Look, I’m no saint. My vices include too many cute little cocktails, eating ice cream for dinner, and sometimes going a day (or two) without showering. Sue me. But my face? I wash it. I wash that sucker even when I’m three sheets to the wind, and it’s 2 a.m., and all I want to do is crawl into bed, mainly because it’s been ingrained in me that we’re supposed to, and it seems like an easy way for me to wake up with my life “together.” (Also, because I wear a lot of mascara, and there’s nothing worse than waking up to that all over your sheets.)
Apparently, though, there are a few of us who do that — and, well, a few of us who definitely don’t. “How often do you wash your face?” I asked on my Instagram story. (Very scientific, very unbiased and factual, pristine sample of people.) “Never,” I saw from two people.
“Tell me more!” I begged and got the following: “I don’t wear makeup regularly, so I don’t feel the need to wash my face with cleanser,” one said. “I just use water,” said another. Other answers varied from only when they shower to a few times a week. Or, as one person said, “70% of nights and 20% of mornings,” which is maybe my favorite answer.
This begs the question — how often are you supposed to wash your face? And with what? TELL ME PLEASE. I consulted real doctors (not just my IG friends) for the scoop.
How Often Should I Wash My Face?
I hate writing, “It depends,” but it really does. “Generally speaking, one should wash their face one to two times per day,” says Whitney Tolpinrud, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and Agency’s medical director based in San Diego.
Jean Charles, MD, board-certified dermatologist with U.S. Dermatology Partners Cedar Park, agrees and notes that nighttime is preferred if you do it just once. “At the end of the day, we have accumulated dirt, makeup, oil, dead skin cells, sweat, and pollutants that need to be washed off to prep your skin for your nighttime skincare routine.”
Then come the caveats: Do you work out regularly or sweat heavily? You should wash your face more frequently. Is your face oily? You should wash more regularly. “It’s important to use a gentle cleanser and avoid over-washing, as excessive cleansing can strip the skin of its natural oils and lead to dryness or irritation,” Dr. Tolpinrud notes. “Your skin type plays a role in how often you should be washing your face. If you have more dry or sensitive skin, you can skip washing your face in the morning and splash your skin with water before applying your morning skincare routine,” says Dr. Charles.
So, what to use? While Dr. Tolpinrud noted cleanser use in the one-to-two-times-a-day suggestion, that may be enough for you. “Alternatively, one can rinse their face with water only in the morning and use a cleanser in the evening,” she says.
Do I Have to Wash My Face More If I Exercise?
The simple answer is, uh, yeah — which means as quickly as possible after you work out. “When you exercise, sweat is produced by your sweat glands to help regulate body temperature,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. “ Sweat can mix with bacteria and dirt on the skin’s surface, leading to clogged pores and potential skin issues such as acne or folliculitis.”
What the heck is folliculitis, you ask? It’s what happens when hair follicles become inflamed and can cause small bumps that look like everyday pimples but aren’t. You can also get an overabundance of yeast growing on your face. You read that right.
“Malassezia is a yeast that is part of the normal skin flora. Under appropriate conditions, such as sweating, Malassezia can grow, which can cause folliculitis or other skin conditions.” Cool. Cool. Cool. *Jots down washing face after sweating to avoid becoming a bakery* In other words, washing your face after a workout is a must to get rid of sweat, bacteria, and oil buildup that can cause skin problems.
Do Dirty Sheets Affect Your Face?
The other thing you need to be mindful of is how often you’re washing or changing your sheets. If you’re not putting newly laundered sheets on your bed often (aka every week), your face’s saving grace may be washing it more frequently. Sweat, dead skin cells, and other debris linger on your sheets, end up on your face, and can cause acne and other skin problems, says Dr. Tolpinrud. If you’re acne-prone, at least save your face by changing your pillowcases once a week, says Dr. Charles. (Yes, even if you don’t swap out the rest of the sheets.)
For people with acne-prone skin, it is also advised to “choose pillowcases made of breathable fabrics that are hypoallergenic and gentle on the skin,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. “Natural fabrics like cotton are often recommended as they allow for better air circulation and help absorb excess oil and sweat from the skin.”
Other Things to Consider When Determining A Skincare Routine
Besides exercise routines (lol), other factors such as climate, weather, and makeup use (hey, tutorial queens) may also affect how often you should be washing your face. (Or should.)
“During the winter, skin tends to be more dry, so if you’re experiencing dry skin, you can skip your morning wash. The inverse is true during the summer, where heat can make you sweat and/or more oily, so washing twice a day is beneficial,” says Dr. Charles.
Those who wear makeup may opt for a more robust face-washing routine consisting of double-cleansing (exactly what it sounds like) or using micellar water to remove makeup, followed by a gentle cleanser. Lastly, those prone to dry or irritated skin may consider cleansing only once daily.
Do I Need To Change My Face Washing Habits Around Certain Times of the Month?
No, you dummy. (Just kidding, I’m the one who asked this question, and I stand by it.) “There are no certain times of the month where you need to change your face-washing habits,” says Dr. Charles. There is a bit of an exception, though. “As women near menopause, estrogen levels drop, making skin more susceptible to being dry, which can lead to irritation. It is recommended to wash at least once a day, if possible twice a day, but using a gentle cleanser,” says Dr. Charles.
If you have absolutely no idea where to start or are sick of your face freaking out even when you do wash it regularly or don’t, it’s time to see a dermatologist. But as the doc says: “How often one washes their face depends on personal preference,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. There you have it. Wash, don’t wash. Do you.