The Morning Routine Jennifer Garner Swears By to Feel and Look Her Best at 52

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In SELF’s Wake-Up Call series, we ask celebrities, athletes, and other notable people exactly how they rise and shine.

As a busy mom of three, Jennifer Garner knows that her mornings won’t always play out as planned. In fact, she’s usually prepared for the unpredictable. For example, “yesterday I was trying to sleep in, but my son woke me up and said, ‘Mom, the dog just ate the lens out of a pair of sunglasses!’” Garner tells SELF with a laugh. “So I had to get up, call the vet, and deal with the dog.”

Since parenting life can get pretty hectic, the actor values starting her day with some sort of structure. We’ll get into her full routine in a moment, but one thing she’s super adamant about? Keeping a consistent skin care regimen—especially when it comes to sunscreen.

“I’ve always been pretty good about wearing it,” Garner says. “I was such a theater geek that I spent my summers inside building sets, so I kind of lucked out.” Even with her diligence, though, she admits she’s recently focused more on prioritizing SPF, after noticing sun spots on her face. That’s one of the many reasons why she’s partnering with Neutrogena (as a longtime spokesperson) for Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May: to highlight the importance of staying protected from UV damage.

“I’d always said, ‘Oh, any sun I’ve ever gotten, I don’t really see it. I must have magic skin.’ But all of a sudden, you wake up one day, and whatever sun damage you have shows up overnight! It’s been sitting there quietly amassing,” Garner says, pointing across her jawline. “I started getting discoloration around here and up here [under her cheekbones]. Melasma, too, that wasn’t hormone-related.”

Below, Garner walks us through a typical morning in her house, including her skin care favorites, her feel-good rituals, and how she prioritizes quality time with her kids amid the chaos.

Relatively speaking, I’m much lazier than when my kids were small. But, I’m pretty emotionally beholden to…

A morning workout and getting some cardio in. I wake up around 5 a.m. but probably hit snooze until 5:15. I come downstairs, have a little coffee, let the dog out, feed the cat—that whole kind of thing. Then I go upstairs and work out—ideally, I do The Limit [which offers dance, HIIT, and toning sessions] over Zoom from New York, and I'll take a class or do private sessions.

In the morning, I just love feeling like I've really tested my body. That’s usually how I start my day, unless I’ve made the decision that I’m not going to. But if I have it in my head that I'm going to work out, and then I don’t for whatever reason, I automatically feel off all day.

I love to wake my kids up myself, even if they’re growly.

They’re usually warm and cuddly—even the 18-year-old and the 15-year-old. So I’ll go into their bedrooms and wake them up. One of them is always running late, and I feed her on the way to the bus. And my son, who’s up early, will be downstairs, cozy with me for a minute. Then I just drive them to school or to the bus. Just this morning, we were listening to [Stephen] Sondheim in the car.

Two [of my kids] are on the school bus, and one I still take to class and walk in with. So I do that routine: One school bus, another school bus, then go to elementary school, walk him in, stay for the pledge of allegiance, then come home. Sometimes I still want to add a little more cardio into my day, so I might have somebody drop us off [at school] and then just run home because it’s only a couple miles away.

When I shower, I’m devoted to using…

Virtue Lab products—specifically, the Recovery Shampoo and Conditioner. I don’t know if you’ve ever used Virtue, but, oh my gosh, you definitely have to try it. This brand [which I’m a spokesperson for] has been a game-changer for my hair. The formulas are really excellent and so moisturizing. So I’ll use that in the shower after I’ve dropped the kids off and finished working out.

Recovery Shampoo

$42.00, Sephora

Recovery Conditioner

$44.00, Sephora

My morning skin care routine includes…

A big thing of Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Gel Cleanser. It’s like a gel, and you can really tell that it’s plumping your skin. It’s such a nice feeling. There’s nothing in it that’s harsh—no scents or anything like that. And then I follow that with the Hydro Boost Water Cream.

Growing up, we were always a Neutrogena family, which is why partnering with the brand 17 years ago made so much sense for me—I’ve always used Neutrogena.

Hydro Boost Gel Cleanser

$16.00, Ulta

Hydro Boost Water Cream

$28.00, Ulta

Sunscreen is a nonnegotiable. It’s so important!

When you’re young, if you could see what the damage from not protecting yourself will look like later in life, you’d wear sunscreen every day. Now I’m 52, my friends are all in their 50s and 60s, and I’ll tell you that those of us who wore it when we were younger are very grateful now. Very grateful.

I started taking [sun protection] much more seriously after realizing, ‘Oh, it’s not just for when you’re out in the sun. It’s all the time. It’s the exposure you get in the car. A tan is a sign of sun damage. A tan means you’ve been cooked. And sun damage does two things: One, it will make you look less cute as you age. And two, it gives you [one of] the most preventable kinds of cancer: skin cancer, which you can protect yourself from with sunscreen.

The product that I’m loving right now is the Ultra Sheer Moisturizing Serum. This is my favorite because I love a good multitasker: It hydrates. It protects my skin. It has SPF 60, and it’s a great primer for makeup. So even if you’re someone who’s confused about sunscreen, use this as a moisturizer or primer—and it just happens to have SPF too.

Of course, you have to do your body. So I’ll do a spray mist that just really absorbs into my skin easily. It doesn’t leave any residue on your clothes, which is nice. I don’t do a ton of makeup, though. I like a bronzer. I like a little eyebrow pencil or a lip stain. I like blush, maybe a little concealer. That’s really it.

Ultra Sheer Moisturizing Serum SPF 60

$22.00, Ulta

Ultra Sheer Lightweight Sunscreen Spray SPF 70

$9.00, Walmart

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Originally Appeared on SELF