India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
February 28, 2018

Simple Elegance: The Beauty Of Minimalism

Text by Faye Remedios

The new trend in beauty eschews an over-the-top philosophy in favour of a ‘less is more’ approach. We find out why a pared-down routine is the way forward

The biggest storm to hit the beauty industry a couple of years ago was the Korean 10-step routine, which converted many a beauty enthusiast, all in the quest to get the oh-so-covetable ‘glass skin’ radiance that seems to be the birthright of every woman from this East Asian country. But now, experts are realising that from a scientific perspective, this isn’t the best ritual to adopt if you truly want healthy skin. Enter minimalist skincare, an approach that has found a deep-rooted appeal in several cultures. We delve a little deeper into this to find out if a minimalist routine really is the secret to looking and staying flawless.

The Swedes know the value of a simplified life, and have coined a name for this: lagom (pronounced car prom), which translates as ‘not too much, not too little’. This philosophy can extend to a beauty routine too as a means to achieve inner balance. Stress is believed to be the root cause of skin and hair woes. By releasing the hormone cortisol, it triggers inflammation and leads to thinning of strands. Adopting a lifestyle that does away with excess can set you on the path to tranquility, thereby reducing stress and helping you get that elusive glow. The Japanese too believe in being unobscured by fussy extras and, like the Scandinavian ethos, use nature as the common denominator. Their beauty rituals, unlike their adventurous, bazillion-step Korean counterparts, focuses on few steps and simple but efficacious ingredients.

The Japanese concept of perfect skin is a complexion that can be described as mochi-hada, or rice-cake skin, a nod to their plump, delectable desserts. Herein lies the main difference between their philosophy and the Western approach that favours advanced, harsh, aggressive concoctions with a strong anti-ageing focus. The basic Japanese skincare routine remains simple: thorough but gentle cleansing, sun protection, hydration, regular masks and minimal make-up. Walk the streets of Japan, and very rarely will you spot a heavily contoured face. You would find a similarity in France. Possibly the most covetable (and daunting) aesthetic is the French-girl beauty — that carefully-honed quality of nonchalance that allow Parisians to go out with a red lip, perfectly rumpled bedhead and an impeccably curated skincare routine that defines a minimalistic cool look.

The takeaway from all these aesthetics is simple: use make-up only to enhance what you naturally have. Cosmetics are not supposed to be a crutch or used to cover up insecurities, and the arsenal of chemicals, concealers, sprays, contouring sticks, gels, powders and solids are unnecessary. It’s all about simplification and elimination. The experts certainly agree. Dr Apratim Goel, laser specialist and dermatologist, and MD at the Mumbai-based Cutis Skin Studio, says, “The concept of minimalism in beauty means saving time and money by owning fewer products, not going on spontaneous shopping sprees, and paring down your morning routine. I would say that science and technology is now making skincare simpler and rightly so. Internally too, we don’t need lots of supplements and vitamins to keep the skin going. As a trend, minimalism fits perfectly into our busy lives. Today, people do not feel the need to layer on three different serums every morning and four different types of cream at night — chemists and product developers are more interested in creating multipurpose products that simultaneously treat and protect. It is important to look our best both at home and at work or in public. It encourages a sense of empowerment and confidence. A minimalist beauty regime is not about compromising any level of performance, but saving an incredible amount of time, energy, and not to mention money!” she asserts.

But don’t confuse this aesthetic with organic, cruelty-free, natural or sustainable beauty, as many seem inclined to do. “Organic or cruelty-free products basically make use of natural ingredients to benefit the skin in the most pure manner. A minimalist beauty routine, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily have to be organic or cruelty-free. It just means including lesser products in your daily make-up and skincare routine,” explains Dr Geetika Mittal Gupta, founder and medical director, ISAAC (International Skin and Anti Aging Centre).

With Ayurveda gaining increasing importance not just in our country but across the globe, balancing out the two aesthetics seems to be tricky. Dr Ipsita Chatterjee, senior manager, training and brand communication, Forest Essentials, however, doesn’t seem to think that it’s difficult to draw parallels. “There is also a very innovative concept of minimalism in Ayurveda known as agrya dravya or ekal aushadhi, which literally translates as ‘only one herb per concern’, and this easily fits into the mindset of minimalism.

The benefits of adopting a minimalistic mindset are plenty. “There are so many different layers going on our skin that whatever active ingredients are in them are going to have a hard time doing anything,” says Radhika Choudhary, co-founder, SkinYoga. In other words: experts believe you only need one or two active ingredients to show results. A cocktail of ingredients can hamper the potency of the active ingredients. Even scarier is the fact that unlike the food we chew and swallow, before it is absorbed, creams, lotions and oils bypass the digestive process and go full strength into the bloodstream where they either become raw material for building new body cells and tissues or potent toxic material harmful for the body. Chatterjee urges you to think of your beauty products not as cosmetics but as food. As consumers become more informed and conscious, they want to contribute to the greater good by saying ‘no’ to a long list of harsh chemicals in the pursuit of living a clutter-free, healthier life, and the improvement in their skin and hair doesn’t hurt either.

If we go deeper into analysing our current materialistic lifestyles, experts say that the advantages of minimalism go far beyond just loving what you see in the mirror. It can improve the overall quality of your life. “Minimalism encourages slow movement. Author Carl Honoré discovered that taking it slow not only makes us mentally and physically healthier but, surprisingly, also much more productive,” says Choudhary. While it cannot be a panacea for creating psychologically strong individuals, it does ensure that you are happy, less stressed and emerge with greater self-esteem by contributing your bit to keep the resources clean and healthy. A shift in the beauty business comes into play here as well. “Millennials aren’t willing to invest in expensive skin creams; instead, they want products with more immediate effects, which are ethically sourced and do not come across as pretentious,” finds Chatterjee.

If you want to adopt a minimalist routine, what should you add to your kit? Base it on the principle of ‘need versus want’, and start by eliminating unnecessary products that have been lying idle on your dresser for more than a year. Goel breaks it down for us: “Stop bombarding your strands with a plethora of products. Use dermatologist-recommended options that suit your hair type. In the mornings, use a mild face wash meant for your skin type followed by a lotion that can moisturise and provide sun protection. At night, cleanse thoroughly with either an oil or a regular cleanser, or just use the cleanser twice. You’ll need to feed your skin vital nutrients with a serum rich in vitamins, a moisturiser that is chock-full of botanicals, or a facial oil full of fatty acids, which can act as a multivitamin for your face. Throw in an ultra-nourishing body cream that will leave your skin soft and touchable.”

Follow the same principle for your make-up. Pick the essentials, and look for multipurpose products that do double duty. If you’re still confused Dr Kiran Lohia, founder of Lumiere Dermatology, offers a no-fail tip, “See a dermatologist regularly. They will help you simplify your routine based on your history and skin condition so you won’t need as much experimentation.”

Picking a low-key routine puts you in good company. From the uber-cool actor Olivia Wilde to Linda Rodin, beauty mogul and founder of cult brand Rodin olio lusso, they are all firm believers in the benefits of keeping it simple. As Choudhary vouches, “It’s addictive; once you experience the pleasure of leading a simpler life infused with quality rather than quantity, you won’t want to go back.”

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