The Arsenal

Staples, updated September 2023:


Since introducing a prescription retinoid, I’ve heavily pared back my skincare.


COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – At some point, my previous favorite, CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, stopped being the right thing for my skin. I tried one other thing and then found this, which seems to be working for my skin. It has a slightly medicinal smell resulting from some tea tree oil, but it is not, “scented.”


Tretinoin (Rx only) – I use a prescription topical because over the counter ones are bullshit. Since it helps with my occasional cystic blemishes, it is covered by my insurance.

Rohto Melano CC Vitamin C Spot Treatment – I use it as my full-face Vitamin C serum, mixed with argan oil in the morning. The tube is small, but tiny bit goes a hilariously long way. Its packaging is unique and a little difficult to squeeze, but that’s an effect of how they keep it stable. It’s effective and inexpensive.


Mountain Rose Herbs Argan Oil – This is a high quality source of argan oil. I’ve been a customer for years, now, and do business with them for ingredients for homemade soaps and lotions. A small bottle lasts for AGES.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream – I used this ages ago, but resumed when I added Tretinoin. Between the retinoid and aging, I need more moisture than I used to. In summer, I’ll do one or the other. In winter, I usually do a thin layer of argan oil and lock it in with CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. Buy it on sale at Costco for the best price (for TWO tubs).


Nivea Sun Protect Super Water Gel SPF 50 PA++++ AND Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50 PA++++ – Are my favorite sunscreens. I’ve used both for years. Between the two, I like the Nivea just a touch more, but ultimately buy whichever I can get cheaper when its time to rebuy. Both feel great, don’t smell awful, and don’t leave a weird white cast (so they’re friendly for people of color). Japan really nailed it here. I will cry if they discontinue them both.


Ethique Pinkalicious (Shampoo) and Wonderbar (Conditioner) – My hair loves these. I want to try to recreate them at home. I wait until they’re on sale to buy.

Kirkland Signature Shampoo & Conditioner – Sulfate free, cost effective for gigantic bottles. My hair likes it, and I don’t have to play the, “Yay, its discontinued!” game as often. HAHA, joke’s on me.


Tapioca Starch as Dry Shampoo – I stopped buying aerosol dry shampoo in 2022. Learn more about DIY options here.

Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum – Pricey, but lasts at least three-fifths of forever. Expedites a blow-dry, smells kind of like watermelon candy, makes your hair shiny. A bottle lasts me three years (but I don’t blow dry at every shampoo).


Dyson Supersonic – The Supersonic is still going very strong nearly 5 years later. It is a champ.


Luminary Gel Clarity Base – This is my favorite for longevity, durability, and flexibility. It doesn’t prematurely lift on me.

Jojoba Oil – Unless the packaging of a fancy or aesthetic cuticle oil sparks joy for you, don’t bother! I typically use jojoba in a little glass roller-ball vial. I buy jojoba from Mountain Rose Herbs too if it’s time to restock on other supplies from them; otherwise NOW via Amazon is fine.

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