K-beauty swept the world about a decade ago and with it came the normalisation of the multi-step regime: toner, lotion, essence, ampoule, serum, moisturiser, facial oil… The list goes on. Over the past year though, experts have been noticing a rise in women streamlining their beauty routines. Aptly dubbed the skincare diet, the trend sees the return to a simpler tripartite approach: toner, serum, moisturiser, done (uhm, cleansing ought to be a given.)

Socialists might attribute it to the resurgence of feminism – you know, modern, busy women have much better things to do than waste an hour or more on prettifying their faces. But as with how many are pushing back against today’s culture of oversaturation by stripping back, this beauty detox so to speak might have to do with the effects of application overload – actual physical ones.

Many are pushing back against today’s culture of oversaturation by stripping back on their skincare routine.

Recent studies have shown an increase in the number of women seeking help for skin sensitivity, redness or inflammation. While our dedicated/extensive/time-consuming quest for Song Hye Kyo’s complexion might not be the only cause, it could certainly be a factor. “Putting excessive stuff on your face is not beneficial for skin,” says makeup artist Larry Yeo. “I find that it results in build-up and can cause some people to break out more, especially in our humid weather.”

It’s a point that Dr Calvin Chan, medical director of Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic, agrees with. “More is not always better when it comes to skincare even if you are using good quality, expensive products,” he says. “Firstly, excessive active ingredients can counteract one another or trigger irritation. Secondly, if you apply too many layers of skincare, they may not absorb well and potentially clog pores.”

To say that this new decade’s skincare diet movement is the result of vanity and an unhealthy obsession with Descendants of the Sun, however, would not be fair. Improvements in technology, research and ingredients have made it easier for bands to pack more benefits into a product and 2reduce the time needed to see results. And as Yeo puts it: “A toner, serum and moisturiser are sufficient to give one good skin. The trick is to find well-formulated products.”

Take Cle de Peau Beaute’s Key Radiance collection, for example. Consisting of exactly a lotion, serum and moisturiser, it claims to brighten skin and treat all signs of ageing (yes, all – from lines to dehydration) with a complex that boosts skin’s natural ability to discern between and react to good and bad stimuli. Within a week of trial, we noticed a softer complexion; its full effect in approximately three.

3 step skincare

Even South Korean favourite Sulwhasoo is giving the less-is-more approach a shot: Its Bloomstay Vitalizing line similarly boasts only a water, serum and cream. Enriched with plum blossom extract – known for its powerful antioxidant properties – it promises to reduce free radicals and in turn slow down skin’’s ageing process all while restoring its firmness and vitality.

3 step skincare

So is it time for everyone to cut back on their skincare consumption and ditch everything else besides that magic trio? It’s sure worth a shot. Think of it as Marie Kondo-ing your beauty regime. While perfect skin remains the main goal, the process of reflecting on and figuring out what will actually help achieve that – and eliminating the excess – will also offer something that everyone can do with more of today: mindfulness.

This article first appeared in the April 2020 Reality Edition of FEMALE. 

Photography Vee Chin Styling Adeline Eng Hair & Makeup Clarence Lee, using Armani Beauty Model Kim W/ Mannequin