Skinimalism: Get Started Simplifying Your Routine
The skinimalism beauty trend might make brands a bit nervous. The focus is on simplifying your skincare routine. If you pair that with a sustainable beauty approach (skinimalism = minimalism = buy less stuff), then the whole premise of skinimalism is buy less and use less.
You don't need a 14-step routine, no matter what anyone tells you! A minimalist skincare routine can be very effective.
That said, complexity and variety do matter more to some people, and that's ok. Be wary of over-processing your skin though. Often our routines are the cause of our problems and taking a total break from most products is what finally cures your issue. Avoid the tendency to keep adding more if what you're using doesn't seem to be working.
Brands Building Skincare Products
When it comes to skincare, building a product involves several steps. The critical branch points are:
- What is the purpose? What active ingredients do we want to use?
- Will it need to be emulsified?
- What physical properties do we want? Thick, thin, liquid, gel, opaque, transparent…
The common notion that serums are way more potent because they have less water to dilute the ingredients is inaccurate. There isn't some massive difference between an ampoule, serum, essence, etc. I'm not sure we can even define them except to say they are all just marketing terms.
The activity level of an ingredient has little to do with the physical consistency of the delivery system. Products with a lightweight texture or lightweight formulas aren't automatically skinimalistic. While you want products to be comfortable to the skin, sheer coverage doesn't mean skinimalism.
If we know the ingredient is effective at a concentration of 10%, and if the formula is adequately stabilized, you can really make it any consistency you want. If you leave it as a liquid, you might call it a spray or toner. If you thicken or gel it, you might call it an essence or a serum. If you emulsify it thinly, it becomes a lotion. If you emulsify it thickly, it becomes a cream.
This isn't universally true for all ingredients and products, some do need special chemicals or physical properties in order to be delivered properly. However, for the vast majority of ingredients, the physical properties of the product should be viewed separately. The key to effectiveness is that the concentration of the ingredient used matches what was used in the clinical studies.
We Love face oils because the skin allows oil-soluble active ingredients to penetrate well.
Single Function vs Multifunction Products
Minimalist skincare can take 2 different approaches.
First, it comes down to consumer preference. Do you want to target a single concern and minimize ingredients to only the most essential? This is a good approach if you choose highly active and well-researched products. Retinol would probably be a good example here. Much is known about its effectiveness, and consumers understand how their skin reacts to different percentages. The Ordinary is a good example: you can choose their retinol at 0.25%, 0.5% and 1%. All are mixed in very minimal other ingredients.
Skinimalism the other way would be to look for a product that contains more ingredients but with multipurpose effects. A bit more like an all-in-one solution. We worked to design our retinol alternative face oil that way. The Bakuchiol Age Support Elevated Face Oil is designed to improve age-related skin changes while also hydrating and moisturizing. For some people, adding any other products isn't necessary. Creating a minimalist skincare routine doesn't need to involve buying all-new products.
Building a Minimalist Skincare Routine
Please let me know if you can figure out the actual difference between an essence, a serum, and an ampoule. From where I see it, they could all be identical, with the only difference being consistency/texture. That said, consumer preference and user experiences do matter a lot. That's why you can find glycolic acid toners, serums, lotions, and creams.
The essential steps in a routine need to be built around the function of a product. Not the physical properties of a product.
There are 4 essential functions for skincare products.
In each functional category can usually be found with the physical properties that you're looking for. Liquids, milks, gels, creams, lotions, serums, essences, ampoules, toners… scented, unscented… And many products can fulfill more than one function.
Cleansing is essential, and a decision between 2 steps (oil then cleanser) or 1 (cleanser only) depends a lot on whether you need to remove makeup. Beyond that, choose one that matches your skin type to clean but doesn't strip all the natural oils. Things like micellar water and toner might fall into a cleansing category, but toners can also be totally unnecessary or fall into the treatment/exfoliation categories (i.e. glycolic acid toner)
Exfoliating is necessary, but whether you gently use a mechanical method (washcloth or commercial scrub) or chemical (any sort of acid product: cream, lotion, serum, toner…) is another personal choice.
Moisture and hydration are linked but not the same thing. Moisturization and skin barrier support are created by emollients. Hydration occurs from using humectants. Most Creams and lotions contain some of both.
The air quotes are because skincare products are cosmetics, and they cannot and should not be thought of as treatment in the medical sense. They are not drugs. However, people tend to seek solutions for many categories of skin concerns and an almost infinite number of ingredients promise success. Some common examples:
- Age-related changes: vitamin C, coenzyme q10, retinol, bakuchiol
- Pigment related changes: vitamin C, licorice root, retinol, resveratrol
- Oil controlling and acne modifying: salicylic acid, retinol, bakuchiol
- Damage repair and healing: bisabolol, allantoin, aloe vera
My Personal Routine
- shower in the morning with no soap/cleanser and gently buff a few problem areas that I have that always need extra exfoliation
- single 'treatment' face oil only
- cleanse in the evening with a gentle lotion cleanser
- Single 'treatment' face oil before bed
- I use a glycolic acid cream twice a week
- I add a humectant based, oil-free serum before the face oil if I notice my skin getting thirsty
I have other products that I enjoy, and I still have a bit of a serotonin shopping problem, but this is pretty much all I use, and my skin has really thanked me for it. The skinimalism routine became necessary when I started wearing tight masks at work. My skin was in total chaos – damaged, injured, humid, oily, etc. Cutting out all the over-processing is what cured my maskne and really let my skin recover.
A minimalist skin care routine like this is meant to use as few products as needed with as high-yield results as possible. The goal is to have a natural glow and boost the skin's natural ability to look flawless. The essence of skinimalism is simplicity, but not at the cost of results.