A not so funny thing happened the other day. Red patches developed on one of my cheeks, followed closely by dryness, and suddenly nothing I put on my skin seemed to improve it – worryingly, it only did worsen the situation. A professional hazard, I’m used to the occasional misfire from testing new beauty products almost daily, but it always felt unfair. After all, despite my maximalist work, I am a minimalist at heart. I grew up with this shampoo commercial on TV: “Take two bottles in the shower? Not me. I just want to wash my hair and go,” and applied it to almost everything in life, including skincare. Could even my minimalist routine be too much?
“I see a lot of that now,” facialist Tarryn Warren says, peering at my skin under a bright light, after I begged her for a short-term investigative facial. Her advice is to remove everything immediately, ban a mild cleanser, until the red spots subside, then reintroduce products, one at a time, until I find the culprit. For my own simplistic “cleanse and moisturize and that’s it” routine, this shouldn’t be too daunting, but for a maximalist, like some of Warren’s clients, whose daily rituals can rank in the top 10 products, this may be a little more difficult. . “Particularly post-lockdown, there’s been more over-processed skin, and when I ask for a list of all the products my clients use, it’s way too many actives and concoctions.”
We all like to try new things, but the results that Warren and others of his ilk are seeing indicate that the harder, fuller, and inconsistent the routine, the more hit-or-miss the results. “We’re sold left, right and center,” she says, “but the advice just isn’t there. For example, there’s so much on social media about retinol, but if you go out in the sun, your skin becomes photosensitized, so use it with caution. It’s fun to buy new skincare products, but I have customers who ask me, “Is there anything new?” and I always say, ‘Why do you feel like you need something new?’
Warren became even more convinced of the merits of a minimalist approach after a stint as a facialist at Vivamayr Altaussee, the Austrian spa renowned for its active detox and immune-boosting programs. She noticed how dramatically her clients’ skin improved after getting rid of foods they were intolerant to, while breathing clean air and sleeping well. They had left their skincare behind. “Back in London, they went through a daily ritual that included toners, cleansers, eye creams, acids, sunscreens… That’s a lot for one organ.”