If you took a look at my side of the bathroom counter, you’d think I’d make a good candidate for Hoarders. In between expired make-up samples and lotions, I’m on the road to having my own museum-worthy collection of unnecessary and outdated products. But I’m not alone! Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Lucy Hale are both open about their product-hoarding tendencies, too. So what’s the allure? Why can’t we cut the cord when it comes to simplifying our skincare routines?
My skincare habits are beyond thorough. I use Biore’s Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser in the morning, followed by Neutrogena’s Oil-Free SPF Moisturizer, and Urban Decay’s Complexion Primer Brightening and Tightening Potion. Depending on the occasion, I’ll even use prep sprays, exfoliants, masks, and setting sprays. In contrast, my husband’s skincare regimen is super simple, consisting of about four steps: toner in the morning, sunscreen when outside, moisturizer when dry and post-shave, then toner again before bed.
Looking over at his side of the bathroom, I'm insanely jealous over how effortless his routine looks and how simple it is to wash, moisturize, and be on his merry way every morning. I'm bogged down with scents and sprays and firmers and toners, but he's been done long enough to not only make a pot of coffee, but pour one too.
Because his routine was so easy and effortless, I substituted my counter full of products for his streamlined regimen. I was excited to see not only if the swap would improve my skin, but how it would change my daily habits and skincare philosophy. For a week, I ditched my bag full of skincare tricks in favor of my partner's streamlined, easy routine: toner in the morning and before bed, moisturizer after a shave, and sunscreen if I was to go outside. More than the ease of the routine, I was excited (and a little scared) to see what using his products on my skin would be like. Would I breakout? Have a rash? Or would there be no difference at all?
For someone who thoroughly believes more is more, taking the simpler route was going to be quite the experience.
Day 1: Out With The Old, In With The New
It was surprisingly hard to part with my products and break my habits. I caught myself instinctively reaching for my Urban Decay B6 Vitamin-Infused Complexion Prep Spray. But rather than let myself fall victim to temptation and dependency, I gathered up all my products and stashed them of sight.
My husband’s skincare routine wasn’t even really much of a routine at all. He uses Oil of Olay Toner in the morning and before bed (he has sensitive skin), sunscreen when he’s outdoors, and a very light moisturizer (LUSH Cosmetic Lad) post-shave and if his skin’s feeling particularly dry. Having removed all my makeup and product the night before, I was starting with a fresh canvas.
The toner was refreshing but I felt like it only removed the surface layer of oils my skin had accumulated overnight. The sunscreen wasn’t a big change since my pale complexion already requires a heavy dose of SPF care. The moisturizer was fun, though. It’s marketed as a post-shave soothing cream especially for men, but I liked the cooling Aloe Vera and calming lavender ingredients. There wasn’t too much of a noticeable effect at the end of day one, though.
Day 2: One Day At A Time
As a body-positivity advocate and staunch feminist, I couldn’t believe how attached I was to all my skincare products. I somewhat pride myself on embracing my flaws and not putting value on physical appearances, yet only two days into the experiment, it was apparent my relationship with skincare wasn’t as healthy as I thought it was. Going “cold turkey” was harder than I had anticipated and it was almost embarrassing how superficial I felt.
When I rolled out of bed, I was absent-mindedly searching for my face wash again. It took a conscious effort to make myself use my partner’s products. I’d finish using the toner and feel like I was forgetting to do something. It was odd having only one step in the morning.
Already my prep time had been cut in half. On one hand, it allowed me time to fit more into my busy mornings. I was ready for work faster and in turn helped get our son ready for school quicker. On the other hand, though, it felt like I was missing out on my “me time.” It’s not that I ever take more than an hour to get ready, but it was nice having those guaranteed moments before work or bed all to myself.
Day 3: Unnecessarily Gendered Items
While the first two days didn’t seem to yield any real results externally, I did notice on day three that my skin seemed less red and irritated. My first thought was that this was due to the fact that I wasn’t putting my face through as much as I usually do. In between sleeping in makeup, using exfoliants, and always having some type of product on my face, I should have guessed my skin needed a break. But upon further inspection, I noticed on LUSH’s website that they say the chamomile and chickweed are meant to reduce redness and irritation.
I know Cosmetic Lad is marketed as a post-shave moisturizer, but is it really so different from products promising the same benefits to women? After comparing the ingredients in men’s and women’s moisturizers, there was only one glaring difference: Men’s are almost half the price. This really made me stop and think: Are some of my swear-by-it skincare products not worth the price tag? I’m sure there are some fundamental differences between men’s and women’s facial skin. I imagine a man’s face has different needs due to daily shaving, but even some women have taken up the practice, too. Regardless of whether or not I had stumbled upon the skincare industry’s sexist secret or not, this definitely had me rethinking my loyalty to certain products.
Day 4: Past The Halfway Mark
I’ve never really had to kick a habit before, but I imagine the pride I was feeling is typical for someone who’s hit a milestone. At the beginning of this experiment, I truly doubted if this was something I could or even would stick to for an entire week. It’s so easy to slide back into a familiar routine, but resisting falling into the same old same felt even better.
I was realizing I could push myself out of my comfort zone and, in return, gain a new perspective on what I need to feel good in my own skin. So far I had already seen that my skin didn’t have any adverse reactions from cutting out my products entirely and that I could get ready faster in the morning.
Day 5: The “Aha!” Moment
I was disappointed not see any huge changes as I entered the final stretch. I’m not quite sure what I was hoping to see, but I did expect there to be some kind of substantial change. The fact that there wasn’t a drastic difference, though, was kind of a big deal in and of itself. By not seeing a big change, I felt I could get the same results from my husband’s simple routine that I was from my own.
I have creams, scrubs, and potions to brighten and tighten, reduce redness, even-out skin tone, calm and soothe, shrink pores, and erase lines. But here I was, on day five, with my same skin, using a fraction of the products. Staring into the mirror with the intensity and focus of a laser, I simply couldn’t find any glaring changes.
Day 6: A Hiccup
OK, internet, I’m going to be honest with you. On day six I completely forgot to use toner in the morning. It was my one job for the morning and I totally spaced on it. Right around the time I was thinking about what I wanted for dinner – well that’s not entirely accurate since I daydream about food all throughout the day – I realized I hadn’t used toner that morning. Things like this can happen when you have a small child with the energy of a thousand suns and your brain is fried from chasing your little ball of light.
I was beginning to panic because I had forgotten such a basic step in my (essentially) four-step routine. But guess what? My face didn’t fall off or explode. Sure, my skin was a little shinier than usual, but it wasn’t gross. What’s even cooler is that I wasn’t grossed out by it. It seemed like I was overcoming my hang-ups, after all. What started out as a surface-level skincare experiment had exposed deeper anxieties, including what was necessary for me to achieve skin I felt comfortable in.
Day 7: End Of The Road
Remember how I forgot to start my morning off with my simple new routine? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget again. I did, however, fail to realize that it was day seven, the end of my experiment. In the late afternoon before dinner (I’m noticing a trend here), it hit me what day it was. I had thought on day one that I’d be ecstatic to get back to my familiar skincare regimen, but “ecstatic” wasn’t quite the word I’d use anymore.
I wasn’t itching to take my once-precious products back out, and a large chunk of me counted that a success. My skin tone was fairly even, no major blemishes had arisen, and most importantly, I learned I don’t need a counter full of items to have a healthy complexion. I’ll probably go back to using some of my stuff, but I won’t stop using a simplified style.
In the beginning of this adventure, I was openly dependent on my skincare routine. I even thought I was fully aware of the reasons behind my addictive tendencies: I liked how it made me feel when I applied products which promised a “better me”. It felt like I wasn’t sitting idly by, allowing time and the elements to change the landscape of my face. The endless lotions and washes offered a sense of control and security.
But I’ve learned nothing in a bottle can make you feel content with the face in the mirror. Only you can do that.
Images Courtesy of Sarah Bunton (7)