For reasons I won’t go into now, I think it’s really important in life to set good habits, have hobbies that fire you up, and rituals that help you wind down. Any hobby, habit or ritual is fine. Fishing on a glassy lake, skateboarding at sunset, bathtime, yoga nidra to help you get to sleep. Or maybe becoming a morning person is your thing (if so, you can learn more about being perky pre-6am here). Whatever it is, take your pick, and stick to it.
For me, skincare ticks all three boxes. It’s a hobby, habit and ritual and has over time gone from a necessary evil (i.e. I have to wash my face before bed unless I fancy waking up with a breakout) to a fun hobby and ongoing science experiment (i.e. should I buy that retinol serum or will it interact badly with my AHA-based exfoliator?).
Slowly but surely over the past five years, my daily routine has become more and more intricate. During that time, I started working as a Beauty Editor so there’s that. And then, one evening not so long ago, I looked at my shiny, oil-slathered face in the mirror and wondered if this whole shebang was worth my time. Had I spent my life selling women products they don’t need? Was it all a lie?? In the midst of what I now refer to as my existential beauty crisis, I emailed my editor at The File with an idea: “What if I swapped out my current multi-step skincare routine for a no-frills moisturiser over the course of two weeks? How fun would that be?”
Fun is one word for it. I went in reluctant, yet optimistic, ready to quit my 6-step skincare routine cold turkey in the name of cosmetic liberation.
What happened to my skin in the end? Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out…
Out With The Old...
Now – and I cannot stress this enough – I love the products I am about to list. They did nothing wrong. If anything, after trialing stacks of lotions and potions over the years, my skin was in a really good place at the time of this experiment. But I’m innately
self-sabotaging curious and I just wanted to see what life was like without them, you know?
My AM + PM Routine
Go-To Properly Clean
Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer (2-3 times per week)
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair
Dermalogica Calm Water Gel
Votary Blemish Rescue Oil (to combat breakouts)
...In With The New
I did toy with the idea of forgoing skincare completely for the two-week trial period but decided against it. Why? Firstly, I wear makeup most days and the idea of not using a cleanser to wash it off was, to put it simply, gross. Secondly, I thought that going cold turkey would make my skin freak out. I didn’t want to send my complexion into withdrawal-mode – rather, I wanted to see if no-frills skincare could produce the same results as the big boys, as well as to see if stripping back my routine to a single lotion could serve to calm down overloaded skin.
With this in mind, I settled on a new pared-back line-up.
The New, Minimalist Me
The Trial Period
I was already using Go-To Properly Clean so to get this show on the road, I just had to go out and buy a bottle of Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser. I shop at Woolworths, a major supermarket chain in Australia, on the regular (all about those Everyday Rewards points, baby!) so this required minimal effort. I threw it in my trolley during my weekly grocery run. Easy, done, tick! I’d start the trial tomorrow.
That is, until tomorrow came. I, er, ‘forgot’ to switch up my skincare.
I ‘forgot’ the next day, too. And the day after that…
A week later and the Simple moisturiser was still sitting unopened on my bathroom sink.
I just… didn’t want to start. Which was weird. I very much pitched this story of my own accord. There was no brief. It was all me. Yet, here I was procrastinating and making excuses. Maybe I was more attached to my skincare routine than I had originally thought? What if my skin completely shriveled up like a day-old prune left out in the sun to dry?
Eventually, I did get my act together, albeit two weeks later.
On day one, I cleansed as per usual and finally reached for the Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser. At $9.99, it is one of the more affordable moisturisers on the market. With a little help from vitamins E and B5, it claims to restore, soften and smooth skin. And do you know what? It did everything a moisturiser should do. It was a lightweight consistency and absorbed into my skin quite nicely. No complaints here.
I woke up on day two and my face was still there. Success! It didn’t fall off sans Advanced Night Repair and that was a real plus. I slathered my skin in Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser morning and night. On face value, my skin appeared business as usual.
By day seven, though, I began to really miss my evening routine. I just wanted to wash my face and then stare at my pores for a bit before swiping on my Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer pads. But there would be no resurfacing on this night. Just moisturiser. Again. Cool. (Boring).
Slowly but surely, I noted changes in my skin. On my right-hand side, a colony of tiny bumps popped up – not quite whiteheads but not quite pimples either. A hybrid of sorts. Instead of clearing up my skin, was my one-trick pony actually working against me? I didn’t lose sleep over it but did notice the rumblings of congestion.
Around day 10, I spied a dry, flaky patch on my chin. Nothing that would stop traffic but it was noticeable to me. Dare I push on to see how far downhill my skin could go…?
Thoughts, feelings and conclusions!
What really surprised me was my own reaction. While I knew I loved skincare, I didn’t realise how much I relied on my evening routine of cleanse, swipe, hydrate, mask (and everything in between) to wind down. I missed my routine. Like really missed it. And in the end, I was glad to discover that this ‘missing,’ was not, in fact, a placebo.
My intricate skincare routine has become second nature. A ritual, habit and hobby. Each night, around 8pm, I wash my face, apply my potions and decompress. You can’t rush through a multi-step regime. No madame. You (or, rather, I) must wait until each product has absorbed before moving on. It’s almost like a zen practice in being present and slowing down, if you will. Usually, by the time I pat on my Go-To Exceptionoil, 10 minutes have passed and my brain is moving at a much slower pace than it was before. As I said, z-e-n.
As the days progressed, I started to resent the bottle of Simple moisturiser, which sounds dramatic and that’s only because it is. I slathered on far more product than was necessary just because I was bored.
As far as my skin was concerned, an innocent bystander probably wouldn’t have noticed a difference. Having said that, if I was to keep this up, I think that congestion and flakiness would become more permanent, more noticeable fixtures on my face.
Okay, thank fuck that’s over! I’m off to wash my face and apply an assortment of serums and oils now. Though should you be a rare unicorn for whom a one-product skin routine really works, please drop me a line in the comments section below!
Words, Erin Cook.