The test: High- versus low-maintenance beauty regimes

How many beauty products and tools do you use on a daily basis?

For me, the list is pretty small, and pretty basic.

Here are the items I use between once a day and once a week – put another way, the stuff I would pack in a wash bag if I was going away:

Standard toothpaste, with plastic toothbrush.
Bar soap.
Razor, tweezers, nail clippers.
Antiperspirant deodorant.
Cotton buds.
Hairdryer and hair straighteners.
Mid-price shampoo and conditioner,
usually whatever’s being sold at a discount in the supermarket.

See, I don’t even use a hairbrush or comb on a regular basis. What a scruffbag.

I’m also not a big wearer of make-up. I’ll put on a lick of mascara each day, and if I’m going out on an evening I might add another five or so items: eyeliner, eyeshadow, concealer, powder, lip gloss.

I might then use a makeup remover later, or, more likely, I might forget and leave a make-up faceprint on my pillow after stumbling home drunk.

As you can see, I’m not a big purchaser of products. My facial skincare routine pretty much consists of one product: water. Splash it on the face and yep, that’s it.

This isn’t to say I’m thrilled with my ‘au naturel’ appearance all the time. I’m pretty sure my love of coffee means my teeth could be whiter, I’m definitely getting the odd fine line and grey hair and sometimes I get random patches of dry skin.

But, well, are all these products really worth the bother? Isn’t this just vanity? Most men don’t have all this crap to deal with and their faces aren’t sliding off or anything, are they?

It’s commonly accepted that many of the grand claims associated with cosmetics are overblown (‘Younger looking skin in just two weeks’, ‘Noticeably whiter teeth’, ‘Leaves you hairfree for longer’).

But being a cynical type, I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that some of these products effectively do nothing at all, or that they might even make your skin/hair/earlobes/whatever worse than they were before: irritated, spotty or greasy.

What if the biggest effect of buying all these products is simply on your bank balance?

I’ve ended up fostering a pretty money-saving and minimalist attitude towards beauty regimes. If I can do without, I will. It’s almost become a marker of pride. I don’t wanna be reliant on no consumerist goop to feel good.

‘That’s wonderful, but where is all this going?’ I hear you ask.

In essence, I have somehow acquired quite a number of products I’m not really using. Products I’ve been given as presents (minimalists tend to get a lot of consumable goods) or cosmetics I’ve bought for one reason or another and used for a day or two, then forgotten about.

The minimalist part of me isn’t happy about this growing collection of bottles, tubes and jars in my bedside cabinet. But the waste-hating and the money-saving parts of me have ganged up on the minimalist part, arguing that just binning them would be wrong.

So, I’ve devised a cunning plan.

It’s an experiment of sorts. Each month, I will pick four products I already own, all designed for use on a different area of the body.

I will use these products exactly as instructed, for a period of four weeks, but ONLY ON ONE HALF OF MY BODY.

I’ll then review whether I’ve noticed any difference, and crucially, I will get Ruth to guess which side has been getting the treatment.

This should have two pretty useful benefits:

  • Testing whether said product is actually worth bothering with
  • Using up the bottles and jars and decluttering the irritating collection

My first four products are as follows:

Cosmetics bottles

For the body: Rituals Magic Touch Body Cream

For the hands: Cuticle Oil by Seacret

For the face: No 7’s Protect & Perfect Advanced Serum

For the hair: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer

Is my theory of a sinister consumerist conspiracy going to be proved right, or would I have become a beauty bombshell by now if I’d actually bothered with a rigorous hair and skincare routine? I’ll report back in four weeks with my findings.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your attitude towards beauty or grooming products. Are you minimal or maximal? What are your essentials, and what do you think would happen if you ditched them? Feel free to spill all in the comments thread…

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18 thoughts on “The test: High- versus low-maintenance beauty regimes

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Claire! Over the years I have cut down on the number of grooming and beauty products that I use, wondering if getting older has something to do with it. I guess at some point I reached a comfy attitude of “Who can bother with make up this week?”. So although I do own some basic make up products, I try to use them only when I feel like it (often, 5 extra minutes of sleep are so much better than well applied concealer).

    Something I do admit is a necessity for me is lotion. My skin has always been dry and I’ve been wearing lotion religiously after every bath/shower since I was a little kid. Once experimented trying to condition the skin to produce its own oils by not wearing lotion for days, but it only made me itchy and flaky, so I went back.

    I look forward to reading the results of your experiment, and also the opinion of your male readers. I recently found many beauty products that have traditionally been marketed to women (creams and serums for tired and puffy eyes and wrinkles) but marketed to men, although with a different tone (“Didn’t sleep well? Try this to refresh your eyes” instead of “Showing aging signs? Use this to look more acceptably young!”).

    Good luck!

    1. often, 5 extra minutes of sleep are so much better than well applied concealer

      Oh my god, you are so right! I also find it hilarious the way some products are marketed differently for men and women. Men’s shampoo ads that are inexplicably themed like Formula 1 coverage, or which stress just how this facecream will allow you to do EXTRA MANLY things, really make me chuckle. Less funny is when the same products are priced differently – i.e. razors which are more expensive for women (I usually get round this by buying the men’s version).

      I’d also love to hear a man’s perspective on all this!

      Interesting point about lotion. Glad you get something out of it, we end up with buckets of the stuff unused in this house. I should ship it to you! One of the reasons I never usually use it is something you touch on a bit here: what if my skin gets so dependent on it, I’m stuck using it forever?

  2. Great post Claire, I reduced loads of beauty products and my skin is so much better! I replaced make up with natural make up,and I then just use grapeseed oil for everything else!

    Grapeseed removes make up (even eye make up), cleanses, and moisturises, and is a good hair oil! And bath oil… And it’s so cheap, I guess you can use any base oil as well 🙂

    I just use mascara and a few eyeshadow, a natural eye pencil, and occasionally a lipstick. Once I got rid of all the products I used to use (loads!) my skin seemed to just relax and now looks better than ever!

    1. Oh my god, me too!
      ‘You look different today.’
      ‘Oh great, something must be working.’
      ‘You look a bit like…’
      ‘…I was thinking Quazimodo.’

  3. Linda Sand says:

    I don’t know if I am blessed with good skin or if it’s good because I don’t mess with it. Water, after all, is the universal solvent. I scrub my important parts daily with just a damp washcloth then apply deodorant. I also brush my teeth with just water. Only shampooing my hair once a week has made it less oily. I do use Nivea hand lotion because it is the only one that helps with my psoriasis flareups but doesn’t cause tiny blisters on my palms. I think I still have a lipstick but I haven’t seen it since we moved in October. Ah, it might help you to know that I will turn 70 this year so these habits are not new ones that haven’t been truly tested yet.

  4. Christine says:

    Your experiment sounds hilarious and interesting. Will you be posting any of the results?

    My list looks a lot like yours with a few substitutions. I don’t use perfume, hair dryer, or straightener, but I have mousse, face wash and face cream.

    Everything I have gets used. I think the face wash and cream are moderately effective, so I’m sticking with it (they were new things I tried within the last year)

  5. A says:

    Great post, and good luck with the challenge!

    I use shampoo (on hair and body), a leave-in conditioner, deodorant, lip balm, and jojoba oil as my daily staples. When it’s cold out, I add a body lotion to my routine. I also use floss, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a fluoride rinse.

    I gave up on makeup some time in my early 20s, about 25 years ago. The first time I was caught in the rain without having to worry about my mascara running was an epiphany! Then, when I cut my hair into a pixie, and didn’t need to worry about the catastrophe of being in a downpour, I was thrilled. I kind of wish I had all the time and money I spent on makeup in my teens back, but that’s life.

    My husband gets away with just shampoo, a tiny bit of styling gel, deodorant, lip balm, and some body lotion.

    Right now, though, I’m trying to increase my water consumption. That might do more than all of these concoctions!

    1. A says:

      Also, when I stopped using so many products on my skin, I stopped having ugly, painful breakouts as well. Farewell to concealers!

  6. Maryam says:

    I love this experiment you’re doing! What bothers me most about all the skin/beauty product commercials is they use 20 year olds in them. Well of course that wrinkle cream works on them because they had none to begin with. It’s a miracle! The only thing I fuss with is my hair and that’s only because where I live has cold winters and if I don’t blow dry it I will freeze to death. And having curly hair I can’t just aim a blow dryer at it and hope for the best ?

    1. I hear you on the curly hair front. I remember when the reality show Big Brother first became a big thing, about 15 years ago, and one of the rules back then was that housemates couldn’t go in with electronic goods. I vividly remember thinking to myself that that would forever rule me out from appearing on Big Brother, because I wouldn’t be able to do without hair straighteners!

  7. oh, Claire, you make me giggle 🙂
    but please please clean off your make up before going to sleep! let’s make a deal: you clean up make up off your face before sleep and when you come to Copenhagen i’ll bake huge chocolate guiness cake for you 😉

    i went so low-maintenance with all face/ body/ hair stuff, that my mom is about to disown me! i’m originaly from Lithuania and was raised that “put your lipstic on even when you go to take trash out”. But to horror of my all family i’ve moved to Denmark 10 years ago, married a guy who takes out the trash and threw said lipstic out 🙂

    things i use:
    face soap
    face tonic ( made with vinegar and essential oils)
    face oil
    and lipstick ! red one!

    oh, and coconut oil as make up cleaner, body lotion, hair conditioner… and a snack! ok, not snacking on cocnut oil, but all the rest is true 😉

    best wishes from minimalist in Copenhagen

  8. Nat says:

    I am so lazy to do any kind of beauty routine, it’s unreal! I’ve chucked most of the beauty products away long time ago. Every time my birthdays comes round, I promise myself to stick to at least putting moisturiser on every day but it never lasts more than a week. I recently found out about washing face by applying coconut oil and then wiping it off with a hot water cloth. I loved it! But as you can guess I haven’t been consistent again…

  9. I am looking forward to your results. I see some people’s beauty routines on IG and they like have 10 different steps using 2 different cleansers, toners, several serums, moisturizers, eye creams. I wonder how they have time and how they keep it all straight! I think I fall somewhere along the middle.

  10. Lisa P. says:

    I think this is a fantastic idea. I, too have cut back on the number of products I use. I used to wash my hair daily, but have changed to every other day. I use a face cream with sunscreen in it and under eye concealer (I inherited dark circles under my eyes so I will never go without my concealer) and mascara. I look forward to seeing your results.

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