Once I Stopped My Extensive Skincare Routine, My Skin and Mental Health Improved Significantly

"When I really take inventory, I realize that I did it because I felt like I was supposed to, in order to have good skin."

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My 18-year-old self would probably cry tears of joy if I could tell her that I test out beauty products for a living; before crying tears of despair upon learning that testing beauty products for a living can definitely take the fun out of our lifelong obsession and passion.

Don't get me wrong, though, I love my job. It combines my different interests with my strongest skills, and I can truly say that being a writer fulfills me. But it's still work and it's taken a physical and mental toll on me. I know, I know — woe is me, the beauty writer who gets the latest drop on all new products. But my closet is stuffed to the brim with a cluttered mess of serums, creams, masques, and cleansers, and it's driving me nuts. That's why I've decided to strip down my skincare routine with the help of estheticians Darya Rzaca and Aneta Zuraw, co-founders of Atelier Beauté.

Keep reading for the best minimalist skincare routine for mental health.

The Dilemma of an Extensive Skincare Routine

My day-to-day beauty routine changes so frequently and I'm constantly fretting over which new product to incorporate into my routine (which I incorporate for about two to three weeks before they're sent to collect dust in my beauty closet). At the same time, I'm constantly getting emails about the latest product that I need to try, which also fuels a mounting sense of beauty product FOMO. For someone who already deals with anxiety, this constant stimulation and lack of regularity weren't just wearing on my mental health, but also my skin.

My face has definitely suffered since becoming a beauty writer, as strange as that sounds. About three months ago, my skin was much more frequently inflamed and acne-prone — which isn't really surprising, according to Rzaca and Zuraw.

"In our opinion, [skincare] has become very complicated, since more and more products are available for purchase on the market for clients without proper consultation and skin analysis made," they share. "Very often the products are either too harsh and cause even more problems to the skin or do not make a difference physically to the skin cell. Also, buying many different products can contradict each other even though working separately or staying within one brand line provides great results."

So does that mean that a longer skincare routine isn't as good for you as a shorter skincare routine? Well, it's not really so cut and dry.

The key is, in essence, to do what works best for your needs. "It is not about having a shorter skin routine timewise, but for [a routine] to be not complicated and still effective," the pair say. "As we mentioned prior, very often simpler can be more beneficial. Many ingredients may aggravate the skin if used with the wrong products or used too much or applied the wrong way. Also, a shorter but consistent routine is better than having a longer one and not following it. We do not need to complicate our lives every morning and night; we have enough on our plates already."

Both Rzaca and Zuraw's advice seems pretty sound both in terms of physical skin health and mental health as well. Having a skincare routine is a great way to include self-care and structure to your routine to help your mental health, but the routine itself needs to actually suit your lifestyle and needs the best.

While a 15-step routine might have been best for me in the past, I've found that a shorter routine is best for my mental bandwidth, skincare concerns, and general happiness now.

How to Simplify Your Skincare Routine

So, how does one start whittling down their extensive skincare routine to something more streamlined? Rzaca and Zuraw both suggest focusing on a single concern — it can be any concern, but just focus on one.

"It can be pigmentation, fine lines, or, like during this weather; extra moisture is needed," they preach. "Cleanser, toner, mask (even twice a week is already a success), serum, emulsion, moisturizer, and SPF. A simplified routine will mean not skipping a step but having just one product for each."

Their advice lines up with how I also decided to shorten my routine. While I was concerned about my acne, and lingering hyperpigmentation, I decided that I really just wanted to focus on my general skin health.

I built my new routine around protecting my moisture barrier and avoiding intense active ingredients like AHAs and retinol for at least three weeks — and it worked well for me.

I'd start my nighttime routine by double cleansing with Cottin's Melt Cloudy Cleansing Oil and Jordan Samuel's Matinee Cleansing Gel, before applying two drops of Isla Beauty's Storm Serum, a pump of Dieux Skin's soothing Deliverance Serum, two drops of Dr. Loretta's Intense Replenishing Serum, and capping it all off with a generous smear of Avene's Creme Cicalfate.

In the mornings, I'd gently cleanse with a little drop of the Matinee Cleansing Gel, before following up with a few drops of Storm Serum, Deliverance, and a pump of Glow Recipe's Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Treatment Serum (for some antioxidant action), more Creme Cicalfate, and SPF. After about five weeks of sticking to this routine religiously, I incorporated Biologique Recherche's Masque VIP O2 in the mornings for a gentle pick-me-up.

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The Results

My skin has never been in such great shape. And not only that, my skin troubles from months prior? Gone within two weeks of sticking to my more streamlined routine. The consistent pink mottling on my cheeks (a map of where my old hyperpigmentation used to be) never really comes up anymore, and I only get the occasional pimple during my time of the month or if I've dallied a little too long from a refreshing shower after a workout.

I've also since incorporated weekly treatments. Besides Masque VIP O2, I swipe my skin with a little bit of Biologique Recherche's P50V once a week and use a dropper full of Maelove's Stargaze serum once per week as well. But other than that, I stick quite closely to my routine and only swap out when I receive a product that I think will suit my needs quite well.

The most marked change, however, is my mental health and the relief I feel at night nowadays. Instead of dreading the everchanging rigamarole of my nightly skincare routine, I take so much pleasure in knowing that I just have to use a few drops and a pump or two, and then I'm done. And I truly love each and every single product that I use in my routine, from the experience to the textures to the actual results.

Choosing to be more deliberate with my product choices gives me a soothing sense of control, whereas before, I felt like I was in constant chaos whenever I opened up my closet and stared up at the piles and piles of messily shoved-in beauty products, or when I used to despair for my over-cluttered bathroom sink.

The Takeaway

I look back at my previously extensive skincare routine, and I'm really shocked at how long I stuck to it, despite how it failed to bring me the simple pleasure of enjoying the process of putting on my skincare.

Why had I done so, other than being afraid of missing out on trying the other products, or that I was just on auto-pilot when it came to my own self-care? When I really take inventory, I realize that I did it because I felt like I was supposed to, in order to have good skin. I felt like a beauty writer should be trying as many products as possible in order to write as much as possible.

It's so easy for beauty to feel prescriptive. But beauty and wellness — wellness being the act of incorporating habits on a regular basis for our mental and physical health — go hand in hand, and there's not a reason in the world why you should have to compromise one for the other.

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