I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The beauty industry benefits from selling more products and making us feel inadequate if we’re not doing enough. Clearing acne, fading dark spots and smoothing fine lines are just a few of the promises that keep us coming back for more. But instead of telling us to keep it simple and consistent, we’re given endless product launches, quick fixes and complicated routines teaching us how to rotate our assortment of products. I’m so over it.
As a mom of four and nearing my mid-forties, I’ve realized now more than ever the benefit of fewer, high quality products. Over the years, my skin has experienced teenage acne, hormonal breakouts, and sun damage—needless to say, I’ve tried all sorts of products! But as I’ve aged, I’ve found that my complexion feels its best with less, instead of layering on more.
If you’re hoping to cut out the nonsense and find your healthiest, no-fuss skincare routine like me, here are my tips for simplifying it once and for all.
1. First, cut out the nonsense.
Before you can figure out what your skin really needs, you have to cut out what’s not essential first. Need a hand? Here’s my list of skincare routines and products that I consider a waste of time and money:
- Toners, face mists or spritz
- Harsh exfoliating products (leave this to your esthetician)
- Retinol that’s not gentle enough for daily use
- Rotating products
- Layering multiple moisturizing products (think: face oil or cream, not both)
- Multiple forms of sunscreen: Either use it alone or in a makeup product that contains SPF, not both. Sunscreen doesn’t need to be in every product you use (eye shadow, face mist, blush, etc). Once a day is enough, unless you’re out in direct sunlight. If so, be sure to reapply every two to three hours.
- Double cleansing and cleansing more than once a day
- Using multiple serums at the same time of day: Serums are the most potent and helpful products you can use—use only one during the day and one at night. Better yet, find one that uses all of the skincare ingredients you need in one single product.
- Using skincare tools: I hate skincare tools. Instead, cleanse with your fingers or a washcloth you can easily clean. Cleansing brushes become dirty and introduce bacteria on your skin—not to mention, it’s a waste of time to clean them, and they take up too much space in your drawers or on your counter. I’m not a fan of rollers, gua sha or at-home light therapies, either. Leave these treatments to a trained professional. A light facial massage at night with your fingers is all you need!
- Using the same plant-based blends or vitamins in every product you own: I don’t care for “signature” or “proprietary blends.” It's just a selling point to put the same botanical ingredients in every product. I don’t care where they were harvested or how—if you’re putting the same botanical ingredients on your skin with multiple products, it can cause irritation, and eventually, an allergy. Also, brands who use the same vitamins like Niacinamide or Vitamin C in every product are simply lazy. Don’t get me wrong, these are incredibly effective vitamins, but there should be some discipline and direction on how they’re used. In other words, you can overdo it. Figure out which vitamins your skin actually needs and find brands that thoughtfully place them in their products, so you’re not over-saturating your skin. Speaking of which…
2. Use only what your skin actually needs.
True story: There are about only six ingredients that are clinically proven to help common skin issues. My favorites are Niacinamide, Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, Retinol and Peptides. I’m also a big fan of plant-based antioxidants, licorice root extract, bearberry extract, aloe, berry oils and fruit acids—but there’s less research on these, and they should only be used as a complement to the tried-and-true ingredients I mentioned above.
Am I suggesting you need to use all of these? Of course not! But most of these ingredients do help with mild skin issues, and consistent use can help the appearance of your skin to stay hydrated, smooth and clear. Above all, your at-home skincare routine should be simple, gentle and consistent.
3. Stop treating medical issues with over-the-counter products.
Moderate to severe acne, rosacea, severe dryness, rashes, texture issues, color changes and severe premature aging should be treated by a medical professional. As a former nurse practitioner in dermatology, I experienced far too many people who waited way too long to seek medical advice. Unfortunately, they wasted a lot of time and money on products that essentially did nothing for them. Over-the-counter products simply aren’t strong enough to help with real medical issues. Your medical provider may recommend a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid cleanser to complement a regimen they prescribe, but they should be the one giving you direction on this. Otherwise, your issue won’t get better and your skin will most likely become more irritated.
4. What about facials, botox and fillers?
I’m okay with these, as long as they’re done correctly. For example, facials and light therapy performed by an esthetician or dermatology professional are a great complement to your at-home routine. They tend to boost results and keep skin on track, especially if you live in an area that experiences climate changes. As a resident of Ohio, I recommend getting a facial on a quarterly basis—winter, spring, summer and fall. If you’re dealing with acne or sun damage, your esthetician may recommend doing a series of treatments. I did this after having my last baby to help ease the appearance of the melasma I had during pregnancy, and it worked great!
I don’t recommend strong at-home acid treatments—these are best utilized in a quarterly facial or in a targeted series done by a medical professional or esthetician. You can easily disrupt your skin barrier with alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, mandelic acids) if used incorrectly, so leave this to the pros.
Although botox and fillers might not be for everyone, in a lot of cases, they work. I personally don’t use botox or fillers, but I’m not going to judge those who do! My only word of advice is to consult a board-certified dermatologist or facial plastic surgeon to have them done. Not only should they be well versed and familiar with facial anatomy—they should also know what to do if something were to go wrong.
The new year is a perfect time to simplify your skincare and makeup! Here’s a recap of my advice:
- Purge what’s expired and get rid of anything that’s not working for your skin.
- Replace those products with fewer skincare essentials—specifically, find potent multitasking serums that target your issues, and use hydrating oils or creams to lock in moisture and keep your skin barrier intact.
- Cleanse just once a day and use sunscreen daily.
- Give your skin a break from the over-saturation of products, and leave real skin issues to trained professionals.
- Fewer, better quality products can give your skin everything it needs to help it function better on its own.
- Research ingredients that your skin actually needs. Make sure you read labels and survey how often you’re using the same ingredients on your skin.
- Less will lead to better, every time.
Discover The Otto Skin Goods Routine
Amazing alone, but even better together. These three quick-to-absorb staples give you everything your complexion needs, and then some! Say goodbye to visible skin discoloration—the Fresh Start Face Oil (Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C) + Antioxidant-Rich Fruit Oils) helps to soften and smooth for that fabled glow. Pull an all-nighter? Dull, tired skin doesn’t stand a chance against our ultra-calming Multitasker Night Serum (Niacinamide + Fruit Acid Complex + Gluconolactone). And when your face needs a hydration boost, our Go-Getter Day Serum (Vegan Hyaluronic Acid + Tripeptide-5 + Vitamin C) will do the trick—it packs a powerful punch against the appearance of stressed and dehydrated skin caused from pollution and sun damage. We call this little routine a win-win-win.