Although I now indulge in an abundance of face masks per week, adhering to a regimented (or, even planned) skin care routine is still relatively new for me. For the last seven years, I’ve mainly used the same two products on my skin: CeraVe hydrating facial cleanser and CeraVe facial moisturizing lotion. Both were recommended to me by my dermatologist and are fabulous, affordable drugstore products. I’ve since swapped out the lotion for a rotating cycle of multiple products, but the cleanser, which I will lovingly refer to as Old Faithful, is still with me.

It was a slow burn to change my routine. My sophomore year at Bates, I added in an eye cream. My junior year, I began toning daily and masking frequently. After I returned home for the summer, my skin care routine became no-holds-barred: I had unlimited access (and browsing time) in all of the Sephora’s and department stores in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. My skin care routine quickly became a multifaceted outlet for my self-care.

After a joyous and fortuitous trial and error period, I’ve narrowed it down to a small sum of products that work for me. Nowadays, I still get the skin care rodeo started with Old Faithful. After lathering the cleanser into my skin, I splash it off lightly with water. I no longer use a washcloth to scrub off any sort of face wash because I’ve learned doing so is too harsh for my skin. From there, each successive step is seasonally dependent.

In the summer months, I tone or exfoliate my face using Pixi products. The Pixi Glow Tonic toner (available at Target) sloughs away dead skin and, in my experience, leaves a natural-looking glow. I also highly recommend Pixi’s Glow Peel Pads: they’re an efficient and low maintenance way to chemically exfoliate your skin and, like Pixi’s toner, they encourage my glow. Next, I use Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Multivitamin Booster, followed by their Hydro Boost Water Gel with SPF 15 (both available at drugstores).

When I’m feeling particularly existential with regard to the life expectancy of my skin, I wear Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protection WetForce SPF 50+, carried by Sephora, Ulta, and most department stores. I encourage both myself and anyone reading this to wear sunscreen each and every day. Doing so is paramount to you and your skin’s longevity.

I finish off the whole summer-skin-care-shebang with Ole Henrikson’s Banana Bright Eye Créme, which I picked up at Sephora this past summer. It’s definitely on the pricey side, but I personally feel it’s worth the investment. I see an immediate difference in the skin underneath my eyes; it moisturizes and combats the dark circles that have inevitably signed a lifelong lease above my cheeks.

In the winter, I use Old Faithful and put my Pixi products away for safekeeping. Because I find toning and over-exfoliating dries out my skin, I avoid doing so when my skin begins to be ambushed by Maine temperatures and dryness. After cleansing, I usually douse my face with Bio Oil Multiuse Skincare Oil. This product is also available at drugstores and is, as advertised, multiuse. I use it on my face as a moisturizer and all over the rest of my body, particularly for stretch marks and scars. I do so because I love the skin I’m in, and those marks deserve some love, too.

If I’m extra dry, I use Neutrogena’s Hydroboost Hydrating Overnight Gel Mask. It works wonders by morning, but it’s very goopy. Only for this mask will I utilize the removal powers of a washcloth. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I use Clarin’s Double Serum and their Multi-Active Day Cream with SPF 20. Both are incredibly moisturizing and quite luxurious. Because I received the set as a gift, I apply them sparingly. I highly recommend both, but acknowledge that they are out of most people’s (and my own) price range.

My skin care routine is a way for me to focus on myself each and every day. Regardless of what my day has in store for me, I take time to pamper myself before doing anything else. And no matter what has transpired, I’m able to wash away my day, physically and metaphorically, before going to bed. Amidst all the cleansing, moisturizing, and dark-circle-combatting, I’m able to slow down, breathe, and relax.