It’s not surprising that Leah McSweeney describes her skin-care regimen as “high-low.” After all, the fan-favorite and zero-filtered Real Housewives of New York star made a splash as the downtown girl among the Upper East Side ladies when she entered the Bravo-verse last season. “‘I’m not using Chanel moisturizer. I’m not using anything that’s, like, $3,000 a jar. I just don’t even believe in that,” she says. Instead, McSweeney relies on products she can pick up at her local pharmacy (“I love Aquaphor”) and combines them with dermatologist-recommended medical brands. Like the rest of us, McSweeney has delved into skin care while in quarantine. “I love products. Besides, what else is there to do?”
As the founder of the streetwear brand Married to the Mob, she gets a facial every few months—her biggest skin concerns are hyperpigmentation and pore size—and visits her dermatologist on a regular basis for Botox whenever she sees her forehead start wrinkling. “I have a God complex with my dermatologist, Dr. Rita Linkner. I’m like, ‘She told me to do it, so I’m doing it!’”
McSweeney’s skin-care routine doesn’t change whether or not she’s on camera, and she hints that viewers should expect a much more intimate RHONY season that will get into some heavy topics. “The safety protocols to film were next-level,” she says. “I was COVID-tested every few days, and spaces were totally private for us. It bonded us even more because there weren’t other people or parties to distract us.”
With a full season of naked tiki torch throwing under her belt, McSweeney passed some knowledge onto Eboni K. Williams, who is this season’s new addition and the first Black cast member in the RHONY franchise. “She’s so smart and came in strong, while also being open and vulnerable. I told her that no matter what, you’re never going to please everybody, but she really didn’t need much advice.”
And since it wouldn’t be a Housewives interview without a little gossip, we had to ask McSweeney about the clear mask her costar Ramona Singer was spotted wearing last summer. “It’s like a Hannibal Lecter clear mask, and I hope that she has stock in it,” she says while laughing. “But if anyone can pull it off, it’s Ramona.”
Ahead of the reality series’ May 4 premiere on Bravo, McSweeney shares her skin-care secrets and her age-old quest for the perfect moisturizer. Read on as she drops her routine.
I like Revision Skincare’s Papaya Enzyme Facial Wash and the Daily Brightening Facial Wash. I switch off between the two. The Papaya Enzyme is a little stronger, but I have pretty tough skin—I could probably exfoliate every fucking night if I wanted to. And then three times a week, I use Obagi’s Professional-C Microdermabrasian Polish + Mask. None of these are amazing-smelling face washes, though! Sometimes I’ll also use the Fresh Soy Gentle Face Cleanser. That’s really good too.
Ingrid Tsung is my longtime facialist. I’ve been seeing her for 20 years. I use all of her products, and especially love her Fade to Light Serum and Total Age Corrector. I also like Revision Skincare’s Vitamin C Cream, which I put on in the morning. [Editor’s note: Tsung’s serums are only available for purchase in-office.]
I’m always on the quest for the perfect moisturizer and jump around from one to the other. For a while I was using Cetaphil, which was great. Currently I’m using Tatcha’s Water Cream. I like it a lot, but I’m not totally sold quite yet. It feels lightweight, but it’s still creamy. It’s kind of a between-seasons moisturizer. Your skin care is obviously going to depend on your environment, but in New York, it goes from brutal, freezing winter to humid swamp weather in the summer, so I base my moisturizer on the seasons.
My Eye Cream
I was using Revision’s DEJ Eye Cream, but I ran out. I happened to be at a Sephora, so I tried Shiseido’s Wrinkle Smoothing Eye Cream, and I love it. I use it every morning and night. I’m going to stick with it.
My Spot Treatment
I don’t really break out anymore, but my daughter uses Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion—the universal pink stuff—so that’s what I’ll use if I need it. It’s a teen staple. Smelling it brings me right back to middle school.
I use prescription Retin-A every night. I swear by that stuff. Sometimes certain areas of my skin, like my chin, will start to peel from it, and I’m like, “Oh, fuck.” So I take a couple of days off, but then I go right back to it.
Ingrid Tsung’s Bioflavonoid Toner is great. I use it right after I wash my face. I know it helps bring some kind of pH balance to my skin or something. I actually don’t even know why I do these things, but I know it’s good.
My Face Mist
I like Mario Badescu’s sprays whenever I feel like I need a spritz.
My Lip Balms
I use Laneige. It’s considered a lip mask, but I wear it regularly. It works so well and it looks so good on your lips. My dermatologist, Dr. Rita Linkner, makes a lip-plumping serum that is awesome, too. And I also swear by Aquaphor.
My Face Masks
My Skin Tools
I’ve been using a derma roller, but I don’t know if it really does anything. I guess it gives your face a nice little glow for a bit, because you’re basically traumatizing your skin.
Dr. Dennis Gross’s Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel is my ultimate favorite freaking product. I’ve been using it for years. I use it every night, after I wash my face. Every so often I’ll use it in the morning too. I swear that it makes your skin so soft. It’s like a mini peel—it’s amazing. It shrinks pores and helps with the texture of my skin. Some people’s skin can’t handle doing it every day, but mine can.
Follow Leah McSweeney on Instagram @leahmob.