My 2021 Skincare Routine (AM & PM)

Well well well, I guess it’s been over 2 years since I posted my morning skincare and evening skincare routines. Can we agree that we’ve all been through, um, a fair amount since then? #pandemic

Listen, if you only take one thing away from today’s post, let it be this. Vitamin C and retinoids are your best friends. My advancing mature age has provided me with much more than just slightly sagging jowls and laughlines…yes, my friends, I have wisdom. *cue trumpet fanfare* Wisdom to share with all of you!

If you are 30 and above, I highly recommend following these steps.

MORNING: Cleanse + Tone (optional) + Eye Cream (optional) + Vitamin C Serum + Moisturize + SPF

EVENING: Double Cleanse + Tone (optional) + Eye Cream (optional) + Retinoid Serum + Moisturize

Let’s talk about the specific products I’ve been using this year – it will come as no surprise that many of them are by African Botanics…I’ve been enamored with this brand for years because ultimately, their products just synergistically jive with my skin. I see incredible results with virtually no irritation and/or blemishes/clogged pores, which is hard to come by for me. Does it drive me crazy that it’s a luxury line and super expensive? Yes, but I will continue to be a customer because their formulas work so well on my skin.

I’m also super excited to introduce you to a newer brand that has changed the way I cleanse and tone my face, MAKE Beauty. I am obsessed. OBSESSED.

Let’s just jump into my routine and I can wax poetic there.

Morning Skincare Routine

MAKE Beauty Succulent Skin Wash

Ohhhh, I’ve found The One. The MAKE Beauty Succulent Skin Wash is downright heavenly. You know I’m a sucker for a good lather and this one feels like nothing I’ve tried before. It’s silky (so silky!) and hydrating, yet thoroughly cleanses my skin without stripping it at all.

Yes, it has a great lather, but never fear. It’s pH-balanced, sulfate-free, and supercharged with amino acid-enriched surfactants that preserve the skin barrier. Also! It’s formulated with prickly pear, cactus, agave, niacinamide, and sodium hyaluronate to provide nutrients. (Have you seen my front yard? I’m a cacti fan…in landscapes and in skincare.)

I’m just so pleased with this cleanser and I don’t find myself reaching for anything else. I use it both morning and night and think any skin type would benefit from it. And the price? IS RIGHT. #24bucks

MAKE Beauty Micro Ferment Rice Essence

First things first, I think toners/essences are totally optional. If you like adding an essence before serums, more power to you! Somedays I definitely feel like my skin needs to be plumped and prepped before my treatment serums, and that’s when I reach for the MAKE Beauty Micro Ferment Rice Essence.

Utilizing fermentation to transform rice, this particular formula acts as a preparation stage to aid in better skin absorption and nourishment. Developed with magma seawater, niacinamide, panthenol, and jojoba milk, it delivers nutrients, resulting in a more moisturized and radiant complexion. My skin feels so hydrated and plump when I use it.

African Botanics Eye Contour Gel-Serum

Eye cream before serums! For sure. A couple of reasons why I like this order – first off, it protects my sensitive eye area from the actives that I will be applying in the next step, and secondly, the African Botanics Eye Contour Gel Serum really helps to bring down any puffiness I have in the morning so I like to get that cracking as soon as possible.

Ceramides, Lupine Oligosaccharides, Yeast Beta-Glucan, Vitamin B3, Vitamin C, and fucoidan-rich Seaweed extract help plump and deeply moisturize while supporting the synthesis of epidermal elastin production and effectively awakening the eye contour. Caffeine, Arnica, Copper, and Dragon’s blood extract help drain, revitalize, and activate microcirculation reducing puffiness and dark circles.

This particular formula is unscented and essential oil-free, which is so important to me especially in regards to my sensitive eye area. It’s energizing and soothing at the same time and provides an instant tightening effect which l love. Also, it sinks into my skin quickly, making it a perfect base for make-up.

African Botanics Nutritive Molecule Serum mixed with the Vita C Corrector

Vitamin C, y’all! Get on it. Vitamin C and a retinoid are the two best ingredients you can use in terms of slowing down the aging process of your skin.

Now, I’ve used the African Botanics Nutritive Molecule Serum for years with success (full review here), but the Vita C Corrector is NEXT-LEVEL. 20% Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate! You guys. That’s some legit Vitamin C action going on. I thought for sure that my skin wouldn’t be able to tolerate 20% Vitamin C on top of the Nutritive Molecule Serum, but my skin loves it. Once again, African Botanics’ formulations FTW. They just can do no wrong in terms of my skin.

And if you are a Vitamin C nerd like me, you know that Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is incredible. It’s stable, it’s lipophilic, it does everything that Ascorbic Acid does (photoprotective, boosts collagen, evens out pigmentation), but it’s so much more stable. If you are into learning about the different forms of Vitamin C, Dr. Shereene Idriss has a great video.

I mix one pump of the Nutritive Molecule Serum and one pump of the Corrector into my palm, rub my palms together and then apply to my face, neck, and chest. It’s important to wait a few minutes to really let the products sink into your skin.

BUT SARAH. MONEY DOES NOT GROW ON TREES. I know, I know. The combo of these two is borderline ridiculous, but you know what? You can use the Vita C Corrector alone! 20% Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is more than enough as your standalone Vitamin C serum and it’s priced at $120, which is great for the results you will see. And you will see them, I promise.

Interested in learning about more Vitamin C serums? I wrote a full post here.

Blissoma Photonic Light Shifting Solution SPF 25

Finally, your last step…moisture and SPF! I prefer to knock both of these out with one product and the Blissoma Photonic SPF 25 is amazing.

But wait. Didn’t I just post My Favorite Sunscreens and this particular product was not mentioned?! Yes. Let me explain.

I recently was chatting with my friend Jeannie from Beauty Heroes and she was adamant that I try this sunscreen. She told me it ticked all of my boxes – SPF + moisturizer in one, great under makeup, no pilling, and gives the slightest, most minimal sheen on the face…where you look healthy but not glowy-greasy. Listen, I love that glowy/shiny look on others, but not me. I don’t want to look shiny. But I also don’t want to look completely matte. Are some of you all feeling me on this?

Well, she was right. This product is incredible and somehow manages to make my skin look better, even as the day goes on. It’s elegant…yes, that’s the word. Elegant. It’s tinted translucent pink from astaxanthin, a red algae ingredient with a super-high ORAC level, but that tint disappears on the face. Photonic is a light, barely-there moisturizing emulsion with an SPF 25 from micronized non-nano zinc oxide for lasting mineral protection from the sun. Run, don’t walk.

Evening Skincare Routine

MAKE Beauty Pre-Cleanse Fluid

I’ve never been big on double cleanses in the past, mainly because I wasn’t *ahem* wearing SPF daily like a savvy human. I now wear SPF every single day and the addition of sunscreen underneath my makeup definitely calls for more thorough cleansing of my face.

The MAKE Beauty Pre-Cleanse Fluid is a skin-purifying, first cleanse that effectively dissolves makeup, oil, SPF, and other impurities. Formulated with a nourishing blend of omegas, bioactive green algae, and Cacay oil, this cleansing system is developed to be used in conjunction with a second cleanse and obviously works beautifully with the Succulent Skin Wash.

I really enjoy massaging this into my skin to remove all the day’s grime, but it also feels so great just to take a moment to give my skin some love. It’s unscented and emulsifies with water so you can rinse it right off. However, I’m having a major moment with these PAI Twin Flyer Washcloths (gentle on one side and exfoliating on the other! #genius) and I prefer to remove the fluid with a washcloth.

The Pre Cleanse Fluid + Succulent Skin Wash combo might be my favorite pairing of 2021.

MAKE Beauty Succulent Skin Wash

One pump of this after my pre-cleanse and I’m fully cleansed yet hydrated.

MAKE Beauty Micro Ferment Rice Essence

See above.

African Botanics Eye Contour Gel-Serum

See above.

African Botanics Cell Resurrection Serum (3x week) or Retinal Night Cream (4x week)

The big guns! I’ve written about African Botanics Cell Resurrection Serum and Retinal Night Cream before (here and here) so I’m not going to repeat myself about the importance of using a retinoid or these particular products, but *whispering* please start using a retinoid. (Here are my 4 favorites at different price points!) I’ve consistently used a retinol/retinaldehyde for years and it is the reason my skin looks the way it does at 46. DO YOU HEAR ME YELLING FROM THE MOUNTAINTOPS?! RETINOOOOOIIIIDS.

If you remember, I switched to a prescription-strength retinoid earlier this year, but ultimately switched back to the OTC retinol/retinal serums and creams. Why? Honestly, because I really enjoy the overall sensorial experience of skincare and rubbing Tretinoin on my face felt sterile and boring and ugh. I just didn’t enjoy it. And while OTC retinols aren’t as strong, when you’re in it to win it with a long game mindset, the end result is the same. So enjoy your skincare! (If you love Tret, good for you! Keep going…it just wasn’t for me.)

I alternate these two products throughout the week.

African Botanics Fleurs D’Afrique Intensive Recovery Oil

You know I’m almost always going to finish with a facial oil in the evening. This Intensive Recovery Oil works so well with the other African Botanics products and I’ve been a fan for years. (I reviewed it here.)

However, I’m not exclusive to this oil. I also use MARA Universal Facial Oil, Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil, African Botanics Marula Oil, and True Botanicals Chebula Immunity Serum regularly.

Sometimes my skin feels like a lotion or cream and my two favorites right now are the Tata Harper Superkind Fortifying Moisturizer and the Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer. (The latter is priced super well!) When my skin is feeling overly sensitive, I always reach for the African Botanics Rescue Cream.

As always, please leave any questions in the comments and I’ll try my best to help!

Other posts you might like:

Skin Barrier Repair: My Favorite Products

Showdown: Ilia Super Serum vs Kosas Tinted Face Oil

  1. Kerry

    July 16, 2021 at 7:45 am

    Is the MAKE Beauty Succulent Skin Wash a facial/body wash or should it be used as a facial wash? I looked it up but couldn’t tell. Thank you.

    • whoorl

      July 16, 2021 at 8:22 am

      It is a facial wash,

      • Kerry

        July 16, 2021 at 12:17 pm

        Thank you! Wishful thinking ?

  2. Normk

    July 16, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Thank you for the discount codes- I have been using the African Botanics Retinal and Silver Rescue Cream with amazing results and I love them. The discount makes the price not sting so much.

    • whoorl

      July 16, 2021 at 5:24 pm

      The price is hard to swallow, that’s for sure! But I’ve yet to find anything else comparable. Sounds like you are loving it too!!

  3. Christen

    July 16, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    Wait did you break up with your One Love cleanser? This is like when Brad and Jen split!

    But for reals, talk to me about retinoids. I know you have sensitized skin too but I had a bad experience last Fall (granted it wasn’t African Botanics so maybe that’s the key) scarred me (literally – I was red and itchy for a day!) and I need an adult to tell me it will be OK and I won’t be in pain.

    The discount codes are super helpful – thank you!

    • whoorl

      July 16, 2021 at 5:26 pm

      Haha! Never fear…I still have a bottle next to my sink. I can’t FULLY break up with it. ;)

      I would recommend you start with the Maelove Stargaze: https://shrsl.com/2ypmn

      It’s gentle enough for beginners and not too much of a hit to the wallet if it doesn’t work for you.

      • Christen

        July 16, 2021 at 5:52 pm

        So helpful, thank you! I love the Josh Rosebrook mask/exfoliator you recommend so I feel pretty confident my face won’t burst into flames/hives if I follow your lead.

        Glad to hear you and One Love are just “on a break.” (I need some more current pop culture references. Not sure why all the Aniston-related stuff today.)

  4. Michelle

    July 16, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    Didn’t love the Mila Clarity Oil after all?

    • whoorl

      July 16, 2021 at 5:27 pm

      It’s lovely! I just don’t prefer to use it after retinol. It’s great in the mornings.

      • Michelle

        July 16, 2021 at 8:36 pm

        Gotcha! Thanks for the reviews. Love your content!

  5. Nina

    July 20, 2021 at 9:51 am

    Yay! I’m so glad you love the Blissoma Photonic too! I adore Julie and her products. This has been my go-to sunscreen for a few years! Such a great texture that plays well with all skincare and makeup.

    And thanks for the AB Resurrection reco – I finally ordered, and I love it! I am always looking for great, non-oil serums.