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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Itwar

My Skincare Routine Right Now - An Update on What’s Making my Melanated Skin Glow

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

If you follow me on Instagram or TikTok, you may have noticed the majority of my story or reel content features me with a makeup-less face. Truthfully, I’ve long tried to be transparent that any good looks I may have can be mostly attributed to my skill and experience with makeup, so it’s not like makeup-free content of me is a new thing.

a cropped image of Melissa taking a selfie in the mirror. Her face is off to a slight left profile, side-parted hair is loose and tucked behind left ear. She is holding an iPhone 11 Pro in a baby pink case with William F. Whites International pop socket. You can partially see she is wearing an open black vest over a deep-neck red shirt.
Melissa, November 2022. Age 35

Over time, I did notice a growing satisfaction with how my skin looked though, especially with Facebook Memories showing me just how bad its condition was after leaving behind a life of abuse, just over 2 years ago. And then, I started getting lots of external validation in the form of story responses - first telling me how great I looked, and now, asking what I’ve been using.

So here they are: the products I will not live without, and especially recommend for common skin issues of dark-skinned beauties!

The Main Skincare Routine

My Cleanser:

Glam Glow SUPERCLEANSE Cream-to-Foam Cleanser

While you may be looking at spending roughly $50 on this cleanser, the full-sized product has lasted me well over a year and contains enough good stuff in it that I personally think it can’t not work. Choc-full of charcoal to sweep out pores, lactic acid to unglue dead skin, and glycolic acid to sweep it all away, all you need is a small amount that emulsifies into a refreshing foam that leaves behind a tingly, yet comfortable clean. You can find the half-size of Glam Glow SUPERCLEANSE at some retailers - in Canada, you can check

Disclaimer: I typically don’t find it necessary, or even recommend, spending this much on a cleanser since I personally am not sure it really spends enough time on the face to actually be effective. This product was received through a subscription box, and since it is expensive, I made sure to actually massage it into the skin for longer than I might have with another cleanser. Take advantage of what you didn’t pay full price for, am I right?

My Toner

Sephora Collection Ultra Glow Toner with Vitamins C + E

Personally, I always prefer a gentle toner with a balancing effect vs one that focuses on controlling oils and mattifying. Since I know I will be using chemical exfoliants in later steps, I like to opt for a replenishing toner to act as a bit of a buffer. That said, the main function of a toner is to help re-tighten the pores you just dilated in order to clean them - lest dirt and oil find an easy passage right back in there. If you need to spend less money on a step to compensate for others, your toner is one of the items where a lower price point product will be more than sufficient.

My Treatment

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Acne-Solution

While I used to use Paula’s Choice Exfoliating Treatment because of its glowing reviews, seeing the $10+ price increase when I went to replenish it was a huge turnoff, even if it does work. That said, I’m a lot more well-versed in skincare than I was when I first purchased Paula’s Choice, and turns out The Ordinary Salicylic Acid solution has the same concentration as the former at less than a quarter of the price. I’m also pretty sure the difference in dispensing (The Ordinary’s eye dropper to fingers vs Paula’s squirt onto a pad) makes for much less product wastage.

It’s worth noting that the modern arsenal of salicylic acid formulations across brands, in general, are far superior to what was available to millennials during our teens. You’re hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t work as long as you look for a concentration of at least 2%, so this is another step in your skincare routine where you can go a little less expensive without compromising results.

My Serum

Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

This serum is hella expensive, and worth every cent. Hear me out: I started out with a meager Sephora sample; and for as long as it lasted, my skin was fabulous. Then it would run out, and a month later I - no - my skin would severely miss it. Over the years, whenever it was available to trade in points for another sample, I would do it. With this, I had proof that this serum worked and that without it, something would always be missing from my routine. So I paid over $100 for it and will continue to for as long as I’m able to. With one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C available at an impressive 15%, C.E.O Vitamin C Brightening Serum is a priceless item for dealing with hyperpigmentation and scarred dark skin. To boot, it also contains glycolic acid to encourage skin cell turnover, and phytosterols to deeply moisturize and soothe. The effect of this serum is near-instant. However, to save money and product, it only gets used in the morning.

My Moisturizer

Sunday Riley C.E.O. Afterglow Brightening Vitamin C Moisturizer

Another bank account buster that I will never go without, I save up my Sephora points to trade in for dollars off when I purchase this ultra-light gel cream. Its infusion of THD ascorbate - a superior source of Vitamin C is what drew me in; but what sold me was sodium hyaluronate, which penetrates the skin deeper than hyaluronic acid due to its smaller molecules for delightfully plump skin. The addition of lutein to protect my skin from my devices’ blue light is a huge bonus.

In truth, those compliments on social media I mentioned earlier really amped up after adding this newer addition to the Sunday Riley C.E.O. lineup last summer. When I ran out the first time - oh, I noticed. Hey, even my mom noticed, called me out, and made me get her one too when I repurchased. ’Nough said.

The Skincare Add-ons

My Sunscreen

Paula’s Choice CLEAR Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+

With all the chemical exfoliants I use, sunscreen is absolutely essential to protect sensitive new skin from environmental and UV damage. Paula has also significantly bumped the price of this product, enough that I would switch it out IF I could find something comparable. That said, a full routine requires an SPF solution that is ultra-light to comfortably sit on top of your moisturizer, and I just can’t find anything that compares to this. On makeup-free days, this is my go-to as there is also none of that ghastly white cast that steers many dark-skinned people away from using SPF altogether. It also contains Salicylic Acid to help counter dreaded sunscreen breakouts, so you really have no excuse with this one.

My Sunscreen Primer

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 Makeup Primer

If I’m planning to head out with makeup on, I’ll switch out my sunscreen lotion for sunscreen primer. I used it on-set for Tubi’s The Good Wife’s Guide to Murder last summer at the request of our lead, Nola Martin, whose super sensitive, easily-burned skin required skin oils to replenish it. Coupled with summertime heat, this could make makeup longevity a challenge. Unseen Sunscreen offered flawless coverage, and exceptional staying power while also protecting her finicky hairline from burning during outdoor shots, and has been a part of my own arsenal ever since.

My Nighttime Serum

THE INKEY LIST Q10 Antioxidant Serum

Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that specifically targets environmental stressors. As a longtime smoker that lives in the city, this one’s a no-brainer. This serum joins my skincare routine at night to help combat the effects of my day, while also providing a noticeable boost in my skin firmness and elasticity. If I happen to skip it, I notice my moisturizer isn’t quite as powerful.

My Wintertime Booster

C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil

This lovely, lightweight face oil was my first foray with the Sunday Riley brand due to its powerful and stable form of vitamin C via THD ascorbate. C.E.O. Glow additionally boasts super-ingredient turmeric, which has long been cited as an effective acne treatment in ancient Indian and Chinese medicine.

In fact, a notable tradition for Indo-Caribbean Hindu wedding rituals is having the bride and groom exfoliate head-to-toe with a mix of turmeric and skin oils, 5 separate times before midnight of the day of the wedding. This acts as a symbolic cleansing of the body, and also makes them extra glowy for their ceremony because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. While my skin can be oily in the summer, it becomes incredibly dry and patchy in the winter, and this is one of the only products I put on my face and come back later to still find dry patches are at bay.

My Secret Skincare Weapon

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One AHA Lactic Acid Treatment

Yet another recipient of many a Sephora Beauty Insider point from me, this product has been instrumental in dealing with keratosis pilaris on my face. I’ve only ever been able to afford Good Genes as part of a kit that includes Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser though (which I haven’t used enough to comment on), so I really only throw this into rotation once a week or so.

What I love most about lactic acid is that it is said to “unglue” stubborn dead skin cells that can not only block pores but also interfere with hair follicles in the face. For me, this can appear as bumps that resemble cystic acne, as well as cause hairs to “cherry pie crust”/criss-cross through the skin creating “snags” that look like wrinkles or lines in the skin; kind of like when you get a run in your pantyhose. The added glycolic acid makes this a powerful skin treatment with instant results; but since I’m already using a fair bit of glycolic acid in other parts of my skincare routine, this is another reason why I use Good Genes sparsely. I really do enjoy the immediate glow that lactic acid delivers, though, so my next purchase will likely be a much less expensive option so that I can afford to use it more frequently.

Do you have a brand of lactic acid treatment that your skin is loving? Tell me about it below! If your daily routine - like this one - needs an occasional boost, I’ll be sharing how I give myself a quick monthly at-home facial, very soon!

Melissa is a Professional Makeup Artist and Special FX Makeup Artist working in Toronto and throughout the GTA for over 6 years. Her education, experience, and contacts in the film and fashion industry have lent immensely to her creative vision, approach, and application, testing every product she uses and recommends on herself first.

Note: these products were all purchased by, or gifted to me. All endorsements are unpaid, authentic, and based on my own experience.

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