The Risks Of Not Washing Your Face Enough

No matter your beauty routine or skincare goals, cleansing your face should always be the first step. It's an easy but crucial effort that should be present in your skincare routine, regardless of how many steps come after it. But the question of frequency and proper face-washing techniques often gets debated by experts and skincare fanatics.


Social media, especially TikTok, is filled with professional dermatologists and skincare lovers giving tutorials on washing their faces to clear up and brighten their skin. One trend that has made its way into many skincare routines is double cleansing, which uses an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup and excess oil before using a water- or gel-based cleanser.

Dermatologists also note that the temperature of your water can play a role alongside what products you use. They agree that lukewarm is the better option since hot water can dry your skin, and cold water isn't as effective at removing impurities. The main question is, how often should you wash your face? Experts say at least once daily, but twice is ideal: once in the morning and once and night. But if you miss a cleansing session, is it really that big of a deal?


Underwashing can lead to skin issues

Since washing your face at least once a day is recommended, any less than that can be considered underwashing. So if you skip a day of cleansing, you're technically underwashing. After one day without cleansing, the chances of waking up with a face full of breakouts are low. But you'll definitely be oilier and risk clogged pores, so future breakouts are possible. Going multiple days without washing your face only raises the chances of blocked pores, which can lead to acne and a dull complexion. Board-certified dermatologists Mona Gohara, M.D. tells Prevention, "Not washing enough can lead to clogged pores and acne. It also may preclude other products from penetrating and doing their job."


Underwashing is particularly harmful if you exercise regularly or wear makeup daily. Makeup is known to clog pores, so if you're not washing your face after removing it, you'll likely have breakouts. Similarly, exercising or being active causes you to sweat. On its own, sweat doesn't clog pores, but it does carry dirt and oil around the face that do.

On the extreme side, you can develop an infection from underwashing your face. If you forgo hygiene, you can develop an inflammatory skin condition called dermatitis neglecta, says Medical News Today, which is a buildup of dead skin cells that can create dark patches of scaly or rough skin. Left untreated, there is a risk for even more severe ailments.


But overwashing isn't good either

Don't let the fear of acne or skin infections scare you into washing your face more than you need to. For most people, twice a day — morning and night — is sufficient to stay clean and prevent build-up. However, if you're active or workout, you may want to add another cleansing session afterward to remove sweat and dirt. But if getting to a sink or shower with a cleanser isn't possible after a sweaty activity, you can opt for cleansing wipes as a quick fix.


While removing excess oil from your face is an excellent way to prevent breakouts, washing too often can strip your face of natural oils that help keep it hydrated and moisturized. This can make your face feel tight and dry, causing irritation and potential damage to your skin barrier. A broken skin barrier can lead to flakey and irritated skin or one that becomes sensitive and reactive.

If you're worried about over-cleansing and want to skip one of those twice-a-day cleansing sessions, most dermatologists agree it should be the morning. Washing at night removes the dirt, oil, sweat, and makeup accumulated throughout the day.

It depends on your skin type

The twice-a-day recommendation is the standard, but you should also factor in your skin type when deciding how often to wash your face. Overwashing is a real risk for those who are oily or prone to acne. You may feel like you have to wash more often to keep oil at bay or clean out your pores. But you may be triggering your skin to produce more oil because over-cleansing strips away the natural oils. Resist the urge to wash more than twice a day unless you have to cleanse after exercising or intense sweating.


The opposite is true for those who have a dry or sensitive skin type. Cleansing twice a day or more can cause irritation and flaky skin. You may want to opt for a thorough evening cleansing and skip a second washing to prevent drying out your skin. Normal and combination skin, however, can usually do twice daily cleansings. With combination skin, it's important to watch the drier areas to ensure they're not getting flaky or irritated. No matter what skin type you have, it's essential that you remove makeup, sunscreen, and any other skincare products you used that day to prevent irritation and clogged pores.

And choosing the best cleanser

As important as the frequency of washing is, the right cleanser for your skin will also make all the difference. Again, you'll want to consider your skin type to choose a cleanser with the right ingredients. Foaming cleansers are best for oily skin because they're water-based, which boosts hydration and can prevent your skin from producing excess oil. Dry skin will also want hydrating cleansers, but you'll want to ensure they're gentle and have calming ingredients like hyaluronic acid or aloe vera.


Combination skin can also benefit from foaming cleansers, but, again, you'll want to ensure the drier areas aren't flaky, red, or irritated. Moisturizing ingredients will benefit both oily and dry areas with combination skin. Those with normal skin have the most options, but you'll want to make sure the cleanser you choose isn't too stripping or not underwhelming.

If you notice that your skin is feeling tight after cleansing, that's a good sign that you're cleansing too much or need to swap your products. And if you're skin looks dull and congested, or you're noticing more breakouts, your cleanser may not be working enough, or you may have to cleanse more often.