If there’s one thing the beauty industry is good at, it’s getting us endlessly hyped on the next big product, hot ingredient, or made-up skincare trend. Anyone who has been in the skincare game for awhile is mostly immune to the sparkly new releases and flash-in-the-pan fads, but I can’t even tell you how many newcomers I’ve seen excitedly sharing yet another cleansing balm drop or serum-in-cute-packaging launch.
I do remember being a wide-eyed, excited, and somewhat overwhelmed newbie, so I’m far from rolling my eyes or making fun of anyone who still feels that way about skincare and makeup. (Good for you! I wish I got that excited still!) However, as much as I hate to be a Debbie Downer, the one phrase I repeat ad nauseum (besides “wear sunscreen”) is “Start slow. Very slow.”
When experts and veteran skincare hobbyists tell newbies to “take it slow,” it can be vague and sometimes sound patronizing. I get that! You’re not stupid; you just don’t know what you don’t know. So when you hear “take it slow,” understand that it’s meant to be helpful.
When skincare experts tell newbies to “take it slow,” it can sometimes sound patronizing. I get that! You’re not stupid; you just don’t know what you don’t know.
In the first half of this two-part guide, I’m going to break down the “why” of taking it slow in skincare, and in the next part I’ll cover the “how.”
What “Taking It Slow” in Skincare Really Means
In essence, when we say “take it slow,” we usually mean two things.
1. The world of skincare is big, shiny, and absolutely bursting with hundreds of fun-sounding products. We all remember the “kid in a candy store” feeling of making huge hauls, only to find out that our excitement and ignorance led to a shelf full of stuff that didn’t work out. We’re trying to help newcomers curb the (totally natural) impulse to haul too big, too soon.
2. Once you dive into skincare as a hobby, it’s extremely tempting to sweep all of your current products into the trash and start fresh. This is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, so the “take it slow” mantra here means “I know you’re excited, but remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint.”
Slow and Steady is Important, and Here’s Why
First, you have to give yourself time to get familiar with your skin type, skin concerns, and ultimate goals. This requires some reading and research. As tempting as it might be to just say YOLO and grab stuff that you think will probably work, you might end up muddying the waters and making it harder to figure out what goals you should be working toward.
Second, even the best, most well-researched of us still has to deal with the trial-and-error process. Sometimes, despite our best efforts to choose a product that should work, we end up having a bad reaction. If you bought a value-sized version of a cult favorite or decided to just go ahead and order multiples for free shipping, now you’re stuck with a ton of product that you can’t use. That’s money wasted, and the aggravation of trying to offload dud products can be discouraging, especially if you have a limited budget to start with.
Third, if you change too much too fast, you’ll have no idea which products are making a difference and which aren’t. Is it the snail mucin? Is it the extra hydration? Is it a combination of niacinamide and snail mucin? This is how you end up with a bloated, joyless routine!
What Happens When You Go All In Too Fast
1. You waste money
There’s a reason that adding one product at a time is one of the basic tenets of a good routine. Most of us have a budget that we need to stick to, so impulse-buying a product, because it’s cute, trendy, or beloved on Instagram, is usually a recipe for wasted money and not getting any closer to your skin goals.
2. You exacerbate existing problems
Unless you’re the luckiest person on the planet, adding several new products or steps to your existing beauty regimen is a surefire way to end up with a disaster on your hands (and your face). Even I don’t do that, and my skin is generally pretty forgiving of new things.
Every new product you add is a gamble that your skin will be okay with it, and nobody can escape the inevitable bad reaction. When you’re first starting out, your skin is likely already not in great shape, so it will be less tolerant to experimentation.
3. You don’t get a correct impression of the new products
Say you have a bad reaction like I mentioned earlier. If you’ve added four new things, then you have no idea which one caused the problem. Conversely, if your skin responds well, then you have no idea if it’s because of a single product or the combination of multiple products.
In both cases, the only way to figure out which products are doing what is to strip back your routine and do what everyone advised in the first place, which is “go slow.”
Wading Through the Noise: Tips For Finding Helpful Advice
I hear you shouting at me that you get it already! Slow is best.
This brings me to the final part of this article: sifting through the endless information.
There are so many beauty bloggers, e-zines, and wellness sites that you could literally spend days trying to sort through all of the well-meaning advice and recommendations. If you visit popular sites like r/SkincareAddiction or r/AsianBeauty, it’s easy to fall down the information rabbit hole and end up so overwhelmed that you don’t ever take the first step towards better skin.
My advice is to start small. You need to know your skin type, your skin concerns, and your overall beauty goals. Focus on finding that information first. That will give you a better idea of which types of products you might be missing in your routine, and you can do specific searches for skincare that fits into those categories and also appears to suit your skin type.
If you find a blogger who has similar skin, don’t be afraid to scour their blog for recommendations and follow them on social media! I’ve gotten several of my best recommendations that way.
Overall though, the one thing I want you to remember is that skincare shouldn’t be stressful! You don’t have to use the scientific method while building your routine or spend hours researching everything you might want to buy.
Taking it slow in skincare also means taking time to try a fun sheet mask, buy a mist because the packaging is cute, or take a chance on something that sparks your interest. We might be grizzled, slightly jaded skincare veterans, but we all originally jumped into this world because it was fun and exciting (and obviously to be ageless kings and queens), so be cautious, but have fun!