I originally planned to title this post “My Busy Mom Skincare Routine” but changed my mind because you don’t have to be a parent to want your skin to look its best yet rarely have time (or energy) in the morning for a multi-layered AB routine. My morning rush is dictated by the need to get my tiny dictator ready for school and then take him there on time, but you might be in a hurry to get to work or to your own classes or wherever else your presence is required during the dark nighttime hours before noon. The reasons don’t matter, only the results. Who doesn’t want a few more free minutes on a workday or schoolday morning without giving up their hard-earned glow?
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My Busy Morning Skincare Routine
In order to minimize the amount of time in the morning that I spend patting things on my face and waiting for them to dry, I’ve cut the products I use down to the very bare essentials. I layer and treat and mask in the evening, when I have the time and am never in a rush to go anywhere (except bed, where my beauty products are almost always welcome). My intensive evening routine (and longer weekend morning routines) keep my skin in good condition and making progress towards my goals. My current weekday morning routine just maintains the results of my nighttime efforts while preventing UV damage.
Not everyone uses cleanser in the morning because not everyone feels the need to. I do. My evening routine usually ends with a heavy, occlusive final layer whose residue I need to wash off in the morning.
Formulation-wise, almost all of the cleansers in my current stash are as suitable for morning as they are at night, since cleansing is cleansing no matter what time you do it. (We’ll talk about the Treeannsea Liquide Mousse Foam some other time.) But in the morning, packaging matters. I don’t have time to waste struggling to open up or scoop product out of a Re:cipe Slowganic cleanser jar, for example. Instead, I prefer a non-stripping, low-pH cleanser in a pump or a tube.
As an added bonus, both of my morning cleanser picks can be also be used on dry skin to remove most non-waterproof makeup while cleansing. If you for some dreadful reason didn’t remove your makeup the night before, these will save you a step and a few minutes of time!
(But next time, take your makeup off before bed, k? Love, Fiddy)
- COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (original review): The Fiddy family favorite is a unicorn of a cleanser. With its low pH and gentle surfactants, it cleanses without drying us out, and it works for a wide range of skin types. Lord Fiddy’s skin is oilier and more breakout-prone than mine; he loves it. Young Master Fiddy’s skin is perfect because he is a child; the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser never compromises his perfection. Even my skin opposite (skin nemesis?) Tracy, of Fanserviced-B, approves of it. And it’s both inexpensive and easy to find. (Jolse | Wishtrend* | Amazon Prime* | Memebox*)
- Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser: A friend sent me a generous decant of the Milky Jelly Cleanser after I ran out of my Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam and started complaining. It took me a while to get comfortable with this cleanser’s total lack of foam, but I can’t deny that it’s wonderfully gentle, even more so than the COSRX. With a pH between 4 and 5, the Milky Jelly Cleanser clears away impurities without any irritation or tightness afterwards. It’s more expensive than COSRX’s low pH cleanser and less universally liked, but if you’d rather smell roses than tea tree and/or your skin doesn’t cope well with foaming cleansers, you may like it as much as Tracy does or as much as I’m starting to. (Glossier; you can get 20% off your first order with my referral link*)
There is one exception to my “user-friendly packaging wins” rule of morning cleansers. If I’m caught between a barrier-sparing, low pH cleanser in overcomplicated packaging, like a Re:cipe Slowganic Cleanser, and a much harsher, high ph cleanser in a convenient self-foaming pump, like the Treeannsea Liquide Mousse Foam I was recently sent by Memebox, I now know to choose the low pH cleanser. The time I’d save by using the overpowered cleanser is lost when I have to compensate for excessive moisture loss and cover up redness and irritation. I know this from recent experience.
When I have time, I’m obviously all about layering different targeted skincare products to create a totally customized routine that tackles all my concerns. I don’t believe in the existence of a true all-in-one skincare product, one that can effectively address most or all of my issues while also satisfying my skin’s basic hydration and moisturization needs.
When I don’t have time, I skip the treatment layers and go straight from cleanser to moisturizer. My actives, essences, serums, and ampoules improve my complexion over time, but without moisturizer, my skin in the short term won’t feel as comfortable or look as nice as it could. Since the goal of my morning routine is for my skin to look and feel good right now before I head out to encounter my son’s friends’ moms and assorted school people, moisturizer is the logical choice.
My morning moisturizer choices pack potent doses of plumping hydration and smoothing moisture into quick-drying formulas that play well with my sunscreens.
- Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Emulsion EX: I’ve used this (in sample form) the past few mornings, so I’m going to lead with it. This is a smooth, milky lotion with the distinctive warm, spicy, herbal Sulwhasoo scent. It leaves my skin velvety and moisturized all day without making me oily or shiny. No purchasing links just yet as this product is very new to me, but I’ll be getting a full size and doing a review very soon.
- COSRX Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap** (original review): Originally provided to me by Wishtrend*, this weightless moisturizer packs some seriously long-lasting hydration. Like the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, it smells of tea tree and has earned positive feedback from people of just about every skin type imaginable. (Memebox* | Wishtrend* | Amazon Prime*)
- Treeannsea Time Release Age Define Cream** (Ingredients and CosDNA analysis): Before I found that little sample bottle of Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Emulsion EX in my hoard, I was happily using Treeannsea Time Release Age Define Cream whenever I needed something richer than the COSRX lotion. Provided to me by Memebox*, this scentless, surprisingly bland medium-weight moisturizer sinks in quickly and restores suppleness to my skin when it’s drier than usual. The long list of botanical extracts in the Time Release Age Define Cream may also confer some antioxidant protection against wrinkle-accelerating free radical damage. (Memebox*)
- Hyggee Balance One Step Facial Essence** (first look): When I can spare a couple of extra minutes or my barrier needs more reinforcement than usual, I still jump at the chance to use this unique product, which I received in a box of items that Jen from Beautibi wanted me to try. Of all my preferred morning moisturizers, the Hyggee Balance has the most potential for being that mythical creature, the true one-step skincare product. It still doesn’t have the targeted ingredients or actives to replace my nighttime routine but may do more for my skin in the long term than most standard lotions or creams. Also, I still get way too much enjoyment out of shaking the bottle and mixing the oil and water layers. (Beautibi; get $5 off your first order with my referral link*)
I usually use my moisturizer drying time to get the young master brushed, washed, dressed, and served with his breakfast.
I’ve harped on about the importance of sunscreen so much that I think we can make this section a short one. If you want to reduce your risk of skin cancer, slow down the visible aging process, and/or fade and prevent dark spots and other hyperpigmentation problems, sunscreen is non-negotiable. All the sunscreens I own work fine even on busy mornings–just as long as I’m applying them with a cushion puff. I do find myself using two specific ones more than any others, though.
- Shiseido Senka Mineral Water UV Essence (aka Aging Care UV Sunscreen on Amazon; original review): Lately, I’ve used the Mineral Water UV Essence almost every day. More emollient and moisturizing than my beloved Biore Watery Essence and without the ultra-matte finish or slight pale peach tint of my Biore Bright Milk, the Senka Mineral Water UV Essence dries totally clear and leaves a satiny and ultra-smooth finish that does double duty as a fine line-filling makeup primer. Now that’s efficient! It can be a little heavy if I’ve used a richer moisturizer or the weather is more humid than usual but remains perfectly usable even then. (Amazon Prime single tube* | Amazon Prime two-pack*)
- Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence (original review): This sunscreen has served me well for over a year now, and I don’t see myself giving it up anytime soon. Actually, I imagine I’ll be repurchasing it until it’s discontinued altogether. Compared to most other sunscreens I’ve tried, the Watery Essence dries in a flash and, like the Mineral Water UV Essence, leaves no white cast whatsoever. I choose this sunscreen when I’ve either used one of my more moisturizing moisturizers or when I don’t feel the need for a moisturizing sunscreen. I do find it a little drying on particularly arid or dry skin days but not at all during normal times. (Amazon Prime single tube* | Amazon Prime two-pack*)
I usually apply two separate layers of sunscreen (the cushion puff technique makes it fast and easy to do so!) and take care of other morning duties in between each layer. After putting on my first layer, I’ll pack the child’s lunch, check his school bag, and get him dressed. After the second layer, I dress myself. By the time I’m ready to apply makeup, we’re both otherwise ready to go!
Bonus: My Fast Morning Makeup Routine
This one’s for those of you who don’t follow my Instagram, where I recently shared my three-product weekday makeup. My eyelash extensions chopped a big chunk of time out of my makeup routine. The rest is shockingly easy.
- Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint (Glossier; get 20% off your first order with my referral link*)
- Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow (Sephora* | Amazon Prime*)
- Missha Tension Blusher (W2Beauty)
The end result looks something like this.
What’s your busy morning beauty routine?