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What is Minimalist Beauty?

minimalist beauty

How do you know if you are a minimalist when it comes to your personal beauty routine?

I see that the term “minimalist” is bantered about in beauty and wellness advertising and marketing material. And I don’t see many attempts to define it. I find the term interesting and I want to look at it a little deeper.

First, what is the definition of ‘minimalism’?

Minimalism involves achieving a goal with moderation, sparseness and simplicity. It is often used to characterize art or music. Today, the term is used to describe much more, such as design and architecture, lifestyle, and now beauty.

For beauty, there are no strict or well-established criteria for using the terms related to minimalism, such as minimalist. In my opinion, minimalist beauty would be achieving one’s goal with a minimum of simple tools and a spare approach to both the process and the final result of enhancing one’s natural beauty, not overwriting it.

minimalist beauty dermatologist Dr. Bailey

As a skin care and skin wellness expert, I would say that using a minimum of multipurpose and clean products would be at the heart of minimalist beauty. Simplicity would characterize the process. Moderation would characterize the final appearance, which would be restrained and natural.

How many ingredients should be in a particular product in order for it to be considered “minimal”?

In makeup, just enough to create color and a final look that is minimal.

Mineral makeup is a perfect example of a minimalist beauty product. 

  • Mineral powders can be applied with a brush or sponge.
  • Loose, baked or pressed mineral powder or a foundation compact should not contain much beyond the powder itself.
  • Fragrance and filler would be omitted.
  • Mineral makeup can be applied dry or wet using a brush, such as an angle or fine brush, to create eyeliner.

Mineral makeup is the ultimate in a minimalist beauty product because in one product there are many application options and it uses minimal ingredients.

minimalist beauty is pure mineral eye shadow

A great example of a truly minimalist beauty product is my Baked Mineral Trio Eye Shadow. I use this every day for many types of eye makeup techniques. With my eco-friendly brushes, I can define my brows, eyes and lash line with just one or two trios. They last me a really long time and they have minimal ingredients that I know are clean.

All my mineral makeup face powders are equally minimalist. Texture varies based on the powder being Baked (if you like to apply with a brush), Pressed (for those who like to apply with a sponge) or Loose (contains kaolin clay to help absorb oil through the day). I also have a Loose Mineral Blush Powder to highlight cheeks.

cruelty free eco friendly makeup brush set for minimalist beauty

My Eco Friendly Brush Set sets the standard for minimalist beauty in that it has all the brushes one needs, stored in a cotton wrap and the brush fibers are 100% cruelty free. I've washed my brush set and cotton wrap over and over and they hold up well, unlike many makeup brushes that fall apart when you wash them. I think part of a minimalist beauty choice is saying 'no' to the modern disposable lifestyle by choosing things that last. 

Tinted zinc oxide sunscreen is a great example of minimalist beauty.

best tinted zinc oxide sunscreen with iron oxide

Tinted zinc oxide high SPF sunscreens can provide 2 steps in one product and thus embody a minimalist beauty solution. In one product you have tinting as a replacement to liquid foundation together with really good sun protection. The simplicity of using a tinted sunscreen necessitates that the tinting technology blend into all skin tones. Ideally, I like to see the tinting include over 3.2% iron oxide because this is known to screen out visible light waves that can darken stubborn pigment problems such as melasma.  A mindfully crafted formulation will give you all this in one product.

best non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen powder

Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted SPF 50+ Sunscreen provides the best daily sun protection, includes tinting technology that blends into all skin tones with 4% iron oxide that also blocks visible light that darkens pigment problems. The tinting gently and beautifully softens complexion flaws in place of liquid foundation. I apply it to my face at the start of every day. I love the matte finish that is ideal for topping with mineral makeup. I refresh sun protection during days of prolonged exposure with my Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF Refresh Powder - another embodiment of minimalist beauty in that it is efficient and free of fillers, preservatives, fragrance and fluff. It also corrects oily shine during the day.

Again, fragrance, fillers and extraneous ingredients should be excluded as they are in both of these Sheer Strength Sunscreens. Formulations should be as simple as possible and well thought out so that the ‘solution’ to achieving the final goals is elegant. 

What kinds of ingredients should be included in a product, and what kinds would need to be omitted for it to be considered a Minimalist Beauty Product?

Minimalist beauty would exclude the superfluous ingredients ubiquitous in most beauty products. Those include:

  1. fragrances (both natural and synthetic),
  2. fillers,
  3. fairy dusted “actives” added only to enhance marketing appeal, and
  4. excessive packaging done for the same purpose.

The exact product formulation would vary depending on the product. For example, makeup can be simple mineral powder. Tinted sunscreen is necessarily much more complex and must pass FDA requirements for product performance and stability.

Naturally Best Bar Soap

A simple natural bar of soap is minimalist

My Naturally Best Bar Soap™ is minimalist – it effectively and gently cleans the skin, and is naturally made, with minimal packaging.

Fragrance-free skin lotions and creams that can be used on all skin of the entire family are minimalist

Skin hydration with either my Natural Face and Body Lotion or Natural Face and Body Butter Cream is also minimalist – every ingredient is purpose driven and there is nothing more added – deep skin hydration, hypoallergenic without fillers or fluff, minimal packaging. These can be used from face to feet by the entire family. 


fragrance-free Natural Lotion for all over and entire family fragrance free natural face and body butter cream

Facial Booster Oils are another elegant example of minimalist beauty product.

minimalist beauty face oil omega enriched treats dry skin

Check labels and look for a product that uses just the beneficial oils without non-oil ingredients or silly fragrance ingredients. Even botanical natural fragrance can be problematic for causing allergic reactions. My Omega Enriched Booster Oil is designed to heal and maintain healthy skin barrier by supporting skin lipids with the best botanical oils for this purpose. A few drops can be added to boost and enrich a facial moisturizing cream or the oil blend can be applied to facial skin alone. It is also the best beard oil I've ever seen, conditioning facial hair and fighting beardruff all in one product. 

Final thought on Minimalist Beauty from the point of view of a doctor and dermatologist

I would describe my personal approach to beauty as minimalist. It developed in part out of necessity, as a working mom who has had to get ready for work quickly over the past 35 years.

Minimalist beauty also authentically follows my values and priorities based on my career as a dermatologist; the more superfluous ingredients in a product, the more likely I am to see a patient come in for an allergic reaction to it. These extra ingredients are added for marketing appeal to increase sales. The same is true for excess packaging. I’m glad to see a movement away from excessive beauty products and towards simplicity.

As a dermatologist who is also a lifelong student of science, I’ve always appreciated that minimalist beauty is akin to the term ‘an elegant solution’ in mathematics. It means achieving the desired outcome with the smallest and simplest effort. As a woman interested in style and design, I know it means creating beauty with restraint, refinement and simplicity. Minimalist beauty is an elegant solution.

Check out Dr. Bailey's recent comments in this Nylon.com article about Minimalist Beauty

Get more information on Dr. Bailey's favorite Tinted Sunscreen click here.

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