In the world of 10 and 12-step routines, sometimes we have to take a step back and ask ourselves… are we overdoing it? And when it comes to cleansing, the answer is YES!
How Often Should You Wash Your Face?
Regardless of skin type, you should be washing your face once a day at a minimum. You should be doing so in the evening to remove any dirt, makeup, oil, and pollutants that have built up on your skin over the course of the day. Many people choose to wash their faces in the morning, but the jury is still out on whether or not you absolutely have to. “There isn’t a need to rewash our face in the morning as there isn’t anything to remove such as makeup or sunscreen,” Athena Hewett, aesthetician and founder of Monastery skincare, tells Allure. “The natural oil our bodies produce is good for our skin — it provides a first defense barrier for the external factors of the day.” On the other side of that argument, other professionals believe that indoor pollutions and other irritants and oils can build up on your bedding and pillowcases so you should still be washing your face in the morning. “Twice-a-day cleansing removes the pollutants and irritants that our skin is exposed to 24/7 — even when we sleep,” Loretta Ciraldo, a board-certified dermatologist in Miami tells Allure.
I am going to give a very middle of the road answer here and say that when it comes to washing your face in the morning you should defer to personal preference and how your skin responds. If you have dry, more sensitive skin then you can probably get away with just wiping your face off in the morning with a gentle, cleansing toner. But if you have oily, acne-prone skin, it may be beneficial to wash away excess oil that has accumulated on your skin overnight. And you should also be washing and changing your pillowcases every week to ensure they aren’t causing you any additional breakouts.
What Happens When You Over-Cleanse Your Skin
Your skin is the barrier between the outside world and the inside of your body. In order for it to do its job, it has to be balanced and healthy. The oil that your skin naturally produces helps to achieve this! But when you over-cleanse your skin, you are essentially stripping your skin of the oils it produces to keep your skin healthy.
Not sure if you’re over-cleansing? Here is what to look out for:
Face Feels Tight: If your face feels tight and “squeaky clean” after you wash it, that’s a good indicator that you’re over-cleansing. This occurs because you’ve washed away all of the natural oils your skin produces and have left nothing your skin can use to hydrate itself. You can combat this in a couple of ways. 1) use lukewarm water, as hot water will dry out your skin quickly, and 2) try to double cleanse with an oil-based cleanser. The oils will remove your makeup without stripping the skin. It’s a win-win!
Acne: A lot of people obsessively cleanse their skin because they think that it will help clear up their acne, but the opposite is true. Because over-cleansing strips your skin of its natural oils, your body will go into overdrive and start producing even more! These oils will then go on to clog your pores and cause breakouts. Use a gentle cleanser, and be sure to follow up your acne treatments with a moisturizer as a lot of acne products can be drying.
Rashes and Other Irritations: When your skin barrier is compromised, it can result in more than just acne and an uncomfortable tight feeling. Over-cleansing of the skin can lead to seborrheic dermatitis. This is a common skin disease that causes you to have a rash, with redness, and a swollen or greasy appearance and white or yellow flaking of the skin. It is oftentimes itchy and uncomfortable to deal with.
Repairing Your Skin After Over-Cleansing
If you have been over-cleansing your skin, then you have probably caused some damage to your skin barrier that will need to be repaired. For starters, stop using harsh cleansers and opt for a gentle cream or oil-based formula instead. Use lukewarm water, and don’t use any of your spin brushes, cleansing devices, or other rough physical exfoliants. You should also be looking for hydrating serums and leave-on treatments that will bring moisture back into your skin. Look for products that contain glycerin, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and/or sodium hyaluronate.
If your skin is really struggling, NYC dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, Whitney Bowe, M.D recommends probiotic products. “Generally, a healthy microbiome is one that’s diverse,” says Dr. Bowe. “You have trillions of bacteria on your skin, and ideally they should arise from many different species. When some species start to overgrow and crowd out others, that’s when certain skin issues may potentially emerge.”
Over-cleansing your face is real and can lead to serious skin issues down the line. Use a more gentle cleanser, avoid hot water, and be sure to replenish your skin with hydrating creams and serums afterward!