A Case for Minimalism in Skincare

Beware of the “Shelfies”

There is something about shelves full of bottles, jars, and tubes of different sizes and colors that promise youth and beauty, that makes me feel as if I’ve sat down for a friendly bonding session with my femininity. So, I completely understand the aesthetic appeal of “shelfies”; however, they are also an emblem of a widespread problem in the current skincare climate: long and multi-step routines that incorporate too many strong active ingredients. Regarding skincare, “less is more” is a vital concept to take to heart and follow, because it is only the correct combination of ingredients that can provide beneficial effects to the skin. It’s time to give our skincare routines the Marie Kondo treatment and declutter our beauty shelves to only include the products and ingredients that are helping our skin’s health.

Reason to Use a Minimalist and Personalized Routine:

  1. Minimize unintended consequences: When creating a personalized skincare routine, it is important to do so following proper scientific guidelines to prevent unintended consequences created by the combination of too many ingredients. Therefore, it is important to conduct thorough research and consult with a reliable and trusted professional when creating a personalized skincare routine. Dangerous unintended consequences to consider are:
    1. Compatibility of Ingredients: Certain active ingredients should not be mixed together in the same routine, because they can deactivate each other or cause irritation and damage. For example, Salicylic Acid is a very popular ingredient in acne-fighting products; however, it should not be layered with retinoic acid because it can cause high levels of irritation to the skin (2). Another beloved acne-fighting agent, benzoyl peroxide (1), is capable of oxidizing Vitamin C into Dehydroascorbate and minimizing its potency (3). Therefore, the use of these two ingredients in the same routine will simply deactivate your Vitamin C product and waste away its potential benefits.
    2. Sensitivity or Allergic Reactions: Skin allergies, also known as contact dermatitis, typically take the form of red rashes and occur when skin comes into contact with a foreign substance that it is allergic to (4). While, it is difficult to predict skin allergies, it will become far more difficult to track down the single problematic ingredient if a routine contains a long list of active ingredients with a variety of products cycling in and out of a routine simultaneously.
  2. Cost and Sustainability: Minimized and personalized skincare is more sustainable for both the environment and our wallets. At first glance, personalized products might appear overly expensive; however, they lessen the large number of products that we buy and discard, and by extension, the money that was spent on them. Trial-and-error product buying normally leads to cluttered shelves full of products that we no longer wish to use, because they either provided no benefits or actively irritated our skin. Eventually, we grow tired of the chaotic shelves that are a bitter testament to the large sums of money that have been wasted and throw away the products that we no longer wish to use. These discarded bottles will contribute more to the environmental waste that is already overwhelming our oceans, nature, and planet. Personalized products diminish both the financial cost and the environmental damage that is caused by the traditional trial-and-error system of product acquisition.

In Summary: Keep it Short, Simple, and to the Point:

The best skincare routines are those that are simple, targeted, and only contain ingredients that are needed by your specific skin needs in the correct combination. Scaling back your routine, though, does not mean you should take out all the fun from skincare! There is a happy middle ground between having a 12-step routine and a zero-step routine, and that is where most of us find our best skin health. Your goal should be finding that individualized middle ground for yourself and your own skin.



  • Sagransky, M., Yentzer, B. A., & Feldman, S. R. (2009). Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy10(15), 2555–2562. https://doi.org/10.1517/14656560903277228
  • Chularojanamontri, L., Tuchinda, P., Kulthanan, K., & Pongparit, K. (2014). Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents?. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology7(5), 36–44.
  • Linster, C. L., & Van Schaftingen, E. (2007). Vitamin C. Biosynthesis, recycling and degradation in mammals. The FEBS journal274(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-4658.2006.05607.x
  • Sedó-Mejía, G., Soto-Rodríguez, A., Pino-García, C., Sanabria-Castro, A., & Monge-Ortega, O. P. (2020). Contact dermatitis: Clinical practice findings from a single tertiary referral hospital, a 4-Year retrospective study. The World Allergy Organization journal13(7), 100440. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.waojou.2020.100440


 Article By: Nazli Azodi

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