Why stripping back may pay beauty – and sustainability - dividends
Why stripping back may pay beauty – and sustainability – dividends
Cassie Steer,-Beauty Editor

How simplifying your beauty routine and embracing a more natural look can also help up your green credentials


Sometimes, less is more. Coined by the experts at Pinterest, ’skinimalism’ is a movement based on the idea of embracing our natural skin texture and taking a more simplified, stripped-back approach to skincare. According to the social media site, a growing number of ‘Pinners’ are embracing slow beauty with sustainable routines that incorporate 'clean' products and natural ingredients.

‘Today’s consumers are a lot more aware of how catastrophic their personal care routines can be for the environment,’ says Livvy Houghton, senior creative researcher at strategic foresight consultancy The Future Laboratory. In response, they’re shifting away from product- or ingredient-heavy routines, and leaning towards a more minimalistic attitude, which uses fewer products and embraces their natural complexion.’ According to Houghton, the pandemic has escalated this approach, as increased time at home has meant we’re connecting more with our skin and learning to understand what it really needs. ‘Start with less and only consider introducing more once you know your skin better, which could perhaps be in the form of hybrid formulas or multi-tasking products, reducing both the cost to your bank balance and the environment,’ she adds.

And in terms of a routine? ‘The idea of skinimalism is that you’re able to strip back to the bare minimum of essential steps and chemicals needed in order to maintain good skin health,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Emma Craythorne. ‘The constant noise we're bombarded with regarding information about ingredients, formulas and problems we didn’t even realise existed, and the inability to navigate this, has left people confused, and as a result we are overdoing it. The rise of advice from all corners of the internet from many influencers – mostly not dermatologists – also confuses matters, as does the fact that few of us really understand our skin type. Many of us expect to see instant results, flip-flopping between products, which all adds to the damage.‘

So how can we set about taking a more skinimalist view of beauty? Step this way…



 Liz Earle Skin Repair™ Light Cream
Less is more

Could it be time to wave bye-bye to the much fêted Korean 12-step beauty regime? Skinimalism advocates forgoing multi-step routines for a simpler, more streamlined approach and it seems the skin experts are in agreement. ‘There‘s a huge case for a "less is more" mindset,’ says Dr Craythorne. ‘The skin doesn‘t do well with quick changes in routine and overly harsh chemicals that can damage the wonderful homeostatic environment it has created. Paring back your routine ensures you're able to use the optimal concentrations of the correct ingredient you need for your skin.’

It’s a tack that cosmetic doctor and founder of Medicetics Dr Vicky Dondos also subscribes to, especially with patients who present with skin ‘issues’. ‘About 70% of my clients believe they have sensitive skin, but while the “sensitive” skin type is actually not as common as thought, sensitised skin is,’ she says. ‘In this instance, I revert to what I call my “intervention” programme, which is all about taking everything back to basics, and it usually sorts out so many issues.’

According to both experts, the ideal routine centres on just four skincare basics, after which you can start looking at add-ons, such as peptides, retinol, niacinamide and other skin-boosting actives. The key is to  understand your skin type and learn how best to nurture it. ‘The main focus should be supporting your skin barrier and the best way to do that is by getting the basics right,’ says Dr Dondos. The four products we should all be incorporating into a healthy skincare routine? Cleanser, sunscreen, antioxidants (such as vitamin C) and moisturiser.

The main focus should be supporting your skin barrier and the best way to do that is by getting the basics right

Dr Vicky Dondos,-Cosmetic Doctor and Founder of Medicetics
REN Clean Skincare Atlantic Kelp & Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Wash, 300ml
Slow down

‘Slow beauty has emerged as a counter to the fast-paced nature of today’s beauty industry, with products that promise results in 60 seconds,’ says Sarah Jindal, senior global analyst for Mintel. ‘By slowing down and taking time to care for yourself, slow beauty gives consumers the chance to connect with products and with themselves.’

A key part of this movement is not only taking a sustainable approach to beauty in terms of what we’re putting on our skin, but also looking at the environmental impact of the packaging. It’s about investing in products that have been crafted with care using ingredients and processes that have a minimal impact on the environment – and it’s a trend that looks set to be here for the long-haul.

Our favourite slow beauty starlets? Evolve, the first UK brand to receive Plastic Negative accreditation. Not only are all its plastic bottles made from 75-100% recycled plastic, the plastic itself is PET which, unlike PVC, is fully recyclable and doesn’t leach any chemicals into the soil if it does find its way into landfill. Another brand flying the mindful packaging flag is Ren which, to date, has removed 1.5 tons of plastic waste from the ocean in order to create more than 15,000 bottles for its Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Body Wash, Body Lotion, Hand Wash and Hand Lotion. 

As well as using recyclable packaging, eco-savvy brands are ensuring their production processes are sustainable, too. Take Susanne Kaufmann, the Austrian-based natural beauty brand which uses renewable energy to produce pampering products that work in harmony with nature and which recently launched refills at John Lewis. Sustainable scent brand Floral Street also advocates using less energy, with any waste water from the production process being cleaned and recycled, while its pulp cartons are 100% compostable. And while its scents may be deliciously moreish, you won’t find them churning out perfume after perfume. Thanks to a commitment to the slow beauty movement, it prefers to meticulously craft each olfactive offering to ensure it’s more than a fragrance flash in the pan.

By taking time to care for yourself, slow beauty gives consumers the chance to connect with products and with themselves

Sarah Jindal,-Senior Global Analyst for Mintel
REN Clean Skincare Atlantic Kelp & Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Wash
Disciple Good Skin Face Oil-Serum
Clean up

We can’t talk about the skinimalism trend without a nod to 'clean' beauty, the slightly ambiguous term for products or ingredients that are free from toxins. Contrary to popular belief, it’s less about man-made vs natural and more about safety and ‘doing no harm’, whether that’s in terms of your skin or the environment.

So why might fewer chemicals equal skin gains? ‘An increase in chemicals can lead to a number of skin issues,’ says Dr Craythorne. ‘Acids can increase sensitivity, surfactants (often found in cleansers) may cause skin barrier disruption, including drynesss, irritation and eczema, and sunscreens can cause acne if not removed properly.’

Many clean products contain plant-based ingredients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘natural’ is always best. ‘Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it won’t cause harm – some of nature’s best gifts that smell wonderful might be very irritating on the skin,’ says Dr Craythorne. Get clued up about your ingredients, especially potential nasties, and start tapping into the clean beauty brands that advocate transparency in the ingredients they use as well as the processes and packaging they employ.

An increase in chemicals can lead to a number of skin issues

Dr Emma Craythorne,-Consultant Dermatologist

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