Sephora Shopping Guide: Skincare

The Sephora Sale is upon us. Let's get into the best of skincare!


If you're curious to hear me chat about these products in more detail, I've shared a Sephora Skincare Guide on YouTube! I demo many of the products mentioned. While you're there, I'd love for you to subscribe!


Lastly, I just want to remind you that while there is a lot of hype around the Sephora sale, sales will be ongoing throughout the holiday season and beyond. Beauty products are never worth going into debt. I hope I can help guide thoughtful and worthwhile purchases.

 

Sephora Sale Info


Rouge 20% off, Nov. 5-15

VIB 15% off, Nov. 9-15

Insider 10% off, Nov. 11-15


code YAYHOLIDAY

 

Table of Contents


First Cleanse

Second Cleanse

Hydrating Toners, Essences, and Serums

Treatments and Actives

Eye Creams

Moisturizers

Masks

SPF

Lip Treatments

Self-Tanners

Tools & Devices

Masks

 

First Cleanse


Youth to the People Superberry Dream Cleansing Balm — The latest release from YTTP, this is a cleansing balm of a slightly stiffer consistency in the jar that melts beautifully into a rich butter texture on contact with the skin. Emulsifies beautifully and breaks down even waterproof makeup, rinses clean and leaves skin hydrated. Has a slight YTTP Dream smell (like 10% of the scent of the Dream Night Mask) which comes from natural ingredients, no added synthetic fragrance.

Belif Aqua Bomb Cleansing Balm — This is a lighter, softer cleansing balm in texture than the YTTP balm. A slightly sorbet texture as a solid that melts into a more slippery oil-like texture. Also breaks down waterproof makeup and emulsifies beautifully, rinses clean and leaves the skin hydrated (a baseline for any good cleansing balm!). If you like a softer, more slippery cleansing balm, this is the one for you.

Paula’s Choice Omega Complex Cleansing Balm — A cleansing balm in a tube! It doesn’t get much more convenient. The arrival of PC at Sephora in the last year has been major. This is a very straightforward cleansing balm in that it’s soft and malleable straight out of the tube, with no added fragrance. It’s efficacious and doesn’t mess around, as you’d expect from Paula’s Choice. Did I mention it comes in a tube? No messing around with spatulas and scooping things out of jars. The lazy person’s cleansing balm.

Second Cleanse



Fresh Soy Face Cleanser — A gel cleanser that I’ve used for 12, 13 years? A very long time. It’s gentle, lightweight, and smells lightly of cucumbers. Refreshing without stripping the skin. I’ve gotten many friends hooked on this. I like to pick this up in the jumbo or value size because the cost per ounce is so much better than the standard size.


Youth to the People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser — Also a gel cleanser that’s a bit more foaming than the Fresh Soy Cleanser, which doesn’t really foam much. This is pH balanced, but it does give me a slightly more thorough cleanse. I especially enjoyed this in the summer when I was very oily. I think it would be best enjoyed by normal to oily skin types. Comes with a jumbo refill with an excellent value and always comes in a glass jar.


Korres Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser — Despite being called a foaming cleanser, this is more of a cream cleanser. It’s a lightweight cream texture that feels comforting and soothing on the skin. Sometimes you need something a bit richer: when your skin barrier is compromised, in cooler weather, if you have dry skin. That’s when I turn to the Korres cleanser.



Mists



Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Calming Mist — Part of the Cicapair line that is meant to soothe inflammation and calm the skin, this is a very lightweight hydrating mist. My favorite thing about this mist is the component: it creates the most fine mist of any mister component I’ve tried, maybe ever. No large water droplets on the face, just a super fine, even mist.

Laneige Cream Skin Mist — If you’ve ever used the Laneige Cream Skin toner, this is the same formula in a mist component. A milky, hydrating, delicious mist that is uber hydrating and slightly richer than a watery mist. No added fragrance. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you’ll love this.

Toners, Essence, and Serums


Laneige Cream Skin — This purports to contain the equivalent of a jar of cream in liquid form. It’s uber hydrating, soothing, and comforting, with no added fragrance. A beautiful hydrating option for all, but will be especially appreciated by dry and sensitive skins.

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum — Sulwhasoo is a luxury Korean skincare brand that centers hanbang, or traditional Korean herbs and herbal practices, in their formulations. Meant to be used as the first step after cleansing to prep the skin for other products to come, the FCTA is a hydrating gel-like serum that contains the iconic hanbang fragrance. When it’s in my routine, my skin is more radiant, plump, and glowy.


Amorepacific Vintage Single Extract Essence — A very watery essence that is made with green tea harvested from Amorepacific’s own tea fields in Korea. This is a lightweight hydrating formula that my skin just drinks up. It helps sooth, calm, and hydrate the skin, and the green tea also provides antioxidant protection.

Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid — This is a very basic, straightforward hyaluronic acid. A lightweight gel texture that can be added into any skincare routine when you need more hydration and juiciness. No added fragrance, no added fluff. Do note that the Inkey List is on the low end of the price point but their bottles tend to be smaller, so double check the price per oz. if you’re looking at the best value for your money.


Eadem Milk Marvel — A milky, hydrating serum with niacinamide and encapsulated vitamin C. Eadem is an interesting brand on the market: formulated by people of color for people of color. I can’t speak to the claims around the skin needs of people of color, but I do think they’re making an interesting intervention in skincare. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a hydrating, brightening, milky serum.

Acids and Treatments



Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster — A 15% l-ascorbic acid vitamin c serum with vitamin E and ferulic acid. For me, this helps brighten pigmentation and lighten post-acne marks, provides antioxidant protection, and brightens my skin overall. It’s a watery texture that sinks in quickly and plays well with other skincare. I’ve gone through a dozen bottles of this at least!


Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant — A must-have for my combo/oily skin to keep congested pores, excessive oils, and breakouts at bay. Unlike other SA treatments, I find this one to be surprisingly hydrating. I swipe this over my cheeks and focus on my t-zone 1-2 times a week to help control congestion, oiliness, and skin texture overall.


Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment — A lotion texture that’s a great one and done step for an evening routine. With 1% retinol, peptides, and vitamin C, this is a powerhouse treatment for anti-aging. While it’s on the stronger side of retinol, I find this to be balanced by moisturizing and emollient products that help buffer its effects. Paula’s Choice do retinoids so well.

Youth to the People Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant — A blend of BHA, mandelic acid, and a tough of glycolic acid, this liquid leave-on exfoliant is surprisingly gentle considering the number of acids in here. It’s newer to my rotation, but so far I’ve found it to be quite gentle and well-balanced. This would be a nice one-and-done liquid exfoliant for someone who wants just one active product in their routine to use a few times a week as needed.


Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel — This is a two-step pre-soaked, pre-packaged peel pads. The first step includes a blend of acids to exfoliate, and the second step is a formula to neutralize the actives. A cocktail of glycolic and salicylic, this is on the slightly stronger end of exfoliants for me, but it really delivers results. I always wake up with glowier, more even skin. That said, it is potent, so I wouldn’t use it more than once a week. It’s great to travel with because it is pre-packaged. Also comes in gentle and extra-strength formulas, as well as value sets!

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Gel — Recommended to me by Vanessa @goalstogetglowing, this is a potent spot treatment that is a blend of 10% glycolic and 2% salicylic acid. It’s the best spot treatment I’ve ever tried for both active breakouts and also those stubborn under-the-skin cystic spots.

Eye Products


Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum — A lightweight eye serum that contains retinol that is formulated specifically for the gentle eye area, where the skin is thinner. You could use this on its own, or top it with a richer eye cream for an extra moisturizing eye cream sandwich.


Kate Somerville Kateceuticals Lifting Eye Cream — I’m so mad that I love this. It’s a luxury price point, but I’m hooked on it. It contains vitamin C and peptides, and I don’t know what it is that does the “lifting” in this, but I do find that it helps depuff, smooth, and lightly lift the eye. It comes in a pump with an elegant formula that is super creamy yet wears beautifully under makeup.


Dr. Jart Ceramidin Eye Cream — I was so happy to see this release in the Ceramidin line, which focuses on ceramides (essentially the building blocks of skin). This is a lightweight lotion that hydrates around the eye area and wears beautifully under makeup. I also love that it comes in a slim tube with a pump.

Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb — This is the lightest texture of all of the eye creams here. This is almost like the gel cream of eye creams, a more wet-feeling hydrating cream that sinks in very quickly and therefore seems to plump up the eye area. Even though it’s a thin texture, it’s no less hydrating than the richer textures.


Youth to the People Dream Eye Cream — This is the night mask of eye creams. It’s very rich, luscious, thick, and emollient. Something I love for evenings, especially when paired with the DDG Retinol Eye Serum. I always wake up with smooth, supple under eyes when I use this.

Moisturizers


Farmacy Honey Halo — I can’t wait to open another jar of this. This is a rich cream that is full of ceramides, which are so necessary to maintain a healthy skin barrier. I turn to this for straight up rich moisture to cocoon the skin. It’s the texture of butter with the slight scent of honey. Even though it is emollient, it’s not too heavy for my skin type. Also, the cap of the jar is magnetic, so the metal spatula sticks to the jar. Brilliant.


Belif Moisturizing Bomb — While I love their classic Aqua Bomb, the gel cream, I’ve really come to appreciate the Moisturizing Bomb, which is more of a traditional cream. It’s on the lightweight side of lotion textures, but it maintains the sort of water-burst feel of their Aqua Bomb while offering more emollience and richer hydration. Belif does some of the best holiday sets.

Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Moisture Cream — The gel cream of choice for me this year, this is an excellent lightweight-yet-hydrating moisturizer for combo to oily skins, especially. It was an essential for me this summer. Excellent for sensitive skins because it’s fragrance-free.


Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream — The traditional cream moisturizer of the YTTP lineup for dry to normal/combo skins. This is a beige-colored cream that is rich but not too heavy for daytime use. The texture is a delight: creamy but easily spreadable, sinks in quickly but provides long-term moisture. Also excellent for sensitive skins because it’s fragrance-free.

Masks


Youth to the People Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask — I don’t really love clay masks, but I find this one to be very useful because of the combination of clay and BHA. I would recommend this for normal to oily skin types who want to mask the t-zone, or even to spot treat. It’s also nice to have a wash-off version of masks with acids to have short contact therapy with the active ingredients without committing to a full leave-on.


Laneige Cica Mask — A cocooning, calming, soothing, moisturizing night mask that is fragrance-free and thus an excellent option for all skin types. The kind of thing you want in your arsenal for soothing the skin after over-exfoliating or irritation. It’s rich but not too heavy, the kind of thing that guarantees softer, soothed skin overnight.

Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask — An overnight that comes in a tube, this is the best entry point into the Sulwhasoo brand. While it’s still a high-end product, this $54 product is one of the more approachable ways to try Sulwhasoo, which easily goes into the $100-200+ price point. It’s a rich mask that contains the signature herbal ingredients and hanbang scent. An experience for the senses!

SPF


Dr. Jart Every Day Sun Fluid SPF 50 — One of my favorite SPFs that Sephora carries, this is a chemical SPF that is fluid and liquid. It sinks in quickly, hydrates the skin over time, but maintains a natural finish. Also a great value; you get a lot of product in this bottle. This SPF sold out really quickly last year, so if you want it, I’d act quickly. Also comes in a mineral version, if physical filters are more your thing.


Paula’s Choice Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 — My other favorite SPF at Sephora, this is also a fluid, milky texture that sinks in quickly and contains all chemical filters. This one also sells out very quickly during the Sephora sale. It’s a touch more hydrating than the Dr. Jart and leaves a slightly luminous finish, but wears beautifully under makeup without getting greasy.


Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 36 — Also all-chemical, this is a slightly thicker lotion consistency than the Dr. Jart. This is a more classic lotion texture that sinks in quickly as well and hydrates the skin without being greasy.


Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor SPF 30 — My favorite face skincare from Fenty Skin, I love the refillable packaging of this SPF. It comes with a lavender plastic case with a pump, and the SPF tube is refillable. It is an all-chemical SPF, so no white cast. Do be aware that this is a very dewy SPF. Truly dewy, doesn’t really set down. I skip moisturizer with this SPF. It’s also very fragranced and sweet, candy-like even.


Dr. Dennis Gross All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 — Shockingly, this is a mineral SPF I really enjoy. Which never happens. It’s a very elegant formula that I really couldn’t believe was a mineral SPF because it had none of the chalkiness or grittiness. I especially like this on my décolletage where my skin is most sensitive. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it doesn’t have a white cast (all mineral SPFs do, honestly), but it’s among the more sheer, most elegant formulas among mineral SPFs that I’ve tried. Also fragrance-free. Great for sensitive skins.

Lip Treatments



Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask — I have used this lip sleeping mask every night for 5+ years. It just does everything I need. It’s a thick balm in a pot that contains .7 oz of product, meaning it will last forever. You only need a small amount. It coats the lips and feels super cushiony. I wake up every morning with smooth, hydrated lips. It comes with a cute little spatula for hygienic application, which I appreciate but always lose. My favorite flavors are Vanilla and Original - Berry. There are also a few limited edition scents: Peppermint, Gingersnap, and Peach Iced Tea from summer.


Belif Aqua Bomb Overnight Lip Mask — Similar in texture to the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, this lip mask has a fresh, ever so slightly citrusy scent. It melts onto the lips and coats them overnight, but works beautifully during the day too.

Fresh Sugar Recovery Lip Mask Advanced Therapy Lip Mask — To my delight, Fresh came out with a lip mask version of their iconic Sugar Advanced Therapy Lip Balm (another favorite). This is a thick, uber balmy, rich lip mask with their iconic lemony-sugar fragrance. It’s a stiffer formula in the tub than, say, the but it melts with the heat of your lips and really coats and moisturizes the lips.

Fresh Sugar Hydrating Lip Balms (in Mango, Peach) — This is a potted lip balm that is just so satisfying and pleasant to use. It’s thinner than, say, the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, but it’s still comforting and moisturizing on the lips. This doesn’t provide me long-lasting hydration, but I love the feeling of it on the lips so much that I find myself applying and reapplying all the time. These are just delicious.



Self-Tanner


Tan Luxe Super Glow Self-Tan Serum — The easiest self-tanner for the face. It’s a clear serum with a hyaluronic acid base. You can take 2-12 drops into your palm and apply them to the face and neck in circular motions. They somehow apply very evenly and create a natural glow. The tan is a nice golden shade and works perfectly with my undertones, no orange tones or artificial warmth. I use these after all of my other hydrating products or serums, before or mixed into moisturizer. Very minimal smell.

St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist — A face tanner in mist form! Anew addition to my lineup, this is another mistake-proof face self-tanner. It comes in a very fine mister that gives you an even application over the skin. I was skeptical that this would apply unevenly, but because it’s a rather subtle tan, you never get streaks or dots.

Devices

I’m going to preface this section by saying that skincare devices are expensive and only worth the investment if you use them consistently. I encourage you to be very honest with yourself about whether you will use them seriously before taking the plunge. That said, the two devices below are both excellent and give noticeable results.

Dr. Dennis Gross SpectraLite FaceWare Pro (linking the gift set, which includes full-size products for the same price as the mask alone!) — This is a hard shell LED mask that provides both red and blue light therapy in 3-minute cycles. I have used this mask for about 2-3 years, so I think I can speak to its results. Overall, my skin health is more consistent and predictable. It calms redness or sensitivity in the skin, and it has reduced the frequency of cystic acne. I only get cystic spots a couple of times a year now, and they are always hormonal.


The science for LED therapy is there. Red light helps to boost skin healing and collagen, diminish wrinkles, and address inflammation. Blue light helps to kill bacteria that causes acne. The Spectralite mask utilizes both; you can use red and blue light separately or together. It is a pricey investment, but it's a way to get low-level LED treatments at home if you can't make it to a derm or esthetician office.


The one caveat to this is that the hard shell mask may not fit everyone’s face. My cheekbones are a little tight in the mask (I have high cheekbones). If you want a soft silicone mask, I also love the CurrentBody LED mask, but that one does not provide blue light. So if you want both red and blue light, go with this.

I’d go for this Spectralite set, which includes the mask and several full size products for the price of the mask alone. It always sells out, so check out early.


NuFace Trinity or Mini— The NuFace is new to me this year. It’s a micro-current device that helps tone the face, smooth out fine lines, and create an overall lift to the face.


I’m not as familiar with *how* micro-current works, but I can speak to its results. It does, indeed, tone and lift the face. I notice especially that it contours my cheekbones and jawlines. But it only works with consistent use; its results are not permanent.That said, it’s handy to have around before a big event.


I have the Trinity, which has removable attachments that you can swap out for, say, the Eye and Lip Enhancer Attachment. The Mini is a great place to start, and there’s also a NuBODY for body sculpting.

NuFACE also recently released new conductive primers in Hydrating and Silk, which contain skincare benefits. You do need a conductive gel to use this device.