So "Skin Fasting" Is A Thing, But Is It Safe? What Experts Have To Say

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
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Amid a pandemic, our usual modus operandi has become a little upended, to say the least. As a result, some yearn for the structure of a hard-and-fast routine (wherever they can find it), while others find newfound freedom in eschewing all things orderly. When it comes to skin care, the two camps remain split: Some revel in the sense of control that comes with a multistep routine; others seek comfort with a pared-back regimen—in fact, a growing number of folks are bidding adieu to the routine altogether, all in the name of "skin fasting." 

But don't toss your products just yet: Here, we explain whether "skin fasting" really works and whether there's a way to do it safely.

What is "skin fasting," and does it work? 

Simply: "Skin fasting" involves ditching your skin care routine (or at least minimizing it to a few essential players) to give your skin a "break" from the arsenal of products lined up on your bathroom shelf. Essentially, the plan is to pare back your routine for a time to see how your skin reacts. After a few days, you'd add the products back, one by one, to see how each affects your skin—and whether you really need them.

The idea has been around for quite some time, but it's taken on new meaning during COVID-19. The reason, according to celebrity esthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar, being twofold: People may face difficult access to refills (perhaps you have a favorite serum running dangerously low), as well as a general curiosity for the experiment itself. You may have already ditched your makeup bag in favor of a skin reset—why not see what happens without a coveted clay mask? "Ultimately, many of us decided that if there's ever a time to take a break, it's now," Aguilar states. 

It's intriguing, no doubt. But does it work? According to Aguilar, "skin fasting" could help you figure out what products actually benefit your skin. And the experiment itself won't necessarily do much harm, so long as you don't brush off your entire routine: "By skin fasting, I mean keeping your skin care routine to a a minimum," she explains.

For instance, you should always wash your face (even if you don't necessarily feel dirty!) in order to get daily grime and bacteria off your skin. It's a nonnegotiable, no-questions-asked part of the day that is imperative for healthy skin. Second, you'd need an occlusive agent—like moisturizer or oil—to seal in hydration and prevent transepidermal water loss. Finally, Aguilar notes, "I would not advise skipping sunscreen. Ever!" Need we say more? 

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How to do it safely. 

That said, if you are going to do a skin fast for whatever reason (to ration a certain product or because you just feel like trying it), Aguilar suggests sticking to a "skin health" routine, rather than a full-on fast. "A basic skin health routine consists of a cleanser, a moisturizer, and SPF," she says. So you should still make your way to the bathroom sink, but that doesn't mean you can't reap the benefits of a more minimal routine. She also suggests keeping up with any topical prescriptions or recommendations by your derm, especially if you have specific skin concerns. 

In terms of the products you can ditch safely? Well, that depends on your individual skin type and what your skin may need that day (we recommend a "skinvestigation" technique to figure that out). But once you've got the essentials all lined up (cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen), Aguilar mentions you can experiment with forging some formulas—namely, essences, serums, toners, masks, and mists. Just keep checking up on your skin, in case it's begging you to add back in any of those products. (For example, while serums aren't necessary, per se, you may find a targeted treatment beneficial if there's any skin care concern you'd like to tend to.)

The takeaway. 

Sure, a "skin fast" can help you discover which products are truly necessary in your routine. But let's be clear: You should always cleanse your skin to wash off daily dirt and debris, as well as apply moisturizer or oil to seal in hydration post-cleanse. And during a morning routine, sunscreen is nonnegotiable. As for those other players? We're certainly not telling you to toss product after product (if it works for you, it works!), but there is something to be said for giving your skin a breather, if nothing else than to discover what's actually putting in the work.

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