Many of us wash our faces multiple times per day, with or without facial cleansers, as part of our skincare routine. After all, our faces are the first thing a person typically notices. While beauty lies on the inside, there are things you can do to keep your skin healthy and promote radiate looking skin.
However, the key to healthy skin isn't an hourly cleansing routine--it's not even every few hours! In fact, washing your skin too frequently can cause a host of negative effects that can make your skin health worse.
How To Tell If Your Face Is Healthy
The tell tale sign of whether or not the skin on your face is healthy is primarily based on how you feel. Your face should feel clean, soft, and hydrated. Your face should appear even-toned and bright with balanced skin oils. It all comes down to balance. For example, if your face feels dry, you’ll need to do more than just moisturize to find balance. That’s why washing your face is important and for more reasons you may think.
So, how many times and how often should you actually wash your face? Let’s take a deep dive into this question and find out.
Why Wash Your Face At All?
Your face is a dirty place full of grime and natural oils, but don’t worry, so is everyone else’s! The fact is, our faces naturally produce a ton of facial oil throughout the day. This oil actually provides a key service: it prevents our faces from drying out over time and it helps dead skin cells to flake away properly.
However, face oil (called sebum) can build up over time if you don’t wash your face frequently enough. This, in turn, can cause your face to feel oily, can clog your pores and cause breakouts, and can generally just make you uncomfortable.
Furthermore, our faces acquire a lot of dirt and debris from touching our faces and simply from the daily activities over the course of a regular day. If you spend any time outside, your face's skin pores will eventually become clogged with dirt, pollen, skin cells, and tons of other things that float around.
Cleansing and cleaning your face regularly is the best way to ensure you keep radiant, healthy skin long-term. However, just because your face should be cleaned regularly doesn’t mean you should clean your face constantly.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about cleaning your face.
Okay, So How Often Is Best?
Unfortunately, this answer is somewhat dependent on a few different factors.
- skin type
- activities you participate in
- facial cleansing products used
- other skin care products such as oils, moisturizer, and serums, etc.
Let’s break all these factors down.
Skin Type Plays a Big Role
Your skin type can determine how often you should wash your face. This matters because different skin types produce different levels of face oil, and react differently to excessive scrubbing or skin care products even with the most gentle formula.
Whenever you wash your face, you never want to wash it so hard that your skin becomes red or irritated, or that you rub away all of your skin’s oil. If you wash away too much oil, you’ll actually cause your face to produce more oil as a side effect. That’s right: you could cause yourself to get oily skin if you wash your face too much! Talk about irony.
In effect, washing your face correctly is an exercise in balance. You want to wash your face enough so that you exfoliate away dead skin cells, debris, and excess face oil, but not so much that you cause issues down the road.
If you have dry skin, your skin already struggles with retaining enough moisture throughout the day, and may be very sensitive to cleaning products that cause skin dryness. Unfortunately, washing your face in general causes a bit of dryness, so you need to be careful not to go overboard.
For folks with dry skin, washing your face once during the day and perhaps once at night before you go to bed is the maximum you should do. Furthermore, those with dry skin should always use an excellent moisturizing product or face lotion, preferably products with naturally moisturizing ingredients like olive oil, vitamin E, shea, coconut, sunflower, and hyaluronic acid.
If you moisturize your skin after washing, that can help to keep your skin from feeling dry, itchy, and uncomfortable.
If you have sensitive skin, you should follow similar recommendations as if you have dry skin. Washing your face too often may cause your skin to become irritated or itchy, and you may even make your face produce extra oil to compensate.
Stick to washing your skin once daily, and once before bed at max.
Those with oily or acne-prone skin can benefit from a little extra washing since their faces already make plenty of oil to go around. Washing your face two to three times per day – for instance, once in the morning when you wake up, and once in the evening before bed – is pretty common, provided you don’t use a face wash product that is too harsh. You can also get away with washing your face once more throughout the day.
If you’re seriously fighting acne, you might also consider using a cleansing product. Cleansers are not quite the same as face washes. Cleansers are generally designed to penetrate deep into your pores and remove the dirt and oil that causes a lot of facial acne. Only use cleansers once per day and usually only a few times per week, as even the most gentle cleanser usually contains stronger ingredients like salicylic acid to help combat acne. Cleansing water and cleansing oil can also be good alternatives to more exfoliating-focused foaming cleansers or cleansing scrubs because they are gentle on the skin and perfect for everyday use to remove excess oil, dirt, and makeup without drying out your skin.
If you have combination skin, you hit the skin type jackpot: combination essentially means you have middle-of-the-road facial skin and don’t suffer too much from any particular condition. It can also mean that parts of your skin are dry while other parts are oily (t-zone). In some cases, combination skin can be more challenging to manage because of the different variables. Most facial care products and washes should be fine with your skin, and you generally shouldn’t have to worry about your skin reacting poorly.
Still, you don’t want to go too overboard. Wash your face twice during the day and once at night at maximum to avoid drying your skin out too much.
Other Factors That Play a Role
Skin type is essential when it comes to washing your face properly, but other factors play a huge role too. These additional factors contribute to the way our faces respond to our environment and being made aware can help us to better take care of our skin.
Exercise and Sweating
What if you exercise a lot and your face tends to sweat? It’s definitely alright to wash your face once or twice per day in addition to whenever you exercise or perspire, especially since a lot of physical activities call for a layer of sunscreen. If your face is sweating, then it’s also spreading and potentially clogging dirt, debris, and sunscreen into your pores.
Washing your face after a good workout is crucial if you want to maintain radiant skin. However, use a little common sense when it comes to frequency. For instance, if you workout right before bed or right after waking up, you can easily wash your face once in that general time period and have it count for both occasions.
If you wear makeup, try not to wash your face as frequently as you would with working out. Chances are you put your makeup on in the morning, so you can just wash your face thoroughly in the evening to get rid of makeup and general debris and sweat that might have clogged your pores over the course of the day.
Washing vs. Cleansing
Face wash and the products that accompany the routine are separate from cleansers or toners. The latter are generally only designed to be used a few times per week, and are meant to be used after you use a general face wash product.
You should always use face wash instead of normal soap – regular soap is far too alkaline or basic for your face. This neutralizes the oil on your face and can dry it out far too quickly.
Green Goo’s Face Wash is a perfect example of the ideal face wash product. It uses natural ingredients like olive oil and vitamin E (a key antioxidant and supporter of skin health!) to give your skin the key nutrients it needs to help repair and hydrate itself while washing away surface-level dirt and debris. Stick to products like this to make sure you don't wash your skin too harshly or dry it out.
What Happens When You Over-Wash?
As mentioned above, over-washing your skin is definitely possible, and something that many folks struggle with as they try to achieve perfect, glowing skin. Washing your skin too frequently will cause your skin to produce more sebum since your skin is trying to protect itself from drying out or being rubbed raw.
Instead of over-washing, just stick to a regimented face washing routine. Even if you’re just starting out, you’ll eventually find that regular washing cleans out your pores progressively and still produces excellent skin over time.
So! With all this said, what’s a good face-washing rule of thumb?
Generally, washing your face:
- once in the morning
- once in the evening
- any time after you sweat profusely
… is probably just right for most folks. Remember to keep in mind our advice about different skin types, and feel free to change this formula up depending on your needs and how your skin reacts! If your skin doesn’t respond well to a particular face washing frequency, slow things down, and remember you can always consult a dermatologist if you really don't react well or have trouble finding the right routine for your skin.
In the end, washing your face a few times per day is ideal. At the same time, you should avoid using regular bar or alkaline soap on your facial skin and instead substitute that with a dedicated face wash for the best results. Don't be afraid to combine your face-washing routine with an excellent moisturizing product and other skin care supporters, and always remember to listen to your skin above all else!