As you may already know, the first step to achieving clear skin is washing your face. That morning and evening cleanse is crucial even if you don’t wear makeup. Washing your face removes more than just your foundation. Oil, dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells and any pollutants from the air that have inadvertently landed on your skin all get washed down the drain.
But when it comes to your face cleansing routine, not washing enough or washing too many times a day can wreak havoc on your skin. Do you know how many times a day is enough or too much and when the best times to cleanse are?
We’re here to set the record straight. Here's how often you should be washing your face each day, why it matters, and what to do if you’ve overdone it.
How many times a day should you wash your face?
Ever have those mornings where you’re rushing out the door and barely have time to put clothes on? What about those nights you get home zonked and you’re just too tired to wash your face? We’ve all been there. But the more you skip washing your face, the more likely it is that you’ll see an increase in breakouts and excess oil. But don’t overdo it either! Over washing your face can do more harm than good.
The happy medium is washing your face twice each day – once in the morning and again before bedtime. That’s right — just a day and night face wash will do!
Cleansing in the AM helps remove the oils, dead skin cells, pollutants and irritants that can build up on your pillowcase and get onto your skin. Plus, it preps your skin for the rest of your skincare routine. And remember, if your hair is dirty or full of product, your pillowcase is dirty too.
You probably already know that cleansing at night helps remove the day’s buildup on your skin. But the night shift wash is extra important because overnight, the top layer of your epidermis regenerates – so it’s important not to block the shedding process by leaving your pores clogged with dirt, oil and makeup.
You might want to add one more wash if you get a good sweat in from a workout or a hot day to help keep your pores from getting clogged. Or, you may want to remove chlorine from your skin after the pool as it’s super drying. Or, if you’re switching up your makeup from day to night, you might want to start with freshly cleaned and hydrated skin. All of these are legitimate reasons to wash your face midday — just use a more gentle cleanser (especially if you use one with physical or chemical exfoliants or benzoyl peroxide) and don’t over scrub, simply remove the debris and rinse your skin.
That’s because washing your face too many times a day can definitely do some damage. Read on for more info.
How to tell if you’re overwashing your face
Balance is the key. Why? Your face needs some natural oil to stay moisturized. If you dry out your skin too much, your body will overcompensate by overproducing oil. It can become an endless cycle. Plus, overproduction of oil = a recipe for a breakout.
But did you know that even oily skin can by dry? It’s true — moisture and oil levels are two separate things, so skin can be oily but still lack hydration. (This is one of many reasons why moisturizing your skin — even if it’s oily — is so important!)
So how do you know if you’re overwashing? If your skin is too dry, you’ll feel a tightness to the skin, experience extra sensitivity, or see pink or red dry patches. If you’re only washing your face twice a day but your skin is dry, try adding a more robust moisturizer into your routine. If you are washing your face more than twice a day, resist that midday wash as best you can. In either case, try using a more hydrating cleanser that exfoliates to help keep your pores clean but cleans gently so your skin won’t be stripped of moisture.
Makeup removers vs cleansers
For those of you who are avid makeup wearers, making sure your evening cleanse really gets rid of all traces of everything from mascara to foundation is crucial. Some cleansers do effectively remove makeup, but how do you know if you need to use a makeup remover before cleansing or if your cleanser will remove enough makeup?
Whether they come in a pad, liquid, or even sponge, most makeup removers include oil, water and a preservative. Most cleansers will remove a light layer of makeup unless they are oil-based. It’s best to use an oil-based cleanser or makeup remover first. Then, use your regular face wash to really cleanse your skin of all debris. In a cleanser, micellar components have fat-loving molecules on one end and water loving beads on the other — so the end with the fat grabs the dirt and oil, then the water washes it all away.
Create your ideal skincare routine
Here's our suggestion for the best order to cleanse and apply products:
- If you wear makeup, use a makeup remover or oil-based cleanser first
- Follow with a regular cleanser (ideally one that exfoliates, too!)
- Toner (an alcohol-free solution specific to your skin type and concerns)
- Face serum or treatment (again, specific to your skin type and skin concerns)
- Moisturizer (oil free if you have acne, heavier if you have dry skin, water-based if you have oily skin)
- Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher, apply in the AM and reapply after 2-4 hours or after sweating)
Easy-to-use daily skincare routines
When it comes to keeping your skin healthy and clear, the products you use after you wash are just as important as the cleanse itself. Here are the systems we recommend if you are fighting breakouts or have acne-prone skin.
- Designed specifically to treat blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples, the original Proactiv Solution® system helps kill acne-causing bacteria and prevent new breakouts from forming. Plus, the system’s Renewing Cleanser washes away excess oil, dirt, and impurities while smooth exfoliating beads remove dead skin cells.
- Proactiv+® has a unique type of micronized benzoyl peroxide — it dives directly into pores to kill bacteria at its source. The system’s Skin Smoothing Exfoliator features microbeads for exfoliating and 2.5% benzoyl peroxide to help kill bacteria.
- The ProactivMD® system features our Ultra-Gentle Cleanser to wash away dirt, oil, and debris – while leaving skin clean, not stripped or dry. It’s coupled with our prescription-strength retinoid Adapalene Gel and Ultra Hydrating Moisturizer.
The bottom line
Washing your face helps remove impurities and preps it for the treatments and moisturizers that you apply afterwards – so wash it morning and night, unless your skin is feeling super dry and tight!