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AM/PM: A Skincare Routine For The Overstressed Grad Student

Welcome to AM/PM, where Autostraddle team members break down and share their skincare routines, makeup looks and more!


Photo of Lily on a yellow background

I’m Lily, a contributing writer here at Autostraddle. I’m also an overachiever because I love validation. Is it so bad? That’s subjective — and also something to dissect in therapy.

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Originally, my skincare routine began similar to how many young, clueless people start out — the Clean and Clear Morning and Night face washes and St. Ives scrubs and creams. Luckily, I’ve grown a lot since then and will never commit those atrocities against my face again.

My older half-sister is a licensed esthetician and is all about skincare. She also has a business called Spa’cifically For You, where she makes body care products and does facial or waxing appointments, so go support a business owned by a Black woman and mother. She helped me learn how to take care of my skin throughout the years and taught me the importance of self-care.

I often joke that I never have enough hours in the day. I work and I’m currently pursuing a Master’s degree in English Literature. If I’m not in class or on the job, I’m burying myself in a reading or writing assignment. Stopping to take care of myself allows me to find peace and ground myself. That is why I developed a morning skincare routine that’s quick, isn’t 10+ steps, and still leaves me feeling like I’m the most fuckable person in the room.

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The Products

A collage of skincare products on a yellow background

1. Baby Frioz Mini Icy Globes ($58) 2. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($12) 3. Drunk Elephant Intensive Hydration Serum ($48) 4. Derma E Vitamin C Glow Face Oil ($21.95) 5. Supergoop! Every. Single. Face. Water Lotion ($34) 6. L’Oreal Paris Eye Defense Cream ($19) 7. TYNT Brow Gel ($14)

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The Routine

Before touching your face, WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS!! Any skincare routine is pointless if you don’t make sure that your hands are clean. Okay, back to regular programming.

After wetting my face with lukewarm water, I use my CeraVe Hydrating Face Cleanser. It’s classic and popular for a reason, it gets the job done without leaving my face dry.

For serums, I used to always use The Ordinary. It’s affordable, reliable, and never caused me any problems. However, my mom once received a lot of skincare products from a friend and gave me the Drunk Elephant Intensive Hydration Serum. It makes my skin sooooooo soft, moisturized, and gives me a shine that wasn’t there when I used The Ordinary. Though I wouldn’t typically spend this much money on a product, it does come with a lot and lasts a while.

Two small drops of my Derma-E Vitamin C Glow Face Oil are applied onto my palm before spreading it across my face. It gives me such a good glow and is my absolute favorite step because it really helps tie everything together.

As someone who’s always struggled with dark eye circles and puffy eyes, L’Oreal’s Eye Defense cream and Icy Globes saved my life. The globes came from the Allure Beauty Box, a subscription I tragically had to cancel in order to save money. The eye cream came from a sale in my local Walgreens. I use the globes, which should be stored in a cool place like a refrigerator, to rub the cream into my face.

Similar to Analyssa, I stand by Supergoop’s face lotion. It’s lightweight and protects my skin under the sun. This is especially important since my mother used to have melanoma, which increases the chances of me developing skin cancer (I know that was dark as hell so sorry for killing the vibe okay). Finally, I top it off with the TYNT Brow Gel, another gem from Allure’s Beauty Box. It makes my brows look more full and defined. Once my skincare routine is complete, I get dressed, pack my lunch, and then I’m on my way to take the bus and train for my daily commute.

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Two photos of Lily side by side on a yellow background

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So, there go all my secrets. You can’t disrupt academia without looking good. There’s always this heavy weight — I’m the first in my family to ever go to grad school and Latinas barely make up 4% of all those with Master’s degrees in the United States. Shit’s hard. But my routine makes me confident and ready to take up space. And feel fuckable. Speckled deep orange spacer

A photo of lily after her skincare routine on a yellow background


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Lily Alvarado

Lily Alvarado is a queer Boricua whose heart was born and sings in The Bronx, New York. Her titles include grad student, educator, decolonial feminist, breaker of generational cycles, and lover of reptiles.

Lily has written 15 articles for us.

11 Comments

    • Shelli Nicole here, Culture Editor at Autostraddle and editor on this piece. This was the verbiage written by Lily, and I as the editor loved it and chose not to edit out the words of my writer.

      When continuing to read the piece, this quote that you selected to pull out and focus on is followed by more pertinent information about how Lily feels about pursuing higher education as a queer person of color.

      Yes, skincare can be considered a frivolity but for this writer, it is something that encourages her days as she continues to take up space in academia.

      Thanks for reading ‘tho.

      Shelli Nicole

  1. The multiple articles have done it and now I guess I’ll find out if that supergoop spf is worth it. I ordered the one listed and the unseen to compare—not the biggest fan of stuff on my skin, but definitely need sun screen

  2. Loved your routine and thoughts on self-care, Lily! I’ve been struggling with a morning routine that works for me for basically ever, and “My routine makes me confident and ready to take up space. And feel fuckable.” – feels like the beginning of a new daily affirmation.

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