Long, complicated skincare routines can be tempting and satisfying, but the key to your best skin ever might lie in going minimal.
Learning about the latest new ingredients and innovations in skincare never gets old. Whether it’s investing in a cult moisturiser or poring over reviews to find out if that new tech-y cleansing device isn’t just a gimmick, there’s so much fun in the whole process of choosing what you want to adorn yourself (and your shelves, and your Instagram feed) with, in the hopes of building up a roster of holy grail products.
With the past couple of years’ spotlight on skincare and news of 12-step routines and international beauty hotspots, it’s safe to say that the contents of our bathroom cupboards have been jostling for space in our quest for perfect skin and a soothing evening ritual. With every day bringing us countless new products, or a niche new indie brand, or yet another celebrity capsule collection, product fatigue is fast becoming a thing – and it seems like the rest of the UK is feeling it, too.
Data agency Mintel reports that 28% of women have reduced the number of products in their skincare routine, moving away from step-by-step regimes to relying on streamlined favourites. While 26% of us had a four-product-plus cleansing routine in 2018, that number’s dropped down to just 18%. “The need for simplicity has pushed [UK women] towards minimalist skincare products with more intense active ingredients,” says Alex Fisher, Global Skincare Analyst at Mintel. “Disposable wipes have been hit pretty hard as consumers become more aware of the environment.” If you can’t bear to part with your speedy removers, visit our pick of eco-friendly biodegradable wipes.
It makes sense that the advent of massive skincare collections would hit its peak, then start to decline. As a product junkie myself, I initially became overexcited when everyone was joining in on the hype (even my face wipe-only friends), but started to feel product fatigue – and not only because I work in beauty. With the sheer number of product samples that come flooding into the office each day, it’s become too easy to take home bags of things to test out, including luxury brands I probably wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. However, I can definitely say that I’ve been enjoying the best skin I’ve ever had during this past year, and I can’t credit that to pricey serums and an extensive regime.
This time last year, I developed discoid eczema as a result of poor sleep, poor diet, and probably a bit of stress thrown in. After a trip to dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk, she thankfully diagnosed me properly (my GP had thought the sore red patches were ringworm or an allergic reaction). Kluk told me to stick to simple, approved products, and to gently re-introduce things like exfoliators, masks and serums once I got my eczema under control and started taking better care of myself. For months afterwards, my routine consisted solely of cleanser, moisturiser and SPF.
At first, it was really tough. I eyed up my prettiest products every time I did my pared-back routine, sitting unused and wasted, and couldn’t revel in exciting new skincare launches when they’d come into the office or trial facials at events. Soon enough, I stopped moaning and began to really appreciate the beauty of going back to basics; I was gaining back time, didn’t have to faff about deciding what to take on holiday, and the three products I was using was pretty amazing.
Using only CeraVe, the cult drugstore US brand beloved by dermatologists, to cleanse and moisturise, my skin felt supple and nourished around the clock and my oiliness had dramatically reduced to the point where I no longer needed powder. I used to always have at least one sizeable whitehead or painful hormonal spot at any given time; now, I’m lucky enough to maybe get one or two tiny ones a month.
A year later, my eczema has almost completely cleared up and my skin is still going strong. I’ve toyed with additional products, such as a hyaluronic acid serum or a hydrating mask, but as soon as my skin starts declining I cut it out. As a previous devotee to oils, I’ve tried to reintroduce skin-friendly rosehip or vitamin E, but get oily patches or minor breakouts immediately. I still stick by my basic cleanser, moisturiser and SPF by Murad, and will maybe move up to retinol and vitamin C when the time calls for it.
It might not work for everyone, but I’ve really learned that less is often more. While some of us truly need and want a heftier arsenal for different reasons (they are fun, I’m not going to lie), we shouldn’t all jump on the bandwagon when we might be overloading our skin, bank accounts, and the environment with unnecessary amounts. Scroll on for the products which have earned a firm place in my minimal routine – hopefully they win you back some time and money like they have done for me.
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
Used morning, night or both, this cleanser never fails to wash away every bit of grime (at least, what I can see with my simple human vision) without making my skin feel tight. I use a FaceHalo and just water to take my make-up off first, then sometimes cleanse twice if I’ve spent the day in central London or feel grimy. It also comes in a cute little travel-sized bottle, which I refill instead of needlessly buying more.
CeraVe Facial Moisturing Lotion
This lightweight formula is packed with ceramides (to help rebuild broken and damaged skin, even if it’s not obviously visible), niacinamide for anti-inflammation and water-attracting hyaluronic acid. I use this one at night, then layer an SPF in the morning – there’s a version with built-in SPF25 if you’d prefer, but sun protection in moisturiser isn’t enough.
Murad City Skin Age Defence Broad Spectrum SPF50
It’s pricier than some other SPFs, but this doesn’t have that sunscreen smell, smoothes over skin and doesn’t feel greasy. It’s got a similar feel to moisturiser, meaning no chalky whiteness – plus it claims to protect against blue light from electronic devices and pollution. For a more affordable option that’s also dermatologist-approved, try Heliocare’s Advanced Gel SPF50 for £15.97.
Main image: Getty