Most experts would agree that the first lesson in Beauty 101 is to wash your face both morning and night to avoid developing skin concerns like acne. Cleansing your face in the morning starts your day off on a clean slate by ridding your skin of any bacteria that may have built up on your skin from your pillowcase or hair overnight. Washing your face at night removes all your makeup, excess oils, debris, and pollution from the day.
But recently, TikTokers have been campaigning for nighttime-only face washing — a trend that (like many other TikTok phenomenons) is up for debate. Though it’s having a social media moment, “washing your face [once a day] has been something people have been doing forever, says Dr. Papri Sarkar, a board-certified dermatologist in Brookline, MA. But like anything else on TikTok, always make sure a trend is appropriate for your skin and lifestyle. Below, we dive into whether or not nighttime-only face washing could work for you.
Who Can Benefit From Nighttime-Only Cleansing
Not all skin types find it necessary to wash their face twice. If the skin is very dry or sensitive, limiting face-washing to once per day is key to not drying out the skin, says Dr. Sarkar.
Meet the Experts
Dr. Papri Sarkar is a board-certified dermatologist in Brookline, MA.
Terrie Absher is a licensed medical aesthetician and founder of Total Glow.
Cheryl Staurowsky is an aesthetician in Boca Raton, FL.
Some skin types can handle nighttime only washing because cleansing can create tightness in the skin due to the stripping of beneficial oils. Boca Raton, FL aesthetician Cheryl Staurowsky explains that frequent cleansing can sometimes strip the necessary lipids from the skin, which keep out contaminants and impurities and keep in moisture. In addition, a lack of skin-friendly natural oils can increase the chances of irritation, breakouts, and an overproduction of sebum. “So, for those who have dry or sensitive skin, nightly cleansing only is sometimes best,” she says. When cold temperatures and dry weather negatively impact the skin, consider switching up your regular cleanser to include more hydrating ingredients, such as a rich balm cleanser like Sunday Riley Blue Moon Clean Rinse Cleansing Balm.
Terrie Absher, a licensed medical aesthetician and founder of Total Glow, points out other good reasons you might want to pare down your cleansing routine: You don’t wear makeup, you don’t leave the house (minimizing environmental pollution), or your skin doesn’t react negatively (e.g., acne) when you skip a morning cleanse. For people with oily skin but don’t experience breakouts, it’s possible cutting out the morning cleanse could also work for you, says Absher.
If you decide to go the nighttime-only cleansing route, you should always aim to remove the day’s grime, sweat, makeup, and sunscreen. “I often recommend a double cleanse, in this case, with an oil or balm cleanser on dry skin,” says Dr. Sarkar. “Work it in well to emulsify everything on the skin, and after, based on what your skin prefers, use either a foaming, oil, or gentle cleanser.” Gentle ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid are good for retaining moisture and are compatible with most skin types.
If you’re not going to do a full cleanse in the morning, Staurowsky suggests rinsing the skin with just water before applying your usual morning skincare products. Splashing the skin with water will help loosen up product, debris, and sweat lingering on the skin, but it may not entirely remove it. So, keep this in mind if you notice an increase in breakouts.
Those Who Should Stick to Cleansing Twice Day
Oily, acne-prone, and normal skin types should stick with cleansing the skin two times per day since these skin types tend to create excess sebum and oil — even when you are asleep. That’s why, sometimes, the skin feels greasy or slick in the morning. “If you sweat at night (even if your skin is dry), you need to do a proper face wash in the morning,” says Dr. Sarkar. Not removing accumulated oil can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
And if you have oily skin and use products with active ingredients as part of your morning skincare routine, then a morning cleanse is a must so that your products can work effectively. Similarly, “if you use topical prescriptions nightly, it is best to wash in the morning to remove them fully,” says Staurowsky.
No matter your skin type, if you start your day with a sweat session, you should always cleanse your face after your workout. “Again, oil, sweat, and other impurities can clog pores and create congestion and, in general, affect the overall health of our skin,” says Absher.
The Cons to Nighttime-Only Washing
Though the benefits of skipping the morning cleanse is a pared-down routine and perhaps sneaking in a few more zzzs, you want to chat with your dermatologist to make sure it’s the right move for you.
Before you decide to throw yourself into the latest TikTok fad, consider the downsides to reserving face washing for your nighttime routine:
- Skin doesn’t feel clean in the morning
- Not removing active nighttime skincare ingredients like retinoids, which may cause photosensitivity
- The possibility for bacteria and dirt living on towels and pillowcases to stick to the skin
- Your daytime skincare ingredients may not penetrate as well on non-cleansed skin
The Bottom Line
Missing a few days of morning washing isn’t majorly detrimental to your skin’s health. As long as the skin barrier is healthy (meaning it’s well hydrated, plump, and shows no redness or irritation), it’s all about what works best for your skin and your lifestyle.
There are no hard and fast rules other than listening to your skin at the end of the day. “Do what feels right for it at that moment in time, which can change based on your cycle, stress levels, the season, and geography,” says Dr. Sarkar.
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