The Joy of One: Bath and Beauty

For the latest installment in my Joy of One series, I’d like to talk about cosmetics, bath items, personal care products, and the like. Though disposable in nature, we often don’t dispose of them—opting to buy a new color or scent or formulation before we’ve used up our old ones. Oftentimes we get them for free from cosmetic counters and hotels (those tiny toiletries are super-cute and hard to resist). They accumulate in our drawers and cabinets, and on our countertops and shelves, and can lead to a real clutter problem. So even though we may not consider them “possessions,” they’re certainly worth discussion.

Interestingly, when I broach this topic with family and friends, some find One Shampoo or One Lipstick or One Nail Polish ridiculous, and others find it ridiculously easy. I’m really looking forward to your Comments on this, as I expect they’ll reflect a wide range of experiences and opinions.

For my part, there was a time when I would have laughed at the notion of limiting my bath and beauty products to one of each. Variety is the spice of life, right? But then I started to travel, and in the interest of packing lightly, did precisely that on my trips. And you know what? Instead of feeling deprived, I actually liked not having to make decisions every morning on which products to use. I liked having a single cleanser or a signature lipstick that I never had to think about. It seemed to make my life a little easier, my mind a little clearer, and my mornings (and evenings) a little smoother.

So I narrowed down my everyday products to the following: one soap, one shampoo, one face cleanser, one toothpaste, and one moisturizer with sunscreen. For cosmetics, I have one mineral powder, one concealer, one lipstick, one blush, and one eyeshadow (the latter two for more formal and professional occasions).

I found streamlining my beauty supplies helpful from the start, but it was after my daughter was born that I experienced the true Joy of One in this area. The ability to fly through my morning routine when I had an infant who needed to be fed, then a toddler tearing through the house, and now a preschooler to get ready for school, has been invaluable. (And when you’re using your One Lipstick, there’s no chance of your little one commandeering another to decorate herself or the walls!)

It seems trivial, but those hundreds of little decisions we make every day—like what moisturizer or makeup to use—can add up to some serious decision fatigue. Conversely, the less energy we expend on trivial matters, the more we have for important ones.

Sure, sometimes I need a change or want to try something new—but I usually wait until I use up my old one. If I’m truly unhappy with it, or it’s nearing the end of its shelf life, I’ll dispose of it. In fact, the limited shelf life of many beauty products provides ample opportunity for turnover. Liquids and creams—especially those worn on or around the eyes—have a lifespan of three to six months, while powdered foundation, concealer, blush, and lipstick generally last for a year. So don’t fret too much about getting bored with your selection; in a matter of months, you can replace your current One with a new One anyway.

Truth be told, many of you will surpass me on this and achieve the Joy of None. I absolutely love and admire and celebrate anyone who can go shampoo- or makeup-free. I wish I could do it. I want to do it. I will do it someday. But I’m not there yet. (My nails have been bare for years; that’s a step in the right direction, huh?) So the Joy of One is a nice compromise—my personal “enough” between many and none. For me, at this time, it’s lagom.

And you may find it lagom, too. If you’re intrigued by the Joy of One concept, but find One Coat or One Shoe or One Pan too extreme, this could be a wonderful place to test the waters. For each beauty product, choose your favorite and clear your shelves of the rest. Give it a week, or a month, or longer and see what it’s like to have One. When you experience the extra space it brings to your counters, your schedule, and your mind—and the ease with which it was achieved—you may be inspired to experiment with One in other parts of your life!

I’d love to know what you think of this challenge: easy, hard, something you already do? Are you one of those amazing Joy of None people? Do tell!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider joining my email list or reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide. Pre-order the new edition before April 26, and receive a thank-you bouquet of one dozen decluttering printables!}

89 comments to The Joy of One: Bath and Beauty

  • I have baskets of natural products that I purchased on sale. I’m going to use up all of them first and then go down to just a few products. Some of which I will make myself.

  • Sue

    I have only used a shampoo for years as shampoo, body wash, and to shave. But the make up thing is a bit out of control. I am quitting sephora and limiting my make up to only purchases from the drugstore across the street. For about 20 years I have only used Cetaphil on my face, but I now I have switched to a cold creme as I need more moisture.

  • Cindy

    I simplified my bath and beauty products a few years ago. The most effective change was replacing my soap and shampoo to Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Castile Liquid Soap, Baby, Mild. Dr. Bronner’s can be used for multiple uses, but these are my two main uses. Another plus of this product is that it is liquid soap so that it doesn’t make a soap scum mess in the shower. I also have one toothpaste, one moisturizer with sunscreen, one mineral powder, one mineral foundation, one lipstick, and one blush (the latter three for more formal and professional occasions). Life is easier with a streamlined morning and evening routine!

  • Tahla

    I have never had a lot of make up products, however i went through a stage of being obessed with nail polish. 4 years ago i was researching make up brands and came across a website which broke down the chemicals in regular cosmetics, it made me feel ill. I proceeded to use the rest of my make up and change everything to organic, cruelty free make up. I now own, one liquid and one powder foundation, moisturiser, face wash, blush, mascara, eyeliner. I culled my nail polish down and now own 5 nail polishes.
    This led me to clearing out the chemicals in my home but thats for another day :)

  • This was the first area of ‘stuff’ that I went minimal. My look has gotten more minimal as I’ve gotten older as I realized less, not more, make-up is the best. Many women are also holding onto their products much too long. Bacteria can grow in old products. It is better to have a few things you love, that don’t cause allergic reactions and are still clean. One thing I discovered is the puffy dark under-eye area is typically an allergic reaction to cosmetics. Instead of covering it up, if you don’t wear eyeshadow/mascara for a few weeks, one may find the problem corrects itself. Then when you reintroduce, you will notice quickly if a product causes irritation (the slight itchiness shouldn’t be ignored). On most days I typically wear a moisturizing sunscreen, white shadow under the brows, tinted moisturizer, red lipstick and shape my brows. Occasionally I’ll wear mascara but only on a special occasion but I could easily go without. I use a 2 in 1 shampoo/moisturizer, Dr. Bonners unscented for body wash (can also be used as shampoo, which is what I use during travel), a Japanese wash cloth and an exfoliating face wash. On my fingernails I wear a white nail treatment. I do indulge in a monthly pedi with the massage chair and choose a nail color at the salon.

  • I have grown to be happier with my natural features, and make up “has suffered the consequences” :D I found that when I forced myself to go without I hadn’t fixed my relationship with my own face. So I went back to buying lots of make up. Solving the problem from the inside and loving yourself just the way you are is the first step so that make up and “correcting” stuff fall naturally. :)

  • I just did a blog post about a similar subject myself. The Joy of One for each product is working quite well for me and my family. Although, I’ve kind of just discovered a new love for lipstick so I’m liking having a few different shades. I recently went down from about 7 to 3, though, which is nice. I’m still experimenting to find the One in a few different areas, but in the meantime, I’ve found that less is so much easier.

  • Deann

    I didn’t even realize this was one area where I’ve been a super minimalist all my life. Although I wear make up every day I’ve always just had one each of lipstick/eye shadow/foundation/mascar. I didn’t even know that there were people who picked out different makeup each day. My only decision is how much? Should I use 2 shades in the eye shadow compact today or is it more casual and a dash of mascara and lipstick will do? I am fully ready and out the door in 20 minutes and look completely put together.

  • […] This is part of a series – Living with Less, where I am documenting my possessions to ensure I am being intentional about the stuff that is allowed to accumulate in my home. This series was inspired by Francine at Miss Minimalist. You can see her post, The Joy of One Bath and Beauty here. […]

  • Rho

    For body and face soap, dr. Bronner lavender
    For lipstick/blush, eve perez
    For moisturizer, Organic wear by Physician Formula

  • I decided to give up nail polish a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong – I love the look – but I know myself well enough now to know I’m not committed to the upkeep. I decided to make this ‘rule’ for myself and it has made life easier. I’m not even tempted to browse the pretty polishes now :)

    I also stopped washing my face, using toner, or moisturiser – I’ve replaced all 3 with coconut oil. Of course, this might not work for everyone, but I had really painful, cystic acne my whole life until I started using coconut oil (in my early thirties.) Once I started using coconut oil (and stop using anything else) my skin cleared up with a few weeks!

  • I have been embracing the joy of going without makeup for the past 3 years. It has been so freeing! I occasionally question myself, worrying that I don’t look “proper”. However, always when I look back at photos of myself at events etc wearing just my light lipgloss and earrings I am amazed at how “proper” I do look. I keep my other hygiene items to a comfortable minimum and enjoy quality over quantity. I believe beauty is more about our physical, emotional, and spiritual health anyway.

  • Morning Waters

    I love getting the Hotel samples and hoard them until I get a large ziplock bag full then I take them to my local Womens shelter.

  • Sara

    I think my thing might be the joy of two – when it comes to cosmetics. ;) I may have a minimal selection of cosmetics, but I often buy another tonic or face cream when the first one is one thirds full…I don’t know why I do this, but after that I use both of them until I again have one product. And so on. I also like a little variety; not much but some.

  • EarthGirl

    HI! I am living the “Joy of None” here…

    * I use baking soda for deodorant.
    * water or salt water in place of toothpaste.
    * a nail brush to buff my face occasionally, and coconut or olive oil as needed.
    * homemade chapstick when needed.
    * a keep a bar of plain soap for body, but I noticed just water works just as well!?
    * nothing on my hair – no water or anything, just a daily brush.
    * no make-up. But if I am feeling bold I’ll brush some activated charcoal around my eyes.

    And somehow I look and feel the best I ever have! This might sound impossible to many people, but it fills my soul with joy to be done with health and beauty products after so many years of being burdened by them. The joy of one is so simple and free, too, so ENJOY! :)

  • Jill Meyer

    I am just going to jump on the bandwagon here. I truly never thought about my make up mess!I read your article, went into my room and went through all my make up. I am not *quite* ready to part with certain pieces, but when they are gone, poof! They are gone! I got rid of a shopping bag full! I was shocked at myself!
    I have been thinking about using one body wash/ shampoo. But I have not ventured that way yet. I do love my bar soap. So I am not sure what I will do there. But thank you for this post!

  • Leila

    It’s been years since I bought my last make up products because I have so many that I can barely count. I stop buying but I’m not thinking of getting rid of them. The fun of choosing colors in the morning makes me happy. It’s just a matter of not buying too much. Maybe the joy of two or three?

  • Dana

    I’m a Joy of None person in the makeup department! I realized a while back that I was wearing such minimal makeup for everyday wear that it didn’t really make that big of a difference in how I looked. Now that I’m out of my teen years, my skin has settled down and I don’t need to cover up too many blemishes anymore, so the makeup only comes out for special occasions and performances. I know wearing more makeup would probably help me look younger, but at this point (in my mid-30s) I’m cool with looking my actual age.

    Bath and body products are another matter…I had to make a concerted effort to pare down in that arena. I am a sucker for delicious-smelling stuff in pretty packaging. Have finally gotten it down to one toothpaste, one combo shampoo/body wash from The Honest Company (which I also use for shaving), one conditioner for when my hair really needs it, one daily face wash, one exfoliant that sees weekly use, one facial moisturizer, and one hand/body lotion. And bubble bath :) Even with only one of each I still feel like I’m using SO MUCH STUFF.

  • K

    How ironic! This is the one area where I use to be super minimalistic, that has grown over the past two years! While all my other posessions have decreased.

    I used to have basically what is on your list, or less. In the mornings I used to only moistureize my face, put a chapstick on my lips & be out the door. No foundation, no mascara, nail polish, nothing (except for some color splashes like lipstick & an eye shadow on festive occasions).

    But being 36, soon 37 I’ve noticed these past two years I’ve needed some more products (covering up blemishes / sunspots on my skin), and started to learn, at age 35 how to use makeup (thank you youtubers!..)! I admit I sill use little or much less than most women so its really no biggie. But my nail polish collection (chemical/cruelty-free ones) have exploded from 1-2 to 9-12. I got a bit carried away, them being better than regular nasty ones, but I’ve noticed since not being used to “a nail routine” I just end up clipping & filing for the most part anyway so I could probably pare that collection down a lot! But since its all a bit new to me I havent figured out my go-to favourites yet :) Will try doing so soon!

  • Fidi

    I started to go shampoo-free last November. For the first weeks I used only water, then I tried rye flouer.

    My transition lasted until about the end of January/ mid-Febuary. Sometimes, I would use shampoo when a pre-wash oil treatment (I had only just heard about it and was testing it) could not be removed with rye flouer alone.

    Today, I regularly wash my hair with rye flour, use apple cider vinegar as a rinse (diluted in water of course) and sometimes do a pre-wahs honey/ lemon-juice treatment.
    When I am in a hurry, I use hair soap + apple cider vinegar.

    Actually, my hair is BETTER with rye flour than with shampoo or soap/ apple cider vinegar.

    I really recommend testing the rye flour or cracked rye flour just once!
    It makes the hair very soft and thick.

  • Lindsay

    My beauty routine is about as minimalist as yours, and overall, I am very happy with it. I use a bar soap for face and body (I do like to mix these up and buy a different one when I run out), a moisturizing organic shampoo (only 1-2x’s/week), and I use unscented curel lotion for face and body when needed. I also keep witch hazel on hand and use it regularly when my hormones are out of whack to prevent breakouts (like when I stopped breastfeeding). For makeup, I use mascara and chapstick everyday and one lipstick often but not always. Nothing else, and I like my routine. It is very simple and I feel pretty and put-together in a matter minutes. I used to own all kinds of makeup I never used – what a waste of space and time. I would try to experiment with makeup and end up wishing I hadn’t applied any. If I didn’t have partly blond eyelashes, I wouldn’t bother with the mascara. Lipstick I enjoy for the added femininity – I bought my last one at a natural foods grocery store and adore it. I’ll be using it until it completely runs out. Then, I’ll probably buy a different shade but the same brand if I can find it.

  • Since I’ve decluttered my stuffs, I’ve been into the minimalist lifestyle. I like the idea of joy of one and keep that as well. It is so much liberating to go to your bathroom and see the essentials only. I streamlined my skincare routine to the basics which I blogged about recently. Occassionaly, being a mom, I embraced the joy of none in the make up department.

  • Tina

    I don’t wear any make up except on big occasions, I use a little concealer. I use very little soap or shampoo. So a little bit lasts a very long time.

  • Tina

    I went to my 50th high school reunion and everyone said I had no wrinkles at all. My daughter in law and friends say the same thing. My tip is stay out of the sun, never smoke or drink and don’t drink pop or sugary drinks just water or maybe iced tea.

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