The Ultimate Prescription If You're in Need of a Luxurious Winter Beauty Routine
For someone who has sensitive skin—in my case, that means rosacea and a tendency for tightness and dehydration—winter can be rough. The cold temperatures, the low humidity, and the gusty air all wreak havoc on my vulnerable moisture barrier. And despite my best efforts to prevent excess redness and irritation, sometimes it gets the better of me, and I'm left with an unhappy complexion and an equally unhappy expression looking back at me in the mirror.
Now, before this takes a "woe is me" turn for the worst, I must concede something. I am a beauty editor. That means I'm lucky enough to have access to some truly esteemed skincare brands and experts. I'm also lucky enough to turn to these esteemed brands and experts when the state of my skin is in flux.
One of those brands is Violet Grey, and one of those experts is Sarah Brown. The former is known as "the industry's beauty edit," as it curates a selection of sought-after beauty products that have been vetted by industry experts (think dermatologists, aestheticians, makeup artists, and more). The latter is the former beauty director of Vogue and the current executive director of the Violet Lab. Her job? She heads up the brand's curation-and-testing committee, making sure that every product that hits Violet Grey's shelves has been Violet Code approved. "The Violet Grey seal of approval means that it has been vetted not only by me and my team but by our community of experts," she says. "These are world-renowned pros from across the spectrum of beauty, wellness, and fitness."
Here's how it works. "When we have a product that we've identified as great, we send it to the committee to make sure we're right. We give them a month to try it. They try it on themselves, they try it on their clientele, and they give us feedback. If it is overwhelmingly positive, it will be approved, and we can schedule it into our launch calendar," Brown shares.
Who, then, would be better to turn to for fixing my winter skin blues than a beauty expert who specializes in product curation? (The correct answer is no one.) Keep scrolling to see every single product Brown personally recommended to me for fixing redness, sensitivity, and dehydration. Consider this the ultimate prescription for a luxurious winter skincare routine.
Facial Skincare Routine
The very first thing Brown recommended was this humidifier, which she uses herself. Since I struggle with dehydration, it's beneficial to increase the moisture in the air so my skin can better manage its hydration levels. (I'm a big believer in the power of humidifiers, especially in the winter months and especially when I'm constantly working from home.) Even though it might look like a standard, run-of-the-mill humidifier, there's more than meets the eye. It uses "airflow technology" and UV lights to kill 99.9% of bacteria, mold, and viruses in the water for fresh, mist-free hydration.
Now for the skincare products. The first cleanser Brown recommended was this one by Doctor Rogers. It's fragrance-free (which will be a common theme among these products, as fragrance can be irritating to sensitive skin). "You want a really gentle, soap-free wash that is obviously going to cleanse your skin but also protect your skin barrier and microbiome," she says.
The formula is glycerin-based and made with only eight plant-based ingredients. That explains why Brown describes it as a "hug" for your skin. It also explains why I'll be ordering this cleanser (and probably reordering it) until the end of time.
Here's the other cleanser Brown recommended to me. This formula, which starts out as a powder and slightly suds up once water is added, acts as a gentle exfoliant to slough away dead skin cells (and thus dullness) without causing excess irritation or exacerbating existing redness.
When I told Brown I've been using this product for a few weeks (and loving it), she suggested I keep going. It's a unique gel-cream texture that contains 20% pure and stable vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid. Even though I've only been using it for a short time, I can see a visible difference in the brightness and clarity of my skin.
Here's where things get a little space-age. As an extra hydrating step, Brown recommends this hyaluronic acid serum. But here's the kicker. It's not a serum. Instead, it's a freeze-dried hyaluronic acid tablet and activator that promises a full 72 hours of moisture. Cool, right?
Chanel is the epitome of luxury, and even though this moisturizer is of the no-frills variety, it still holds true. (Oly Chanel can do no-frills in a chic way.) The reason it's called La Solution 10 is that it's formulated with only 10 carefully selected ingredients for maximum tolerability. In other words, it's very gentle and just the thing Brown thinks my irritated, parched complexion needs. (I agree.)
Another moisturizer option, this one is from the same "hug"-giving brand as the aforementioned cleanser. It was specifically formulated as a post-procedure cream for Heather Rogers's patients. So, yes, something tells me it will be gentle enough for my reactive skin, and Brown thinks so too.
Yes, this eye cream is certainly an investment, but Brown assures me it lasts for a very long time. "You get a lot of bang for your buck," she says. Also, it happens to be Violet Grey's top-selling eye cream. "It feels like butter," she says, "but it's lightweight—not greasy."
One of Brown's favorite winter skin tips is to layer moisturizing products. Following a moisturizer with oil (or an oil-based serum) seals moisture into the skin, making what was once dry, dull, or dehydrated skin look plump and dewy. I've been using this Violet Grey–approved serum, which contains a little bit of everything. There's hyaluronic acid, peptides, vitamin C, and camellia oil. I love its smooth, milky texture and the fact that it never feels heavy or greasy on my skin.
Another option is the cult-classic Vintner's Daughter Serum. Brown waxes poetic about this one. "It's major," she says. "I like it alone, I like it on top of a moisturizer, I like it in the morning, and I like it at night. It feels luxurious, it does so much, and it's a true multitasker."
Brown also made mention of this serum, which is packed full of B3 (aka niacinamide). My favorite thing about this product is the fact that it contains licorice root, which is a renowned skincare ingredient for soothing and calming irritated skin.
One last recommendation—this Barrier Restore Serum can actually replace the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) in the skin. NMF is critical for optimal barrier function, so in this way, it can reverse dryness and calm irritation.
"I would be remiss if I didn't recommend SPF to you," Brown told me. As soon as she recommended this specific SPF to me, I literally jolted up from my desk to find a pen and jot down a reminder to order it. Why, you ask? Because it's a true multitasker. It's an SPF and treatment in one, targeting hyperpigmentation (like dark spots and heat-induced freckles), while also protecting against infrared and HEV light.
Brown says she keeps this product from the French apothecary brand Avène in her cabinet at all times. "This Soothing Radiance Mask is one of those things that you can use if you're trying to give yourself extra moisture or if your skin is angry and you need to calm it down."
Body Skincare Routine
Just like the skin on the face, the skin on the body is susceptible to harsh, overly drying soaps, which is why gentle cleansers are needed from head to toe. "Remember, your skin doesn't end at your neck," Brown says.
This one is a personal favorite, so I was overjoyed when Brown recommended it to me. (It was the validation I needed to know I was doing something right.) It uses mild, plant-derived surfactants to wash away dirt and sweat from the skin while moisturizing with marula, cacay, and meadowfoam oils.
This product happens to be one of Brown's personal favorites for keeping in her shower. It's a silky shower oil that's completely soap-free and full of glycerin, niacinamide, and coconut and sunflower esters—all of which soothe, hydrate, and strengthen the skin.
For post-shower moisture, Brown recommended that I try two different products depending on my preferences. The first was this melting body moisturizer, which contains a mix of oils, glycerin, and thermal spring water to soothe and soften reactive skin. (If you love body lotion and hate body oil, this one's for you since it's so lightweight and fast-absorbing).
If you are in fact a fan of body oil, like I am, Brown recommends this luxurious Augustinus Bader pick. She suggested I apply it while my skin is still damp from the shower to lock in much-needed moisture. And it will lock it in, thanks to olive oil, argan oil, squalene, vitamin E, and the brand's signature FC8 complex.
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