The Key to Great Skin? Leave It Alone.

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When it comes to a clean and green beauty routine, less is more.

A headline caught my eye today: How to wash yourself without damaging your skin. The article was brief, summarizing a conversation with a cosmetic dermatologist who recommended, mainly, doing very little to maintain healthy skin. In fact, the gist of her message was that less is more when it comes to skincare.

Avoid hot water and lingering baths, as it dries out the skin. Avoid soaps that alter the natural pH of the skin's surface, and heavily fragranced products that harmful chemicals in contact with your skin. Avoid towelling vigorously, as that too can damage the skin's natural barrier.

Instead, shower quickly with tepid or warm water and don't do it too often. (As in, ditch the morning, night, and gym washing routine. Your skin never has the chance to recover.) Use your fingertips to scrub your skin, nothing rougher. If you want a cleanser of some kind, go soap-free, fragrance-free, non-foaming.

Even though commenters were shrieking about this being common sense ("Oh for goodness' sake! You teach toddlers how to wash. One would hope most readers have figured it out by now"), I don't actually think it is. I think most people – myself included, for a long while – have bought into the idea that personal hygiene is synonymous with frequent scrubbing and generous application of chemical-laden products, when in reality those habits are perpetuating many of the issues we're trying to resolve... with those same products. It's a vicious circle.

This becomes apparent when we lay off the products and constant washing and give our skin a chance to recover. This lesson really hit home for me when I did a 40-day no shampoo experiment two years ago. After a week of increasing oiliness, my hair suddenly stabilized and remained more or less the same for the next five weeks. Although I went back to washing my hair with shampoo, I learned that my hair can go much longer than I previously thought, and that its texture improves with a bit of grease.

Now, there are only two bathing products in my shower – a bottle of Dr. Bronner's citrus castile soap and a shampoo bar. That's all my family and I use because it's all we need. We moisturize with sweet almond oil or coconut oil.

This is a valuable takeaway for all of us. Don't overdo the superficial treatments in the pursuit of greater beauty, but rather lay off them to allow your natural beauty to shine through.

(The planet will thank you, too, as fewer products mean fewer resources being consumed, fewer chemicals in the waterways, and less plastic waste overall.)