Jennifer Garner Says This Drugstore Serum Is the "Mack Daddy" Skin-Smoothing Product

Jennifer Garner Byrdie

@hairbyadir / Design by Cristina Cianci

What I Put on My Face

All skin is good skin, which is why good skincare is more of a journey than a destination. We all love a one-off tip—but, at Byrdie, we’re more interested in how our skin evolves over time. The product we've used for a decade, the ingredient cocktail that made us glow, the step we never skip, and all the advice in between. This is the stuff that makes a real difference. With What I Put on My Face, we’re bringing you the rituals, recommendations, and failed experiments (we’ve all had them) straight from celebrities, founders, and influencers who’ve gone through it themselves. 

The title "America's Sweetheart" is tossed around flippantly in Hollywood, treated more like a general compliment than a distinct honor. But arguably no one is more deserving of the label than Jennifer Garner. The Houston native with an incandescent smile, prominently charming dimples, and overall angelic disposition feels like a familiar friend or a close relative you can entrust with your entire being. And while she rose to fame playing seductive dark forces like assassin Elektra Natchios in Daredevil or CIA agent Sydney Bristow in Alias, it's softer roles like those in 13 Going on 30, Valentine's Day, and Love, Simon where the Jennifer Garner Effect really takes place—you know, the one where her onscreen presence is so completely enchanting that for a moment, you become sucked into some sort of time warp. She isn't quite acting in these roles; instead, you're seeing her true essence—the same lovable, raw person that bares every quirk and ounce of humility on her Instagram page. (Don't follow her for glam shots and staged posing; with Garner, you'll only be fed delightful videos like her bathing her giant cat, Moose; re-posts of funny memes, or lessons on meditation with special guests.)

We recently caught up briefly with Garner on Zoom, whose sunshine aura was just as bright via Wi-Fi. The mother of three and Neutrogena brand ambassador shared her skincare must-haves, the ingredient that "changes your skin," and the best tip her mom taught her. Read our chat below.

About Her Skin

Skin is the most important to me. I'm not a makeup wearer... I mean, I do have my makeup done today, and it's such a change that I'm like, Oh!, but I'm not a makeup person. And so what I do love is just that fresh, right-out-of-the-shower, new skin. And in order for that to work, especially as you get a little bit more wisdom under your belt, you have to just take care of it. That's really what it's about. So as far as problem areas or anything like that, I get a little rudiness, but no, I don't really have a lot of major issues. I can get sensitive skin I guess sometimes.

Jennifer Garner Byrdie

@jennifergarner / Design by Cristina Cianci

On Her AM and PM Routines

In the morning, my skin gets washed in the shower after a workout, and sunscreen is the only thing that is 100 percent a sure thing. It's usually a sunscreen/moisturizer combo. I love Daily Defense. I love anything with hyaluronic acid—the Hydroboost sunscreen/moisturizer combo, love those, and Neutrogena tinted moisturizer. I have them all. I've been around a long time so I have all this stuff. I really do just rotate what looks fun on the counter. And then at night is when I have another little second, now that I have teenagers, I sneak in and just take care of myself between putting them to bed because I get so tired by the end of them—anyway, I digress. But I always, always... you have to wash your face before bed, and that is something that I am so serious with my kids about. When I was a kid, it was the beauty bar [Ed. note: the Transparent Facial Bar) and my sisters and I, we all used it. It was my first connection to Neutrogena and now it's really the Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser. There is one in every bathroom of the house. I use it on my son who's nine, I use it on my other two, and then afterwards, it is almost always this bad boy [holds up the Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Pro 0.5% Power Serum] because Neutrogena is the leader in retinol products. I had used prestige products for a while, and then a dermatologist had prescribed [a product] and then in talking to my dermatologist, they were like, 'You know what, you can get the same thing at the drugstore if you get Neutrogena.' So this new power serum is the absolute... it's the mack daddy. It is no joke. It's taken forever to get it right. But it has this stuff in it that keeps you from being irritated because a 0.5% retinol can be, you know, tough on skin, [but] this is actually really non-irritating and great. And so I put that on right away and then I will do a Hydroboost eye cream and a cream over it. And there you have it.

On Her Skincare Journey

Did I go through a period where I let myself get too much sun? Yeah, definitely, where I thought it was cool to tan for sure. And that went on for too long. But luckily I spent a lot of time inside [laughs] and, you know, I was a sunscreen kid and a sunscreen user for most of my life, so that period for me was kind of short-lived. And I would say that it's changed because, you know, when I was younger, people would give me free products when I was kind of first starting out [in the industry] and I would try different things, and what I noticed was—and this was just anecdotal for me but has turned out to be you know, evidence—is that retinol is the thing that changes your skin and retinol is the thing that keeps your skin looking really... there are two ingredients that you can put into skincare that can actually make a change: retinol and hyaluronic acid. And this bad boy, [holds up the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Face Serum Capsules] I wish I had had this when I was 30 because it's just the perfect dose. It's easy to travel with, it's biodegradable, which I think is super cool—like these little capsules are made out of seaweed. I think that's kind of rad. But that's where I started. And now I just am more careful about my neck. I'm more careful about my eyes. I'm more, you know... I'm more likely to take the time to take care of those parts of my skin... and my hands. That's the other thing, just being a little more careful about my hands. But otherwise, same old, same old face.

Jennifer Garner Byrdie

@jennifergarner / Design by Cristina Cianci

On the Best Skincare Advice She's Received

It's all from my mom who, I mean, I've seen my mom in makeup like a couple times in my life. But she said to me forever ago, [puts on a southern accent] 'Jennifer, you better take care of your neck.' And so definitely, if my mom says it, then you really have to do it. You're not gonna get a ton of skincare advice from her. So yeah, ladies, you heard it here first: Pat Garner says take care of your neck. There you go.

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