Over the weekend I got an email from two friends: “Tell us everything you put on your face now that it’s winter!” Now that most of our radiators are rattling away, with each clank sucking the actual life out of our skin, I tend to drench myself in more oil than usual. But maybe most important is focusing on my skin’s barrier function (this is the outermost layer of skin; if it’s compromised, that’s when your skin really starts to feel dry). A whole slew of things can mess with it: the heat inside, whatever is happening outside—cold temps, the wind, obviously the sun—and, of course, overly drying products (like cleansers or retinol) that, while necessary, can strip your skin of moisture. So with that goal of keeping that outer layer protected, and with a focus on only using natural options, here’s what I wrote back:

I’m super into oil cleansers all year round, but most definitely in the winter, when water coming anywhere near your skin can turn it into sandpaper. If I want a super treatment-y Sunday-skin-care-style deep cleanse, I’ll pump a few drops of the Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique oil cleanser (similar consistency to straight-up extra virgin olive oil) into my hand followed by the tiniest amount of the finely milled rice-powder exfoliant from Root Science. Then I (very gently) go to town; overexfoliation can eff your skin’s barrier function. Next I scoop a bit of the Goop balm cleanser (this one’s more like pure butter) and massage my skin a little more, now with up, up, and around motion. Next I soak a soft muslin cloth in hot water and softly wipe everything off. Double hydration, double (gentle) exfoliation, and skin that now has that juicy, plump baby-skin consistency that I’m forever reaching for.

Then I follow with a toner. A lot of people are like, “Why toner?” I used to be one of those people. Plus, the name is only a little bit tarnished by those nineties moisture-obliterating alcohol-based ones we all used to swab on religiously. More recent versions have shown up in mist form, but many of the water-based types can actually dry out your skin. Hypotonic from the Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique line does none of that. This one resets your skin’s pH level with humectants that balance the liquid content of skin cells. But in simpler terms: You know how your skin can feel really tight after you wash it? Toners add one more level of hydration, which makes skin more receptive for the serums that follow. Yes, a little tedious, but for longer-lasting hydration, worth it.

After toner comes serum. Taking a very winter approach here, I like to layer on around two to three oils or serums. I wait a few minutes after patting on each one. One also works, but I tend to feel a little dry halfway through the day, so I like to add more. These are the ones I’m working through right now: The Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique Barrier Repair Serum (which supports barrier function that can be lost due to all those aggressors above), the Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique Barrier Lipid Complex (a mix of fatty acids, lipids, and cholesterol, this oil also mimics your skin’s own lipid content like no other hydrator out there), and the Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil (which is a natural, non-irritating retinol option).

Eye Balm
Then I’ll pat on a balm around my eyes like Laurel Organics healing balm or May Lindstrom Blue Cocoon. Most eye creams get pilly, so I like balm better. It lasts hours longer, and I love the natural highlighter effect it gives me throughout the day.

Spot Treatments
My biggest skin gripe is my natural tendency toward brown spots. They love my skin! It sucks, and they are showing up with a higher frequency these days. Since hydroquinone (a common ingredient in hyperpigmentation products) is off the table with my natural routine, I like to pat on the arbutin- and kojic-acid-packed brightening serum from Sonage. You’ll see faster results if you use it like a spot treatment instead of all over.

About once a week when I want to kind of rev things up texture- and glow-wise, I’ll do a mask. I feel like my number-one reason for looking dull and blah and the opposite of hydrated in the winter is related to texture. True Botanicals Resurfacing Moisture Mask is great because you can do it for three minutes right after the shower. It softens everything instantly. Or I’ll use the Odacite Green Ceremony Cleanser: It’s not technically a mask, but the powder-to-foam formula still does a fine job softening my skin. If I’m running out and have, like, zero minutes to do anything, I’ll swipe on one of Sonage’s Glycolic Acid Peel Pads (they have an Oxy Pad vibe, and without fail people always compliment my skin on the mornings I use them).

The last step is a zinc-based sunscreen. I don’t like putting sunscreen on right away after all my other skin care, which invariably means I just forget to put it on. To get in a better habit, I leave my sunscreen right by my key bowl. I like Drunk Elephant SPF 30. Yes, the zinc, which is a physical blocker and an effective natural option, leaves a little bit of a white cast on my darker skin, but with a little blending it goes away. I mostly love that it doesn’t give me breakouts. The last thing my routine needs is another drying product.

Related Stories:
-12 Secrets of Women Who Switched to Natural Beauty Routines
-Why Toxic Beauty Products Harm Women of Color—And How We Can Protect Ourselves
-Natural Beauty Products That Are Cool, Not Crunchy

Topicswinter beautydry skintata harpergooproutine maintenance

Makeup ideas, product reviews, and the latest celebrity trends—delivered straight to your inbox.