I don’t know about you but 2020 has got me Marie Kondo-ing my whole life. Something about spending months indoors looking at the same spaces, clothing, and things in general has made me really consider what I need – and what I need less of. After I’d done the requisite closet clean and yearly declutter of random spices from the pantry, I turned my focus to my sacred space: the beauty cupboard. I have happily, and unashamedly hoarded beauty things for years, but with my 2020 glasses on there was something about it that superfluous. Indulgent even. How much did I really need a toner? Was my eye cream really doing something that my moisturizer couldn’t do? What would my life (and face) be like without that essence?
Was I the only one feeling like this? To be honest I felt just the tiniest twinge of embarrassment that it’d taken me this long to look at my beauty shelf, and to admit that maybe, just maybe I wasn’t immune to the lure of a good marketing campaign, despite over a decade in the beauty industry.
This existential beauty crisis led me to a couple of product epiphanies: one; I don’t really believe in eye creams and two; I had a newfound respect for hand cream (which I had previously stuck in the “nice but superfluous” pile) but after six months of sanitizer abuse became an MVP. And so, I went seeking more revelations, by way of some brilliant experts who know their way around a good product – and are highly trained in dodging marketing hyperbole. Here are the products they say we could all do without:
Dr. Cristina Psomadakis (aka: @Dr.SomaSkin), London-based dermatologist
“Toners. Historically toners (also called skin tonics) contained a high percentage of alcohol and left users with a cool, tightened skin effect, which was thought to be beneficial. Clinique really popularized the “3-step cleanse, tone, moisturize” routine in the 1960s. These days, toners have evolved and most no longer have a high alcohol content, but they don’t really serve a purpose that can’t be delivered more effectively by a different formula. For example, some toners are hydrating, but there are serums and moisturizers that do that really well. By all means, if you love it in your routine, proceed, but don’t feel any pressure to incorporate this into your routine.”
“My skincare non-negotiables are cleanser, exfoliation, mask, serum and moisturizer. I’d say if I had to lose something it would be an eye cream or a primer. A moisturizer (with a light hand) can double as an eye cream. The rest really depends on the ingredients – leave on products are generally formulated differently with different percentages so some times can irritate the skin as percentages are higher. There might be some trial and error, but the right product could cover more than one base.”
Celebrity makeup artist, Lisa Aharon.
“I’m always so conflicted when it comes to minimizing my beauty routine and advising others to do the same. The fact of the matter is, I love a no fuss regimen but I’m obsessed with the products themselves! That being said, when it comes to makeup it’s often blush and lipstick that I find to be interchangeable. If I’m aiming to pack a minimal makeup bag for a weekend away, I’ll grab one or the other – not both. A dab of lipstick on the cheek blended into your moisturizer or foundation works perfectly for a little flush. And, similarly a cream blush swiped on the lips can give just enough life to your look.”
Zoë Foster Blake, Founder, Go-To
“I don’t believe in eye creams. I think they are very small, very expensive pots of moisturizer. And things like crow’s feet and dark circles are genetic. Instead, invest in eye concentrates, and serums, and products with retinol. They will do something. Also, SPF! And wear sunglasses!”
Prudvi Mohan Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer, DECIEM.
“In my opinion, a product would not be superfluous if it is intended to address a particular skin concern. There isn’t a single selection of types of products that can be standardized across a population, as texture preferences, skin concerns, and user type are subjective. This is why we offer a variety of products – even across one ingredient like vitamin C. Our vitamin C products cater to a broader spectrum of user preferences when it comes to sensorial profiles of the different products, the type of Vitamin C (derivatives or direct), different concentrations of Vitamin C, and user experience (beginners and experienced) to take into account variability in skin tolerance to Vitamin C. This wide variety of products offers a user the choice to select the best product that meets the needs of their skin concern.”
Kevin Murphy, Founder and Creative Director, KEVIN.MURPHY
“I know I’m all about skincare for your hair, but there is one step in skincare I don’t think is necessary for hair care, and that’s a primer. Primers usually help to prepare the surface of the skin to receive and hold makeup, ensuring it stays smooth and lasts longer. What works just as well in hair is a leave-in treatment or leave-in conditioner because they both set a really good foundation for the hair and create an even surface for any additional product you want to layer on top of that.”
Hannah English, scientist, pharmaceutical researcher and beauty creator.
“Sleeping masks and moisturizing masks are pretty unnecessary – if you have a good moisturizer, you don’t need separate products on top. They all utilize the same ingredient categories; humectants to grab and trap water, emollients to smooth skin, and occlusives to seal it all in. The only differences between a moisturizer and a moisturizing mask are a) the name, and b) the way they feel on skin – a mask might not be as compatible with other products as it’s designed to be used alone. Save your time and money and just use one! That said, for some it’s about a treat day and the ritual, and I’m absolutely here for that.”
Dr. Michele Squire, PhD-qualified scientist, science educator, former Registered Nurse and founder of Qr8 and Qr8 MediSkin.
“There are so many cosmetic products that fit this criteria! However, the number one superfluous product for me is probably quite controversial: over the counter (‘cosmetic’) retinol serum or cream. Yes, retinol (which also includes its derivatives such as retinaldehyde, retinyl palmitate, retinyl retinoate and others) is a form of vitamin A like its big sister tretinoin (available in most countries prescription-only). Tretinoin has decades of high-level scientific research supporting its amazing effects in ameliorating skin concerns like lines and wrinkles, and acne. Unlike tretinoin, which already exists in its bioavailable form (retinoic acid) retinol products must first be converted to this active form by skin enzymes. As a result, the retinols are at least 20 times less potent than retinoic acid* (on the plus side, this means that there is little chance of irritation with retinols, but this can depend on other ingredients in the formulation).
So for anyone who is serious about treating ageing-related concerns, acne and pigmentation, I err on the side of favoring ingredients with evidence of their effectiveness (rather than opinion).”
*Of the hundreds of scientific studies of retinols, only nine properly conducted, independent clinical trials investigating retinol exist in the scientific literature. These show that the science supporting retinols in anything other than very mild skin wrinkling (with zero evidence as a treatment for acne or pigmentation) is virtually non-existent.