If you buy just ONE skincare product…

Remember when I was striving to become higher maintenance?

Mission accomplished, and then some. Part of my, ahem, success came from all of the downtime I had last year after this. I became very, very good at ecommerce. 😁

Cougar 20150329_132547

Recently I was chatting with some lovely Twitter friends about skincare likes and dislikes, spurred by a negative reaction I had to this eye roller, and they suggested a new blog post could be warranted.

I’m game if you are.

My skin and I have an interesting history. When I was just a little girl, my mom took me to the dermatologist because my dry skin had me scratching all the time. Worse, it was sensitive. Bubble bath and scented lotion would give me hives. Sometimes even products I had previously used without trouble suddenly caused rashes. Avon had a shower gel that smelled like the ocean. I was obsessed with it but one day…rash. I was so sad.

beach blanket

As a result, I kept my skincare routine hyper simple for a LONG time. I’m still afraid of makeup removal wipes from an experience I had as a teenager. Each time I found a product that didn’t upset my skin, I stuck with it for as long as possible.

With time, I learned what was OK for me–and what was absolutely not. I seem to react to dyes and unnaturally derived fragrances the most. Other than that, I proceed on a case by case basis, relying on samples to test my skin for reactions.

Before I get more specific about products, here’s an important thing to keep in mind: if you go to a store like Sephora, SpaceNK or bluemercury, talk to the staff. Ask them about their favorite products or tell them about a product you’d like to try. In doing so, you are not obligating yourself to buy anything (although if you like what they recommend, go for it!). Skincare is personal and you should not be shy about asking for a sample or two of a product that interests you so you can try them at home before investing in a full size.

I have heard some people say that they get overwhelmed by choosing products, and I understand that. To keep track of my likes and dislikes, I have started lists on Amazon*.

This is my running list of skincare, makeup and hair favorites. And this is my running list of stuff I decided wasn’t right for me. In both cases, I strive to include notes about why I love or don’t love a product. I also have a list of stuff I either want to try or have tried and am thinking about buying.

These products tend to skew higher end. Understanding that not everyone wants to spend top dollar, I wrote a post about my favorite Cheap Thrills which you can read here.

To keep things even simpler, here are a few “if you only buy/try one thing for ____” suggestions. I’d love to hear your feedback as well as your own favorites in the comments.

If you start with one purchase, make it moisturizer with SPF.

In my opinion, beginners can start with moisturizer, then serum or eye cream followed by everything else. Like (probably) a lot of people, I started with Clinique Dramatically Different lotion, at least in part because Clinique is almost always giving out some kind of gift with purchase.

Oh! But don’t forget cleanser and makeup remover like I almost did. Micellar water is a great, inexpensive starting point. I used Cetaphil for years and while it did me no harm, I realized I could do better.

If you only check out one brand, make it Sunday Riley.

Beyond the products, which are fantastic, I love that it’s a company started and led by a woman who studied chemistry before getting into skincare.

If you only buy one chemical exfoliation product, make it Sunday Riley Good Genes or M61 Power Glow Peel.

Good Genes is hard to describe. The label calls it a lactic acid treatment (and it does smell kind of milky; trust me: you’ll get past the smell). I think of it as a light chemical exfoliant and typically use it right after removing my make up at the end of the day. Once my skin soaks it up, I put on moisturizer.

Good Genes is pricey so everyone is always looking for a dupe. I haven’t yet tried The Ordinary’s lactic acid product but I intend to. Apparently what makes Good Genes irreplaceable isn’t the lactic acid – this is a good read for the curious.

M61 Power Glow Peel is another type of exfoliation. The little wipes will remind you of an alcohol swab but they smell so much better. I have called this my desert island product (along with moisturizer) because it produces such a clean feel. After I have used the swab on my face, I run it over my neck, chin and even elbows.

If you’re curious about hyaluraonic acid water creams, try Sunday Riley Tidal or Tatcha Water Cream.

Tidal is great if you have normal to dry skin. Tatcha’s Water Cream is better suited to skin that is normal to oily (although me and my dry skin used it and liked it). Both have a luxurious, creamy feel.

If you think you don’t need eye cream yet, buy it anyway.

Especially in this cold winter, I apply eye cream at least twice per day. My eye concerns are dryness/wrinkling and dark circles. The products I use for that are very different than those focused on sagging. I generally do not like creams that are focused on ‘firming’ or ‘tightening.’ For me, that translates as ‘drying.’

For me, the holy grail is La Mer Eye Concentrate but it’s $$$. So so good for my eyes, but $$$. Algenist’s Eye Renewal Balm is my runner up. I got a sample of pricey SK-II Power Eye Cream and didn’t feel like it did much (and at that price, I was kind of thrilled not to like it).

Ashley Spivey recommended these and I plan to try them. Olay eye products get great reviews but I have not tried them.


If you buy one lip balm, make it Haus Urban‘s lip glide.

Haus Urban is my friend Hassan Sayyed’s brand. He created his line with professional dancers, actors and other performers in mind, but if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for the rest of us too. My favorite is the coconut.

If you buy one product for manual exfoliation, go for Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant or Superfoliant.

I don’t mess with products that have microbeads or nut shells.

OK now it’s your turn. What works for you?

*Disclosure: these are affiliate links; this blog doesn’t pay for itself. And for heaven’s sake, if you haven’t signed up for Ebates yet, do it right now before you buy another thing online.

4 thoughts on “If you buy just ONE skincare product…

  1. Missy

    Thank you for this post. I bought Good Genes a little over a month ago and absolutely love it. La Mer products are another favorite of mine. Thanks again for this list and look forward to trying some of these suggestions!

  2. wahmcat

    Hi there! Ok… a couple of things:
    1.) Yay! You’re still here! I have been kind of MIA for a while – had to go find myself. Now that I’m back, I wanted to touch base with my followers/subscribers. Makes sense, right? Most of them are gone! No posts in months, some in over a year! I was happy to see you are still here and posting.
    2.) I need a really great firming cream. I’ve always tried to take good care of my skin, but I’m starting to see a tiny little sag. Any specific suggestions? I want to pick up some samples this weekend.
    3.) I signed up for Ebates, lol. I’ve been meaning to for ages and you’re, “for heaven’s sake” comment got me. So thanks!

    1. onechicklette Post author

      Yep, still here! These last 2.5 years have been so challenging and I swear the election stole some of my creativity. I hope to post more regularly in 2018.

      On to skincare. This is the serum I’m trying out now. http://amzn.to/2Dc4lJu

      As for eBates, it’s The Move.


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