Should a Good Skincare Routine Be Boring?

Fashion
Photography via Launchmetrics.com/spotlight

Social media has done the impossible and made skincare routines thrilling — but at what cost to our skin barriers?

Last year, Jordan Samuel Pacitti, aesthetician and founder of Jordan Samuel Skin, posed a question on Instagram: “Why does bad skincare advice gain so much traction on social media?” In the slides that followed, Pacitti answered his own question: “Because skincare — when done right — is often boring. Good skincare is consistent. But doing the same routine day in and day out doesn’t make for compelling content.” And perhaps the most “boring” of all when it comes to a solid skincare routine is that “there are no instant results.”

Dr. Barbara Sturm, founder of the beloved eponymous skincare line, echoes the sentiment. “Usually the quick fixes in a skincare routine cause a lot of inflammation,” she said during a recent visit to Toronto. “These products — think harsh cleansers, masks, exfoliants and scrubs — are popular on TikTok, but they can be catastrophic for your skin barrier, especially if you have sensitive skin.”

Indeed, #SkinTok has a staggering 18.1 billion views on the video app, and search results vary from terrifying-looking at-home peels to promises of instant unclogged pores to fast-acting acne-clearing solutions. It’s enough to make your head spin and your skin barrier disintegrate. But it sure is entertaining.

Good skincare recognizes nuance, says Pacitti. “But the internet is where nuance goes to die,” he laughs over a video call. Pacitti notes the de-influencing trend that became popular on TikTok last year as an example. The movement saw content creators calling out products deemed to be unnecessary buys. De-influencing started as a response to over-consumption and, on #SkinTok specifically, a rejection of over-exfoliation, over-cleansing, overly complicated routines, over-everything.

“It began with good intentions,” says Pacitti. “People were saying ‘If you enjoy these products, great! But they’re not necessities.’” Then, he adds with an eye roll, “it turned into people bashing skincare products because they didn’t work for them.” Nuance, where art thou?

“The overriding goal of skincare is to reduce inflammation and be as gentle as you can with your skin,” said Paula Begoun, founder of cult-favourite skincare brand Paula’s Choice, during a trip to Montreal last year. “That’s it. Bottom line.” Her suggestions for how to build a solid routine that features just the basics, sans bells and whistles? Avoid the sun when you can, and wear sunscreen when you can’t. Antioxidants are good. Retinol is also good — if your skin can tolerate it. Begoun recited the list with her signature deadpan “Are we really still going over this?” tone. Its purpose wasn’t lost. “You need consistency with a good skincare routine, but consistency is boring and boring is bad for views,” she said. “The endless hacks and myths and misinformation are mind-numbing.” They are also the reason she’s not on social media.

“I used to say that all you needed was a cleanser, a moisturizer and a sunscreen,” says Pacitti of his own list of musts. But today he’s able to break it down even further. “Do you need to cleanse your skin? No, I guess not. You might not have great skin, but you’re not going to die if you don’t. The problem is that people want a black-and-white, one-size-fits-all solution. But there’s just no way to provide that.”

All three skincare experts agree that for the safety of your skin and your overall health, SPF is one of the rare necessities. Sturm also pointed out that all skin types can benefit from hydration. “If you have oily skin, you’ll need a lighter cream; if you have dry skin, you’ll need a richer cream,” she explained. Yes, it really is that simple — and that boring. “You have to see skin as an organ and not as a marketing playground,” she said.

As for the worst offenders, Sturm, Pacitti and Begoun all agree that inflammation-causing harsh scrubs, peels and exfoliants, which take centre stage in skincare video content, are the most damaging. These products also happen to be utter TikTok sensations. “I think they’re the most overused steps in a routine because they’re some of the only skincare products that provide instantaneous results,” says Pacitti. “When you exfoliate and feel that smoothness and see an immediate glow, you can’t help but be like, ‘Damn, that’s nice.’ It’s instant gratification.” Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of using the same ol’ cleanser, moisturizer and SPF every single day — and it certainly doesn’t make for thrilling video content.

Pacitti offers tips to make a “boring” skincare routine a little less so — much like spicing up a solid, long-term relationship. “Texture is important,” he says. “Use products that feel lovely and luxurious to apply. Take your time. Maybe switch up the order in which you apply your products.” And if you simply cannot resist the allure of experimenting with the latest ingredients and trends? “Use them on your body,” he suggests. If you love a heavily scented, acid-loaded moisturizer, try it out on your hands, which are much less likely to react to new ingredients.

Begoun’s advice was a little less gentle. “Don’t do what’s stupid,” she laughed. “Can that be the headline?”

Ahead, six products to help you pare down your skincare regimen.

Jordan Samuel Skin The Matinee Cream Cleanser

Jordan Samuel Skin The Matinee Cream Cleanser

Suitable for all skin types, this cream cleanser leaves you with skin that feels clean and purified, but still hydrated, thanks to a combination of sesame oil, silt and allantoin.

Shop Now

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Barrier Balm

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Barrier Balm

The on-the-go stick is totally invisible and is formulated with beloved squalane, leaving you with hydrated skin and a strengthened skin barrier.

Shop Now

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

This is an oldie but a goodie. No matter how simple (or complex) your routine may be, the sunscreen step is a non-negotiable. This SkinCeuticals formula is perfect if you’re looking for a comfortable, matte finish.

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Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

If you’re curious about retinol, this Paula’s Choice formula is an excellent place to start. Begin by using it sparingly to see how your skin reacts. When it comes to retinol, slow and steady often wins the race.

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Dr. Barbara Sturm Cleanser

Dr. Barbara Sturm Cleanser

This cleanser by Dr. Barbara Sturm removes dirt, debris and makeup, all without disrupting your skin’s pH balance.

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Vichy UV + Age Daily Anti-Aging Protective Lotion

Vichy UV + Age Daily Anti-Aging Protective Lotion

The latest SPF launch from Vichy is enriched with 5 per cent niacinamide and peptides so it prevents and corrects the appearance of dark spots and wrinkles while protecting you from the sun’s UV rays.

Shop Now

This article first appeared in FASHION’s April 2024 issue. Find out more here.

This article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

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