As far as dream jobs go, Melinda Solares has a pretty sweet gig. As Sephora‘s new beauty director, she gets to try out just about every product that hits the store’s shelves and give unbiased recommendations to the millions of people who shop there every day.
But as fun as it is to drown in lipsticks and moisturizers, it’s also a responsibility she takes seriously. Because if anyone knows the transformative power of great skin care—and more importantly, listening to what your particular skin needs—it’s Solares. “When I was younger I really struggled with hormonal, cystic acne. I still have some scarring,” she says. Solares tried everything: diet changes, doxycycline, spironolactone, exercise, facials, laser treatments, Botox, and the least helpful advice of all when you have chronic acne, drinking more water.
“It’s been a long journey, but overall my skin is my dream now,” she says, crediting the years of trial and error it took working with a dermatologist and an esthetician to get her skin in a healthier place. It’s also why she approaches her work with no judgments. “I consider myself a realist. So whenever someone asks me, ‘What should I use in my skin-care routine?’ I ask them about their lifestyle,” she says. “If they’re busy or don’t have a ton of interest in beauty, then I’m like, let’s just nail down the basics and make sure you have a routine you can keep consistent.”
Whether it’s simple or involved, she says sticking with a routine is key. For her personally, that means—at minimum—starting the day with a light rinse, a hyaluronic acid serum, and an SPF moisturizer. “I cater my skin-care routine based on what my skin needs and how busy or anxious I’m feeling,” says Solares. “At most, I’ll go up to nine steps in my routine—usually on Sundays when I want to take some time for self-care.”
So what makes the cut when you have all of Sephora’s top-sellers at your disposal? We asked Solares to drop her routine—and, of course, spill what’s worth grabbing the next time you find yourself aimlessly wandering through Sephora.
The first thing I’ve been really into lately—especially since I’ve been at home and haven’t been able to get to the dermatologist or facialist—is steaming my face before I start my skin care routine. I always say, think of your skin like a sponge. When you’re washing dishes, if your sponge is dry, it doesn’t do much. But when it’s wet, it picks up and absorbs everything on your plate. Your skin acts the same way. When you use steam before cleansing, you loosen the dirt in your pores and create pathways for everything to come off easier. And it’ll make your skin care afterwards absorb better.
I’ve tried a ton of steamers, but nothing compares to Dr. Dennis Gross’s Pro Facial Steamer. It packs a punch with the steam. You’re never left wondering “is this really doing anything?” In my dream world I’d use it every night, but realistically, I use it about twice a week. I’ll either start cleansing, then sit in front of this so it helps break down my makeup, or I’ll pop on a face mask and steam. I had bad cystic acne for years, and I feel like this was a game-changer for me.
Most mornings, I just splash my face with cold water. But at night, I’m all about the double cleanse. I’ll start by using a pre-cleanser to help break down any makeup I’m wearing. Lately, I’ve been using the Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Melt Away Cleansing Balm. It is so good. I mean, get-Halloween-makeup-off-in-one-try good. And I find that it keeps my dry skin feeling way more moisturized and hydrated than other makeup removers.