Stop falling for expensive skincare products. You only need 3 ingredients.

With interest and happiness I watch many people pay increasing attention to the ideas of wasting less food, eating more organic produce and consuming less meat.

However, it seems odd that many people have not changed their attitudes as quickly when it concerns beauty products (as well as cleaning products, but that’s a subject for another time). It is true that the better you eat, the better your whole appearance will likely become, but it seems to me that this is no reason to continue polluting your skin with chemicals, while looking after yourself on the inside.

And so, I feel it is time to tell a short story and what it taught me about skincare. As a result, I‘ve gone from being close-to addicted to ridiculously pricey skincare products, to now only using only three natural ingredients. Always.

How I grew up viewing commercial skincare products

I was born in the 1980s. It was a time when humanity residing in the developed world had solved most of its problems related to feeding the population. We were concerned, as humanity had been for many millennia, about how we looked… yet now we were becoming good at mass producing, selling and consuming the goods that many of us regard as normal to be spreading over our skin in vast quantities.

The challenge: achieving that perfect glow. Credit: Olga Pavlovsky.

Ask me when it was that I started believing it was normal to be buying “facial wash” specifically for the face, and “hand creme” specifically for use on hands, and I could not tell you. The reality is that these are the things that surrounded me and what everyone seemed to be using. Like many people, I did not give it further thought and followed the trends — buying shampoo in bottles, shower gel in bottles and perfumed moisturisers.

Teenage years

Like most teenagers, I went through that nasty battle with spots and coming to terms with having a T-zone. Thinking back, a significant amount of my pocket money then was spent on products that claimed to make the dreaded symptoms of puberty disappear — facial washes (that I now realise stripped the skin of the oils that were trying to bring everything under control), moisturisers (that claimed to be replacing the oil I had stripped off with better stuff, but actually just clogged the pores with junk) and toners (which were trying to make the pores appear smaller so that the effects of the other two chemicals were less apparent).

And so on it went. The more products I used, the more were required to keep “consistency”. Of course, my mum did tell me it was all a trap, but she used commercial skincare products herself, so I did not change my behaviour further than perhaps applying products a little less frequently.

At that point, it did not occur to me that the entire approach needed a rethink.

Early 20s

I was lucky in my early 20s to land a job that paid well, straight out of university. It was stressful and the hours were long. It took its toll on me and, hence, my skin which looked increasingly bland and tired.

City life quickly turned me into an avid consumer of commercial skincare products in an attempt to make myself look better on the outside. Able to afford relatively expensive brands at that time, Clinique soon became my favourite — ironically enough, because it is branded to look like it’s been so thoroughly researched in the lab it can claim to be truly good for you.

After about one year of earning good money and spending it at an almost equal rate, I surveyed where it was all going. Turns out my Clinique habit was costing me over £200 a month! That may sound like a lot, but it only just keeps you stocked up on about four or five products such as cleanser, toner, moisturiser, lip balm and hand creme. On top of that, I would have been spending more on shampoo, conditioner and other things that made up my skincare regime. In reality the monthly spend would have been around £250.

Frankly: ridiculous.

The day after looking through the big stack of skincare receipts I went to a book shop and bought a basic guide on making homemade cosmetics. It cost me less that £10 and opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about what goes on your skin.

When I looked at the ingredients list of all the commercial products which were still lying around at home it made me realise the long lists were bulked out with additives that made the product feel, look or smell a certain way, rather than actually provide a real benefit. What’s more, knowing how cheap it could be to create homemade products, I now had black and white evidence in front of me that these products were a rip off.

The change

In those days, I didn’t do anything by halves. I went and bought pretty much all the carrier and essential oils, plus floral waters, that were required for producing the skin care products I still felt were necessary to use every day. This cost about £200 in total (the same as the usual monthly budget for just four products), but provided me with hours of enjoyment spent experimenting in the kitchen making things for myself and, once perfected, for friends (and many months of utility for a number of people).

Looking back now, most of the things I bought were not essential. Yet, it led me to learn about as much as there is to know about all the possible products one can make at home, what goes well together and what doesn’t.

Applying the homemade lotions and potions felt completely different to the commercial stuff. In fact, I only felt the real difference whenever I did use commercial products for some reason — they felt so heavy, unnatural and as if it clogged every pore with a film of… something nasty. I simply could not fathom how it was even possible to have once thought they were doing me good.

As time went on, I started to notice that the scent of commercial products made me feel unwell. Synthetically perfumed soap stung my eyes. Standing close to someone with scented moisturiser made my throat clog. Passing by someone wearing commercial perfume made me splutter and cough.

The transition was complete. Now I only encounter commercial skincare products in commercials and duty free stores. Frankly, even that is too much.

These days, instead of drawing upon a haul of essential oils and exotic ingredients, I tend to prefer working with things that can usually be found around the kitchen — vegetable oils, fruit, vegetables and vinegar.

For skincare I have found that there are just three ingredients that you typically need for great skin.

The only three ingredients you need for great skin

Cleanser

Use Castile soap. That is all.

I’ve never found one better that Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap and nowadays am actually too frightened to even attempt using anything else, for it typically leads to terrible disappointment.

Moisturiser

Jojoba oil. Absolutely do not fall for the myth that you should use different cremes for your face, hands, body or feet. It’s rubbish designed to make you spend money. Jojoba oil is perfect for everything — even for helping wounds to heal and scar tissue to become less visible.

Simply buy a bottle of high quality jojoba oil. Keep it by your bathroom mirror or bedside and use it for every part of your body. It’s odourless, light and feels wonderful to apply since it is absorbed rapidly.

Toner

Distilled water, rosewater or diluted vinegar (usually people tend to use apple cider vinegar). These will work wonders in reducing the appearance of pores and balancing your complexion. What’s more, you can experiment to see which one you prefer at almost zero cost.

The result

A non-cluttered bathroom cabinet, a simple regime and no nasty chemicals.

Try it for a month. It’ll cost you no more than £20, €25 or $30 to get the very best quality castile soap, jojoba oil and floral water/vinegar, and then you’re away. If you really don’t enjoy it or genuinely feel more comfortable with your own regime, you’ve lost nothing, and I’m sure you’ll start looking at your daily skincare routine and the ingredients it consists of in a completely new way.