Overwashing Your Face Could Be Making Your Skin Worse

Overwashing Your Face Could Be Making Your Skin Worse

booksI needed a change of scenery to work today so I packed my macbook into my backpack and headed off to a bookstore in downtown Toronto.

I love working in bookstores. Apart from the delicious smell of the brand new books (or is that the choc-chip cookies in the attached Starbucks cafe?), I love how if I need to research or look up any information while I’m here, I have instant access to a huge range of quality resources. And before you roll your eyes and tell me “Um, that’s what the Internet’s for …” (duh!), bookstores are great because you don’t have to weed through all the junk that comes with researching on the net. So there.

So of course, one of the first things I did when I arrived (apart from order a green tea and drool at those choc-chip cookies), was to browse the well being and skin care sections of the book store.

Call it fate, or whatever, but every book that I picked up popped straight open to the cleansing page. And every book screamed one key point at me – “Do not over wash your skin”. So unless these skin care experts have formed some kind of special ‘elite’ group and are getting together for herbal tea and note swapping, I guess there must be some truth to this point if they’re ALL saying it.

Why it’s really bad to over wash your face

clear skin girlIt’s kind of simple. We were all born with great functioning skin. Skin that left alone does a really good job at looking after itself.

Take how I wash my skin as an example. I probably shouldn’t be publicly admitting this on my blog … but I hardly use soap or any other cleansing method on my body in the shower. That’s right, for years I’ve ditched the body cleanser and I only have a bar of [natural] soap in my shower to cleanse the dirty bits. You know, underarms, feet, and that other bodily part that I won’t mention. The rest I just let the water run over. So why is it that I can get away with completely skipping the cleansing of my arms, legs, stomach, shoulders, etc without any negative effects? Why is it that when I stopped cleansing those areas my skin actually improved. My skin is rarely dry (unless I have super hot showers or I’m in Vegas), and no, it doesn’t smell, and it looks clean and healthy.

Then what is the deal with our face, why do we have such a strong obsession with spending so much time and money on it?

One book in particular claimed that over washing our face or using strong detergents actually strips all the natural oils off the skin. The book then proceeded to explain that stripping off the natural oils means a need to add more moisture on. So essentially we’re having to buy more products (harsh cleansers = buying more moisturizers) which is making beauty product manufacturers happy, that’s exactly what they want us to do. I don’t know if this is really what the manufacturers are trying to do, but it sounds sketchy so I want to rebel against it.

The right way to cleanse your face

girl washing her faceAcne or no acne, the best thing you can do for your skin when you’re cleansing your face is to use a very gentle cleanser. That means something that will not leave your face feeling tight or dry. We want to keep as much of the natural oils on as possible. In fact, if you don’t suffer from acne, or if your skin is clear then you can get away with just washing your face with water (in addition to regular exfoliation). A couple of friends of mine, both beautiful girls, have only ever washed their faces with water. Both are over the age of 35 and both have fabulous skin. I asked what happens if the water doesn’t get all of the ‘stuff’ off, as in sunscreen, makeup etc. And they both said they didn’t care. I was truly inspired by their relaxed attitude and realized that if you’re holistically healthy, relaxed and happy and your skin is clear, then you can do this. You can be so gentle with your skin that you can skip the cleanser all together.

But I’m not quite ready for that myself. I’m still using Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple because it’s very gentle on my skin, but still strong enough to take makeup off. Purity Made Simple seems to be one of those love it or hate it products, so if you’re one of those ‘hate it’ people, then you can try looking for a cleanser that aligns with your skin type.

Finding the right cleanser

The experts in the books that I just read said that foaming cleansers are better. I personally disagree with this because every foaming cleanser I’ve ever used (natural or not) has dried my skin out, which is what we don’t want. But my skin type is dry, so if you have oily skin, you might want to give a foaming cleanser a go. Apparently foaming cleansers are the best at ‘cutting through the grease’ without being too harsh. I’m not entirely sure what that means but it would sound desirable to me if I had oily skin.

Finding the right cleanser for you may take a bit of trial and error. To minimize trips to the store and the dent in your wallet, do a little research first. Start by taking a trip to your local cosmetics, drug or health store, and browsing the skin care section to find a product that appeals to you. Then jump onto MUA and look up reviews of that product (that are over 1000,000 reviews in there!) to make sure that other people have said it’s a quality product. If people say that it dries out there skin or makes them break out, then don’t buy it ..because obviously it’s a bad product. However, if most of the reviews say it’s a quality product, then go for it.

When you start using the new product, make sure that it does not make your skin feel dry or tight. We want something gentle for our skin, something that keeps us hydrated and minimizes the amount of moisturizer we need to use. Also monitor your skin for any out of the ordinary acne breakouts. If you experience an unusual breakout within 3-5 days of using the new product, it may be giving you cosmetic acne.

Remember, to look after our skin and to help clear our acne if we have it, the key is to cut back and keep it simple. So be gentle with your skin, wash it only twice a day and do not scrub and scour at it. You’ll definitely notice the difference.


30 comments… add one

  • elizabeth

    I have just found your page and found it very good with having red spots on my face for 6 weeks and no matter what I put on will not clear it up so just using water sounds good which I will now start doing and see what happens your page made so much sense to me

  • Amanda Robinson

    I totally over washed my face and put acne cream on almost four times a day…the pimples are really irritated and school is tomorrow!!!!!!! PLEASE HELP!! Should I try and moisturize it, or leave it alone, or try something completely different?????

    • sauruv

      cleanse face once at morning and night …drink 4litres of water u can seee amazing effect ..almost 15 or 16 glass per day at first u cant drink that much of water once u start that habit u can drink … drink 2 glass of milk at 6 o clock one glass of milk is not profitable .at night before sleeping eat pista badam atlest five ..other advice is to eat fruits .banana apple papapya etc …drinnk water is best..if u do that thing u can see effect in 20 or 25 days

  • Martin Milan

    i just over wash my face last friday and my face looks reddish and the sides between my eyes and nose are having rashes right now,what will you recommend to me so my face goes back to its normal glow ? i want a reply right now cause im going to a K POP AUDITION and i need some help for my face PLEASE HELP ME !!!

  • Frankie

    Hey Fran, Well im 15 years old and Schools Right Around The Corner And Out of No Where My Skin is Looking Ugly! Its like my pores next to my nose, like right under my eyes are all open, it looks ugly!!:( & i clean my face 3 times a day and the facial cleaner has little beads, do you think that this is causing my pores to look bumpy and ugly? Please Help:(

    • anne

      dont over wash your face because it can cause more oils and can result more acne just wash it twice a day not to over wash
      and dont pop acne because you are spreading it on the another skin

  • Patrice

    Hi Fran, I’m turning 42 this March, and I’ve been having skin issues since I was a teen. Now that I’m older I’m getting real tired of the “teen” skin that was supposed to be just a phase. I work in the metal industry and the air is full of particulate that settles on me skin and hair. The hair I have no problems with, but my face is visably dirty. When I get home, weather or not I clean my face, my skin burns like it’s on fire, and if I do wash it, it just gets hotter, even if I use cool water. I’ve tried all types of cleaners from the really expensive to the really cheap, what else is there that I can do to help my face?…. I’d like your opinion please.

  • my goodness fran i totally agree foaming cleansers are the worst for my skin they make my skin so dry however much natural oils are contained my skin always becomes reddened and sore/dry. I do hope that one day when my skin clears i can use the water only method because thats the method i utilised as a child and had wonderful skin.

  • Linda

    You are so right! After reading this article I tried something that’s completely new to me, just don’t wash at morning. I always noticed my skin looking worse after washing, so that was when I was confident enough to leave the house without foundation. I was so happy with it that I now sometimes don’t even wash in the evening eather, only when I feel like there is a lot of dirt on it. I don’t even use a moisturiser.
    Now my skin is a lot less oily and my acne is getting less and less everyday.
    What really irritates me is now knowing that my skin condition is caused by ME and that it was all my own fault. If I new this ten years ago I would’nt have all these scars that I have now :(

  • andrea

    hi fran, i know this a late comment, but thanks a lot for this post.

  • Casey – Large pores can mean 2 things – too much oil or congested skin.

  • Casey

    Hey Fran, I don’t have acne prone skin and I wash my face once every two nights with warm water; but I don’t understand why there seem to be wide pores on my face. They just look like spots but close-up they look like pores. Maybe my pores are getting wider for some reason, do u know anything about this? Help plz!!

  • Clay- All of your questions are answered in my free acne cure mini-course and in the acne blog archives (http://www.highonhealth.org/acne/).

    Or you can join my coaching program for personal support:

  • Clay

    How come it’s a phase for teens to get ances and what age will we grow out of it?

    Also, I went to china for like 2 months, the wierdest thing happen, my face got all good but when I come back to US ances come out again! :(

  • Hi Markuz, definitely tepid or lukewarm is best. Hot water will just dry out and aggravate your skin.

  • Markuz

    hi fran what would be a good temperature of water to use?

    like hot tepid lukewarm or warm

  • Hi Kayla, have you joined my free mini-course? It’s got a whole lesson on how to find a good cleanser and moisturizer.

  • kayla

    This is my life story about acne well since i was born and to probably 4th grade i didnt have acne just clear skin and i never had to worry about my face. Then the beginning of 5th grade i got acne all mostly on my for head and somtimes on my cheeks or chin. No one called me names or anything cause it wasnt that bad but i did try to hide it when it was bad.To the point that i would try to hide my face and only act my self around my bffls. there wasnt as many kids and boys as there is now. in the 6th grade there was so many cute boys but i couldnt even talk to them feeling confident. Im going into the 7th grade im gonna be a cheerleader not sure how good im gonna be and just want to have a good year wit clear skin. id like some advice on some face wash, cleanser or something that is garintead to make an improvement and not cause dryness peeling of the skin or tightness.

  • Hi Conner, I’ve posted a couple of articles recently discussing if we really do need to use a moisturizer. And you can take a look at the forum, there are a few discussion in there too about it -


  • Conner

    Now do I NEED to get a moisturizer?
    because I really dont like ANYONE that i have tried.

  • Yay Conner! Sounds like a routine that makes you a lot happier AND is better for your skin :) That’s great and yes, I think it will help.

  • Conner

    Ok, so last night i just washed my face with Clearisil ultra Daily wash, and then when i woke up, i just splashed some water on my face and hair, and rushed to my swimming.
    and then after, I took a shower, and washed with my face with water, and used dove on my body, and I plan wash my face with Clearisil at nights.
    Because, I just noticed something, I would wash my face maybe 3 times a day, and Now i just wash with water after an activity or something, and this made me HAPPY.
    I HAD NO OILS, it’s actually normal.

    and i had been using a salicic acid maybe 3 times a day.
    So i think just wash it at night everyday will be good.

    RIGHT? do you think this will help.

  • Hi Connor,

    I think your skin is feeling dirty because it’s oily ..and it’s likely you’re getting acne because of this oily skin. And yes, it probably is just a phase, especially at your age, so just relax, we can work on fixing it for now but it definitely will get better and you’re likely to grow out of it.

    I’m not a big fan of drug or grocery store bought acne products, but they do work fantastically on teenage oily skin. So you have THE BEST skin type for these products. You said you used Proactiv in the past already, but I want you to try something new. I want you to try using a product that contains salicylic acid instead (Proactiv uses Benzoyl Peroxide).

    So go to the drug store and see what products you can find (you know, the big names like clearasil, clean & clear, neutrogena etc). Also jump into the forum and ask or see what others like you are using -


    And check out MUA for product reviews. There are over 1,000,000 product reviews in there form people just like you and me, so have a browse through the product reviews and look for what’s worked for others –


    And of course, join my mini-course if you haven’t already. It runs through step-by-step what you can do to clear your acne. It’s free to join and you can unsubscribe at any time.

  • So here’s my story. I have probably the most oily skin in the world, and to top it of probably the most sensitive skin too. I am 14, and not turning 15 until next march, and my family tells me that “its just a phase” but I can at least do something to help treat my whiteheads that pop up on my chin/jaw line, and around the cheek area. There are some times when i think that my acne is just a “phase” because when i was in 6th grade, I started getting acne on my forhead, and that was the only place that it would appear. I used proacive, and anything that i could get my little hands on. and then 7th grade, it healed on my forhead, and then migrated to the cheek and nose area. now that im in 8th it was bad on the cheek, and chin, but cheek is going away, and chin is gradually stopping, but now its on my chest.
    The other probably that i have is that I ALWAYS feel dirty and gritty on my face, and I consintly feel like I need to go home during school and just CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN. I dont think i have ever EVER gone a day with out cleaning my face, and if something that im using doesnt help, i switch, and try something new, probably in a 24 hour period.

    I probably have the most worst case of OCD, and not even know it when it comes to my face.


  • Milk is great for the skin because it’s very moisturizing. I’ve used a brand before that I found in health stores called ‘cleopatras milk’. It’s unrecognized and unpasteurized so in its raw form like it should be.

    You could try it, why not. If you notice any unusual breakouts within 5 days of use, then stop using it.

  • Sarah

    hi fran, i read an article on the internet that says we could use milk powder to wash our face, do you think this is advisable?

  • Ashley

    I never wash my body with soap like you do, well except those certain area’s that you mentioned, I’ve been doing this for years and nothing has ever been wrong with it, such as pimples or anything else. When I think back when I was younger, this may sound crazy but I never had any pimple’s on my my face until I started washing it with a face wash. I always wondered what would have happened if I never used face wash, lol. It’s true about the sunscreen thing to, I put tons of sunscreen on my back everday, because I wear a lot of tanktops,I only wash it off with water and I’ve never had a single pimple or anything on my back, I know that’s a pretty sensitive place to get pimples.

  • Hi Greta, I don’t think there are really any rules to skin care. I use to think there are but with trial and error …now I think you need to just do what your skin responds best to. So if cleansing twice is working for you, then go for it.

  • Greta

    I definitely agree with you, overwashing your skin or using harsh cleansers if theyre not needed can aggravate your skin. I thought you might be interested in this: i had another facial today..i have hormonal acne and slightly oily skin, and it was recommended that i cleanse twice at night. the first time being to remove all the surface dirt, make up etc. and the second time will cleanse deeper. as i said in another comment, i feel i can trust this lady’s advice. what do you think? it makes sense to me i think. thanks fran xxx

  • Dante

    I have also found that overwashing your skin can be bad, and cause more acne. Right now I am in the proces of finding the right cleanser. My skin was doing really well until I took a trip out to Colorado. I don’t know if it was the dryness or the altitude, but I had the worst break out from it. And also the second I got back to the east coast my lips were no longer chapped. I thought my lips were going to just fall off because they were so chapped. My skin is still recovering from that trip. I hadn’t gotten a cyst in the longest time but when I got back home I discovered I had two new ones. For me natural products seem to work the best, and silly acne kits like Pro-Active seem to just make my skin worse. I think that acne needs to be healed from the inside, and I believe that what your diet and how active you are is also a big factor. Topical things only seem to make my skin look good for a short while. My current regimin is cleanse with Clean & Clear foaming cleaners, tone with a little witch hazel, moisturize with jojoba oil, and the put a little bit of tee tree oil on my problem areas. I do it morning and night, and never in the middle. If I miss a day then I usually will wake up with a white head. I know it’s a lot to carry around but this really seems to do wonders for my skin. If my skin is feeling oily through out the day I will never wash it to get rid of the oil I just use one of those lil sheets that you blot on the oil, and it makes it go away. ALSO USE SPF!!!!!

Leave a Comment