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Ready, Set, Mask

I’m convinced Beyoncé wrote “Flawless” after discovering the magic of Biologique Recherche’s P50. Which is why I’ve taken to weekly facials.

person sits in a bathtub made out of a moisturizing cream tub with a facemask on lotions bottles and a jade egg roller...
Illustration by Janna Morton

Sorry to break it to you, but perfect skin is a myth (unless you are blessed by the skin-gene gods, or filthy rich) — and achieving skin that you feel good about takes daily management. That’s why even a hint of smooth, supple, dewy skin makes you feel like you’ve got your shit together. I’m convinced Beyoncé wrote “Flawless” after discovering the magic of Biologique Recherche’s P50. Which is why I’ve taken to weekly facials — in the comfort of my own home, of course. Some people come up with brilliant ideas in the shower; I like to make big decisions under a moisturizing mask.

Feeling lackluster about your relationship? Tired of reading the news? Just spent three hours in unnecessary traffic? Trying to read the same “critically acclaimed” book for the third time? Your roommate left the dishes in the sink — again?

For a quick fix (that might not have any long-term effects emotionally but will make you feel damn good), do an at-home facial. It doesn’t have to take up all your time. My rule: three masks will do, but so will an exfoliating pad alone. Basically, less is more and more is more; it depends on how much time you’ve got to sit around and bask in nothingness.

So, here is my very personal guide to mastering at-home facials, even if you’re lazy most days, like me. Splurgy product recommendations included — because duh #Lavish #Luxury #SpaLife — but not required. Ready, set, mask.

Set the Mood: The most crucial step of your at-home spa experience is setting the mood, transforming your space into your idea of a serene oasis. You could spend a hundred and fifty dollars to lie on an aesthetician’s table, but the best part of doing it at home is that there are snacks.

Light a candle (my go-to right now is Diptyque Verveine, which smells like lemons with a subtle hint of fresh-cut leaves) or simmer some herbs and citrus. Infuse some bougie spa water: watermelon, lemon, cucumber, rosemary, mint. Make some special tea, and by special I mean add CBD-oil drops to it. I’ve been adding Select’s lemon-ginger CBD oil to my green tea, or a lavender CBD oil to my peppermint tea, and while I am neurotic by nature, I think I can now identify as a sort of chill person because of this tea. Put on a fluffy robe and slap some cucumbers on your eyes. Turn your phone on Airplane Mode and turn up the ’90s R&B (or your friend’s podcast you’ve been saying you’ll listen to for months). Put some Hot Cheetos or granola in your most expensive bowl. You have now entered the chill zone.

Do the Most: The time to be extra (and selfish) is now. Cancel plans. Don’t leave the house all day. Procrastinate. Leave him on read. Take naps. Take as long as you need — an hour, maybe two. My other (very important) rule: try to use products that feel like a science experiment, for one reason, and one reason alone — it’s fun.

Start with opening up your pores and bringing all the dirt to the surface. I do that with a ten-to-fifteen-minute face steam. Dr. Dennis Gross makes an expensive but very efficient steamer. Then I like to double cleanse. First, with an oil-based cleanser, like Omorovicza’s Thermal Cleansing Balm, which warms up a little on your skin, breaks down all your makeup, and somehow smells like oranges, a miracle indeed. Second, I use a cleanser that also gently exfoliates, like Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Enzyme Cleanser, which starts as a powder and turns into a milky cleanser once it hits water. Voilà: magic!

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Next up, the masks. Two, three, four — pick your poison, and also assess your skin and know what it can handle and what it needs at the present time. I start with a proper chemical peel, a step that will literally slough the dead skin off your face and give you that smooth, supple skin you’ve always wanted. I always keep The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution on hand. But for something a little less abrasive, I’ve been using Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask. Sometimes I do a detox mask (Peter Thomas Roth has a lovely one), which helps refine your pores, or sometimes I skip it. But I always, always do a moisturizing one. Susanne Kaufmann is a natural-skin-care queen, and her moisturizing mask, full of ingredients like beeswax and hazelnut oil, will truly help you understand what it means to have dewy rather than greasy skin.

If I’m spending this much time on my face, I’m definitely staying home for the rest of the day, and preferably napping. So here’s where my very on-trend Herbivore Jade Roller comes into play. I like to pick an issue to tackle. Do I feel a breakout coming on? I’ll use True Botanicals’ Cellular Repair Serum. Have I been looking dusty lately? I’ll fall asleep in Klairs’ Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask. Is my hyperpigmentation flaring up? I’ll slather my face with Jordan Samuel’s étOILe with Retinol and Urban Skin Rx’s Super C Brightening Serum. Am I stressed out about getting older? I’ll use Shani Darden’s slightly stronger Retinol Reform. And then I roll — upward and outward — to help the ingredients sink into my skin and give my face a mini massage.

Before You Go Out: I’m getting to that age where my friends and I will say we really want to hit up this party but then end up staying in and catching up on TV or cooking a nice meal. So my new thing is an “I might go out” facial. Something to fill the time while I wait for my friends to flake on each other, but, just in case we decide to follow through on our plans, my skin looks great. A life hack if you’ve ever seen one. For this facial, we’re looking to brighten, plump, and moisturize. The perfect pre-step before applying makeup.

First, I’ll exfoliate with Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze in Lemon — it’s a physical and chemical exfoliant in one, and resurfaces and brightens. Then I’ll use Bliss’s Triple Oxygen Self-Activating Facial, a five-minute mask that subtly bubbles on your skin and makes it instantly radiant. Next, I’ll apply a sheet mask. The Verso Intense Facial Mask is full of vitamin C and ceramides and feels very ~grown up~, like when you decide to spend ten dollars extra on wine and you know you got your money’s worth. While the mask is settling in and intense hydration is in my near future, I’ll roll my “freezer” jade roller all over my face. To plump up your skin, use Moon Juice’s Beauty Shroom Plumping Jelly Serum. Say what you want about Amanda Chantal Bacon, but the woman knows (silver) mushrooms, and apparently they are a key ingredient in lifting and smoothing the skin. End with a light face oil and the best skin-care invention ever: Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Glow Drops. There’s wizardry, and then there’s this. I mean, so many things can be said about this product: it’s part skin-care, part makeup, and it makes your skin look poreless. And now I’m ready for a night on the town, or a night in bed. Either way, I’m glowing.

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Also, Do the Least: I’ve given you so many tips and product recommendations when the reality is that sometimes you just don’t feel like it. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect your skin entirely. I really want to be that person who runs errands, goes to the gym, and meal-preps on Saturday, but usually I’m waking up with a mix of mascara and crust on my eyes, parched for water at 3 p.m. I know I need to wash my face, but … the bathroom is so far away.

I’ll start with RMS Beauty cleansing wipes (made of coconut oil — read: really good at removing mascara), and then I’ll cleanse again with Flaunt by Lauren Napier wipes, which come in very cool reflective packaging and target dry skin. Bluemercury’s skin-care pads were made for people who want to give little effort: M-61 PowerGlow Peel towelettes (an on-the-go exfoliant), the M-61 Vitablast C Serum Pad (made of 15 percent vitamin C), and the Hydraboost HA Serum Pad (full of hyaluronic acid). All you have to do is wipe the pad all over your face and neck, and go. Then, the Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask is like a sheet mask without the messiness, and you can even use it more than once. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy, pad-like product for applying moisturizer (if I am wrong, please inform me!), but Urban Skin Rx Lab MadeCera Cream has a simple, lightweight formula (full of ceramides and niacinamide) and is packaged in a pleasing pink tube. And there you have it: the “You don’t have to leave bed” facial. You can even go back to sleep now.

Happy masking!

Tahirah Hairston is Lenny’s deputy editor and plans to do at least three masks this weekend. DM her (@tahairy) your favorite at-home facial routine.