The “skip the morning cleanse” trend is in vogue, again, and is probably the hottest topic in the skincare world as we speak. While some still swear by their morning cleansing routine, others have gotten hyped into jumping on the bandwagon and solemnly argue that washing twice a day is a thing of the past that worsen their skin. So which side should you be on: to cleanse or not to cleanse in the morning?
Keep reading to find out if you’re a good candidate to skip the morning face wash or if it’s better to stick with the twice-daily cleansing routine.
Should you cleanse your face in the morning?
It’s 100% true that cleansed skin means fewer breakouts and a much smoother appearance. But do we really have to wash our faces in the morning and at night to get that?
While cleansing is definitely something we should all do on a daily basis, dermatologists warn that too much of a good thing can be harmful to the skin. In fact, over-cleansing can disrupt the skin’s natural pH balance and impair the moisture barrier, leading to a host of issues, including redness, dryness, sensitivity, and inflammation. For someone with sensitive skin, this can be caused by simply washing the face twice a day. Moreover, the skin produces oils throughout the night to repair the epidermal barrier, so washing it off in the morning is a waste of your skin’s hard work.
But that’s only half of the story.
Not cleansing enough can be a recipe for a skincare disaster for others. For instance, one study found that people with acneic skin who have skipped the morning cleanser have a higher chance of developing pimples. If you live in a polluted city or a humid climate, you may also be selling yourself short by not using a cleanser in your daytime routine.
So what’s really the right thing to do? The short answer: it depends on your skin, the type of cleanser you use, and other external factors.
Dr. Josh Zeichner recommends his patients to cleanse their face at least once a day, particularly before bedtime, to get rid of all the grime, makeup, oil, and pollutants that accumulate throughout the day. “You can rewash your face in the morning, but the truth is there’s not that much dirt that builds up on your face overnight,” he says. “But if you have any actives on your skin, you want to get that off so you can apply your morning skincare routine, and you can certainly wash your face one more time during the day if you have any heavy sweating or after exercise.”
In short, washing at night and skipping the cleanser in the morning is enough for most to keep the skin clear without over-stripping it of moisture. You should still rinse your face with lukewarm water come morning, though. However, if your skin is oily or acne-prone, consider washing your face in the morning with a gentle cleanser to eliminate the sebum and bacteria that build up during the night. Also, feel free to cleanse your skin whenever during the day when it accumulates a buildup of sebum, sweat, and dust; after a workout, for instance.
Keep in mind that these are general suggestions, but the truth is that many factors can influence how often you need to wash your face, such as climate conditions, your daily activities, and what products you apply at night. What you can do to find what’s best for you is to use the cleanser in the morning for one week and cut it for the next week. Listen to your skin and make decisions based on that. Is it feeling more hydrated and soft in the “no morning cleanser” week? Then you have your answer. Or does it break out more often? Then go back to twice daily cleansing.
When to wash your face in the morning
- You have oily skin and wake up with a greasy face.
- Your skin is prone to acne and you often wake up with breakouts.
- You sweat excessively during the night.
- You do slugging (apply a thick layer of petrolatum) or use heavy products at night. Cleansing removes any residue and allows your skin to breathe and absorb the products you apply in the morning.
- You exercise in the morning. However, you don’t necessarily need to use a cleanser—rinsing with water and patting dry is enough.
- After a night out.
When to skip the morning cleanse
- If you have dry, sensitive, aging, or rough skin, you may be overtaxing your skin with twice daily washing. In this case, it’s best to simply splash your face with water in the morning to refresh it.
- If your skin still feels clean and hydrated in the morning, you can skip the wash and apply your sunscreen and makeup.
- If you live in a dry climate.
What Redditors say
The topic garnered a lot of attention on Reddit, and people have all sorts of different thoughts and opinions. This goes to show that when it comes to cleansing, there is no universal approach that fits everyone.
“Cleansing my face in the morning makes it extremely dry. I found skipping the step and just using water helps,” says one Redditor.
Another one says, “I can’t do this. I have to wash my face in the morning. It’s uncomfortable for me if I don’t. I have oily to combination skin and live in a tropical country, so my skin can get really oily through the night. I also use some pretty heavy products in the evening, which tend to mix up with my sweat and oiliness while I sleep.”
One more, “Everyone is different. I only wash with water in the morning, I use a light non-foaming cleanser if I feel like I need it, but that’s rare. This works for some people but not for others!”
“I couldn’t do that. The majority of my skincare at night is thicker/occlusive, and I’d lose it if I didn’t wash it off in the morning. I think it’s going to depend on your skin. I’d be overly oily if I didn’t, but some people would be fine. You’d have to test it for yourself.”
What to do instead of washing your face in the morning with a cleanser
If you plan to skip the cleanser in the morning, use water to wash your face and then toner immediately after, followed by a light moisturizer. You can use micellar water if there’s residue from last night’s products or if you sweat a lot during the night—it’s better at cleansing the skin.
How to tell if you’re overwashing your face
- Your skin feels tight and dry after cleansing.
- You notice flakiness or peeling on your skin.
- You experience redness, itching, or irritation.
- Your skin looks dull and lacks radiance.
- Your skin secretes excess sebum.
- You notice an increase in breakouts and blemishes.
- Your skin feels sensitive to touch or products.
Sleeping on a silk pillowcase can reduce the need to wash your face in the morning. Silk is less absorbent than cotton, so it won’t soak up as much of your skin’s natural oils and moisture overnight. Also, some dermatologists recommend using micellar water or a facial mist in the morning instead of washing your face with water. This can help to refresh your skin without stripping it of its natural oils.
What cleanser to use in the morning
Morning or night, it’s best to use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils. Look for a non-foaming cleanser with a pH-balanced formula, and avoid the ones that contain harsh ingredients like sulfates, alcohol, or fragrances, which can irritate your skin and disrupt its natural barrier. With this in mind, some of the best morning face washes are Aveeno Calm + Restore Nourishing Oat Cleanser, Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser, and Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser. They all work great at removing impurities and makeup without bothering the skin.
The verdict: is cleansing two times a day bad for the skin?
To some extent, yes. Every time you cleanse your skin, you strip it of its essential oils and damage the moisture barrier, which can leave your face feeling parched and tight. So when it comes to cleansing, the old adage “less is more” certainly rings true.
The secret is to monitor your skin and pay attention to the signals it’s sending you. Are you experiencing excessive dryness or irritation? Does your skin feel tight or flaky? These are all signs that you may be overdoing it with the cleansing, and your skin is telling you to give it a break. However, if you have oily skin prone to congestion, use thick products at night, or live in a high-humidity climate, you must cleanse your face in the morning. The takeaway? It’s a trial and error process wherein you should observe your skin’s specific needs and adapt accordingly.