The ER Doctor Whose Morning Routine Starts At Midnight


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“Hi! My name is Ana Paulina Santos (@anapaulinasantos). I live in Monterrey, México, where I’m a medical doctor working in pediatrics. I love taking care of children’s health from a global perspective: from visual and hearing screenings, to breastfeeding and development. Since there is a shortage of doctors here due to COVID, I also do night shifts in the ER. The jobs are extremely different but both very rewarding.

As a doctor, skincare is healthy skin above all else. I research every new ingredient and device and read every major dermatology journal. I only use skincare that is completely evidence-based, with proven ingredients from reliable pharmaceutical companies. And on top of that, my extremely beautiful dermatologist always approves new products before I start using them. Years of running to different derms after destroying my skin with expensive, trendy products has taught me that a simple routine is the best—overall, my favorite brand is Avène. Another good piece of advice is that no one should own a magnifying glass. It’s just a path to scarred, picked-at skin, too thin eyebrows, and broken nose capillaries. He who avoids temptation avoids sin.

My routine starts with a shower—I shower twice a day with lukewarm water. For years I used freezing water, even in the winter, because I thought it was better for my skin, but I never ended up seeing a benefit. So while I still abstain from hot water, I ended my suffering. After I get home from a night shift in the morning, I apply a biphasic oil or makeup remover balm to my face and then jump in the shower. I use a cloth to take off my makeup or sunscreen, and depending on how my skin feels, I’ll wash my face with Cerave Hydrating Cleanser or Avène Cleanance Gel. I wash my hair once a day—in the morning if I’m coming home from a COVID night shift or at night if I’m really sweaty from the day. I use any drugstore shampoo and conditioner, but if my hair feels dry, L'Oréal Elvive Extraordinary Oil Conditioner is my favorite. While the conditioner sets, I brush my teeth and wash my body with glycerin soap. I’ve tried to convert to being a shower gel gal without success. If it’s winter, I’ll put on some body oil while still in the shower, or I’ll get out, dry off, and apply cream. I have to do my whole routine top-to-bottom or I won’t feel clean.

On my skin, I use a tranexamic acid 5-percent serum that I got from my dermatologist to minimize my sun spots. My mother used to fry us in the sun because she thought we looked better darker, so they’re unfortunately a gift from her. Now I’m so diligent with SPF—I alternate between Avène, Skinceuticals, Biore Aqua Rich Gel, and my favorite, Shiseido Senka. I have virgin hair that stays healthy without much frizz, though trimming it every two months helps a lot. I have a great stylist, but I cut it myself in quarantine and ended up chopping a lot more than planned.

I can never find time to comb my hair, do a full face of makeup, or do my nails, so I tend to be pretty natural on a daily basis. But, because I’m just as lazy as I am vain, natural is really achieved on a mid-term basis. I depilate with a laser, get my lashes lifted and tinted at a salon, and tint my short brows with Just for Men to make them look fuller. It’s easy and affordable—just be sure to buy a shade lighter than what you think you need. I also get half a unit of Botox under my eyes every six months. I’m very self-conscious about my dark undereye circles, and have tried every cream, laser, and filler without success. I actually found my current dermatologist because I thought maybe a different doctor would be able to do the fillers more successfully. Instead, she uses Botox to make the little lines blur and the circles less noticeable. She’s also done two sessions of fractionated frequency on me, which made such a difference in lifting my lids and cheeks. It’s really painful and leaves rectangular marks on my skin for a couple days, but I still can't wait until it’s safe enough for me to go back and have a third session.

During the week I always do my makeup in my car. First I use a concealer that sets well without powder, like Nars Radiant Creamy in Fiji, Armani Power Fabric in 4, or this Saem concealer which I found through Into The Gloss. Then I apply Stila Convertible Color in Peony (the best to throw in a purse), a hydrating satin-y lipstick, Anastasia Dipbrow Gel, and any sample of mascara I have lying around. I never buy mascara anymore.

Just because I don’t wear much makeup on a daily basis doesn’t mean I don’t love it. When I was 12 my mom got me a complete set of makeup and a makeup class from Yves Rocher, and I eventually began selling their cosmetics. I don’t support most MLM companies, but Yves Rocher gave me an excellent makeup education and I made good sales commissions. I no longer use the products, but they still hold a place in my heart. Now I look for luxury and pretty packaging, and if I’m going out, I can step up my game. I like Nars Luminous or the Bobbi Brown foundation stick, maybe diluted with a drop of argan oil. I correct with Nars Soft Matte in Honey, use the Radiant Creamy or YSL Touche Éclat to brighten, and then go in with tons of bronzer and blush. For bronzer, my favorites are Nars Laguna liquid and, for a more dramatic look, Bobbi Brown bronzer in Stonestreet. My blush is usually Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam, Nars’ G-Spot multiple, or a powder from MACPinch Me or Melba, specifically. I finish my face with a layer of Guerlain Météorites. I’m still looking for a good pressed powder that mattifies and gives a nice, natural layer of coverage without looking chalky. I desperately hope the glowing, greasy look will go out of style, because I much prefer a satin finish.

Many years ago, I read an interview with makeup artist Paul Starr where he said that makeup, like the frame of an art piece, doesn’t make the face better but enhances it. I want makeup products that work, not products I have to work with to make them work. I have small, deep-set eyes, and I know eyeshadow never looks great on me. I will wear a very light shade, like Nars Copacabana or a tiny bit of MAC Nylon, in my inner corners with MAC Haux to subtly contour. Then I do a thin liner. I use a Bobbi Brown ultra fine brush and add a drop of Inglot Duraline to turn my eyeshadows into liners—my favorites to use are a green with gold shimmer, dark navy, espresso and carbon black. Then I use a pencil on the lower lash line to make my eyes look bigger, smudge it a little, and apply lots of mascara. I’m still looking for a good nude eyeliner for my lower waterline. MAC Viva Glam V is the perfect nighttime nude, and I couldn’t get enough before they discontinued it—I’m still grieving and looking for a dupe. Urban Decay in Zealot [Ed note: discontinued] is a very natural, flattering red, Bobbi Brown in Brownie (which is actually more of a mauve) is my favorite for a sultry look, and Charlotte Tilbury’s Carina Star is an elegant, everyday winner. But what I adore the most is my brushes. I had to sell my kidneys for my Hakuhodo and Tom Ford brushes. I’d love to try the Rephr and Wayne Goss ones, but sadly they’ve been impossible to get my hands on.

After my shower at night, I always double cleanse. Then I apply Avène Tolerance Extreme Cream and a retinoid. I have used adapalene for several years, but I recently started breaking out from having to wear PPE for 36-plus hours. Now I use a clindamycin and adapalene serum, also by my derm. I don’t use AHAs or BHAs, which can be too harsh in combination with retinoids—I find that an abuse of products just leads to inflammation and even bigger problems. The Ordinary’s caffeine serum works great for puffy eyes and I sometimes add the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye, which is a cosmetically elegant product that does nothing but moisturize. I’ll do my night shift with just those two on my eyes, no makeup or anything else. I know I must not look too bad, because three years ago I met my boyfriend during a night shift.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author