Engage Robin Black in a conversation about skin care, and get ready for a long discussion. The 41-year-old makeup artist and photographer behind the cult-favorite site Beauty is Boring, Black spent years not fussing over her skin, only to realize in her late-30s that all that neglect had amounted to a host of skin problems.
To say that she’s making up for lost time, however, would be an understatement. Today, Black is a bonafide skin-care junkie, with a penchant for luxury products and no shame about wearing a sheet mask on a plane. Below, the Los Angeles-based beauty guru shares every single step of her skin-care routine. You may want to sit down for this.
What’s your approach to skin care?
Until age 37, my skin-care regimen was essentially face wash followed by a lightweight moisturizer. Brands were constantly sending me new products to test out, but my skin is sensitive and prone to breaking out into hives and rashes, so I was hesitant to try them. Plus, my blasé routine was working, and it seemed like a vain waste of time to slather it in tons of products. The blissful ignorance of youth!
One morning I woke up with sunspots, fine creasing, and a total change in skin texture. My years of blissfully ignoring sunscreen and thinking complex skin-care routines were for my elderly aunties put me into the game very late.
These days, at a proud 41, I am serious about caring for my skin. Since my risk for skin cancer is high—a mix of a childhood in the tropics and a years-long disregard for sunscreen—I get regular checkups from my dermatologist. From a vanity perspective, my biggest skin concern is the sunspots which have slowly morphed into full-on melasma. Since I have a reactive skin type, I’m not a good candidate for laser treatments. Instead, I control and minimize them through topical treatments and my secret weapon, esthetician Kerry Benjamin. I see her at least once a month, and twice when I can.
Walk us through your morning routine
I cleanse with Tata Harper Refreshing Cleanser. It’s very gentle and doesn’t strip your skin. Some mornings I skip cleanser all together and just splash my face with water, but if I’ve had something with active ingredients on my skin from the night before—retinol, Vitamin C, etc—then it’s important to clean that off before going out in daylight.
I’m addicted to Sisley Paris Sisleya Essential Skin Care Lotion. This is one of those steps that I used to think was nonsense until I started actually doing it. It’s a milky lotion that offers a light layer of moisture, but its main purpose is to prep your skin to more effectively absorb whatever follows it. I can actually tell the difference when I don’t use it.
If my skin is feeling really dry, I massage on a tiny amount of Tom Ford Intensive Infusion Concentrate Extreme Serum. If my skin seems balanced, I’ll skip this step.
I follow this with a good daytime moisturizer. I tend to test out a lot of products in this category and also switch frequently based on weather. At the moment, I’m using Sisley Paris Sisleya L’Integral Anti-Age.
Next, I put on Sisley Paris All Day All Year. It’s another moisturizer, but also an environmental shield with UVA and UVB filters that helps protect the skin.
I always put on lip balm, and afterwards I use a neck and décolleté cream. If you’re under 35, then this probably sounds ridiculous and extravagant. However, if you are closer to menopause than high school, it totally makes sense. Clarins and Sisley both make excellent creams that address the specific needs of those areas. I use those but when I am lazy, I just apply my face products from my forehead to my cleavage.
The product I use for this final step depends on whether I’m going to spend the day in my studio or if I’ll be out in direct sunlight. For a day in the studio with a few errands thrown in, I spritz my face with Goldfaden MD Sun Visor SPF 30 Mist. It’s a very light sunscreen that’s easy to blend in and doesn’t leave me looking oddly pale. If I’m going to the farmer’s market or to sit outside at brunch, I reach for Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Serum BB. It has a broad spectrum SPF 50+. Combined with a large hat, it could even keep a vampire safe in the LA sun.
I pretty much always have several bottles of rosewater spray stashed around the house, office, studio, car, and in my bag. I spritz multiple times a day, mainly because it feels nice and smells delicious. In the summertime, I keep a bottle in the fridge for a refreshing mist. And if you haven’t tried the Jason Wu for Caudalie Beauty Elixir, order it stat!
And your nighttime routine?
If I’m wearing makeup, I start by removing it with Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil. If I am not wearing makeup, which is pretty often, I use Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser. And I always use Stacked Skincare 100% Bamboo Face Towels. They’re more effective than hands, bacteria resistant, and easy to throw into the wash after a day of use. Next, I prep my skin with a thin coat of Sisley Paris Sisleya Essential Skin Care Lotion.
I alternate between several products for overnight treatment. Three times a week, I use a cream from my dermatologist that combines a low dose of Retin A mixed with a touch of hydroquinone. The other four nights, I divide between SkinInc Pure Deepsea Hydrating Mask, which I use as a sleeping mask, and Sisley Paris Supremya At Night. I finish with lip balm and neck and décolleté cream.
You travel a ton. How do you address skin issues that result from lack of sleep or sudden changes in the environment?
For puffiness I use a Hansderma SkinCool Ice Roller with Clarins Shaping Facial Lift Total V Contouring Serum. It works wonders.
For dark under-eye circles, I wash with Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser for extra exfoliation, then massage skin with Tom Ford Intensive Infusion Concentrate Extreme and apply a thick layer of the Sisley Paris Eye Contour Mask under my eyes. After 10 minutes, I blot in whatever remains of the Sisley mask and apply normal skincare over the Tom Ford.
Is there anything you do less frequently?
At least once a week, no matter where I am, I use the Stacked Skincare EGF Serum and the Stacked Skincare Collagen Boosting Micro-Roller. The combination of these two is the most effective thing I have found to reduce the appearance of dark spots. Plus, it leaves my skin plump and dewy in the morning.
Some weeks, I take a break from the Retin A and instead I go for exfoliation and hydration with the Stacked Skincare TCA Multi Acid Face Peel and TCA Multi Acid Body Peel. Yes, body peel. It’s instant youth for your hands, décolleté, arms, legs, etc., and it’s so gentle that even my sensitive skin tolerates it. Just paint it on, let it dry, and go to bed.
What’s your favorite product?
Masks! I love masks. I use a wide variety of them and have zero shame about wearing them on flights. Some of my all-time favorites are the Chantecaille Gold Energizing Eye Recovery Mask, SK-II Facial Treatment Masks and LuLuLun Moisture Masks, an inexpensive one that I buy in Little Tokyo. I often keep masks in the fridge for a nice cooling effect during LA and NYC heat waves.