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January 7, 2019

I Went on a Skincare Diet & Cut Down My Routine to 3 Steps — Here’s What Happened

When you’re a K-beauty influencer (and self-professed sheet mask hoarder) whose life is practically all about testing and reviewing beauty products for a living, how do you manage when you put yourself on a strict skincare diet of a measly three steps? Editor Sheryll took on the challenge for a month, and here’s what happened.


We all know that I am a Korean skincare addict. Like literally the other day someone asked me for my favorite non-Korean beauty products and I could only think of two. I am all about that multi-step, gimme-all-the-skincare-products life.


Except I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you. For the past month or so, I’ve drastically cut down on my skincare routine. How drastic you ask?


Well, sometimes in the morning, I wash my face and apply moisturizer and sunscreen.


That’s it. And sometimes at night, I simply wash my face, use my Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask, and go to bed.


I’m sure you’re wondering what has caused this madness. Did I temporarily go insane? Did I get replaced by a clone? AM I A RUSSIAN BOT? But I can assure you it’s none of these things. I just decided to go on a skincare diet.


skincare diet
istock/Lin Shao-hua


Yes, a skincare diet. This isn’t some weird thing I made up in my head; rather, I was inspired by an article I saw detailing how men and women in Seoul are paring back both their skincare routines and their product ingredient lists. Instead of the heavily publicized 10-step routine we’ve all come to know and love, people are stripping away all the serums and essences and *gasp* chemical exfoliants in favor of an ultra simplistic routine, typically with products made with very simple ingredient lists. Think, a 3-step COSRX routine (this is actually a mood, tbh).


Followers of the skincare diet believe that by minimizing the steps in your routine, you decrease your risk for skin irritation. I mean, it makes sense. The less product you put on your face + the less ingredients these products have = less potential harmful ingredients, which in turn = better skin. And since I recently discovered that I’d been damaging by skin by over-exfoliating (sob), I figured there was no better time to see if a skincare diet would work for me.


skincare diet
istock/Lin Shao-hua


So I set up a challenge for myself: I would participate in the skincare diet with the following stipulations:


1. Sunscreen is a constant. Can’t skip that.


2. Chemical exfoliating only once a week. Doesn’t count as a step.


3. Sheet masks count as a step.


4. Oil cleansing does not count as a step, especially when makeup is involved.


5. Two weeks was the minimum, but I’d continue if I saw good results.


6. Multiple layers of one product count as one step.


7. I could switch out products whenever, but still had to adhere to the 2- to 4-step limit.


And with that, I started my journey. I really thought that this would all be a big joke because really, I have very finicky skin. Like I will break out if I eat an extra Pop-Tart or something. And honestly, a skincare diet sounds like something a French girl with already perfect skin would do. You know, the ones who claim they don’t wash their face and they use coconut oil to moisturize their skin. Yeah. But, girl, I have acne-prone, oily-combo skin and a lot of PIH. I need all the help I can get, OK! Needless to say, I was up for the challenge.


skincare diet
istock/Lin Shao-hua


As of today, I’ve been on a skincare diet for about a month. And I am WAY beyond pleasantly surprised. I dare say I am ecstatic at my results. My routine has been going a bit like this:


AM Routine


1. Wash face with Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

2. Slather my face in the Pureforet Centella Multi Lotion

3. Sunscreen


DASSIT. Sometimes if I’m feeling a lil’ cheeky I’ll spray the SanDaWha Whitening Camellia Oil Mist.


skincare diet
istock/Lin Shao-hua


PM Routine


1. Oil cleanse with the Koelcia Lime Coke Oil Cleanser (doesn’t count as a step)

2. Wash face with Su:m37 Rose Cleansing Stick

3. Slather on 3-5 layers of the Pureforet Centella Toner

4. Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask


skincare diet
istock/Lin Shao-hua


Sometimes if I feel like I want to relax, I’ll switch out the toner for a sheet mask. But really, just three steps (since oil cleanser doesn’t count). My skin honestly hasn’t felt this good in a very long time. I’ve had minimal breakouts. My PIH is slowly fading. My skin is very soft and smooth to the touch. AND there’s no like … stress over my skincare routine. Yes, my skincare routine is my decompression time, but I have a LOT of products, and by streamlining my routine I didn’t have to really think about anything and what to use or try. It was kind of refreshing!


I don’t think adhering to a skincare diet for the long-term is something for me, though. I’d like to add in a vitamin C serum at night, and now that the weather is getting chillier, I’m gonna need some extra steps to make sure my skin stays hydrated. But it was a really good lesson that sometimes taking a step back and bringing things back to basics is a really good thing, for both my skin and my mind.


Have you ever gone on a skincare diet? How many steps and products are in your current routine? Let me know in the comments!



Sheryll Donerson got her start as a beauty writer by writing K-beauty reviews for her blog, The Wanderlust Project. These days, she's lifting heavy weights, eating tacos, drinking (too much) coffee and is 1/4 of the beauty podcast, Beauty Beyond Basics (or Triple Bees for short). You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @sheryllrenata.




I'm (lazy) more of a basic person. So even having a variety of products, I don't use a lot every day, specially because I live in a hot country and want to fell fresh.
On the day I basically wear sunscreen and hydrating lipsticks (or lipbalms), so at night I wash my face with a proper bar soap and a foam soap. After that I choose an essence or toner and then a cream and a lipbalm. When it's colder I tend to put on both toner and essence, and use a heavier cream.
Exfoliation, mask sheets and night masks - whenever... Read more


I sooo wish I could get away with just toner and cream. That was basically my routine in my 20s, but now I need an arsenal to try and age gracefully lol!


I've been considering cutting back on my products to see the results. My only qualm is I have SO MUCH STUFF open right now that I do enjoy using, so I'd hate to see it go bad, you know? I might finish up a few more products and give it a try.

I can also see a diet routine working if you have a preference for high end products...I wish I was rich enough to afford a routine entirely comprised of Sulwhasoo!


I'm in the same boat @jacmakeup. That's why I always try to finish a product before opening a new one, but then it just takes so long and my hoard begins to pile up haha. I think I have a fear of running out of anything!

Right now I'm trying to use less loved stuff on my neck and the back of my hands to get through it all. I really do need to start taking care of my neglected neck and hands!


It's always hilarious when it gets to the point where a product feels never ending, so I use extra on the back of my neck, full decolletage, hands...


Oh I feel you! I just got rid of a bunch of stuff during my annual clean-out..I felt so bad! I'm going to make it a priority to not open things until I'm ready to commit...hahaha!


I'm really trying to stick to "one out one in", even with minis. I'm going to try and work through my stash of products before I buy more...but no promises, there's gonna be a shiny new thing that will come along that I will want to try, I'm sure.

I've done this since mid November and it was AMAZING for my skin! I've recently increased the number of steps but DAMN using a 4-5 step routine that was mainly hydrating layers was so good for my skin! I also cut out actives because I was trying to help my moisture barrier recover but now that I am in a place I can re-add them, it is so refreshing to do them just once a week.
My fav multitasker, short routine products are: Sulwhasoo overnight vitalizing mask (because hello, what more could you want in a night cream), SanDaWha Lipsome Skin... Read more


I've cut down on my steps in the AM, and it actually really helped my makeup go on better and not to slide off by midday. When I feel like I need a heavier moisturizer, the Sulwhasoo Hydro-aid UV fluid has been amazing for keeping my increasingly dry cheeks feel comfortable all day.

I've been curious about the A'Pieu Cica Gel. Is it moisturizing enough for winter you think @beautyandthebookn3rd?


I am super curious about this Sulwhasoi Hydro-Aid UV fluid. Is it a sunscreen too?!


It's definitely a sunscreen, but it's super moisturizing and yet no white cast at all. I could never use it in the summer when I get super oily, but for winter and on my dry cheeks, it's amazing. It totally feels like a really rich lotion. (And the bottle is so cute!)


this whole routine is a mood.