Katharine McPhee has long been obsessed with skin care. At 10, the actor and singer started consistently wearing sunscreen after her mother told her it prevented wrinkles. “Instead of the health concern, it was the vanity concern, even at 10 years old,” she says with a laugh. As a teen, McPhee—who recently launched her own jewelry line, KMF Jewelry—visited her favorite aesthetician at least once a month for extractions. “I used to show up to our musical theater rehearsals after school bright red because she would just go to town,” she recalls. “But I never had breakouts in high school, and I think it’s because I was really diligent about going to get my skin cleaned out.”
These habits continued on into adulthood. “It was always a real thing for me,” McPhee says. “Then I got pregnant.” She had developed melasma, a condition that causes patches and spots darker than your natural skin tone, while pregnant with her son with husband David Foster. She tried at first combating it with bleaching creams and peels, before eventually settling on a more natural approach. “I realized it wasn’t something I was going to be able to really fully combat,” she says. “So I just let my hormones pass and change. And it’s pretty much subsided.”
Now that her son is almost two, McPhee is getting back into her old skin care routines—with some modifications. “It’s never going to be what my 22-year-old skin was, as it shouldn’t,” she says. “I’m 38. My perspective now is that if your skin is clean and moisturized, that’s when it looks the best.” Still, some old habits die hard: “My husband will say, ‘What are you doing in the bathroom so long?’ and I’m either giving myself extractions or playing with my jewelry line.”
It’s more about an attitude shift. “I’ll always care about the way I look, but there’s more of an acceptance with myself now,” she explains. “I remember, at 22, being like, ‘Oh my God, I have a line.’ But that’s the beauty of growing older—now I have more love and grace for myself.”
Below, Katharine McPhee drops her skin care routine.
My makeup removers
My morning and night skin care routines tend to be the same. At night I am a big fan of Neutrogena wipes. I always have been. I also love the MAC wipes. I think they were the first to come out with those makeup remover wipes, and I’ve never had problems with breaking out with them. And there’s just enough of a floral scent that it’s pleasant.
After I use the wipes, I’ll wash my skin. I’ve used a lot of different products, but the most simple one that I’ve used consistently over all the years is Dermalogica. I’m old-school. I use the precleanse oil. It smells great. As soon as it hits the water, it turns into a little bit of a cloudy cleanser. I just do a tiny drop because a little bit goes a long way. I love face cleanser that foams and gets all the residue of makeup that I didn’t get the first time around.
I want to give a shout-out and big kudos to my really great friend Sahar Sanjar, who about a year ago launched her company Sundree. She has a beautiful serum that I really love, the Ryse + Shyne hydrating facial serum. It’s an amazing price point and not sticky. Some serums can be a little bit sticky, but this one is a perfect consistency. She also makes really great eye patches. I don’t do those every day, but I definitely love to use her serum after I cleanse.
I’ll use just about any moisturizer, but I have a couple different ones I’m using now. I’m a big fan of the iS Clinical moisturizer. If I’m going with a heavier moisturizer, like La Mer, that kind of acts as my eye cream as well.
I love Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate. I leave that one in my shower. I do that maybe a couple times a week. I have to do some things in the shower because the patience that I have for skin care has gotten…I just want to get into bed and sleep, basically. If I can add certain things into the shower, like body scrubs and ExfoliKate, that’s my favorite.
I was very lucky that I learned to use sunscreen at a young age. It’s funny because I still get melasma, which is not necessarily sun damage, but it looks like sun damage. I mean, everyone’s going to have some degree of sun damage. The EltaMD is 100% my favorite sunscreen because it acts, to me, as a moisturizer as well. I can just literally wash my face and don’t put anything else on, aside from the Sundree serum and the sunscreen. It’s all I need.
My shower essentials
My husband hates body wash. That doesn’t mean that I can’t like body wash, but if I run out of shower gel, I’ll just end up going straight to the Dove soap bar, which I’ve loved since I was a little kid. I typically just use that. There’s a lot of great body scrubs and gels, but I really do love Fresh. The lychee shower gel is amazing, and I love to use the brown sugar body polish.
I’m not a big perfume wearer, but there are two moisturizers that I use instead. Kiehl’s body lotion is just so good. I like a pretty thick body lotion, and it’s just thick enough. I have a big jug of it that lasts me for a whole year. And then the other one I use is Laura Mercier Crème Brûlée body lotion. I actually combine it with the Kiehl’s because the scent is so strong that I don’t want to be one of those people who walk into the room and people think, Whoa—she was wearing a lot of perfume. It’s a great moisturizer, but the perfume smell is so strong—in a really great way. I just like it to be a little less because the smell lasts all day long. In fact, the next morning I’ll still smell it on my body. It’s a wintery, woody vanilla smell, and I always get compliments like, “What is that you’re wearing?” Because it’s not a perfume, it doesn’t smell like what everybody else is wearing. It’s weird because I don’t smell it on anybody. I would know. If I smell that, I’d be like, “Oh, you’re wearing Laura Mercier.” It’s not a typical vanilla perfume. It’s different. I can’t imagine someone using that lotion and trying to wear perfume with it. You can’t compete. It’s so intense. And if used properly, it’s amazing.
Anna Moeslein is the deputy editor at Glamour.