I love reading beauty product recommendation stories: “Beauty Editors on the 16 Essences You Need in Your Medicine Cabinet”! “5 Aestheticians Tell You Exactly Which Combination of 25 Products Will Make You as Dewy as a Blobfish”! “35 Beauty Experts Share Their 22-Step Skincare Routines that May Put You at Financial Risk”!
I eat it right up. I usually tab out about 15 products while reading, all while imagining what my life would be like with a $250 serum. Would I get the girl? Would I stop seeking unnecessary validation from my friends that I’m worthy of their friendship? And then I close the tab, because… who am I kidding? I know myself, and at my core, I am the kind of person who will never—ever—maintain a skincare routine. I can barely remember to floss once a week or shave my armpits in the shower, let alone complete a multi-step ritual on my face two times a day.
Now, I know some people may be thinking “That’s skin privilege”—I understand how the above can sound. But what you may not know is: My skin is not great! I have discoloration, dryness, acne scars, hormonal acne, a crop of cute little white heads between my chin and my lip. And I am excessively lazy. I am not built for a life of diligence.
And yet, here I am, writing an article about how I’d still like to cobble together some kind of routine. A minimalist routine! I decided to ask three skincare geniuses for their advice on a routine for the laziest among us. What are 2-3 skincare products that are absolutely imperative? What’s the redux of Skincare for Dummies? My tabs are open and I’m contemplating the spend—let me know who convinces you to finally do the thing in the comments.
Self-labeled Freelance Narcissologist, Me-labeled Skincare Doula
I asked Sable because, well, duh. If anyone’s going to convince me to maybe bite the bullet, it’s the woman whose skin is actually glowing from wherever her apartment is in the five boroughs right through my window. I get a spidey sense everytime she posts a photo because her skin is simply that good. Here, she threw her hat in the ring with these three products:
“An excellent face cleanser will do a lot of legwork for your skincare routine because it actually properly cleanses your skin without stripping it of needed moisture. I love this as an all-around, do-it-all cleanser—it’s low on sulfates (so it won’t overstrain skin) and high on good skincare ingredients like omega fatty acids, probiotics, and antioxidants (so it can also contribute, albeit in a small way, to getting nutrients in there). I like how my skin feels CLEAN after using this but never tight.”
“I was torn between recommending a vitamin C serum or a gentle exfoliating toner, and lo and behold, I gotchu a product that does BOTH. I love CosRx’s formulations for being simple, effective, and affordable. I’d use this once a day, probably in the evening, given its potentially sun-sensitizing ingredients. This will help keep your pores cleared of excess sebum to thwart breakouts, and the exfoliants and Vitamin C will help brighten and even out overall skin tone. BAM. SORTED.”
“You gotta wear sunscreen every day, no matter what, OK? Actually, you know what, if you live in some windowless bunker and never go outside, you don’t, but really only then. This one is one of the few (maybe only, to my knowledge) moisturizers with SPF that pulls its weight on both sides. SPF 40—great. That’s ample protection for regular-degular, everyday activities. The moisturizer is so nice tho! It’s light and fluffy but super hydrating and leaves a dewy sheen on your face. Some may say too dewy, and I say, “What’s that?” That’s the whole POINT of moisturizer… moisture.”
(If you do find this too heavy/dewy though, Purito’s Centella Green Level Safe Sun SPF 50 is HEAVENLY—calming and moisturizing and lightweight. Magic.)
Social Content Guru, Skincare Savante
I know Siraad from the gospel that is her You Look Moist, as well as her radiant selfie game and her fabulous content at Flamingo. I felt *lucky* when I reached out to her, and she met me with enthusiasm, cutting down her slather count to a few key products:
“Over the last few years, I’ve proudly gotten my skincare routine down from about 12 steps (I was a maximalist, for sure) to about three steps. I’m not sure if it’s age—I’m in my thirties—or just wanting to spend less time, and money, on skincare products.
“No matter how you slice it, you’ve got to cleanse your face. It’s just a step that can’t be skipped (I tried for a week, and it was gross). For the last year, I’ve been using one from Versed. I’m usually hesitant to use gel cleansers and opt for cream ones since my skin is so dry, but this one doesn’t dry out my skin and does a pretty good job of breaking down makeup.”
“One thing I haven’t given up from my double-digit skincare days is double cleansing. I don’t care how much face wash I use or what kind it is—there’s always some type of residue or makeup left behind. Lately, I’ve been really into micellar water and love Bioderma. I know this doesn’t sound like an absolutely necessary step, but when I skip it my skin literally doesn’t feel or look the same.”
“I love, love, love a good oil! For me, I can use it AM or PM, and there’s no such thing as ‘too much.’ Seriously. What I love most is that a little truly goes a long way, and there are so many affordable oils that you can get at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. I personally love the vitamin E or argan oil from Trader Joe’s and will either apply directly on my skin or drop into a sunscreen or moisturizer to make it more hydrating.”
The Green, Clean Beauty Machine
I asked Jessica to share her prowess because I knew her angle would be different. Her knowledge of natural, holistic, and sustainable skincare is vast. So vast, in fact, that she’s been published all over the place! And is currently working on her first book!
“Good news: Your skin doesn’t want or need more than two to three products. Experts agree that ‘10-step skincare’ is possibly the worst thing to happen to acid mantles everywhere. (Other than, perhaps, the petroleum industry, which has compromised our skin barriers with airborne pollution particles since 1859. Say it with me: Stopping climate change counts as skincare. Anyway!)
After years of reporting on the beauty industry and learning about the inherent wonders of the skin—did you know it has built-in mechanisms to self-cleanse, self-moisturize, self-exfoliate, and self-heal?!—and the issues with conventional products, I narrowed my own routine down to just three simple, skin-supportive ingredients. My face, typically dry and acne-prone like yours, is very pleased.”
“Pure, food-grade manuka honey is my everything. I use it as an evening cleanser (apply to damp skin, massage in for a minute, rinse off), a face mask (apply to dry skin, leave on for 30 minutes, rinse off), and a spot treatment (dab on active breakouts and leave for as long as you want). It truly does it all: Manuka has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties! It’s full of barrier-boosting omega fatty acids! It’s a humectant that attracts water molecules! It soothes, moisturizes, heals! You can also eat it!! Manuka is so magical that there’s an entire industry dedicated to counterfeiting it. To make sure you’re getting the real thing, look for honey that’s sourced from New Zealand—the only place in the world where manuka bushes grow wild—with a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating of at least 15. “
“Rose water consists of just two mild ingredients—roses and water—making it super gentle on the skin. And yet, a single spritz of the stuff contains an almost mind-blowing amount of power. Rose water is both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and has roughly the same pH level as the skin. Translation: It can balance an out-of-whack acid mantle, calm any redness or irritation, help heal breakouts, and hydrate. I DIY my own rose water spray using food-grade Cortas Rose Water (again, you can eat it!). Just mix two thirds distilled water with one third rose water in a spray bottle, and use it as a morning cleanser, toner, or face mist.”
“The most effective moisturizer in the world is human sebum—AKA, the body’s built-in moisturizer—and since your skin is dry, you’re probably not producing enough of your own. That’s where jojoba oil comes in. It’s a freaking 97 percent chemical match to sebum, so dry skin welcomes it with open arms (open pores?) and soaks it up like that. Jojoba is also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects skin from pollution; vitamin B, a complex that helps promote healing; and omega fatty acids, essential compounds that support the skin barrier. To use it as a moisturizer, apply a few drops to damp skin. The damp part is important!! Since moisturizer is a mix of water and oil (seriously, check the ingredient list of any moisturizer you own), massaging jojoba oil onto slightly wet skin is akin to whipping up a DIY moisturizer. Right on your face.”