(Photo: sekulicn via Getty Images)
Next to wearing sunscreen, washing your face is a cardinal skin care rule no matter your skin type. Whether you’re dry or oily, combination or sensitive, getting rid of dirt and grime by way of cleansing is a crucial first step to any skin care routine. But for many, the question still remains: how often? What are the signs you’ve overwashed your skin? And is it possible to underwash your skin?
Below, skin care experts discuss the optimal frequency for washing your face.
How often should you wash your face?
There are several things to consider when it comes to your cleansing routine (including skin type, environmental conditions and level of physical activity), but generally speaking, most experts recommend washing your face once in the morning and once in the evening. Specifically, dermatologist Geeta Yadav recommends a mild cleanse in the morning and a thorough cleanse in the evening.
As for your skin type? It definitely plays a role in your cleansing routine. “For those with very oily or acne-prone skin, cleansing twice daily (or even more frequently) may be recommended by a dermatologist, especially if you’ve been prescribed a cleanser with a high percentage of active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide,” Yadav told HuffPost. “Drier skin types may benefit from less frequent cleansing, though the morning mild cleanse and evening thorough cleanse will likely be effective.”
Weather conditions can lead to changes in your skin, but not necessarily your frequency of washing. Celebrity esthetician Shani Darden said that dry, cold weather along with the use of heaters and hot water during the winter can cause the skin to become parched, which may make you want to cleanse less frequently. However, she still recommends cleansing with a gentle cleanser morning and night, even in the dry winter months. The key is to be mindful of the water temperature you’re using, as well as avoiding unnecessarily harsh cleansers that strip the skin of its natural oils, which are essential to maintain the strength of the moisture barrier, especially in dry winter climates, Yadav noted.
During the summer season or in very hot and humid climates, Yadav recommended cleansing more frequently, as “sweat, oil and other grime can build up more quickly on the skin, which could cause pore congestion and blemishes,” she said. Try bumping up your cleansing routine to three times a day if you notice your skin getting extra oily.
Why you should cleanse in the morning
Although the number of times a day you should wash your face is the same across all skin types, the way you cleanse will differ.
If the full "splash in the sink" experience is too much for you in the morning, try gentle micellar water, which can be applied with a cotton pad. (Photo: cream_ph via Getty Images)
Your morning cleanse will kick-start the rest of your skin care routine, but it should be mild and gentle. “I recommend cleansing with a gentle micellar in the morning, provided you’ve completed a thorough cleanse and skin care routine the evening before,” Yadav said. “Skin can pick up some bacteria as you sleep, especially if your pillowcase isn’t clean enough, but micellar water should be enough to cleanse the face of any dirt, as well as excess oil your skin may have produced as you slept.”
Your morning cleanse will also help your other skin care products work their magic better. “If you’re not starting your day with freshly cleansed skin, it can affect the efficacy of your antioxidant serums and sunscreen,” Darden warned. “Also, not removing the excess oil and impurities that inevitably build up overnight can lead to clogged pores and congestion.”
Why you should cleanse at night
While your morning cleanse can help create a fresh, glowing canvas for your other products, your evening cleanse is essential to cleaning away the day’s dirt, oil and impurities — even if you didn’t wear makeup that day.
“The evening is the most important time of day to cleanse your skin, regardless of whether you wore makeup or not,” Yadav said. “Of course, makeup can congest the skin, but so can sunscreen (which you should be wearing daily) as well as the excess oil and pollutants that can build up on the surface of the skin throughout the day.”
Like your morning cleanse, your nighttime cleanse will allow for your formulas to better penetrate the skin before you sleep. This is crucial because your body (and skin) regenerates itself while you sleep, and having a clean canvas will help support and enhance this regenerative process, Yadav said.
Signs you’re overwashing your skin
If you’re experiencing a dry feeling on your skin after cleansing, you may have overwashed your skin. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve washed your face too often — it may just mean you’ve used a cleanser that’s too harsh, which Darden said can contribute to a “tight” sensation, as well as dry patches and flakiness.
If you’re suddenly experiencing excess oil production, Yadav said this could also be a sign of overwashing, as your skin will try to overcompensate for the loss of its natural oils by producing more oil.
Though it’s possible to overwash your skin by using the wrong cleanser for your skin type, there may be certain times you may want to up the frequency of cleansing. As Yadav noted above, this may be the case if you have acne-prone skin or if you’re experiencing excess oil in the summer.
You should also cleanse your skin after a workout, as it’s important to remove dirt, sweat, oil and even sunscreen, as chemical formulas may congest the pores in some skin types, Yadav noted.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.