With 10-step (or more) skincare regimens taking center stage over the past few years, it may seem counterintuitive to back off on your routine, but it could be just what your skin needs to look and feel its healthiest. Not only is skin care expensive, it’s also time-consuming and may be overstimulating your skin’s fragile microbiome
Moreover, knowing which products to choose, monitoring how they affect your skin, and constantly re-purchasing them can be confusing and draining. It’s no wonder a new beauty trend has emerged called skinimalism.
What is skinimalism?
“Skinimalism is the practice of limiting the application of skincare products to ones that are safe, effective and essential, based on valid science,” explains Fayne Frey
, MD, Board-certified dermatologist and author of The Skincare Hoax. “It is a growing trend, especially amongst individuals who prefer to emphasize wellness over beauty. Ironically, the practice of skinimalism most commonly yields optimally looking skin,” she says.
What are the benefits of skinimalism?
According to Frey, there are many benefits to practicing a minimalist skincare routine.
- Time: More time for other things as less time is spent shopping for, purchasing, and applying so many products.
- Energy: Say goodbye to the confusion and overwhelming feelings experienced when deciphering which “beauty” creams you need. Saying farewell to unnecessary anti-aging creams, age-defying creams, eye creams, night creams, neck creams, serums, primers, toners and essences, to name a few can be liberating. “These products, by law, do not and cannot intend to change the structure or function of the skin, nor do they intend to treat or prevent skin disease, or by law, they’d be considered drugs and require premarket FDA approval,” explained Frey. “These products are cosmetics.”
- Money: Skinimalism saves you money as fewer products are being purchased. If you’re like many people, you might also buy items that don’t work for you and end up going to waste. This isn’t a great deal for your wallet or the environment.
- Less Irritation Risk: Lower incidence of allergic reactions and irritation can be expected as fewer products are being applied and the skin is exposed to fewer potentially irritating ingredients. This is especially pertinent to those who believe they have sensitive skin. If you have skin conditions like rosacea, acne or dryness, you may not be able to tell what’s causing your condition when you are layering multiple products.
How to start practicing skinimalism
First and most importantly, if you don’t already apply sunscreen to all exposed areas on a daily basis, this is where you want to begin, according to Frey. If the skin appears dry, apply a well-formulated moisturizer twice daily, and your skin will thank you. After that, Frey says you can throw away the non-essentials.
Essential products to use for a minimalist skincare routine
“Sunscreen is, by far, the most beneficial skincare product on the market today as the majority of skin damage we see is a direct result of the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun,” says Frey. Skin damage from the sun includes fine wrinkling, dark spots, uneven skin tone and texture, and blood vessel formation. Sunscreen application prevents such damage, prevents wrinkling of the skin, prevents skin discoloration and prevents skin cancer.
“A smart sun protection program includes daily, liberal sunscreen application to all exposed skin surfaces, which can be minimized by wearing ultraviolet (UV) protective sunglasses, brimmed hats, and long sleeves. It also includes avoiding the midday sun by seeking shade,” says Frey.
A well-formulated moisturizer
If the skin is dry, a well-formulated moisturizer is essential, according to Frey. Skin is an organ that performs a vital function. As the direct barrier to the environment, skin protects us from microorganisms, allergens, and even the sun’s damaging UV rays. “The skin not only looks its best but functions optimally when it is adequately hydrated. So if the skin is dry, and you’ll know it’s dry because you'll see scales or flakes, apply a well-formulated moisturizer twice daily,” recommends Frey.
Well-formulated moisturizers do not have to be expensive. As a matter of fact, Frey says there is no correlation between the cost of a moisturizer and how well it works. Over-the-counter, affordable moisturizers can be just as effective as expensive and prescription creams, even for dry skin, according to research published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology
and The South African Medical Journal
Having a mild soap-free cleanser available to remove oil-based face makeup, if one desires to wear it, is recommended by Frey, especially if you want to prevent a soiled pillowcase. Daily showering and face washing with cleansers are cultural norms, with little science proving any health benefit for those with healthy skin. Research has shown
that even people with acne may have better options than twice daily face washing.
Many facial cleansers contain surfactants that remove dirt and oil from the skin but also interact with the skin’s outermost layer, the stratum corneum
. This layer is a protective barrier for your skin and produces good oils that, when removed by these surfactants, lead to dryness. “Many women choose to wash their face with water only. I happen to be one of those women,” says Frey.
Lifestyle choices matter for skin health, too
In addition to limiting skincare products to those that have proven to benefit skin health, healthy skin is obtained by making healthy lifestyle choices. “It is not the sexy answer, the easy answer, or the quick fix many individuals look for when it comes to optimal skin appearance. But the fact remains, as an organ, healthy skin parallels a healthy body,” says Frey.
Frey recommends a nutritious diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep, and although there is little science proving so, probably a good dose of laughter (it’s the best medicine, after all) if you want to maintain healthy skin.