After watching oodles of “get ready with me” videos by celebrities and influencers, you’ve probably crafted the perfect 10-step routine based on their extensive (and expensive) skin care routines. While each step seemingly has its own benefits, with new launches hitting shelves at a dizzying rate, it’s easy to get carried away layering various active ingredients on your face. But now the internet, more specifically TikTok, is telling you it could all be for nothing. As the latest trend to hit viral status, skin streaming encourages you to adopt a minimalist approach to your routine by reducing the number of products you use. True, a simple skin care routine is convenient to do and makes it easy to be consistent to achieve best results. But, is cutting back really the answer?
Streamlining your skin care routine can save you time and money, but in the quest for youthful, supple skin, using the right formulas for your concerns is the most important factor here. “More is not always more with skin care and shifting the mindset to be deliberate and intentional, can be just as effective,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York.
Because some TikTok beauty hacks can be cause more damage than good, TZR checked in with the experts to find out whether you should be skin streaming. Ahead, four dermatologists break down the trend and share the safest way to adopt it.
What Is Skin Streaming?
Skin streaming is all about paring down your routine to include only the essentials. Instead of slathering on a cabinet full of products, Dr. Garshick tells TZR that it involves streamlining your regimen with a few multi-purpose items that effectively fill the skin’s needs. The notion seems easy enough to implement, but with the sea of formulas with cocktails of potent actives, not to mention the beauty industry’s obsession with product hoarding (remember #shelfies?), it isn’t that simple. “In the last few years, the trend has been more is more, but as a dermatologist, the 10-plus step routines that have been trending on social media are worrisome,” says Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., double board-certified dermatologist at Mariwalla Dermatology in Long Island, NY.
Streamlining doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ditch your favorite ingredients. As Dr. Mariwalla notes you can still use vitamin C during the day to help with brightness or niacinamide to help with pores, and even retinoids at night. “Choosing products that protect the skin, prevent damage, and help to reverse signs of aging are all still fitting in a simplified routine.” According to Dr. Patel, it should include a cleanser, serum, eye cream (if desired), moisturizer, SPF in the morning and a retinol at night. “These are the four most basic products needed on a daily basis,” she says.
The Benefits Of Skin Streaming
Using fewer products equals spending less money on your routine, which can be persuading in its own right, but skin streaming will also make you more conscious of the ones your complexion actually needs. “I often see people purchasing items like serums that get used one or two times before retiring to the back of the cabinet,” says Dr. Mariwalla. But by taking a step back, she notes that you’ll become much more aware of the formulas that are necessary as opposed to simply jumping onto the latest beauty trend.
This also forces people to give their skin care time to work. “Remember, the skin turns over once every 28 days, and when you’re quick to trade in or add new products to your routine you’ve hardly given them time to be effective,” says Dr. Mariwalla. Another big benefit of streamlining is that it can minimize irritation and decrease stress on the skin. According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital's Department of Dermatology in New York City, layering multiple active ingredients have the potential to inactivate each other and can greatly increase the risk of irritation or potentially compromise the skin barrier.
“You can definitely have a successful skin care routine with just a few items if you’re using products with evidence-based ingredients that can help to maximize results by improving compliance and consistency,” says Dr. Garshick
How To Streamline Your Routine
In general, a routine can be simplified to three to four steps. A cleanser, antioxidant serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen in the morning, and the addition of an active ingredient, like a retinoid, in the evening. “It helps to think of the a.m. as the time for protection and prevention against environmental damage, and the evening is a time of hydration and repair,” says Dr. Zeichner.
When streamlining, it’s important to know your skin type to determine which products you need the most. “Choose a face wash that addresses your specific skin type, whether it is a hydrating or foaming product, and continue to build your routine with that ethos in mind,” notes Dr. Zeichner. “In many cases, simply being consistent with a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen can leave the skin healthy, hydrated, and protected,” adds Dr. Garshick.
Initially, it might seem like your skin is reacting negatively from the new pared-down routine, but it will adjust in time. “Side effects are minimal, however, if you’ve been over-exfoliating or using a lot of acids, retinoids, and toners daily, your skin may feel dry or oily,” says Dr. Mariwalla. She notes that most people are frequently using too many products to the point that the skin relies on them for balance. “There is a bit of a learning curve with lessening your routine but stability will come,” she assures.
What Skin Types Should Try Skin Streaming?
While it can be good for all skin types, this trend is especially beneficial for those with sensitive complexions as well as anyone dealing with a compromised skin barrier. Dr. Garshick tells TZR that for those dealing with acne or rosacea, including those who have prescriptions in their routine, skin streaming is actually encouraged at the start of a new regimen. “This ensures tolerability of the medication and reduces the risk of exasperation,” she says.
Going back to the basics is a general rule of thumb for any skin type, and catering your routine to fit that motto is most ideal. “As a dermatologist, I always recommend a straightforward regimen instead of a complex one. Using more products is not necessarily any better,” says Dr. Zeichner.
Skin Streaming Vs. Skin Starving
TikTok has also given birth to another trend, dubbed “skin starving,” that’s quickly gaining traction in the online beauty community. But while the two may sound similar, they’re completely different. “Skin starving involves intentionally depriving the skin of nutrients and moisture in order to achieve a "glowing" or "dewy" complexion,” says Dr. Purvisha Patel, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and owner of Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Associates in Germantown, TN. She continues noting that undernourishing your skin can in fact lead to just the opposite, causing dryness, flakes, and irritation.
“Starvation of any sort is never going to be a positive experience and is a bit extreme,” adds Dr. Mariwalla. But that’s where streamlining comes into play. Sitting between two extreme trends [flooding and starving] skin streaming is the happy medium that can be helpful in more ways than one.