Just a few years ago my daily beauty routine was what you would call 'high-maintenance' and my bathroom was covered with sprays, bottles, jars, stacks of makeup palettes and countless half-used shower gels and body lotions.
But even though I definitely wore a lot of makeup and skin care products (way more than I do now), I still probably only used about 5% of all that stuff on a regular basis. The rest were things I had bought on a whim, because I liked the packaging or the scent or because I had once again bought right into whatever clever sales strategy a marketing team had come up with.
I cringe when I think about not only how much money I've wasted, but also how much mental energy. Every day I would get stressed out at the sight of my jam-packed bathroom, I always had to plan in an extra 10 minutes just to dig through the mountains of pencils, pots and lipstick tubes in my makeup bag, and packing for trips was a complete nightmare.
An important point before we get started: Although the focus of this post is to simplify and de-clutter, it’s not about getting rid of as many products or steps as you can. Your goal is not to build a routine that’s short as possible, but as functional as possible and tailored to your individual needs.
Choose one area of your beauty routine to focus on:
You can repeat the steps below for each of these, but for the first round choose whichever area you feel needs the most work and has the biggest impact on your everyday life.
As a first step, write a list of every product type you use on a regular basis, e.g. foundation, hair spray, shower gel, and so on, and tie it to specific times of the day or week if you can. The trick is to do this completely from the top of your head, without looking through your bathroom or makeup bag.
In your head, walk through a typical day of yours to identify when and what kind of products you need, including touch ups. Also write down any products you use regularly but less than once a day, like skin or hair treatments, special occasion makeup (feel free to include different color options if you use them regularly) and stuff like shaving gel, etc. If you want to change up your routine a little and include a new product type that you aren't currently using, include that too.
Once you have made a list of every product type you need, take a couple of minutes to define exactly what criteria each of these products needs to fulfill to work for you, based on your routine, your skin/hair type and your personal style (for makeup and hair styling). To keep it practical, distinguish between criteria that are non-negotiable/must-haves and those that would be nice but aren’t absolutely essential.
Must-have criteria are usually things like the basic formula (should match your skin/hair type) or specific ingredients like glycolic acid, antioxidants, an SPF above 30 and so on. For makeup products, the color should also always be defined in the must-have section, although you don’t have to be super specific about it.
Nice-to-have criteria could be things like the scent, packaging or specific formula requests (like long-wearing or 'gives a dewy finish').
Now that you have defined your criteria for each product type, look through what you already own and check for items that could fill a slot in your routine. Start by picking out every product that matches the must-have criteria on your list. If you own several products that all fit these, use your nice-to-have criteria to decide between them.
Time to shop! Use the criteria you outlined in step 2 to find the best version for each missing product that your budget allows. If you are on a tight budget and still need a lot of items (or just a few particularly pricey ones like serums or treatments), make sure you prioritize well. That means two things:
1) Prioritize products that fit your must-have criteria 100% but not your nice-to-have criteria over products that fit 50% of either.
2) Prioritize filling completely empty slots over replacing products that fit your must-have criteria, but not your nice-to-have ones
There is no point in forcing yourself to use up stuff you dislike but as long as your products fit your must-have criteria, replacing them with slightly better versions wouldn’t be a good use of your budget. Using that money instead to buy products that are completely missing from your routine will have a much bigger immediate impact.
Ok, so as you have probably noticed, we only focused on optimizing your beauty routine so far and have done little to de-clutter your kit.
Once you know you have a good routine in place, you'll feel much more confident about what you don’t need and can get rid of that excess without second-guessing.
So: Once you have curated all of your missing products and feel good about your new and improved routine, take about an hour or so to go through the rest of your collection:
Give away or throw out anything that you feel is now redundant, that doesn’t even fit your must-have criteria and that you haven’t used in weeks. Feel free to keep products that you think you’ll still like to use from time to time, even if they aren't part of your regular routine. But if possible, store them away.
How do you keep your beauty routine functional and simple? What area of your routine are you currently the happiest with and which needs the most work?