We all have those Instagram accounts we check daily and refer to in conversation as if they’re our actual friends. If you’ve ever scrolled onto one of these photos and wondered, How does she do it? you’re in luck. Welcome to our series Insta Stalking, in which we talk to the women behind the accounts we’re obsessing over about their beauty secrets. Below, seven women with great skin share their clean skin-care routines.
Thanks in part to the internet, we now have more information than ever about what we are actually putting on (and into) our bodies. As women gain awareness and interest in what’s in their products, the clean-beauty movement has rapidly grown. While there’s nothing wrong with pushing for products that are better for us and the planet, there are so many buzzwords—clean, green, natural, organic—floating around that it’s hard to sort through the noise. Add to the fact that every retailer and brand has their own definition of the word clean, and things can get a little murky.
Generally speaking, “clean beauty” refers to products free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and artificial fragrance (again, this varies depending on whom you ask) but has grown to include products with all-natural or organic ingredients. Some also take sustainability into account. There’s also a lot of misinformed stereotypes associated with clean beauty—that it’s crunchy (think more Whole Foods than Sephora), ineffective, or expensive—which can make going green intimidating. To make it easier, we asked seven women who are passionate about clean beauty to define what it means to them, and to share their clean skin-care routines. Read on for the products they can’t live without.
Vic Styles, 35, content creator in Brooklyn
Our skin is the largest organ in our body. What we put on it not only affects the appearance of it but can impact our overall well-being. I think healthy skin starts within. A good skin-care routine ends with what you actually put on your face and begins with what you put into your body. It’s hard to separate the two, since many skin "issues" are just our body’s way of letting us know that something isn’t balanced on the inside.
When it comes to my skin, my major concerns are antiaging and hyperpigmentation. In the morning I keep it simple, since I do so much at night. I start with Burt’s Bees Micellar Cleansing Water on a reusable cotton round. It’s like a quick and easy pick-me-up for my skin. I use the Activist Manuka Honey as a mask for 15 minutes every day—it's my go-to product. It helps reduce inflammation and acne, and adds moisture into my skin. After I rinse the honey off, I swipe on Purpl & Prosper Crystal Healing Toner, which doesn't strip my skin at all, and then I use Farmacy Very Cherry Bright 15% Clean Vitamin C Serum. This serum has been a saving grace for my hyperpigmentation, and I love how lightweight it is. I add the Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum, which instantly makes my face brighter, and the Farmacy Daily Greens Gel Moisturizer, which feels like I'm adding a layer of water to my skin. For even more glow, I add Plant People Revive Serum, and finish with SuperGoop! Unseen Sunscreen. SPF is a must, and I love how sheer this one is. Plus, it doubles as a makeup primer.
At night, I start by precleansing with Ayond Metamorph Cleansing Balm, which just melts off makeup and dirt. Then I cleanse with the Moon Juice Milk Cleanse. I love cleansing milks since they don't leave my skin feeling stripped or dry, and I exfoliate with Krave Beauty Kale-Lalu-yAHA. I use my same Purpl & Prosper toner from the morning, and then I rub a piece of fresh aloe on my skin. It's full of antioxidants. Then I layer two serums, the Caudalie Skin Perfecting Serum from the morning, and the brand's Vinoperfect Anti Dark Spot Serum, which is extra hydrating and smells amazing. I've been using the REN Clean Beauty Overnight Glow Dark Spot Sleeping Cream for about a month now, and I've noticed my dark spots fading significantly. I lock everything in with Trilogy's Rosehip Oil, and then spot-treat any acne with 100% tea tree oil. I've been doing this for years, and my pimples are gone in about 48 hours. I finish everything off with a Gua Sha massage.
Gabby Azorsky, 25, Reiki practitioner in Los Angeles
The beauty industry is fairly unregulated, so it’s important to me to use products with ingredients and from companies that I trust (as a guideline, I follow the standards set by the E.U., which has stricter policies than the U.S.). Sometimes I’ll use a product that isn't "clean" for special occasions or a fun makeup look, but for daily wear, keeping it clean makes me feel like myself.
I have pretty dry skin, with some hormonal acne on my chin. My skin concerns are staying plump and hydrated, as well as managing breakouts that pop up. I stopped taking birth control about a year ago and am experiencing hormonal acne for the first time since middle school. It’s a bit annoying, but I’m rolling with it!
In the morning I start by misting with Avène Thermal Water so my skin is moist before the rest of my routine. If I feel gross when I wake up, I’ll follow that with a little bit of toner. My favorites are the Balancing Toner by Grown Alchemist and the Balancing HypoTonic by Marie Veronique + Kristina Holey. The Grown Alchemist was one of the first skin-care products I used in high school that has actually made me notice an improvement in my skin. Next, I use the Lesse Ritual Serum, which I’m currently obsessed with. I love the texture and scent, and it leaves my skin super balanced. If I’m extra dry, I’ll wait for that to sink in and add another oil on top. I’m currently rotating between Living Libations Best Skin Ever, Peet Rivko Balancing Facial Oil, and Lauren’s All Purpose Serum. Then I finish with a Gua Sha face massage. I love how it feels in the morning and do notice that it depuffs my face.
In the evening I cleanse with the De Mamiel Cleansing Balm, which feels so luxurious. It’s pretty expensive, but I’ve had it for 11 months and still have plenty in the jar. In the summer or post-exercise, I like the Peet Rivko Cleanser by itself, or I mix it with the Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser. Next I’ll use the Marie Veronqiue Toner and Lesse Serum again, then I’ll apply the Marie Veronique Barrier Lipid Complex, which is like an extra bedtime layer of plump hydration for your skin. I finish off my routine with Lauren’s All Purpose Salve on my lips and hands once I get into bed. It smells so good, and it’s super tender and healing.
$45.00, Marie Veronique
Noor Elkhaldi, 32, podcast host in Orlando
I try to be conscious of what I'm putting in my body, so it only makes sense to be aware of what I'm putting on my skin as well. Sustainability is also really important to me, so I try to look for clean products with ingredients that are ethically sourced.
I've never struggled with acne, but within the last few years I've been dealing with biannual cystic acne. It'll be only one spot (usually on my chin) twice a year, but anyone who's had cystic acne knows that they're unlike normal pimples. Once it heals, I'm always left with a dark spot, and it usually takes months to go away. Ultimately, my main skin-care focus is having a healthy skin barrier as well as getting rid of hyperpigmentation.
My morning routine is fairly basic. I rarely use a cleanser, just some cold water to quickly wake my skin up. My first step is two or three pumps of Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Essence. It's truly one of the most effective skin-care products I've ever tried. While my skin is still a bit damp from the essence, I'll apply a serum. I like to rotate my serum based on the season or how my skin is feeling, but lately I've been using the Rejuvenating Anti-Aging Serum by Tata Harper almost daily. Then I go straight into eye products after my serum, so I'll apply Tata Harper Boosted Contouring Retinol Eye Balm all around my orbital bone, and whatever is left on my fingers I dab around the sides of my mouth. I like to mist my face before applying moisturizer. I really love the Tower 28 Beauty SOS Rescue Facial Spray. It contains hypochlorous acid, which is naturally produced by your body to protect it from bad bacteria. I recently started trying out the new Acid Mantle Repair moisturizer by Lord Jones. It's been only about two weeks, but so far my skin seems to enjoy it. My last step is always a generous amount of Supergoop! Zincscreen all over my face (eyelids included) and neck.
In the evening, if I'm wearing makeup, I'll start off with a few pumps of the Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser on dry skin, then rinse it off with a water-based cleanser like the Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser. If I have no makeup on, I'll go straight in with my water-based cleanser. I use a face mask almost every night after cleansing my skin. One of my go-to masks is the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask, but I also really enjoy Indie Lee's Clearing Mask and the Summer Fridays R+R Mask. Once I'm done masking, I pat in the Tata Harper essence, followed by a serum or a treatment, which changes depending on what my skin needs. One of my favorites is Saint Jane Beauty's Luxury CBD Beauty Serum. Then I apply the Tata Harper eye balm, and give my skin a mist with either the Tower 28 Beauty facial spray or the Hydrating Floral Essence by Tata Harper, and immediately apply Tata Harper's Crème Riche Peptide Night Cream while my skin is still damp. The final step in my evening routine is always an oil to seal everything in. Right now I'm using the Beautybio Radiance Brightening Vitamin E + Rosehip Seed Facial Oil and I really love it.
$215.00, Tata Harper
$28.00, Tower 28
$52.00, Indie Lee
Jenny Welbourn, 25, content creator in New York City
My biggest requirement is for my products to be cruelty-free—that feels "cleanest" to me. I used to use a bunch of cheaper products that never worked and I probably spent similar amounts of money to what I do now in the grand scheme of things. After the chance to speak to skin specialists, I’ve come to believe it’s important to understand what your own skin needs to find the right products to make sure what you’re using will actually work for you. One person’s holy grail might not work for you!
For my morning routine, I love the Fantastic Face Wash from Ursa Major. It has AHAs and BHAs and is gentle while also keeping my acne at bay, which is my biggest concern. It also has lasted me forever, so I think it’s a good price for how much product you get, and the brand has a lovely emphasis on using organic and plant-based ingredients. I also use its vitamin C serum, which I love and really brightens up my complexion. My moisturizer rotates between a few, but right now I love the Indie Lee Active Oil Free Moisturizer, and for sunscreen I’ve been trying out Everyday, which has been great so far.
At night I start with the same cleanser. My nighttime holy grail products are from True Botanicals. Its Clear line is great for acne; the ingredients are certified nontoxic and work better than anything else I’ve tried. I use the Clear Repair Serum and Pure Radiance Oil at night, and if I have any breakouts, I’ll spot-treat with Indie Lee’s Blemish Lotion. As an alternative serum, I have been loving Plant People’s new skin-care line; its Revive Botanical Serum is amazing and makes my skin so smooth.
$30.00, Ursa Major
$24.00, Everyday Humans
Karim Orange, 51, clean-makeup artist and product consultant in New York City
I have a very holistic approach to skin care and implement a few things that aren't traditional products but work wonders on my skin. The first thing I do is a 10-minute face massage. I also like the Selfkaire tool when I’m pressed for time. This device helps to sculpt and tone your skin and is great for lymphatic drainage. I use a neti pot, which clears sinuses and puffiness under my eyes, and I follow this with oil pulling.
Next, it’s time to tone. My choice depends on the season, my mood, and the mood of my skin. Some of my favorites are the Orange Blossom Hydrosol by Kenza International, Pure Lavender Toner by Kimberly Sayer, or the Hydrating Nutrient Mist from Mad Hippie, which I use when my skin is really dry. Next, I like to moisturize, which I keep very simple. If my skin feels hydrated, I use Kimberly Sayer's Ultra Light Moisturizer SPF 30. If I need a bit more moisture, I use the Kenza International Argan Oil Energy, which brightens my skin and gives it a beautiful glow, or Nyakio Manketti & Mafura Anti-Aging Oil.
At night, I focus on cleansing. I usually start with Nyakio Sweet Almond Cleansing Oil Balm to remove all makeup. If I’m not wearing any makeup that day, I use the Cream Cleanser by Mad Hippie. I’m also obsessed with beauty gadgets and technology. I particularly love the Foreo Luna 3 Mini. I use it with all of my cleansers. If I feel I need exfoliation, I use a bit of Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay mixed with some water. I don’t like traditional scratchy exfoliators because my skin is sensitive. Then I tone with something simple, like Thayers Cucumber Toner, since I love to let my skin to breathe at night. As far as nighttime moisturizers and serums, I stay away. I follow Dr. Hauschka's philosophy of letting your skin breathe at night. It has its own balancing system. Once I tried it, my skin and I were hooked.
Tiffany Chao, 24, content creator in San Francisco
In the process of battling acne, I’ve had to go through a lot of trial and error to find what works best for my combination, acne-prone skin. I found that using products that are clean from skin-irritating ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate worked best for me. As far as skin-care concerns go, I'm mostly focused on keeping small breakouts at bay and improving dullness and plumpness.
My morning routine typically consists of a micellar water cleanse followed by a vitamin C serum. I’m currently using the Farmacy Very Cherry Bright. I’ve been diligent about using a vitamin C serum every morning because it’s a powerful antioxidant, which, when combined with sunscreen, is more effective at neutralizing free-radical damage than sunscreen alone. It’s the ultimate sun protection duo. After waiting between 5 and 15 minutes for the serum to absorb, I apply moisturizer. Tatcha The Water Cream is a lightweight moisturizer that I found works great in the warmer months. This is always followed up with an SPF, even if I’m indoors. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen is my current SPF on rotation.
In the evening I start with a double cleanse, which consists of an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser. I love Farmacy Green Clean because it removes makeup and sunscreen without any tugging or pulling; it’s a luxurious experience for sure. After oil cleansing, I use a water-based cleanser to remove water-based debris like dirt and sweat. I’m currently testing out the REN Gentle Cleansing Milk; it's a soothing, low-pH cleanser. I find that low-pH cleansers are best for my acne-prone skin, because high-pH cleansers can actually promote bacteria that make acne worse. I actually found that using high-pH cleansers break me out, so I try sticking to cleansers with a pH below 6. After double cleansing, I hydrate with a moisturizer. I’m currently using the Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream, which helps to plump and brighten the skin. Overall, I don’t think it’s necessary to have a 10-step routine. Using products that will allow you to be consistent is most important.
$48.00, Youth to the People
Lauren Singer, 29, founder and CEO of Package Free in New York City
When I started living a zero-waste lifestyle, I thought I needed a bunch of products to look and feel my best, but I’ve found that what is most radiating is how I feel—not how many products I have used. Through simplifying my skin-care routine to organic, vegan, and refillable products, my skin and hair are better than ever. This doesn’t mean sacrificing anything; it's just about making different choices about what and how much of each product I'm using.
I'm very lucky to have healthy, clear skin, which I believe comes from over 20 years of prioritizing my skin-care routine. I use my skin as insight into how the rest of my body is doing. If I have a breakout, it’s my body’s way of telling me, "Get more sleep, eat better, drink less!" My zero-waste beauty routine requires only five items, all of which I either make or source from my favorite makers at Package Free. I brush my teeth with a bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste, wash with a facial bar, moisturize with my face oil blend and body lotion, and then use my homemade deodorant or baking soda to keep me smelling fresh. I then repeat this routine at night. Through each of these products, I am able to support brands and practices that are super sustainable as well as control what goes in and on my body.
$12.00, Package Free
$25.00, Package Free
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.
Originally Appeared on Glamour