Washing your make-up off before you go to bed seems to be the one tried and true beauty rule that almost every skincare professional agrees upon, yet I was curious to see what would happen if I put down the cleanser and stopped washing my face - for an entire month.
Would I inevitably become one of those natural beauties who needs just a touch of lip gloss in the morning or would my skin erupt into a sea of angry red cysts. Since the latter was far more likely, this 31 day experiment seemed to be a bizarre form of face masochism, but I was dedicated to my cause.
And even though Lady Gaga and Alexa Chung have confessed to sleeping in their makeup on a nightly basis, I was still surprised when this most unhygienic undertaking resulted in such success. It has since made me reevaluate everything I knew to be true when it came to my skincare routine.
Before and After: Erica pictured on day one and after 31 days of not washing her face.
A few days after my 30th birthday, I vowed to go a month without washing my face. I had convinced myself that this was like the Paleo diet for my face. Cavemen didn't use cleansers, toners or make-up removing cloths. But then, they weren't wearing make-up at all, a fact that I chose to ignore.
Then I learned that there actually is a Caveman Regimen that claims it can help to cure acne. According to the non-routine, followers ban cleansers, moisturizers, toners and make-up, all in the hopes of banishing spots and blemishes forever. I refused to give up make-up for a month, but I found solace in the face that I was essentially doing a modified version of what appeared to be a widely-accepted skincare trend.
And in fact, my skin was probably at its best when I was a carefree college student, sleeping in my make-up because I was too lazy to wash it off - just like Lady Gaga and Alexa Chung.
Salma Hayek and YouTube make-up vlogger Michelle Phan also credit their great skin to not washing their faces in the morning.
And then there are the skincare experts who warn of the dangers of over cleansing your skin.
Skincare expert and plastic surgeon Dr Des Fernandes told the Express in 2013 that people should avoid washing their faces in the morning in order to banish wrinkles and prevent the skin from being stripped of its natural oils.
I was just doing a more extreme version of that - one that might indeed clog my pores beyond repair. The rules were simple. I could not use any cleanser for 31 days. I was allowed to use topical products, including lotion and retinol night treatment.
And because this was about my skin, I was able to take off my eye make-up off with a cream remover, so I didn't show up to work every morning looking like I was clubbing till 4am before rolling straight into the office.
When it comes to my skin, I've had my issues. I was essentially acne free up until my mid-twenties. Sure, my combination skin had zits here and there, but I was most concerned with keeping my T-zone shine free.
But all of that changed at 26. All of a sudden, I was battling cystic acne on my cheeks, something that I had never had before. My skin was at it's worst, and I desperately tried everything from prescription acne medication to any and every skincare line offered at Sephora.
My skin didn't completely calm down until 28 when I tried the oil-cleansing method as a last ditch attempt at having somewhat clear skin. After a few months of taking my make-up off with a mix of grapeseed and cator oils, I got sick of laundering oily washcloths. I started using the Cetaphil cleanser I relied on in college instead.
Knowing my background, it was insane for me to risk potentially disrupting the delicate balance of my skin. Plus, I wear make-up - a lot of it - but I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps this stripped-back skincare regimen was the answer to all of my skincare woes.
Week one: Erica pictured on day one of her experiment
The first day was the both the easiest and the hardest for two separate reasons. In order to chronicle my efforts, or lack thereof, I had to come into work make-up free for a 'before' photo of my skin.
I never wash my face in the morning, so that was easy enough. Being 'fresh-faced' cut my morning routine in half, but I also had to walk around my office with blotchy skin and my hereditary eye-bags that weren't getting any better with age. It was torture, and I hadn’t even reached the hardest part yet.
I was secretly terrified that my face would be covered in acne by the end of the week, so I mentally vowed to lay off the junk food and to wear less makeup; within hours I was snacking on peanut M&Ms at my desk.
That night in the shower, I 'washed' my face with water. Using my natural skin oils as cleanser felt disgusting, and I hadn't even worn foundation that day. My only reprieve was putting on face lotion, which made it feel like I was following my normal skincare routine.
For the rest of the work week, I ditched my usual liquid foundation and instead relied on concealer and mineral powder foundation, which made me think I was wearing less product - even though I clearly wasn't.
That weekend, I headed from New York City to my home town in Pennsylvania where I earned a nod of approval form my mom
'Your skin looks great!' she said. 'What have you been doing?'
'I didn't wash my face all week,' I replied, deadpan.
At this point, my skin didn’t seem any worse appearance-wise, but I couldn't mentally handle using my hands to scrub my oily skin in the shower. I longed for the feel of my creamy cleanser.
Instead, I scrubbed my face with my shower gloves exfoliating gloves with extreme – and perhaps unnecessary – vigor. I tried to convince myself that I was removing a great deal of my make-up with this aggressive exfoliation method.
I continued to use face lotion, and I started slathering retinol night treatment on anything that looked even slightly red – but actually I didn’t appear to have as many red patches as the previous week.
Was it possible that my skin was looking better? My mom though so, and that woman loves a bit of brutal honesty when it comes to my appearance.
I started to notice that my skin felt more balanced. My T-zone didn't feel oily, and at the end of the day my make-up wasn't flowing down my face like a mudslide. I was also back to slathering liquid foundation all over my face again.
Week three: Erica pictured after 21 days not using any skin cleanser
Over the course of three weeks, I was still getting a few red spots here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary. My only large zit grew on the side of my temple. Was I even putting makeup on there? I wasn't sure I could actually blame my lack of face washing for that one, even if I wanted to.
It was one of those under the skin growths that you keep touching and picking until it turns into an angry volcano that you aggravate into explosion. But, despite its severity, it was really the only one of its kind. It was also on the side of my face and easily to cover with my hair - so no harm, no foul.
This week also marked the start of my strangest skincare behavior yet.
The exfoliating gloves were too harsh for daily scrubbing, and I kept forgetting to buy washcloths. So instead, I started using the tissues that were located on top of my toilet to wipe off my makeup in the shower. I had to be careful not to get them too wet or they would essentially disintegrate, but I liked that I could see my make-up being somewhat removed.
When I first embarked on this adventure, it was only supposed to be for 21 days. But my skin was fine, maybe even better than fine, so I voluntarily signed myself up for 10 more days.
During my last week, I started to notice a few whiteheads along my jawline, and I was immediately irritated that I had pushed myself to do this for any longer than I had originally intended.
But when I took a moment to rationally think about what was happening, I admitted to myself that I had gotten similar blemishes when I was washing my face.
I also had to take into account that after three weeks of unhygienic success, I was also subconsciously allowing myself to pick at my face again.
I think I resisted the urge over the past few weeks because I was terrified one squeeze would be like opening Pandora's Box, but at this point, I was throwing caution to the wind.
Knowing that the end was near, I started planning my first facial cleansing like I was on death row and choosing my last meal. I was terrified that washing my face would be the trigger that would set off the inner acne that I imagined was dying to emerge.
I thought about using my Clarisonic brush and Cetaphil for a truly satisfying deep cleanse, but I soon realized that was a terrible idea. My skin tone was balanced for the first time in my life, so why should I go rushing back to my old cleansing routine?
I can only imagine this was me giving into the societal pressure to wash my face. Almost every person I told about my plan grimaced with disgust, and I couldn't really blame them.
I decided to stick with washing my face - without actually washing my face. I would go back to basics and cleanse my skin with Ponds Cold Cream and a hot wash cloth - just like my grandmother probably did decades ago.
BACK TO BASICS
For my first face washing in over 31 days, I purchased a stack of washcloths and a tub of cold cream.
That night I happily spread the cream all over my face. I used to hot steamy cloth to remove it - and essentially four weeks of make-up. I had technically cleaned my skin, but I was pleased that it still felt supple and hydrated.
I am hoping that the cold cream will help my skin retain the balance it had achieved over the past month, but only time will tell.
After my experiment, I realized that I had spent most of my twenties wasting money on cleansers, toners and acne treatments that were too harsh for my skin.
For now I am sticking with cold cream and using my extra money to invest in the eye cream that I think we can all agree I really need.What do you guys think? I think I would feel dirty not being able to wash my face. But I can tell you that I was a soap user on my own face for years and years because I loved that squeaky clean feeling on my skin. But my face was breaking out a lot, so I knew I needed a change. I too had read that over washing your face could lead to acne. So I stopped - and that was even before I read this article. I use a gentle cleanser now (yes I still use a cleanser), but only once a day. I wash my face in the morning with water only, and same thing after my workouts. I use a cleanser at the end of the day to wash off my make-up. And you know what? This is the best my skin has looked in YEARS! Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2988024/One-FEMAIL-writer-decided-shun-cleanser-31-days-surprising-results.html#ixzz3U6dCZ1Yd Feel free to follow me on my Facebook page or check out more from me on my blog at www.zuzanaorbodyrockaddict.
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