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Minimalist Acne Skin Care Routine


Many people have a skin care routine that's 12 steps long with a dozen different products, and then wonder why their skin is dry, flaky, irritated and never seems to clear up. They're using lemon and apple cider vinegar sprays, witch hazel toners, egg masks, steaming, microneedling, using prescription topicals, etc.

As I seek a minimalist lifestyle for its psychological benefits, we should also seek a minimalist skin care routine for its various skin-related benefits (and your wallet will thank you, too!).

A minimalist skin care routine does not necessarily mean that you only cleanse and moisturize; for people with skin conditions like acne, this simply may not be enough to clear the skin issues up. A minimalist skin care routine instead means that we are using only what our skin requires to be healthy, and nothing more. Using this guideline, you should be able to narrow down your skin care routine to the basics.

First of all, we need to establish what the basics - the essentials - are, and eliminate any excess.

1. Cleanse.

Cleansing is an important step in any skin care routine - no matter how you choose to do it; you can oil cleanse, you can water-less cleanse, you can use a foaming cleanser or a gel cleanser, whatever works for your skin.

Depending on your skin's specific needs, you should cleanse 1-2x a day (morning and night) with a gentle cleanser that does not leave your face feeling stripped, dry, shiny or plastic-y. Some people get by with and prefer cleansing only in the evening, and this is fine, too, if this is what is best for your skin. Over-cleansing can be the undoing of your skin, just as under-cleansing can. Since I exercise in the mornings, I always cleanse twice a day, but will sometimes give my skin a break on my rest day and only cleanse once.

Either way, cleansing is an important step in any skin care routine.

For dry, damaged, sensitive skin with acne as a secondary issue, I love this waterless cleanser by Devita. For normal but acne-prone skin, I also recommend this sulfur soap. For very dry, sensitive skin Devita also has an aloe vera cleanser.

2. Exfoliate.

Exfoliation can easily be a part of a minimalist skin care routine; you can choose exfoliating masks for double-duty, or you can simply include a scrub or chemical exfoliant into your routine no more than once or twice a week.

However, not everyone does well with exfoliants (especially people with very damaged skin), and so if your skin cannot tolerate it, you should not exfoliate. If your skin care routine works fine without exfoliation, then you do not need to include one either. Only include an exfoliant if you find one that helps your skin condition, and does not exacerbate it.

I love this brightening scrub from Acure, but you can also make a scrub at home with brown sugar and an oil of your choosing (hemp seed oil, coconut oil, etc). If your skin is sensitive to mechanical exfoliation, try this chemical exfoliant from Ecco Bella.

3. Serum/Treatment.

Serums and treatments should be a staple even in minimalist skin care, depending on your skin's needs.

After cleansing and potentially exfoliating is the opportune time to apply a treated product to your fresh skin, as it will be more readily absorbed. These can be antioxidant serums to maintain skin health or treat a condition, or it can be a glycolic acid or some other product intended to treat your skin condition. However, if you find a moisturizer with similar properties, or do not require an acne treatment, you can likely skip this step in a minimalist routine. If you choose to skip this step, it would be worthwhile to find a good moisturizer that will pull double-duty.

For scarring, discoloration, uneven skin texture and to brighten your skin, I love Life Flo Rosehip Seed oil. For anti-aging, mature acne and skin unevenness, I recommend this glycolic acid from Devita. For other general skin issues, including dryness, acne, skin discoloration, etc, I also like the Madre Labs vitamin c serum.

4. Moisturize.

If you're using a well-formulated serum that offers moisturizer-like qualities, you may not need to add an extra moisturizer on top. However, if you're using a treated product like glycolic acid, you should definitely follow up with a moisturizer.

A moisturizer should be rich enough to hydrate your skin but not leave it feeling greasy; after applying a moisturizer, your skin should feel calm and hydrated. Aim for a moisturizer that is treated, either with antioxidants or any other ingredient your skin requires, but avoid drying or stripping moisturizers.

You don't necessarily need a different moisturizer for day and night, depending on the rest of your skin care routine. If you opt out of serums/treatment, opt for a moisturizer with antioxidants during the day, and a repairing moisturizer for nighttime.

A good moisturizer I love to use both morning and night is the Acure Day Cream. It is suitable for all skin types, is deeply hydrating, non-greasy, and contains a lot of antioxidants that are great for acne. Similarly great for acne, but better for oily or non-dry skin types, Madre Labs Camellia Care.

5. SPF.

This is a must, and cannot nor should not be skipped even in minimalist skin care. Sun protection is very important for acne and skin health, especially if you are using photo sensitizing skin care products. SPF helps to protect your skin from free radical damage which can exacerbate skin conditions.

For any skin type, including acne-prone skin, I highly recommend Kiss My Face Face Factor sunscreen. It contains antioxidants that are great for fighting free radicals, and also keeping your skin free of blemishes.

6. Spot Treatment

Even if you only need it once in a blue moon for a truly gnarly pimple, having a good spot treatment on hand is essential. It can save you stress and over-use of inappropriate products if you're equipped with the right tools for the job. Spot treatments tend to work in different ways depending on the product you choose, but are generally too drying for the entire face, making them ideal for zapping a pimple right in its tracks.

I like to use a simple tea tree oil and water solution, but you can also use salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or even sulfur, depending on your skin.

7. Masks

Masks are non-essential, completely, but even in minimalist skin care there is room for a mask, especially homemade masks from simple ingredients like banana, oats, avocado, chocolate, green tea and soy milk! If you want to minimize the products you use, opt for making masks as you need them, instead of buying pre-made.

Or, if you prefer to buy pre-made, as I often do, there are still ways to improvise - choose a mask that serves specific purposes (i.e. don't choose masks because they smell nice, choose them because they have ingredients to help your skin). Simple masks like clay and apple cider vinegar once a week can really perk up the skin!


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