Guest Blog By Vegan Acne Sufferers & Kali Kushner
Many people have a skin care routine that's 12 steps long with a dozen different products, and then wonder why their skin is dry, flaky, irritated and never seems to clear up. They're using lemon and apple cider vinegar sprays, witch hazel toners, egg masks, steaming, microneedling, using prescription topicals, etc.
As I seek a minimalist lifestyle for its psychological benefits, we should also seek a minimalist skin care routine for its acne benefits too. (and your wallet will thank you, too!).
A minimalist skin care routine does not necessarily mean that you only cleanse and moisturize; for people with skin conditions like acne, this simply may not be enough to clear the skin issues up. A minimalist skin care routine instead means that we are using only what our skin requires to be healthy, and nothing more. Using this guideline, you should be able to narrow down your skin care routine to the basics.
First of all, we need to establish what the basics - the essentials - are, and eliminate any excess.
The basics of a minimalist skincare routine for acne include a cleanser, exfoliator, a serum or treatment, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. Other products like an oil cleanser are optional, but recommended if you wear makeup, or have very oily skin the oil cleanser will break that down before using your regular cleanser.
Cleansing is an important step in any skin care routine - no matter how you choose to do it; you can oil cleanse, you can water-less cleanse, you can use a foaming cleanser or a gel cleanser, whatever works for your skin.
Depending on your skin's specific needs, you should cleanse 1-2x a day (morning and night) with a gentle cleanser that does not leave your face feeling stripped, dry, shiny or plastic-y. Some people get by with and prefer cleansing only in the evening, and this is fine, too, if this is what is best for your skin. Over-cleansing can be the undoing of your skin, just as under-cleansing can. Since I exercise in the mornings, I always cleanse twice a day, but will sometimes give my skin a break on my rest day and only cleanse once.
Either way, cleansing is an important step in any skin care routine.
Exfoliation can easily be a part of a minimalist skin care routine; you can choose exfoliating masks for double-duty, or you can simply include a scrub or chemical exfoliant into your routine no more than once or twice a week.
However, not everyone does well with exfoliants (especially people with very damaged skin), and so if your skin cannot tolerate it, you should not exfoliate. If your skin care routine works fine without exfoliation, then you do not need to include one either. Only include an exfoliant if you find one that helps your skin condition, and does not exacerbate it.
Serums and treatments should be a staple even in minimalist skin care, depending on your skin's needs.
After cleansing and potentially exfoliating is the opportune time to apply a treated product to your fresh skin, as it will be more readily absorbed. These can be antioxidant serums to maintain skin health or treat a condition, or it can be a glycolic acid or some other product intended to treat your skin condition. However, if you find a moisturizer with similar properties, or do not require an acne treatment, you can likely skip this step.
If you're using a well-formulated serum that offers moisturizer-like qualities, you may not need to add an extra moisturizer on top. However, if you're using a treated product like glycolic acid, you should definitely follow up with a moisturizer.
A moisturizer should be rich enough to hydrate your skin but not leave it feeling greasy; after applying a moisturizer, your skin should feel calm and hydrated.
This is a must, and cannot nor should not be skipped even in minimalist skin care. Sun protection is very important for acne and skin health, especially if you are using photo sensitizing skin care products. SPF helps to protect your skin from free radical damage which can exacerbate skin conditions.
Even if you only need it once in a blue moon for a truly gnarly pimple, having a good spot treatment on hand is essential. It can save you stress and over-use of inappropriate products if you're equipped with the right tools for the job. Spot treatments tend to work in different ways depending on the product you choose, but are generally too drying for the entire face, making them ideal for zapping a pimple right in its tracks.
Masks are non-essential, completely, but even in minimalist skin care there is room for a mask, especially homemade masks from simple ingredients like banana, oats, avocado, chocolate, green tea and soy milk! If you want to minimize the products you use, opt for making masks as you need them, instead of buying pre-made.
Or, if you prefer to buy pre-made, as I often do, there are still ways to improvise - choose a mask that serves specific purposes (i.e. don't choose masks because they smell nice, choose them because they have ingredients to help your skin). Simple masks like clay and apple cider vinegar once a week can really perk up the skin!
It’s best to stick to one or two treatments at most. If your dermatologist prescribed you retin-a or other prescriptions make sure you include that as your minimal treatment. Other treatments include vitamin c serum which can help with acne scars, fine lines, and protect skin for oxidative damage.
Masks aren’t a necessity but they can benefit when used as needed. Some people like to incorporate clay masks like a charcoal mask, or the aztec mask in their minimalist skincare routine by using it once a week after the cleansing step.
In my acne journey, I did learn a few things. Skincare wasn’t just about the vain aspect of looking beautiful without makeup- it was a lifestyle. To explore and craft a personalized routine was a challenge in itself, but it also strengthened my self-control and taught me how to stick to a routine. Have you tried scaling back on your skin care products? Let me know what’s in your routine!
I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!