If there’s one skincare question I get most (and, ahem, I get a lot, thanks to the magical world of DMs and text messages), it’s “how often should I wash my face?” And the confusion makes sense—ask 10 different people, and you’ll get 10 very different, very questionable opinions based on someone’s personal experience, skin type, makeup and skincare routine, and laziness level. So if you’re wondering if it’s better to wash your face once or twice a day, or if it’s bad to wash your face too many times, or just, like, how TF to wash your face the right way, you’ve come to the right place.
To answer the question once and for all (plus give you a few of the best face washes to use for your skin type, because you know we’ve gotchu), I chatted with a dermatologist about all things face-washing, starting with what you really came here for:
How often should you wash your face?
In general, you should wash your face twice a day—once in the morning and once at night. Note that this is just a generalizationthat works for the vast majority of skin types, provided that you’re using a gentle face wash (especially if you have dry or sensitive skin) that doesn’t irritate your face each time you use it. That’s not to say it’s bad if you only wash your face once a day—more on that below—but if you’re new to skincare and looking for a general rule of thumb, twice a day is a good place to start.
Should you wash your face every morning?
As long as you’re using a gentle cleanser like one of the above (yes, I’m going to repeat this disclaimer a lot, because it’s the most important factor in determining how often you should wash your face), then it’s totally fine—and often beneficial—to wash your face in the a.m. Washing your face in the morning can help remove any residue or bacteria that you picked up from your pillow, hair, and saliva while sleeping.
Not only that, but a quick morning rinse is also super important for your skincare routine. “For ingredients to absorb properly, you need clean skin that’s totally free of oil and grime,” dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, has told Cosmo.
Do you have to wash your face at night?
Listen, if you know you can’t commit to twice-a-day cleansings, then you need to at least wash your face every single night, no matter what. Throughout the day, your skin accumulates a layer of dirt, pollution, and grime, plus a layer of your own skin oils and sweat (yup, even if it’s a no-bones day and you sat stationary for 12 hours—bodies are still ~alive~ and oily). Leaving all that gunk on your face can lead to inflammation, irritation, dullness, and breakouts—especially if you make it a habit.
Can you wash your face with just water?
If you’ve been led to believe that cleansing your face twice a day with face wash will strip it/dry it/irritate it, then chances are, you’ve been using a face wash that’s too harsh for your skin type. Even the driest, most sensitive of skin types (hi, looking at someone with both rosacea acne and keratosis pilaris on their face) can wash their face twice a day as long as they’re using a gentle, moisturizing face wash.
You can just splash your face with water, but water alone can’t really “cleanse” your skin or break down oils, so it’s still best to use a gentle face wash in the morning, especially if you’re acne prone. And if you wear makeup, your nighttime wash should ideally first involve a cleansing balm or oil to help gently break down and dissolve any makeup from your face, followed by a gentle, moisturizing face wash. Check out these combos below to get you started:
Should I wash my face if I don’t wear makeup?
Yes, you still need to wash your face even if you don’t wear makeup. Why? Because the reasons above: Your skin still accumulates pore-clogging oils and inflammation-causing grime throughout the day, so even if it looks clean before bed, it definitely isn’t (unless, you know, you took a shower within the last few hours before bed and then barely moved).
Do you have to wash your face twice a day?
No, you do not need to wash your face twice a day—and you definitely shouldn’t be washing your face more than twice a day either. How often you wash your face will totally depend on your skin type, laziness level, and the type of skincare products you’re using. If you’re someone who slathers on a bunch of face oil or moisturizers every night, you might feel more comfortable washing with a cleanser when you wake up. Or, you might find your skin feels and looks best with just a splash of water in the a.m.
In the end, it’s all about personal experience on what works best for you and your own face. “I’ve been a dermatologist for 14 years, and I have never once told a patient they needed to wash their face twice, no matter their skin condition,” says Dr. Gohara. So if you’re on the fence, give both ways a try for a few weeks—one week washing twice a day, and one week washing at night only—and see what feels best.
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