Living Below Our Means: Simplify

A valuable lesson I learned from using up what I have is simplifying my routines. It's a no brainer. Less product = less money spent to buy products = less time to get ready = less waste. First, let's assess the situation.

As it turned out, skincare is not only my sore point of product accumulation. Haircare products are also piling up!! Notice this particularly crowded area of the cabinet.

My hair is shoulder-length and I occasionally style it. At the very least, I blow dry it straight every 2-3 days or so. Do I really need this much product? Many of them are already sample/travel size (in fact, almost all of them are), I have yet to use any of them up since at least a year.

So, here's the process that I went through to weed out unnecessary products, which are often disguised as must-haves.

First I grouped these products in terms of their functions.

As you can see, some of the products such as the Spice Sister Wax or Living Proof Styler can multitask. Right there and then, I can already spot some potential items to keep.

In the thickening group, I thought of the differences between these three products. Well, the Bumble and Bumble is used when the hair is damp, but it gives somewhat tacky finish. Ditto with Kevin Murphy, this one gives even more thickening power. I found that Percy & Reed Bodifying Cream gives the best of both worlds: thickening yet not too tacky. So this is the one that I keep.

The redundancy in the heat protector group is massive! Most of them are a variation of leave-in conditioner with perhaps some added benefit like tacky/grippy finish, glossy finish, etc. Kerastase Nectar Thermique is bar none the best product I've tried that gives my hair a silky smooth, glossy finish, whereas the Spice Sister Wax actually doubles as curl enhancer. So I keep these two.

In the texturizing group, the Spice Sister is already in (surviving the previous elimination). I use Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and blowpro faux dry to give some grip to next-day hair, in case I want to braid or do the bun. The Oribe, although nice-smelling and really works, is honestly too overpriced (and overhyped) for the function; whereas blowpro sounds like a good overall texturizer/dry shampoo-in-one (did I mention that blowpro is unscented, too?). 

In the end, I kept only four: Percy & Reed Bodifying Cream, Kerastase Nectar Thermique, Spice Sister Wax and blowpro. 

... aah.. they do spark joy!
I used up the rest of the products and won't repurchase them anymore in the future (well.. except maybe for the Oribe if I run out of the blowpro).

Other examples of simplification that I've used for skin care:
  • Core routine of acid toner + retinol/retinoids + sunscreen.
    Inevitably, moisturizer and anti-oxidants will have sneaked in as vehicle of one of these, eliminating the need for separate moisturizer all together.
  • Nice-to-haves are non-foaming cleanser and serum.
    I think I'm done with expensive cleanser or cleanser obsession of sort. My goal is to use less commercial cleanser in lieu of bulk common products. For example, I've been using coconut oil with great result as makeup remover/first cleanse (I have dry skin -- probably not for those with oily or combo skin, unless you double cleanse and rinse using cloth). I also grew fond of cleansing with clay (just simply mix a bit water with clay as second cleanse or morning cleanse). Both coconut oil and clay can be bought in bulk for not much money at all.
    Serum is no longer a must-have for me as many of the formulation of good products would have already contained some antioxidants, humectants, etc. A serum worth buying for me would be something that has a good concentration of vitamin C (with appropriate pH) with loads of antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, in a packaging that protect the potency of the product.
  • Splurges would be facial oils for massage and masks.
  • Doing away with cotton buds/pads and switched to all cloth.
    I found cloth to be superior to disposable cotton in terms of cleaning surface (it is gentle and cleans well at the same time) and product absorption (I use so much less product because the cloth retain products so well than the product-waster, thirsty cotton pads). Sadly, I saw reusable cloth rounds sold for ridiculously expensive price, which makes me think of opening up my own business of sewing cloth pads and muslins.
... and here are a list of skincare items that I do not need:
  • Eye cream
  • Foaming cleanser
  • Facial mist, essence, etc.
  • Mechanical exfoliant
  • Lip scrub, mask, treatment, cleanser whatever (a dab of lanolin will do it all)
  • Cleansing device (Clarisonic, Foreo, etc.)
  • Cleansing wipe (actually, I do still use it for the Tod, but we keep these in the car)
  • Primer of any kind

Finally, I must admit that these products still have utility in my makeup cabinet:

  • Dual-phasic eye makeup remover, for those stubborn waterproof mascara
  • Cleansing oil (the kind that has petrolatum in it)
    As much as I want my coconut oil to dissolve all my makeup, I found cleansing oil is particularly effective in dissolving high-silicone content base products (including sunscreen). With that said, I have not replaced the gigantic Shu Uemura bottle that I finished this summer and have not missed it since.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
    For sanitizing and cleaning makeup tools like eyelash curler, to other general use. I always keep a big bottle.

For more inspiration, check out this post from Monika or for those who like to shoot for the stars, check out the Zero Waste Home. Using less products = producing less waste of packaging.

How do you make your decision to simplify your routine?


  1. Claire, I think you did amazingly well! I can see a big improvement not just in the hair products, but also the rest of your cabinet! It's beautiful :) I still need to work on further simplifying my routine, and your points on using coconut oil and clay for cleansing are definitely food for thought. I think ideally, I would also like to have a much shorter skincare routine, but I haven't found those perfect multi-tasking products yet; for example, when I use a matte finish sunscreen (which I prefer as my T-Zone gets very oily), I feel that I need to use a hydrating serum underneath, because otherwise my face feels too tight and dry. I don't know - I'm actually experimenting with a whole new routine right now, which is much simpler than my usual, and I'll see how it goes.

    Please do a separate post on reusable cotton cloth you use instead of cotton pads! I've never heard about that.

    1. Thanks, Monika. I think the timing of your post (multi-use product) couldn't be better! I have been thinking about multi-use product for sometime now, especially when I have decided to use up what I have first. And I think skincare is tricky in that one solution does not fit all (depending on skin type, time of the year, etc.) Finding product that works every time alone is already tricky, much less paring down!

      The "progress" has been slow going for me, but it goes to show that I started with LOTS of products. I mean lots. I still have not bought any skincare items since the beginning of the year (except sunscreen) -- it really gets me thinking about what I actually chose to spend money on.

      I'll try to do a blub on reusable cotton cloth for makeup remover/face cleansing. It is v. simple to make, so simple that it is a sin (I think) to have to charge $20+ for it (like SWB does). They are just rounds/squares that I cut up from fabrics. I use remnants from the cloth diapers that I sew for the Tod long time ago, but these are now widely available on online fabric stores (and for very reasonable price).

  2. Such a big difference in between these two - I am also working on using up my stash so it becomes manageable for me, but I have not been as organised or as ruthless as you and know I wish I was! I am currently focusing on a nail polish purge but I think blushes might be next, skincare needs to be looked into very soon though...

    1. Thanks for stopping by and your comment! I think I must watch my tenor in that organizing/ruthlessness is not the point of my post (although I thank for the generous compliment). It is about sharing what works for me and how I do it. I must agree, using up stash is not easy, and I think it only works when I do not purchase more stuff, as simple as that.