“I would love to take better care of my skin, but I just don’t have the time.”
I’ve heard that sentence, and its many variations, more times than I can count. It’s usually said wistfully, and it’s usually bookended by questions about my routine: how many products I use, how long it takes me to apply them every day. The subtext being, of course, that in a busy life, skincare is a low priority, and low priority tasks must go.
I’m not here to argue about what priority skincare deserves in anyone else’s life. Skincare is my passion and writing about it is my job, so my perspective is skewed. What I’m here to talk about are ways that you can fit skincare into your busy life if you wish you could assign it higher priority than you do. You’re here reading this, so I assume that’s something you want!
The most important thing to understand is that even a multi-step skincare routine doesn’t have to take much time out of your day at all. The misconception, I think, lies in typical skincare routine imagery. Beauty sites and big Instagram accounts love displaying gleaming trays of bottles and jars, elegantly arranged atop a marble bathroom countertop or a warmly sunlit vanity table. It’s so #aspirational, so #lifestyle.
As fetching as that #aspirational imagery is, it’s also intimidating. It suggests that to do a skincare routine, you need to be parked in one place for however long it takes. Just sitting there at your fancy vanity or in your fancy, shiny bathroom, patting, patting, patting.
Sitting there patting products in has little place in a typically busy life. It’s also completely unnecessary.
The most helpful beauty tool I’ve ever picked up hasn’t been any particular sponge or puff or brush or spatula. My top beauty tool of all time is the basket I use to hold my daily skincare products. My basket travels with me wherever I go in my home, and that means I can do my routine at my desk while answering emails or writing up new material, on the sofa while watching a movie or catching up with my family, or even in bed while winding down at the end of the night. My basket lets me physically fit my routine in wherever I am.
The second most important thing to understand is that even in an eight- or 10- or 12-step routine, like the ones I often do at night, the actual actively-doing-stuff-to-your-face time doesn’t add up to much at all. Cumulatively, physically applying product to my skin might take five or 10 minutes total. Makeup removal and cleansing add a few more minutes, but those minutes more properly count as hygiene tasks, like showering or brushing your teeth. Even on the busiest days, we don’t skimp on brushing our teeth; facial cleansing belongs in the same category.
The parts of a skincare routine that could be considered “time-consuming” are the wait times. Waiting for moisturizer to dry before applying sunscreen, waiting for sunscreen to dry before applying makeup or leaving the house, waiting for actives to absorb or for a sheet mask to do its job in the evening. It’s true that those wait times can add up. But those wait times don’t require you to be chained to any particular location in your house, either. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you may find that reclaiming those wait times for other tasks can make you more productive than before! Wait times pass faster when you have something to do while waiting, after all.
With all that being said, here’s exactly how I fit my skincare routines in on a normal day.
For reference, I work at home, splitting my time between my duties as W2Beauty Editor at Large and the work I do on my own blog and Instagram — product testing, research, note-taking, writing, photography (such as it is), and administrative chores like the ones my friend Tracy described over at the Fanserviced-B beauty blog. I’m also the stay-at-home parent of a 6-year-old. Childcare, mealtimes, and most daily housekeeping chores fall to me on most days, since my other half, Lord Fiddy, works outside the home. During the school year, I’m also usually the one to take Small Fiddy to school.
Wake up. Chug some water or a Coca-Cola (I’m an addict, but I have cut back!). Brush teeth and wash face. Moisturize. Then, while moisturizer is sinking in — anytime from 5-15 minutes, depending on what product I’ve used — get the child brushed and dressed. After applying sunscreen, I’ll have 15-30 minutes wait time. I use that to get breakfast into my son and to do some general email checking and Internet surfing. Then it’s on to makeup, if desired, and the rest of the day!
There’s more variation in my evenings because I start my routine after Boy has gone to bed. I also take my routine at a much more relaxed pace, since I often use it as a way of decompressing and getting myself into a bedtime mindset. Also, it’s important to note that I shower at night rather than in the morning. This makes oil cleansing a breeze.
When I’m ready to start, I turn on the shower and remove makeup while the water is heating up. If I’ve gone light on makeup and sunscreen, I might just do a few swipes of cleansing water on a cotton pad, but on most days, I opt for a cleansing oil or balm. I jump in the shower and immediately emulsify and rinse, then carry on with the rest of my shower, using my foaming cleanser at the end.
After shower, the basket comes out. Again, I’m not pressed for time in the evening, so I can proceed with a number of products at a leisurely pace. I might layer on my essences and serums at the computer if I’m still working, or take them to the sofa or bed if I’m not. The critical thing to note here is that I’m never just sitting there applying products and waiting for my turn to apply the next. No matter how many products I’m using, I fit them around whatever else I’m doing — they take only the most negligible amount of time out of my evening.
Some things I like doing during evening wait times, especially sheet mask wait times:
Before I know it, my evening skincare routine is done, and so are whatever little jobs I need to finish in order to keep my work, life, and home running (more or less) smoothly. I never feel like I’ve sacrificed anything for my skincare, and I don’t feel like I need to sacrifice skincare to keep up with my life. And if I need to skip or shorten an evening routine because I’ve gone out or am otherwise occupied, it’s OK. One routine missed won’t hurt anything; it’s nothing to worry about.
Ultimately, that’s what I want to make clear: Skincare doesn’t have to replace anything else in your busy day. It’s easier than it might seem to work it around the rest of your life, and it doesn’t have to be a rigid, unchanging regimen. Be flexible!
Of course, I’m describing the way I structure my days — I understand that if yours are different from mine, then figuring out how to slot your desired skincare routine in around your particular duties and pursuits will take some effort at the beginning. You may be wondering, why bother? If you don’t have any pressing skin issues to address, all this might seem pointless.
As with any specific skincare product or practice, your experience may be different from mine, but speaking from my own experience, consistently incorporating skincare into my daily life has produced results far beyond the merely cosmetic.
A couple of years ago, I wrote in detail about my struggles with depression and how my skincare routine helps me through challenging times. In brief, the visible improvements I see from my routine gave me a sense of positive change and accomplishment. The pleasure I get from my routine also helps me hoist myself out of bed and into the bathroom in the mornings. Everything else in my day feels a little easier once I get past that first hurdle. And in the evenings, my slower routine helps me relax, rebalance myself, and remember that I, too, need care and attention.
I am much better these days, but my daily skincare routines continue to benefit my mental health and outlook on life and on myself. To put it simply, when I’ve been taking care of myself and feel I look my best as a result, I become more active and more productive in all areas. The confidence boost I get from being in good condition physically — skin included — helps me be at my best mentally. I’m more likely to push out of my comfort zone and engage with my world and people around me, and I’m more likely to push myself professionally, take risks, and move forward. It’s a snowball effect that comes from that initial first push of washing my face and patting on some serums. It’s absolutely worth the very minimal time and effort that I initially put in.
Skincare doesn’t have to be a drain on your time and energy. When you find ways to fit it into your life, you can come a little closer to having it all. And isn’t that the goal we’re all chasing in our own ways?
How are you a Woman Wonder in your own life? Please share with us!