As someone who has written about the beauty industry for years, I know there’s always something consumers are being told that they absolutely must do to look their best—whether it’s sleeping on a satin pillowcase or soaking fingernails in milk and gelatin to strengthen them. But though trends come and go, there are certain beauty truths that endure. For me, the biggest one is embracing a ritual.
I’ve had a nightly beauty ritual since I was a little girl. It came from watching my grandmother and aunt cheerfully splashing their faces with water every evening before bed, chatting away as they applied mysterious creams. One night, my aunt took my face in her hands as I was standing between them and put some Oil of Olay on my face. The soothing emollient felt magical. I was instantly hooked. I would stand on a step stool every night, splashing water on my face and using tiny pea-sized drops of moisturizer. As parts of my young life became unstable (my parent’s marriage fell apart, which meant I was shuffling back and forth between their houses), the tiny bottle of lotion and my nightly tradition became a constant.
As a teenager, I expanded my routine to include various astringents and masks of Noxzema, which then evolved into drugstore clay masks in college. Stressful academics, all-night parties, discovering the first stirrings of what love really means — all of them ended with an evening spent at the sink, gently cleansing and moisturizing my skin. (I added in eye cream after long hours of studying.)
So many of the biggest moments in my life have been reflected upon while administering those lovely lotions and potions. I was standing at that sink when the nagging feeling to end a relationship got so strong that I had to pick up the phone and do it right then and there. My hands were massaging the serum into my forehead when I decided to quit my corporate job and move to New York to become a writer. It’s as if the motion of my hands gently manipulating my skin calms my soul. Suddenly, the air is clearer. I can think. I can breathe.
Now that I’m older, I can see even more benefits of years of this nightly ritual. Life is life; there will always be stress, conflict, joy, and pain. But the smoothness of my cheeks and the resilience of my skin reflects an inner strength that shines through every pore. Because no matter what happened in life, I always did what I could to care for myself, even in that small way.
The products that comprise my regimen now are a mixture of old favorites and tiny luxuries. Every night, I soap up the Erno Laszlo Phelityl Cleansing Bar and reflect on my day while the television chatters away in the background. I apply SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic on damp skin and let it dry while something will inevitably catch my eye in the bathroom (I just moved, so there’s always some box to be unpacked.) I’ve been using Kiehl’s Since 1851 Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution for years to help even some dark spots (I may not have always been diligent about sunscreen), and I always layer some hydrating oil over it like Josie Maran 100 Percent Pure Argan Oil. I wait for a minute between layers, making a list of things I need to do in the morning, and then I add night cream. A good luxurious night cream is one of life’s unspoken joys. Please, please buy a good night cream. That layer of luxe goodness is the barrier between lost moisture when sleeping and, honestly, you’re worth that feeling of impeccable goodness. The Korres Wild Rose & Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial isn’t that expensive, and a little bit goes a long way toward a better morning. I add a little eye cream (Lancome Genefique Eye Youth Activating Concentrate is a good one,) and it’s off to bed. I’m calmer. The day is officially at a close. No more email, no more television. Lights out.
Life will always have its stressors and conflicts, but a daily ritual of taking care of myself has always helped me weather its more intense moments. No matter what comes my way, my day will close the same way. There’s something deeply soothing about that.