One of the most important rules of skin care is that you must cleanse your face daily as it's the only way to remove dirt and debris from your skin. But as for how often should you wash your face beyond that, it's actually up to personal preference.
"Technically, there's no dermatologic guideline regarding how many times you should wash your face each day," says New York City-based board-certified Dermatologist Dr. Rachel Maiman. "It really depends on a patient's skin type, skin regimen, and desire to simplify their routine."
Here, Dr. Maiman discusses all the misconceptions about cleansing that are actually harmful to skin and what really matters when it comes to cleaning your face. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Learn Your Skin Type and Wash at Night
Washing your face means you use a cleanser and water to remove makeup and debris from your skin so that it doesn't clog pores. Dr. Maiman says that because a lot of people are fans of simplifying their routines, it is totally fine that you cleanse once a day. But there are a few things to consider.
First, know your skin type. Those that are prone to sensitivity from harsh scrubs or struggle with dryness can stick to cleansing once a day as even the most gentle cleansers can dry the skin out. Next, you always want to at least rinse your skin other times throughout the day or use micellar water. Dr. Maiman says that even plain water can dry skin out for some, so it's always a good idea to use a moisturizer each time you wash or rinse.
And if you're opting to cleanse once a day, she says to cleanse at night. It's a greater priority as you don't want to go to bed with dirt, oil, and makeup sitting on your skin while you sleep.
Over-Cleansing Can Be Harmful to the Skin
Overwashing your face is a real thing, and it can cause some major skin problems. Dr. Maiman says there's a misconception that cleansing more than once will help those with oily and acne-prone skin. When you are breaking out regularly, cleansing too much might actually do more harm than good.
"[It] is counterproductive," she says. "Cleansers, especially those containing acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, often also contain harsh detergents called sulfates that compromise the skin barrier, induce inflammation, and strip the skin of its natural and protective oils. To compensate, the skin increases oil production, leading to worse breakouts."
As for the double cleansing trend (the two-step routine in which you use an oil or oil-based cleanser first, then wash skin again with a water- or gel-based cleanser) made popular by the Korean 10-step skin routine, Dr. Maiman says she doesn't default to it. "Cleansers on the market today, even those that are not oil or oil-based, are generally very effective at removing oil, makeup, and other residues," she says. A product like EltaMD Foaming Cleanser should provide a thorough, oil-free single-step cleanse.
But she does concede that if you use heavy skin care products or have very oily skin and find that a single cleanser doesn't leave your skin feeling totally clean, there is no harm in trying double cleansing to see if it's for you. Just be sure to not use any cleanser with harsh ingredients and opt for a gentle, hydrating oil cleanser for that first step.
Trust Your Gut
So, how often should you wash your face? Dr. Maiman says knowing whether your skin is clean or not after a cleanser is intuitive. "If you see visible dirt, makeup residue, or oil, or if your skin looks or feels greasy, you probably didn't wash long enough," she says. "After cleansing, the skin should feel smooth and free of residue, but should not feel squeaky clean. It should not feel tight."
While cleansing your face is important, it definitely doesn't have to be complicated. Beyond the recommended daily cleanse, how often you should wash your face is totally up to you. Just remember to keep your skin type and needs in mind and you should be good to go.