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You can create an ideal skincare routine with less than six products, and it took me 15 years to nail that part of my beauty regime down. Here’s how I simplified my skincare routine to the bare minimum this year.

Being a Beauty Editor automatically makes you a hoarder. And a high-maintenance person, because hey, you need to try every product that hits the mark whether you need it or not. Add to that my intense FOMO. I love skincare products, and if I didn’t use that new cleansing balm that Tatcha launched, it weighed on my mind. I have often ended up paying enormous amounts in custom duties because that *insert new skincare product * was only available on Cult Beauty.

I’m also a sucker for clever marketing strategies and heavy discounts/offers. The constant flow of new products, a new routine to try every two weeks or so, advertising/Instagram pushing a new product, cute packaging, something my favourite influencer swore by — what’s a girl supposed to do? The result: A severely cluttered beauty shelf and a very light wallet.

So, if there’s one thing I have learned during this self-isolation phase, it’s this — more products don’t necessarily mean instant results and ideal skin. I could be damaging my skin, and, of course, adding to my beauty clutter. Neither of which I am ready to do at this point. As a woman in her late 30s, I wanted to go minimal, identify the best routine, and clear my counter of anything that didn’t serve a purpose. I was fed up with under-using essential products and wasting time on yet another exfoliator. All that money, effort, and shelf space I could save!

It has been a painful yet fulfilling journey. I started paying attention to what I was buying, why I was buying it, and how a certain product or ingredient fit into my daily routine; I cut out the superfluous steps. I have ended up with a small set of products that do their job well. My routine takes only 10 minutes and is tailored to my skin and lifestyle. That is not to say that I don’t try new products — it simply means that I don’t pile on. I replace or review what I work with on a daily basis while maintaining my curiosity and indulging (once in a while) at duty-free. This is still work in progress, so I occasionally fall back into old habits, but at least I know what I am working towards.

Image courtesy: Alpha-H Instagram

Here’s what I did to create a minimal, high-performance, optimal skincare routine –

Creating an ideal routine

The Koreans who taught us the 10-step skincare regime have now realised how futile and time-consuming it can be. Enter skip-care, a method that allows you to only work with essential ingredients for maximum results. I picked steps that worked for me — exfoliation instead of yet another face mist, an antioxidant serum instead of a heavy moisturiser. It’s about figuring parts of your regime that work best for your skin. 

Paring it down to multi-use products

Use products that serve more than one purpose — effective skincare hybrids. Case in point, Laneige’s new toner-moisturiser called Cream Skin, or Glossier’s Future Dew, an oil serum hybrid. My favourite is the Son & Park Beauty Water I switched to, instead of a toner and essence. Another great product is Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution, which has a blend of purposeful actives. 

Vitamin C Skincare
Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Investing in active ingredients

Active ingredients in any skincare routine give you the best results. Whether it’s moisture-boosting Hyaluronic acid or glow-creating Vitamin C or super-exfoliating Lactic Acid or highly effective for anti-ageing, Retinol, pick an active that works best for your skin type and needs, and make it the hero of your regime. 

Merging morning + night time routines

Sure different products for morning and evening routine works, but if you are looking to go minimal, you don’t have to adhere to that — one doesn’t need a new night serum just because Bella Hadid says so. So, I decided to use the same serum in the night — it’s about replacing only the essentials (Retinol) and more or less staying true to the same regime, whether it’s night or day. 

Buy cult products

Don’t fall into the ‘It’ product trap; buy a cult product that has enjoyed popularity for decades and is a staple in skincare shelves around the world. These are few skincare heroes you can count on to always give you great results. My picks: Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II, M.A.C Cosmetics Prep + Prime Fix +, the Pixi Glow Tonic, and the Clinique Moisture Surge

Finding a magic product that tackles your skincare concern

Every regime must have a magic ingredient. I’m not talking about a Vitamin C, but one that specifically addresses your skincare problem. My skin is hyperpigmented, and that means dark patches and uneven skin tone. I needed one magic product to take that problem head on — The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution gave me flawless glow every time I used it. Same goes for the L’Occitane Immortelle Reset Serum, which made my skin plump and smooth. 

Hot cloths over face wash

There was a time when I used to wash my face twice or thrice a day. No reason, just over-indulgence. Now, I realise how it can strip you of your natural oils and make your skin dry, no matter how gentle your face wash. Enter items like a hot cloth or just a face oil that you can wipe off to give your skin the necessary cleansing without going overboard.

sheet masks
Image courtesy: The Body Shop

Swap your skincare…

…with easy to use items. I avoided makeup wipes and reused a hot cloth or a (multi-use) makeup eraser instead. Instead of sheet masks, I started using face masks that came in glass jars. I also replaced my 101 face mists with a rose water toner that has always worked for me. 

Find your tribe

In a virtual world that is cluttered with influencers promoting everything from oils to balms to creams, one needs to be mindful about who to follow. I started unfollowing beauty and fashion influencers whose feeds were all about the next new product. I fine-tuned my Instagram timeline to people whose beauty advice was well-researched and authentic. Use this time to cut out the self-serving and uninformed (and save some moolah). Here’s a handy list of people I trust.  

Simplifying your skincare routine
Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Must-have or nice to have?

We often buy products for minute, unimportant reasons. From millennial-friendly packaging to a Women’s Day spiel to pretty ingredients like lavender or strawberry. If the aforementioned have been your motivation, chances are those skincare products aren’t actually helping you. So I pulled out everything that was ‘nice-to-have’ and gifted it to people. Now, there’s just must-haves and am content. 

All images Getty, unless specified otherwise

Latha Sunadh
Deputy Editor
When she's not trying on a new serum, researching on yet another classic fragrance and sharing lip balms with her 5-year old daughter, Latha Sunadh keeps it reined in with a nice song and a good book. Special skills include obsessing over handmade, home-made and handcrafted luxuries.