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As with many topics in the wellness space, skincare advice is plentiful — and often conflicting. To cut through the static, we enlisted the advice of Nashville makeup artist Leslie Moore of The Cosmetic Market and Mary Kathryn Yeiser Hudson, Regional Sales Director for Therapy Systems, to get the scoop. Here, we’re sharing an essential five-step morning skincare routine to prime your skin for flawless makeup application — plus the most common skincare mistakes many of us are still making.


Step #1: It all starts with clean skin! For morning prep, oily skin types benefit from a gentle cleanse. If your skin is on the dryer side and you cleanse well before bed, you can skip the morning cleanse in favor of a quick rinse, to help retain some of the skin’s natural oils.

Step #2: An antioxidant serum will instantly brighten and help protect skin from damage caused by outside aggressors, like UV rays. Though there are a wide variety of high-quality antioxidant serums available on the market, one very popular option is Vitamin C serum, recommended by both Leslie and Mary Kathryn.

Two vitamin C serums

Touted by both Mary Kathryn and Leslie as the “gold standard” for Vitamin C serums, SkinCeuticals offers a variety of Vitamin C serums. Pictured here is their popular C E FERULIC® WITH 15% L-ASCORBIC ACID formula, $169, friendly for most skin types. Another fan favorite is Omorovicza Daily Vitamin C, $155. Images: SkinStore, The Cosmetic Market

Dr. Dennis Gross and Mario Badescu vitamin C serums

Two more Vitamin C serums well-loved by Leslie and Mary Kathryn: Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen, $78, and Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum, $45 | Images: The Cosmetic Market, Ulta

Step #3: Layer on a light moisturizer. Moisturizer is key in achieving plump, hydrated skin, making for a smooth makeup application. Most folks can get away with a lighter moisturizer during the spring and summer months, while the colder, dryer months of fall and winter tend to dry our skin, calling for a heavier hand where moisturizer is concerned.

BONUS STEP: Facial massage techniques are wildly popular these days, and for a good reason. Leslie uses facial massage on clients to wake up their skin and provide a bit of lift as she preps them for makeup application. This improves circulation and helps the product penetrate the skin (not to mention, it feels great). “There’s really no wrong way to do it, except that you want to make sure you’re using an upward motion,” says Leslie. “We don’t want to train the muscles down.”

While gua sha tools are great for this, Leslie prefers to use her hands. Her only caution is that facial massage may create redness or irritation in sensitive skin types, so tread lightly if you struggle with sensitive skin.

Hands-on facial massage technique

Massaging your skincare products into the skin can improve circulation and provide a lifting, brightening effect. Just be sure to massage in upward motions — never downward. “We never want to train the muscles down,” says Leslie. Image: Leila Grossman

Step #4: A lightweight, hydration-rich eye cream will moisturize and de-puff the area while priming delicate under-eye skin for makeup application.

Step #5: Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Leslie and Mary Kathryn both assert that sunscreen is the most crucial step in a morning skincare routine. While other elements are important, sunscreen is the ultimate go-to for preventing the effects of aging.

Two Supergoop sunscreens

Supergoop! sunscreens come highly recommended. Pictured here are the PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50, $32, and the radiant Glowscreen SPF 40, $36. Images: The Cosmetic Market

This brings us to the NUMBER ONE skincare mistake many of us are making … 

We’ll say it louder for the folks in the back — sunscreen is an absolute MUST! While we all may concede that sunscreen is the most effective element of an anti-aging skincare routine, it might surprise you that even if you apply sunscreen daily, you could still be going about sun protection all wrong.

“The sun is the number one thing aging us, and something a lot of people aren’t doing on a regular basis is wearing a sunscreen under their makeup,” says Mary Kathryn. “Sunscreen in the makeup doesn’t count.” Ouch. Many of us think that if our foundations and powders contain SPF, we’re doing right by our skin — but that isn’t the case. While foundations, powders, and finishing sprays containing SPF are a fantastic extra layer of protection, they can’t do the work of a sunscreen.

Mary Kathryn explains that a full teaspoon of sunscreen is the ideal amount we should be applying daily, and we should be reapplying throughout the day. Physical blockers like mineral sunscreen powders or mists are fantastic for touch-ups, but we shouldn’t rely on those alone.

SPF setting spray and powder

The experts insist that sunscreen is a MUST for your morning makeup routine, as are touch-ups throughout the day. For an added layer of protection, Leslie and Mary Kathryn both love this Coola Makeup Setting Spray SPF 30, $36. Some of our SB team members are fans of Suntegrity Pressed Mineral Powder SPF 50, $48. (The mineral powder acts as a physical sunblock and a setting powder with a skin-flattering blurring effect.) Images: Sephora, Neiman Marcus

In their work, Mary Kathryn and Leslie meet women and men who are willing to invest in the highest-quality skincare and explore options like Botox, but they’re neglecting to use sunscreen daily. “That’s like spending $300 on your hair and using Pantene,” says Leslie. And while the pair agree that makeup is heaven-sent, the idea is to take great care of your skin so that, ultimately, you need to use less of it.

Other mistakes Leslie and Mary Kathryn notice in their work with clients and other experts in the field:

Neglecting to exfoliate can lead to the buildup of dead skin cells, making skin appear rough or dull. It can also contribute to clogged pores. Not only can regular exfoliation promote healthier skin, it can lead to smooth, radiant skin that is friendly for makeup application (but ultimately requires less!).

Exfoliation can be chemical (think glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid) or physical (think gentle scrubs or treatments like Dermaplaning). Consult with your dermatologist or other skincare professionals to determine which types of exfoliation are safest for you.

Choosing products that aren’t appropriate for your skin type can cause myriad issues, from irritation and redness to excess oil and beyond. Skincare professionals can assist in identifying your skin type and individual concerns so you can choose the appropriate products for your routine.

Cheers to a season of healthy, glowing skin!


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