Whether it’s decluttering queen Marie Kondo, social media or James Wallman’s book on Stuffocation, there’s little doubt our capitalist society is starting to edge towards minimalism.
As Wallman puts it “we have more stuff than we could ever need [and it] isn’t making us happier. It’s bad for the planet. It’s cluttering up our homes. It’s making us feel ‘stuffocated’ and stressed.”
However, one area that doesn’t seem to have got the memo is the beauty industry. The past few years have seen skincare addicts falling over themselves to adopt Korean (or K-Beauty) multi-step regimes that demand at least 10 different products to cleanse, treat and moisturise.
And while there’s been a push towards greater sustainability, thousands of beauty products – from mascaras and lipsticks to body cream and shampoo – are still being launched every single year.
But earlier this year data from market analysts Mintel discovered almost three in 10 women have reduced the number of products in their facial skincare routine, and, at the same time noted that make-up sales have also fallen with almost a third of make-up users buying fewer cosmetics than a year ago, and around a fifth spending less than previously.
Beauty expert and broadcaster Alison Young believes that this move is both a reaction against multi-step regimes, which she says are “unnecessary, time-consuming, expensive and can do more harm than good” and a shift towards a greener way of living – “people are more aware of the impact their lifestyle has on the planet, and so are trying to align their beauty regime with their ethics”. And given that the single biggest way you can positively impact the environment is by using less, this minimalist attitude really does work.
For some, the less-is-more approach makes sense. Dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting says she developed the ultra-edited Dr Sam’s range – cleanser, moisturiser, night serum and SPF, from £16, “after seeing sensitive skin, breakouts and general complexion unhappiness associated with the use of too many products in my clinic patients.”
Similarly, Dr Bronner’s has said for more than 50 years that its liquid soap, from £2.15, has 18 uses, from cleanser and shaving cream to mouthwash and bug spray.
Now, new products are making it easier than ever to be a beauty minimalist with multitasking formulations, such as facial cleansers that can also be used as masks and moisturisers; hair products that prep, prime and treat, and even colour cosmetics designed to be used on eyes, lips, and face.
For hair stylist Luke Hersheson, it was the experience of carting multiple products around with him on shoots that led to the creation of a multitasking hair product that “isn’t a hairspray, a dry shampoo or a volumiser, but does pretty much everything else. It tames strays, conditions, defines curls, smooths frizz, primes your hair for styling, adds texture and boosts shine,” he explains of the aptly named Almost Everything Cream, £10. “It can be used on wet or dry hair, and even as a nourishing mask.”
When it comes to skincare, there are brands – such as Frances Prescott – that have dedicated themselves to multitasking. The 3-in-1 Tri Balm, £46, is a stick that is a cleanser, exfoliator and moisturiser in one, while the 3-in-1 Tri Spritz, £45, promises to help repair damage, protect against pollution and set make-up.
And the philosophy of Lixirskin is that “there is no such thing as a cream which is good for a bit of your skin and not the other” so its Universal Emulsion, £29, is “for the face, eye contour, lips, neck, décolleté, arms and hands”.
Balms and oils are ideal do-it-all products. “As a general guide, the fewer ingredients a product has, the more multitasking it will be,” says Young. “A product with multiple ingredients will be more targeted towards a specific issue, whereas a single ingredient like shea butter can be used as a lip balm, hand cream, nail balm, body balm, for facial massage balm or for split ends.”
Even colour cosmetics are getting in on the act. Yes there have been sticks that do eyes, lips and cheeks for a while – Nars’s The Multiple, £42, is probably one of the best. But, a new brand, Depixym, £18, is rewriting all the rules with 20 shades of longwear, no-transfer, heavily pigmented paste, from neutrals through to primary shades of red, yellow and green, that can be used alone, or mixed in the provided palette to get the shade of your choice.
Use on lips, cheeks and eyes, or with a finer brush for brows and eyeliner, and even mix with a hint of moisturiser to create foundation.
It doesn’t stop there. The newest make-up brushes take up minimal space, but do more than one job.
Ruby Hammer’s Magnetic Brush Set, £28, comprises three stackable brushes – a pointed one for eyeshadow and concealer, an angled one for brow and liners, and a fluffier smudge one for eyeshadow and lip colour – that clip together.
The new Custom Collection from Real Techniques, £11.99, features retractable bristles so you can choose the length and thus the density of your brush, giving you three brushes in one. So, at maximum extension, the Custom Contour Brush has a fluffy head which, when used with bronzer, will give an all-over glow. But retracted, it gives a tightly packed brush head that’s perfect for defining the hollows of cheekbones.
Beauty minimalism means everybody wins. Fewer products that do more, mean it’s better for the environment, better for your peace of mind and better for your wallet.