Should You Wash Your Face Twice A Day?

Jul 1st 2020

On the quest for happy skin, you might stumble onto a hotly debated topic with seemingly conflicting information: one such debate is how frequently (and when) to wash your face. 

It's generally accepted that a good night-time cleanse helps to keep skin healthy and clear. Most of us wake up, apply some skincare (and hopefully SPF) and perhaps some makeup, then go about the day where we encounter pollution, dust, not to mention that we usually produce some sweat. Removing this build-up before bed helps to keep pores clear and allows skin to conduct its nightly repair. Since most skincare experts agree that it's key to cleanse skin at night, the question turns to the morning routine: if you cleanse in the morning as well as at night, are you actually stripping your skin and doing more harm than good? 

The argument for the morning cleanse: Most of us likely grew up learning that washing our faces in the morning was just a part of the routine. The idea was that a morning cleanse removes the build-up of sweat, bacteria and product from the night before, and that this is helpful to do before locking them into pores by layering on new products for the day ahead. Overnight, our bodies produce sweat and a surge in hormones (thanks to a natural circadian rhythm, which is a healthy component of daily skin repair), plus we re-introduce bacteria and remnants of products trapped on our pillowcases from the night before. In the morning, many of us get ready for the day by layering on SPF, moisturizers and makeup.

The argument against the morning cleanse: Over the past few years, the skincare community has started paying more attention to the role of the skin’s microbiome (the naturally occurring mix of healthy bacteria, oils and acids that keep skin protected from irritation and dryness), and how to keep that microbiome in tact. For people with sensitive or dry skin, cleansing twice a day may be overly stripping and disrupting of the natural oil and acid mantle that our skin produces to protect itself.

The nuances: Whether or not to cleanse in the morning could depend on your skin type, daily lifestyle/routine, and the types of products you use across your regimen. Consider these factors and try making adjustments. At the end of the day, paying attention to the condition of your skin is ultimately what should guide your decision.

If you have dry or sensitive skin: If you wake up and typically notice dry, flakey skin in the morning, you might want to try skipping your morning cleanse for a few weeks. You can rinse with water, or use a gentle non-foaming facial cleanser, and pay attention to how your skin responds over time. Notice if your skin begins to feel less tight or itchy after your cleanse (a sign that the pH is balanced). 

Shop Acne TreatmentsIf you have oily, acne prone skin: It can be more difficult for people with oily and acne prone skin to determine the best routine. Why? Because you want to understand whether your skin is oily due to a natural abundance of oil production, or because you are stripping your natural moisture barrier by over-cleansing or use of harsh products. A good method is to look at your entire skincare routine (morning and night) and make sure you aren't using too many drying or exfoliating products (products with acids, enzymes, clays, charcoals, alcohol or fragrance). If you're using more than a couple of drying/exfoliating products per day, try cutting some out and see how your skin reacts over the course of a few weeks. If your routine is already light on drying/exfoliating products, yet your skin is still oily and breaking out, you may not want to skip your morning cleanse as it can be beneficial in clearing and preparing your skin for the products you will apply for the day. Instead, you may want to revisit the products you're using to see whether there are other clearing ingredients you may want to try, or swapping out products to create balance. For example, if you use a clearing/exfoliating cleanser at night, you could try using a gentle cleanser in the morning, followed by a balancing toner and lightweight moisturizer. You want to bring your skin to its most balanced condition and allow that microbiome to thrive. 

If you use lots of 'active' products: Are you an ingredient junkie? It can be easy to strip or sensitize your skin if you use too many products with active ingredients. This may begin to manifest with dry, red or flakey skin, but it's important to pinpoint whether your skin is reacting to the products you are using, or if is naturally on the dry side and would benefit from just a once-daily cleanse. If you use more than two peels, exfoliants (products with acids or enzymes), or vitamin A products per day, it may be that your skin is being stripped because of these ingredients. In this case, try scaling back and alternate the products you use each day. You might also want to incorporate a restoring facial oil with fatty acids to help rebuild your moisture barrier. Give your skin about 4 weeks to see how it adapts, and then determine if using a gentle morning cleanser is a good fit.  

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If you work out early in the day: Typically, it's a good idea to cleanse after you work out. The residual sweat and bacteria that your skin produces can cause irritation and clogged pores if left to sit on your skin all day. If you like to work out in the morning or mid-day, you could skip a cleanse first thing when you get up, and use a gentle cleanser after your workout. It's all about balance, so depending on your skin type, you might opt for a foaming cleanser after your work-out (for oily skin) and a gentle cleanser before bed.

Ingredients to incorporate: If your skin is stripped and overly dry, incorporate ingredients to help boost moisture and fortify your lipid barrier. Omega fatty acids, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid, and colloidal oatmeal are great picks.

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