Build Your Beauty Tool Kit

My original beauty tool kit has just fourteen items. Changes in my skin as well as the introduction of great new categories of products has expanded my list  to 25 favorites. I don’t use all of them all the time, but I like to have them on hand when I need them. However my basic view of skin care has remained  the same:

  1. I don’t like fragrance in products
  2. Since I love pricy prescription skin products and office based treatments, I am always looking for affordable and effective drug and health store products
  3. I don’t like to layer more than two products at a time so I am always looking for  multi-purpose products—eg moisturizers with sunscreens


Eye Make-up Remover:

  • Almay Oil Free Make-Up Remover ( $8/120 pads)- On the jar, Almay states that this is the #1 eye make-up remover. I don’t know who made this judgment but it is certainly an excellent product.  It takes off mascara and eye shadow easily and it is totally non-irritating. Even better, it didn’t leave a blurry film on my eyes, which has happened with much more expensive eye make-up removers.

Daily Cleansers:

For Dry Skin Days:

  • Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ( Galderma, $9/8 oz.- When I am using Retin A, I need a very gentle cleanser. This means no scrubbing grains, no alpha hydroxy acids and no retinols. Cetaphil  has been around for years and is still a top recommendation from dermatologists.  Unfailingly gentle, it effortlessly cleans even the most sensitive skin.

For Oily Skin Days:

When I am not using Retin A,  my skin returns to its naturally oily state. For those days, I  rotate three different cleansers-

  • Neutrogena Acne Wash ( $13/8 oz)—With 2% salicylic acid, this affordable and widely available cleanser leaves my skin clean, fresh but not dried out.
  • Oil-Free Acne Wash Redness Soothing ( Neutrogena, $13/8oz)—This gel rocks when my skin feels oily, but also has some redness around my nose and chin.
  • Very Clear Cleanser ( derma-e $15)—With antibacterial tea tree oil and salicylic acid, this cleanser leaves my skin fresh but not dry.
  • Grapefruit Wash ( Malin and Goetz $30)—this is my new favorite brand and with an all natural profile. With grapefruit extract for cleaning, aloe for soothing and ceramides to maintain hydration,  it is worth every penny.
  • Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths ( Galderma, $8)—These fragrance-free  alcohol-based disposable cloths are perfect for those nights when you fall into bed and then remember you did not wash your face.


  • CeraVe PM Moisturizing Lotion (Valeant, $15/ 3 oz.)—This light yet rich lotion is loaded with hyaluronic ( a natural moisturizer) ceramides ( the glue that holds skin cells together) and niacinamide ( collagen builder and  melanin buster).  After I apply Retin A,  I apply this moisturizer to avoid flaking and dryness from retinoids.
  • Hyaluronic Acid Spray( derma e,$15)—Each molecule of  hyaluronic acid holds at least 500X its weight in water.  However, when included in a traditional moisturizer, if my skin is in an oily mood, it can trigger breakouts.  Hyaluronic oil- free spray delivers amazing hydration without the oil my skin does not want. This is what I use after peels and laser treatments.
  • Aveeno Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ( $22/2.5oz)This light, easily absorbed moisturizer contains feverfew, an herb known for soothing properties. Sometimes I use this moisturizer as my daily sunscreen.

Treatment Products

  • Retin A Micro (Valeant, $300)—Still the foundation of anti-aging skin care, I have found that the pump gets clogged, and I have the pharmacist fill with prescription in a tube form.  Low tech, but it works better for me.
  • Triluma—(Galderma,$300)—There is so much good science in this combo of hydroquinone, Retin A and a steroid, its my go-to product for under eye circles.  It can be used for just three months at a time, followed by a three month drug holiday.
  • Metrogel—(Galderma, $10 co-pay, $110 without drug plan)—This prescription gel is an antibacterial that deals with the microorganisms that provoke different types  of redness ( eg rosacea). After six months of trying everything, Metrogel cleared up   the redness around my nose and chin in less than a week.  If I see any redness  reappear, I reach for my Metrogel.
  • Phloretin C F Gel( Skinceuticals, $110)—This oil free gel is an antioxidant powerhouse combo with 2% phloretin, 10% vitamin C and .5% ferulic acid. Individually they are strong antioxidants,  but are even more powerful when combined. Because Retin A and sunlight  don’t mix, I like to use Phloretin during the summer months rather than Retin A or if my skin gets too dry from Retin A.

Sun Protection

  • Corrective Colors (Jane Iredale, $24)—This little compact has four colors- yellow to conceal redness; peach to hide purple or grey; lilac to cover  yellow and a beige to even it all out.  No only does it cover routine dark circles and treatment  related  bruising, it is the longest lasting concealer I have  ever    Even after  8 hours, its still  doing a good job.
  • Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF50 (Skinceuticals, $45)—I just about  had given up finding a high power sunscreen that didn’t bother my skin when international  laser expert Dr Tina Alster  recommended Physical Fusion.  It delivers a cosmetically beautiful 50 SPF sun protection.   And it never, ever triggers breakouts.
  • CeraVe AM SPF 30 (Valeant, $13)— when my skin gets too dry from treatments or Retin A, I reach for CeraVe. Its packed with ceramides and  hyaluronic acid, two wonderful moisturizers.  It can hydrate the skin w/o  heavy oils and waxes that  can clog pores.
  • BB Cream (Cover Girl, $10)—BB creams  are a  newish category of beauty care where the hype actually equals the benefits.  It’s a trinity of benefits of coverage, hydration and sun protection.  I’ve tried  many, but this super affordable BB cream   gives  me what I want, but does not trigger breakouts.  I use it for work and daytime activities.  If I am going to be in a strong sun ( eg biking, beach or picnic) I will use the stronger Physical Fusion.
  • Heliocare Capsules (Heliocare, $20-60/ 60 capsules)—Heliocare capsules contain a powerful antioxidant derived from a tropical fern. Well designed,  published studies  have shown that daily Heliocare treatment  protect the skin from UV damage.  I use them when I  enjoy a day in the sun.You still need a daily sunblock, but Heliocare is super easy way to provide additional sun protection.
  • Brush-On Block SPF 30 ( \Susan Posnick, $35)—Standard directions for sunscreen recommend reapplication every 2-3 hours. Seriously? What woman is going to stop in the middle of a day, wash off her make-up, and reapply sun block and make-up?   However Brush-On Block SPF30 restores sun protection with a few flicks of a fat, soft brush.  Available online, I always buy two at a time and never leave home without it.

Masks, Peels and Exfoliators

  • Detox Mask (Malin and Goetz, $40)This is  a unique mask that  feels bubbly on the skin and leaves me with  a smooth  poreless surface.  Packed with soy protein, vitamin C and vitamin B5,  this foaming  mask  cleans thoroughly without drying. I have to admit that Malin and Goetz is my new beauty brand crush. Co-founder Matthew suffered from rosacea, psoriasis and  allergies and this line genuinely understands sensitive
  • Extra Strength Alpha Beta Face Peel (Dr Dennis Gross, $16 for  5 treatments)—This is a two step peel.  Step 1 is a pad saturated with a mix of  acids including glycolic, malic and lactic that is balanced with a chamomile and soy. The second pad includes sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the effective acids.  I love the fresh, smooth, slightly rosy glow this easy peel offers.
  • Oil of Olay Professional PRO-X ($33)- When I opened the box of this super affordable brush, I took a double take.  It looks EXACTLY the same device as a far more expensive model from DDF.  Even better, the batteries are replaceable and  additional cleanser is quite affordable at $20 for  a long lasting six  ounce tube. The device molds effortlessly around the face (even the  nose) to give  the pores a through cleansing. I use it once a week when I am not using Retin A.
  • Apricot Scrub ( St Ives, $5)—It doesn’t get more low tech than St Ives Apricot Scrub.  It is paraban and sulfite free and the all-natural exfoliants are biodegradable.  But equally important, it does a great  job of exfoliating dry dead skin cells at pennies a day. You can also use it on the soles of your feet to reduce callus build-up.  If my skin is dry, I mix a pea-size blob with a teaspoon of mayonnaise to gently exfoliate. It’s an affordable basic for any beauty tool kit.