How to Have An Effective Beauty Routine Without A Trillion Products (For Real)

March 16, 2017

In the past five or so years, the beauty industry has exploded. YouTubers and celebrity makeup artists alike often recommend multiple products to achieve the perfect base—and that’s before we move on to eyebrow stuff. Markets once considered niche—like natural beauty and Korean skincare products–now cater to the mainstream. Flip through any traditional women’s magazine, and you’ll probably find indications that we should be obsessed with makeup *and* skincare.

How To Have The Most Effective Beauty Routine Without A Trillion Products

As a beauty writer, I find this buzzing market leaves me with no shortage of topics, and I can be pleasantly lead down a number of minute but seemingly essential research questions—which form of vitamin C is the most effective and the most stable? Does my SPF foundation really provide enough coverage—or must I grease up with a layer of sunscreen?!

As a beauty lover and consumer, however, I get easily overwhelmed. There are simply too many choices and too many celeb/blogger (guilty!)/professional endorsements to keep straight. Despite this abundance of choices, we rarely know that a product will actually work for us until we’ve invested in it and spent time using it. Meanwhile, the latest issue of Marie Claire arrives on our doorsteps, featuring yet another must-have product we’re probably missing out on.  Whether it’s a $50 cult eyeshadow palette, a best-selling lip kit, or the latest change-your-life night serum, there’s always something!

Most of us don’t want to spend oodles on beauty every month. Not only do we have to pay rent, more and more of us are conscious of the waste produced by everyday purchases, and we’d like to minimize as much of that as possible, which makes taking a gamble on a product we may not even like seem all the riskier.


At the end of the day, though, I still believe beauty should and can be fun. For those of us who can afford the luxury of a beloved lipstick or our desert-island moisturizer, beauty can be about self-care and self-expression.

To this end, I’ve considered the following ways to engage in the ever-exciting-yet-overstimulating beauty market while keeping your sanity and maintaining a simple beauty routine that actually works for you.

Choose your trends carefully. Not every trend looks good on everyone. For example, I knew mauve, matte lips would make me look partially dead, so I was glad to skip that trend and stick to more flattering, dewy lips. Ultimately, you’ll want to stick to the “classics”—as you define them—if you’re looking to save money and waste.

Research products and ingredients. Before jumping on the latest skincare product, do some research on it and the active ingredients. When in doubt, stick to tried-and-true ingredients like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, AHAs and BHA, and non-comedogenic face oils. Many of these staple ingredients also multi-task. For example, vitamin C is anti-aging and skin-brightening, so it can help you tackle two issues at once. 

Why Hyaluronic Acid Is a Secret Weapon for All Skin Types

Hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in skin, and a healthy supply helps keep skin healthy and supple.

Read reviews from real people. When you’re shopping online, try to find a site that sells the product in question and features both positive and negative reviews. (Sometimes it seems like brand websites only post the five-star reviews!) Sephora is just one example of an online store that features pages and pages of reviews for a particular product. While you’re at it, focus on the reviews that give a little background information, and don’t lend too much weight to a review that simply says “love it!” or “hate it!”

Remember what works for you. Whether it’s a brand, an ingredient, or a color, there are beauty staples that just work for you. So if you’ve found, say, the eyeshadow palette the emphasizes your eyes *just right,* don’t let advertisements or beautiful displays make you feel pressured to try a palette you’re just not so sure about.

Get samples or travel-size portions when you want to try something new. If there’s a product you’re really interested in, but you’re not sure you’re ready to fully commit, see if you can get a sample or a travel-sized container (especially if said container is reusable and TSA-friendly!). Again, this technique is best for products we’re actually thinking about buying. We don’t want random samples cluttering up the bathroom! Not to mention, our complexions probably don’t appreciate crazy skincare cocktails made from a dozen different products.

Remember that packaging does not equal performance. This one is hard for me because I’m so aesthetically driven, but even I have to admit that sometimes the products in modest packaging with modest price tags are the best! Instead of thinking of the beauty product, think of the final product—how it will look/perform on you!

Consider why you’re shopping. I used to make beauty purchases when I felt less than whole or somehow unworthy of xyz in my life. This is *not* the time to go shopping. Yoga, journalling, time with friends—anything is better than shopping when you feel this way! I usually ended up with over-priced impulse buys that didn’t do a lot to serve me in the long run. Now, I only let myself beauty shop when I have a goal in mind—like, I need to replace my crusty mascara, or I’m looking for a vitamin C serum that’s also moisturizing, etc. No more of that I feel existentially gross…Ulta is obviously the answer. 😉

What are your tips for curating a simple and effective beauty arsenal?

Related: Is Your Green Beauty Habit Actually A Fast Beauty Addiction?

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Photo: Pexels, Mary Hood Luttrell

Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.


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