Welcome to You Look Moist, a column in which Man Repeller asks cool people with glowing visages how they achieved their supreme hydration (amongst other things). Today’s installment features Jennifer Saesue, co-owner of New York-based Thai restaurants Chicks Isan and Fish Cheeks.
How would you describe your skin?
My skin is pretty moist and dewy from all the products I layer on my face every day. Without them, my skin is very dry and sensitive. I’ve suffered from eczema for my entire life and can sense a flare up from a mile away. If I’m exposed to extreme temperature changes or humidity, or if I eat too much of certain things (mainly dairy and sugar), I know a flare-up will occur somewhere on my body. For example, when I travel from New York to Bangkok (where my family is from) and undergo an extreme temperatures change, I have to stay extra hydrated, calm, and cool–or else my neck, the crook of my arm, and the cupid’s bow area on my face will get extremely itchy. Also if I drink more than two alcoholic beverages, the eczema on my hands will flare up right away.
How would you describe your skincare approach in general?
Now that I’m in my 30s, my skincare approach is guided by the advice of my esthetician. I have been seeing Vicki from Vicki Morav Spa for awhile now, and she has changed my whole perspective. I used to think more is better when it comes to products, but she helped me see otherwise. She also taught me that what I eat really affects how my skin looks. A couple times a year (usually during transitional weather) I experience eczema flare-ups all over my body including my face, so during these seasonal changes I’ll reduce my intake of sugar, dairy, alcohol, and spicy foods to stop or at least slow down the inflammation. This practice is extremely hard for me, since I own Thai restaurants and I’m constantly surrounded by my favorite foods with bold flavors such as spice, acidity, and salt. But it makes a big difference.
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Which skincare products are integral to your routine for achieving your ideal, glowing, well-moisturized complexion, and how/when do you use each of them?
I’m pretty regimented when it comes to my skincare steps. Though I have simplified my skincare routine a bit during quarantine since I’m not exposed to pollution, I’m typically a two-step cleanse kind of girl. I’ll start off with Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm, then I follow that with Forlle’d Hyalogy Creamy Wash. It deeply cleanses but does not strip the barrier of my skin. I also like Laneige Moisturizing Cream Cleanser because it doesn’t break the bank. It gives me a deep, foamy cleanse that moisturizes and leaves my skin hydrated. When I feel like my skin is dull, I use MBR Enzyme Cleansing Booster. It’s a fruit enzyme powder and exfoliant that dissolves impurities, removing dead skin cells and excess sebum. I think it helps my skin look suppler and smoother.
My second step is toner. I’m a Biologique Recherche junkie, and I’m very religious with my Lotion P50. It’s an AMAZING product that contains all the necessary AHA and BHA exfoliants, so it tones, balances the skin’s pH, and exfoliates away dead skin cells and impurities. It turns my face bright red for a couple minutes whenever I eat meat or drink alcohol the day before applying it–because my skin is acidic and not well-balanced. It’s a great litmus test in that way. If you are a first-timer, I recommend only using it a couple of times a week to start (don’t let the redness scare you!).
I usually follow P50 with SKII Facial Treatment Essence, which helps any serum I put on subsequently to absorb and work at its full potential. There are so many different types of serum that I love, and Skinceuticals C E Ferulic is one of my go-tos. It provides advanced environmental protection from skin-damaging free radicals caused by sun and pollution and helps brighten skin tone. Another serum I need to mention is Biologique Recherche Sérum Placenta. Although this product smells terrible, it gets rid of all my acne-scarring and dark spots. But my most favorite serums—not to mention the most effective for me at the moment—is Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil combined with Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Serum. I wake up with hydrated and plump skin every time I use them. Once I apply serum, I usually use a jade roller to push in the product and encourage lymphatic drainage.
Then I apply moisturizer. I love Laneige Water Bank Moisture Cream because it’s very rich but also lightweight and not sticky. Valmont Hydra 3 Regenetic Cream is what I use if I want to splurge and feel luxurious. It has a high concentration of hyaluronic acid that keeps my face moist for a long time. After moisturizer comes SPF–a step ingrained in me by my mother since I was a child. I’m not really loyal to any specific SPF brands, but I like Supergoop Everyday Lotion SPF 50.
Since I’ve been at home for the last month, I’ve had a lot more time to do face masks. I buy them from The Face Shop, which is an affordable Korean skincare brand with tons of sheet masks to choose from.
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What about makeup products?
My makeup routine is very minimal. In general, I only wear mascara and lip balm on a daily basis (though I haven’t worn any makeup during quarantine). I’m obsessed with Dior Iconic Overcurl Mascara and Laneige Lip Glowy Balm. My eyebrows are microbladed–best decision of my life! Occasionally, if I’m putting on a full face of makeup, I prefer Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, Bobbi Brown Bronzer, Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen, Charlotte Tilbury Lipstick in Pillow Talk, or Nars Powermatte Lip Pigment in Don’t Stop, and Chanel Baume Essential Highlight for maximum glow!
What is the cheapest product you use regularly and love?
My Laneige Water Bank Moisturizer Cream. Even if I’m feeling incredibly lazy, I would still wash my face and slap on this cream at the very least.
Is there anything you try to avoid, skincare- or makeup-wise?
In my early 20s, I was obsessed with sunbathing. Now that the fear of melasma and wrinkles has really set in, I try to avoid being in direct sunlight. I also avoid rubbing and touching my face as much as possible. Oh, also, makeup wipes are not my friend!
Any next-level tips, tricks, or services that you swear by to help you look “lit from within”?
For me, diet is a really big part of staying “lit from within.” You are what you eat is real, so I try to pay attention to what my skin needs. Beyond simply staying hydrated, I’m a proponent of finding a good esthetician and incorporating a facial into your routine once a month or every two months. I’ve also seen great results with treatments like microdermabrasion and microneedling.
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What’s your go-to product or trick for fixing a skin disaster?
When I’m experiencing an eczema flare-up (my most consistent “skin disaster”), I try to maintain a very balanced diet and eliminate alcohol completely. I also make sure that my skin stays as clean and hydrated as possible.
Do you do anything differently skincare-wise when you travel?
It depends on the destination. I visit my parents in Thailand every year. During those trips, I try to avoid thick and heavy products since Thailand is extremely humid. I typically change out my serum and moisturizer for alternatives with a lighter consistency.
What’s something you wish your teenage self knew about taking care of your skin?
I wish I listened to my mother and wore SPF religiously.