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Now’s the time for bare-skinned beauty

In the midst of a lockdown, less is more when it comes to skincare

Steaming opens the pores
Steaming opens the pores (Photo: Alamy)

If you are on social media, there’s a good chance you have come across posts by people and brands encouraging you to make the most of this forced downtime by indulging in long skincare routines. From 10-step Korean regimes for clear skin to Ayurvedic regimens to align your chakras, we might all want those things for ourselves right now. But there might be practical deterrents, such as getting your hands on the products required. There are, however, some easy methods that don’t need more than what you will find in your pantry.

“The reality of the situation is that not everybody might have that kind of time to take care of themselves like that, but we should take out some time every week," says Colette Austin, founder of The Skin Pantry, an organic skincare label. She advises a simple routine of steaming your face for 5-10 minutes and then washing it with ice-cold water. “Not only does the steam clean out your lungs and sinuses, it also opens your pores for the guck to come out. The ice-cold water tightens your pores again," she says.

Use milk as cleanser
Use milk as cleanser (Photo: iStock)

Summer is here, so it’s time to change skincare routines to “take more off than leave more on", as Austin puts it. Curd, a natural coolant for the skin, can be mixed with coarse sugar to make a good scrub. “Washing your face with cotton dipped in milk is a great cleanser as well," she says, in case you have run out of face wash.

Even better than applying actual moisturizer is drinking enough water, say Austin and Jessica Jayne, founder of organic skincare label Pahadi Local. “You might spend a lot more time indoors, perhaps in air-conditioned spaces which can dry the skin, so drinking enough water helps," says Jayne. Rosewater is useful too.

Moisturizers, Austin explains, are made from combinations of oil and waters—oil carries the water into the skin. “The oil in the moisturizers blocks the pores from expending the guck, which is why summer is a good time for the pores to expand," she says.

This is, in fact, a good time to give your skin a break from make-up or long skincare routines. “We are motivated to look and feel good because we are usually interfacing with others, and right now might feel like a good time to give yourself the lift that comes with looking good, but we are busy with our own work, personally and professionally. We aren’t facing much pollution from the outside and that makes it a good time to give our skin a break," says Austin.

Kavita Khosa, founder of Ayurvedic skincare label Purearth, concurs, adding: “I recommend going to bed with naked skin once a week. Just like fasting sometimes cleanses and rejuvenates the digestive system, going to bed without anything on allows the skin to educate and discover itself, to breathe and rest in its natural state." The idea is similar to “skin fasting", a term coined by Japanese skincare brand Mirai Clinical almost a decade ago —avoiding all skincare routines for some days .

But how do you know what is best for you? Khosa says it’s all about being self-aware and intuitive. “Instead of being fed information from the outside, it’s important to listen to your body and skin. It’s important to let the skin’s barrier function to learn to defend itself. Whatever your skin’s issues are, your body has the power to self-rejuvenate."

Both Austin and Jamuna Pai, dermatologist and founder of Mumbai’s SkinLab Clinics, do recommend using sunscreen, however. “For skin that’s extremely oily, a toner in the morning or evening helps to tighten the pores, preferably one with little or no alcohol. A moisturizer that’s light, such as with a base of hyaluronic acid, sits lightly on the skin in summer," says Pai, suggesting weaning off gradually from exfoliants such as acids and retinoids. This hints more at a skin diet than a skin fast, keeping the routine minimal.

Most importantly, don’t feel stressed. We are all struggling to maintain our usual schedules and live life as normally as we can—and that includes taking care of ourselves. You might tie skincare deeply to that aspect, and that’s fine if it helps you alleviate your stress. But if you are feeling too much pressure to join the skincare club, there’s something you should know: It’s all right to do only as much as you can. As Austin puts it, “It’s the ultimate form of self-acceptance."

Maybe it’s time for a more inward-looking idea of self-care.

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