Point/Counterpoint: In Defense of the Smattering

Lauren makes some good points about the joys of an all-in-one skincare system, but I still beg to differ with her on this issue.

Counterpoint: Because everyone is different.

I’ve tried the system approach a few times, but I was never fully thrilled with what a single system did for my face; indeed, I’d be in love with a product or two, but would also be less than impressed with other key pieces. I was clinging to the system for the sake of the system. The Dream Team comprised the greatest players in all of basketball (in 1992) and they came from a number of different teams and included one pre-professional player. Why, then, do I have to settle for a pre-assembled skincare set? Why can’t I have a skincare Dream Team?

photo (14)
The inside of my bathroom cabinet.

Here are the main ingredients I look for in a product:

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids: These include glycolic, lactic, and citric acids. They’re stellar for brightening up your skin and refining your pores. Exfoliate with chemicals, not stones, folks!
  • Beta Hydroxy Acids: Most notably, salicylic acid. It’s a stunner for preventing blemishes and also works on those pores.
  • Hyaluronic Acid: This acid acts as a magnet, attracting moisture to your skin, keeping it soft and supple without the use of oils. My skin is as combination as it gets, so moisture without oil (which traps moisture, rather than attracting it) is key.
  • Sulfur: Got a noticeable zit? Want it to be not noticeable? Sulfur’s your guy.
  • Caffeine: For the eyes. Makes ’em awake and bright.
  • Retinol: Super-exfoliant that somehow addresses pores, blemishes, and skin tone at once. DO NOT USE with AHAs or BHAs, as they will mutually diminish the other’s power.
  • Vitamin C: Brightens.
  • Vitamin E: Heals.

Worth noting that these are the ingredients that work for me. I avoid oils and only use Retinol sparingly because so many of my beloved products are AHA and BHA flush. You might prefer alternatives! It’s all about what works for you.

Pictured above is my bathroom cabinet, which is the result of a great deal of experimentation and elimination. What’s currently working for me? Here’s the list, broken down by brand:

Bliss: Lid + Lash Makeup Remover, Ingrown Eliminating PadsMario Badescu: Drying LotionOrigins: Zero Oil Cleanser, Checks and Balances Cleanser, Zero Oil TonerClinique: Even Better EyesRenee Rouleau: Anti-Cyst Treatment, Vitamin C + E Treatment, Advanced Resurfacing Serum, Sheer Moisture, Vitamin C MaskMurad: Essential-C TonerBoscia: Luminizing Black MaskJuice Beauty: Blemish Clearing Serum, Green Apple PeelEstee Lauder: Idealist, Advanced Night Repair, Advanced Night Repair Eye, DayWear, Take It AwayPeter Thomas Roth: Unwrinkle Peel Pads, Therapeutic Sulfur MasqueKorres: Greek Yoghurt Advanced Nourishing Sleeping Facial

(You also get a peek at some of my go-to hair products, including Living Proof’s No Frizz Styling Cream and Oribe’s Rough Luxury Soft, and at my gentleman friend’s skin products, which are notably considerably fewer than mine and relegated to a corner of the cabinet.)

I’ll admit: it takes some trial and error to get your own system in place. I’m a devotee of Birchbox for that reason, and what this photo doesn’t include is a shot of my boxes-upon-boxes of sample-size beauty and skincare products. But the rewards definitely outweigh the effort here. Much like knowing what’s in the food you eat, I find that being informed about what you put on your skin comes back exponentially in visible benefits.

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