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Often, less is more when it comes to skin care.

Over $532 billion. That’s the revenue the U.S. beauty and skin care industry, which includes both products and services, generated in 2017.

Pre-COVID-19 projections have it surpassing $800 billion by 2023, but the virus could shake things up. Other data, however, suggests the industry is anti-cyclical, meaning people, women particularly, will continue to spend money on luxury skin care products even during a recession, a phenomenon known as the Lipstick Effect.

During a normal year, the average woman spends $313 a month on her appearance, including gym membership, the average man a tad less at $244. I doubt I spend that much in a year.

I began downsizing my skin care regimen in 2007. Until then I’d been a makeup-wearing-hair-dyeing-twice-a-day-face-washing-daily-showering 40-something. The first to go was the nightly face wash. I read that washing strips away the natural oils and the skin goes into overdrive to replenish itself. That overproduction coupled with the moisturizer I’d slather on before my skin got so tight it hurt to smile is why I woke up every morning with a face as oily as a frying pan.

It was better to leave it alone at night, even if I was wearing makeup. I switched to a witch hazel toner and wonder of wonders my complexion improved. Finally, I could chuck the OXY 10 that had been a constant companion since high school.

With improved skin and a career change that allowed me to work from home, my makeup moved to a bottom drawer. Light eyelashes meant I kept mascara handy, which is until 2014, when I started wearing glasses and no one could see my eyelashes even when they were jet black.

Two years earlier, I’d colored my hair for the last time. The first gray hairs had appeared in my late 20s. I’d spotted them when my dyed black hair started to grow out — with hair that could only aspire to mousy brown I’d started coloring it at 18. I continued coloring it various shades of red, brown and blond for the next two decades anticipating the day when the gray hair dominated and I could chuck the habit altogether.

The daily shower and shampoo was another casualty of working at home, being dropped sometime after the nightly face wash and before the hair dyeing. This was partly due to laziness, partly a desire to find out how my body would respond and partly for water conservation.

The standard shower head flows at a rate of 2.5 gallons per minute, meaning a 10-minute shower uses 25 gallons of water. Times that by 365 and you end up with 9,125 gallons of water a year. And times that by the two to three Americans who shower daily and you have an ocean of the most precious liquid on Earth literally going down the drain.

Showering every other day became every three days, then once a week. The morning face wash is part of my showering routine so as showers became rarer so did it. During this extended plaguecation I’ve gone 12 days without washing. Don’t you stink? I hear you asking. Actually, no.

In the ecosystem that is our skin, body odor is produced by bacteria that feed on our sweat and oil. Soap and shampoo disrupt the balance of that ecosystem in favor of the odor producers. The less I shower the less I need to. More natural body oil means less moisturizer. And the dirt and microorganisms that accumulate on my skin boost my immune system.*

Downsizing means I’ve fully embraced reduce from reduce-reuse-recycle in one area of my life. Not only have I reduced my skin care expenditures — the few products I buy last a year — I’ve reduced my plastic waste and my water consumption. My skin could only be happier if it were 20 years younger.

*Because hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of germs, I still do that frequently.

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