Face Washing and Other Clean Myths

I bet you didn’t know that the dudes at Mount Rushmore only get a face wash every 65 years or so and it’s pretty involved.

I went wine tasting with some lady friends this past spring and light conversation in the car somehow turned to face washing regimens. How does this always happen?? It’s a girl thang I guess.

My friend Michelle revealed the horrifying fact that she doesn’t wash her face. Like ever. This was followed by brief silence, then by Ewwwwwwwwwww! Yuck! Face germs! Oil, grease, grime, dirt infinity! I did my best to defend her life choice to be a weird hippie who doesn’t wear makeup and doesn’t even wash her face. Except that she’s not a weird hippie and she has pretty great skin despite her unwashed ways. The other passengers were not convinced that this is healthy and we changed subjects and probably started talking about yogurt and birth control pills and waxing our eyebrows and so on and so forth.

But since then I started thinking about all the constructs about face washing that I have acquired from my mom, movies, friends, and product marketing. It seems like we are just obsessed with being CLEAN. Squeaky, preferably. But what does it mean to be clean? I am skeptical of most of the Tenets of Clean, partially out of annoyance, confusion, and laziness. Like, if I don’t hum the birthday song while I wash my hands, am I really more likely to get sick? Like, can I keep using the 10 second rule?  Like, how bad is it to wear shoes in the house? Like, how often do I need to clean my cell phone? But when it comes to face washing, I think it’s especially absurd.

Commercials use both “positive” words about face washing: deep clean, scrubbing action, maximum strength, stress control, technology, energized, purified, tingling, system; and “negative” words: grime, dirt, impurities, blackheads, clog, oil. And then they have really great diagrams showing you up-close science about what’s happening when you wash your face.  Nothing you haven’t seen a million times.

There are so many rules about Skin Care Routines and it seems like they’re all fabricated to monopolize on my vanity. I mean I don’t want to have acne and wrinkles and dull skin! I want to be dewey and have so much fun when I’m washing my face! But there are so many lies and confusing, stylized diagrams!

Here are the rules I’ve heard and the ways you can break them if you are a face wash badass.

1. Wash your face in the morning and the evening.

First of all, I mean, why do people ever wash more than once a day? I just don’t get it because, I don’t know about you, but if I wash my face at night before bed, I usually don’t wake up like this in the morning:

Despite the commercials that show groggy girls who can’t wake up until they smell the artificial citrus in their face wash, you just don’t need to wash your face in the morning! Not only is there a good chance that the artificial fragrance could irritate your skin, but it also strips away your natural sebum (oil produced by your skin), which your skin was creating overnight to balance your skin. Even splashing with water that is too hot can be overly drying, so when you do wash your face, stick to cool or warm water. When you dry, always pat with a towel – the scrubbed clean feeling is no good for your skin.

2. Establish your regimen and stick with it.

Yes, consistency is a great thing. No, you don’t have to buy in to an expensive brand with 1,000 steps to beautiful skin – that’s all smoke and mirrors. If you have a routine that makes you happy, you do you. The two biggest skin bugaboos are acne and wrinkles, but these generally are not solved by simply establishing a fancy face wash routine. I wish! So pick a routine that you feel good about and change it if  you like.

Skin care is never one-size-fits-all, but there is a universal golden rule for sensitive skin like on your face: less is more! Your skin produces natural oils (sebum) and is actually very smart about how much it should produce to compensate changes from the weather or from you panicking and applying way too much acne treatment. For instance, the more you wash out your natural oils and using drying products, the more your skin will respond with “Stop it, ya dummy, I got this!” and produce more oils. This is an endless cycle. In a perfect world, your skin would manage its own affairs and you would glow like the sun and have extra time every day to do puzzles and write letters instead of tending your face.

Well, there are a few other variables in there. Like I bike to work and I know that when I’m breathing in all those car fumes on the ride, I’m also collecting some grime on my face and hair. City life, ya know? So, I like the idea of washing that off at the end of the day because that’s just not in sebum’s job description to deal with bad air exposure. And I’m always rubbing my eyes and resting my head on my hand and stuff like that, so the sebum is picking up whatever odd germs I’m collecting throughout the day. I’m sure you can come up with your own personal reasons for washing your face. So if these kinds of things bother you, by all means, wash your face in the evening and sleep easy.

3. Always remove makeup carefully and never sleep with it on your beautiful face.

Mom: 1, Makeup: 0. Most makeup is filled with all kinds of nasty stuff that you don’t want smushing into your pillow while you sleep. So it’s fair to say that you go ahead and wash it off because otherwise the Petroleum and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate elves will stay up all night clogging your pores and tugging out your eyelashes. Just gross. So, if you’re in habit of wearing makeup, washing your face at night is a great idea and you should stick with a nighttime cleansing routine so your skin can really breathe. I’ll also mention that washing your makeup brushes once in a while is a rad plan.

Well, that’s pretty much it – the rules of washing your face are surpassingly simple:

1. Less is more: wash less, scrub less, soap less, towel-rub less, pick less.
2. Do it when you think you should and don’t do it if you don’t need to. You know best!
3. If you have real and consistent skin issues like acne or excessive dryness, work towards figuring out the cause and finding a solution that makes you content. You may need to consult a dermatologist, psychologist, nutritionist, gynecologist, acupuncturist, or maybe all of the above.
4. When shopping for your products, do your research and don’t trust the hype. And/or make your own products!

Did I miss any of the myths?? Are you a face wash renegade?

Spoiler alert, I’ve got a DIY face wash routine coming at you soon!

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10 responses to “Face Washing and Other Clean Myths

  1. True confessions: I don’t really wash my face. I try to do an at-home micro-derm (oil of olay) treatment once a month. Recently, I started using Simple face towels in the morning. Eh. I need to get back into exfoliating in the shower.

  2. THANK YOU for sticking up for the non-face-washers!! I always feel better when I see things in list format 🙂 To further clarify, I’ve tried washing my face daily with various products. Every single time, my face breaks out after about a week and the resulting blemishes never go away . . . until I stop washing my face again. Boom. Scienced.

  3. I have not WASHED my face in years, no soap ever touches it, only water. Ofcourse I do not use any make-up eather. I’m 85 and I think I look pretty good.

  4. Pingback: Coconut Oil and what to do with it | Get Clean, Girls·

  5. This is all very true because I’ve noticed that my scalp is behaving wonderfully since I’ve been using only baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash and condition my hair. So I thought, “Why is my face still horrible?” Well, I’ve been buying a new face product every time I go out and stop at a shopping place. Even worse, acting like a bartender rubbing in a cocktail of chemicals on my young, fair, and sensitive face. I was wrong!

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