The Skincare Diet: What It Is And Why You Should Be On It
I’ve been writing about beauty products for ten years now. Part of my job is testing dozens of products in any given month. I’ve tried the best of them. I’ve tried the worst, as well. I’ve seen fads come, go, return, and repeat the process ad infinitum! If there’s anything I learned working in this industry, it’s that skincare should be our number one priority because good skin is a powerful source of confidence. Our skin doesn’t have to be perfect but when it’s healthy and balanced, you know it and it shows.
The beauty world has realized the importance of skincare because recent years have seen the rise of complex routines that promise amazing skin. We have the popular Korean 10-step routine which involves layering at least ten products and thirty minutes to an hour to finish. We've also recently seen the rise of acids in skincare - alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid promise a targeted solution to blemishes and fine lines, while a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) like salicylic acid helps to dissolve and clear pore blockages. We’ve also seen powerful active ingredients like vitamin c, retinoids, and zinc take up the spotlight in our collective skincare journey.
All of the above are good and effective routines, certainly. They are also confusing, time consuming, and ultimately expensive. I’ve seen some true believers of the Korean 10-step routine but they themselves don’t commit to it every day. Some people think it’s ridiculous to spend that much time and money on skincare, and besides, does that even work for the hot and sticky climate here in the Philippines? And what of those who have sensitive and/or reactive skin. The products that they can use are limited to begin with.
Skincare does matter but we then begin to question - up to what point?
This is how the idea of the Skincare Diet became highly attractive. The Skincare Diet is a routine pared down to two to three products only, in order to get skin to reset itself and come back to its most natural, non-irritated state. This minimalist routine says that you don’t need as many products as you think; less could be more. A daily routine that consist of only a cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer is said to go a long way in keeping our skin healthy and happy.
I agree. In my ten years of experience as a beauty writer and two years of experience developing products with chemists for my local skincare brand In Her Element, I’ve learned that caring for our skin isn’t as complicated as it sounds. No, really, it’s true! Here’s the thing about skincare products that not many people know: 80-95% of the formulation consists of some form of water or oil-based emulsion. This base simply conditions/moisturizes your skin or makes it feel instantly nice (looking at you, silicones) but these are only temporary and superficial results. The base is for “holding” the active ingredients in the product until you choose to apply it to your skin. Actives are what makes the skincare world go ‘round. They are the real hard workers in any formulation as these ingredients affect our skin condition in the long term.
Not all skincare is created equal. Some skincare products have no actives, some products have only a tiny amount - not enough to sustain the results - and some products have A LOT, which can truly transform our skin over time. This is usually reflected in the price tag.
Given this, we then realize that layering several products which more or less function the same way (if at all) is a waste of time and money. Using an emulsion, a serum, an essence, a moisturizer, sheet mask, and facial oil all in one session is a great way to moisturize skin, but unless our face is as dry as a desert and close to extinction, we really don’t need that much product. We only need one good moisturizer with a good mix of active ingredients appropriate for your skin type and concern to achieve the same (if not better) results over time.
We then just need a low pH facial wash to cleanse and a sunscreen, and we’re good to go! Remember, sunscreen is technically a drug that protects our skin from being damaged by the sun. There is no substitute for it. It is the best anti-aging product that we need to use every day of our lives.
To summarize, a great Skincare Diet includes a facial wash, sunscreen, and moisturizer. This is a good core routine for everyday although you can certainly add an exfoliator (physical or chemical) or an additional serum with your desired active ingredient as needed.
I do recommend a Skincare Diet for skin that is irritated and needs a break from its over-compensating routine. It really goes a long way in stabilizing our skin and banishing repetitive and unnecessary skincare ingredients from its surface! It’s important to listen to what our skin needs rather than to buy into crazy routines and fad products that sounds good on paper but doesn’t actually do much for us in the long run.
Honestly though, good skin is simply knowing how to read the ingredients list, finding good formulations that suit our needs, and staying consistent in caring for our skin. If this means being on a Skincare Diet forever, then so be it.
Lead photo by Seven Barretto; styling by Kate Paras-Santiago