I Tried A Minimalist Beauty Routine For A Week, & Here's What Happened

Since I’ve started to live a more minimalist life, I’ve reevaluated many of my daily routines to find the perfect balance of simplicity and necessity. Some women take pride and pleasure in a complicated beauty routine, but I've never been one of them. I wanted a simpler beauty routine, but I wasn’t sure exactly where to start. Even though I don’t have an excessively time-consuming beauty routine, I was fairly certain that I hadn’t yet found the ideal process for me. Then I had a thought: what if I followed a minimalist beauty routine for a week? What mind that look like, and what might that mean for my skin?

Every time I stop at the store it seems like there are more and more products aimed at women to solve this problem and help do away with that problem, once and for all. Not only is it overwhelming to feel the need to buy, buy, buy, but it's also disheartening to look at rows and rows of toners and primers and moisturizers and think: Is my skin really this bad? Do I really need this? With three young kids in tow all under the age of 5, I don't have all the time in the world for a beauty routine that takes all day. I have a few minutes, if that, and on a good day, I can squeeze out a whole 10 minutes alone in my bathroom to get ready — and to be honest, that's really only when I wake up well before the kids. In contrast, my partner's skin care routine is effortless. I craved the simplicity of a routine that left me time and energy to tackle the day once I was finished with it, in addition to a routine that wouldn't add up in costs whenever I needed to restock my supply.

The Experiment

So instead of easing into a more minimalist beauty routine to figure out what I needed, I decided to strip away everything but the bare essentials. I settled on toothpaste, deodorant, and a bar of soap as my products, with a toothbrush and hairbrush as my only tools. Everything else I removed from my bathroom for the whole week.

Day 1

I made sure to have a nice full shower and shave the day before my minimalist beauty routine. I was suddenly not so sure about this experiment, realizing I would have to face the world with untamed hair and unshaven legs in summer. Even though I feel like I let myself slide in the beauty department now that I’m a mother, I am still very aware of the societal pressure to look a certain way, and I was little worried about how I would look when I went to drop-off and pick-up my son at preschool every day. I decided not to wash my face, and instead just splashed some water on my eyes to help me wake up. (I was also really scared of how dry my skin might be using only a bar of soap and no moisturizer.)

I was pleased with how quickly I was up and ready to dive into my day without going through my normal hair and makeup routine. I brushed my teeth, ran a brush through my hair, and that was that. My lips felt a little chapped, but that just made me more conscious of my need to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Day 2

On the second day, I went for a run and therefore had to take a shower. Having no shampoo or conditioner in my routine made it much harder to brush out my hair post-shower. I have been told by many a hairdresser that I have more thick, luscious hair than Jesus. It is a wonderful thing, but it definitely requires at least some upkeep. Like a hairdryer.

My hair didn’t dry all day so I had to put it up in a wet messy bun to go to the grocery store. It was still wet when I went to sleep that night, even though I took my shower in the morning.

I thought my skin would immediately be a dry, itching hellscape from not using any lotion or moisturizer, but it was surprisingly OK. I was really starting to miss my chapstick though. That was definitely going to be the first item I reinstated once my minimalist beauty routine was over.

While it was nice to get a break from all the products I regularly use, I felt less than my best when I was out and about. Sometimes I won’t dry my hair, but I’ll put on makeup. Sometimes my hair will look really good, and I’ll feel fine without makeup. Bad hair and no makeup though? I was not loving the way I looked.

Day 3

After going to sleep with semi-wet hair the night before, I was a hot mess when I woke up in the morning. The baby had a rough night, so I was sleep deprived and in desperate need of concealer to mask the bags beneath my eyes, but no such luck. It was off to preschool drop-off with the ultimate bedhead and red-rimmed eyes.

While the first couple days were no big deal, on the third day I felt really self-conscious over my inability to put on makeup to mask my exhausted face. Even if I don’t wear makeup on an everyday basis, it’s nice to have the option when I need a little boost.

Day 4

My hair was starting to calm down again by day four, but other problems were starting to arise. My nail polish was chipping, my legs were dry and hairy, and my heels sans pumice stone were the stuff of nightmares. I was supposed to have a friend come over and meet up for coffee, and was beyond relieved when she canceled last minute. She’s one of my more well-groomed friends, and I usually feel underwhelming in comparison on a normal day. I did not want her to see me like this.

This was a whole new level of unkempt for me, and it was starting to leave me feeling a bit insecure. I didn’t want to leave the house for fear of running into someone I knew. Not that I always go out looking like a rockstar, but I’m pretty sure the way I looked on day four would warrant questions as to whether or not I was taking basic care of myself. I was a walking stereotype of the frazzled, frizzy mother of three.

Even as a mother, there is still an expectation to look a certain way. There are unspoken "rules" and expectations about women and where you are and are not allowed to slack off. You can wear jeans and t-shirts all you want, but you should still have a nice manicure; you can go without makeup every once in a while, but you ought to have shaved legs. It was strange to realize how aware I was of all these expectations, now that my regular routine was taken away from me.

Day 5

On the fifth day I woke up sick, and all self care actually did go out the window. I didn’t even do my minimalist beauty routine. I brushed my teeth, went back to bed and huddled under blankets all day. My skin was too sensitive for me to want to take a shower, and ditto for brushing my hair. I might have put on deodorant, but I’m not totally sure. I wanted chapstick more than life itself, and cursed myself for not including it in my minimalist beauty routine.

I didn’t mind having a minimal beauty routine when I was this sick, because I didn’t have the energy or desire to take care of myself. I wanted someone to bring me hot soup while I avoided mirrors and selfies. Makeup, lotion, and hair brushing could wait for some other time.

Day 6

I was still sick on the sixth day of my minimalist beauty experiment, but was feeling well enough to take a shower. I didn’t wash my hair, because being sick with wet hair all day sounded like the worst idea ever. My face was getting totally ravished by my lack of self-care in addition to my nasty head cold.

My hair, however, had reached this weirdly wonderful level of fabulous. I reached the mountaintop of effortlessly good-looking, woke-up-like-this, slightly-oily-but-in-a-good-way, minimalist hairstyling.

Day 7

On the seventh day, I was feeling much better. I wanted to take a real shower and put on some makeup to shake off the funk from being sick for the past couple days. However, I stuck to my minimalist beauty routine, even though by the end of it all I was left looking like a pale, greasy-haired Grim Reaper. Apparently the effortlessly good hair day is but a momentary blip in a sea of bad hair days.

Did My Simplified Routine Change Anything?

By the end of the experiment, I was beyond ready to get back some of my beauty products and my blessed hairdryer. While the minimalist beauty routine was a great time-saver, it also felt very incomplete. Chapstick at the very least is a non-negotiable necessity. As is a hairdryer. And lotion. And the occasional shaving of pits and legs. Otherwise I turn into a greasy-haired, chapped-lipped, hairy-legged she-beast, and nobody wants to see that.

An unexpected perk of the minimalist beauty routine was that I was much more conscious about eating well, sleeping well, and drinking lots of water in hopes of improving my look naturally. It didn’t really work, but it was still good for me. I also found that I was able to seriously pare down my beauty products at the end of the week. I knew what I missed and what I didn’t, so I got rid of lots of rarely used lotions, travel-size products from hotels, mall samples, and some old makeup (including some Wet N’ Wild loose body glitter that I’m fairly certain I’ve had since I was 12). Now my bathroom is the minimalist haven I had hoped for, and I’ve found my perfectly balanced routine.

Images Courtesy of Gemma Hartley (8)