After my first rather theoretical post on the minimalist approach to beauty, this article will show you how to apply the approach to streamline your current stock of products and everyday habits. The process is not rocket science and I won’t be prescribing you a detailed recipe for the ideal beauty routine; the point is rather to inspire you to spend some time editing your product collection and perfecting a set routine instead of just letting products pile up, using whatever is in sight and forgetting about half of your stuff. Aiming for a small, high-quality kit will not only save you money in the long run (and valuable space in your bathroom), but also help you develop a defined personal style by forcing you to prioritize.
Whether you are reorganising your closet, book shelves or beauty cabinet, the first step of any overhaul should always be a thorough detox. I clean out my beauty products using the same method I described in the Spring Cleaning: Wardrobe Detox post. Here’s a quick summary:
- Gather every single product and beauty-related tool you own, every chapstick and every hair pin, and lay it all out on a big table (or on a towel on the floor if your table isn’t big enough :)).
- Set aside one trash bag and four boxes labelled with ‘Keep’, ‘Maybe’, ‘Giveaway’ and ‘Sell’.
- Evaluate each item and place it in one of the boxes or the trash bag. Throw out anything that is broken, empty or past its use-by date. Products that you love and use frequently deserve a place in the ‘Keep’ box and items that you are not sure about go into the ‘Maybe’ box. Everything that you have no use for but that is still in a good condition can either be sold or given to a friend or relative.
- Throw out the trash bag asap before you change your mind. Set the ‘Giveaway’ and ‘Sell’ boxes aside for now.
- Give each item in the ‘Maybe’ and ‘Keep’ box a quick clean and separate them according to categories (skin care, make up, hair products, etc.). As you create your routines in the following steps, compare them with the contents of these two boxes and pick out products you could use. Note down missing items as you go along. Transfer any products in the ‘Keep’ box that you don’t end up using for a routine to the ‘Maybe’ box, which is kind of like a limbo for beauty stuff. Store it under your bed for a few months, then go through it again and throw out anything you haven’t truly missed.
Skin care is probably the most important aspect of your entire beauty routine, because it not only affects your well-being and make up application now but also your skin’s health and appearance in the future. A good skin care routine is of course also the most difficult to establish because the effectiveness of a new regime isn’t immediately visible and it might take you a couple of months to figure out which products are right for your skin and lifestyle. Skin care does not have to be high-maintenance to be effective: I recommend starting with a simple cleanser and moisturizer (both tailored to your skin type), some form of exfoliator and an SPF for daytime. Get these essentials right first, and then assess whether you need any additional products. Aim for high-quality products, however don’t spend your money blindly: Only invest if the higher price really does come with added benefits. Whether you are still in the testing phase or think you have found the perfect routine already, write down each little step in order to identify any gaps (or worse: excess) in your product collection. Strive for a simple skin care system based on as few products and steps as possible: Get rid of anything in your routine that isn’t worth the effort, time or money. Time your process at least once to make sure it isn’t too time consuming for your average, sleepy morning-self. This is the basic structure of my current skin care routine:
Morning: Wash-off cleanser + Tinted moisturizer with SPF
Evening: Make-up remover wipes + Wash-off cleanser + Moisturizer without SPF
Twice a week: Exfoliating mask
Buying body care stuff is similar to buying shoes: It’s so much easier to find products for unfussy body skin and before you know it there are seven body lotions distributed across your house and five half-empty shampoo bottles in your shower. To combat this, write down which products you really need daily, weekly and monthly without considering what you already have. In all likelihood your list of essentials is far shorter that you think, so compare it to your stock and minimize any excess as much as possible. To avoid the ‘multiple half-used bottles’ scenario, aim to only use a maximum of two products with the same purpose at a time. Since body care products have quite a high turnover rate, it’s also a good idea to keep a copy of the list in your bag with notes of items that you will soon run out of. This way you can stock up if you see any good deals at the drugstore.
MAKE UP AND HAIR
Make up and hair are the two most ‘visible’ aspects of your beauty routine and should express your personal style and complement your wardrobe. If you already have a defined style concept, look for ways to translate its main elements (e.g. classic, edgy, fifties, etc.) into a beauty look. Or, create an entirely new concept: gather inspiration, identify themes and at the end, try to sum up your vision in a few adjectives, e.g. sharp eye look, clean face, glossy lips, middle parting… I use Pinterest to collect all of my make up and hair inspiration, check out my beauty board here.
Signature Make Up
Unless you are a hardcore night owl, you likely spend the majority of your time wearing your everyday make up; which makes your day face also your signature look. Like a uniform, your signature make up look should perfectly express your personal style but also be low-maintenance and simple enough for most everyday activities. Use your style concept and inspiration to develop a ‘uniform’ for your face (e.g. dewy skin, defined eyes and bare lips or clear skin, mascara and stained lips). Then, write down every step needed to achieve it and brainstorm which products you would ideally use.
If you already follow a loose routine of steps, figure out ways to optimize your process: Maybe you can use a lip and cheek stain in place of a powder blush, lip liner and lipstick, or perhaps you could replace your cakey cream foundation with a high-quality tinted moisturizer that offers a more natural finish, keeps your skin moisturized and lasts longer. Examine the products you are currently using: Does your everyday eye shadow have the perfect colour but take a lot of effort to blend? If you reach for it every day, it might be worth it to invest in a higher quality version. Always keep your aim in mind: to create a fuss-free make up routine using a minimum number of steps and products, that optimally enhances your style concept and complements your wardrobe.
Pay special attention to your foundation: The right base can make or break your look, so take your time to find the perfect type and shade. Try to choose the lightest formula you can get away with, i.e. don’t go for a heavy full-coverage foundation if you have good skin except for the occasional breakout (use concealer to cover those).
Consider the amount of time you would ideally like to spend on your make up. If you are always pressed for time in the morning, don’t aim for an elaborate routine. To minimize time spent on touch ups during the day, also pay attention to the longevity and maintenance factor of your products. Once you have a set routine, practice it in real time so you can do it without having to think about it.
Special Occasion Make Up
A good way to leave room for fun, spontaneuous looks despite having a stripped down make up routine and a set signature look, is to keep a couple of special occasion products on hand that you can add to your routine whenever you feel like it. Darker eye liners, a heavier coverage foundation or brighter lip colours and eye shadows are all good special occasion supplements.
No amount of styling will fix a bad cut or colour, so before you spend any thought or money on hair care and styling products, take your time to find the best cut and colour for your hair type, colouring and personal style. The most effective way to streamline your hair care and styling routine is to choose a cut that only requires a minimal amount of styling. I like my hair routine to be super low maintenance; I usually just shampoo, condition and then let my hair air dry. For days when I’m feeling a bit more ambitious I keep a couple of extra products in my bathroom. However elaborate you want your hair routine to be – write down all steps and figure out which products would work most efficiently AND effectively.
Don’t forget to streamline your on-the-go products as well; I know all of my lip balms always end up accumulating in my bag if I’m not careful. An easy way to sharpen your on-the-go kit is to keep a few designated items in your main bags at all times (obviously this only works if you have fewer than, say, five main bags). You are probably using certain bags mainly for daytime stuff and others to go out, which makes it easy to tailor the contents of each kit. Start by considering what you need when you are out during the day, e.g. at work, uni, shopping or running errands. For daytime activities I always take a larger bag in which I carry powder, lip products, a tiny hair brush, blotting papers, hand cream, and perhaps one or two products to spice up my everyday make up. For nighttime, I usually take a smaller bag and products I need to touch up my look, e.g. lip colour, eye liner and perhaps one of those mini perfume sprays.
If you now have a brand new set of routines and a considerably smaller product collection, spend some time figuring out a good storage system that will save you time and complement your routines. An old, but immensely helpful storage technique is to organise your stuff according to how often you need it, i.e. store frequently-used products in areas that you can easily reach and products that you only need e.g. every two weeks in places that are harder to access. For people with a small-ish selection, three groups will be enough:
- Everything that you use daily or at least every second day (like razors) should get the top spot in your bathroom, e.g. the bathroom sink, top drawers, counters, your shower caddy. I have a super small bathroom, so I only keep daily essentials like my everyday make up, shampoo, body lotion, etc. in there and store the rest of my products in other rooms.
- Things you reach for at least once a week but not daily should get second-class seats, e.g. a lower shelf, a box, the top section of your bathroom cabinet. Candidates for this group are all weekly treatments, such as exfoliators and masks, but also your nail care stuff, special occasion make up and hair styling tools. However, if you do not own a huge amount of make up, it might be better to keep all your make up in one place instead of putting your two special occasion lipsticks somewhere in a drawer where they might get lost. I keep all of my weekly products in a drawer in the bedroom only because I have no space, but of course you can also store them in different places according to category.
- Everything you don’t use at least once a week can be stored out of sight, for example in boxes or bottom drawers.
Don’t aim to turn around your entire routine in one day. Depending on the size of your product collection and its fit to your lifestyle and taste, it may take you a couple of afternoon sessions to detox and a few more weeks to put everything back together, but the end result will be worth it. If you want you can check out my own current make up routine and organisation here.