Dena Smith On Her Face Workout And “Acne PTSD”

Very few moments in the day are as bare as the moment you wake up. We each have our own kinks and quirks that help us get out of bed, but few of us are brave enough to share them with the world. Introducing A Cool Morning, a deep dive into the intimate daytime rituals of our coolest friends and beauty innovators.


Dena Smith, more commonly known by her Instagram pseudonym @leowithcancer, is the poster child of resilience. As a true leo, it’s almost expected to see her trot through her journey with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer with such vigor and honesty. She isn’t afraid to open up about her journey to the masses, and shares her most intimate moments—and her beloved beauty products—for all eyes to see.


With her cult-following and bestselling Leo Oil, it’s clear as day to see that this beauty and wellness blogger is a force to be reckoned with. Below, we talk to Smith about her “face workout,” her morning beauty smoothie, and more.

Why Dena Smith Has “Acne PTSD”

Instagram @leowithcancer


What’s the first thing you do every morning?

“Drink a giant glass of water, I swear I dehydrate in my sleep. The amount of water I drink is astonishing to people. I am convinced that if I am not constantly hydrating, I will shrivel up like the witch from the Wizard of Oz, but in reverse.


Your morning workout routine?

“Yes, I go from horizontal to vertical. But seriously, I love doing my Ziip in the morning, it’s a workout for your face. It’s so energizing but also soothing, plus, better than makeup. My current Ziip routine is a double dose of Energize, Instant Gratification, and Quick fix every two or three days. Like working out, I got addicted to doing it every day, but it really does work better if you take a rest day. See, it sounds like a workout…”


Shower at night, morning, or both?

“Night time. I like to get into my bed clean.”


Daily alarm time? How many times do you hit snooze?

“I leave my window blinds up so I wake up with the sun, it’s magical. I snuggle in bed with my tiny rescue dog, smoke some weed, meditate, read, respond to messages, and suddenly it’s 11am and I haven’t brushed my teeth. But I won’t commit to anything except a workout class before 10am, and even then your odds are 50/50 in getting me there. When I do have to wake up via alarm I have to set 20 of them, which I then stare at all night anxiously, terrified I won’t wake up, until 5 minutes before they are scheduled to go off, at which time I will slip into the deepest, most delicious sleep, and then snooze through all the alarms.”


If you’re running late, what’s the one thing you have to do?

“Roll a joint. But I think you’re asking me about my beauty routine so, sunscreen. I also keep hats scattered around the door for this reason. My face hasn’t felt sunlight in a decade.”


Why Dena Smith Has “Acne PTSD” 2

Instagram @leowithcancer


Favorite breakfast?

“My ‘beauty’ smoothie. It’s a blend of spinach, almond milk, whatever berries I have in the fridge, collagen peptides, protein powder, cinnamon, turmeric, ashwagandha powder, and honey. A big tall glass of Chlorophyll water, a fresh tube of soda stream, and three metal straws, please.”


Weirdest morning beauty habit?

“I take a selfie every morning, checking to see if my heinous hormonal acne is back. I call it ‘Acne PTSD.’ The trick is to keep pimple patches nearby so if you do find something you can pop it on, keep those fingers off of it. I am a micellar water devotee so I stash bottles everywhere—I think I currently have a bottle on three sides of my bed, my desk, my kitchen. So I do a swipe of that, and I sticker until I can properly Ziip it dead and get a spot treatment on. But I think the weird part is the selfie.”


Tell us your morning hair-care routine.

“Nothing. I’m so spoiled. I brush my hair once when it’s almost dry to “stretch it out”, but not like a cursory brush. I brush what feels like a thousand times, with a cheap boar bristle, like I’m Marsha Brady. There’s this moment when the hair just “gives” it becomes so silky and shiny. Heat-free styling, I call it. Then I try to leave it alone.”


“I use the Yves Durif portable brush from Violet Grey to untangle it if I need, but since I started sleeping on the Slip silk pillowcase that’s not as much of an issue. Really into hair bows and clips right now. Those are everywhere so I scoop them up and add them on as I go through my day. I guess the one constant is I apply the Virtue Labs Split End Serum, I partner with them, and it’s magic. They go away. And with all my picking willpower reserved for my face, I will destroy my split ends. Just annihilate them. So I just layer it on there. But my hair never gets heavy or greasy, it just drinks it in and then looks like I got a trim.  Also, Valet Studio has the best clips around, Ashley Williams crystal word bobbies are epic, and one can never go wrong with a Gucci.”


How much time do you spend on your skincare routine?

“How much time do I have? I am extra. I am indulgent. I take breaks between layers to let things glaze and dry. I adjust daily based on what my skin needs that day. Somewhere between 60 seconds (cleanse, oil) and 3 hours.”



Beauty Device & Golden Conductive Gel



Super Power Sunscreen Mousse with Blue SeaKale SPF 50



Micellar Water Cleanser



1851 Women's Breakout Control Spot Treatment



Petite Brush



The Perfect Ending Split End Serum, 1.7 oz./ 50 mL



Set Of Six Embellished Resin Hairclips - Pink



Love Set Of 2 Crystal Bobby Pins



Crystal Gucci Single Hair Clip


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