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Ask the beauty editor: How can I keep my skincare routine lazy but effective?

“Dear beauty editor, I am lazy. Skincare is tiring. Everyone is telling me to do too much. Even you tell me to do too much. Is it possible to be lazy and have a minimal skincare routine that works? I just want to be beautiful.”

Skincare has mutated into a beast of excess. As much as I adore pampering routines with an upwards of seven steps, I enter every day with the striking knowledge that I am not a Korean celebrity, and therefore, I do not have time for that.

Some days, even five steps are way too many to take between me and bedtime, which I’m sure is a plight that resonates. Rest assured, all ye who are weary, I’m here to give you rest and tell you that you can be lazy and have a good complexion if you know how to craft a properly minimal skincare routine.

When I say minimal skincare routine, I mean five products or less that take no more than ten minutes to get out of the way. I also mean the retention of a day and night skincare routine that differs slightly, though the core products you use remain the same.

yours personalised skincare
If you’re too lazy to even figure out what kind of products you need, then personalised skincare is a great option. (Photo credit: Beatrice Bowers/Lifestyle Asia)

Before we proceed, here’s a necessary disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist. Everyone’s skin is different. Your mileage may vary, etc. etc. If my methods don’t work on you, remember that skin and the care it needs is ultimately personal. Now, let’s tackle some big questions.

How many skincare products do I really need?

Right off the bat, you do not need a ten-step routine. It’ll feel lush and indulgent, but it’s never practical unless you’re skincare Cinderella with a horde of gnomes to help you slather on essence after essence as you vegetate in front of Netflix.

To build a minimal skincare routine, one must first address what your skin really needs. A low pH face wash is essential (double cleanse if you wear makeup and sunscreen), a chemical exfoliant is non-negotiable, a serum is important, and a moisturiser seals the deal. This is how I build my day-to-day skincare routine, and it takes me less than ten minutes to complete everything post-washing my face.

minimal skincare routine
The Egyptian Magic Cream, a ride or die. (Photo credit: Egyptian Magic Cream)

Products differ based on the time of the day, but not too dramatically. I like using a BHA to clear my pores during the daytime, and an AHA or retinol at night. The latter is used at night because AHAs exfoliate the surface of your skin, making it more vulnerable to UV rays.

My daytime moisturiser has SPF, while my nighttime one is the simple, five-ingredient Egyptian Magic Cream because a girl has dry skin and needs a serious humectant.

minimal skincare routine
Currently roadtesting the YSL Beauty Pure Shots Light Up serum, a lazy gal’s dream of Vitamin C and salicylic acid. (Photo credit: YSL Beauty)

My serums also differ from night to day, but again, this depends on what you use and how seriously you take your skincare. If you’re part of the bare minimum crowd, you want a serum that can serve your skin’s general health — a hydrating or anti-ageing booster, for example. For those lazy, but willing to go that extra mile (or product) to target your skin’s woes, then have a couple on hand. I use a vitamin C blend during the day for brightening and an anti-ageing one for night.

Everything else is an accessory

Streamlining is fantastic, but this does not mean all the frills and fixings of skincare are irrelevant. Masks, essences, lotions and treatments all still deserve a place on your shelf but treat them not as items you have to incorporate on the daily, but as accessories to your skincare outfit.

Clay mask on. (Image credit: Azimin Saini for Lifestyle Asia)

On days where you feel like you need to treat yourself, or tackle a heavy-duty skin issue, get that mask on. For more hydration, use a lotion, an essence, or stack on your serums. Skincare is only overwhelming when you let it get there. Once you learn how to approach care for your complexion in a fixed manner, with products that are essential and effective, versus occasional and a luxury, you are armed with the knowledge on how to build a regimen that’s fast and effective.

For once, it doesn’t hurt to be lazy.

Beatrice Bowers
Features Editor
Beatrice Bowers writes about beauty, drinks, and other nice things. When not bound to her keyboard, she moonlights as a Niffler for novels and can be found en route to bankruptcy at your nearest bookstore. Don't tell her boss.