Washing your face is a fundamental part of your skin care routine, since it removes bacteria, dead skin cells, dirt, makeup, and pollutants that build up throughout the day—but is it necessary in the morning?
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One of the most important steps in any skin care routine is washing your face—it removes built up oil and dirt that can clog pores. But if you absolutely dread this part of your morning and nighttime ritual, or if your skin feels dry afterwards, you may be wondering if it's really necessary to wash your face twice a day. In all actuality, your approach to face washing depends on the type of skin you have—oily, dry, or combination.

Young woman awakening, washing and cleaning her face with splashing water.
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

How Often Should You Wash Your Face?

As a general rule, washing your face should happen twice daily, even if you're just giving it a rinse with water. "When you sleep, your skin detoxifies, so if you don't wash your skin in the morning those toxins just sit there and build up," says Julie Russak, MD, FAAD, board certified dermatologist and founder of the Russak Dermatology Clinic. "At night it's important to wash off all of the environmental gunk that accumulates on the skin throughout the day."

In the morning, a water cleanse should be enough to slough off those toxins—but at night using a true cleanser is definitely recommended.

Oily Skin

Although it maybe tempting to wash your face more than twice a day, it can do more harm than good—especially if you have oily or acne prone skin. "Instead, stick to washing your face once in the morning and once at night," says Aanand Geria, MD, board certified dermatologist in Verona, N.J. "Use a foaming cleanser and a good moisturizer—moisturizing is especially important because a lack of moisture can cause the skin to overproduce oil." Consider using a cleanser with salicylic acid, which decreases oil production and cleans clogged pores.

Dry or Sensitive Skin

Whether your skin is dry, sensitive, or both, you should still wash your face twice daily. Use a creamy, non-foaming cleanser to maintain a protective barrier and avoid stripping away the skin's natural oils.

Another way to minimize dryness is to do a water cleanse with cool water in the morning and only use your face wash at night. "It's best to avoid hot water, which damages your skin and worsens eczema and rosacea," says Michele Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. "After cleansing with hot water, it can make your skin red and increasingly more irritated. The heat also dehydrates your skin and removes oils and moisture."

Combination Skin

Like people with oily and dry skin, those with combination skin should also wash their face twice daily, notes Dr. Geria. "A foaming cleanser is an excellent option because it's not too harsh on dry patches," she says. Look for products with a formula that is fragrance-free, soap-free, and paraben-free.

Risks of Over-Washing

Washing your face twice daily strikes the perfect balance of eliminating harmful materials without stripping away your natural oils. "Over-washing your face can cause your skin harm," says Dr. Geria. "It takes away the skin's natural lipids and can destroy its moisture barrier function, which can cause irritation, acne, and decreased natural resistance to UVA and UVB rays." Over-washing can also dry your skin out, which may lead to itchy, flaky spots. 

Risks of Under-Washing

In the same vein, under-washing can also be detrimental to your skin. "Throughout the day, bacteria, dead skin cells, dirt, makeup, and pollutants build up on your face," says Dr. Geria. "Not washing your face enough can contribute to breakouts, dryness, or dermatitis."

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