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Should You Wash Your Face If You're Not Leaving The House Or Wearing Makeup? We Asked The Experts

Woman Washing Her Face
Image by Leandro Crespi / Stocksy
April 14, 2020

It's day who-knows-what of self-isolation, and you haven't put on a pair of jeans in ages, let alone a swipe of mascara. You're extending time in between shampoos because the people in your home are the only ones who will bear witness to a greasy mane anyway. But skin care becomes a little tricky: Should you stick to your nightly routine if you're not leaving the house or wearing makeup?

We asked skin care experts if washing your face every day is truly necessary. The answer? A resounding absolutely—and especially at night. Here's why:

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Dirt, oil, and debris still accumulate on your skin. 

Even if you aren't leaving the house or wearing makeup, you still run the risk of oil and grime building up on your skin. As much as we're told not to touch our face, sometimes we can't help but to scratch an itchy nose or rub our eyes during a busy workday. Not to mention the surfaces that touch our face on a regular basis: Items like our cellphones and throw pillows can transfer dirt and bacteria onto the skin, even if you wash your hands religiously (as you should). Finally, indoor pollution1 is a thing—so you're still exposing yourself to particulate matter that damages skin health2.

"You still need to remove dirt, oils, residues of past skin care products, and air pollutants that may clog pores, cause irritation, and contain free radicals that lead to oxidative damage of the skin cells," says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D. Washing daily can help remove that buildup, even if you can't physically see the debris running down the drain (like you might when you see mascara melt off your lashes).   

Sticking to your normal routine is especially important if you're experiencing breakouts (stress acne, anyone?). "Your skin must be clean before bed, so you can repair the skin overnight and not break out more," explains celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas. For breakouts you may even consider adding an additional step, like applying an active ingredient—like retinol, salicylic acid, or one of these spot treatments—post-wash, says King.

However, we give you permission to skip the morning wash, if you so choose.

If you are going to forgo a twice-a-day cleanse (say, in the hopes of rationing a favorite product or you just don't feel like it), skip the morning wash.

Some derms even say that an a.m. cleanse can dry out the skin anyway: "Using a cleanser in the morning can be drying and unnecessary," board-certified dermatologist Ellen Marmur, M.D., says. "Even for those who feel oily in the mornings—just rinse with a splash of warm water and simply towel off. Your face will be rid of excess oils without soap stripping." 

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The take-away.

Gentle cleansers are key—you might not need an extra-foamy face wash that makes your skin feel squeaky clean to the touch, especially if you aren't leaving your house or wearing tons of makeup. Nevertheless, you shouldn't skip your nightly routine, even if you have yet to change out of your comfy sweats.

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