Skinimalism: Why You Should Use Fewer Skin Care Products

Lots of us have been scaling back our skincare shelves lately, since our faces aren’t out and about all that often nowadays, and the blurry webcams of Zoom calls will hide any imperfection. But for some skincare junkies, scaling back and decluttering skin care shelves isn't as easy. Especially if your shelf is full of dozens of the latest fad skincare products that you just had to have. It’s a dangerous spiral of a skincare routine turning into a whole skin care collection worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records...or Hoarders.

It’s easy to justify the continued purchases — no, that face serum may not spark joy, but the model in the advertisement with flawless skin promised it would provide results like no other product has before. Falling for the marketing schemes that the skincare industry puts forth is natural if you struggle with your skin, but instead of listening to commercials and celebrity spokespersons, listen to what expert dermatologists have to say.

A skincare routine needs consistency to work, and all the serums, sprays, masks, and other bits and pieces you add every once in a while are often just fillers with few significant benefits for your skin. 

In short, less is more, and now skinimalism is here to pare down your skin care for the better.

What is Skinimalism?

The skin care buzzword right now is skinimalism, which is exactly what it sounds like — skin minimalism. The goal is to minimize the amount of skin care products you have and use. This applies to the amount of products you own in total, how many products you use on your skin daily, and also the amount of makeup you wear. This will not only save you money, but also save your skin.

  1. Cutting back on products - Using too many skin care products can damage the moisture barrier. The more things that come in contact with skin, the more opportunity for disrupting the skin’s pH balance which leads to moisture loss and irritation.
  2. Overuse of products - On top of using too many products, using the same product too much can be damaging. The main case of this is overexfoliating which can dry out the skin and cause irritation. Stick to exfoliating once or twice a week.
  3. Piles of Products - Streamlining your product collection will make your daily routine easier and quicker since you don't have to dig through dozens of bottles and tubes looking for what you need, and there's no choice to make between the products you'll lose.
  4. Wearing less makeup - Your skin needs to breathe, and if you are wearing layer upon layer of face makeup every day, it can be suffocating your pores. The trend of wearing minimal makeup (or none at all) can completely refresh your skin. Read more about the benefits of taking a break from makeup here.

Why you should stick to using the same skin care products consistently

Having every trendy skin care product that pops up may make your skin care shelf look pretty — the pastel packaging, shiny serums, and shimmery eye patches are all aesthetically pleasing for a shelfie. But just because they have aesthetic appeal, bear a celebrity’s name, or are endorsed by your favorite skinfluencer, doesn’t mean you need to spend an arm and a leg on every “holy grail” skin care product you hear someone sing the praises for. 

Constantly adding and subtracting products from your routine can have negative effects on the very skin that you are trying to care for.

Skincare products take time to do their job. You need time for your skin care products to even start working because it takes the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis, 4 weeks to completely renew. Once your skin goes through this cycle 3-4 times (so a period of 3-4 months) then you’ll have given your skin enough time to start making the real long term changes.

If you keep switching out cleansers, moisturizers, or acne treatments for the “next best thing,” you won’t be giving anything time to start working.

Don’t fall victim to blind consumerism and buy up every product you see recommended on Instagram. And if you just like the pretty bottles (no judgment), hit up the thrift store and buy some vintage perfume bottles or trinket boxes to dress up your vanity and shelves instead.  

Products you can cut out of your routine

Not sure what to keep and what to toss? Here’s some tips on creating the abridged version of your skincare routine.

  • Most Single-Ingredient Serums - The single ingredient serums like Niacinimide, Retinol, and BHAs all in different concentrations have taken the skincare world by storm. They are cost-efficient and seem impressive, but the problem is they require you to be a skin care scientist to adequately and safely stack on the different serums, and you end up with so many different serums that you could’ve just invested in one cost effective serum or cream that is concocted by actual scientists and dermatologists with the perfect balance of multiple beneficial ingredients. 
  • Multiple Actives - Active ingredients are found in many acne fighting products as well as sunscreens. You do not need a cleanser, moisturizer, toner, and an acne cream that all contain actives. Applying too much or stacking on multiple actives will cause more harm than good in the form of irritation or increased sensitivity to UV rays. So give one active time to work, and if it isn’t helping acne after a few months, try another active. And, don't worry, there’s always room for the actives in your sunscreen.
  • Eye Cream - Your regular face cream will do the job just fine around your eyes. Just make sure to dab the product on gently with your finger when dealing with the sensitive skin in the eye area.
  • Products you have multiples of - You don’t need 10 different cleansers. Enough said.

Find your favorite products that have been working consistently, and toss some of those jars and bottles that have been collecting dust for years, or give them to a loved one who hasn’t gotten into the swing of a skin care routine yet. Then you can focus on what’s really necessary for your skin.

Skinimalism Routines for oily skin and dry skin

Necessary products

Skinimalism does not mean you should just start completely neglecting skin care. We’re minimalists here, not nothingists. Ok, bad jokes aside, there are a few products you should definitely use daily:

  • Cleanser - A pH-balanced cleanser that is suited for your skin type is the crucial first step to every skin care routine. You need to cleanse to remove built up oil, dirt, and makeup, or you’ll end up with clogged pores and breakouts galore.
  • Moisturizer - Your skin barrier is responsible for keeping moisture in your skin, and sometimes it needs a little bit of help. A good moisturizer will not only provide hydration, but if you choose the best moisturizer, it will also contain antioxidant ingredients such as Vitamin C or E which helps protect your skin from free radicals which can damage the skin barrier and lead to premature signs of aging.
  • Sunscreen - We could go on for hours about why daily sunscreen application is necessary for not only protecting against sunburns and skin cancer, but also preventing premature signs of aging like wrinkles and discoloration. Even if you’re running out the door in the morning, be sure to smooth on some mineral, broad-spectrum sunscreen, and keep a travel size in your bag or car for reapplying throughout the day.

Beyond the basics

Not everyone’s minimalism looks the same. Some people will have perfect skin just sticking to those three basic products, but some need a little more help. These additional products can be added a few times a week for the additional perks.

  • Vitamin C Serum - If your moisturizer doesn’t contain Vitamin C, adding a serum can give you the added boost of antioxidants necessary for fighting off free radicals.
  • Exfoliation - Whether it’s a chemical exfoliant like a BHA or a physical exfoliant like a facial scrub, exfoliants can help remove built-up dead skin that may be clogging pores, but like we mentioned earlier, be careful not to over-exfoliate at the risk of irritation. Exfoliating once or twice a week, however, will leave your skin smoother and healthier.
  • Acne Treatment - Whether it’s prescribed or an over-the-counter acne cream or wash, if you struggle with consistent acne (not just an occasional breakout) an acne treatment with active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help clear it up.
  • Lip balm - Ok so this one isn’t so optional, but not everyone thinks to count lip care as skin care. That being said, your lips are skin too, and they are more susceptible to drying out than the rest of our skin since they don’t produce their own oil. Soften, hydrate, and protect your lips from dryness with a shea butter lip balm.

How to Tell if Your Skin Care Products are Working

As aforementioned, your skincare products need at least 28 days to start really working their magic, and 3-4 months for results to really start showing, so don't be worried if you break out a bit after you first start using a new product but how can you tell if it’s a keeper for your sparse selection of skin products.

If your routine is working your skin will be the ideal balance between not too oily and not too dry (neither extreme is ideal), you shouldn’t see any signs of redness or irritation, and no new breakouts should be forming. You should also count on your skincare to remove your makeup, reduce the appearance of pores, and if you’re using a product specifically geared towards acne treatment, the redness, size, and amount of blemishes should be significantly diminished.

If you aren’t seeing these results or things are getting worse then do an elimination routine where you eliminate one product at a time to figure out what’s not pulling its weight, and seek out another option.

It’s also always a good idea to visit a dermatologist if you’re dealing with severe, persistent acne or irritation as you may have a more serious skin problem, allergy, or sensitivity that requires special treatment or prescription strength skin care products. 

Other Benefits of Less Skin Care Products

  • Better for the environment - Practicing minimalism in any way greatly reduces your individual impact on the environment since you’re consuming less products, and therefore creating less waste. Not only will less bottles, tubes, and paper masks fill up landfills, but you’ll reduce the amount of the natural resources used to create products to help avoid a future deficiency.
  • Time saver - You can whip through a skin are routine with three products much faster than one with seven products, which will cut back your morning and evening routines which means more sleep, and it’s called beauty sleep for a reason — a full night’s sleep will give your skin more time to rejuvenate. 

Times when you can benefit from a skin care update

If products are working for you, why change them? You can keep your skin care products consistent for most of the year, but some changes may be necessary as the seasons change. For example, when transitioning to fall/winter skin care you may want to use a thicker moisturizer during those dry, windy months, and in the spring you’ll want to scale back to a lightweight moisturizer to compliment the humidity in the air, and that’s a good time to make sure you’re using an antioxidant rich face cream or serum to protect your skin from the sun and pollution that come with being outside more.

Skinimialism can be hard if you’re used to over-consumption, but the pros far outweigh the cons. You’ll save time, money, space, and, most importantly, your skin.


I appreciate that you’re breaking down the stigma around skincare. We all deserve to have healthy, glowing skin

Vilvah July 11, 2023

very informative article

niecy June 22, 2022

i agree

hi everyone October 11, 2021

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