When It Comes to Cleansing, How Often Is Too Often?

By Ching Dee for Belo Medical Group on January 16, 2021

Truth Time: Most of us believe the main culprit of acne is dirt, so we tend to wash our face several times a day or use harsh substances (like rubbing alcohol) to make sure there’s no build up of dirt and oils that could cause a breakout. In fact, this could be contributing to the poor state of your skin.

Yep, over-cleansing is a real thing. In an article by Allure, you can tell that you’ve been over-washing or over-cleansing your face “if your skin has a ‘tight and dry feeling’ …it can also feel sensitive or shows signs of sensitivity with reddish, dry patches.” Admit it—this has happened to you before. And prolonged over-cleansing could do more damage than good when it comes to keeping your skin supple.

How often should you wash your face?

At Cosmo BeautyCon 2019, Dr. Vicki Belo shared why washing your face too much is not a good thing.

“If you wash your face so much, you just irritate it and redness [appears]. And your body will think, ‘O, it’s so dry. I better make more oil,’” she was quoted in an article by PEP.ph. “The most number of times you can wash your face is three times a day. Five times a day is bad,” she adds.

When you wash your face too much, it strips away your skin’s natural oils, so your skin tends to overproduce oils to make up for the ones washed away. Excessive oil could trap more dirt and clog your pores, which will eventually lead to pimples. Yikes. So make sure to wash your face in the morning after waking up, before sleeping (after removing your make-up), or  when necessary like after a sweaty workout or activity.

Aside from cleansing your face, Dr. Belo also emphasizes the importance of rinsing your face properly. “You can rinse it 20 times… Sometimes, the ears kasi when you wash, the soap is there, and when you rinse, nakakalimutan, so this is very irritating to the pores,” she points out.

What should you look for when choosing a cleanser?

In the same Allure article, Dr. Loretta Ciraldo (a board-certified dermatologist from Miami, Florida), shared that it’s not just about how many times you wash your face. Overwashing could also be a result of using the wrong cleanser. 

“Overwashing usually results from using a cleanser that’s too harsh for your skin. I see this a lot with acne cleansers… Drying products tend to make our skin overcompensate by producing more oils… The skin’s oil levels and moisture levels are two different measurements, so oily skin can also lack hydration and be dry,” Dr. Ciraldo explains.

“Cleansing is really a delicate balance between hygiene and barrier damage… It truly is the foundation of good skin care. You can do more harm than good by using the wrong cleanser,” said SkinFix founder Amy Gordinier-Regan in a New York Times article.

When shopping for a facial wash, take note that the ideal cleanser depends on your skin type, so it may differ from one person to another. If you have dry skin, look for a gentle cleanser with moisturizing ingredients like petrolatum, lanolin, or mineral oil, like the ZO® Gentle Cleanser. For oily skin, look for cleansers with aloe vera or tea tree oil, and if you have acne-prone skin try to look for salicylic acid in the list of ingredients, like Belo Prescriptives Kojic Acid Face Wash. For those with combination skin, Dr. Sharad says “Micellar waters are the best for this skin type,” like FillMed Micellar Water.

How often should I exfoliate my face?

In an episode of Dr. Belo’s podcast The Beauty Authority, she shared that over-exfoliating is one of the most common sins we commit against our own skin. She said that scrubs should only be done once every two days at most and reminds everyone to make sure to scrub the right way: scrubbing in just one direction to slough off the dead skin and dirt, not back and forth. Exfoliating your face and body everyday could cause small openings on your skin where bacteria could enter to cause pimples or even infection.

For the face, it’s best to use a gentle exfoliant that won’t strip off all the natural oils, like the ZO® Exfoliating Cleanser.

Which skincare routine should I use?

She suggests a simple routine  with only four steps and products:

STEP 1: MAKE-UP REMOVER

Use a good and gentle make-up remover. Dr. Belo points out that facial cleansers do not remove make-up (which is usually oil based), so it requires a special step. Make sure to remove all especially around the eye area.

STEP 2: CLEANSER

Choose the right cleanser according to your skin type and make sure to wash off the make-up remover so it won’t leave any oily residue on your skin. Don’t forget to wash under the chin, your neck, and even behind the ears. Rinse off completely and thoroughly.

STEP 3: TONER

The toner’s job is to make sure you get every little bit of dirt off your face even after cleansing. It also prepares your skin for the next step.

STEP 4: RETINOL OR TRETINOIN

Dr. Belo shares that “the number one [product] I’ve been using since I was 11 for acne and also for anti-aging ’cause it’s totally good for everything is retinol at one percent.” Choose a serum with retinol or tretinoin to finish your routine and remember to dab (not rub!) when you’re applying your serum.

If you feel like you’ve over-cleansed your face, don’t worry—it’s not beyond rescue. Simply stop doing your current routine and give your skin time to breathe and heal itself, then make sure to choose the right products to use on your face depending on your skin type. 

If you need more help figuring out the right skincare routine for you, click here to book an online consultation with a Belo MD. If you want to speak to the Beauty Expert herself, click here to book an online consultation with Dr. Vicki Belo.

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