Minimalism

Why A Minimal Skin Care Routine Could Be The Answer To Your Skin Problem

07.17.17

Is less more when it comes to skin care Jessica Rose Williams

A minimal skin care routine was something I’d never considered. I like to think my values align to those of the French when it comes to skin care; it’s important, much more important than make up. My theory is that we get one face and consequently it’s worth spending the necessary time and money it takes to look after it. I’d happily go without other items in favour of skin care products as they were a priority for me. Over the years I’d created a strict 5 step morning routine and 7 step night time routine for myself, following all the advice I’d read for my combination skin type. I thought I was doing a great job and I was mostly pleased with the results I got. Notice the past tense here? Everything came into question recently when I found myself face to face with a dermatologist diagnosing me with Rosacea and Perioral Dermatitis. The cause? Too many products!

Question Everything

Convinced he was wrong, I challenged the man I’d paid to diagnose me based on his expert medical knowledge. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. I told him about all the products I was using, my routine, all the research I’d done, the fact that the makers of the products I was using were either doctors or facialists and they weren’t cheap! He wasn’t convinced of my arguments. He told me I’d been too naive in taking people’s word and to question everything. Those words ‘you must question everything’ have stuck with me ever since my appointment a few weeks ago. Looking back it was ironic that the minimalist of the two was making the case for using more.

Women in particular, although men are increasingly being targeted, are overwhelmed by skincare marketing. The choices are endless and the promised results make the products worth buying for a lot of us. Do we question enough when it comes to what we’re putting on our face? Are we too naive? The skincare industry is worth billions in the UK alone thanks to women like me, willing to pay £80 for a good facial oil that promises a radiant dewy glow. Are these results placebo as my dermatologist suggested? What are the long term effects? Are we over stimulating our skin? When you start questioning everything, the questions are endless.

The treatment prescribed for my conditions were a three month course of antibiotics for Rosacea and zero therapy for the Dermatitis, in other words stop everything to reset the skin. No products what so ever. No cleanser, no SPF, no serum, no moisturiser, no acids, no spritz, no makeup except on my eyes-NOTHING. I was permitted to cling on to my beloved cotton flannel, which I can use with fresh water, but that was it. I can gradually start to reintroduce products after 6 months starting with a serum and SPF but I’ve been advised to seriously tone things down. In addition to this, I was also advised to avoid red hot showers, parabens, fragrance in products, tea, coffee and sugar. I left the appointment in shock. This was going to be a huge change for a self confessed skin care addict but I was determined to follow the expert advice I’d been given as nothing else had worked up to now.

Three Weeks Later

I’d been trying to shift the irritation on my face since February with zero luck. I don’t know what it is with GPs in the UK, but when it comes to skin care the ones I saw made me feel like a hypochondriac, almost as if I was wasting their time. Fed up of feeling like a lab rat, I decided enough was enough and I was going to see an expert.Three weeks of zero therapy later and all the irritation I had has almost completely disappeared. Unless you got too close for comfort, you wouldn’t see it now. I can’t believe it’s working but it is. My face doesn’t feel too dry or too oily as expected either, it feels fine. I did notice those friendly creases reappear around my eyes after a few days, and so I quickly reintroduced my eye cream. I justified this by following the ‘question everything’ advice I’d been given. No placebo effect there, for me at least.

I haven’t managed to completely abstain from everything he advised either. Remember I’m the girl who can happily sip through up to 12 cups of tea and coffee a day. I managed 5 days of cold turkey before I fell off the wagon with a silky smooth cappuccino and I haven’t noticed a difference since reintroducing it. I am however making a much more conscious effort to substitute traditional tea and coffee for herbal tea and more lemon with hot water. It’s not the real thing but it satisfies my urge to sip something hot.

Is less more?

Multi step skin care regimes didn’t exist in the west until the 1960s. Prior to this women would wash with water, slap a little Ponds moisturiser on and be done with it. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time. Perhaps it’s time to slow down a little and reassess? Simplify even. On this occasion I have well and truly been proven wrong and I’m now convinced I have been using too many products causing unnatural balance in my skin. Killing with kindness springs to mind.

Something I find myself saying time and time again is when people have a problem, they think the answer is to add something when usually the answer is to take something away. I find the fact I hadn’t followed my own advice with this skin care problem really interesting. The reason I hadn’t followed this advice is because I’d taken other people’s advice as concrete truth and never questioned it. I don’t think zero therapy is the answer for everyone suffering with skin problems but I thought a Dermatologist’s opinion combined with my results were worth sharing with you all as food for thought. I think it’s a case of trying different approaches and finding what works for you. My hope is after reading this, you might start doing some questioning too.

I’m really interested to know what your thoughts are on a minimal skin care routine. Is there such a thing as too many products? I’d love to know what your routines are and whether they work for you.

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47 comments on “Why A Minimal Skin Care Routine Could Be The Answer To Your Skin Problem”

  1. The past two years I have been through hell with my skin, it has definitely left me questioning and I am much happier with stripping away. Thanks darling xxx

  2. Great article Jess. My mother your grandmother is 82 and has always used pat olive soap for washing and ponds cream for moisturising. Her skin is wonderful for a women of her age. I am a Nivea girl myself!

  3. I wash my face in the shower at night with whatever soap is there, and then generally put on some Oil of Olay basic moisturiser – that’s it, nothing extra the next morning. I do feel dry in the face if I don’t, but maybe I should try a couple of weeks with nothing at all – stopping coffee might be too much to ask, though! I have always thought I just had good skin in general, but maybe my laziness is a blessing in disguise….

  4. This is really interesting! I’ve been thinking of ways to simplify my skin care and make up routine. Mainly because I’m lazy and want to get it done quicker lol. But I find it hard to know where to start since I consider everything I use “essential”. This gave me some excellent food for thought. Thanks. One question: I have combo skin too and my cheeks always feel so dry without moisturizer. Did you feel this way at first and then it balanced out after a few days?

    1. I always thought my lengthy routines were ‘essential’ until now. Another thing my dermo said re combination skin was to only moisturise the outer areas of your face. He was convinced our noses and foreheads do not need moisturising – another point I challenged but then he is the medical expert. That might be something to think about.

  5. Great article! Getting older has meant seeing a change in my skin every year. Now as I’m edging towards 40, the urge to invest in quality, high end products seems the right thing to do because every advert or article in the press leads you to believe it IS the best thing for you. I have swayed like most women and bought ridiculously expensive potions and creams which only made my skin worse! But along the way I always went back to my mother’s words of wisdom and to stick to a good soap ( Bobbi brown in this instance) toner ( Clinique for the last 15 years) and moisturiser ( Bobbi brown again!) oh yeah and a TON of water everyday!

    I stay out of the sun, don’t smoke or drink anymore than one cup of tea/coffee a day. Apart from one inevitable small frowning line, I’m glad to say my mums advice paid off…truth is in my opinion is that we ALL want perfect skin but sometimes it’s about what goes inside of us rather than on top of our skin but also getting back to bare essentials to figure out what our skin truly needs.

  6. Great article! Getting older has meant seeing a change in my skin every year. Now as I’m edging towards 40, the urge to invest in quality, high end products seems the right thing to do because every advert or article in the press leads you to believe it IS the best thing for you. I have swayed like most women and bought ridiculously expensive potions and creams which only made my skin worse! But along the way I always went back to my mother’s words of wisdom and to stick to a good soap ( Bobbi brown in this instance) toner ( Clinique for the last 15 years) and moisturiser ( Bobbi brown again!) oh yeah and a TON of water everyday!

    I stay out of the sun, don’t smoke or drink anymore than one cup of tea/coffee a day. Apart from one inevitable small frowning line, I’m glad to say my mums advice paid off…truth is in my opinion is that we ALL want perfect skin but sometimes it’s about what goes inside of us rather than on top of our skin but getting back to bare essentials to figure out what our skin truly needs.

    1. Don’t apologise, I love that my post was a holiday read for you! I stay out of the sun too and you know I don’t drink or smoke. One cup a day is very disciplined! I agree with you that what goes on the inside is vital. People over look this and would rather pay for lotions and potions.

  7. I’m so glad you’ve found some relief for your skin! I’ve always had annoying acne my whole life- for me it was partly genetic (my 50+ father still gets acne), and partly food sensitivities. Now that I’ve Minimized my diet, my skin has cleared up 80%. I’ve never been a makeup person, it just never felt like something I needed. I use argan oil as my moisturizer everyday and that’s it! I do have some all natural beauty products that I use for special events but that’s just what they’re for- special events and not daily use. Love the advice to question everything! I suspect that’s how most of us ended up as Minimalists in the first place.

  8. The cosmetic industry in the US alone is more than $80 BILLION. To the aging “mature” skin – they’ve got your number! Yes, to what you put inside – hydrate! Consume fresh, whole food with nutrients for your skin. You are what you eat! Also, food allergies can affect skin (night shade plants, hot peppers, etc.) Yes to simple and natural. I have become sensitive to many ingredients and have been making stripped down personal products out of necessity! I also got perioral dermatitis, and had never heard of it before! Check your toothpaste ingredients. I went through a dozen “natural” brands, and ended up brushing with coconut oil for a year! Do you have any idea how many “natural” ingredients are known irritants? Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it belongs on your skin. (And btw, we have overdosed on Vit E, you can’t get away from it, it’s in EVERYTHING.) Watch your shampoo, and conditioner, because as you wash it runs over your face! I resorted to ACV and water for awhile! Parabens do a number on my skin. I love using essential oils, but keep in mind they can cause reactions as well. And hell no – I will never give up coffee. As with corn allergy, consider that if you buy organic, pesticide-free coffee, and non-GMO corn, you might not suffer reactions…? Perhaps it is the engineered food and pesticides causing the problems?? I encourage everyone with skin sensitivities to look up the top ingredients causing problems. New Zealand dermatology has a good website. Good post, Jessica.

  9. Less is definitely more when it comes to my skin care! I too suffer from rosacea and have incredibly sensitive and dry skin; even plain water sometimes ‘burns’ my face.
    I don’t wear make up, it just hurts; even mineral makeup. I use a cleanser, as and when! I can’t use it everyday. I use a moisturiser every day and have just found a sunscreen for ultra sensitive skin which so far seems ok; sometimes I get an immediate reaction,other times it takes a while to make my face sore.
    I try to keep my skin care organic and as natural as possible.
    My skin is better in the summer, wether this is due to drinking more water and not too much of a temperature change (cold outside and hot central heating in winter) I don’t know.
    Good luck with your face. Xx

    1. I’d love to know which sunscreen is working for you? I think mine is better in the summer too. The sun does wonders for my skin but I’m really conscious to use SPF because of ageing. Hoping you keep in touch as we both have the same skin condition. I’d love to know if you’ve noticed caffeine affecting it?x

  10. Wow this is a mine field. My mum and Nana used soap and water & oil of ulay now Olay, for years and had amazing skin, I use Liz Earle products, cleanse and polish and moisturiser, also an eye cream, I do often wonder if I stopped would my skin be any different? I worked for Benefit cosmetics for a few years and whilst there learnt that 80% of your skin condition comes from your DNA, so all the expensive creams in the world will not make a difference, it’s determined by your parents , but we are all taken in by media and packaging, will I stop using my trusty Liz Earle products even though I have this knowledge! I’m not quite ready to get rid of my lovely bottles , and smells of the plant based products I choose, and I do get complimented for my skin which I do put down to not wearing face make up which clogs up the skin, and my mum having lovely skin, so I really think this is personal and we should find something which suits our skin, and pocket! Make be being mindful not to over do it, which is where the minimalism can take its place 😊

    1. I tried Liz Earle but it made my skin break out so bad. I never finished one bottle of it. I did love the smell though, I know exactly what you mean. So interesting about your DNA, I never realised that. Glad to hear you’ve found what works for you and you’re so right about it being personal to everyone. Sadly this means a lot of trial and error but once again simplicity seems to prevail. So good to hear from you as always x

  11. I use an average number of products. I have a good cleanser, eye cream and face cream. I also use a different cream at night and occasionally apply sunscreen. I make sure I drink lots of water. My makeup routine is pretty minimal and quite often I’ll abstain from using any at all to give my skin a break. I naturally don’t gravitate to a lot of products. I don’t like things taking forever to apply. I prefer simple in that regard. Of course, as I get further into my 40’s I have to make sure I keep using certain skincare items. Something I never used to do is a once a week exfoliate and moisturizing mask. Works wonders for me. But the best thing is diet. As they say, garbage in garbage out.

    1. I can’t believe you’re in your 40s! Diet is definitely key and it keeps coming up again and again for a lot of us. So good to know what’s working for other people. I’m big on sunscreen and I’ll go back to that first. Thanks so much for letting me know what’s working for you.

  12. Wonderful post! Over the past few years, I’ve decided to question everything (with increasing intensity) when it comes to skin care (and everything that has to do with my body, really). It’s been really gratifying to 1.) wean myself off commercial products and 2.) to see how my skin has prospered without all the chemicals! Nowadays, I’m only using witch hazel, coconut oil and a light natural moisturizer and my skin has never looked better!

    Thanks for sharing! Love your posts and your perspective! xx

    1. That genuinely means so much to me, thank you! All these comments are amazing to read when there is so much noise online telling us to use more more and more. I feel so inspired knowing there are other people out there with the same views getting the same results. Thank you so much for getting in touch xx

  13. Half way through your post I had a thought. I remember reading an article a while back where women shared their favorite beauty products. More than one said their mother or grandmother had gorgeous skin, no wrinkles, and used nothing more than Ponds or some other ancient brand. Then when you and some others in the comments mentioned Ponds and stuff, I laughed out loud. Also, one of the earlier minimalists, Emily someone, (she was on Oprah years ago, and Oprah said she was our example for minimalism), said she threw out all her expensive lotions and potions, which was hard to do. She washed her face and used a touch of moisturizer to keep her face from feeling too dry and Bingo!, her skin never looked better (and she wasn’t real young when this happened). I have sensitive skin and anything new I try generally irritates it. So time to minimize…how freeing anyway. I’m way older than most of you ladies and have stopped using foundation. I never used much but now I prefer none. I think foundation accentuates fine lines and wrinkles. For a special occasion I might use a tiny tad to even out my skin tone and look a little more dressed up. My sister was diagnosed with Rosacea and was told to ditch all the skincare products. Truly, we are wrecking our skin, darlings! Thanks for very wise words, Jessica. I’m so happy that your skin is healing…must feel like you have a new lease on life 🙂

    1. Ugh Kathryn, I hate foundation! A tinted moisturiser is the most I can cope with. I hate the feeling of make up on my skin. I’m going to look into all the info you’ve shared, I really appreciate it. Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad you told me about your sister getting the same advice too. Someone I consider an expert said she’d never heard of the treatment I’d been given so that’s really comforting to hear. xx

  14. My skin reacts to most products. I use Oskia perfect cleanser and First Aid Beauty moisturiser pretty much every day. When I’m wearing lots of makeup I use Pixi double cleanse but in all honesty although I like it, it doesn’t compare to Oskia.

  15. Such an interesting post and an approach I never really thought about! I imagine it makes sense though – we probably are built in a way where our skin doesn’t really need any extra things added to it! I only use a few products to take off my make up and that’s it – I’ve always felt like I “should be doing more” but after reading this I feel so much better about it! xx

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    1. Thanks Laura! So happy you enjoyed it and it gave you some food for thought. I’ve been skin obsessed for so long and always enjoyed reading about people’s experiences at the dermatologist so felt obliged to share mine. It means so much to know it was worth it and others have taken something from it. Thanks for letting me know xx

  16. I grew up using Dove soap and then, as I got older, I experimented with more and more products, convinced I was ‘helping’ my skin with the fancy stuff. Then just last week I was decluttering my travel drawer (one of the last hold outs in my house!) and found I bar of Dove soap that I had for…. I’m not sure…. travel cleansing back up emergencies? ha! So I washed my face with it and was excited at the prospect of going back to something so simple (and cheap). Alas – it left my skin feeling so incredibly tight and dry. It took hours to feel normal again, even after adding in lotion. I felt oddly nostalgic and sad to have excitedly gone back to an old favourite just to realize it doesn’t really work for me any more. But it was a good eye opening moment to realize that I do not have to automatically replace everything when it runs out and to think long and hard about each purchase.

    1. Soap isn’t my friend either! I was using three different cleansers in rotation but I’m going to try and find the right ONE for me when I can start up again. Anything foaming isn’t good for my skin. Love that you got to your ‘travel drawer’. Sounds like you’ve done a lot of clearing!

  17. It’s me again. I went on a disjointed rant yesterday, and as another said, this topic is a minefield.
    Yes, Jessica, I believe that less is more. Women have been brainwashed that we have to cleanse our faces twice a day, and use a million products in the process, when in fact, if you’ve cleansed well in the evening, there’s no need to cleanse with anything in the morning, just use the water going over your face in the shower, or a fresh rinse in the sink. We strip away our natural oils when we over-cleanse.
    Oils are my friends, vs commercial creams with too many (and unwanted) ingredients. I moisturize with coconut oil, olive oil, and a few others. Many probably know that you can cleanse with olive oil. For a simple routine…reach into your pantry.
    We’re told that we need to have proper pH balance on our skin, and that we need a toner. Maybe we do, or maybe we don’t, but water is always good for you, so I make my own with distilled water and a few drops of essential oils, or just use rose water, and spritz anytime I feel like it. We lose a lot of hydration during the night, and often I give a spritz on my face first thing after I wake up and cruise through the bathroom, and then down a glass of water….and then of course…COFFEE. 🙂

  18. My story is that I’m a minimalist, interested in health and eco-friendliness subjects. Moreover, I wasn’t sure if cosmetics actually do what they have written on the packaging. So I use only water, sometimes with Marseille (or other as natural as possible) soap for my face.
    I have some blackheads and other little imperfections. But would using cosmetics really solve the problem? Probably much of our skin problems are caused, as you write, by what we put into our body: food, polluted air, chemicals at our homes.
    Recently I added oils to my routine to make my skin look and feel better. I like the effects. But still, I cannot say that my skin care is satisfying and ideal.
    I don’t want to come back to using cosmetics from a store because I feel that when I use one, I need more. The moisturizing cream is causing fat on the face after the day, so I need a cleanser that causes dry skin…

    1. I think it’s a case of trial and error. My routine was great for me until my skin got fed up of it and now it’s much better without anything. I will go back to a routine but I wont use as many products as I used to. Using the right products for you skin type is so important so at least you know what you need.

  19. I love this post so much! I have always struggled with acne and bad skin. I changed my diet, skin care routine, everything. I’ve been prescribed all the creams and pills possible. For the past two weeks, I have put no moisturizer or foundation on my skin, used no medicine, and it’s never looked better! Zero therapy really works.

  20. I loved this article and the comments, so much good info to think about. I do believe the comment about genetics. I am 34 and everyone thinks I am 21, my grandmother is 80 and looks 60. I have started drinking 48-64 oz of water a day (that’s a lot for my 110lb body!), and have seen an improvement in my skin. I am working on snacks, but chips are my vice. lol I recently read the book The Age Fix by Anthony Youn. My takeaway from that book is wash, use vitamin C and sunscreen in the morning, and wash and use retin A and moisturizer, if needed, in the evening. Pretty simple. He recommends brands, as well. I don’t go to dermatologist until the end of November, so I won’t be adding retin a until then. Right now I wash with La Roche Posay Effaclar face wash, use a day and night serum by Ole Henrickson, and use Boots organic facial oil on my cheeks (I have combo/oily skin) at night and the Body Shop Tea Tree mattifying lotion during the day.

    1. There’s been so many great comments on this post. Real food for thought like you said. American chips or UK chips? Chips to me means french fries. Love that simple advice. I always read SPF and Vit A are the only products they can claim are truly anti ageing. They will be the first items I go to when I start up again plus a face wash. I’m thinking a fragrance free one though. Love hearing what everyone else uses!

  21. I feel your pain. I had really bad skin for a couple of years. Many visits to the NHS dermatologist didn’t help. I was fraught. My skin an awful mess. It looked and felt like I had acid poured on me. Constant swelling, peeling – agony. I paid a small fortune to see a private dermatologist. He prescribed an acid which was heaven sent. Since I can’t use it all the time I now swear by Jan Marini glycolic cleanser and treatment cream. It has been my lifesaver. I wear SPF50 everyday as its an acid but my skin has never felt better. It used to be red raw. Raised. Angry. The skin would go hard and peel off. To only repeat this process a few days later. I was embarrassed to go anywhere. I’m in my 40’s. NHS told me rosacea. Hmmm…..

    1. I’m so happy you got your skin sorted. Feeling happy with your skin makes such a difference. My redness has completely gone now and I’d recommend anyone see a dermatologist after my experience. It was worth every penny. Such a shame the NHS isn’t great on these matters.

  22. Skin care: it’s so unique to each person. Mine is minimal and my skin looks great at 56 years young but others my age may need more or less. SPF? Never touches my skin. It’s a chemical! I love natural products. I use Tarte a lot. I make many home made items too. Scrubs with coffee. Toothpaste with benzonite clay, coconut oil and peppermint essential oils. Be kind to your skin and of course wash it gently and condition but maybe not so many products in the future?

  23. I am so glad someone wrote this. A year ago I got off of my hormonal birth control and for several months after dealt with horrid hormonal acne first starting with mild cystic acne on my hair line then spreading to my jaw and cheeks. It was painful. I was desperate and tried practically every suggested product out there even high end promising to clear my face up and give it that dewy glow, and nothing really helped it like I needed it to. I finally decided to see a dermatologist and her recommendation was some topicals and a medication I had to take by mouth. It kept it at bay but ultimately it was just something my body had to work through. However I found that the severity decreased greatly when I just decided to use a simple Cerave cleanser and SPF. It turns out I didn’t need toners, face oils, expensive serums, masks or any of that.

    1. Hi Des’ree! Thanks so much for sharing your story, and I’m so pleased it got better for you. It’s amazing how much our skin can affect how we feel. I’ve heard so many great things about that Cerave cleanser – I use their body moisturiser now. SPF is definitely top of my list for when I’m allowed to start putting things on my skin again. Think I’ll try the Cerave cleanser you recommended too!

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