How I Transitioned From A 12-Step Skincare Routine to Washing My Face With Water

When I was 10 years old, a friend’s mom squinted at my face and declared, “Your skin is as smooth as a baby’s butt! Enjoy it while it lasts - if you’re anything like my daughter, you’ll break out like crazy in high school.” Impressionable and naive as I was, I accepted her logic without a question. I spent the entirety of middle school obsessing over every tiny red dot that popped up on my face - even as year after year passed without the prophesied acne.

By high school, I had grown less concerned about the volatility of my complexion. Nonetheless, I was still intrigued by the concept of “glass skin”, a term coined by a makeup artist and Instagram influencer famous for her dewy, flawless complexion. She swore by a 12-step, 12-product daily regimen that consisted of two cleanses, exfoliation, a face mask, toner, essence, facial mist, two serums, eye cream, moisturizer and sunscreen. It seemed too meticulous and structured to fail, so I gathered a bag of deluxe-sized department store samples and committed to using them for a month.

One week yielded glowing results- literally. My skin was noticeably tighter, dewier and clearer, and the bags under my eyes had all but disappeared. After another week, though, I started breaking out. Confused, I returned to the department store cosmetics counter, explained that I had recently started a new skincare routine and asked whether I needed to switch out a product. The sales associate shook her head. 

“You’re breaking out because you’re oversaturating your skin, not the other way around.” She recommended cutting out non-essential products and rotating through specialty treatments like exfoliants and masks.

After two weeks on the 12-step regimen, paring back almost felt disappointing. The results were compelling, though: not only did my skin clear almost immediately, I regained half an hour in the morning. The rest of my routine fell away through a combination of negligence and forgetfulness. My eye cream ran out and I did not bother to replace it; my Vitamin C serum had no place in my rushed mornings; my cleanser was abandoned at home when I moved to college. Getting ready for the day became as simple as brushing my teeth, splashing water on my face and rubbing on a layer of drugstore moisturizer. Several months later, my skin is healthy as ever.

Reducing my reliance on products stabilized my complexion, but I attribute the continued success of my rinse-and-go method to good personal hygiene and healthy habits. I am careful to avoid touching my face, wash my pillowcases every couple of weeks and drink plenty of water. When I do practice skincare, I favor unscented, gentle products. 

Experimenting with different routines taught me that skincare is highly personal, and just as the 12-step regimen was not the right fit for me, my routine is no cure-all. However, it can be beneficial to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. You may just find yourself with something simple, easy and surprisingly effective!