Photo:Courtesy of Vanessa Lee
The Lineup is a monthly series where we’re giving 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. Get ready for a behind-the-scenes look at all the can’t-live-without products that make their worlds go round.
It's more than fair to say that beauty can be a confusing space. There are so many tips, tricks, and cult-favorite products exalted as universal must-haves that many of us end up buying blindly without even considering what our skin actually wants or needs. Sure, mimicking the routine of someone with great skin might feel like the answer to unlocking your own skincare successes, but according to Vanessa Lee, cosmetic nurse and founder of one of L.A.'s top skincare studios, The Things We Do, it's time for everyone to take a step back and trust our individual intuition a bit more. "Take in all the info, but start a skin journal and write down how your skin responds when you use specific ingredients or products," she says. "Listen to your face and body."
What a novel concept! And it's one that she brings into her own practice as well. Even though a scan of Lee's Instagram feed will turn up tons of images of dramatic before-and-afters where she's helped clients unlock youthful faces via the latest treatment modalities (you have to see what she can do with filler and threads), her philosophy is rooted in achieving natural results that leave those who visit her office feeling supported and empowered.
Photo:Courtesy of Vanessa Lee
As someone who grew up collecting beauty advice and product recommendations from her mom's glossy magazines, Lee's eventual foray into the world of beauty was only natural. "I always knew I would end up in the beauty space growing up, and this year, I am recognized on Create & Cultivate’s 100 list of 2021 and in the top 10 of the beauty category! It has been a wild journey," she shares. Talk about a full-circle moment.
But just because this skin expert is at the top of her game, servicing celebrity clients and even launching her own skincare line, that doesn't mean Lee's own skincare journey hasn't had its fair share of twists and turns. "I remember using a basic cleanser and not even having to use moisturizer, and it was perfect in high school," she recalls. "Then, after having kids in my 20s, my skin drastically changed and became very sensitive, and I started to break out very easily. This led to my journey of getting back to balance, and now, I can tell what product I need to help when my skin starts to act up." Her plan of attack? Keeping an extensive skincare journal, drinking at least two liters of water a day, and looking beyond just the major beauty retailers to source indie skincare brands with great products and compatible philosophies to her own. Though, she admits that splurging on a Platelet-Rich Fibrin Matrix treatment once a year doesn't hurt, either. (That's the one where pros can inject PRP from your own blood into your skin!)
Ahead, check out the lineup that keeps Lee's skin happy, healthy, and thriving along with some nuggets of advice you won't want to miss.
"A staple used a few times a month to do an at-home mini peel. The instructions say to use them daily, but I think that can be too strong for most people, especially with sensitive skin. Using them a few times a month is perfect and leaves me with smoother, decongested skin."
"This one offers a gentle delivery of some seriously powerful ingredients in one cleanser. It has AHAs to get to superficial breakouts and BHAs to get to the deeper breakouts, mixed with calming seaweed extracts to soothe sensitive skin."
"If I am about to be on camera, I will put this on a few minutes before. It is slightly minty and gives a very gentle swell to the lips. It’s great for a last-minute pick-me-up."
"When I need a break from my skincare routine and treatments, I like to just cleanse and place some of this CBD oil on at night. It doesn’t break me out, it leaves me dewy, and I like thinking that I am giving my skin a chill moment."
"Everyone at my office is obsessed with this moisturizer, but it breaks me out when I use it on the face. It has great ingredients like prickly pear and lactic acid, so I use it on my neck and hands instead."
"I use this toner when I can tell my skin is becoming unbalanced because of my diet or hormonal swings. It feels very fresh and light on the skin, and I can tell my products sit differently after use."
"This is a great mask if you need a 15-minute boost in your complexion. The BHAs in it do a clean sweep of any dead skin or debris stuck in the pores and immediately have a clearing effect. "
"Here’s another product I love to use on my neck. It is a rich ampoule that is great for travel (remember when we did that?), and the casing is biodegradable."
"A great serum for someone who has combination skin. It is a little gentler than some of the other serums I use, but I like this to keep my skin dewy."
"This is the only cleansing balm that doesn’t break me out. I use this product when I need to take makeup off and follow it with the GlyGlow Scrub for the cleanest canvas."
"This skincare/makeup product is great to use in the day because it gives the skin a pearlescent glow. I don’t wear makeup, and this makes my skin pop without breaking me out."
"I use this mask in my T-zone to clarify and decongest my pores. Usually, I notice a reduction in the appearance of pores after I use this. I avoid using it in the dry areas of my face."
"If I am dealing with any redness or I feel as though I have overdone it with my actives, I use this serum to help me rebalance. It is a superfood green serum that soothes and calms skin."
"Can you tell I love peels? Once a month, I will use this peel to help reset my skin. This is mainly glycolic, where the Dr. Dennis Gross peel has a vast mixture of several actives. The difference is that this mask really hones in on getting rid of open comedones."
"This is my favorite tool! A safe, at-home micro-needling stamp that gently delivers micro-droplets of brightening serum (niacinamide, tranexamic acid) for smoother, brighter skin."
"This is my regular toner that helps brighten the skin as well as neutralize after washing. I like placing it on a pad and wiping the face, making sure any tap water residual is taken from the skin."
"My favorite lip oil for years now, I place this on every night before I go to bed. It has 28 essential oils in it and has a smooth, velvety feel to it on the lips, never sticky. I wake up with super-hydrated lips."
"I like using this product when I am feeling extra dry in certain areas. I keep it in my bag as well for dry spots throughout the day. It is very nourishing and great for sensitive skin."
"This is a great buy that can be found at your local Target. It is an AHA serum that I like to tell my younger patients about when they ask about products that are more cost-efficient. A good, lightweight resurfacing serum at a lower price."
"When I am looking to tighten my skin up, I use this the week after I use my micro-needling stamp—a great power duo. The resveratrol from grapes keeps your skin plump and tight."
"I always roll my face upward every night, without fail. Between gravity, life stresses, and surviving 2020, I won’t let one more thing get me down, not even my skin."
"This is my favorite sleeping mask! I use this mask three times a week. I put it on as my last step instead of oil, and I sleep with it on. In the morning, I wake up with even, super-plump, and hydrated skin."
"I use this everything balm on my eyelids and cuticles before I go to bed. I have thin, dry lids and dry cuticles from constant handwashing, and this balm (infused with papaya) keeps me moisturized and protected."