We don’t know about you, but with all the free hours we’ve suddenly found ourselves with, beauty has proven to be a welcome distraction from the gloom and doom of these precarious times. The allure of trying out shiny new things never dulls. If we’re going to be stuck at home, we may as well take the opportunity to rehabilitate the largest organ in our bodies and try to land a routine that lets our skin thrive.

Having worked in publishing for over a decade (and as Editor-in-Chief of a women’s magazine for much of that time, no less!), Marla has put her skin through it all: “It was fun playing around with a plethora of products, but it was also very confusing and overwhelming both for myself and my skin,” she shares.

Now, at 34, she’s eased up considerably on the experimentation. She’s been consistent with her current routine for roughly 3 months now, which is a long time when you’re otherwise used to swapping out products every week.

“I’ve cut down on my stash [since I started getting serious about skincare in my late 20’s], and I learned to be much more discerning when it comes to the products that make it to my routine. It’s probably not as exciting, but it feels a lot clearer and more satisfying now that I know I decided and invested on my favorite products on my own.”

So, what does a routine composed only of products that “spark joy” (as Marie Kondo would put it) look like? How did Marla’s skincare journey progress and what advice does she have for anyone still working through theirs? Keep scrolling to read up on what she’s learned over the years + all her ultimate recommendations!


Do you always make time for your day and night routines?

MARLA: “Married life means someone is usually rushing you out the door in the morning (I know, annoying), but I always try to find time to start my day with great skincare. It really sets the tone. In the evenings, the pace is a bit more relaxed, and even when it’s not—like after a night out or when I get home dead-tired after a 12-hour workday—I’ll still somehow manage to double-cleanse and slap on a serum before crashing.”

What was your routine like in your teens and early 20’s?

MARLA: “It was mostly just facial wash and oil blotting sheets. Not because I didn’t know better or didn’t have any skin concerns, but because at that time skincare felt like a chore and didn’t spark as much joy as makeup and fashion did. It was only in my late 20’s that I started geeking out over skincare and truly integrating it into my daily life.

Do you have any skincare advice for fellow 30somethings?

MARLA: “It’s okay if you don’t care about ‘anti-aging.’ It’s okay if you don’t mind your fine lines, dark circles, or loss of elasticity. But it’s also okay if you do—because the wealth of options in modern skincare allows you to do something about them. Also, it’s okay if you still get zits!”

What’s your skincare philosophy? How does this inform how you build your routine?

MARLA: “There will be so much information on what works and what doesn’t, but I think it’s also important to pay attention to how your routine makes you feel. Do the items you use energize you and boost your confidence? Do their smell and texture perk you up in the morning or calm your nerves at night? Are these brands that resonate with you and that you personally identify with? Do these products make you happy? Life’s too short to waste on a beauty routine that makes you feel anything but amazing.

What are your holy grails and newest favorites?

MARLA: “The Pixi Glow Tonic and Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser are my HGs and OGs—I’ve been gladly repurchasing them for ~5 years, and I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of them. The newest kid on my skincare block is actually the COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence, which is a total shame, as I don’t know how I lived without it for so long.”

Are there specific benefits or ingredients you look for when shopping for products?

MARLA: “I’d like to believe my skin is at a really good place right now, so I try not to mess with it too much. Hyaluronic acid’s benefits are pretty foolproof and universal, and I’m always on the lookout for brightening ingredients such as niacinamide and galactomyces. I’ve never had a problem with my morena skin tone, but a little bit of glow never hurt anybody!”


(1) GEL CLEANSER: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

“I’d never been loyal to a cleanser before, but this one is for keeps because it’s effective but gentle, non-drying, and safe on the eyes. I love the story behind it, too (it was crowdsourced!).”

(2) TONER: Son & Park Beauty Water (340ml), P1,400

“I pat this on in the morning after cleansing to prep my skin—I’ve been using this for years and the smell still makes me so happy every time. At night, I soak a cotton pad with it and sweep it all over my face to get rid of residual dirt and grime. I find that my products (both skincare and makeup) just work so much better if I start with this.”

Shop it here.

(3) SERUM: Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution

“I initially bought this to lighten dark spots on my arms after getting bitten by a billion sandmites on a beach trip, but now I’ve been using it as an allover brightening face serum. It’s a gentle enough vitamin C to use in the AM, and it doesn’t feel warm or go on sticky.”

(4) ESSENCE: COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence, P1,050
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This item is currently out of stock. Click here to get on the waitlist.]

“At last year’s BeautyMNL popup store, I talked so many people into buying this, explaining that even if they didn’t have any major skin concerns, everyone can use a good hyaluronic acid in their life. I guess I was convincing enough because I ended up buying it myself LOL. But seriously, this is such a great complement to the rest of my routine, and it’s an extra step I’m not mad about at all.”

Shop it here.

(5) EYE SERUM: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG, P650

“This won’t replace your trusty eye cream if you’re concerned about fine lines or dark circles, but the caffeine works wonders in depuffing and perking up your undereyes. I make sure to layer this under my eye cream if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before.”

Shop it here.

(6) EYE CREAM: Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème

“This was a game changer for me. I’ve struggled with dark circles since forever, but this works so wonderfully that sometimes I can even skip concealer! It has illuminating, light-reflecting particles and a color-correcting yellow pigment inspired by banana powder, plus it targets fine lines and hydrates without feeling heavy. It’s a bit pricey but I promise it’s worth every peso.”

(7) SUNSCREEN: Face Republic Sun Gel SPF 50+ (50ml), P499

“Sometimes you just need a no-fuss, lightweight, non-greasy, affordable sunscreen that won’t leave a white cast or make your base pill. This one easily ticks off all the boxes.”

Shop it here.

(8) PRIMER: Laneige Glowy Makeup Serum (30ml), P1,200

“I hate dimethicone-laced primers because they make me break out and feel quite “artificial” on my skin, so I’m always on the lookout for primers that are more dewy than matte. I love how this can be both the last step of my skincare and the first step of my makeup routine. It creates a smooth canvas and boosts radiance with its micro shimmer, while helping balance moisture levels and making me glow from within. The bottle looks so pretty, too!”

Shop it here.

(9) FACIAL MIST: Lauren & Co. Bare Skin Facial Sun Mist with SPF 35 - Renewed (50ml), P299
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This item is currently out of stock. Click here to get on the waitlist.]

“Sometimes I use this as a finishing spray after makeup, but usually I just keep it in my bag as a midday skin refresher or for sunscreen application if I’m heading out of the office for lunch.”

Shop it here.


(1) OIL CLEANSER: Banila Co. Clean It Zero Super Size (180mL), P1,395

“I’m partial to cleansing oils and balms because they make my skin look and feel cleaner than micellar water does. This tub has lasted me over a year, and always does the job in removing a full face of makeup without stripping my face dry.”

Shop it here.

(2) GEL CLEANSER: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

(3) TONER: Son & Park Beauty Water (340ml), P1,400

(4) CHEMICAL EXFOLIATOR: Pixi Glow Tonic, P1,050
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This item is currently out of stock. Click here to get on the waitlist.]

“This was one of the products that really helped jumpstart my skincare journey. I picked it up on a whim, curious about what a ‘glow tonic’ was, and noticed drastic results in just a couple of weeks. My skin was softer, healthier, and more radiant than it had ever been, and I couldn’t stop raving about the product to all my friends. I haven’t looked back since!”

Shop it here.

(5) VITAMIN C SERUM: Dear Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum, P1,200

“I used a vitamin C serum religiously before my wedding, and while I definitely saw results, I couldn’t stand the metallic, “hotdog water” scent. This one doesn’t smell offensive at all, and I find that it’s gentler and less sticky than the brand I was previously using. I’m often at the beach, so this is great at evening out my skin tone after sun exposure and bringing back life to dull, tired skin.”

Shop it here.

(6) ESSENCE: COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence, P1,050

(7) SERUM: UpCircle Beauty Organic Face Serum with Coffee Oil (30ml)

“My skin seems to really like rosehip oil, and this is no exception. It’s made with repurposed coffee grounds but somehow smells like lavender (perfect for helping me go to bed), and the formula is just the right density for my skin to thoroughly absorb while I sleep.”

(8) EYE CREAM: Dermalogica Age Reversal Eye Complex

“My first and so far only foray into retinol. Its anti-aging benefits are more prevention than cure at this point (fortunately!), but I like how it feels luxurious and silky yet lightweight and refreshing. It also has niacinamide—one of my favorite brightening ingredients.”

(9) FACIAL ROLLER: BeautyMNL x MORI Mini Rose Quartz Roller with Acupressure Wand, P649

“If I have a bit more time on my hands, I’ll use [this roller] with [my UpCircle serum]. I’ve been waking up with smooth and fresh skin since discovering this!”

Shop it here.


(1) EXFOLIATING PADS: Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine, P1,295
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This item is currently out of stock. Click here to get on the waitlist.]

“I use this once a week to exfoliate and slough away any rough spots, especially on my nose and chin. The pads are huge, so I usually cut them lengthwise and save the other half for later. It goes on a bit sticky, so make sure you rinse it off thoroughly.”

Shop it here.

(2) EXFOLIATING MASK: Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask

“My absolute favorite mask! I use this 2-3 times a month to refresh my skin and address texture issues. I love how it leaves my face squeaky clean, radiant, and positively glowing, like I’d just gone on vacation. It’s a bit tingly upon application, but nothing too bothersome.”

(3) SHEET MASKS: Leaders Insolution Mediu Amino Clearing Mask, P94, Leaders Insolution Coconut Water Gel Volume & Glow Mask, P209, Leaders Insolution Primer Mask - Blooming Face, P69

“I’ve been trying to cut down on my sheet mask use to lessen waste, but I’ll still do one when there’s a big event or a special occasion. Fun fact: the Mediu Amino Clearing Mask is super special to me because I used it the night before my wedding.”

Shop them here, here, and here.

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