Minimalist Skincare Tips

Minimalist Skincare: Three Minutes, Three Products

For the past several years, complex skincare routines have been all the rage. Inspired by Korean women's obsession with flawless skin, 10-step regimens quickly became the norm among Westerners. Products included cleansing oils, cream or foam cleansers, toners, essences, serums, moisturizers and more, all of which were intended to be used religiously twice a day. Additional steps, such as sheet masks, were designed to be used multiple times a week.

The problem is that this type of skincare routine is extremely time consuming. After a long day, many women admit to going to bed with their makeup on, or quickly removing it with a makeup wipe, which is something that dermatologists don't recommend. They simply don't have the energy or the inclination to follow 10 or more skincare steps.

Moreover, 10-step skincare routines are expensive...and totally unnecessary. Yes, you read that right. You don't need a 10-step skincare routine to get and maintain healthy, glowing, Instagram-ready skin. You only need three.

You can adopt the following three-step skincare routine now, whatever your age, and adapt it as your skin's needs change due to weather or aging. And the cost of your three-step skincare "kit" is entirely up to you. It can include high-end department store products, drugstore counterparts or a combination of both, based on your preference and budget.

Your skincare kit will include a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen;  just three essential products and nothing extraneous to complicate your routine, clutter your bathroom counter, or drain your bank account.

Rinse-off cleanser

Your choice of cleanser should be based on three things: age, skin type, and preference.

Cleansers such as micellar water, cold creams and other products that are removed with cotton balls or tissues should be avoided since they tend to move makeup around the face rather than removing it completely.

  • Facial soap ― Soap is made by mixing an alkali such as lye with oil(s) and/or fat(s) in a process called saponification. When the process is complete, the alkali no longer exists in its original form. Soap generally has a pH level of 6 or more. The higher the pH level, the more likely it is that it will dry out your skin. In short, you probably shouldn't choose facial soap as your cleanser.
  • Cleansing bars ― These non-drying bars look like soap, but, unlike soap, they are made from synthetic surfactants and are so mild that dermatologists recommend them for babies and people with sensitive skin. They generally have a neutral pH level, which contributes to their gentleness. (Skin's natural pH level is 5.5.) If you enjoy using a bar soap, but don't want to dry your skin, cleansing bars, which are usually labeled "soap free," may be right for you.
  • Foaming facial cleansers ― These cleansers create the fluffy bubbles that most people associate with cleanliness without stripping skin by raising its pH level. In addition, many foaming facial cleansers ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides to protect, nourish and moisturize skin.
  • Facial cleansing lotions ― Non-foaming facial lotions cleanse the skin thoroughly without bubbles. The pH balance of these rinse-off formulas is identical to that of human skin (5.5) and many include nourishing, moisturizing ingredients.
  • Facial cleansing gels ― The only difference between facial cleansing lotions and gels is their texture. Facial cleansing lotions tend to have more slip and feel slightly more luxurious.
  • Facial cleansing oils ― Don't let the word "oil" scare you. Facial cleansing oils, which are often used as the first step in a Korean "double cleanse" routine, are light and cleanse well without stripping the skin. You apply a small amount to your face while it's dry and massage it into your skin. Then you add a small amount of water to your palms and massage some more. The water will transform the oil into a milky liquid that you will rinse off, leaving you with clean, soft skin.

Facial moisturizers are available in a variety of formulas. Gels are the lightest weight option and are usually oil free, lotions are slightly thicker, and creams are the most concentrated, richest option. As their names indicate, moisturizers treat and prevent dry skin by delivering moisture to the surface layers. They also provide a thin physical barrier between skin and the elements.

Many facial moisturizers include additional ingredients that are meant to reduce the appearance of fine lines while nourishing skin with vitamins, minerals and beneficial acids such as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA or Salicylic Acid), and Hyaluronic Acid.

Others, which are intended solely for daytime use, include sunscreen. You can skip this ingredient since you will be purchasing a separate, more effective sunscreen as the third product in your skincare routine.

Sunscreen may well be the most important step of any skincare routine. It protects the skin from the harmful effects of the sun's radiation, including skin cancer, sunburn, and premature aging. Studies comparing identical twins provide graphic evidence that wearing sunscreen can dramatically stave off the effects of aging due to sun exposure.

The American Academy Dermatology Association (AADA) recommends wearing a water-resistant, broad-spectrum formula that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 (or higher). Such formulations are widely available for the face, and the best of them won't leave a whitish cast or make your face look greasy.

Your three-minute, three-product skincare routine


  1. Wash your face, neck and décolleté (the area between your neck and the start of your cleavage) with the facial cleanser of your choice. Pat your face dry with a clean towel. Don't rub.
  2. Apply moisturizer to your face, neck and décolleté. Do not apply moisturizer to your nose.
  3. Apply sunscreen to your face, neck and décolleté. Be sure to follow manufacturer's directions regarding the amount of sunscreen that you apply. Most people tend to underestimate the required amount.


  1. Wash your face, neck and décolleté with the facial cleanser of your choice. Pat your face dry with a clean towel. Don't rub.
  2. Apply moisturizer to your face, neck and décolleté. Do not apply moisturizer to your nose.

Using your ring finger, gently tap moisturizer under your eyes. A separate eye cream is not necessary. 

  1. Skip sunscreen.

As you can see, this minimalist routine entails only three essential products and takes just three minutes twice a day. If you follow it faithfully for a month, your skin will be clear, moisturized, nourished and protected from future sun damage. When friends and family start commenting on your glowing skin, it's up to you whether you share your secret.

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