What Happened to My Skin When I Gave Up *All* Beauty Products for a Week

The lengths I'll go to for the sake of a story...

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(Image credit: Courtesy, design by Dana Tepper)

Caroline de Maigret once said to appreciate the face you have today because it's the one you'll wish you had 10 years from now. I don't need that kind of motivation, because I'd be happy enough to have the face I had seven *days* ago, before I gave up my entire skincare routine to begin this infernal experiment.

The rationale: "Elimination"—of gluten, dairy, alcohol, Tinder men (haha)—is the word these days, so why not take it to the extreme and delete Tatcha's cleansing oil and Glossier moisturizer and even Philosophy's sunscreen from my life for a week? (No matter that in 2016, this constitutes not even being to fulfill the bottom tier of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.)

There wouldn't be much to whittle down, anyway, I thought. In the a.m., I just splash with water, mist, then apply SPF before makeup, which, FYI, was left in play during this trial period. In the evening, if I'm upright enough not to use the contents of my Schwasty Nightstand, I'll cleanse with Glossier Milky Jelly, press on Root Science Restore serum with the Clarins method, then put on whatever moisturizer I'm most interested in at the moment. Throw in some occasional chemical exfoliation and something glycolic acid-y to lighten dark spots, and you've got the makings of a pretty bare-bones regimen.

But figuratively throwing it all away was still a struggle. An excerpt from my notes:

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"Skin too small for skull"

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

I figured my skin would eventually regulate itself, but at the same time, what if it overproduced sebum to compensate and I broke out? (Back to my notes: "I can't break out—I just got back on Tinder.") In fact, there was generally a whole lot of apprehension about how my complexion would retaliate when it wasn't being coddled with peptides and more vitamins than a GNC. ("Fearful of the sun but also scared of pollution but can't wear more makeup as barrier because it won't blend, and there's nothing worse than death-mask makeup.")

At this point, I called on Dr. Rachel Nazarian at Schweiger Dermatology Group, mostly so she could yell at me about the permanent damage I was causing and persuade me to stop before I really hurt myself. Instead, via email, she said, "That's impressive! There are several benefits to giving your skin a break from products. Since the skin is an organ, it can function at its most optimal level when it's free to interact with signals from the outside world without interference from topical products—differences in the humidity and temperature each day signal to your skin how to respond in terms of producing oils and sweat. Creating a barrier with products means your skin isn't as able to interpret the environmental changes to stay as functional as it should. Additionally, layers of products prevent your skin from naturally exfoliating and sloughing cells at its ideal rate, and can lead to dullness and acne formation." She did, however, warn me about going without sunscreen, which made me thankful, for the first time in my life, to be a corporate slave who lives 433 feet from a subway stop.

After seven full days of lurking in the shadows, cantering everywhere to work up a sweat because I hate being matte, and guzzling Aloha's Daily Good Greens in an effort to pump my body and therefore my skin full of nutrients, I can conclude that, yes, I *could* exist without any products and be perfectly fine—there was really no visible difference between my face before and after, except that the finish was much more naturally powdery than usual, given the lack of moisture. (No zits, thank goodness.)

But even if I *could,* that doesn't mean I would or even *should*—if we're going by eating-disorder logic, the overwhelming urge to spritz my face with REN Flash Defence definitely impacted my life and my neuroses negatively. In this way, my experiment reinforces what we've been collectively learning about beauty: Do as much or as little as you like—as long as it makes you feel good.

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Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.