How many beauty products do you have? An overflowing bathroom cabinet full? Extras lurking on every bedroom surface, at the back of your wardrobe and in any tote bag you can find, perhaps? Or maybe just a couple of bottles lined up next to the sink? While many of us are proud of our bountiful #shelfies, if current trends are anything to go by, increasing numbers of us are falling into the second camp.
Forget 7-step routines and fussy ingredients lists. Today, a minimalist approach to beauty, in particular skincare, is growing in appeal as the environmental impact of too much 'stuff' becomes harder to ignore. "Consumers are a lot more aware of how catastrophic their personal care routines can be for the environment," agrees Livvy Houghton, senior creative researcher at strategic foresight consultancy, The Future Laboratory. "People are shifting away from product or ingredient-heavy routines and leaning towards a more simple approach that uses fewer products."
Are you using too many skincare products?
We all know the beauty industry has a packaging problem. The cosmetics industry produces 120 billion units of packaging globally every year and using fewer products equals less waste. Similarly, streamlining is more efficient. With less-is-more reigning supreme, a growing breed of brands are banking on one product that can 'do it all'.
"Opening one product that has multiple uses increases the chances of this being used fully prior to the use-by date," explains Yolanda Cooper, founder of plastic-free beauty brand We Are Paradoxx. The pandemic has only compounded this trend further, with 'skinimalism' and 'skip-care' becoming popular among people looking to strip things back. "Increased periods of time at home has meant consumers are more connected with their skin than ever, truly understanding what it needs and what it likes," Houghton adds. It's also driven many of us to declutter, a satisfying task which improves the aesthetic of where we're spending all our time while allowing us to take a little bit of control amid widespread chaos.
Imelda Burke, founder of Content Beauty & Wellbeing, the UK's leading natural beauty e-tailer, says the multitasking product category has grown consistently in the past two to three years. In fact, it's an innovation she expects to see a lot more of in the near future. From a skincare perspective, it makes sense. "The skin is a very simple organ that craves balance," says Dija Ayodele, aesthetician and founder of Black Skin Directory. "When you use too many products and ingredients, your skin gets conflicting messages, which eventually causes inflammation and may worsen your skin concern."
Is a simple skincare routine better?
Dr Barbara Kubicka, aesthetic doctor and founder of Clinicbe, notices the effects of product overload all the time. "I see people having issues with oiliness and congestion (clogged pores) or sometimes dryness and irritation if using too many active ingredients," she says. Active ingredients are ingredients which work to treat a certain skin concern, for example acne, hyperpigmentation or scarring. Popular ones include exfoliating acids (AHAs like glycolic acid and BHAs such as salicylic acid), retinol and vitamin C.
While too much of a good thing is one aspect, DIY skincare layering can also cause potential issues. This is something Ayodele has noticed as single-ingredient brands and products, such as serums and facial toners, have soared in popularity. "Most of us are not cosmetic scientists so how do you know you're using the right and beneficial amount of anything when layering and mixing at home?" Ayodele points out. On the flip side, with a multitasking product you get a concoction of skin-nourishing ingredients expertly formulated to work together. It takes the guesswork out of which ingredients may not go well together, not to mention when, where and how you should be applying them for best results.
Which are the best multitasking skincare products?
Take The Nue Co's The Pill, £65, a 'topical supplement' which the brand launched at the end of last year and claims offers a single daily dose of every key nutrient for the skin. Jules Miller, founder and CEO of The Nue Co, tells R29: "We found that the majority of people were using three, four or five products with highly active ingredients to target different skin issues and the layering was doing more harm than good." The serum was created with the right amount of ingredients for exfoliating (such as lactic acid), hydrating (hyaluronic acid) and tightening skin. All of which make a noticeable difference but ensure skin doesn't become irritated.
Other brands in the luxury space are also touting this message. Created by influencer Tina Craig, U Beauty creates multifunctional products that are both results-driven and designed to save time and waste. Its Resurfacing Compound, £85, is a serum that truly covers all bases thanks to a formula of skincare heavy hitters: vitamin C for brightening and protecting against pollution, hyaluronic acid for hydration, AHAs for exfoliation, peptides for repairing skin and retinol, which is a great all-rounder and especially tough on fine lines and clogged pores. The product is particularly popular among skincare obsessives and experts on TikTok.
Beauty editor favourite Augustinus Bader supports this theory, too. The product line has been 30 years in the making and is backed by Bader's stem cell research. "There is no hero ingredient," Bader explains, "simply that the TFC8 formula (which contains essential vitamins and moisturising molecules) in our skincare is potent enough to cause the skin to renew." The Cream, £205, and The Rich Cream, £205, are especially popular although they do come with an eye-watering price tag.
Whether these high end products save you money is debatable but there are more affordable options available. We Are Paradoxx's most recent launch, Super Fuel, £30, stretches the concept of multitasking to different areas of the body. "It works for your hair, delicate facial skin and body equally, thanks to the gentle blend of argan, Abyssinian and maracuja oils," explains Cooper. Oils generally lend themselves nicely to multitasking. Just think of the classic Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, £29.50. "The structure of an oil mimics that of the moisturising lipids (oils) found naturally in the structure of the skin so they penetrate much deeper than any lotion or emulsion," says Montague Ashley-Craig, the founder of sustainable skincare company MONTA MONTA. "It's the same story for hair, too." This month MONTA MONTA will launch an All Purpose Oil for face, body and hair. In a similar vein, Modern Botany is set to launch a Multi-Purpose Oil for face, body, hair and nails.
R29 also rates Olay Total Effects Whip Light As Air 7-In-1 Moisturiser SPF30, £34.99, for the daytime and Allies of Skin Multi Nutrient & Dioic Renewing Cream, £95, which can be used in the morning and evening.
Multitasking cleansers are also gaining traction. "Cleansers are packed with skin-benefiting ingredients that are washed away down the sink. We're seeing more cleansers that double up as other products," says Burke. For example, The Seated Queen Cold Cream, £39, is a reinvented cold cream which you can use as makeup remover, evening cleanser, moisturiser or overnight mask. Also popular is Holifrog's Sunapee Sacred-C Brightening Powder Wash, £39, a concentrated powder product which can be used as a cleanser, exfoliator or face mask.
Of course, there are limitations to stripping back your skincare. Some skin concerns will need specific treatments that require additional products while UV protection in the form of sunscreen (80% of ageing is done by the sun) is hard to formulate with other ingredients, making it an unavoidable extra skincare step in the morning. While a one-product routine might be a little optimistic for even the most stringent of beauty users, smaller, hardworking line-ups are certainly here to stay. After all, it's a win-win situation when it comes to saving time, clutter, money and the planet.
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