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Making the Case for Skin Minimalism

Learn how a less-is-more attitude can reap great rewards for your skin and the planet.

Whether you’re a fan of Marie Kondo or not, many of us have been guilty of skin gluttony in the pursuit of complexion perfection, more even-toned, luminous skin, and the perfect glow. But more is not always better. It’s time to shelf the overflowing shelfie for skin’s sake, sustainability, and the environment.

The emergence of accessible skincare products with powerful active ingredients has democratized skincare at all price points, offering dermal devotees around the world advanced products for daily care. A decade before receiving a degree in cosmetic chemistry and launching Spectacle Skincare, I was a model with stressed and overtaxed skin, hypersensitivity, and a tendency towards acne flare ups. I tried product after product with dermal reactivity, damaged my skin barrier, and ultimately exacerbated my condition.

I learned that simply piling on multiple products or relying on overcomplicated routines often results in more harm than good. As an “over-exfoliation nation,” we often strip our natural skin moisture and compromise the skin matrix, which leads to irritation, excessive redness, flaking, and dryness. Alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs), such as lactic, glycolic ferulic, retinol, niacinamide, and vitamin C, can do our skin good, but they can also cause a cycle of more sebum production and therefore more acne when on overload. 

Besides the unpleasant side effects for me, there was also a considerable waste factor I could never get past. For more than a decade, we saw the proliferation of adapting age-old Korean beauty practices and philosophies with extensive 8- 10- and 12-step routines. With that, global brands introduced and promoted additional categories and convinced consumers to buy more products to chase their skin dreams.

Truth be told, less is more when it comes to the best beauty practices, something leading dermatologists have long recommended. The skin is our largest organ, acting as a filter for the skin with its main function to act as a protective barrier against pathogens. The delicate balance of the matrix and our microbiome is essential to our skin health, both of which can be easily compromised.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us began stockpiling products and aggravating our skin to a crescendo of atopic dermatitis. In the process, we also created more waste. The reverberation and overdosing born in the global pandemic has given way to a seismic skin-shift back towards skin-minimalism. At the core of skinimalism is an emphasis on ending the coverup, trading up for the glow of healthy skin with a less-is-more philosophy that works for both the skin and earth.

Skinimalism emphasizes a paired down, simple skincare routine that prioritizes skin health and lets your natural beauty shine through. This is the perfect chance to start on a healthy skin diet.  For some it can even begin with a brief skin fast using just a gentle cleanser and moisturizer to give the dermis a chance to reboot to normal function. A simple routine saves not only time, money, unnecessary steps, and skin aggravation but also relies on fewer products with more efficacy, less packaging, and less environmental impact.

Cleansing and gentle exfoliation to prepare the skin for nutrients to correct, protect, and hydrate are required, but there is a better and more therapeutic way to deliver key (but easy-to-overdo) ingredients. It’s worth considering a skin-minimalist approach. It is truly a back-to-the-basics program. Our best skincare journey should be a slow, steady marathon for lifelong results. The skin can only accept so much before creating a chronic inflammatory response, which damages the skin rather than corrects, protects, or repairs.

After years of the double and triple cleanses, we are seeing a simple gentle cleanse may be all that is needed to clean without eliminating any of the precious surface oils our skin needs to maintain health. Retinoids, exfoliating acids (think azelaic, glycolic, and salicylic—any that can cause side effects), and even vitamin C are best introduced to the skin in microdose amounts.

Microdosing is the recommended clinically active percentages. Deploying a lower percentage— around one tenth—and applying regularly (twice daily) builds tolerance, keeping the skin and its all-important barrier robust, healthy, and glowing. It allows us to enjoy the benefits of a multitude of these actives included in one formula without adverse side effects like flaking and redness. Streamlined versions of our former routine and swapping a dozen products for a few multitaskers provide cumulative improvements. The results let natural, beautiful skin shine through.

Many of us gained a few pounds and products during the pandemic, and it’s time to lighten up. There are many ways to incorporate skin minimalism into your home and your daily routine.

  • Start with a skin fast to give your skin a break and to recover from harsh or aggressive ingredients causing atopic aggravation.
  • Go through every medicine cabinet and beauty closet and donate unopened, unused, or unwanted products to local shelters.
  • Store cold ingredients, especially antioxidants, growth factors, and peptides. This will give them an extended shelf life.
  • Reuse tincture bottles and open-top cream pots.
  • Look for multitasking products to eliminate both waste and steps.
  • Seek environmentally conscious products that serve your skin, with minimal disruption to the environment.
  • Use the last drop by cutting the bottom of every tube to get the portion of product that does not release from an airtight container.

Skin minimalism is good for both the skin and the planet. We owe it to ourselves to do right by our skin and mother earth.

About The Author
Andre Condit

Spectacle Skincare co-founder Andre Condit was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, surrounded by nature, culture, and a respect for the diverse beauty within his community. In his early 20s, he moved to New York City and signed with Ford Modeling Agency. Working with incredible photographers and brands, he found himself in search of serious skin support to manage climate, makeup, stress, and travel and was consistently underwhelmed with products introduced to him by makeup artists and skin experts while overwhelmed with packaging waste. 

To meet his own needs, Andre set on course to learn everything about skin function and active ingredients used in skincare. Through his journey, he recognized the lack of truly multifunctional products and that less was often more despite an industry mission to market more. Before the concept was formally named, he connected to the concept of skin minimalism and the dire need for industry change. Leaving the runway behind, Andre enrolled at the Institute of Personal Care Science, embarking on the next phase of his career, receiving his advanced certificates in Cosmetic Chemistry and Science. Focused on the integrated benefits of multiple actives, he worked with experienced chemists to develop Spectacle Performance Crème, the brand’s first one-step wonder, incorporating microdosing, skin minimalism, and 95 percent recycled materials to produce the most beneficial skin product with the least environmental impact.