I’ve been obsessed with my skincare routine since high school, and my obession hasn’t wavered much since. I had terrible acne yet somehow managed to get a job at a spa my senior year, where I learned so much about how to take care of my skin, and the products I should look for (shoutout to the Murad Acne Kit!). Seeing what a proper skincare routine could do had an impact on me to this day – I ended up pursuing a career in the beauty industry focusing on – you guessed it – skincare! My skin has cleared up since my teenage days but I still follow a strict routine morning and night. I’m obviously not a skincare professional, but I do know that certain ingredients have worked for me. There are so many products out there that really don’t do much besides moisturize – which is better than nothing – but sometimes you have to dig deep if you want to see results. Of course, everyone’s skin is different, so make sure you consider your own needs.

Here are the three key ingredients that I always look for, along with a few of my favorite products:

Vitamin C – So *natural* but so effective! Vitamin C brightens, and helps fade discoloration, dark spots, age spots, etc.

G.M. Collin Vital C 10% + Peptides Serum

  • I used this serum for a few years, and I saw a difference in my skin after using it consistently. It was less dull, and a bit smoother. The serum also has antioxidants which protect againts free radicals (particles that attack the skin’s denfensive barrier). It also smells like citrus so it’s nice to use in the morning.

SPF –  Duh. But really, you should be using an SPF as a last step before your makeup. Makeup with SPF doesn’t count (it’s great to have some extra SPF, but it’t not going to provide the amount of coverage you need). Any dermatologist will tell you that sun screen is the most important anti-aging tool.

EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

  • I usually use a certain brand that’s sold at Target, but I can’t find the sunscreen for sale online anywhere!? EltaMD is more high-end than that brand, but it’s 100% worth the money. I constantly read about dermatologists recommending it, and I’m pretty sure it’s sold by dermatologists too. It feels really moisturizing and doesn’t leave the gross white residue that a  lot of sunblocks do. Definitely my new go-to.

Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport SPF 30

  • Ok, this isn’t for your face, but I thought I would share my favorite sunscreen while I’m writing about SPF. It’s so weird that a brand known for tanning oils makes this sunscreen, but it’s SO good! It goes on smooth, smells delicious, and doesn’t peel and pill all over my skin like spray sunscreens tend to do. Stock up!

Retinol – This is probably the most powerful ingredient on this list, so use caution! Retinol promotes skin cell turnover and exfoliates the skin, so it’s softer and more radiant. There’s the prescription-strength retinol called retin-A which you get from a dermatologist, but there are also a bunch of over-the-counter products that you can use. My dermatologist prescribed it to me but it was like $80, so I just stuck to the product I was using (for now!).

MD Complete Wrinkle & Radiance Remedy

  • This product has higher levels of retinol than most drugstore brands, but it doesn’t irritate my skin or anything. I do notice a difference because my skin is much softer and looks clearer. I also don’t have many fine lines around my eyes, so I think this contributes to that. Since retinol can make the skin sensitive, I use it once a day at night. Plus, Marie Osmond is a fan – this is her favorite product! lo