We live in a world where, more often than not, more is considered, well, more. The skincare industry has exploded over the last few years, with many people eschewing lengthy beauty routines in favor of placing more emphasis on the skin. Skincare has, rightfully, become a form of self-care, but the market has also been susceptible to a kind of consumerism that was once reserved for color cosmetics.
From shelfies and fully stocked skincare fridges to 10-step skincare routines and endless rows of products, it can seem like the only way to do skincare is with a maximalist approach that favors quantity over quality. For a myriad of reasons, these extended routines are hard to keep up with. Buying more means spending more money, and applying those products can turn your 10-minute evening routine into a 30-minute (or more!) affair. And then there is the environmental impact. While the skincare industry is making an effort to be greener and cleaner, most of our favorite lotions and potions are still housed in a lot of plastic and waste.
Enter: Skincare minimalism (a.k.a. skinimalism), which involves taking a pared down approach to what you put on your skin. While it may sound scary, it’s actually a lot simpler than you think to cut back your regimen. Below, we talked to two skincare experts to find out the real story behind skinimalism and how you can implement the philosophy into your own skincare routine.
What Is Skinimalism?
Skincare minimalism means using the least amount of products needed in your skincare routine for maximum effect. It’s also a direct response to skincare maximalism. “The idea that every person — or any person — needs 10 steps is ludicrous. We’re pairing back and thinking more about the products we buy, what goes into them, and their environmental impact,” says Katrina Moreno Lewis, founder of Kura Skin, a brand that focuses on supplying buyers with simple but effective skincare routines. “Skincare minimalism goes hand in hand with these trends.”
While routines that surpass double digits in length have dominated social media, using that many products isn’t always as beneficial as you might think. For starters, there is the all-important consideration of your skin type, says Farhaad Riyaz, MD, a board certified dermatologist and medical adviser at Docent. “Dry skin types can benefit from a multi-step regimen [because] the more hydration the better,” he says. “Oily and acne-prone skin types should exercise caution, as multiple layers of products such as toners, serums, moisturizers, and oils can make skin more greasy, clog pores, and contribute to breakouts.”
And then there are issues around compatibility. “Skincare routines that incorporate multiple products can have redundancy in ingredients, like exfoliating acids or vitamin C,” Dr. Riyaz explains. While those actives work wonders in proper doses, more isn’t always more. “When repeated, [they] can cause irritation and dehydration, as well as impair the protective barrier function of the skin,” he continues. This is especially problematic for those with easily irritated complexions. “Sensitive skin types and those with rosacea are particularly likely to be reactive to multiple ingredients found in multi-step routines, potentially causing redness, bumps, or even an allergy,” he says.
How to Curate a Basic Skinimalist Routine
While cutting down your routine can be rewarding, there are some key facts to keep in mind before you swap out products. The first step is determining what from your routine is a non-negotiable. “Skincare isn’t one-size fits all,” she says. “Beyond cleansing, hydrating, and protecting your skin with SPF, there isn’t any one product or ingredient that’s absolutely necessary for everyone.” Lewis’ go-to three-step routine is more about product types than ingredients:
- Cleanser and/or makeup remover
That trio offers a strong foundation, and then you can customize your regimen based on your skin concerns. “What’s important is to choose what aligns with your individual needs and goals,” Lewis says. “From there, add in products one at a time, as needed.” If ever there was a time to be mindful, this is it. “Consider the role each new product will play in helping you reach your goals,” she says. “Everything should have a purpose.”
When it comes to determining what else might be worth adding, Dr. Riyaz has some ideas. His slightly more robust routine includes:
- Cleanser and/or makeup remover
- Treatment (think: a serum or retinol)
- Eye cream
- Weekly mask and/or exfoliant
If you are trying to streamline the number of products on your vanity, Dr. Riyaz recommends reaching for products that perform multiple functions. “Micellar waters can serve as a makeup remover, cleanser, and toner,” he says. Another multitasker? “Retinoids can double as a treatment for multiple conditions and an exfoliant, as they stimulate cell turnover,” he adds. All the while, you may combine your moisturizer and sunscreen steps in the A.M. “Moisturizers with an SPF of 30+ can also help reduce the number of steps in the morning and keep skin protected in the process,” Dr. Riyaz shares.
Anything Else I Should Know?
We regularly talk about how adding new products to your routine can come with an onboarding period of sorts that may or may not include purging, sensitization, and the like. When it comes to skinimalism, our experts agree that cutting back shouldn’t cause any major irritation. “As the skin is a living organ, changing what we expose it to can certainly result in an adjustment period, likely for the better,” Dr. Riyaz says.
It goes without saying, but do not stop any prescription skincare products without talking to your dermatologist first. At the end of the day, the key to a happy complexion is curating the right regimen — no matter the length. “So long as [you] are using the right formulas with ingredients that seal moisture in and promote skin health, all will be well,” Dr. Riyaz notes.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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