I Replaced My Entire Skincare Routine & It changed My Perspective on Beauty

Most people subscribe to the premise that change is scary. They go through life actively avoiding adjustments regardless of whether they are minor pivots or massive pendulum swings of change. For as long as I can remember however, I’ve remained an enigma. If I could summarize my life in a word, it would most likely be ‘nomadic’. I’ve moved around consistently, not just across city or state lines, but borders. Asia and Europe have largely been my homes for the better part of my life. Change is not scary to me, but rather a condition in which I thrive. There is one minor exception to this however, and that my friends, is skincare. 

To be honest, I didn’t even realize that I had such a fear of changing my skincare until recently. For years I continued using the same regimen because it worked and I had what could have been described as great skin. But in the last couple years my skin began to change. Dermatologists say that when our skin changes, so too should our routines. Many people get trapped in the cycle of continuing a regimen that worked several years ago, and never adapt it for the needs they have today. While my skin was clear aside from the occasional hormonal blemishes, my sebum production was never fully balanced, leaving me with excess oil on a day-to-day basis. My complexion, despite having olive skin, looked flushed with red undertones. There was something amiss and I was tired of feeling that I could never go a day without makeup.

Shortly after moving to New York City subsequent to three years in India, I decided it was time for a skincare overhaul. Aside from the obvious impact that new geography and therefore climate, pollution and lifestyle can have on your face, life is short and I had had enough of simply mediocre skin. Maybe I had watched too much Sex and the City, but when I walked down the streets of Manhattan, I wanted to feel fabulous. I was also adamant that whatever I used had to be somewhat natural and not impact the environment. Despite being beauty industry adjacent from working in fashion, my knowledge of the the beauty world was rudimentary at best. So I set out and began scouring every website I could think of. I read interviews with industry luminaries, researched all the new brands on the market, made countless trips to Sephora, Birchbox, Saks, Neiman’s, Bergodorf’s, and any other shopping complex that would have me. I began to buy everything.

I started with a series of K-beauty products from Peach & Lily. Overnight I completely changed my routine. I was all about double-cleansing, toning, and of course, the OG of K-beauty—essences. And you know what happened? I broke out everywhere. My skin, I came to realize, is highly reactionary. It was the most rookie of rookie mistakes, but I justified it to myself because I had happened to run out of the majority of my products in an unusual succession. It was time to go big or go home. But how can you tell what is making you break out when you’ve just introduced six new products into your routine at the exact same time? Truth is, you can’t. At least not in any easy, absolute terms. 

There are few things more frustrating in the world than taking a test to determine which products are “the most suitable for your skin type” to have it select the exact things that make you break out. Scouring the list of ingredients—which is far more difficult when it’s in Korean—I realised that one of the products had tea tree oil in it, possibly my skin’s worst enemy. I eliminated it, and my skin got noticeably better within the next few days but, it was still wasn’t great. It started to feel like I was removing one product to add another, playing detective to figure out which products were working and which ones were forcing flashbacks to my pre-teen skin. More reading, more research, more shopping—a word I never thought I would use in a derogatory way.  I was tired, and the saying that you never realize how good something is until it’s gone, is absolutely the truth.

About two months into my quest for perfect skin I had made progress, but the journey was far from over. They say it takes four weeks to know if a product is working or not. You can imagine my horror upon hearing that. Conversations with girlfriends of mine enlightened me to just how many women actually experience extended periods of breakouts at random, or develop adult acne after years of having clear skin. What we all agreed upon was how self-conscious it made us in the process, though I felt a pang of guilt knowing that mine was essentially self-inflicted. But I persisted knowing that once I reached the end of the road, whenever that would be, that I would have a tailored skincare routine, natural products that I knew wouldn’t cause any harm to myself or the environment, and that I would never go through the process again. 

While I set out to get perfect skin, the journey morphed into something much bigger than that—both in a frivolous way as well as a bit more noteworthy. Fashion has always been the cornerstone of my work, while maybe dabbling into lifestyle and culture. But beauty became the underdog champion of my journey. And I just so happened to walk away with skin that I finally appreciate.