Portrait of Tammy Strobel


More and more women are going on a skincare diet – a reminder that sometimes more can indeed be too much.

K-beauty swept the world about a decade ago and with it came the normalisation of the multi-step regime: toner, lotion, essence, ampoule, serum, moisturiser, facial oil… The list goes on. Over the past year though, experts have been noticing a rise in women streamlining their beauty routines. Aptly dubbed the skincare diet, the trend sees the return to a simpler tripartite approach: toner, serum, moisturiser, done (uhm, cleansing ought to be a given).

Socialists might attribute it to the resurgence of feminism – you know, modern, busy women have much better things to do than waste an hour or more on prettifying their faces. But as with how many are pushing back against today’s culture of oversaturation by stripping back, this beauty detox so to speak might have to do with the effects of application overload – actual physical ones.

Recent studies have shown an increase in the number of women seeking help for skin sensitivity, redness or inflammation. While our dedicated/extensive/time-consuming quest for Song Hye Kyo’s dedicated/extensive/time-consuming quest for Song Hye Kyo’s complexion might not be the only cause, it could certainly be a factor. “Putting excessive stuff on your face is not beneficial for skin,” says makeup artist Larry Yeo. “I find that it results in build-up and can cause some people to break out more, especially in our humid weather.”

It’s a point that Dr Calvin Chan, medical director of Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic, agrees with. “More is not always better when it comes to skincare even if you are using good quality, expensive products,” he says. “Firstly, excessive active ingredients can counteract one another or trigger irritation. Secondly, if you apply too many layers of skincare, they may not absorb well and potentially clog pores.”

To say that this new decade’s skincare diet movement is the result of vanity and an unhealthy obsession with Descendants of the Sun, however, would not be fair. Improvements in technology, research and ingredients have made it easier for brands to pack more benefits into a product and reduce the time needed to see results. And as Yeo puts it: “A toner, serum and moisturiser are sufficient to give one good skin. The trick is to find well-formulated products.”

Take Cle de Peau Beaute’s Key Radiance collection, for example. Consisting of exactly a lotion, serum and moisturiser, it claims to brighten skin and treat all signs of ageing (yes, all – from lines to dehydration) with a complex that boosts skin’s natural ability to discern between and react to good and bad stimuli. Within a week of trial, we noticed a softer complexion; its full effect in approximately three.

Even South Korean favourite Sulwhasoo is giving the less-is-more approach a shot: Its Bloomstay Vitalizing line similarly boasts only a water, serum and cream. Enriched with plum blossom extract – known for its powerful antioxidant properties – it promises to reduce free radicals and in turn slow down skin’s ageing process all while restoring its firmness and vitality.

So is it time for everyone to cut back on their skincare consumption and ditch everything else besides that magic trio? It’s sure worth a shot. Think of it as Marie Kondo-ing your beauty regime. While perfect skin remains the main goal, the process of reflecting on and figuring out what will actually help achieve that – and eliminating the excess – will also offer something that everyone can do with more of today: mindfulness.

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It seems obvious enough, what with hydration being the most essential element to skin health. Yet with rising temperatures (read: more water loss) and a mounting air pollution problem (moisture strengthens skin’s protective barrier against it), the need for reminders on the importance of moisturisers has become as good as urgent. How have brands been responding to this “crisis”? With power-packed, multitasking variations like these.

Chanel Sublimage La Creme Lumiere, $594

Using Vanilla Planifolia extract – a potent antioxidant – this not only evens out skin tone, but also brightens and regulates pigmentation. It also stimulates skin regeneration for a plump and youthfullooking complexion. Bonus: Its light, creamy texture melts into skin effortlessly.

Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Honorstige Cream, $1,050

Infused with reishi mushroom extract, this fortifies skin’s protective barrier while repairing and restoring collagen fibres so that skin feels and looks plumper and firmer. It also has traditional herbs to soothe and heal as well as treat inflammation.

Cle de Peau Beaute La Creme, $1,200

The sixth iteration of this iconic moisturiser, this contains more than 60 ingredients to treat every skin problem you can think of – from fine lines to sagging to dullness to dehydration. It’s so enriching that a pea-sized amount is reportedly enough to treat one’s entire face and leave skin softer and smoother.

3Lab Oil Complex Brightening, $555

Formulated with hyaluronic acid in four different molecular sizes, this ultraquenching cream is said to effectively repair dehydrated, damaged complexions. It also has biomimetic peptides to reduce the appearance of dark spots, increase luminosity and clarify skin tone.

JUNGSAEMOOL Minifying Water-Wrap Cream, $60

Created to hydrate sensitive and easily irritated skin, this has what the brand will only reveal as “natural moisturising factors” that wrap skin with a protective bubble to prevent moisture loss. It also has the trademarked “French Bud” extract to calm and white truffle to brighten.’

Shiseido Vital PerfectionUplifting and Firming Cream, $165

This “smart” moisturiser has what the brand dubs “ReNeura Technology++” that activates skin’s nerve cells to boost its self-regeneration properties and improve their responsiveness to skincare. The result: a smoother, firmer and more lifted-looking complexion and less time spent on your regime since the products that follow are said to work more quickly.

Dior Capture Totale C.E.L.L Energy Firming & Wrinkle-Correcting Creme, $200

Boasting a floral complex of Madagascan longoza, Chinese peony, white lily and Chinese jasmine said to power up stem cells to help them regenerate optimally, this promises to make skin heal faster and correct visible signs of ageing.

YSL Beaute Pure Shots Perfect Plumper Cream, $169
Designed to treat skin damaged by a hectic, urban lifestyle, this uses a cocktail of botanical active ingredients to restore essential elements like proteins, peptides and amino acids so that skin looks fresher and more youthful. PS. We’re also kind of obsessed with its bouncy, marshmallow-like texture.
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Because in times of uncertainty, many crave familiarity and reliability. Going by the number of new skincare products that tap on time-honoured ingredients that some might consider boring, but remain the gold standard in efficacy, it’s an adage that beauty brands are also buying into.

Hyaluronic Acid

Probably the most famous beauty ingredient of them all, this humectant binds moisture to skin cells to keep the complexion healthy, strong, radiant, smooth and plump, which would explain why experts often hail it as a must-have. Vegan and 100 per cent natural, Tata Harper’s Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer smoothens out skin’s tone and texture and is extremely hydrating despite its lightweight formula while Dr Roebuck’s water-based Ningaloo Firming Serum visibly plumps skin while helping it to retain moisture. For something more newfangled: Every bottle of Fresh’s Rose Deep Hydration Sleeping Mask is split into two segments. One contains a hyaluronic acid-packed gel essence to hydrate and firm; the other, a silky cream to be applied over to lock in the moisture.


A vitamin A derivative that often turns up in anti-ageing products as it helps to boost cell turnover, stimulate collagen production and repair UV damage and improve the appearance of lines and scars. Take Shiseido’s Benefiance Wrinkle Smoothing Cream, which features it as a key ingredient. Rich yet silky, this moisturiser is said to treat the root cause of wrinkles and dullness as well as make skin more resilient. Peter Thomas Roth’s PRO Strength Retinoid Peptide Serum has concentrated retinoids to soften fine lines and wrinkles (while squalane and lipids help moisturise and minimise the potential for irritation) and Chantecaille’s Retinol Intense+ has been updated to boast twice the amount of retinol than before to lessen signs of fatigue. Here’s a caveat from Dr Calvin Chan of Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic though: “While retinol may sound like a super skin-saver, it’s not always well tolerated by sensitive skin types.”


According to Dr Gladys Teo, Head of R&D at Singapore beauty brand ést.lab, a decrease in these lipid molecules can lead to a diminished barrier function in skin and in turn, disorders. Conversely with them, that protective barrier is reinforced and can prevent moisture loss and sensitivity as well as keep the complexion soft and plump. Drunk Elephant’s Lala Retro Whipped Cream with Ceramides is said to strengthen skin’s acid mantle and protect against external attacks while Sunday Riley’s ICE Ceramide Moisturizing Cream helps form a protective barrier against environmental stressors to soothe and hydrate. Another ultra-quenching, ceramide-packed moisturiser is IT Cosmetics’ Confidence In A Gel Lotion, which bursts into a refreshing liquid when massaged into skin and reportedly provides up to 72 hours of hydration.


Short for alpha hydroxy acids and covers the likes of glycolic or lactic acids. Known to boost cell turnover for instantly smoother skin, think of them as an alternative to facial scrubs that – according to Dr Melvin Tan, medical director of Epion Clinic – are good for “oily skin, complexion brightening and pigment lightening.” Biossance’s exfoliating Squalane + Glycolic Renewal Facial Mask helps to improve luminosity while reducing the appearance of fine lines, discoloration and enlarged pores. Similarly, Dr Dennis Gross’ Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum is said to reduce the appearance of pores and greasiness as well as prevent the formation of new blackheads. Over at Chanel, the Sublimage La Lotion Lumiere Exfoliante is a jellified water with AHAs and Vanilla Planifolia water to gently stimulate cell renewal, fight free radical damage and boost radiance.

Vitamin C

An ingredient that’s as good for skin as it is for your body. As Dr Chan puts it: “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that effectively neutralises free radicals. Because of this, it boosts skin’s natural regeneration process and helps the body repair damaged skin cells.” Every capsule in a bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s Vitamin C Ceramide Capsules Radiance Renewal Serum contains an oil-serum infused with Vitamin C to protect skin against free radical damage and fight against hyperpigmentation, another benefit of the vitamin. Meanwhile two to three drops of Sunday Riley’s C.E.O Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil is said to boost radiance and help balance and soothe skin while Peter Thomas Roth’s Potent-C Power Serum promises to improve lines, firmness, uneven skin tone, dullness and dehydration in just seven days.
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Not so much a trend yet, we predict, what with working from home becoming the new normal and all the disruptions to everyday life and the economy forcing us to rethink processes and priorities. Yes, we want makeup that’s effective, but also effortless. Here, a curation of the essentials to help achieve that in a matter of strokes.

Shiseido Makeup Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Concealer, $46

This is able to resist humidity and heat as well as rebound from facial movement so you won’t have to touch up throughout the day.

Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Concealer, $58

Full coverage yet weightless and waterproof, this has micro-spherical powders that blur imperfections and brighten.

Urban Decay Stay Naked Correcting Concealer, $40

Ultra-pigmented yet still breathable, its doe-foot applicator allows you to easily control how much product you want to put on.

Tom Ford Emotionproof Liner, $64

Waterproof, non-smudge, transfer-resistant, humidity-resistant and designed to stay put, this glides effortlessly over lids and gives an intense finish.

Charlotte Tilbury The Feline Flick Eyeliner Pen, $48

This fine-tipped glossy, intense, ink-rich pen glides on and sets quickly to prevent feathering and smudging.

THREE Indestructible Eyeliner, $48

It has a flexible yet bouncy tip, which gives you great control, and is infused with plant extracts to treat and protect skin.

YSL Beaute Rouge Volupte Rock’N Shine in No 7, $52

The silver star running through the centre of the bullet is made of plant-sourced glitter that helps to boost the shine of the lipstick.

Dior Addict Halo Shine in #765 Desire Star, $52

This lush lippy has a soft vanilla scent and is infused with naturalorigin beeswax, silky oils and aloe vera extract to nourish and hydrate.

Smashbox Always On Cream To Matte Bullet Lipstick in Bawse, $38

Its cream-to-matte formula provides 12 hours of wear that won’t cake, fade, smudge or fade.

Nars Blush in Orgasm X, $52

This is made with micronised powders to give a soft, silky, blendable application that feels weightless.

M.A.C Glow Play Blush in Totally Synced, $49

You can use your fingers to apply this bouncy, mocha-like jelly texture blusher that glides over skin and gives eight hours of fade-free wear.

Pixi On-The-Glow Blush in Fleur, $18
Formulated with ginseng, aloe vera and fruit extracts, this blush-balm provides natural colour while also hydrating and conditioning skin.