Hello readers and welcome! For the first post to kickoff this blog, I wanted to share a system I’ve developed for myself to guide my skincare purchases. I’ve been an asian beauty convert for a few years, but it was only recently that I was able to really get into it and start trying a good amount of products.
See, I have a bit of a weird purchasing problem. Not the usual kind, though. I rarely ever run the risk of spending too much money, and I’ve never bought more than I’ve been able to use. My problem is that I don’t shop enough. It doesn’t have anything to do with money restrictions. I just don’t buy things. I internet window shop all the damn time and I make wishlists out the wazoo. But unless I make a conscious effort to actually purchase something, to have goals for how much to buy in a certain time frame, I end up eternally in ‘Ooh, I want to buy that sometime in the nebulous future’ mode.
I’m the same way with my clothing. After I moved out for the first time, I pretty much stopped going clothes shopping ever. I don’t particularly like clothes shopping, but I don’t actively dislike it either. I just don’t ever buy clothes because it’s never something I really think about. I never ended up at a random store in the mall going ‘This is nice, I’m gonna buy it.’ As a result, I had a pretty scant wardrobe full of old stuff I felt ‘meh’ about, and deciding what to wear to work when I got my first office job left me feeling crappy because I was wearing the same pair of pants 5 days in a row.
I needed to develop an actual wardrobe full of clothing that I loved, and so I gave myself a quota to meet: 5 pieces every season, or 20 pieces in a year. Won’t go into too much detail here (this is not a fashion blog after all), but I will say that it’s worked really nicely for me so far. I have a few duds from when I started out, but now I’m actively looking for clothing that brings me joy (thank you Marie Kondo) and I’ve ended up with some pieces I truly love. My wardrobe is still developing (and will always be a WIP), but I have choices now. I have things that make me feel good.
This haul system is a refined version of my seasonal clothing quota. I needed to develop this system for myself to avoid standing in the bathroom thinking about all the neat products I want to try, or how I should start taking better care of my hair, or that I want to have the most epic bath ever… someday.
As such, this method allows/forces me to explore a wide variety of product types, and to implement those products into proper care routines. It’s the entire premise of this blog. There are a whole lot of beauty related activities I want to do on a regular basis (shave with a safety razor, learn nail art, actually use body lotion, allthemasks, etc.), but I lacked the direction I needed to seek out and find products in order to have such a comprehensive routine. Coming up with a purchase quota was my solution to develop and maintain a beauty regime that I loved.
Coincidentally, this system also ensures I won’t swing too far the other direction and purchase more than I can reasonably use. That’s never been a problem for me, but I like it anyway.
Goals for the System
I had a few things in mind when I came up with this method of structuring my purchases.
- Introduce a new product every week to keep myself excited, interested, and entertained.
- Only introduce a new face product every 2 weeks to allow for adequate testing.
- Maintain a balance of product types and functions, so that even with zero repurchases I can still have a mostly functional routine.
The last point is important because in order for this system to be maintainable for me, I have to have very few repurchases. This is absolutely intended. Something has to really, really impress me in order for it to earn a spot on my repurchase list, and that is no small task. Despite being diagnosed with type 1 rosacea (the constant redness type), my skin is actually very insensitive and very unreactive. A blessing, because I’ve only had a bad reaction to 1 product ever, and even that was just some pronounced redness.
However, it also means that a lot of products just don’t do much for me. That was a big reason why I wanted to come up with a system like this. If I want to find those skincare unicorns that will actually help my skin, I need to be constantly trying new things.
Alright, let’s get into it.
The Basic Testing Plan
This system is based on 16- to 20-week periods I call ‘testing blocks’. I schedule three of these per year, with one 16-week block from January to April (the Winter block), one 20-week block from April to September (the Spring/Summer block), and another 16-week block from September to December (the Fall block).
Each block begins with testing an active skincare product, and I introduce only one per block. I test this in isolation for four weeks, and I use the duration of the block to start the active slowly and ramp up my usage. That gives me at least 16 weeks to get my skin used to one active before I introduce another.
After the first week, I introduce three more non-face products over the next three weeks. Then, I alternate weeks of introducing one face product and one non-face product. That means I isolation test facial skincare products for 2 weeks, and I still get to try a new product every week.
I avoid scheduling individual weeks in advance because I’ve found my needs/wants tend to shift around as the weeks go by. I start with the active, and then I just go by what is exciting at the time, or what I might be running out of. For example, in my first testing block I purchased a shampoo, but I waited to introduce it until my current shampoo was almost empty.
I spend a lot of time in each block planning the purchases for the next one. Then I make a large haul ~1.5 months before the start of the block to make sure everything gets to me in time. I also try to haul as much as I can from a single store, so these purchases tend to come from the big stores with large selection: RoseRoseShop, Jolse, TesterKorea, etc.
The Haul Structure
Time for the good stuff. Each haul is separated into two sections: facial skincare and other products. Then each of those sections is further broken down into product categories. When deciding what to purchase for a haul, I make sure to have one and only one product in every category, save for any repurchases. Note that I do allow multiples of a product if they are just different flavors of the same formula/brand and don’t really require separate testing or routine integration. For example, in my last haul I purchased a sampler pack of Marvis toothpaste that I considered to be one product.
Also of note, the below format is for the two 16-week testing blocks. The 20-week Spring/Summer block is the same, I just get to pick an additional four products, two face products and two other types. I grab whatever is tickling my fancy at the time.
- An active. AHA, BHA, vitamin C, retinoids, prescription topical, chemical peel, etc.
- A cleanser. Cleansing oil, gel, cream, milk, balm, foaming cleanser, cleansing water, or eye & lip makeup remover.
- A wash-off mask. Clay, scrub, massage, or nourishing mask.
- A hydrating product. Essence, serum, or ampoule.
- A moisturizing product. Emulsion, gel, milk, lotion, cream,
or facial oil.
- A prep-step. pH adjusting or hydrating toner, first essence, or mist.
- A final-step. Sleeping pack, facial oil, sunscreen, spot treatment.
- Sheet masks. May be new or repurchases, buy enough to last for the testing block. Currently I’m only using 1 per week, so the quota is 16-20 per haul. I plan to increase this in future years
Edit March 11, 2017: I moved facial oils from the ‘Moisturizer’ category to the ‘Finisher’ category. I realized that I would probably never have a haul when I didn’t want to try another moisturizer, and thus I was basically guaranteed to never try a facial oil. I felt it fit better into the ‘Finisher’ category, because one can only have so many sleeping packs and sunscreens.
- Makeup. Skin, cheek, eye, brow, lash, or lip makeup product.
- Hair care. Shampoo, conditioner, scalp essence, serum, tonic, hair pack, mist, fragrance, etc.
- Lip or eye care. Eye cream, serum, or mask, lash serum, or lip mask, balm or other treatment.
- Oral hygiene. Toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, mouthwash or rinse, or whitening product.
- Nail care. Nail tool or mask, cuticle care, or any nail art product such as polish.
- Hand or foot care. Cream, mask, peel, handwash or sanitizer.
- Bath and body. Body wash, shower oil, bath salts, razor, shaving brush, cream, aftershave, body lotion, body oil, body sunscreen, or body exfoliant.
Body skincare orFragrance. Any perfume/fragrance oils or EDP sprays.
- Wildcard. Another product from any of the above categories in this section.
Edit August 19, 2017: After getting into indie perfumes this year, I removed body skincare from category 8 and made “Fragrance” a standalone category because I want to be trying new perfume samples each haul. Body skincare was combined into category 7 (formerly “Bathing or shaving”), and it is now for all bath and body products.
As a final pseudo-category, I make sure to pick up any must-have repurchases as well as supplies like konjac sponges or cotton pads. In my last haul, I repurchased 3 products, and I will probably not repurchase 2 of those products again. These hauls get pretty hefty, and I need to make sure I’m repurchasing as little as possible to make the cost sustainable. It does help, however, that these hauls constitute 100% of my personal care products, not just skincare for my face. It makes a difference when I’m not picking up toothpaste or deodorant with the groceries.
I intend to maintain this process as long as I possibly can. It will evolve and change, I’m sure; in fact it already has. But it’s the exploration of products and development of a beauty routine that I want to continue. Keeping a purchase quota lets me focus my efforts and ensures I buy enough stuff without going overboard.
That’s about it for this post. Future post plans include details of my last 2 hauls using this system, so stay tuned if you’re interested.
How do you plan your purchases? Let me know in the comments below! Thank you so much for reading, and have a happy new year!