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Benito Skinner’s philosophy of buying beauty products can be best explained by Joe Biden. “Guess what? It grows the economy,” Biden said in a press conference. “Benefits everybody. Hurts nobody.” Of course, the president of the United States was talking about an infrastructure plan, but the same principle applies here. “I do not tell anyone what to do with their money. Boost the economy, babe, do whatever you want for your skin,” says the comedian, who is best known for his sketches and celebrity impersonations.
Skinner attributes his skin-care addiction to his job. He’s constantly filming, and some of his characters (like Jenni the TMI hairstylist and Benita) call for a full beat, so his skin goes through a lot — and he’s not willing to go back to his acne days. “I had acne in high school, and it sucked. I fixated on it,” he says. “It feels like you’re the only person experiencing it. Instagram had just started when I was a senior so I didn’t even have all these people with perfect skin to look at all day, who by the way all literally have ring lights and have makeup on.” Cystic acne popped up after his freshman year of college. “I didn’t want to go anywhere,” he says. “I didn’t want to wear any of my clothes — I felt like it was a waste to wear a cute outfit because my skin ruined it.”
So the comedian went on Accutane for six months. “It’s the devil’s drug,” he says. “There’s an alien baby on all the bottles of pills because they’re like, ‘You literally cannot get pregnant on this.’” It exacerbated his already dry skin, but it worked.
Now his daily struggle is perioral dermatitis. “I don’t know what’s worse,” Skinner says. “At least with acne there are products and ingredients that are supposed to help, but with POD, it’s like, ‘Whatever works for you, babe.’ It’s hell.” When it was particularly bad around his chin and nasolabial folds, NYC aesthetician Sofie Pavitt came to his rescue. “I was wearing all kinds of makeup all the time. I was filming so many videos in New York, kind of running around with my head cut off, and I saw the POD spots, and I immediately was like, ‘I need to exfoliate more.’ I was ripping off my skin,” he admits. “And then I went to Sofie, who said, ‘You’re not allowed to exfoliate for a month.’” He only exfoliates three times a week maximum now, but the POD never goes away completely, so when he’s working his way through a flare-up, he uses Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream.
Below, Skinner breaks down his full skin-care routine, including the oil-cleansing balm he discovered on a shoot, the expensive moisturizer worth the splurge, and the gentle $14 cleanser he used during his Accutane days.
The Water Filter
“I moved to Los Angeles, and my skin hated something, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. My perioral dermatitis was flaring up. I was like, Why is my skin breaking out like I’m in high school? I did Accutane. I already paid my dues. What the hell? Like, this is already during a pandemic. There is no positive energy happening in 2020. Then I saw a video where someone said the water in L.A. is hard. So I got a shower filter, just a cheap one from a hardware store. Then I went to [L.A. facialist] Shani Darden, and she confirmed, ‘Yes, it’s the water, babe.’ And she’s a legend — she’s my L.A. mom, and Sofie is my New York mom, my skin-care fairy godmothers.”
The Oil Cleanser
“I’d never done oil cleansing, but then I was on a shoot once, and the makeup artist pulled this out, and she was like, ‘Do your thing,’ and I was like, ‘Do what thing, momma?’ I used it, and it got all my makeup off. If I’m doing a Kardashian video or a character video, I need something that is intense.
“The Nudeskin Balm & Make-Up Melt is really great, too. I got it from Dr. Jason Emer. He did a collab with Nudeskin so he had me try it, and I loved it. It’s a little bit easier to carry — the Drunk Elephant is an absolute goblet. If I’ve done a video, I scoop out the cleansing balm, and I’m definitely heavy-handed in all skin-care things, which is why my dolls have told me to scale it back. But both of these products are great.”
The Shaving Cream
“I still recommend this to anyone. You’ll be in the aisle at CVS trying to find the shaving cream, and the bottles are like, ‘We have menthol, you fucking tough guy,’ but I don’t want that shit on my face. I just want a soft thing. I get ingrown hairs a lot so I just want something that’s comfortable and doesn’t have a bunch of psycho ingredients in it. I also don’t need it to look like, you know, dark gray with a black font because that makes me a man or whatever. I hate all that.
“I’ve been a longtime user of the Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant, and I just love Paula’s Choice. I think they’re amazing; they’ve saved my skin many a time. And this shaving cream is just so different than everything else I found on the market. No scent, thank God. It’s very creamy — it’s not a fluffy shaving cream. It almost feels you’re using a really thick lotion.
“And in terms of razors, I never go over a two-blade razor because I get ingrown hairs. Those 12-blade, big-daddy razors make me nervous. My skin will hate that. I’m a sensitive boy, for sure.”
The Gel Cleanser
“This is such a staple, and now I’m seeing it blow up on TikTok. All these teens are using good products, and I’m like, ‘What the hell? You’re supposed to use shit. Like, you’re supposed to use microbeads, and it’s supposed to all smell like a banana. Like, this sucks! You guys are gonna have clear skin forever.’ No, it makes me happy — I had cysts on my jaw as a teen.
“I think a dermatologist recommended Cerave when I was on Accutane. It was like, ‘How much Cerave can I cake on my face so I look like I didn’t just go skiing?’ And the answer: Never enough.”
“Oh my god, this toner is so amazing. I love Dr. Sturm. I think her products are incredible. I had been looking for a toner that had no fragrance but had hyaluronic acid in it, and Dr. Sturm also talks a lot about perioral dermatitis (POD), so I was like, ‘Okay, I can trust this queen, this German icon.’ And I got the toner, and I’ve never gone back. I put my sister onto it too, and she’s obsessed now, too.
“I never used a toner before moving to L.A., but I just need to get the pollution and gunk of this city off my face, and the toner takes care of it. And it’s expensive, but it’s so worth it to me because it’s changed my skin — her hyaluronic acid, too. I was gifted that once, and I think about that era in my life every day. It was a game-changer. I just haven’t gone back because I have so many wigs to buy [Laughs]. If I met Dr. Sturm, I would be starstruck. I only get starstruck for estheticians and dermatologists; they take my breath away.”
“This is from Dr. Jason Emer, who is a microneedling king, and he was recommended to me by Sofie Pavitt. I just got his hyaluronic acid, and it’s great. I feel like there are definitely some great ones on the market — I’ve used the $8 Inkey List Serum before, and I loved that; I have used the Barbara Sturm one, and it was amazing.
“I use hyaluronic acid a little bit sparingly because if I use it and then I also use moisturizer and sunscreen, I’m going to be a big oil ball. Some people really douse it on, and I can’t go full-on, especially when I’m filming in front of lights during the day — I want to be moisturized but I can’t be too moisturized or the shine will throw off the auto-balance. A few drops gives nice hydration. That said, sometimes I’ll take a shower at night, and maybe my boyfriend will want to go out to dinner, and I’m like, ‘I look like a wet rat, but okay, let’s do it.’”
The Barrier Cream
“I think they tell you to use this when your skin needs a little, like, TLC, but I need it every day. Like, how’s ten pumps? It’s like I have stock in Krave or something because I have sold so many bottles to my friends. I’m always like, ‘You have to get this.’ I found it through Skincare by Hyram — I love him. I wish that I had had a very educational legend on YouTube as a kid, and it’s also nice to see someone who probably cares about skin care even more than me, which is nice. That makes me feel good.
“The Krave Great Barrier Relief is great for barrier repair. I knew that mine was impaired because I was getting so many POD spots. I was getting acne in places I never got it. My skin was so raw all the time, and everything was burning. I needed to strip down my skin-care routine and really focus on what I actually need, not what’s trendy or what I’m watching people do. So I started using this and Avène Cicalfate, and then a friend of mine gave me the Augustine Bader cream [below], and that’s quite a product.”
“What can we even say about this moisturizer? It’s unreal. A friend gave it to me — she will be in my life forever now; I think about her often. I literally don’t even know what’s in it, but it makes my skin glow. Anytime I get compliments, I probably have that on. I use it sparingly for sure. You can make it last if you don’t use 12 pumps every night. I wish I could, though — I hope that someday I’ll be a 70-year-old man coating my whole ass in it.
“This is just what I love. Like I don’t go to sporting events, you know what I mean? I rationalize it. I’m like, ‘I have to be on camera.’ [Laughs]. It just makes me feel good, and in 2020 and 2021, whatever makes you feel good that’s not hurting anyone, go ahead.”
The Eye Cream
“I’ve used so many eye creams, and I’ve been sent quite a few, but I never felt like I saw any change. I have pretty blue undereyes — my whole family does — and Shani Darden’s eye cream was really the one that made me go, ‘Damn, I really do see such a difference.’ My eye area looked brighter and less puffy immediately, so it’s a great daytime one as well as for nighttime. It almost has the effect of wearing patches on my eyes, and the cream is so fluffy. There’s a nice little plumping, too. I’m almost out, I have like a pea-size left, and I’m like, ‘Hey, Ms. Darden, Daddy needs a re-up.’”
“Shani Darden also put me on to this sunscreen. Supergoop makes so many good sunscreens for all skin types — I’ve seen them in so many little Susan Alexander purses over the years. It has sunflower-seed oil in it, and it leaves absolutely no white cast whatsoever. I can still put this on, and it doesn’t ruin the look of my skin from the skin care I put on — I’ve used so many others, and they kind of dried out everything. Like, I just spent 30 minutes trying to look like a sweet baby, and you took that from me. What’s the point of using these expensive products if I don’t have that?”
“Throughout the day, I also use this Tower 28 spray. It’s unscented, and it makes me glow.”