The Argument for Doing Nothing to Your Skin

Sometimes less is more.

By Jenn Rose Smith

“Just leave it alone!” is the ancient wisdom passed from mother-to-daughter when it comes to breakouts, but we all know that it’s easier said than done. We talk a lot about skincare in the office, and I’ll never forget the shock on Camille and Chanel’s faces when I told them that I only use water to wash my face every day. I’ve been a big believer in just letting my skin “do it’s own thing” for a long time — but it always felt almost irresponsible, or against popular opinion at the very least. That’s why I was so excited when Camille told me about The Skin Cleanse, a book she recently read (and loved) that makes the argument for doing less to your skin.

I sat down with author Adina Grigore to talk about her research and discoveries in the field of skincare, and why she believes harsh topical products shouldn’t be our first line defense against skin problems.

Adina is also the founder of S.W. Basics, a line of wholistic and gentle skincare products made with fewer and simpler ingredients for your best skin ever. “I studied holistic nutrition and worked as a certified personal trainer,” says Adina about the path that led her to a career in skincare. “My only experience with skincare was as a frustrated consumer with sensitive skin. I knew a lot about food from nutrition school, and transferred that knowledge into skincare. That’s one of the reasons all of our formulas are so simple, they’re more like recipes. They use kitchen cabinet ingredients, and they’re easy to DIY. That all stems from my background—a lack of experience!” Scroll on to discover Adina’s insight into why doing less to your skin just might be the answer you’ve been searching for.

featured image from stella mccartney

image from nevsmodels

Camille’s a big fan of your book, The Skin Cleanse. What inspired you to write your book and what’s the message you want to send women?

It started with my frustration and then really built momentum as I realized that not only was I not the only one, it was a huge and quickly growing population of women. Over and over I was hearing the same story from women: “I’m so sensitive, my skin is terrible, I hate it, I’m so tired of buying products and not getting better, I’m desperate.” It’s really awful how ashamed women feel about their skin, and that they don’t realize that the absolute best way to see improvement is to simplify—to ditch all of the products they’re addicted to buying, to take care of themselves, and to stop worrying about it so much. That’s what I’m trying to teach them in the book.

image by sous style

What’s the single most common mistake you see women making when it comes to skincare?

Adding more products when their skin is in the middle of a freak out. We tend to trust products more than we trust our bodies, and we’re impatient for a symptom or a break out to go away, but your body knows what to do, and it does the best job when you don’t get in the way.

image by paula13t

You’ve talked about how we’ve become a generation of “product junkies”. Do you think the beauty industry exploits women by creating unattainable standards, then selling them the fantasy of achieving it? 

Absolutely! It’s common sense to realize that the worse we feel about ourselves the more we’ll buy things that we think will “fix” us. I think there’s this entire new layer unfolding now that’s this “you can look natural we’ll help you” which is not only totally counterintuitive but it’s the same old rhetoric—hot models that seem natural but are actually covered in makeup and severely edited. The whole thing is a sham.

image by lucy williams

What’s your stance on daily makeup? Are there negative consequences to wearing makeup every single day? Do you support the idea of ditching makeup all together? Or is it more about simplifying?

To me it’s more about simplifying, largely because I think any judgment you apply to what you’re doing now is counterproductive. If makeup makes you feel good, you should wear it. My ultimate goal is to get as many women feeling good about themselves as possible. On a skin level, daily foundation and concealer will typically clog your pores and make you break out. So cutting back is good for your skin, which in turn makes you need less makeup. And I’d never knock a saucy cat eye or red lip, but I think if you feel ugly without makeup, you should be thinking about why. It’s not an accident, and it’s not benefitting you in any way.

image by lucy williams

If you could throw one thing out of our makeup drawer, what would it be?

Primer. Kill me with that BS. Moisturize your skin and drink water. And in fact, you should probably be protecting your skin from your foundation with a bottom layer of something uber natural like olive oil, hydrosol, or your favorite clean serum. Not primer, a whole other product full of pointless chemicals.

image by colin dodgson

So we’re totally down for paring down our skincare routine, but what about literallydoing nothing to your face at all (no makeup, no soap, no moisturizer, nothing but water)? Is that something you’ve experimented with? If so what are the results?

I have! It’s amazing. It’s obviously really hard at first, typically the hardest challenge is that there is a lot of dryness in the first few days, because your skin is so used to being fed lots of moisture from your products. It needs time to learn to self-regulate. But it does! Eventually your skin is softer, more even toned, and your break outs heal faster. Hard to believe until you do it, but I have yet to hear from one person whose skin got worse from going down to just water.

image by chriselle lim

What are your thoughts on more aggressive skin smoothing trends like laser resurfacing and micro-needling?

I mean, I have zero courage and so these types of treatments turn my stomach and blow my mind. I can’t believe women don’t get more credit for being this hardcore, imagine a dude doing laser resurfacing! Life is so painful and complicated, and these trends are literally examples of that. In my perfect world, women don’t feel bad enough to go through these things, and instead spend more weekends at the beach and spa. Like, go get a massage instead.

If we could only make ONE change in our current diet to see an improvement in skin tone, what would you suggest?

It’s so boring and so cliché but that’s for a reason: you have to drink more water. We are typically dehydrated. If your lips are chapped, if you have trouble with your BM’s (or you’re not peeing all the time), if your skin is really oily or really dry, chances are you are not hydrating correctly. If you drink alcohol or live in a polluted environment (aka 99.9% of us for both of those), double the chances. Sipping water throughout the day will help your skin and everything else about your health. Don’t roll your eyes unless you have a bottle or glass of water next to you right now!

How long after making diet changes can we expect to see results in our skin? And how can you measure this change? 

Sometimes results can be overnight. If you drink a lot more water today, for example, you’ll notice your lips feel better tomorrow. Other times the absence of a food stops a symptom, and that’s a little harder to recognize until you add the food back in and the symptom comes back. I usually recommend people keep a food journal that also tracks how your skin is looking and feeling. We look in the mirror a lot but we don’t really notice change. It can be helpful to take some notes when you change your diet so that you can really recognize your level of moisture, your break outs, your skin tone.

image by free people

One thing we’re all after in this office is healthy, shiny hair. Does your skin cleanse theory translate to the shower? What types of hair care products do you use and love?

You’ve probably heard a pregnant woman say, “Prenatals made my hair look amazing!!” Healthy hair comes from your diet. Up your fruit and fat intake, and of course drinking more water will help too. In the shower, these days I use Alaffia’s black soap in my hair and that’s it. I don’t condition or brush or anything. My hair is curly and huge and that’s what I’ve been wanting for years. But it took time, and it takes a lot of work on the diet side. As for other products I love, it’s mostly about being great for a sensitive scalp while still making your hair look nice, so I really like Acure, Seaweed Bath Co., and EO.

Read Adina Grigore’s book The Skin Cleanse and shop her original line of simplistic skincare on S.W. Basics.