I Went On A Two-Week Skin Fast To Cure My Skincare Addiction — Here’s What I Realised

While people have, for a couple of years now, been feeding their skin with clay masks in a bid to detox and absorb the impurities clogging up their pores, a new fad came up earlier this year —skin fasting.

What Is It?

One could liken it to the mechanism behind intermittent fasting diets — for a week or two, you drop your entire armoury of skincare products and go with just water and your trusty face towel. The idea is to allow your skin to revert itself back into a healthy, natural state — all without the influence of harsh skincare ingredients and chemicals.

To some, this might be good news. “No makeup? No washing? Great!” Yet, truth be told, it was tougher than expected. You’ll be surprised by how these products have come to be ingrained in our quotidian behaviours, and how our skin have grown reliant to the 6 or 12-stepped skincare regimes.

The Problem

I am considerably late to the skin fasting game. And that’s because I was afraid to break out of my skincare safety net (an entourage of beauty products that follow me from home to the gym and New York City) lest my skin spirals into hopelessness. No, nothing terrible will actually happen to my skin if I skipped the moisturiser for a day. Yet, in hindsight, this fear probably stems from all that hefty marketing advances in the beauty industry.

From left, Softymo oil cleanser, Senka cleansing wipes, Dr. Dennis Gross' daily cleanser, and the Foreo Luna Mini 2.
From left: Softymo oil cleanser, Senka cleansing wipes, Dr. Dennis Gross’ daily cleanser, and the Foreo Luna Mini 2.

Although I have a huge cabinet full of products (from Sephora sales, friends, family, and drugstores local and abroad), at this juncture, I was removing my makeup with Softymo’s Speedy Cleansing Oil (S$16.90 on Lazada) or Senka’s All Clear Sheets (S$13.90 from Watson’s) when I’m downright lazy.

That’s followed by a wash with Dr. Dennis Gross’ Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel (S$57 from Sephora) and, of course, I wasn’t using my bare hands but with the help of Foreo’s Luna Mini 2 (S$90 from Lazada).

From left: Dr. Dennis Gross' exfoliating wipes, Skin Inc's bubbling exfoliating mask, La Mer's eye concentrate, and Skin Inc's smooth and lift serum.
From left: Dr. Dennis Gross’ exfoliating wipes, Skin Inc’s bubbling exfoliating mask, La Mer’s eye concentrate, and Skin Inc’s smooth and lift serum.

Then the exfoliating begins—the convenient acid wet wipes aka Dr. Dennis Gross’ Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel (S$135 for a box of 30 from Sephora) or the super fun Oxy-Recharge Bubble Mask from Skin Inc (S$76 from Sephora).

I nosedive into hydrating my eye region with La Mer’s Eye Concentrate (S$330 from Tangs) before slathering Skin Inc’s Daily Dose of Uplift (S$98 from Sephora) all over the face.

From left: Skinceutical's emulsion, Sulwhasoo's night mask, Soleil Toujour's classic sunscreen, and Shiseido's sunscreen plus BB cream for sports.
From left: Skinceutical’s emulsion, Sulwhasoo’s night mask, Soleil Toujour’s classic sunscreen, and Shiseido’s sunscreen plus BB cream for sports.

Finally, I moisturise with Skinceutical’s Metacell Renewal B3 Emulsion (S$149 from Tangs) in the day, and Sulwhasoo’s Radiance Energy Mask (S$102 from Tangs) at night. That’s topped up with a sunscreen from Soleil Toujours (S$58 on Sephora) or Shiseido’s sunscreen plus BB cream (S$55 on Zalora).

That’s quite a list.

So, giving up my daily skincare regime for a two-week skin fast was not an easy thing to do. It was more about letting go of an addiction than it was really about my skin’s health.

It’s then easy to see how the first day of the skin fast turned out to a complete struggle.

The Fast

Early in the morning, I habitually reached for the cleanser and Foreo in the shower unknowingly. Later, once again, I went for the chemical peel wipes and serum. This skin fast clearly wasn’t working out.

I took a box, stormed into the bathroom, packed all of the products and hid them away in the storage room. In their place, I set three clean and mild products for the next three days as I eased myself out of the routine.

On the left: Dr. Dennis Gross' exfoliating cleanser swopped for the Japanese label, Three's cleansing foam. Photograph by Tung Pham.
Photograph by Tung Pham

I swopped my mainstay Dr. Dennis Gross’ exfoliating cleanser for a milder, natural, and botanicals-filled cleansing foam (S$58 from Tangs) by the Japanese label, Three.

Photograph by Tung Pham

The Skin Inc serum was replaced by a lightweight treatment lotion (S$98 from Tangs) from Three.

Photograph by Tung Pham

Finally, the Softymo speedy oil cleanser was replaced by Bioderma’s gentle and clean Hydrabio micellar water (S$28.90 from Watsons).

And later, no sunscreen, no makeup, nothing.

The next three days was plagued by a spell of insecurity and anxiety. I walked around with my head down, and my hair blanketed half of my face.

In the absence of products, dry, flaky patches appeared on my skin (I have dry-combination skin). Later in the day, it got so oily I could literally wipe a layer of oil off my face. Without the eye creams and concealer, my dark eye circles were dark as night. And for the first time since the no-makeup teenage years, I saw my skin clearly: in its naked state, it was dull and it was yellowish.

It was ugly.

It, too, woke me up to the equally ugly fact that by piling on all these products, I was just masking and evading the flaws I didn’t like about myself. And that leads on to the next realisation — deep down, I’ve never accepted myself. Beauty products were my escape. The bathroom cabinet choke-full of products formed my alter-ego.

For the next 11 days I dropped all products. As the days went by, it got easier. The oil production let up and the dry patches went away. The eye circles, however, remained. Yet, they seemed to look lighter — or maybe I just got accustomed to the way I look.

Eventually, I started decluttering my beauty cabinet, sifting out the necessities from the vanities. I pared my skincare collection down to a cleanser, a first-care essence, an exfoliant, a moisturiser, and a sunscreen. I dropped all the makeup products, leaving only a foundation, a brow palette, a blush, and a couple of lippies behind. Everything else went into bags destined for family and friends.

Was it difficult? Yes. Was it liberating? Very.

As I admired the small tray of products sitting on my desk, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I looked into the mirror. My bare skin has never looked brighter. The skin fast has clearly done something for my skin — and even more for me.