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Skinimalism – the new approach to pared-back skincare

If your skincare regime is over complicated, it could be time to go back to basics

We’re staring down the barrel of our 11th month of global pandemic, and that means, whether you’ve been shielding or simply abiding by the local lockdown rules, you’ve probably spent far more time in your home than you ever expected to.

After all, we buy or rent our homes with the expectation that at least some of the people that live there are going to be out at school, college or work for at least some of the time. And that at least some of the 21 meals we eat every single week won’t be eaten in the same place. But everyone being there 24/7 has had a fundamental impact on the way we view our homes — and our lives.

I’ve lost count of the number of people having a clear out — some of them are doing it because they’ve decided to move, but for others it’s a desperate desire to deal with that overwhelming feeling of 'stuffocation' — the sense that we’re being suffocated by all the stuff in our homes.

Even pre-pandemic, we’d started to see a move towards people choosing to spend their money on experiences rather than things, and Marie Kondo’s minimalist approach to only keeping things that 'spark joy' was very much a trend. Now, after nearly a year of constantly living with everything we own, the idea of less is hugely appealing.

So how does that work with skincare? Well, welcome to the world of skinimalism — a pared-back skincare routine that includes effective ingredients and products that really give 'bang for buck.'

Back to basics

It’s the polar opposite of all those multi-step regimes imported from Korea that involved multiple toners and essences, and, according to dermatologist Dr Jason Thomson, Head of Medical at skincare brand, Skin + Me, lockdown 3.0 could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to put it into action.

 “Now is the perfect time to re-think and hone your skincare routine,” he says. “To clear out all those products in your bathroom cabinet that haven’t lived up to their promise or given you the results you were looking for and are simply cluttering up your space. Many people spent lockdown 1.0 and 2.0 over-complicating their skincare routines and layering too many products on their skin. I blame boredom and hours a day starting at our faces on Zoom.”

The irony is that layering on so many different products is actually counterproductive, and could be doing more harm than good. “We're seeing an increasing number of people reporting sensitive skin and this behaviour of using too many active ingredients is likely a contributing factor,” he says.

It’s a view shared by Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, Director of the Adonia Medical Clinic and a member of the Etre Vous Editorial Panel, who is wholly behind the idea of a clear out.
“I love the idea of streamlining your skincare,” she says. “In my clinic I often see people doing too much to the skin, you don’t need a 10-step routine to get great skin, in fact I often think less is more. When you have too many products the risk of irritating the skin increases. Finding products that have multiple hero ingredients can be great for both your face and your wallet.”

And the best news is that downsizing your skin kit doesn’t just do wonders for your complexion and your bank balance, it’s also good news for the environment.

Because while it’s all very well angsting about whether your serum comes in recycled glass, or whether your moisturiser contains ingredients that are going to cause deforestation, the single most important thing you can do if you’re really worried about going green, is use less.

Simple skincare - sorted

So start by having a sort through what you’ve got already. Bin (or empty and recycle) anything that smells funny, looks like it’s separated, or gone a weird colour or texture.

Any skincare that didn’t work for you, you can pass on to a friend or family member, or think about using it on your body — a moisturiser that was too heavy for your face makes a great hand or foot cream, while cleansers that didn’t do it for your face will happily take the place of a shower gel.

Dr Ejikeme believes that if you’re really stripping things back, you can get away with using just four products.

“You need a cleanser that you can use twice a day which gets your skin clear of impurities and make-up but doesn’t leave you feeling stripped,” she says, “a hardworking moisturiser — if it includes hydrating and antioxidant ingredients, that would be a bonus.

"Then there’s your treatment step: whatever your core issue is, have one product which can address this. This may also be in your moisturiser: issues can include things like redness, hyperpigmentation, fine lines or spots. Finally you need a good, broad-spectrum sunscreen in a formulation that feels good on your skin and is pleasant enough that you want to wear it every day.”

Other experts might suggest that you could squeeze in two different treatment products — one at night, often a vitamin A-based product, as well as one in the morning — and when it comes to cleansing, you might want to use a cream or balm to remove makeup before using a gel to cleanse.

But we’re talking max six products on a daily basis here. The thought might panic you, but if you’re anything like most of us, once you find the products that work for you, and you’ve ditched or repurposed everything else, there’s a real sense of relief and unburdening that comes with taking the skinimalist route.