How I Used A Spreadsheet To Maximize, And Veganize, My Skincare Routine
Has anyone ever said to you, “Wow, your skin looks great today—what are you doing to it?”
If you have, the answer can often be an honest, “I don’t know,” because we are constantly introducing new products into the mix. It can be hard to know if it’s the effects of a serum we’ve been using for a month finally paying off, or the overnight mask we slathered on last night before bed.
But it’s important to understand which products are doing what in order to maximize your routine and tailor it to your skin’s needs—because, remember, no two skins are alike, and we react differently to different products. Our routines must be highly customized to our own skin in order to be the most effective.
Especially when you’re trying out new products, have new skin concerns you’d like to address, or if you’re looking to replace products you know and love with those that are clean, cruelty-free, and vegan—you could definitely benefit with some serious type-A organization. And that’s what I’m here to share with you.
My skincare journey
My skincare journey has been a long one, peppered with mysterious periods of perfect skin and frustrating bouts of acne, dry skin, and heightened sensitivity. For years I would buy a number of new products all at the same time (that’s the nature of shopping, isn’t it?!) and slather them on with little idea of which product or ingredient was actually delivering the desired—or undesired—effect.
It wasn’t until I dealt with the worse breakout of my life after naively slathering on an extra-strength retinol every night after exfoliating (a serious no-no!) that I resolved to give my poor skin a break on mixing new ingredients. The experience also made me scrutinize the ingredients I was using to see what did and didn’t mix well. For example, I learned that combining vitamin C with retinol can cancel out one another’s efficacy—vitamin C protects skin from free radical damage during the daytime, while retinol works best to repair and renew skin overnight.
I also felt the need to begin phasing out some of my skincare products with clean, vegan, cruelty-free versions as I broadened my understanding of the cruelty involved with testing and animal ingredients, and I wanted to explore all the new clean beauty lines that were becoming popular.
Enter: the spreadsheet
When I began making the switch to clean and vegan skincare, I was looking for replacements that were just as effective. But, as with conventional skincare, I realized that it’s never a good idea to introduce too many new products at once, even when you’re trying to address new conditions, wanting to achieve better results, or replacing conventional products with vegan, clean, and cruelty-free versions. Taking a methodical, informed approach is without doubt the best way forward.
So I turned to Google Sheets.
I created a spreadsheet that tracked the different categories of products I used (cleanser, toner, serum, actives, moisturizer, mask), the date I started using them, and their key ingredients that correlated to my skin concerns. I began tracking any differences I observed in my skin as well as whether I would consider repurchasing after finishing.
Did I really color-coordinate which ingredients address my different skincare concerns? Yes. Did I derive a lot of type A joy out of doing this? Also yes. But as you can see, it really helps to have a visual of what the key ingredients in your skincare are doing (or not doing) for you.
The spreadsheet also helps me assess at a glance if I might want to swap out a product that uses the same ingredients as another product for something that might bring a different, equally effective ingredient into the mix.
So: did the spreadsheet really make a difference?
You might be skeptical that a using a spreadsheet can result in a noticable difference in your skin. But I’m here to tell you that it can, and did, work for me—and it even worked for my friends.
A few months into my skincare spreadsheet experiment and tracking what products worked well for my skin, I began to get compliments and questions from friends about what products I was using to get my newfound glow.
This time, I had the answers, all very clearly documented.
So I asked them about their own skin concerns, then consulted my spreadsheet to look for key ingredients and products I thought would work best for them. Then, I created duplicates of my spreadsheet for my friends and helped them fill out their current products and my recommendations for swaps they could make to clean, cruelty-free, vegan skincare. I know—pretty kind, right?
Now we all share our spreadsheets with each other so we can learn from our experiences with different products. I guess you could call us official skin nerds at this point! But trust me: we’re glowing.
How to create your own skincare spreadsheet
Ready to start streamlining your skincare and identify which products and ingredients your skin loves? Here’s the step-by-step process that worked for me and my friends!
Step 1: Start by creating a spreadsheet with rows for the different categories of skincare products you use (or would like to introduce), as well as a row for your top skincare concerns.
Step 2: Fill in the spreadsheet with the products you are currently using, the date you started using them, their main ingredients color-coded with whether they address your skin concerns, and any notes you have on their effects.
Once you’ve finished a product, decide whether or not you found it effective enough to repurchase.
If it’s a product you’d like to replace, research clean, cruelty-free, vegan products with similar key ingredients. Or sign up for a Kinder Beauty Box subscription to discover new products each month!
Step 3: When trying new products, consult your skincare spreadsheet to identify the ingredients you know are effective for your skin and pick new products based on those (or avoid the ones that don't). You can also play around with adding or deleting products and tracking those changes until you find the best combination for your skin.
Keeping notes on what you observe after introducing each new product is key. You can also add in emoji faces to show how you feel about your skin over time.
Making clean, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare swaps
Addressing concerns like pigmentation, oily skin, or minimizing pores can be hard enough on its own. But throw vegan, cruelty-free and clean considerstaions into the mix, and the task can seem next to impossible.
It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to swapping out some of your existing products for ones that are better for your body, the animals, and the planet. This is why tracking the key ingredients of the products you use can be so effective.
And if you’re thinking of making the change, here a few swaps of some skincare basics to get you started:
In trying to find out why my skin often felt tight and dehyydrated, my skincare spreadsheet made me realize the foaming cleanser I used was stripping my skin of the moisture it needed. I learned that a cleansing oil was the way to go.
Unlike harsh cleansers that can deyhdrate the skin, the key ingredients in this cleansing oil—sea kelp and papaya enzymes—offer brightening and hydration to balance your skin for the next steps in your routine.
Another skincare swap I made was a hydrating toner to replace one that was more exfoliating—and I found that my irritation and redness was resolved as a result.
Distilled rose petals, aloe water and witch hazel in this toner work to keep your skin at the right pH level for soothing, hydrating, and tightening effects.
My skin had a harsh reaction to retinol—but I still wanted to take advantage of its renowned skin-renewing properties. So I made the swap for a product that contains bakuchiol.
This powerful ingredient serves as a gentler alternative to retinol, which can be hard for some skin types to tolerate. Bakuchiol delivers the same potent line-fighting properties that firms skin over time.
My skin needed a lot of barrier repair after my retinol mishaps. This moisturizer adapts to all skin types. Essential fatty acids help restore and maintain your skin’s barrier, while adaptogenics such as mushroom and ashwaghanda boost collagen and elasticity.
I swapped out a heavier oil that I suspected was breaking me out for one with a lighter weight. It can often be a good idea to keep things simple with a face oil, and this Dream Oil contains squalane, prickly pear, and vitamin C to keep skin refreshed and brightened without causing oiliness.
A face mask should do some of the heavy lifting in your skincare routine, and here the skin-loving ingredient squalane helps balance hydration with the exfoliating properties of glycolic acid. Fast but lasting results reveal polished, smooth skin.
Hopefully my experience creating a skincare spreadsheet has got you thinking about your own routine and any skin mysteries you’d like to solve.
If you’re wondering what, exactly, is it that makes your skin glow one day and look dull the next, know that the answers are findable as long as you are willing to conduct some observation with a little patience. A little detective work goes a long way to find the right combination that works most effectively for your own skin. And don’t forget the added bonus of becoming the go-to skincare whisperer among your friends!Melissa Graeber is a writer and educator who is obsessed with all things skincare (her friends call her the "skincare hotline"). She is the author of the book The Astrological Grimoire, published by Chronicle Books.
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