The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I first discovered the world of skincare during my first few days in the dorms. While I struggled with dryness, redness, bumps, and clogged pores at the time, my new friend from down the hall, Ana, had baby-smooth, glowing skin. Ana introduced me to all the cleansers, exfoliators, serums, moisturizers, oils, and sunscreens she used. After only a couple of weeks of using all these new products, my skin felt better than it had in years. It no longer stung when I washed my face, and I no longer felt self-conscious when people looked at me. I was hooked.
Skincare became a hobby for me; an expensive hobby at that. It was exciting to try new products and this excitement fueled regular skincare shopping sprees. My skin finally felt better, but I still wanted it to look even better. I wanted every bump to be smoothed and every blackhead to be expelled. I thought that the way to achieve this was to pile on the products. At one point, I made a spreadsheet that outlined which exfoliants I used on which days. A significant amount of my self-worth came from how crowded my skincare shelf was. I would beat myself up on days that I forgot to put on sunscreen. Whenever I messed up when it came to skincare, I felt like I was taking steps backward in achieving my goal of perfect-looking skin. What I didn’t understand is that while some people are blessed with super smooth skin and seemingly non-existent pores, I am not one of those people. Perfect skin was the light at the end of an infinitely long tunnel.
It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I visited my best friend in Washington, that everything changed. I had to pack light, so this meant only having room for cleanser, retinol, moisturizer, and sunscreen; really roughing it. My skin not only felt better with this new routine, but it looked even better. The improvements may have had a lot to do with the moist Washington air, but when I returned home to California, I continued this modified routine. It felt so freeing to have such a simple routine, to have the time I spent doing skincare cut in half, and to not feel bound to my exfoliant spreadsheet.
There are a few things that helped me cut down my routine. The first was to not be afraid to use products that have multiple active ingredients in one. Single-active-ingredient products had been my weakness, but now, my new moisturizer has hyaluronic acid and niacinamide all in one product. Additionally, ceasing to scroll through Sephora and The Ordinary Instagram has helped me not feel the urge to buy every new product I see.
Ultimately, having a lengthy routine did make me happy for a while. It felt good to take those ten minutes for myself at the end of each day, and it was fun to look at my shelf full of products. I don’t blame myself for getting addicted to skincare; it’s easy to get addicted when it seems like every week a new retinol or cleansing balm is trending on TikTok. However, I was so focused on the blackheads, lines, and bumps that I forgot about my skin itself. Skin is supposed to look like skin. So much of skincare interest is fueled by the desire to make skin look good rather than feel good. What makes me happy now is my super simple and quick routine. I’m not perfect when it comes to resisting trying products — my “guilty” pleasure right now is trying out new sunscreens. Everyone’s skin is different, but understanding that I don’t need seven steps in my routine in order to effectively take care of my skin is what works for me. The only steps you truly need are a cleanser and moisturizer. Oh, and of course, sunscreen.