collier’s Pre-Makeup Staples

[Not actual staples — extreme body-mod isn’t really my métier.]

My skin has always been oily, and now that I’m in my 40s it’s also graced with a bunch of fine lines around my eyes (oh, joy and hurrah). That combination has made it increasingly challenging to get a makeup job I’m happy with — particularly since A) I don’t like a heavy makeup look, as it feels Too Done for me and also it’s too difficult to maintain, B) so many treatments and primers have silicones that make my acne-prone skin lump up like poorly-mixed pancake batter, and C) I’m effing lazy and the fewer steps and products I have to use before I get to The Fun Stuff (eyes and lips), the happier I’ll be.

I’ve tried a crap ton (or a metric shite tonne, if you’re British and enjoy archaic orthography) of serums and toners and moisturizers and primers — the majority of them didn’t seem to make much of a difference, and quite a lot of them were Hot Trash that broke me out or made my skin even oilier or interfered with makeup application or wear. But! Here’re four things that actually give me appreciable results and which I use without fail — at least on days when I’m actually putting on a face full o’ slap and leaving the house :


May Coop Raw Sauce : I don’t know about this “ooo, acer maple water” stuff, but this kinda-serum / quasi-essence does contain lots of moisturizing elements (glycerin and a load of botanical extracts that may or may not do anything), including hyaluronic acid for hydration/plumping. It has a lovely light scent, doesn’t make my face do Bad Things, and does make my skin feel more moisturized but doesn’t make it feel oilier. It does contains alcohol, presumably as an emulsifier? But it doesn’t specify what type of alcohol, and I don’t seem get any ill effects from it so I let it slide this one time. One complaint : this absolutely lovely bottle is GLASS and TALL AND SKINNY and is just begging to be knocked over and shattered on my bathroom counter. That’s me, livin’ on the edge. $43 for 5oz at Sephora.

The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% : Hyaluronic and peptides, woo. I use a tiny amount of this around my eye area to help temporarily plump the skin and minimize the look of little wrinkles, and hopefully over time diminish the wrinkles somewhat, as peptides are allegedly effective in that arena. I’ve only been using it for a month or so, though, which is probably too soon for me to be seeing any really noteworthy results. $11.50 for 1oz at

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% : Adds moisture, feels smooth, niacinamide helps control oil production, and the zinc definitely provides some additional oil control and a little mattifying (noticeably more so than my previous niacinamide serum). My only complaint about this (and so many of The Ordinary’s products) is that I really wish they’d replace the dropper with a pump dispenser to minimize both potential mess and exposure to air.  $5.90 for 1oz on

Malin + Goetz SPF 30 Face Moisturizer : Light, doesn’t feel greasy, not heavily or weirdly scented, no white cast detectable on my [admittedly quite fair] skin, doesn’t break me out, behaves perfectly under makeup, and has gold-standard broad-spectrum sun protection via avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate. $38 for 1.7oz on or on Amazon for the same price (and free shipping). (Not cheap, but significantly less than what I was paying for only 1 oz of prior fave Clinique Even Better SPF 20, which made no appreciable difference in my skintone/even-ness.)

Tried ’em? Got another favorite? Tellllll ussssss.