You’re Probably Washing Your Face Too Much
Read now, thank me later.
If you told my 12-year-old self that someday, at the ripe old age of 25, I would stop washing my face in the morning, I probably would have cried.
I’ve been fanatical about face-washing ever since fifth grade when my very first pimple appeared on my left temple and I asked my mom what it was. I did not enjoy her diagnosis one tiny bit, but I loved my subsequent foray into meticulous facial hygiene.
There’s nothing better than a freshly washed face: clean, smooth, oil-free, germ-proof. That’s how it used to feel, at least. But a few months ago something changed. I sudsed up first thing in the morning per my usual routine, and my face started FREAKING. OUT. It got all red and blotchy and even broke out in a tiny constellation of hives. (Not the metaphorical kind of hives I get when someone finishes a roll of toilet paper without replacing it. Literal hives.) I thought it was just a weird fluke, but it kept happening pretty frequently. I tried switching up my face wash. I even tried using Brita-filtered water. Nothing helped. My pores were peeved. I was confused.
On a particularly blotchy morning, I decided I’d had enough. Going forward, I resolved to skip my a.m. face wash and simply splash once with water, pat dry with a towel and proceed with my usual sunscreen + skin tint combo. I still washed my face at night with a very gentle cleanser (my current favorite is First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser) for makeup-removal purposes, but mornings became a strictly water-only affair.
I could immediately tell the difference. My skin was noticeably happier. Less red. Less irritated. Less high-maintenance. Plus, I could snooze my alarm clock for an extra 90 seconds every morning thanks to one less step in my normal routine!
I’ve kept it up for two months and haven’t looked back. The End.
Like all curious Georges with a heart of gold and an inquiring mind, I started to wonder why my face’s preferences seemingly turned on a dime. How did my finely honed skincare routine go from reliable to failure at the drop of a hat (a.k.a. squirt of a face-soap dispenser)?
I reached out to licensed dermatologist Dr. Melinda Longaker. She wrote back, “Washing too often or with too harsh of a soap for your skin type can result in dryness, redness and stinging when you wash or apply other products. Winter is generally when sensitive skin becomes worse because of the heaters being on and low humidity in the air. You may need to change how you are washing and moisturizing in the winter compared to warmer months.”
When I read this blessed crumb of expertise, I finally understood how Thomas Edison felt when he discovered electricity. You see, I recall my face starting to react poorly to its usual morning ablutions at the end of December, which was exactly when true winter (ding ding ding!) began in New York and the heaters in my apartment were on full blast. Suddenly everything made sense: my skin and face wash were simply fair-weather friends. (That was an A+ weather joke ICYMI).
Who knows — maybe I’ll need to switch back to twice-a-day face washing when summer rolls around and NYC starts to feel like the inside of a kangaroo pouch again. Until then, I’m enjoying my extra 90 seconds of sleep.
Feature photo by Tory Rust; phone photos via Harling Ross.