Intuitive Skincare (And Why I Stopped Doing a Routine)

I've been obsessed with skincare since I was 11 or 12. I enjoy the process of it, the ritual of cleansing and beautifying the exterior self, indulging your senses in a way that feels like it's "doing something", and I kind of want it to be the answer to all my problems. As much as I don't want to, however, I must admit an uncomfortable truth, blogger heresy: my skin feels better when I leave it pretty much alone.



A lot of you will say I just haven't been doing skincare "the right way". You might want to suggest more products or techniques I should try, which is well-meaning but misses the point of what I'm trying to say here. I'm not against skincare - I just think our approach to it is a bit of a clusterfuck. I've been washing my face all my life, and doing a 3-step routine since I was still a child. By my early 20's my nightly skincare climbed up to 8 or 9 products, and got more and more complex. Looking at a lot of skincare forums and hashtags, it's hard for me to ignore the parallels between those spaces and the pro-anorexia forums of the 00's; both are full of very young girls becoming obsessed with perfecting an innately transient and imperfectable thing, sharing advice on how to "control" it, and all of them sure that if they only stuck to the right regimen, their life would sort itself out and maybe they'd be beautiful. This breaks my heart a little bit.

The skin-positivity movement still has a long way to go. No matter how diverse an ad campaign attempts to be, it seems that clear skin (or airbrushed skin) is a beauty standard that never gets challenged. The only time I ever see normal, common skin conditions like acne, eczhema, or keratosis in the media is if they are being directly discussed; it's never just "oh here's our autumn collection" on a gorgeous model who just happens to have some spots. The message here is that our skin is not good enough as it is, that we are losing some kind of battle with our faces. The vast majority of people are over-cleansing their skin as a result, stripping it of natural oils by cleansing twice or three times a day. This isn't about trying to push the "all natural" approach and condemn luxury skincare, I'm just against the routine-pushing rhetoric that "you have to be consistent to see results". I think this is PR-speak from companies that want you to feel a bit bad about yourself, use more of the product, and then buy another one sooner. A lot of those brands rely on us not actually listening to our skin, but to them instead.



I understand that genetics has a big part to play in how our skin behaves. I also know that diet, lifestyle, hormones, medication, and environmental surroundings can all change things. I'm not saying that throwing your whole routine in the bin will have amazing results for everyone. Lots of people need medicated skincare to keep dermatological conditions comfortable to live with, which is totally fine. All I'm saying is that we might know more about what our own bodies need than we give ourselves credit for.

So what should you do if you know your regular skincare routine isn't working for you? Look in the mirror, bare-faced, and feel your skin. Ask yourself what you think it needs to feel good, not to "look perfect". Do this every day, and go about achieving it in as few products as possible. Some nights, what this looks like for me is just taking off my makeup and spritzing my face with rose water or toner. Looking after my skin, truly caring for it intuitively based on what it needs that day, feels and looks very different to the routine I would be sold if I went to a mainstream beauty counter. I love a lightweight serum, and I love cleansing wipes. Cleansing wipes get so slated, but I've found they work better for me than any expensive makeup remover. I tend to buy ones that have tea tree, rose, chamomile or aloe in, as those feel good on my redness-prone skin. I use a face mask every so often. I trust the brands that I really love, and in this way my skincare has become more of a ritual, a self-care practise rather than a punishing or chastising process. I stress less about how I look, and I incorporate beauty into my witchcraft, dedicating my ritual to Aphrodite. If the skincare habits you are stuck in aren't serving you, don't be afraid to let them go, and find a way of inhabiting your body that feels gentler, warmer, and closer to something like kindness.