How I Alter My Routine When My Skin is Irritated

Once again, I’ve been quiet on the blog. This happens every so often, and once again, it’s a mix of various other personal commitments, as well as a new project that I teased on Instagram yesterday. But one of the reasons I’ve been quiet is because I’ve had to largely put my beauty product testing on hold as I deal with my skin just freaking out for about a week.

A little over a week ago, I noticed my skin getting a bit dry around my jawline. Overnight, it went from “huh, maybe I should put a little extra moisture there” to a breakout and dry, scaly skin at the same time. It itched and was red. It was highly unpleasant, and I basically had to stop wearing all complexion makeup, despite having some very angry spots, because my skin was just too flaky for any makeup to stay looking good for longer than a half an hour.

My first instinct was to cut my skin routine down to the bare minimum: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I started using only my Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser, Avene Skin Comfort creme, and Avene Mineral sunscreen. That seemed to not make things much worse, although I was worried about removing a water-resistant sunscreen with a water-based cleanser. So I got a new bottle of Simple Hydrating Cleansing oil.

This basic routine helped calm my skin down, in terms of the redness and irritation. The cleansing oil lacks fragrance while the Milky Jelly is the only cleanser that has never irritated any part of my face. The Avene creme is a rich cream with simple ingredients and mineral oil for some occlusion to help my skin hold onto what little hydration it had left. And I opted for a moisturizing sunscreen using inorganic filters, as I’ve had irritation from organic filters in the past and just didn’t want to take any chances. I will say that, in general, I don’t consider inorganic filters superior and I look forward to feeling confident using my organic filter sunscreens again.

From there, my skin calmed, but didn’t heal. I needed hydration for that. I slowly started adding in some other products, and also started using a sunscreen with a slightly less moisturizing finish. My beloved Klairs toner was the first to be added back in, along with COSRX Acne patches for the spots that had sprung up. I also added some skin barrier support in the form of my A’pieu Madecassocide cream and Cerave Baby Moisturizing Cream. And eventually I tried a sheet mask, opting for the Klairs Rich Moist Soothing mask, which has very similar ingredients to the toner, and which I’ve used before to soothe hot or sensitive skin after spending time in the sun.

For the most part, I chose not to use any products that were completely new to me. The one exception I tried was to finally open up one of the generous samples of Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream that I received in my last two W2Beauty orders. I’d been curious about using this cream as a spot treatment on a few places that tend to be irritated, and when it seemed like things couldn’t get worse, I tried it out. It worked beautifully and now I’m tempted to buy a full-sized jar of it just in case this sort of thing happens again, or just for a spot treatment of the redness around my nostrils and under my lower lip.

So there you have it. A story of skin drama and recovery, starring, for the most part, products I’ve been using for a while and that I know help my skin relax, heal, and stop being irritated. I hope my experience might help someone else facing a similar issue deal with their own skin freakout. Generally, my advice would be to cut back to your bare minimum products, use only products that are very familiar to your skin, and add back in hydration and barrier support as your skin starts to calm down.

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Beauty Review: A’pieu Madecassoside Cream

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have been provided no incentive to review it. All opinions are my own.

I mentioned this in my recent round-up of things that I’ve been enjoying, but I thought I’d take some time to share more thoughts on this little cream. Like many things, I bought this after an enabling review by Tracy at Fanserviced-B. I liked the idea of a moisturizer that was hydrating, soothing, dried matte, didn’t have any potential acne triggers, and was around $12 for a tube.

I found it on Jolse with free shipping and ordered it along with a couple other things I’d been eyeing. It took a few weeks to arrive from Korea. When it arrived, I immediately opened it to smell it because isn’t that what everyone does with new skin care? Squirt it on your hand, rub it around, and sniff?

Anyway, the smell is fresh, clean, slightly herbal-medicinal, and thoroughly inoffensive. The texture was thicker than I expected for a cream free of emollients and doesn’t have the “water drop” effect of many gel-creams. It spreads easily, sinks in quickly, and dries down to a semi-matte finish, but without any hint of dry feeling on the skin. It’s brilliant under sunscreen because the ever-so-slightly moist feeling it leaves plays well with lightweight, alcohol-containing sunscreens. But I’ve used it under my alcohol-free Canmake Mermaid UV Skin Gel with great success, too.

I also find it mildly soothing, although at the end of the day, it shines as a simple, inexpensive hydrating cream. I mostly use it during the day over hydrating toner and under sunscreen and makeup, but I’ve also used it as a final nighttime step on the few really sticky nights this summer. I even find that the finish is non-greasy enough that COSRX Master Patches will stick over it. And finally, I’ve been using it for over a month now with no indication that it has any negative effects. I’m definitely planning to repurchase this, as I’m curious how it will hold up over the winter.

On Why I No Longer Make Soap

I’ve blogged before about making homemade soap. I used to make it both for my own use and as gifts. I even started making homemade soaps for gifts for the casts of various shows I’ve been in. Those who know me in real life will know that I haven’t been making soap lately, and readers of the blog might have noticed that I suddenly stopped posting about soap updates and new recipe ideas.

So, on a related note, recently another beauty Instagrammer and blogger, Goals to Get Glowing, posted on her Instagram about some pH tests she’d done of a couple cleansers she’d been trying. One of the cleansers had a pH of 9.5, which is quite high for a balanced facial cleanser. The brand attacked her for revealing this and claimed that their cleanser was fine because it was the same pH as soap.

Well, that’s not surprising because it *is* soap. The first ingredients after water are saponified oils. So, yes, it will have a pH similar to soap. But do we want to wash our faces with soap?

Well, when I first started making my own soap, it was part of my efforts to make my skin care routine as natural, traditional, and homemade as possible. So I would remove makeup with an oil-based cleanser, like my homemade cleansing balm, and then follow it with my own homemade soap. I found information about how using soap on your skin wouldn’t disrupt the balance of your skin if you used a pH-balancing toner, which I made out of diluted vinegar.

The problem with that, however, is that my skin apparently didn’t get that memo. I began to go from having relatively clear, easy-to-deal-with skin, to getting a lot of spots, along with dryness and redness in other parts of my face. I tried eliminating comedogenic oils and butters that I thought were the problem. And then, I found this post about pH in cleansers. So I went and bought a bottle of the natural, pH-5 cleanser that I’d been using before trying to switch to homemade products.

And it was like night and day. I didn’t have immediate results, but right away, my skin was less irritated. My active breakouts started going down and I had fewer spots to replace them. And my skin just felt nicer in the morning, less dry. I eventually picked up a few more tricks, such as using multiple layers of watery hydration instead of one heavy cream, and using occlusives when it’s dry out, but the first and biggest improvement I had was from changing to a low-pH cleanser.

Since then, I tried to relegate my homemade soap to being a body cleanser. But eventually, I noticed that I was having similar problems on the rest of my skin. Irritation in my armpits. Small bumps and spots on my legs. And even a fairly raging fungal infection that was probably at least helped along by having sensitized skin. So I switched to a low-pH body wash. I already use low-pH shampoos because my hair absolutely rebels when I use something alkaline.

So that really leaves my homemade soap somewhat neglected. And because I wasn’t using it myself and I noticed that I had so many skin problems that went away when I stopped using it, well, I find myself not feeling right giving it as gifts. It’s been months (possibly even over a year) since I’ve made a bar of soap, and I’m seriously considering giving away my soapy equipment. It is sad to lose a loved hobby, but I certainly have other pastimes to fill the empty space.

Beauty Review: COSRX x Charlotte Cho Triple C Lightning Liquid

So I actually forgot to mention this beauty in my recent round-up of skincare things I like for a very simple reason: it’s quite easy to forget. Despite the attempts at making the packaging look luxe, and the hype that was generated prior to its release, this is not a terribly glamorous or exciting product. It’s a vitamin C serum. Like dietary sources of vitamin C (i.e., fruits and vegetables), it’s rather something you use everyday because you know its good for you, but that you don’t necessarily expect rapid, earth-shattering results from. Oh, I know it’s an acid, so it can provide exfoliation, but honestly, I use vitamin C for the long game, not the short-term.

And yet, I realized the other day that for the last month, my skin has been particularly well-behaved. No major breakouts, just one hormonal spot at the expected time, and even that has healed up rather quickly, with the marks fading nicely. And, honestly, the last thing I added to my testing routine was this serum. So go figure.

Anyway, let us back up. I bought this because it’s a touch cheaper than my current vitamin C serum, and it’s actually a low-pH, L-AA serum, so it’s made with the stuff that has the studies behind it in terms of collagen-building. I was frankly dubious about its claims of stability, so I do keep mine in the fridge, but I’ve seen only a mild color change from completely clear to ever-so-slightly-champagne colored over the last month. It certainly has a long way to go before I would consider tossing it. Compare that to the mini Drunk Elephant serum that came the color of orange blossom honey, and I’m honestly impressed.

The bottle is quite pretty. It’s a very, very deep indigo color, almost black, but with just enough color that you can see it when the fridge light shines through it just so. The gold-rimmed dropper is a nice touch. It would look lovely sitting on my vanity, if I would dare leave it out of the fridge (not specific to this serum; I store any L-AA serum in the cold). My only complaint is that there is a bit of crystallization that happens in the dropper, which did start to clog it after a few weeks, but I poked it out with a clean pin and continued on my merry way. A minor annoyance at worst.

The product itself is very watery, with an ever-so-slight “chemical” smell to it (but of course, I’m not alarmed because everything is chemicals). It feels light and refreshing on the face, with a slight amount of “slip,” but I attribute that to the fact that it is quite acidic and I find acidic things feel lightly conditioning on the skin and hair. I felt a slight tingle the first few times I use it, and now if I use it after a breakout, I might feel one or two pricks, but nothing remotely resembling “stinging.” It dries down quickly and I don’t experience any stickiness. I find it comfortable enough to not put on hydrating toner right away, so I try to give this 10-20 minutes to sit before I continue with my routine in the morning.

A note about timing usage: Soko Glam recommends using this at night because it is acidic enough to exfoliate. The fact is that AHA exfoliants cause sun sensitivity for days after application, so your level of sun sensitivity will not change whether you use it in the morning or at night. I also use a 15% lactic acid three times a week at night, so I keep this in the morning. And I like the idea of putting on antioxidants early in the day so their activity is high during peak sun hours. But that’s your choice.

Anyway, I apply it directly after my morning cleanser, which is with a low-pH cleanser, so I don’t bother with pH-adjusting toner first. I let it sit while I meditate or make matcha or gather my lunch supplies. On days when I go to the gym, I might just walk out of the house with just this on my face (if it’s humid) because I go to the gym before sunrise. Otherwise, I give it maybe 15-20 minutes of wait time and then continue with the rest of my morning routine. And, yes, I always use sunscreen during the day.

So far, with relatively generous daily usage, I’ve made it through about a third of the bottle in a month, which is about right for vitamin C. And I definitely see myself repurchasing this when I finish the bottle.

Beauty Review: Moonlit Skincare Midnight Shift Facial Oil

So I have a bit of a backlog of beauty products that I’ve tested and thought I’d make this week a bit of a Beauty Week on the blog. Come back later this week for more beauty reviews!

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have been provided no incentive to affect my review. All opinions are my own. All links are non-affiliate links.

I mentioned this oil in my recent round-up of skincare things I’ve been loving, but I thought it merited a deeper review. I first saw Moonlit Skincare on Instagram and loved their peaceful photo aesthetic, but was a bit concerned about the ingredients in their star product, the Midnight Shift Facial Oil. I’m very wary about olive oil in products because it’s caused breakouts for me in the past. But I was in the market for a new facial oil after realizing that I prefer facial oil to watery serums after my hydrating toner, and wanting to find something a bit less dear to use when my Herbivore Phoenix Oil runs out. So I went conservative and bought the 14-day trial kit.

This kit comes with two 5-ml vials of the facial oil. Each one is supposed to last a week, but I got two full weeks’ worth of use out of one vial, and was so hooked that I decided to save my second vial for an upcoming trip and go ahead and buy a full-sized bottle. I used the oil as directed, dispensing about a dime-sized amount into the palm of my hand, spreading it quickly over my palms, and pressing it into my skin after using my watery hydrating products at night. I sometimes tent my hands over my nose and just inhale the beautiful, relaxing scent. It smells a bit like lavender Earl Grey tea, which you know I love. The oil absorbs fairly quickly, but still provides enough slip for a little jade rolling after application.

Since it’s been so humid, I find that this oil is all I need for a last step to seal in hydration and moisturize my skin at night, but if I need a bit more oomph, I will follow it with a cream. I find the scent fades quickly once I’ve put it on my skin, so I don’t know how much the aromatherapy helps me fall asleep, but the ritual of applying it is relaxing and helps me unwind.

All in all, this is a beautiful facial oil, at a fantastic price for a blended oil, with a lovely scent. I’ve already repurchased it since my first purchase, and will continue doing so in the future!

Skincare Things I’m Trying and Kind of Loving Right Now

So, I haven’t done a real skin care review in a while, and part of that is that, yes, I’ve been writing about my Scottish honeymoon, but I’ve also been feeling a bit uninspired with skin care lately. But I have been using a few new things that have helped keep the love alive, so I thought I’d share a brief overview of some of the things in my testing routine right now.

A’pieu Madecassoside Cream: I got this on a whim based on Tracy’s glowing review of it over at Fanserviced-B. Did I really need another cream? Not really. I’m pretty ride-or-die for Stratia Liquid Gold. But… it’s been really hot and humid and I wondered if maybe something lighter would be nice for the mornings, particularly under my more mattifying sunscreen. So I grabbed a tube from Jolse. It smells like herbal lemony goodness and goes on feather-light. So far I’m definitely finding reasons to use it. Full review will be forthcoming, and barring any unforeseen breakouts, it’s going to be glowing.

Moonlit Skincare Midnight Shift Facial Oil: I keep seeing this on Instagram. I’m intrigued by the concept. And I can always use a little help getting to sleep, particularly on those nights when I’m in bed before 10 because I know my alarm is going off before 6am the next day. Well, I bought the 14-day trial kit and before I was even halfway through, I ordered the full size. It smells like lavender Earl Grey tea, goes on like a dream, and so far has not given me any problems. Expect another glowing review forthcoming.

COSRX One-Step Moisture-Up Kit: My original thought with these was that they would be great for travel, particularly when we go and spend a weekend at my in-laws’ place. But of course I need to test them a bit first, and I’m finding them fantastic for days when I’m working from home but I go for a morning run. I get back, shower, wash up with the foaming cleanser, apply the Moisture-Up pad, and then slap on the sheet mask until my face goes from beet-red to magenta (I tend to go all splotchy when I exercise, especially outside in the heat). Very nice and relaxed and I don’t actually have to faff about with bottles and things at my vanity. But let’s see how they do for travel as well…

Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Toner: I bought this because the scent of the Blossom Jeju masks were like my favorite thing ever. And I wanted to bottle that and be able to slap it on my face whenever I want. But of course it’s $45 for a pretty small bottle, so I don’t tend to use it as often as I do my other toners. But for days when I need a pick-me-up more than a deep hydration treatment? It’s amazing. Not sure I’ll splurge on it again, though.

So that’s about it for now. This is kind of half a preview of reviews to come and half a ramble about what I like for my face right now. If anyone’s curious about my further thoughts, ask, and if anyone has any suggestions for anything inspiring, I’m open to suggestions.

Beauty Review: I’m From Ginseng Serum

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have not been given any incentive, monetary or otherwise, to review it.

So this review has been a bit of a long time coming. I first saw this serum on Wishtrend when they were recruiting testers. I didn’t get selected to test the product, but I was interested enough to buy it when it was released. Unfortunately, that was right before my wedding and honeymoon, so the testing process was delayed and then interrupted. But I’ve been using it for a month (minus the week of my honeymoon), including three weeks uninterrupted at this point, so I’m going to give you my thoughts.

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The short review is that, honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with this. I mean, my skin has been looking good lately, but it doesn’t really correlate with using this product (it continued to improve while I was on my honeymoon without it).

Alright, so here’s the deal with the I’m From Ginseng serum. It has 7.98% red Korean ginseng extract (although the word “extract” can be variable in strength), along with a bunch of other extracts and oils to help aging and dull skin. Its color definitely convinces me that it’s pretty packed with herbal-y goodness (and there are no explicit coloring agents in the ingredients list), and it includes extracts like licorice and peony (for brightening) as well as green tea and adenosine (for anti-aging). Ordering the serum was uneventful, particularly since the serum is in Wishtrend’s “Free Shipping” area and the only thing I paid for was a couple dollars for a tracking number. It arrived in a couple weeks, actually sooner than I had expected.

When it arrived, I swatched a little on my hand to see that it is a viscous liquid/thin gel, with a pale brown color and a distinct floral scent. Honestly, I wish they hadn’t put a fragrance in it, as the fragrance is the primary reason I’m not terribly thrilled with it. I’m a lover of floral scents, but this has a powdery, artificial floral scent to it that isn’t terribly pleasant when doing my (largely unscented) evening routine.

I find the serum lightly hydrating and not sticky. I dispense four drops into my palm, spread it between my hands and then press onto my skin. I only applied this in the evenings, after actives and hydrating toner, and before facial oil and emulsion/cream. If I sheet mask, I apply it under the sheet mask. At this point, I’ve been using it for about three weeks uninterrupted since my honeymoon, plus an additional week before I left on my honeymoon.

And, honestly, meh.

The main thing I notice is the smell. I’ve noticed a decrease in acne and an overall increased brightness in my skin, but it’s something that has been going on pretty steadily for the last few months, and hasn’t been markedly more pronounced since using this serum. And, as I mentioned before, I actually saw the effect pick up while I was in Scotland with an incredibly abbreviated routine, not using this serum. So I’m honestly not convinced that this serum really does much for anti-aging or brightening.

I do have some early signs of aging (I’m only 34, guys), including a deep-ish forehead wrinkle and some fine lines around my eyes, as well as some PIH from acne on my jawline. But I honestly think that increasing my hydration with multiple applications of hydrating toner, as well as using acids regularly has done more to decrease these things than this serum.

In short, I will not be repurchasing this.

Beauty Review: Naruko Rose & Botanic HA Aqua Cubic Hydrating Mask

NB: This product was provided to me for review, but all thoughts are my own.

When I was emailing with Rachel from Naruko, it came up that I was unlikely to test the magnolia masks she sent me before my wedding because they contain an ingredient to which I sometimes react poorly. Now, it’s the sort of thing that usually takes prolonged exposure, but I didn’t want to take any risks before the wedding. In her infinite generosity, she suggested sending me a few of their Rose & Botanic HA Aqua Cubic Hydrating Masks to try in the meantime. Being a lover of all things floral, I leapt at the offer.

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I first tried this mask on a night when I’d had a fight with someone over the phone and was in a foul mood. I’d been crying a little and was just generally feeling terrible. I must say, the delightful rose scent of this mask lifted my spirits and helped me feel just a little better.

That said, I found that the scent was the only thing this mask had to recommend it. I was a bit worried, since the mask does contain a drying alcohol, but I thought that perhaps the multitude of hydrating ingredients would offset that. Unfortunately, while I didn’t find that the mask dried out or irritated my skin, it didn’t really do much to improve it either.

I did find that the mask calmed down my skin, but no more than just laying a cool, damp cloth over it. I was disappointed, given how lovely it smells, but I just didn’t find anything to really love about this mask. I wouldn’t buy it again.

If you’re looking for a nice rose-scented mask that isn’t overwhelming, and has a nice hydrating and brightening effect, I really like the LoveMore Rosa Hybrida mask. And hopefully the next mask I try from Naruko will be another winner.

Beauty Review: Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Boosting Ampoule (with Wrinkle and Pore Effectors)

Say that one five times fast. Despite a mouthful of a name, the ampoule alone isn’t much to write home about. But I was intrigued when I learned about the concept. You buy the base ampoule, and then you buy tubes of “effectors,” which are concentrated shots of ingredients targeted at one concern. You can then add the effectors into the base ampoule to create a custom ampoule for your skin concerns.

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I was tempted enough to buy it. It’s just such a cool idea, plus I’ve been curious to try more Innisfree products, despite their fondness for filling a product with more fragrance than substance. Well, this seems like a bit of an exception. While the base ampoule itself is relatively simple (solvents, humectants, penetration-enhancers, etc.), the effectors had some interesting ingredients (although full ingredients lists don’t seem to be available). I went with the Wrinkle effector, which boasts a blend of peptides and adenosine, as well as the Pore effector, whose star ingredient is catechin, one of the antioxidants in tea. Seems like a fated match, right? I ordered the product from the company Jolse, where the ampoule and two effectors cost about $25 when various, publicly-available discounts are taken into account. It got to me in just under three weeks. I started testing it on April 8th and have been using it for about a month now to gauge results.

The first thing I noticed upon opening it was that there is absolutely no scent at all. For those who are familiar with Innisfree products, this is kind of a big deal. Innisfree has released some new products recently with a focus on less fragrance and sensitive skin types, so perhaps this is going to become a new direction for the company. Neither the base ampoule nor either of the effectors had any detectable scent, and I really sniffed hard to try to find something.

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The base ampoule is 25 ml of product in a 40-ml bottle, to allow for the extra volume of the effectors (so don’t be surprised if your bottle only looks just over half full), and each effector is 7 ml, so two effectors is probably the most you should add, for space reasons. It’s likely that Innisfree designed the products to work well with the base ampoule and two effectors, so that’s what I did. The base ampoule is a clear liquid that’s a bit more viscous than water. The Wrinkle effector is a thin, creamy liquid, and the Pore effector is a clear gel. I did find that the effector formulas were thick enough to get stuck in the neck of the ampoule bottle when I tried to add them in, but I think I could avoid this next time by making sure to use the pointy end of the effector tube to poke down beyond the neck of the bottle. The ampoule bottle has a dropper top and a mechanism to wipe off drips from the dropper.

I used this product at least once a day, often twice a day, at a rate of 4-5 drops per application. At this rate, I have used just over half the bottle, so I think that with daily usage, you would likely get over two months out of a bottle, and with twice daily usage, just over a month. I found that for the first few days to a week, my skin really soaked up the serum and it was easiest to apply drops directly to my face and spread it with two fingers to minimize hand absorption. Later on, however, I felt like I could get even coverage by dispensing into the palm of my hand and pressing the serum into my face. This was the only serum I used during the testing period, other than my vitamin C in the mornings.

As far as effects go, I didn’t notice any miracles, but then I wasn’t expecting any. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the effects I did notice. The product is at least as effective at keeping my forehead line at bay as my Hylamide SubQ, for a significant financial savings. It also seemed like my clogged pores diminished, although not to the point where it showed up on camera. I did take before and after photos, but I noticed no difference between them, so the positive effects were subtle. I’m curious to see how my skin reacts to stopping using this, as that’s often the only test that will tell you what subtle results a product is having.

I would say that if you’re interested in this product and the price doesn’t seem dear to you, it’s a nice product for the cost. It won’t work anti-aging miracles, but it is a nice booster to a good anti-aging regime.

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have not received any incentive to review it. All thoughts are my own.

Pre-Wedding Beauty: How I Am Preparing for the Big Day

As readers of my blog probably know, I’m in the process of planning a wedding. It’s coming up, too! Of course, every bride I’ve ever seen has looked radiant and beautiful on her wedding day, but I definitely want to do everything I can to help the “wedding glow.” As an avid follower of skin care technologies, I’m constantly seeing people talk about pre-wedding beauty and ask what skin care products they should be using to get their skin ready for a wedding. So I thought I’d take a bit of time to talk a bit about my beauty treatments leading up to the wedding, and why I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen. Here are my top seven strategies for preparing for my wedding.

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1. I’m not using anything new less than one month before the wedding:

This is rule one, guys. Nothing new, less chance for an unexpected reaction that I’m frantically trying to deal with the week before the wedding. I have made minor exceptions for one-time-use products that I’ve checked ingredients very carefully, but I added my last long-term-use product one month before the big day.

2. I have a strong skin care foundation:

If you’re not like me and have over a year to prepare, start as soon as possible to get a good skin care foundation. I’ve written a bit about it here, but this post is also a great treatment of the hierarchy of what to worry about when you first start overhauling your skin care. Personally, I started my most recent skin care journey over a year ago, and one year is about when I started seeing a major difference in the resilience of my skin.

3. I focused on brightening and exfoliation:

While I’ve been using chemical exfoliants for a while, I had stopped using much in the way of physical exfoliation since I started down my science-based skin care road. But lately, I’ve found that my skin gets a little… off-feeling at times. So I started experimenting with physical exfoliation for times when I wanted my skin to be an extra-nice canvas for makeup. I also still use my azelaic acid three times a week. Plus, I’ve been loving Pixi Glow Tonic, a gentle glycolic acid toner that also has ginseng and horse chestnut extracts, which are both shown to improve skin brightness.

4. I kept up my healthy skin habits:

I drink lots of water and I use sunscreen every day, rain or shine. You know what’s a good way to avoid wonky tan lines? Sunscreen. A good way to avoid dehydrating your skin and looking dull on your wedding day? Sunscreen. Sunscreen is the best aging preventative and the best skin damage preventative, so, yeah, I use sunscreen every day. Plus, I’m using exfoliants, so it’s extra-necessary. And drinking plenty of water and trying to keep up a healthy lifestyle helps keep stress in check, which in turn comes full circle to prevent stress-induced breakouts.

5. I’m thinking outside the face box:

By this, I mean, remember that your body and your smile need love, too. I realized that my love of tea has left me with a decidedly British tooth shade, so I bought a tube of whitening, strengthening toothpaste to try to remove some of the stains. For my body, since my dress has a low back, I’m making sure to use moisturizing and exfoliating lotions there, too (as well as regular sunscreen!). I’ve also started working on taking better care of my nails, keeping them trimmed and filed, moisturizing them, and using a strengthening treatment to seal in moisture and prevent splitting.

6. I practiced my hair and makeup a couple months ahead of time:

I am doing my own hair and makeup because I’m having a low-key wedding, but even if you’re not, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you know what your face looks like with slightly heavier makeup. It’s good to go into an event knowing what you like yourself to look like. I’m actually doing a slightly heavier version of my head shot makeup look for the wedding, since I know what it looks like on me and I’ll still feel like myself. I also practiced my hair so I would know what to tell the woman making my custom birdcage veil.

7. I consulted a professional to guide my efforts:

Right after I got engaged, I realized I was still struggling with breakouts more than I wished I was, so I joined Curology. There, I learned about my personal skin care game-changers and had the benefit of some professional advice. While I haven’t felt it useful to continue my subscription, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

So there you have it, my seven strategies for preparing for a day when I will be gawked at and photographed more than probably any other day in my life (and certainly from closer up than when I’m on stage!). I hope some of my efforts will help inspire you to make your own plan of attack for big-day beauty.