Pre-pandemic, you may have hoarded drawers full of luxe skin creams and rocked a head of perfectly blown-out waves. But it’s unlikely you’ve kept up appearances every day for the past 15 months. In fact, unwashed hair and a bare face may be your new comfort zone. But as the world reopens, will you ramp back up, or is minimalism looking a lot more attractive?
If the thought of returning to your 12-step skin-care regimen does not spark joy, or you’ve noticed that your mane thrives on neglect, now may be the perfect time to re-evaluate the potions in your arsenal. Here’s how to pare down your skin- and hair-care routines to the products that make a difference.
For your skin
Get back to basics
Start by trimming your skin-care regimen to just two steps: cleanse and protect. Washing your face matters because “your skin picks up environmental pollutants when you walk outside, and it collects its own sebum,” notes Dr. Renée Beach, dermatologist and founder of DermAtelier on Avenue.
It’s also a good idea to protect your skin from sun damage with a moisturizing broad-spectrum sunscreen – ideally one with a tint if you have excess pigment from melasma or old acne spots.
Once you’ve nailed down the cleanser and sunscreen that work for your skin type, reintegrate a moisturizer with an active ingredient to see if it improves your skin. These so-called “actives” are the components of your skin-care that are meant to do something beyond moisturize – such as target acne, minimize fine lines and wrinkles or reduce pigmentation. Vitamin C, ceramides and retinoids, as well as glycolic and salicylic acids, are examples of active ingredients with proven benefits.
“I’d probably choose a corrective agent at night such as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), beta hydroxy acid (BHA) or perhaps a retinol or retinoid,” Beach says. “Each of those agents, when used over time – we’re talking at least three months – will help to smooth the skin, decrease brown marks and reduce fine lines.”
Avoid layering similar products
If slathering on products in your pre-pandemic life ever left your skin feeling itchy, red or prickly – or you developed blemishes along your hairline – all your layering could be the culprit.
“It’s cumulative irritation,” says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, dermatologist and author of Beyond Soap. “Retinol, BHAs, AHAs, and vitamin C are all potential irritants. You stack them together and you could have a problem.”
Using multiple serums and creams with fragrance can have a similar effect. To avoid irritation when you try new skin care, use mostly fragrance-free products, limit the number of actives you use at any one time and make sure each layer dries before you apply the next one.
For your hair
Get a trim
You may feel the urge to shake things up as soon as you snag a spot in your stylist’s chair, but curb that impulse.
If you’ve grown out your hair for much of the pandemic, you’re probably accustomed to a longer look, which tends to be “more forgiving” and requires fewer styling products than a short ‘do. By opting for a trim instead of a drastic chop, you can more easily work ponytails, topknots or air-dried strands into busy mornings.
Embrace your natural texture
Adding curls to straight hair or ironing them out of a kinky mane takes extra time and a shelf full of creams and sprays. If you want to cut down on both, “stop trying to do so much to change what you have,” Kenny says.
“If your hair’s naturally curly, try to learn how to keep it natural,” she says.
“If you have a widow’s peak or a certain hair growth pattern, listen to your stylist. They’ll know how to cut it to suit you.”
Invest in a quality shampoo and conditioner
Speaking of embracing what you have – find a shampoo and conditioner that’s made specifically for your hair type. For fine, thin hair, choose a volumizing line that won’t weigh down your mane. If you have coarse curls, go for nourishing shampoo and conditioner that are formulated for curly tresses.
And if you’re going to blow your budget anywhere, do it here.
“You won’t have to wash your hair as often,” Kenny says.
“You’ll need less maintenance and when you do a style, it will hold better.”
Two words: scalp scrub
Ready to add a third product, after shampoo and conditioner? Make it a scalp scrub.
“Some women say they wash their hair every day and it never seems clean,” Kenny notes. “It’s weighed down, waxy or greasy looking.”
To remedy the situation, apply a scrub to the roots every month or few months – especially during season changes.
“It exfoliates all the oil and crap that’s on your scalp,” she says, making your hair feel clean and fresh.