A couple weeks into a face- and life-consuming breakout, I was desperate.
I’d purchased three new moisturizers in as many days looking for something that would soothe my sensitive skin and keep the mess somewhat manageable. Nothing worked–even prescription Metro cream seemed to irritate the bumps–so I looked for advice where any normal person would: Message boards deep in the skinternet (skincare internet, you perv).
A few thousand This worked for me!s later, a radical suggestion caught my eye: Stop using everything. No cleansers, no moisturizers, no medications, no makeup, nothing. I’d heard this before in Adina Grigore’s book Skin Cleanse, but at the time I thought my skin was too problematic to just stop everything. Surely skin as bad as mine needed a little extra TLC, no?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, though, and as a skincare obssessee I literally could not think of anything more desperate than skipping my twice a day cleanser/toner/serum/moisturizer/oil ritual. It was my religion, my church, my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. But I did it. I ditched everything. And guess what? Seven days of zero products later, my skin was 75% clearer.
Want to try it for yourself? Here’s what to know.
1. Water is really all your skin needs to clean and heal–as long as you’re not putting anything heavy on it, like oils or makeup. Before you start your product detox, wash your face one last time with a gentle cleanser (I like Ceravé) to get rid of any lingering pore-cloggers.
2. A couple days into the detox, your skin will be dry and flaky and peeling–a cruel dandruff of the face-type situation–and it will seem impossible to resist smearing moisturizer all over it. Resist.
3. Skipping makeup is one thing; skipping your entire beauty routine is another. Of course, you’re beautiful without makeup and you’re a strong feminist who doesn’t need to conform to beauty standards to feel worthy blah blah blah blah blah–but speaking from personal experience, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable baring it all in public. I recommend taking some work-from-home/mental health days if you can manage it.
4. If you’re feeling particularly dry or greasy, try this no-product skincare hack to give your face some extra TLC: Boil a pot of water and hold your face over the pot as it steams. Or, if you prefer, soak a washcloth in the hot water and lay it over your face. This opens up your pores and allows dirt and oils to escape. After five minutes of steaming, take an ice cube and run it over your face to seal up your freshly-detoxed pores. Your skin will G-L-O-W.
5. Once your face starts to clear, you may be tempted to keep up with your new zero-product routine. That’s totally fine! I would just recommend keeping coconut oil (for removing makeup), a gentle cleanser (for post-workout washes), and a light moisturizer (for those days when you’re extra dry) on rotation, as well.
That being said, the no-product life isn’t the life for me. There are certain things you just need products for: preventing fine lines and wrinkles, color-correcting acne scars, shrinking a giant pimple before date night… And, of course, writing articles for ILLUUM, duh.