Today I was inspired by Jessica DeFino's piece for Coveteur, "WHY 2021 WILL BE THE END OF THE SHELFIE—AND THE RISE OF “SKINIMALISM” where she discusses "skinimalism" and the less-is-more approach to skincare and beauty in general. Jessica's work as a beauty reporter dives deep into supporting our skin's microbiome, debunking skincare industry-hyped products and trends, and how we can all support our skin with a much more hands-off routine.
This got me thinking about my relationship with skincare, and how the more-is-more approach to products hasn't always paid off. I'm currently waiting for my Software Skin custom treatment cream (this is a great service if you're keen to get some prescription skincare and connect with a dermatologist to talk about the right ingredients for you), and before my package has even arrived, the Software team have been in contact via email to emphasise that you shouldn't use any other actives or complicated skincare while you're on prescription topicals, just a gentle cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen - makes sense, right?
In the past few years, I've always been happier when I have less steps to perform to 'be ready' - over the past 7 or 8 months, I've not cleansed my face in the morning, just splashed on some water, and my skin has behaved predictably, in the best of ways (not red, not stripped, not oily, just normal and calm). In the past, I'd have a morning and a night cleanser, and more products for when my skin was "misbehaving", an arsenal of things to "combat" problem areas. As it happens, the less you fight your skin, the less you need to correct over time.
A 20-step routine makes for a much more enticing video for Vogue's Beauty Secrets series, but in real life we know that it can irritate our skin. I remember hearing about our skin needing a 'balanced diet', so all of those superstar ingredients needed a place in my routine, right? Like my 5-a-day of lotions and potions.
So why did an oh-so-popular zinc and niacinamide serum feel heavy and make my skin upset, and why did my attempts at azelaic acid (touted as a miracle-worker for skin redness), cause an awful irritated flush that took days to go away? There's no one reason for this, but it's clear that even though these ingredients have a stack of data backing them as beneficial for skin, it doesn't always make your skin happy to have them applied day in and day out.
One of my favourite dermatologists on Instagram, Dr Natalia Spierings, regularly posts about just how much of cosmetic skincare is unnecessary and not worth the money - this goes for Vitamin C, Bakuchiol and all eye creams to name a few.
The things that we all need more of for happily functioning skin are more sleep, less stress (yes, easier said than done), a lifestyle that allows for balance and time in nature. These are all things we can't capture in a shelfie, but will certainly make our cells flourish. It's why I'm a fan of experimenting with certain vitamins like zinc or niacinamide taken orally, of taking in our antioxidants through fruits and teas - helping our skin from the inside out.
At the end of the day, do we want our skincare routine to be a fragile balancing act that requires a minimum of two cleansers that take away oil, 3 exfoliants to slough off dead skin cells trying to cling on for dear life, and then 4 different serums and oils to try and do a better job than our own sebum?
I'm not calling for an empty bathroom counter, but a mindful approach to our skincare routine that doesn't weigh us down with weighing up what we THINK our skin needs against what it's really crying out for - and sometimes that's just some darn peace and quiet!