Forget simply cleansing and moisturizing, in 2017 skin care is a lot more complicated. Thanks in part to the influence of the Korean beauty industry and its 10-step routines (or is it 14 now?), we are constantly encouraged to add more products to our vanity, and spend even longer in the bathroom. An idea peddled by beauty brands themselves, you need only take a quick scroll through Instagram to see how commonplace it is for skin-care fans to line up a morning routine #shelfie consisting of seven products — and that’s before makeup begins. But is it really beneficial to layer up so many products, and will it help our skin?
I am as guilty as the next beauty addict in being drawn to newness, and the promise of the next elusive how-did-I-ever-live-without-this product. Consequently, my routine is anything but consistent, and I often get carried away with the number of products I shove on my face. Recently, however, on a week-long trip to France, I streamlined my skin care to Easyjet’s hand luggage policy, and noticed how my skin looked better than ever. With four simple products in my plastic bag (Bioderma’s micellar water, Avène’s water-based cleanser, Avène’s rich moisturizer and Vichy’s SPF 50), my skin seemed to finally be behaving. While it may have the lack of stress (it certainly wasn’t the diet of rosé, camembert, and double caramel Magnums), it made me appreciate how sometimes keeping skin care simple can be just as effective as loading up on the latest essences, exfoliants, or masks.
When I speak to facialist Vaishaly Patel, she waxes lyrical about the benefits of straightforward skin care, especially if you already have sensitive or problem-prone skin. “Imagine how many chemical ingredients are in just one product — the more products you use and layer, the more chemical overload on your skin. This could potentially cause major sensitivity and can also lead to breakouts,” Patel explains. According to Patel’s school of thought, it’s all about choosing fewer products, but ones that are of the highest quality and hardworking. She prescribes a morning routine consisting of cleanser, serum, and moisturizer with SPF, and an evening routine of cleanser and an oil, plus a moisturizer if you really need it. Her biggest no-no? Exfoliating daily. “Time and time again I see clients that have ‘overdone it’ with an exfoliating scrub," she says. "A scrub should only be used once a week. Over-exfoliating will dry and strip the skin on the surface, ultimately causing skin to produce more oil to compensate, and therefore causing one to have more spots." Yep, it seems our quest for that squeaky clean feeling could be having a detrimental effect.
Next up I speak to facialist Kate Kerr, who highlights how it's also about how often we are applying our skin care: "Applying products in an order that isn’t conducive to product penetration will absolutely cancel out the efficacy of active ingredients," she says. "The biggest mistake I see people make is using a balm or oil cleanser and then applying a water-based serum. Water floats on top of oil. That serum isn’t going anywhere near your skin." With an overload of both products and information and a complicated and lengthy routine, unsurprisingly, it can be easy to mess it up.
Controversially, Kerr also believes the majority of us are using moisturizer when we don’t need to. She believes that only people with truly dry skin (about 10% of the population) actually need it. "By using a moisturiser, our skin’s surface sends a signal down to its water reservoir telling it that there is plenty of moisture and to halt production. This makes the skin sluggish and lacking in moisture, so we reach for more moisturiser, thus exacerbating the problem and reaching for a richer moisturiser," Kerr explained. She encourages her clients to break the cycle of always reaching for moisturiser and allow their skin to learn how to moisturise on its own once again. Instead she encourages everyone to invest in a hyaluronic acid serum and combine this with cleansing, a potent serum (either antioxidant-rich or with retinol) and, of course, SPF.
While I don’t know if I could quit the moisturizer for good quite yet, Kerr’s philosophy of scaling back skin care to just the products that really give results certainly rings true, and I have had success doing so. Sticking to my new minimalist approach has not only maximized my time in the morning, it’s also kept my skin in check, too. Although I can’t deny the satisfying feeling (or enjoyment) of dedicating a good half an hour to your skin — complete with scrubbing, multi-masking, and layers of product — it seems that this might be better left for a once-a-week job, not a daily routine.