The 10 No BS Skincare Products That I Actually Use

Skin has always been in.

No matter how many glasses of water we have to drink a day, sipping eight glasses isn’t going to sit there and save your skin from pimples, scars and all kinds of other factors that affect your face.

For the past four years, I’ve struggled with acne when I started university. Honestly, it wasn’t fun. Despite being surrounded by warm weather, organic restaurants and sunshine in L.A., the pluses didn’t save me from dealing with the cons of bumpy breakouts. Not only did I break out with flaming red bumps, I also had cysts alongside a bad habit of picking at my zits. I had to see different skincare docs left and right, but none of them saved my skin until my mom sent me to one who was recommended by her friend.  As much as I wanted to blame my countless hours of studying, what *really* did me in was not using the right skincare products.

Yeah, it was really this bad.

Listen, finding the right skincare is as challenging as searching for a shoe that truly fits. Or, a new BFF. Unlike a human being, a skincare product will listen to your skin and fix every flaw from the get go. Even if you eat a slice of pizza, your skin will still look good if you use the right product.

I know a handful of you really admire my skin, but the journey to flawless skin took me three years to achieve it. If you want to know the exact products I use, I’m finally ready to spill my secrets!

  1. Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Anti-Pollution Serum


Thank goodness for Instagram. I haven’t even heard of that brand until a model I interviewed last year tagged the brand on her IG stories. Dr. Barbara Sturm specializes in molecular skincare, which basically involves molecules that penetrate beyond the skin’s surface. Her VIP clients include Kim Kardashian to Alexander Wang as well as some influencers who literally swear by her products! Although I knew who Sturm was, I was skeptical about trying out her products until a family friend told me about it.

Since I spend the majority of my weekdays in front of a computer, I found the perfect product that saved my dang life: Anti-Pollution Drops. Prior to buying it, what made me want to try it was my deep-seated fear of getting premature ageing thanks to sitting in front of a computer. No, really, computers really do AGE you. If you think that this is some kind of fake news, it really isn’t. Even Dr. Sturm herself mentioned that this serum combats radiation and ageing caused by blue screens (a.k.a. your computer, tablet and phone!). Ever since I started using it two months ago, I haven’t gotten a single breakout. Even MY skin started glowing like Edward Cullen. (Ha!)

I use it in the morning and sometimes, in the evening. As greater blessings came in faster than I anticipated, I’ve ditched my foundation! (Well, not 100 percent, though!)


2. Sunday Riley Tidal Water Cream

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Water-based gel moisturizers are the Holy Water of skincare. Frankly, this does NOT feel like a cream despite what it says on the label.

My mom, who usually gets pampered with one too many gifts from friends, gave this moisturizer to me a few months ago. This was given to my mom from her friend, who also bought Sunday Riley’s C.E.O. moisturizer. From the two Sunday Riley products my mom received, I ended up using Tidal Water Cream more frequently. If you’ve got acne scars, hyperpigmentation or an uneven skin tone, this one will REALLY brighten your skin as it uses a plant-based arbutin to (naturally) brighten the skin.*

*FYI, it’s not like you’ll get any lighter. It’s just that you will get a brigher complexion as the product hydrates your skin from inside out.


3. Dr. Julia T. Hunter Maximal Strength Cleanser


I’ve been telling my friends NON-STOP about this LA-based derm as she was the magician who saved my skin two years ago. Although she won’t disclose who her A-list clients are, Dr. Julia T. Hunter’s Maximal Strength skin therapy range REALLY lives up to its name.

What I love about it is its ability to clean out a lotta dirt and makeup. If you are still dealing with acne, this one will make a difference on your skin. Just use it twice a day like I do.


4. Ahava Purifying Mud Mask


I cannot tell you the amount of times I use this mask. For the past three years, I had a string of non-committal relationships with different masks. From clay to snail-based masks, I just discovered that animal-free products perform the best on my skin. To me, I find that animal-based essences are way too rich!

Anyways, I discovered Ahava while I was traveling in Israel three months ago. Initially skeptical about the powers of Dead Sea mud, I didn’t believe in it until I felt softer and firmer texture on my skin. Their mask really lives up to the hype as it dries out my pimples and stabilizes the oils without completely zapping out the moisture.


5. Heliocare XF SPF 50



Previously, I was told by a dermatologist that I avoid sunscreens. Truth be told, she never mentioned that I could actually use non-cream based sunscreens! Compared to pore-clogging cream sunscreens, gel sunscreens don’t clog your pores at all. You also won’t get this irritating white residue on your skin.

Even though the gel formula leaves a shiny coat on my skin, it never gives me a *single* breakout. Plus, it makes my makeup application easier as the composition is compatible with primer, blush, foundation, etc.


6. Pureness Tea Tree Oil


Mother Nature knows how to provide the best medicine. If you are on a budget, you can finally let out a heavy sigh. Honestly, I’d be feeling terrible if I give you a list of skincare products that are *not* budget-friendly. Contrary to all the rest of the products I use, it’s the cheapest and it performs the best.

Whenever I get a zit, the itty bitty ones to the big angry bumps disappear from three days to a week. My skin doesn’t feel red nor does it peel afterwards. If you’ve got sensitive skin like I do, you should absolutely hit up the nearest organic grocery store to score a bottle!

Mine is discontinued, but you can find a similar one everywhere else.

7. KNC Beauty All Natural Retinol Infused Eye Mask


I have a bad case of eye bags and I hate photoshopping them. Even though I do wear my trusty Hourglass concealer, I guess having to sit across a computer for nine hours a day aggravated it. In fact, the lack of vitamin D in the office kinda made my eye bags worse.

So, I wanted to go for a non-invasive method of reducing my eye bags, which led me to wanting to try out KNC Beauty’s star-shaped eye masks. Filled with collagen, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, gold and rose flower oil, this serum-based eye mask really made me look like a real life filter. When I woke up, I didn’t have any gray eye bags! This stuff legitly zaps ’em away as there is NO artificial ingredients!!

I thank Kristen Noel Crawley for being a #genius.


8. 111 Skin Anti-Blemish Bio Cellulose Sheet Mask


Created by a Greek plastic surgeon and Russian space scientists, this bio cellulose drenched sheet mask is the Greek yoghurt of skincare. Unlike most masks in the market, this one comes in twos: one for the top half and the other for the bottom half of our face. The top half is targeted towards fighting zits caused by sweat, diet and makeup/wrong skincare products. (Yes, the wrong skincare products really DO cause acne!) Whereas the bottom half calms down raging hormonal acne and redness.

When I tried it on, I had instant results: my skin glowed and I felt like I faked eight hours of sleep! The serum didn’t feel too sticky at all. In fact, it kinda has this cooling effect as if you put an ice cube on your face.


9.  Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E antiOxidant Protect and Repair Moistiruzer

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Ditto about this one. Compared to the Tidal water gel, this is a cream-based moisturizer. Usually, I’d do a vitamin C powder; however, it’ll make my makeup look lumpy. On the other hand, this moisturizer doesn’t hinder me from applying makeup.

Since it is a bit more richer, I use it as a night cream. I never broke out while using this product and I love how you can feel the Vitamin C as you apply it on your face. Also, rub it on your neck, too.

ICYMI, this stuff’s got THD ascorbate, a stabilized form of Vitamin C that’s more potent, yet less irritating than ascorbic acid.


10.Charlotte Tilbury Collagen Lip Bath


My mom is way ahead of the beauty curve than I am, but when it comes to finding great products, I always trust her. Fresh off a trip from Hong Kong (a week ago), she bought almost an entire makeup bag’s worth of beauty products – including this lip gloss. This is no ordinary lip gloss, mind you. It’s a non-invasive lip plumper that supplies my poor, dry malnourished lips (ugh, the air con!) with a marine-derived collagen. It literally hydrates my lips to the point that I never had to reapply it again throughout the night.

If you have dry lips, puh-leez PUT THIS ON FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR DEAR LIFE!


After all, good skincare is worth all the money in the world and beauty is a pain filled self-enriching journey. You don’t have to follow my exact routine as long as you can great results at the beat of your own drum.

Published by

Michelle Varinata

Lapis - (n.) a layer Shrek once said that "onions have layers" as he was peeling one. Like an onion, I have layers. Born in Jakarta and raised in Singapore, I grew up being surrounded in a multicultural environment. Then, I moved to the States, where I lived in NYC and L.A. The creativity, hustle, bustle and vibe of those cities inspired me to become a blogger, journalist and influencer. Writing by day and living it up by night, I slay in the streets one OOTD at a time. Full-face makeup included, too. ;)

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