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The Minimalist’s Guide to Skin Care

Why you have a minimalist attitude when it comes to skincare...

You have a busy life. You don't spend much time thinking about your skin. You're just too tired at night to focus on a skincare routine. Your Mom had great skin and all she did was use Pond’s Cold Cream.

It’s too expensive. It’s all too confusing, everyone tells you to do something different. How are you supposed to know how to make the right skincare choices? Whatever your reason, there are certain basics you should consider.

Ok, here’s the thing. I personally am anything but a minimalist when it comes to skincare. I’m a sixty something year old skincare junkie who’s been faithfully taking care of my skin since I was a teenager. I feel it has really paid off when I compare myself to my contemporaries. But, I also love the ritual. For me, it’s fun. I get to experiment and put into practice all that science I’m continually researching. Plus, God forbid if I ever fell into bed with my makeup on. No matter how tired I was, I’d just lie there all night thinking about all the damage I was doing to my skin.

If you don’t share my unabated love for skincare you may not be as motivated to do an expansive routine. I look at it this way, skincare is like exercise. Some go to the gym every day, run six miles a day and consider CrossFit their religion. They look toned and buff and have beautiful bodies. That’s great. I’m envious. But I on the other hand, well my idea of working out is taking a casual walk or bike ride. My consistency with these activities has more to do with enjoying the beautiful scenery around me or the houses I pass by or how someone has planted a charming English garden or some other interesting landscaping. I’m such a visual person, it’s no wonder “esthetics” became my profession. So I guess I’ll never have that super fit body. You see there is no right or wrong when making these choices. It's a question of priorities. It’s just how much time and energy you want to invest. But, you have to concede that what ever your personal choice may be, the outcome will certainly be effected.

There are different levels that one could commit to. For the minimalist, you need to choose a bare bones skincare routine that will improve your skin and one you can follow every day. Okay, so where to start? I honestly believe that even though there are phenomenal treatment products out there like stem cell serums and retinol, none of these are going to work if you don’t get the basics down first.

CLEANSING For sure, your skin needs to be clean. Dirt and pollutants must be removed twice a day. In the morning there is sebum and toxins that were purged from your skin during the night. That buildup must be removed. So don't think you can skip your morning cleanse. At night, one of the worst things you can do for your skin is to go to bed wearing a layer of makeup. It’s the quickest way to dull your skin and clog your pores and promote breakouts. This is the time, while you sleep, when your skin repairs itself. You need to set up a positive environment that encourages healthy repair.

In most cases opt for a milky cleanser. Milky cleansers soften and hydrate the skin while you are cleansing it, giving your skin a fresh youthful look. Stay away from foaming cleansers that contain sodium laurel sulfate or other detergents that are incredibly drying and induce dehydration and premature wrinkling. Younger or oily skins might opt for a detergent free cleansing gel (yet they can be hard to find) but makeup removal needs that oil in water emulsion to break down makeup properly. Those who wear a lot of foundation should consider doing a double cleanse. Use your milky cleanser first followed by a detergent free gel. Oops... that may be too many steps.


I could suggest just using just a cleanser but the two step cleansing and toning process is worth it, even for the minimalist. Include toning as an essential step in your skincare routine. Even though some companies on the internet are skipping this important step, I strongly believe it is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Over and over again I’ve seen how my clients' skin has changed from dull and lifeless to beautifully bright and translucent just by adding an alcohol free toner to their regime. This is because a good hydrating toner (sans the alcohol) will remove drying impurities from tap water such as fluoride, sodium, chlorine and bacteria. Just by swiping the toner over your skin after cleansing you can take advantage of it’s soothing, hydrating properties while removing any left over traces of cleanser. Follow this with a little spritz of toner and you have a layer of moisture that can be imbibed into your skin when you seal it in with an appropriate moisturizer.

MOISTURIZING Water is the secret of life when it comes to skin cells. A hydrated cell can absorb nutrients and oxygen brought in to feed your skin via circulation. Hydrated cells live longer and keep your complexion looking fresh and younger. So the next step is finding the right moisturizer for your skin type. At Elizabeth Renee you can go to our Skin Type Guide for an easy way to discover which moisturizer is right for you.

It is essential that your daytime moisturizer contains sunscreen. SPF 30 works the best without adding a huge amount of sunscreen ingredients that could lead to irritation. SPF 30 blocks 97% of the sun’s burning rays while SPF 50 blocks 98%. So, the difference between a 30 SPF and a 50 SPF is only 1% when it comes to effectiveness. SPF 50 requires a lot more chemicals that build up in your skin. Remember, sunscreen is your number one anti-aging ingredient. That’s because nothing ages you like the sun. Preventing sun damage is so much easier than trying to correct it.

You need to apply a half teaspoon to get that SPF number written on the bottle. This is just how much you need to protect your face (from the jaw up). I recommend applying about the size of a peanut (1/4 tsp.) when doing your morning routine. Go get dressed to give it time to sink in. Come back and apply the second peanut amount. You now have your full SPF 30 protection. The minimalist can do just one application but you won’t get the same protection. Remember sunscreen can wear off if you are actively out in the sun, so in this case you need to reapply every hour or after each time you jump into the water.

Unfortunately, you can’t wear that moisturizer with sunscreen to bed at night. Sunscreen buildup is a sure way to dull your skin and clog your pores. At night you might want to invest in a lovely hydrating moisturizer that is sunscreen free. The amount of oil and water in your night cream should correspond to the amount of oil and water you produce in your skin.

If your skin feels tight or flaky and you see tiny little lines on your face when you look really close, then you are probably dehydrated. This means you should look for a moisturizer that contains humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, sodium PCA, peptides or sorbitol. Humectants are ingredients that grab onto water and hold it in your skin. They pull the water in from air or, if you've just toned and your skin is still moist, humectants help push that moisture into surface skin cells. Humectants work particularly well in a humid environment where there is plenty of moisture to be found that can be drawn in, preventing water loss and keeping skin well hydrated. Hyaluronic Acid is the current buzz word when it comes to humectants. You may think this is a new ingredient but we’ve been using hyaluronic acid for decades. It’s a lovely ingredient though, that holds up to 1000 times its weight in water. Remember, oily skin can also be dehydrated, so an oil free moisturizer that contains humectants might be your ticket to clearer skin that is less likely to get clogged, and still looks fresh. However, if the air is dry (or you're dry) you need to add an emollient ingredient to your moisturizer..

If you don’t produce much oil these emollients are essential. Emollients soften, smooth, and condition your skin by filling in the gaps between the cells. Additionally, they increase the rate of skin barrier restoration by helping repair damage caused by sun exposure, environmental aggressors, harsh products, and more. Basically, emollients help repair the damage to the skin barrier that happens over time. Liposomes are wonderful little spheres that you can find in your moisturizer that carries emollients down deeper in-between skin cells and can increase the lipid barrier up to 450%. Liposomes can carry actives like rosemarinus officinalis (a type of rosemary extract) which stimulates production of your own moisturizing lipids. Your emollient based moisturizer should contain lipids and lipid rich oils. These provide essential moisturizers for smoother skin and helping reduce sensitivity over time.

Occlusives are ingredients that add an additional barrier layer for skin that is extremely dry. They soften and protect your skin as well as hold in moisture. Very dry skin needs to go one step further than emollients and choose a formula that includes occlusive ingredients. Beeswax, lecithin, lanolin alcohol and my favorite, shea butter, are examples of occlusives. Rough, very dry skin results primarily from two conditions. First, a damaged lipid-barrier that can no longer seal in moisture in-between surface skin cells. Second, a relaxed “hill-and-valley” topography. Skin is structured to have hills and valleys that can't be seen with the naked eye, but these hills and valleys keep skin layers tight and offer increased protection from the environment. Post menopausally, the loss of estrogen is like letting the air out of the mattress. Skin relaxes as hills and valleys flatten. Skin becomes thinner and looser and moisture escapes more easily. Damage to the skin’s lipid barrier can occur from age, stress, poor diet, UV exposure, severe environments, or harsh skin care products. Very dry skin is exceptionally vulnerable and really needs this extra protection.

In conclusion, there are four essential products which are your must haves if you are a minimalist looking for a skincare routine you can manage. Cleanser, toner, moisturizer and sunscreen. Start there. We can talk about adding extra steps later if you wish.

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