I don’t know about you, but once upon a time I was the master of the skincare layering technique. About the time the Asian practice of layering at least seven skincare ingredients (sometimes 10!) became popular in the United States, I was already well versed in the art of thin ‘layers’ of primers and serums and all manner of moisturizers… and had the nerve to top it all off with a sealant.
Those days are long gone.
I have traditionally highly reactive skin. Since I was a child, I’ve been prone to acne, hyper-pigmentation and deep residual scarring (sometimes so deep that it could take up to a year to fade). Name a product, and I’ve probably tried it. I’ve cyber-hopped from country to country in search of native ‘secrets’ to cure my oily but dehydrated skin. I wore my scars for so many years that they became a part of me, well past my 30’s and into my 40’s. I went on products, I went off products, I did a ‘skin fast’ and still… a cystic pimple would rear its head and wave to me like we were old friends without notable cause or provocation. About three years ago, my esthetician (now my dear friend) cautiously commented that my skin looked ‘wounded’ and suggested that I simplify.
Have you ever met a person that you can SEE clearly to their solution but they’re so convinced that they know their hair/skin/body that they argue you down until you give up? You know who they are in your life. And if you don’t… it’s probably you. It was definitely me. When my friend first tried to help I was as resistant as can be, particularly since I’d spent so much time and research and money perfecting my own skin care line. How could I NOT know what I was talking about?
So, being the patient genius she is, she suggested that I cut my skincare steps in half, then in half again, and again… until only there were two (and once or twice weekly three). She didn’t suggest any new skincare items (which was good because I had an arsenal from about 10 different countries, plus all manner of Habibi specialty serums and potions to sort through). I listened, and the skin that I’ve lived in since meeting her is nothing short of miraculous. I ended up packing large boxes of gently used skincare items and shipping them off to family and friends. I hope everyone on the receiving end of my purge was happy with their goodies. It’s not even that the products were bad (many of them were actually quite expensive and worth the money I paid for them). It’s that I had too many of them, and I was mixing and matching all to be damned in search of the perfect routine. This practice had gone on for decades so by the time I was ready to walk away, it kind of felt like a breakup.
One of the things I discovered about having so much skin care is that I didn’t give any of it a chance to actually work. And when I had a reaction, there were so many different variables that there was no way to pinpoint the culprit. It was only after I simplified that I realized how bad an idea it is to put shea butter in a face cream. It’s so wonderful for the body, but it has such the potential to trigger cystic acne on a reactive skin that I often wonder why so many companies risk it. There is a gorgeous night cream that is quite popular these days in terms of hue and scent. I gave into the hype and ponied up for it to see what the fuss was about. I used it once by simply pressing a light layer into my skin before bed, and woke up the next day with two massive cystic pimples on my cheek. I checked the ingredients, and right there in plain print: shea butter. Fortunately I’d dug into a sample before opening the purchased jar, and was able to return it. What’s interesting is that when I returned the cream and explained why, the sales associate piped right up and said the same thing happened to her. Of course, she could have warned me in the first place… eh, at least I got my $200 back.
For the past few years I’ve only used Habibi, with the occasional foray into a different formula to simply test for reaction and efficacy. My skin will usually tell me right away if I chose poorly. My skin care routine has become like my eating habits: simple. I keep my skin clean and hydrated. Once a den of insane sebum production, my skin is now balanced and supple. And I’m not even using anything fancy (so beware the fancy salespeople who tell you that there are miracles in skin care. There aren’t)… just Matcha & Mint (to replace the Oatmeal & Peppermint), and Seven Veils Serum at night. That’s it, and that’s the truth. If there’s a flare-up at some point during the month, a little Healing Oil or Soothing Serum eases it right away. People often demand to know my ‘secret’ and when I tell them there isn’t one, they’re almost confused about it. I understand. The old me would have been confused too.
People who meet me today think I was just blessed with ‘good skin’ (HA!). People who knew me before are digging around my vanity trying to find out what secret potion I have tucked away. The key for me was to simplify. That’s and that’s all.
If you connect to this story, think about simplifying. If you’re like me and married to the idea of many layers and many products… you have my empathy. I’ve been there, and it’s hard to let go. But it’s possible. See what happens when you give your skin exactly what it needs to thrive, and not one layer more.