Why using fewer beauty products could be the key to healthier skin

Using as few as possible cosmetics could be the best way to go, at least according to the ‘skinimalism’ beauty trend. 

Skinimalism, or skin minimalism, is based on reducing the number of cosmetics you use on your skin. There are plenty of reasons to consider following this trend, but, first, you should think about what you’re trying to achieve. 

Do you want to spend less time in front of the mirror, while getting the same results? Do you want to reduce the amount of chemicals you put on your skin? Maybe you just want to spend less or create less waste?


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If you’re mainly trying to save time and are less concerned about ingredients, you need to look for multipurpose products – such as foundations that also work as moisturisers. 

But if it’s the chemicals you’re concerned about, then you’re going to have to work towards the cosmetic equivalent of a ‘capsule wardrobe’ – in other words, only the products you deem essential (some TikTok ‘experts’ suggest paring it down to a cleanser, a moisturiser and a sunscreen). 

Furthermore, the ‘essentials-only’ products you choose will ideally contain fewer (and safer) ingredients.

This is where things get tricky, though, as there’s a lot of information about the potential harms associated with chemicals in skincare products, from mild irritations to more serious complaints. 

To take just one recent study as an example: in 2023, Polish researchers analysed 50 random cosmetic products and found that they all contained potentially carcinogenic chemicals. 

While there is limited data or low risk for some of those chemicals, your risk can vary depending on how much of the products containing those chemicals you apply, how often you apply them and whether they’re rinse-off or leave-on. 

One way to get a better idea about the risks associated with any cosmetic product or ingredient is to check on the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Skin Deep’ database, which grades cosmetic ingredients according to risk and the amount of scientific data available.

As for the remaining concerns about whether to follow the skinimalism trend, it’s reasonable to expect that using fewer products would have a positive effect on both your wallet and environmental footprint. 

According to a survey by Picodi, the average UK female spends £400 on cosmetics each year and is more concerned with price, than the planet. 

Meanwhile, the manufacturing processes and packaging favoured by the cosmetics industry contribute to waste ending up in landfills and water systems, although recent estimates of quantities are hard to come by. 

A hefty dose of scepticism regarding terms like ‘renewable’ and ‘biodegradable’ in relation to packaging is a sensible approach, however, as eliminating products entirely from your cosmetic routine is the only way to make them zero waste.

It’s difficult to say if skinimalism has any clear-cut benefits to offer because it depends on the products you use and what’s in them. 

Arguably, it’s just another trend designed to sell cosmetics – some brands already market minimalist ranges with slogans like ‘less is more’. 

The thing to consider carefully is what you’re hoping to get from skinimalism and do your research before you buy anything.

This article is an answer to the question (asked by Harriet Mullins, via email) ‘How many cosmetics should I use on my skin?’

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