Five clever (science-based) tricks for a minimalist beauty bag

Is your beauty bag straining at the seams? Read five science-based tricks to help you minimise the products you need, so you can cleverly pack less and look just as stunning!

If you’re anything like us, your beauty bag is probably full to bursting with products that you think you need or are told you can’t live without. You know, like that tube of miracle eye cream, that compliments the must-buy face cream, that in turn HAS to be used with the super hydrating serum?

If this sounds familiar, this post is for you! Blogging science nerd Cheryl Woodman is on a mission to make skincare understandable to everyone. And in this spirit she’s sharing five clever tricks to help you attain that seemingly impossible beauty ideal – a minimalist beauty bag!

Using her science superpowers, Cheryl spots the beauty cons we’ve all bought into and reveals the products we can easily live without, the ones we need to avoid, and those that can easily double up for each other.

Five clever tricks for a minimalist beauty bag

I’m going to let you into a well-kept beauty secret. You know all those products you can’t live without? The truth is that you don’t actually NEED them all.

Instead, I’m going to teach you some sneaky tricks to streamline your beauty bag in the style of a capsule wardrobe. It’s time to channel your inner beauty Gok Wan! So here they are – my five clever tricks for a minimalist beauty bag.

1) Double up your balm as a cleanser

A good beauty balm is your new best friend. Balm is like us ladies – multi-tasking pros. They’re great when used as lip treatment, dry skin barrier cream, cleanser, nature’s plaster… balm is the answer to your beauty bag’s dream of multi-purpose minimalism.

The one use for balm not widely known is that it’s also an awesome cleanser. Cleansers have two roles in life:

  1. To dissolve water-soluble dirt.
  2. To dissolve oil-soluble grease.

But it gets even simpler than that. Water dissolves water-soluble dirt, and you can get that water from the tap for free (almost!). And the remaining oil-soluble grease, is you guessed it, dissolved by oil. This means all you need for the most soothing cleanser ever is some balm and a cotton pad or muslin cloth!

What to look for in a balm

Finding the right balm is like choosing a fine wine. Some are going to be easily drinkable and right for the price, and then there’s some that just HIT that spot.

Vaseline would be the ‘just-ok’ balm example. It’s got all the right things going for it to form a barrier against your skin, it’s just not going to give you anything back. That’s okay if it’s what you’re looking for, but it’s also good to know there are balms which give some power-juice to your skin.

The balms to look out for are packed with ingredient lovelies like shea butter, jojoba oil, almond oil, mango butter… there’s a shopping list full to choose from.

A quick way to tell if you’re onto a good balmy bet

Check if all of the ingredients make sense without turning to Google translate. Natural ingredients usually have a bracketed name next to what’s scientifically called their INCI name, (that’s like the full double-barrelled name form that no-one would ever actually verbally speak). If all is understandable without a dictionary, then you’re onto a skin-loving winner.

Ingredients like petroleum, paraffinum liquidum, silicones and dimethicone’s aren’t going to harm your skin, they’re just not going to give anything back to it. Like a lustful relationship, they make skin all smooth temporarily, but once the lust is gone, your skin is right back where it was in the beginning.

THE MINIMISE: Switch out cleanser, lip salves and intensive hand moisturisers for one crazily-good-for-skin, balm.

2) Use hair conditioner and shower gel as shaving cream

There are so many bathroom swaps available to us ladies, not least your man’s own beauty stash! (The likelihood is that you bought it for him anyway, so it’s only fair you get to test it out, right?)

So what is shaving gel, or foam or cooling lotion? They all have the same common goal – to make your shaving experience the smoothest yet. They want to make your razor glide like it’s sitting on a white fluffy cloud and hey, if they manage to have a few skin-loving ingredients in there like shea butter or aloe, our skin gets a quick opportunity to drink up.

Hair conditioner is designed to make hairs slip against each other like shoes on newly-polished flooring, which is great news for your razor, as it’s exactly the balanced skill set he needs on the team. Razor + hair conditioner = one smooth shave.


If you simply cannot ditch your shaving accompaniment, stay clear from the foaming varieties. Sadly foam is never a good thing for our skin. Why? Because the ingredients used to make foam are called surfactants (soap is a ‘specie’ of surfactant).

And the thing is, these guys love grease. But while there’s grease you want to get rid of, there’s also grease you want to keep. The kind you want to hang on to like superglue is the grease that keeps your skin healthy. Called sebum, it protects us, makes us waterproof and it stops bacteria invading our skin. It’s like a passive fighting force that is expert in camouflage.

However, surfactants aren’t that clever and they can’t tell the difference between good and bad grease. DOH! The ones that make a lotta foam are generally winners of the world’s strongest title, they eat away at the good grease too. That’s why shaving gels are the better choice for skin.

THE MINIMISE: Ditch the shave gel and use a dollop of hair conditioner or shower gel for extra silky pins.

3) Use body lotion as hair conditioner

Body lotion has to be the arch nemesis of the holiday pack. Sun, sea and sand mean packing more bottles of cream than you can shake a stick at.

However there a perfect little space save for you lucky ladies winging your way off on holiday in the coming weeks. This stand-in-swap explores all the ingredients to be found in body lotions and hair conditioners.

It’s easy not to recognise these two as the twins they are, cunningly separated in the isles of your local chemist. At first sight, body lotion and hair conditioners aren’t identical, but they do have the same biology.

To start with, both are creamy gods. This means they both add water and oil to whatever you apply them to. Creams make things smooth. Smooth legs, smooth hair, smooth everywhere – and that’s exactly what you want a hair conditioner to do. Don’t worry about getting the dreaded Monica from Friends in Barbados look; the water in the body lotion will wash straight outta your hair, leaving behind the oils to make hair super smooth and glossy.

THE MINIMISE: It’s like winning twice. Ditch the hair conditioner AND shave gel for one body lotion.

4) Forget the toner

This one is an instant weekend pack space save. You know, the one where you’re trying to fill the entire contents of your wardrobe into one carry on size suitcase? And who can blame you when the weather’s so unpredictable and you can’t decide between pumps, loafers and your new boots?

The solution is easy – leave it out. Not the shoes, hell no, I’m talking about the toner! Toner is as cloak and dagger as beauty can get. They first evolved to make up for cleansers that didn’t ‘do the business’. Their task was to remove remains of a day’s makeup and any traces of cleanser, which back in the day could be quite soapy and so not that skin-friendly.

However, today’s cleansers are like little rocket scientists. They have evolved to be as gentle as a feather and as cleansing as a squeegee.

It was probably about the time of this evolution that it was loudly rumoured that toners shrink pores. And how could anyone ignore that claim? That’s like putting a chocolate bowl (with chocolate sauce on-top!) in front of us ladies.

The thing is, keeping pores clean does a SUPERHERO good job of keeping pores small. Keep the dirt out of your pores and there’s nothing to expand and clog them. That could be as simple as cleaning out your skin’s own sebum (that oily layer which protects skin), or the dirt and dust of a ride on London’s underground. Basically, cleanser is your pore hero.

One final tip in the quest for pore less skin (it’s one you probably do anyway, so knowing you’re doing extra good is just the cherry on top) isn’t rocket science, its moisturiser!

Moisturiser keeps skin plump, full of water and in condition. It’s like inflating a balloon. When it’s needle poppingly full of air, there are no lumps, bumps or wrinkles. Moisturiser inflates your skin, which has the knock on impact of decreasing your pore size!

THE MINIMISE: Simples. Forget the toner, take a break, leave him in the corner!

5) Use shower gel as shampoo (and visa versa)

This is like the un-written 2-in-1 of the beauty world. It might be a save for the time you forget the shower gel because those octopus arms were focusing really hard on the five other super important tasks that had to be done right that minute. And it could be the simplest way to get the man of your life to step out of cave-man territory whilst satisfying his need for simple and quick personal care.

The fact is that, whether you’re washing your head or your body, you’re washing exactly the same thing. You’re washing skin and hair both ways. My words are shouting for an asterisk disclosure so I’m letting it out **hair density may vary.

Let’s take this one step further, and turn 2-in-1 shampoo into a 3-in-one! That’s enough to please even the caviest of cave men!

THE MINIMISE: Switch one in and ditch one out. Take your pick.

Which tricks will you use?

So there you have it ladies, space-savers to save the day! Which clever tricks will you be using to minimise your beauty bag?

Cheryl is a blogging science nerd who wants to make skincare understandable to everyone. You can read her blog here.