I’m an esthetician with sensitive-combination skin, here’s my beauty routine


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Photo: Cindy Kim/W+G Creative

When you’re an esthetician, understanding what skin needs is crucial, and after years of treating other people’s complexions, it’s safe to say that Cindy Kim, co-founder of Silver Mirror Facial Bar, has learned a lot about what her own requires to stay happy and healthy. Dealing with skin that’s both sensitive and combination, like hers, requires a certain level of trial and error.

“My skin is very finicky and sensitive,” says Kim. I often feel like a skin detective, constantly trying to figure out why my skin is behaving or reacting the way it is, and what I could be using to calm it down,” says Kim. Some of the things she’s figured out in her years of skin sleuthing is that her combination skin is prone to both dehydration and congestion, which means she’s learned to integrate ingredients into her routine that help treat both issues.

“I always make sure to incorporate light daily exfoliants and hydrating powerhouse ingredients like hyaluronic acid into my skin-care routine,” she says. Here, she shares the step by step routine she treats her own skin to when she’s done treating her clients.

Morning skin-care routine for sensitive combination skin

For her morning routine, Kim swears by a simple five-step skin regimen that any dermatologist or esthetician would approve of: a gentle cleanser, a calming toner, a skin-protecting antioxidant, a moisturizer, and an SPF. Each of her product picks is safe for sensitive skin, and doesn’t dry or irritate while working its magic.

Cleanse: Sanitas Enzymatic Foaming Cleanser, $32

Photo: Sanitas

“It’s gentle and lightly exfoliates my skin while leaving it soft and supple,” says Kim. It’s made with fruit acids and enzymes to remove dirt and debris while resurfacing skin, and foams into a gentle lather as you scrub.

Tone: Revision Skincare Soothing Facial Rinse, $33

Photo: Revision Skincare

These days, toners can do a whole lot more than just tone skin—this one, for example, offers calming properties. “It’s loaded with skin-soothing, reparative ingredients which helps to calm my skin down and hydrate,” says Kim. It’s made with arnica-packed algae extract, grape seed extract, and vitamin K to keep the pH of your skin balanced at a healthy level.

Antioxidant: iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum, $155

Photo: iSClinical

“In my opinion, it is one of the best vitamin C products on the market,” says Kim. In addition to the antioxidant and brightening properties that are intrinsic to a vitamin C, this particular product is formulated to squelch acne, moisturize skin, and reduce redness and irritation.

Moisturizer: VMV Hypoallergenics Red Better Daily Calming Moisturizer, $33

Photo: VMV Hypoallergenics

This non-comedogenic moisturizer is packed with an ingredient called monolaurin, which soothes and moisturizes skin, and Kim ups the ante in the way she applies it. “I’ve gotten into the habit of always using upward strokes when I’m rubbing or massaging product into my skin,” she says. “First, it feels really nice, and second, why not do what you can to delay the effects of gravity?”

SPF: Supergoop Zinc Screen 100%, $42

Photo: Supergoop

As any skin pro will tell you, sunscreen is a non-negotiable step in a morning routine. Kim relies exclusively on mineral formulas, like this one from Supergoop, or derm-favorite EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 ($29)

Evening skin-care routine for sensitive-combination skin

To keep things simplified, Kim’s evening routine is almost identical to her morning one—with only one small change in the toner step. A few times a week, she swaps her calming solution for a gently exfoliating solution (our editors love Biologique Recherche P50) to nix dead skin cells, but warns fellow sensitive-skinned women to be careful of how much they’re exfoliating. “When you’re frustrated with your skin, it’s very easy to think that exfoliating more will help it and I’ve certainly been in that boat,” she says. “If the instructions on a peel, or product containing acids states that you should only use it once a twice or week, or tells you to build up to more usage, please listen.” As she admit’s she’s learned the hard way, over-exfoliating can only cause more problems.

To learn more about how to treat combination skin, press play on the video below: 

These are the most common questions estheticians get from their clients, and the skin-care habits they think everyone should be integrating into their routines.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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