diligent about wearing sunscreen."
And if you're hesitant about wearing sunscreen underneath makeup, fear not. Darden names Supergoop's everyday sunscreen as her favorite one to layer under foundation since it doubles as a moisturizer and is hydrating but doesn’t cause congestion.
Shop my sunscreen picks:
Another skincare essential? Vitamin C. You may have heard about the buzzy ingredient, but if you're still fuzzy about what it actually does, here's why it's an important part of a glowing skincare routine: In short, the antioxidant brightens skin and helps protect it from free radical damage.
"Vitamin C serums provide antioxidant protection to offset the effects of environmental stressors like UV exposure and pollution along with brightening the skin," Darden explains. "It will boost cellular turnover to help reverse sun damage for brighter, more even-toned skin. It’s an essential for me!"
Shop my vitamin C picks:
Retinol is another holy-grail skincare essential that dermatologists and facialists recommend. It's truly key for anti-aging, but it's also a multitasker that helps to fight against acne, fade dark spots and discoloration, and make skin texture even.
So when should you start using it? Darden recommends adding it to your routine in your 20s. When first starting out, she recommends using it one night a week and slowly building up to a few nights a week so your skin has time to acclimate.
Instead of using a physical scrub which can be irritating, use a chemical exfoliant as a weekly exfoliant to achieve smoother, brighter skin.
"Lactic acid is one of my favorite chemical exfoliants," Darden says, "It’s gentle enough even for sensitive skin and doesn’t cause any dryness or flaking." It effectively removes the dead layer of skin on the surface, clearing out your pores to achieve glowing skin.
Shop my chemical exfoliants picks:
When it comes to moisturizer, there isn't one that will work for everyone, so it's key to find the right one for your skin chemistry. Darden recommends oil-free formulas for anyone experiencing congestion. Whereas dry skin types should look for ingredients like glycerin, peptide, vitamin E, and shea butter, which deeply hydrate and restore the skin's barrier.
Shop my moisturizer picks:
Next, discover 13 brands fashion insiders predict will be big in 2020.
Kristen Nichols is the Associate Director, Special Projects at Who What Wear with over a decade of experience in fashion, editorial, and publishing. She covers seasonal runway reports, fashion trends, the luxury market, industry expert interviews, fall and spring issue features, on-the-rise brands, self-styled shopping stories on the best current buys, and columns including The Luxury List. She also contributes to podcast recordings, branded content initiatives, and social media takeovers. Kristen has worked with luxury brands including Prada, MyTheresa, and Luisa Via Roma, and rising designers such as Refine and Tove, and her personal style has been featured in publications including Vogue.com, Vogue France, and the CFDA. Prior to Who What Wear, Kristen began her career at Rodarte, where she worked on assistant styling, photo shoots, and runway shows, and at Allure, where she moved into print and digital editorial. She graduated from the University of Southern California, where she studied art history and business, and currently lives in Los Angeles.
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