Washing your face may seem like a simple, straight forward daily chore, but for the skin-care obsessed a lot of thought goes into how to wash and dry your face properly — including how often you should wash to score radiant glowing skin.
There’s a reason for the fixation on cleansing: even when you go makeup-free, washing your face plays a vital role of removing dirt and oil. When you skip it, you might see a dramatic rise in breakouts and oil, as well as a dull complexion.
But can you have too much of a good thing? Overwashing your face is a real thing — and it can be just as troublesome as not washing your face enough. Here’s how often you should be washing your face, how to tell if you’re overdoing it, and what steps to take if you overdo it.
How Often Should You Wash Your Face?
No matter your skin type, you want to wash your faceat leastonce a day — in the evening to remove any dirt, makeup, oil, and grime that’s built up on your skin throughout the day.
Whether or not to cleanse again in the morning depends largely on your skin type however, cleansing in the morning removes oil produced throughout the night as well as dead skin cells (our skin is constantly shedding itself!), the products used the night before, as well as irritants that build up on your pillowcase. Cleansing in the morning gives you a clean slate, allowing your AM serums, moisturizers, SPF, etc to more effectively penetrate the skin. It also allows your makeup to go on smoother and stay on longer!
Cleansing in the evening removes makeup, oil, environmental pollutants and debris from your skin; reducing pore blockage and allowing your skin to breathe!
A good rule of thumb: If your skin feels dry or flaky in the morning, skip the wash for apurifying face oil instead. The only reason you should ever need to wash your face more than twice a day is to remove something like saltwater after a swim in the ocean or a sweaty workout.
How Can You Tell If You’re Overwashing?
1. Your Skin Feels Tight
If your skin has a “tight and dry feeling,” this is a strong indication you’ve gone overboard. Skin can also feel sensitive or shows signs of sensitivity with reddish, dry patches.
Typically, this isn’t as much about how frequently you’re washing your face, as it is about which cleanser you’re using. Overwashing usually results from using a cleanser that’s too harsh for your skin. We see this a lot with acne cleansers that are largely designed to thoroughly decongest the skin.
It’s an easy mistake to make. If dirt and oil arebehind breakouts, it seems like it would make sense to be extra diligent about removing them, right? Not so. Drying products tend to make our skin overcompensate by producing more oils. The skin’s oil levels and moisture levels are two different measurements, so oily skin can also lack hydration and be dry. For more on this read, How To Tell If Your Skin Is Dry Or Dehydrated.
If this sounds like your skin, we recommend a cleanser that will exfoliate to help keep pores gunk-free, but is also gentle enough that it won’t strip skin of its natural moisture. Environ’s Sebu-Wash Cleanser combined with their Sebu-LAC Lotion are a good option — the lactic acid gently exfoliates, while tea tree leaf extract and tocopherol help hydrate and soothe.
That being said, cleansing shouldn’t lead to irritation. Washing should never dry out your skin or make it red or flaky.
2. Your Skin Becomes Oilier
Overwashing your skin may feel like a short-term solution for removing excess oil / sebum from your face, but in reality it is providing feedback to your skin that the oil is being stripped. In response, your skin attempts to rebalance itself resulting in the over production of oil and irritation from overabundant cleanser use.
Think of it this way. When you are over-cleansing your skin and stripping away the natural moisture and protective barrier that’s on the surface, your skin will start to feel a little…attacked.
So it will react to this attack by obviously defending itself and producing more sebum in order to replenish this barrier and the loss of moisture.
Your skin will respond in this fashion for two reasons:
- You are over-cleansing your skin
- You are using harsh/alkaline (drying) products to cleanse your skin
Either, or both of these factors can cause your skin to become sensitized, and this will result in overproduction of sebum.
3. You Develop Acne
The main concern with overproduction of sebum is that it can clog your pores and clogged pores are the main reason behind acne breakouts.
Interestingly enough, your skin is home to bacteria that lives off the fatty acids present in your sebum and plays a role in maintaining the healthy balance of your skin. However, this bacteria can turn very nasty very quickly and start causing problems on your skin when it’s triggered. It can enter your pores and due to the airless environment an overproduction of sebum creates, it can trigger an inflammatory response in the form of acne breakouts.
So, if you’re breaking out randomly and can’t figure out what’s triggering your outbreaks, you shouldn’t exclude the possibility that your cleansing habits could very well be the culprit.
4. Rashes May Appear
Your natural skin barrier may become compromised due to over-cleansing and therefore unable to protect you from irritations, inflammatory responses, and pathogenic bacteria. A damaged skin barrier can very easily become susceptible to infections that can lead to painful rashes and even sores due to harmful environmental irritants.
5. You Experience Atopic Dermatitis
Environmental irritants and allergens such as soaps, shampoos, and cleaning products are known to aggravate symptoms of eczema. However, these may even trigger the appearance of eczema due to the highly alkaline ingredients they contain.
If you tend to over-cleanse with a harsh cleanser that leaves your skin feeling tight and stripped, eliminating this product and reducing the cleansing of your skin to once a day may relieve your eczema symptoms.
How To Alleviate Overwashing
If you think you might be overwashing, the key is to give your skin time to repair itself. Try reducing your cleansing to once a day (in the evening), or going on a product break and not using anything on your skin at all for a few days, save for one exception: a gentle cleansing oil. Cleansing oils don’t disrupt our natural oil barriers, so you can’t overwash with an oil cleanser.
If you’re a chronic overwasher, switching to a cleansing oil might be the key to keep things in balance. We recommend Environ’s Sebu-Ace Oil.
In the short term — when your skin is dry and tight — a leave-on product like Environ’s HA Intensive Hydrating Serum, or their Vita Enriched Colostrum Gel can help heal the skin, and is the perfect salve for parched skin.
Additionally, scrubbing the skin causes it to produce more oil. Instead of an aggressive exfoliation, we recommend using a salicylic acid treatment such as Environ Sebu Wash Gel Cleanser and Hydroxy Acid Sebu Clear Masque. Salicylic acid is lipophilic, which means it is able to dissolve oils. This allows it to penetrate into the pores and dry out your oily skin.
Salicylic acid can be a wonder ingredient for those with oily skin, but you have to be careful not to go overboard with it. Salicylic acid does help exfoliate the skin and remove the dead layer of skin that can clog up pores, however, if you are using salicylic acid too frequently, you can actually cause too much dryness of the skin. In response, you guessed it… the body responds by producing more oil, making your skin more oily and more acne prone. So instead of using salicylic face wash, peel pads, and spot treatment, choose just one or two ways to incorporate this exfoliating ingredient into your routine.
And don’t forget to seal it all with a moisturizer. If your skin is oily, you may think that means it doesn’t need to be moisturized—but think again. Skipping moisturizer could actually make your skin more oily than it was to begin with as a moisturizer will add moisture to the skin, minimizing the skin’s perception that it is too dry. Adding moisture to the skin helps reduce the oiliness because it helps slow down sebum production.
Incorporating a light, hydrating moisturizer into your skincare routine will help to seal the moisture into your skin and prevent it from evaporating. It will also strengthen the natural barrier of your skin and before you know it you will start seeing the results of recovery. We recommend Environ Vita-Antioxidant AVST Gel for those with oily skin, or Vita-Antioxidant AVST Moisturizer for everyone else.