I Used to Be a Beauty Routine Maximalist

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An Asian woman puts a face mask on in a rustic cabin.

chee gin tan / Getty Images

Now I'm obsessed with paring it down to the absolute minimum.

While many people have been hard at work decluttering their homes and talking about minimalism in the context of physical belongings, I've been experimenting with my own minimalist journey – in the form of my beauty routine.

I used to be the kind of person who collected facial cleansers, makeup remover, toners, serums, masks, hair conditioners, body lotions, and makeup obsessively. Sure, much of it was 'green' and 'sustainable,' made by companies that promised to use safe and ethical ingredients, but as time went on my bathroom drawers filled up and I realized I didn't use much of it on a regular basis.

Similarly, it dawned on me that I was simply uninterested in having a multi-step beauty routine. The last thing I feel like doing at the end of a long day is spending 20 minutes in the bathroom, applying various layers of product to my face. All I want is to wash my face and go straight to bed. So that's what I started doing.

My nighttime beauty routine now consists of brushing and flossing my teeth and washing off my eye makeup with whatever bar soap is on hand, usually a natural olive oil-based variety. That's it. If I'm feeling luxurious, I rub in a few drops of almond oil, but usually I don't. I've found that if I avoid putting products (and even the soap) on my cheeks and forehead, my skin doesn't dry out.

In the mornings, I wash my face with a hot washcloth, scrubbing to wake myself up, and eventually put on a light coat of mascara. (My redhead complexion begs this added darkness, as my lashes are pretty much invisible otherwise and I get asked what's wrong if I'm not wearing any.) I apply some PiperWai natural deodorant.

Every 5-7 days, I wash my hair using the heavenly shampoo and conditioner bars that I buy from Unwrapped Life (new fave scent is citrusy Daytona), and if I take the time to do a good blow-dry, my hair lasts all week, with no added products or styling. To those of you who think that's an unrealistic amount of time to go, try 41 days, which is my record! That experiment trained my hair to stretch the time between washes, and it's something I think anyone can do.

I have a daily shower or bath, and shave my legs periodically. Every 6 weeks I get my eyebrows waxed and tinted at a nearby salon, which spares me having to think about them at other times. I put on eyeshadow and liner if I'm dressing up.

It's been a gradual yet revelatory change for me. There are now hardly any products in my bathroom drawers, my nighttime routine takes all of three minutes, and the extra sleep I'm getting probably helps my skin to look better than ever. I also spend next to no money on beauty products.

While this routine might feel too extreme for some women, I think that many would benefit from simplifying. When I think of the sheer amount of time it takes me to wash and dry my hair once a week (around 20 minutes), I can't believe that many women do this on a daily basis. That's 121 hours a year! Surely there are better ways to use that time, like exercising or cooking healthy meals or going for a walk outside or even sleeping in – all activities that can boost skin and hair health and appearance, too.

My point is, I want you to feel encouraged to try cutting back – unless your beauty routine is a source of great pleasure, of course. It's a liberating feeling on many levels and I can't imagine ever going back to those long minutes and hours of tending to my face and hair. The less you engage in it, the more pointless it all seems.