When I was in 12th grade, I worked at a tanning salon in my hometown and continued to (regrettably) work there through most of college. Canadian winters were long and unfathomably cold and laying in a tanning bed felt so good and I loved having color on my fair skin.
A decade later, new research came to light that indicated even occasional use of tanning beds astronomically increases an individual’s skin cancer risk. I was horrified by this and since moving to Houston, have been dedicated to staying out of the sun and wearing SPF/a hat when I’m in the sun. Even on vacation, when I’m not in the ocean or pool, I sit under an umbrella, while also wearing a hat and sunglasses. I do this both to lower my skin cancer risk and to prevent premature aging/sun damage.
Due to my increased risk factors, I see my dermatologist twice a year for skin checks and at every appointment, she reminds me of the two most important skin care products: SPF and retinol – prevent and treat.
Retinol is one of the anti-aging ingredients that actually has scientific research backing its efficacy. It’s proven to increase collagen production, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, fade sun damage and much more. My dermatologist told me she can see which of her patients in their 50s and 60s have been using retinol longterm as soon as she walks into the appointment, because it’s that dramatic of a difference. Read more about the benefits of retinol here and here.
In my 30’s, I got really invested in skincare. I researched, followed a lot of skincare experts, stared getting Botox and began trying new products. After all, it’s better to prevent and protect now, than to repair and attempt to reverse later.
Now that I’m nearing 40 (I’m 37), I’ve decided to get really serious about my skincare routine and explore more medical-grade skincare products. The last time I visited my injector Tiffany at Basu Plastic Surgery for Botox, she wrote me a script for Tretinoin, which I’ve started to use three days a week, hoping to build up to 5 days.
Before I get into sharing my tried-and-true and new products I’ve added to my routine, I want to mention that I will always test out and provide affordable drugstore options to you all for both makeup and skincare. There are a ton of incredible drugstore brands and products out there (some as good as or better than pricier options!) so I will continue to share the ones I have good experiences with. I‘m even going to link affordable options for each product I share in this post, knowing that we all have different budgets and priorities.
I also want to add the disclaimer that when I do share a drugstore brand product on my blog, in a sponsored post or otherwise, I discontinue using the product I typically use and replace it with the drugstore product so that I can provide accurate feedback about my consistent use of that product (usually 2-4 weeks). A recent example is discontinuing my use of prescription retinol to use a drugstore brand retinol for several weeks.
My goal in trying to use mostly medical-grade skincare is to determine if the results are truly worth the investment. I follow Jordan Harper and Skin by Blair on Instagram and their client before and after photos are so dramatic, it really motivates me to stay consistent. I have been really happy with my skin lately and want to continue to make it the best it can be and do as much as I can to be proactive.
Here are some medical-grade and other skincare products I have been using/am starting to use:
Elta MD sunscreen (Amazon here)
This sunscreen has a cult following and is touted as one of the best mineral sunscreens on the market for how it wears under makeup. I use and love Glowscreen by Supergoop, but am not 100% consistent with it. I wanted to try a mineral-based sunscreen to determine if that would increase my comfort and motivation to wear it daily. Especially because I’m using retinol, I need to wear SPF daily, even if I don’t go outside for any significant period of time. I sit and work all day right by three huge windows in our dining room. I’m delighted to report that I’ve been wearing the Elta MD every single day since it arrived. It wears perfectly under makeup and provides fantastic SPF protection.
Other options: CeraVe sunscreen | La Roche Posay anthelios | Supergoop zinc sunscreen | Skinceuticals Physical IV defense | Drunk Elephant Umbra sunscreen
Tretinoin (by Rx only – ask your dermatologist)
I use Tretinoin at night three times a week, building up to five times a week. If you are new to retinol, I recommend starting with a gentler formula, like this one, with built-in moisturizers.
Other options: Differin | Olay Retinol24 MAX
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (and here)
This is my holy grail vitamin C serum. I’ve been using this for a couple years now and absolutely love it. I hate the price (I only buy it on sale but even then, it’s high), but have not been able to identify a comparable product that costs much less. Drunk Elephant is supposedly a very close match to it (and I do prefer their airless pump packaging), but for some reason, I prefer the feel of the Skinceuticals on my skin and feel is has more clinical data that shows its efficacy. I also really want to the Obagi’s 20% vitamin C serum, so I may order that next to compare.
Other options: Timeless Vitamin C | MaeLove the glow maker Vitamin C| Drunk Elephant C-Firma| True Skin Vitamin C
Bioloqiue Rescherche P50 PIGM 400
Lotion P50 is ths brand’s most popular product, and the one I use from the line is specifically targeted at pigmentation. I use this toner every single morning, right after I apply my SKII essence, which I also swear by for smoother, brighter skin. I don’t have a dupe for this one unfortunately – if you know of one, please share so I can add it to this post!
Revision Skincare D·E·J eye cream®
I have heard so many great things about Revision Skincare. I trust Jordan Harper’s recommendations and this is a line she personally uses and recommends to her clients. This cream is a clinically-proven comprehensive eye treatment inspired by the Dermal-Epidermal Junction (DEJ). It is supposed to visibly reduce the appearance of sagging, wrinkles, redness and hooding around the eye area and eyelid, helps shield against free radicals that cause premature aging and supports the skin’s microbiome with prebiotic technology. I have been using it for a little over a week and love it, but can’t yet speak to noticeable results.
Other options: Drunk Elephant C-Tango eye cream| Olay Retinol24 MAX eye cream
Revision Skincare Brightening Facial Wash
This was another product that was highly recommend by a lot of my followers. I have been using a combination of Colleen Rothschild radiant cleansing balm and La Roche Posay Effaclar cleanser at night to double cleanse and use the Revision cleanser in the morning. This cleanser contains alpha and beta hydroxy acids plus brightening botanicals to remove impurities and dead surface cells. It brightens skin with vitamin C and extracts of licorice and lily and exfoliates dead surface cells for softer, smoother skin. Basically, it cleanses skin without stripping it of its natural moisture content. I absolutely love the way my skin looks after cleansing with this in the morning! Highly recommend.
Other options: La Roche Posay Effaclar cleanser | La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Cleanser
Revision Skincare Black Mask
This mask is made with the highest quality earth clays to unclog pores and absorb excess oil. It noticeably refines the appearance of pores and deeply cleanses skin, leaving it polished and smooth. It purifies and soothes skin with unique properties of silt derived from European freshwater lakes. I use this about 1-2 times per week and have loved it so far. It especially helps with the maskne and stress breakouts everyone is dealing with right now.
Other options: Colleen Rothschild clarifying detox mask| Biore charcoal mask| Dead Sea mud mask
Revision Skincare Hydrating Serum
This serum has two forms of hyaluronic acid plus a blend of powerful natural fruit extracts, antioxidants and a peptide to give skin a smooth, refreshed appearance. The ultra-light texture absorbs instantly without leaving skin feeling greasy. It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and keeps skin uniformly hydrated.
Other options: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra| La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum | Cosmedica HA serum (over 20K reviews)
I hope this post was helpful and I’ll continue to update on my progress as I continue to use these products!
Great post, IMO medical grade skin care is so important as we age! Do you incorporate any regular facials, peels etc. in to your routine as well? Thank you!
Hi Kelly! I have never had a facial or peel but plan to start doing them as well!
Mary Thomas says
Great info. I want to try these products. I already use tretanoin and can’t do without it!
Natalie Ann Redman says
Great skincare suggestions!