My Skin Care Routine!

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care
Nicki Face Wipe Olivella

Lately I’ve been receiving about 5 emails or comments per day requesting my skin care routine. So, without further adieu, here are the products that I have tried and can’t stop using:


FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Serum. Best for normal to dry skin types, I prefer to use this hydrating vitamin CE serum during the cooler months, from September through March. Once Spring hits, I switch over to the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. Best for normal to oily skin types, this cult favorite keeps my skin sunspot-free and glowing from April until August — all summer long. If your skin is acne-prone or oily, I’ll be completely honest, skip the FutureDerm brand (for now) and go straight towards this classic skin care staple.


Studies show that using a chemical sunscreen under a physical sunscreen results in the ultimate UV protection. Look, I’m a skin care blogger, so it’s vital that I stay out of the sun religiously and avoid UV rays at all costs. So I use another cult favorite, LaRoche Posay SPF 50 (a chemical sunscreen) under Shiseido SPF 50 daily. It really keeps my skin well-protected.

As far as being vain goes, I know that the Shiseido sunscreen isn’t the most cosmetically-pleasing. It takes a full layer of medium-coverage Make Up For Ever foundation to get rid of the telltale white streaks. But it’s well-worth it. I’m in my thirties and I still get carded, so I know it’s working.

While we’re on the issue of sun avoidance, I also am sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat with a UPF of 50, polarized sunglasses, and always take a vitamin D supplement.


At night, I would love to say that I get home and can’t wait to use skin care products, both my staples and new products I am sent to try by brands. Truth be told, about half of the time I’m too tired. Those nights I swipe Olivella Facial Cleansing Wipes across my face (one for removing makeup, one to clean better), and then I apply a retinoid and a dallop of FutureDerm Customizable Moisturizer.

On nights I’m feeling more ambitious, I will use the AmorePacific two-step cleansing system. I love the fact that it has both oil and water based formulas, so it’s sure to remove all of the makeup and dirty residue (ewww, I know). I also love using SK-II Essence as a toner.


Nighttime is when I like to use products that have retinoids. I do this for two reasons: First, retinoids have been shown to thin the skin and make skin photosensitive. Though some companies that produce microencapsulated retinol and dermatologists who endorse microencapsulated retinol claim their products don’t do this, I’m not so sure. I stick with retinoid use at night. A favorite is Skinceuticals Retinol 0.5, Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0, or FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5.


Once per week, in lieu of retinoids, I like to use a concentrated AHA treatment. My favorites are currently Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Serum and Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Peel Pads.


I also won’t go at night without using peptides. The debate is still out whether or not peptides actually work because they’re too big to penetrate the skin — that whole Dalton rule in dermatology — but I for one notice results whenever I use them. My favorite eye cream is currently MDSUN Med-Eye Complex Cream.

My favorite nighttime moisturizer is actually a custom-formulated moisturizer I make for myself in our lab. I’m happy to make you one, as well, as the FutureDerm Customizable Moisturizer; currently, I only have the ability to custom-formulate 60 per month until I hire some more people to help me, so there may be a waiting list! That said, the FutureDerm Customizable Moisturizer I use has 4% niacinamide, argireline, Matrixyl, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and other ingredients. It has everything I could possibly need or want to keep my skin looking firm at night. Best of all, when I notice I’m getting a wrinkle, I infuse in more peptides; when I notice I’m looking more tired, I add in more vitamin C. It’s really cool!

So those items are the heart of my skin care routine. Please let me know if you have questions in the Comments!


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  • Great post! I’ve always wondered what specific products you would use yourself.

    I feel like I keep spinning my wheels on where to begin and, especially at my age, this is a bit more helpful. My question, specifically, is where to begin without breaking the bank? I’m sure this depends on all the factors for me personally. Age, skin condition, issues, etc. I just added up the cost of all of these items using the least expensive item if there was an ‘or’ and it totals over $900. I can claim one savings as I already have a prescription retinoid (for acne), but even at the least strength possible, with a week in between applications, my face almost literally falls off (peeling). It’s not a professional look, so I have given up after several attempts. Suggestions there would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge!!

  • Molly

    I have normal/combination skin with rare breakouts. I now use a night cream because it helps my skin so much more the next day when I wake up. I use Made from Earth’s Olive Night Cream and I don’t feel like an oil slick when I wake up in the morning. My skin feels balance, and moisturized, so i do not need to use too much moisturizer the next day – avoiding that overly oily face that sometimes comes with people who have combination skin like us !

  • You should apply the chemical sunscreens first and to let it absorb into the skin to activate for at least 30 minutes, then go in with the physical sunscreen.

  • Physical sunscreens prevent UV light from hitting the skin, whereas chemical sunscreens take UV light that makes it through and transforms it into non-damaging forms of energy, like non-UV light or heat. I like to think of it like a barrier and then if anything makes it past the barrier, it should be dissipated away!

  • I recommend using AHAs to keep the skin exfoliated, smooth, and to improve the penetration and absorption of other skin care products into the skin.

  • Davina

    Hey Nicki!

    Long time reader, first time commenter here! 😀

    I’ve learned so much about skincare from reading your posts and hanging out on the Asian Beauty reddit where I first learned about FutureDerm!

    My skin routine revolves around lightening sunspots, freckles and PIH, so I finally, after years of gleefully neglecting sunscreen, am starting to take sun protection very seriously. I don’t want all my skincare “work” to go wasted when I step outside, but the claims and advice about sunscreen usage seem to be all over the map!

    So, my question is about your sunscreen layering, where you use a chemical sunscreen under a physical one. On the AB reddit, a user linked a study that says that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide will degrade avobenzone. Octinoxate also degrades avobenzone. I don’t know much about these chemicals, but I’m assuming that if a chemical sunscreen includes avobenzone, then I shouldn’t use a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide of titanium dioxide on top if it, right? If the chemical sunscreen doesn’t include avobenzone at all, then I’m assuming that it’s fine to layer underneath a physical sunscreen?

    Sorry if this is super nitpicky. I’m just terrified of committing to a suncare routine and then finding out later that I’ve done it all wrong, that my sunscreens cancel out and that I’ve just exposed my skin to months of cancer-inducing sun rays!

    The study mentioned is here:

    The reddit post is here if you’re interested:

    Do you mind linking to the study that cites that a chemical sunscreen under a physical one provides the ultimate protection? Very interested to read it! Thank you!

  • Grace

    I love Niacinamide and the Olay Regenerist Microsculpting products that contain it. I didn’t like it at first bc it dried my skin but now I apply it on top of retin a and moisturizer and it works great. Any idea of the percentage of Niacinamide in Olay? Any other drugstore products you like, with or without Niacinamide ? Thanks

  • Grace

    Sorry one more thing: if you use ERASA during the day, don’t you think wearing something with lactic and glycolic during the day is a bad idea? I do t understand that. I’ve always worn the ingredients that make you more sun sensitive only at night. Am I missing something?

  • Nighttiming

    Thanks for sharing your routine Nicki! 🙂

    I’m intrigued with the sunscreen layering technique. Since we know that most chemical sunscreens contain organic filters that easily degrade when they come into contact with physical filters, I haven’t thought about layering sunscreen. Can you give us the links of those studies?

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      @Nighttiming — Whoa, where did you hear that chemical sunscreens degrade when they come into contact with a physical barrier? Do you have a copy of the study? I don’t mean to sound incredulous — I believe that you read or heard it somewhere! — but I would love to debunk this. Think about it: If every chemical sunscreen degraded automatically when it came into contact with a physical barrier, wouldn’t all makeup with chemical sunscreen not even qualify for an SPF rating at the time of testing? But I’m curious — please let me know where you found this!

  • shaun.bernier

    Hi Nicki,

    I’ve started using MDSun’s eye cream based on your review. I haven’t used it long, but love the consistency and the way it feels. I’m wondering, though, if the recent research on liposomes indicates the product isn’t as effective as previously thought?


    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      @shaun.bernier — Thanks for the link! That’s super interesting, and I hadn’t come across that information yet.

      Here’s my take: Liposomes don’t cross the barrier, but that’s not entirely the point of liposomes. They keep ingredients present in your skin for up to 8 hours at a time, so as the capsule slowly dissolves, more of the beneficial ingredients slowly dissipate into your skin. These beneficial ingredients are penetrating across the barrier — and it’s the ingredients, not the liposomes themselves, that are providing the benefit to your skin!

      Keep in mind that the scientific community is under tremendous pressure to publish. Right now, the funding is in debunking ingredients and technologies, and in proving ingredients are unsafe, because that is what society wants us to believe right now.

      Hence there is a lot of money to be made from chemical companies producing “safe” alternatives to parabens and other preservatives (never mind that high concentrations of parabens are found in natural blueberries that you eat!), there is a ton of money in natural/organic companies producing “safe” products (Jessica Alba didn’t get a $1B valuation because natural/organic companies are nonprofits!), and there is a ton of profit to be made from debunking skin care technologies like liposomes.

      I do believe some scientists believe they are fighting the good fight and doing these studies earnestly, not just to publish or get funding, so I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t doing something right. In some cases, ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate really ARE irritating to the skin in high concentrations found in products.

      But I do think there is less focus nowadays on debunking skin care treatments than progressing them forward, and I think that’s kind-of sad.

      Forgive my tangent — hope that answers your question!

  • An

    Hi Nicki,
    How long do I have to wait after applying CE Ferulic serum before other steps of my skincare routine in the morning? Is that true that CE serum is the most effective under sunscreen (i.e. I shouldn’t use a moisturize after the serum?)?
    Thank you.

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      @An —

      Honestly? I don’t wait. I tend to get up and get out.

      Ideally, it’s best to wait at least a minute before applying other products, to allow the serum to fully penetrate your skin before applying other products the serum can potentially bind to irreversibly. All of the studies that show vitamin CE serums work use them alone on clean, dry skin, so if you’re not getting results from yours, you may want to wait for the minute.

      Yes, it is true that vitamin CE serums are most effective when worn under sunscreen, but there’s no reason why you can’t put a moisturizer in between the vitamin CE serum and the sunscreen — at least not as far as I know at this time.

      Hope that helps!

  • Alina


    Thanks so much for this! I’m your long-term fan and thank to you my skin care routine changed from randomly bought plethora of products (bought based on what I feel like buying today) to conscious selection of proper ingredients and their combinations. And your personal inspirational stories are so priceless. All in all – thank you so much for your wonderful blog!

    If I may, a couple of questions:

    1. CE serum – the long-standing debate what color should it be (almost white transparent or yellow) and is it still as effective if it changes the color. Do you believe in less expensive substitutes (such as from Cosmetic Skin Solutions or other similar brands) that are available on the market with the same formula?

    2. What’s your opinion about the products such as 37 extreme actives that claim to have it all or close to that?

    And thank you once again for all the great information and inspiration that your blog offers!

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      Hi @Alina —

      1.) Q: CE serum – the long-standing debate what color should it be (almost white transparent or yellow) and is it still as effective if it changes the color. Do you believe in less expensive substitutes (such as from Cosmetic Skin Solutions or other similar brands) that are available on the market with the same formula?

      A: So I recently did an experiment on this. It’s here:

      But I hate it when people answer questions by referring you to a link (so impersonal!), so I’ll tell you what I think here: What matters more than color with vitamin C is whether or not it includes a stabilizer, like ferulic acid or caffeic acid. I was surprised to find this as well, but I’ve experimented with a 50% L-ascorbic acid in an ethoxydiglycol base versus 15% L-ascorbic acid + stabilizer in an in ethoxydiglycol base, and the 15% L-ascorbic acid plus the stabilizer came up higher in terms of L-ascorbic acid content after being left out 24 hours. So I was really surprised at that.

      As far as color goes, yes, lighter is better, but not very much so. Which also surprised me. In my experiments, I’ve found the potent amount of L-ascorbic acid that can still be detected in a rather yellowed vitamin C serum is close to what was in the same serum when it was clear. Does that help?

      As far as cheaper serums go, they’re probably fine. I’ve honestly tried a couple of them, and they were OK. Some of them smell a little rich in alcohol for me, some were a bit sticky, and some (like the Cosmetic Solutions one) were OK. Not something I should be saying with my own vitamin CE serum, but let’s be honest, they are probably fine.

      The ONLY exception to these cheaper brands is if someone wanted to make a really quick buck, sell “20% vitamin C” solely on Amazon, put nothing but water and orange-scented alcohol in vials, and figure if there was ever a lawsuit, they’d run away, mostly free and clear. I’ve heard of this kind of thing happening with other ingredients and types of skin care products, but honestly not vitamin CE serums.

      2.) 37 Extreme Actives is a great skin care product, I did a review on it here a long time ago:

      But, again, I hate it when people just leave a link, so let’s have a conversation about it, lol. I think the vast majority of ingredients in it are beneficial to the skin; it has been proven to be stabilized; it has documentation that it works; and a lot of people seem to like it. I don’t care for the fact that it includes ATP, which hasn’t been proven to do much of anything when topically-applied, and I don’t like that it has feverfew, which can be irritating (including to me). But other than that, I’m good with it. Does that make sense?

      Glad you love the blog! Let me know if you have more questions!

  • Grace

    Another question: when do you use Erasa? You’ve said you love it. It’s such an expensive product, I wonder if you’ve actually seen for yourself great results. Even though all the studies seem great, I’m wondering if you’ve seen real results. Thanks

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      Hi @Grace —

      I use ERASA anytime my skin looks like crap. lol, sorry if that’s too casual for my blog, but it’s true.

      Soooo I went to Cancun for four days with my husband recently, and I wanted to have fun and live a little, so I went in the ocean during the day, went snorkeling, etc.

      When I came back, I swear, I thought my skin looked 3-5 years older. Not cool. So that’s the time I start using ERASA. (For the record, that’s also the time I go and get a hydroquinone-based on-the-spot treatment to treat newly-emerged sunspots as well).

      I apply it to freshly-cleansed skin, and then I apply the rest of my routine. It’s been about a week and I think I’m looking more like myself.

      Hope this helps!

  • Bojana Petkovic

    I also have a questions 🙂 First, about degradation of avobenzone 🙂 Do you use chemical sunscreen without it and physical above? And do you use peptides and FutureDerm Customizable Moisturizer above retinol? How much do you wait between applications both, sunscreens and retinol and other products? Greetings! <3

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      Hi @Bojana —

      I don’t use avobenzone without oxybenzone, because oxybenzone stabilizes it. (For the record, so does octisalate).

      I don’t use avobenzone alone, without other chemical sunscreens, because it is so unstable.

      As for peptides and the FutureDerm Customizable Moisturizer above retinol, it’s a close one, but I would say sunscreen first, retinoids second, and then a close tie between vitamins C&E, AHAs, amino acids, and peptides. Third-tier I would say hydroquinone (for use in eight-week cycles, and ONLY if you have light to medium skin), DNA repair factors, plant stem cells, neuropeptides, etc.

      Does that make sense? Hope that helps!

  • V

    I have a question! 🙂 Why don’t you use a prescription retinoid? Wouldn’t that be even more effective than an OTC retinoid? Or does stronger not necessarily equal better?

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      Hi @V —

      Yes, sometimes I do use a prescription retinoid, and then I switch back to the FutureDerm one, and then back to the prescription. You’re absolutely right — there is no reason NOT to use a prescription retinoid.

  • De Anna Caiozzo

    Have you tried layering the Anthelios Mineral over the Anthelios sunscreen? LRP Anthelios Mineral is my favorite non-chemical sunscreen. No ghosting, lovely finish, etc. Love many of these products you use. And your honesty is pushing me to try some of your own formulations. Where should I start my exploration of your line? I’m late 30s and live in the pollution bag that is NYC. Have you ever noticed how haggard everyone looks in NY?? I must NOT join their sallow army!

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      Hi @De Anna —

      I have tried layering the Anthelios mineral over the Anthelios chemical sunscreen, and I do like it! Sunscreen is the #1 anti-aging product, bar none, with retinoids coming in second. So any way I can sneak in more sunscreen, I will!

      As for the exploration of our line, would you be interested in being a trial with us at FutureDerm? We are currently looking for people to go through a free 10-minute video chat with us, and then we will make you a Customizable Serum and Moisturizer. Free product and free shipping. All we ask is for your feedback.

      If you’re interested, I think that’s the best way to get you started with the line! Please email me if you’re interested at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com, and I’ll set up a time to video chat with you!

      All the best,

  • Alba

    Wow I would love to be of help on that lab and put my degree on action. BTW I have a question, do you ever use niacinamide? I didn’t catch it if you say so on this post. And another one, I’ve been alternating my retinol and vitamin C every night (my vitamin C is horrible under make up) and using Effaclar DUO from LRP (niacinamide and a derivate of salicylic acid) and Fresh seaberry face oil for some extra antioxidant protection during morning, but I’m not sure if that’s enough. Should I man up and use my vitamin C on mornings and niacinamide at night? Or that’s ok until I can get a new Vitamin C serum?

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      Hi @Alba —

      I tend to do everything in terms of numbered lists, so forgive me while I answer your questions one at a time in, well, a numbered list! 🙂

      1.) Q: Do you ever use niacinamide?

      A: I do. It’s in 4% concentration in my FutureDerm Specialist Customizable Moisturizer.

      2.) Q: I’ve been alternating my retinol and vitamin C every night (my vitamin C is horrible under make up) and using Effaclar DUO from LRP (niacinamide and a derivate of salicylic acid) and Fresh seaberry face oil for some extra antioxidant protection during morning, but I’m not sure if that’s enough. Should I man up and use my vitamin C on mornings and niacinamide at night?

      A: I love vitamins CE for the morning, because studies show concentrations of at least 15% L-ascorbic acid and 1% tocopherol can boost UV protection when worn under sunscreen. It’s almost a no-brainer! Why NOT age more slowly, haha?

      As for the niacinamide, I do prefer that at night, simply because I don’t like using L-ascorbic acid and niacinamide together. But if you’re not using vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid during the day, niacinamide is perfectly fine for use during the day.

      3.) Q: Or that’s ok until I can get a new Vitamin C serum?

      A: That should be fine. How is your skin reacting? The best way to tell is always the way your skin is reacting!

      Let me know if you have more questions. I don’t get on here to answer Comments as often as I should, but I am trying to answer each and every comment.

      All the best,

  • John

    You posted (or someone else? I’m not sure if you’re the only author of the articles here since I’m new btw) that niacinamide coupled with vitamin C can be potentially detrimental to the skin? In your customizable moisturizer, the ingredients 4% niacinamide and some form of Vit C are both in the same ingredient formulation….? Is there something I’m missing?

    • Nicki Zevola Benvenuti

      Hi @John —

      Wow, that’s one of the things I really love about our readers — you guys are SO good at remembering what I say and holding me accountable!

      So, two points.

      First — Yes, I did say you can’t use vitamin C and niacinamide together, but that’s the ACIDIC form of vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid). For those who are passing by this comment and haven’t read the article, here it is:

      But you can use non-acidic forms of vitamin C, like tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, with niacinamide.

      Second — I use vitamin CE serum in the morning, and I use niacinamide at night. Does that make sense?

      All the best,

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