Minimalist Beauty: A Story about How I Broke up with my Makeup Addiction

via Unsplash

When I was abut 15 or 16, my mom brought me with her to a Shiseido counter. She was buying her usual Benefiance face cleanser that came in a pretty, pearly nude squeeze bottle with a matching cap. The lady at the counter wore a thick layer of powdery foundation and super-red lipstick. As she rang up my mom’s purchase, she asked her if I needed anything.

“You need to learn how to start taking care of your skin,” she told me. My mother nodded in agreement. Apparently, I was at that age.

More accurately, I was at an age where I was eager to prove to my mother that I was able to take care of myself. In my naive adolescent mind, doing my own makeup was like showing the world that I could do adult stuff. How exciting. The saleslady, happy to have a new customer, explained to me that I had “oily” skin, so I would need a foundation that was specially formulated for oily skin, and that it was so very important for me to protect my skin with SPF and moisturize it every day (and night…for the uninformed, they do make “night cream”) to prevent wrinkles. She sold me my very first bottle of (read: expensive) foundation, and it marked the beginning of me starting to care about how I looked.

Beautiful people tend to be more successful in just about every area of life and are even perceived that way even if they are not (self-fulfilling prophecy, of course). In South Korea, plastic surgery is given as gifts to girls on their birthdays, and is even celebrated as part of the culture. Luckily, as someone who is not a natural showstopping model (read: average), I grew up surrounded by family and friends who prize authenticity and was never told that I had to change my face to be accepted by society or even wear makeup to look pretty (thanks Mom, for always telling me that I am beautiful whenever I question myself). I was lucky that my first boyfriend was also never enthusiastic about me wearing makeup. Still, like so many other teenage girls, I grew to see my face as forever flawed and that it needed a daily dose of meticulously-applied beauty products for me to be pretty.

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Minimalist Hair Care Routine

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What is “minimalist hair?” For some, it may mean shaving it all off, getting a buzzcut, or letting it do its thing. For me, it means creating a routine that makes taking care of your hair in an easy, quick, and healthy way while still looking neat and put together. Hair care for a minimalist is simple and does not have to involve cutting all of it off.

(of course, if hair styling is one of your favorite hobbies and brings you rich pleasure and fulfillment…have at it!)

I used to fuss endlessly over my hair. Growing up, I would wash my hair every day with Pantene Pro V, Nexxus, Matrix…you name it. I would blow dry it on high heat, spray it with heat protectant, iron it with a straightener or curler, spray some oil on it, and go about my day. I permed it stick straight every 2-3 years, each perm costing $100-$300. Straight perms reduce the need to style hair – my hair was so straight that it hardly needed brushing. Yet I continued to trim it, bathe it in expensive shampoos that stripped my hair of its natural oils, and blow dry it. I was so versed in hair care that when I was in college, I was the resident hair-stylist among my closest friends when formal events came around. I even knew how to create ringlets with a BaByliss Pro straightener.

When I graduated college and had fewer reasons to dress formally, occasions that prompted me to style my hair and transform my look were greatly reduced. I now realize that overprocessing my hair was a sign that I was never satisfied with my hair – there were too many things I had to do to make it look “nice” to me. Never mind what other people thought – I doubt anyone notices it from one day to the next, and as long as I’m presentable, who really cares?

I stumbled upon Alex Raye’s “Almost Exactly Blog” while researching homemade hair solutions and started following her advice on how to treat my hair like royalty. It has been over a year since I stopped blow-drying my hair, brushing my hair with nylon bristles, straightening/curling my hair with hot irons, perming my hair, layering my hair, and using silicone- and sulfate-based hair products (shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays, gels, etc.). Simplifying my hair routine has saved me a lot of time and money, but more importantly, it saved my hair from a lifetime of distress. When I stopped overprocessing my hair, some magical things happened:

  • It now takes several days for my hair to get noticeably greasy. It definitely got very greasy for a few weeks of not washing as often, but my scalp adjusted its oil production accordingly
  • I don’t have to buy shampoo as often – $$$ saved!
  • My hair is softer, shinier, and less frizzy
  • I’m not losing as many hairs
  • I don’t worry about my hair as much – I’ve accepted its naturally wavy look and I’ve grown to appreciate it in its natural state
  • It takes me less time to get ready in the mornings

I now own only a few things for my hair:

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  • A small hair wrap to pull my hair back when I’m washing my face (Muji hair turban)
  • “low ‘poo” shampoo (I use Shea Moisture– can be found at Target, CVS, Walgreens…)
  • “low ‘poo” conditioner (I use Shea Moisture – can be found at Target, CVS, Walgreens…or you can even use coconut oil!)
  • Boar bristle brush (I splurged on a Mason Pearson pocket boar bristle brush, but an authentic Bass 100% boar bristle brush from Whole Foods does the job too)
  • Plastic wide-tooth comb (any drugstore brand will do; avoid bamboo combs because they don’t hold up well)
  • Hair ties

I trim my hair at my favorite budget barber every few months to clean up the split ends, brush it gently when the oil needs to be redistributed, and wash it every 3-4 days, letting it air dry every time – in fact, I recently decluttered my hair dryer because I hadn’t touched it in over a year. I keep my hair long, but not too long or it will take forever to dry. I don’t layer it so that braiding my hair will be easy and lengths don’t stick out everywhere.

As a result, my hair has never looked or felt healthier than it does today. It feels light because it is not coated in residues from hair product. It has become one less thing for me to worry about. Fancy that!