More With Less

As my 2016 resolutions indicate, I’m working hard to own fewer things. Over the past six to nine months I’ve been systematically paring down my closet (I have now reached the sweet spot where, when I read articles about capsule wardrobes, I think to myself “Who needs that much?”) and, now that the dust has settled from moving in two years ago and getting married last year, doing the same to my home. Clothing-wise I’ve been focusing on ensuring my wardrobe only comprises flattering shapes and colors; the process is still ongoing, but I’m feeling good about the progress. Home-wise we’re focusing on getting rid of unnecessary duplicates (wedding gifts yielded us many wonderful, high-quality items to replace lower-value products we’d acquired in our 20s) and furniture that poorly uses what small space we have. The next frontier will be a hard one for me: beauty products.

Y’all might remember I love me some skincare products. I’ve said repeatedly that skincare is my newly discovered interest in chemistry (that interest only extends to skincare, so it seems). However, at some point it became clear that I was over-doing it – from the amount of time I spent applying product every morning and evening, and from the fact that my skincare collection spilled out of the bathroom cabinet and onto the countertop. It was clear that the time had come for a “fewer, better” approach to my face as well.

Enter: multitaskers and Beautypedia. The latter is a great resource for understanding why and how your skincare products do or do not work – created by Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice products, Beautypedia’s research experts rate products on a 1-5 star scale, and include user reviews for good measure. They look at factors like the ingredient composition and strength, packaging, and application of the products to determine the rating. I had already been using Beautypedia to get information on enticing new products, but spent some quality time in their “Best Products” section, looking up five-star rated products that would accomplish in one application what I was previously doing with multiple. Here’s what I’ve settled on for now:

Morning

Previous routine: five products.

New routine: three products.

  • Wash face with CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (previously: using literally whatever I had a sample of) – I’m committed to not spending much on a cleanser since it literally just goes down the drain, but what convinced me to eschew the random samples I was using was the gentleness of this product. I keep it in the shower and use it as a way to add moisture to my face in the morning – because moisture translates to brightness.
  • Apply Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra Light Antioxidant Concentrate Serum – I had previously been using Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum to help my face fight free radicals on a daily basis, but the two-star rating at Beautypedia gave me extreme pause. Turns out the clear glass packaging is extremely problematic, as Vitamin C needs opacity to remain stable, and the addition of unnecessary perfumes can irritate skin without reason. I pored through the reviews and decided the Resist serum was best for me, but chose to look for outside reviews (since it’s an in-house brand, there’s conflict in a Beautypedia review that there isn’t for other brands). I’m glad I did, because they’re stellar. Done, ordered.
  • Moisturize and protect using Paula’s Choice Resist Super Light Daily Wrinkle Defense – again, the idea of a site highly rating their own product leaves me skeptical, but the external reviews support their statements. My skin leans oily, so layering moisturizer and sunscreen can be tricky. I prefer to just find a good moisturizer with SPF, but those tend to exacerbate shine on my face. All signs point to this one being the holy grail.

Evening

Previous routine: seven products.

New routine: four products.

  • Remove makeup with Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm – y’all, I never thought I’d use something on my face called a “balm” (see aforementioned oiliness) but this stuff does its job and then some. I take a small amount, rub it on my eyes (where the makeup is hardest to remove) and then slather it all over my face. A splash or two of cool water turns it into milk and it rinses cleanly.
  • Wash face with CeraVe Foaming Cleanser – technically, I don’t need to follow the cleansing balm with a face wash, but given my skin’s proclivity toward grease, I choose to use this gentle foaming cleanser to remove last traces of oil without drying me out.
  • Exfoliate with Clinique Turnaround Revitalizing Serum – yes, this is only a three-star product on Beautypedia, but this is why you must read the reviews in addition to noting the star rating. This is the same exact product as Clinique’s previous Turnaround Concentrate Radiance Renewer, but Beautypedia knocked off a star because the new packaging tries to sell it as an anti-ager, and its real strength is as an exfoliant.
    • Note: I’m actually looking at a new exfoliant once I’m through with this product – I like it fine, and adore the silky texture, but it’s quite pricey. Paula’s Choice has a few well-reviewed BHA serums that I’m looking at – the Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid and the Resist Daily Pore Refining Treatment both boast 2% salicylic acid at an effective pH – that I’m going to investigate for my next nighttime serum.
  • Moisturize and treat with Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream – folks, retinol. Errday. Retinol is skincare’s magic bullet; it treats wrinkles, clears pores, shrinks blemishes, and might as well fold your laundry and clean your cat’s litter box for all its skill. This product has a good level of retinol and is packaged well (retinol also needs opaque packaging), and best of all, I can get it at my neighborhood CVS.
    • You might have heard that you aren’t supposed to use retinol and BHAs together, but that’s a load of hooey. Like most other things, it’s all about balance.

A note:

You might have noticed that nowhere in these lists are any specialty eye products – no creams, no serums. This is because, it turns out, you don’t really need specialty eye products! Unless your eyes are particularly drier than the rest of your face, you can use your regular facial serums and moisturizers in the under-eye area as well (assuming that you’ve done your research and didn’t get a bunch of moisturizers filled with irritants). This is actually a better tack during the day, it turns out, because few eye creams offer SPF – and SPF is everything. (If chemical sunscreens hurt your eyes, try switching to a mineral sunscreen, like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.) After you’ve slathered on your moisturizer, simply squeeze a little bit extra onto your ring finger and tap it around your eye area like you would. I’m also doing this with serums, to give a little extra antioxidant boost (in the morning) or exfoliation (in the evening).

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