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How Often Should You Really Wash Your Face

Brian Melville

When wondering how often it’s necessary to wash your face, you might hear conflicting advice––some people say they wash their face upwards of three times a day, others might say they don’t wash their face at all. So who’s right? Is there a correct number of times to wash your face a day? And what kind of facial cleansing regimen is going to work for you?

To answer these questions and more, we’ve put together this helpful guide.

How Necessary Is Washing Your Face? 

Washing your face is an important part of maintaining the health and appearance of your skin. After all, it is the largest organ in your body and should be treated with respect. Dirt, oil, pollution, and bacteria build up on the skin and can clog pores throughout the day; cleansing your skin to remove excess dirt and dead skin cells is a vital step in your routine.

Benefits to washing your skin include:

  • More youthful skin
  • Clearing blemishes
  • Reducing pimples or bumps under your beard
  • Soothing skin
  • Cleaning pores
  • Prepping skin for other products

When Should You Wash Your Face? 

Most dermatologists seem to agree that the best time to wash your face is once in the morning and once at night. There is one exception to this: if you’ve done a lot of exercises or have been sweating a lot for whatever reason, it’s a good idea to wash your face after a workout.

Should Your Skin Care Routine Change Throughout the Day? 

Although your nighttime and morning routine can remain fairly simple––with as few as two or three steps––there are usually some differences between the two. Let’s take a look at the difference between morning and a nighttime skincare routine:

In the Morning

Skincare in the morning should focus mainly on preventing skin damage and protecting your skin. 

This means that a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF are essential. Even if you aren’t spending much time outside, you should get in the habit of using sunscreen every day (with an SPF of 30 or higher); even a few trips to your car can build up over some time. Sun damage can lead to wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer.

At Night

Nighttime skincare is mostly about cleansing and repairing the skin. At night is when the top layer of your skin regenerates itself; to make this process as effective as possible, it’s important to remove obstacles like excess dirt and oils. Washing your face at night can even soothe you and help you sleep better. 

If you exfoliate, this should also be done in the evening so that whatever products you apply after having a clean canvas to sink into. Unless given different directions by your health care provider, nighttime is also the best time to apply skin medications or acne creams.

Can You Ever Skip Washing Your Face?

In general, it’s good to stick to washing your face in the morning and in the evening, seeing as bacteria can build up on your skin even at night. However, depending on your skin type, you might be able to get away with skipping the morning cleansing routine. Rinsing your face with lukewarm water will at least wake you up and can wipe away some of the sweat from the previous night. Just keep in mind: the key to good skincare is consistency. Suddenly switching up your routine too often can end up irritating your skin. 

What Should You Do If You Have Sensitive Skin? 

Around 50-60 percent of men report having sensitive skin. As long as you’re using gentle products that don’t cause you any itching, irritation, or redness, even those with sensitive skin should be able to wash their face twice a day. 

In fact, some people with skin conditions, such as rosacea, have found that gently cleansing their face twice a day has improved their condition. The most important thing to keep in mind is to stick to products and methods that work for you. If you have a skin condition, talk to your doctor about what to do.

How Often Should You Exfoliate? 

Exfoliating cleansers are a good addition to your skincare routine, but they should only be used once in a while. Exfoliating your skin can help remove the buildup of flaky, dead skin cells; it can also help encourage new skin to develop, giving your skin a fresher appearance. 

Too much exfoliation, however, can strip your skin and even lead to acne. Therefore, you should only exfoliate once or twice a week at most. To prevent skin damage, you should also stick to chemical exfoliators over physical ones like scrubs.

Is It Better to Wash Your Face More or Less? 

The short answer to this is: it depends. Everybody’s skin is different, so you might find that yours requires more or less attention or can handle products differently than others. 

Washing your face twice a day has been shown to lead to improvements in blemishes over those who wash less; therefore, if you have acne-prone skin, washing twice a day is probably best. However, if your skin is very dry or sensitive, cutting it down to just once a day might be ideal.

With What Should You Wash Your Face?

The right face wash can make a big difference. Choosing the right products to wash your face with is as important as how often you wash your face. You’ll want to make sure you’re using products with non-irritating and beneficial ingredients that address your specific concerns. In addition to the right facial cleanser, you should wash your face with your hands––scrubs or harsh face cloths can irritate your skin––and lukewarm water, seeing as hot or freezing water can dry out your face.

How Often Should You Wash Mature Skin? 

Elasticin is the protein component in your skin that lends elasticity to the skin tissue and keeps it flexible. Collagen is the other major protein component in your skin that makes it strong and supple. Both of these proteins break down as you age, making skincare all the more important. 

Washing your face once or twice a day is ideal for mature skin, as cleansing can allow other products, like moisturizers, to penetrate deeper. It will also allow your pores to breathe and keep you looking fresh.

When Should You Use a Face Mask?

Sometimes you might find that your skin needs some extra attention. Whether through physical activity, weather, age, or stress, environmental and internal factors can have us going through rougher skin periods; it’s also possible you have an event coming up where you just want to look your best. 

Using a face mask now and then can help address specific issues you have with your skin. Face masks can help clean pores, fight blemishes, moisturize, and firm the skin depending on their ingredients. Just make sure it doesn’t conflict with the rest of your routine; you should only use a face mask about once a week.

How Often Should You Moisturize? 

In general, you should moisturize as often as you cleanse your face––meaning about twice a day. Washing your face can cleanse your skin both of pollution and products, meaning you’ll want to replenish your skin’s moisture afterward. Especially as we age, moisturizing is important to replenish the skin’s barrier and prevent fine lines.

How Often Should You Switch Cleansers?

If you’ve found a face wash that works for you, there’s no reason to change it. A consistent skincare routine can work wonders, whereas constantly changing products can end up irritating your skin. With changing lifestyle or weather conditions and aging, you might find that your old routine needs some switching up. In that case, use a product for six to eight weeks to understand how it works for you (unless, of course, it irritates your skin).

Can You Overwash Your Face?

Although people rarely have the time to wash their face too much, it is possible to overwash your face. Washing your face several times a day, or using harsh products, can end up stripping and drying out your skin. 

Similarly, people who scrub their face aggressively, hoping to clean it, can actually be doing more harm than good. Gently washing your face once or twice should be sufficient.

The Bottom Line 

Everybody’s skin is unique. A routine that works for one person might not work so well for the next. In general, you should wash your face twice a day–once in the morning and at night, with some exceptions. Heavy workouts or skin conditions can require more or less facial cleansing. 

Ultimately, the best way to find out what works for you is to try out different things, giving each product and method a few weeks to see how it develops (unless your skin has a bad reaction). Remember, your skin changes as you age, so your old routine might have to be adjusted over time.

 

Sources:

A single-blinded, randomized, controlled clinical trial evaluating the effect of face washing on acne vulgaris | NCBI

Do You Really Need a Skin Care Routine? | Northwestern Medicine

Face Washing 101 | AAD

Facial Care Helps to Control Rosacea | National Rosacea Society

Growing a Pandemic Beard? Solve Skin Problems Caused by Your Facial Hair | Yale Medicine

The Prevalence of Sensitive Skin | Farage MA

Skin Care Tips for Men | AAD

Washing Your Face Before Bed | Sleep

What is Elastin? | News Medical

10 Skin Care Habits That Can Worsen Acne | AAD

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