Let's face it, as crucial as we all know it is to remove our makeup each and every night before bed, there are still times when we slip between the sheets with a 12-hour face of makeup, ultimately smudging onto our pillows and sheets.
While waking up and seeing eyeliner on your pillowcase is enough to be an annoyance and spotting a glaring breakout when you look in the mirror can seem like a curse, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the most important step of your skin-care routine: the one that can make a world of difference if you skip. And it's that very idea that led us to find out what would really happen if you just up and stopped washing your face — completely.
What happens when you skip cleansing altogether?
"What happens when you stop washing your face depends a lot on the condition of your skin — oily, dry, combination — and what types of things you usually put on and get on your face," Soren White, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure. That's because if you have oily skin and completely stop washing your face, you can see a dramatic rise in breakouts and even more oil production. Whereas, if you have dry skin and completely stop washing your face, you may find that it just continues to look dryer and duller as time goes on. That said, it's important to look at the benefits of cleansing as a whole to clearly get a gist of what can happen if you quit the essential skin-care step.
So, why is cleansing so important?
"Cleansing your face removes makeup, oil, dirt, and other debris," Sejal Shah, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure. "Even if you don't wear makeup, the skin on your face comes into contact with residue from other skin-care products (moisturizers, sunscreen, and so on), pollutants, microbes, dirt, and other debris — not to mention oils, sweat, and dead skin cells from the skin."
Without cleansing, it's this buildup on the skin that can lead to textural issues and poor luminosity, especially because it prevents your skin from being able to renew itself overnight, says White. As if that's not enough to make you want to wash, Shah says it loud for those in the back. "This buildup can potentially clog the pores resulting in dry, irritated skin, and even acne," she says. "This can lead skin to become itchy, resulting in scratching, potentially leading to breaks in the skin, which can then increase the risk of infection." Talk about a domino effect, huh?
Forgoing cleansing can impact the rest of your routine
Oh, but it doesn't stop there. Not cleansing can also mean that every can't-live-without skin-care product you meticulously layer onto your face won't do squat. "They may not work effectively because they have to penetrate through a layer of impurities," Shah says.
So, at this point you're probably not even reading anymore having realized you need to go wash your face, stat. But, in the event that you're still with me, hear me out: Just because cleansing your face is so detrimental to the health and appearance of your complexion doesn't mean you should overdo it. With so many products on the market these days, some folks might think they need to double- and triple-cleanse their faces morning and night just to get by. That's not the case.
Yes, you can over-cleanse
"On the flip side of regularly cleansing, washing with soap or even a gentle cleanser is not always necessary," White says. "Over-washing is one of the major causes of dry, irritated skin, especially during winter months." That said, if your skin is typically dry but not necessarily dirty, rinsing with water — and avoiding cleanser — can help restore the skin's natural oils, which are needed to maintain hydration and prevent irritation.
As for other skin types, it all comes down to just how much oil is present on your face, as well as what type of environment you live in. Typically, the more urban your environment, the more cleansing you can get away with, but even still, you shouldn't introduce a cleanser into your routine more than twice a day. On the converse, the more rural your surroundings, so long as you're not spending your days rolling around dirt- and pollen-filled fields, the less cleansing you can get away with.
Make cleansing a habit
Long story short, what would happen if you just stopped washing your face would maybe not be something you'd enjoy staring back at you in the mirror on a daily basis. (Or maybe you wouldn't mind, which is totally OK, too.) But, generally speaking, in order to avoid dryness, dullness, and everything else that comes long with skipping the cleanse, pick your favorite cleanser, put it in plain view, and, no matter how late it is, how tired you are, or how many drinks you've had, always make time to rinse away the day's makeup, dirt, and impurities. Trust me, your skin will thank you.
For more skin care:
- These Fingerless Gloves Promise to Protect Your Hands From Gel Manicure Lamps' UV Damage
- Consumer Reports' 5 Best Sunscreens for Summer
- Tatcha Launched The Silk Canvas, Its First-Ever Primer — and It's Already Sold Out
Now, see how skin care has evolved in 100 years: