Beauty Resolution: Use Less Stuff

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Last year, I actually accomplished all of my New Year's Resolutions. See! It is possible. They were, very simply: Stop doing things I don't like that are also not required (i.e. dance cardio, drinking beer...) and work out enough to make a lifelong habit of it. I'm proud to say that I haven't had a sip of beer or jumped around a room like an idiot in a calendar year. I'm also blissfully addicted to SLT (Strengthen! Lengthen! Tone!) twice a week. Mission accomplished. I'm in the best shape of my young adult life, even without the dancing.

So now I'm feelin' good, feelin' light, feelin' happy... What's next? How do I want to put my iron-clad will to the test in 2018? The timing couldn't be better, actually. A rather intractable bout of acne had me wondering through most of December: Just how effective can beauty products truly be? Surely there are some that are game changers—your I had cystic acne 'til I tried this balancing oil you really must try it type of products. But that's not nearly all of them. I say this with confidence after adding and removing vitamin c, retinol, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, fragrance, lanolin, and beeswax from my skincare diet. Regardless, I consistently have one or two zits on my forehead—and I'd rather not have them.

But you can't resolve just to not have acne. That's not fair to anyone (mainly yourself). So instead, I'm resolving to stop trying to fix everything with products. Not that products don't fix things; many do! But when every product claims to stop pimples dead in their tracks, it's very easy to end up with...every product that promises that. I'm always so hopeful! So now I'm surrounded by every product on the face of the planet—and those pimples keep coming back.

So for 2018, I’m getting rid of nearly everything. I have too many products—I'm guessing many of you do as well. And the problem with that is the constant distraction. Maybe the acne is from this new scrub! Or this neat moisturizer. Perhaps I’m not exfoliating enough. Or too much! All valid questions except for the fact that they might all be straw men. What if my problem isn’t products at all? What if it’s me? And the fact that I can use a wholly new routine every single night is just masking it.

For the past six months, I’ve been playing around with the idea that skincare (the process, not the products) is built on an 80/20 conceit. Eighty percent of sporting a perfectly balanced complexion comes from the inside (you are what you eat, how you digest, when you sleep...). The remaining 20% can come from brightening masks, hydrating serums, liquid exfoliators. It’s good news and bad news. Bad because, don’t you just wish one toner could fix everything? Good because you can stop buying stuff right this instant and it literally won't cost you a thing. Nothing is stopping you from minimalism except for your overwhelming materialistic tendencies. No judgement—I have them, too.

Getting rid of everything was an overstatement, of course. I'm keeping one of everything, and the rest is going into storage for now. The lack of distraction is keeping me focused on my moisture-heavy winter routine without excessive spot-treatment interference. One toner, one serum, and one moisturizer/SPF in the morning—Serozinc followed by three drops of Vintner's Daughter; then Dr. Jart's green, goopy Cicapair Color Correcting Treatment, the best physical barrier from the wind, cold, and sun I've found in a long time. At night I wash with one cleanser (the new-to-me Biologique Recherche Lait U and exfoliate with a wash cloth. I'm treating old pimple scars and problem areas with one spot treatment—Amanda Lacey Miracle Toner on a Q-tip. Do not swab everywhere; lasts forever. Then I combine one oil and one heavy cream—Ren Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Oil into a fingerfull of La Mer Moisturizing Cream (if you're in New York, you know why) and press into my very dry, very peely face. It's simple—maybe even boring—but since starting this whole thing, I haven't broken out once in 2018, so that's exciting. So exciting that it's tempting to call it a success now and move onto 2019 goals. Simplicity works, but seems hard to stick to. Check back in with me in six months and see where I'm at. The plan is to do this until the products run out—then recalibrate. Phasing one thing in at a time should be safe. Eventually.

An addendum of sorts: Makeup is a totally different story. I still have roughly 12 lipsticks that are the same family of red (brick-ish but not too brown) and four backup mascaras. You can pry them from my cold, dead hands.

—Emily Ferber

Read more from Emily here.

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