I tried not washing my face for a week and here’s what happened
When I was a freshman in high school, my mother revealed to me what she insisted were the secrets to always looking young, fresh, and beautiful. Of course, I wasn’t exactly worried about being young forever when I wasn’t even old enough to get my driver’s license, but I digress. My mom felt that she needed to tell me right then and there in the cosmetics section of Target — and I’m glad she did, because these two nuggets of wisdom have served me well throughout my almost thirty years.
So, what are the secrets to everlasting youth and beauty, you ask? They’re surprisingly simple. Number one: drink all of the water. Number two: wash your face every morning when you wake up and every night before you to go sleep.
I lived by these rules for years — until one fateful day when my editor tasked me with sacrificing my tried and true skincare regimen in the name of investigative journalism. That’s right — I survived seven days without washing my face, and I’m here to tell you the tale.
Day one: I could get used to this
I woke up on the first day of my week-long journey, groggily waddled to my bathroom mirror as I do every morning, grabbed my bottle of daily facial cleanser, and pumped a dime-size amount onto my fingers before it hit me — this is a no-fly zone. My face is an actual science experiment right now. Unfortunately for me (and my lab partners), science experiments never did go my way. I found myself hoping this one would be less explosive.
After a particularly busy day at work, I had a glass or three of wine (a lesser-known secret to everlasting youth), put on some pajamas, and climbed into bed to watch The Office. Ten minutes later, I could barely keep my eyes open. On any other night, I would have had to drag myself to the bathroom to wash away the day before I drifted off into dreamland — but not this night. I fell asleep in no time at all, with Michael Scott on my laptop and a smile on my unwashed face. This was my kind of science experiment.
Day two: Fighting the urge
The second morning of my little investigation had me feeling all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. My boyfriend, however, demanded to know who I was and what I had done with his decidedly not-a-morning-person-and-that-includes-late-morning-too girlfriend. Maybe I was simply feeling rested thanks to the extra fifteen minutes I had slept that morning due to not having to go through my normal skincare routine. Maybe I asked for a triple-shot of espresso when I went on my daily coffee run because I was feeling adventurous. The world may never know.
As great as I felt that morning, I had to stop myself several times throughout the day from reaching for the cleansing wipes I carry in my purse and giving my face a once-over. I was less than 48 hours in, and already my skin was craving the refreshing, tingly feeling of my cucumber & melon cleanser. Everything looked business as usual in the mirror — but underneath my well-rested glow, my pores were screaming for mercy.
Day 3: Wait, no breakouts?
I woke up on day three of the experiment fully expecting to look at my reflection in the mirror and discover a new planetary system on my face. Though I’ve never been one to wear a lot of makeup (mostly because I’m pretty awful at following along with those YouTube tutorials), I was certain my skin was going to take its revenge for my neglecting it throughout days one and two.
So, imagine my absolute delight when I flipped on the awful fluorescent light in my bathroom, looked into the mirror, and saw a fresh-faced sleepyhead staring back at me. Not only were there no breakouts in sight — my skin had the natural, dewy glow of a slow-motion, water splashing model in a Neutrogena commercial. Could it be that my mother had it wrong all these years? Had I cracked the code to perfect skin in just three days? Am I a person who easily gets their hopes up only to be disappointed the very next day? The answer to that last question is yes.
Day 4: All dried out
Despite my high hopes and daydreams of winning the Nobel Prize for Investigative Skincare Journalism (that’s not a thing that exists), I woke up on day four of my journey feeling itchy — like, really itchy. And if there’s one thing I truly despise in this world, it’s being itchy. A friend once asked me to choose, hypothetically, between being incredibly sticky or unbearably itchy for the rest of time. I chose to be sticky — and yet, here I was, living out my worst itchy nightmare.
In addition to feeling the need to claw at my face throughout the day, my skin was noticeably red and dry, especially in my usual problem areas like my cheeks and nose. I’ve always been a person with combination skin, but even my forehead (historically my most oily area) was dry and flaky. My boyfriend tried to assure me that it didn’t look “that bad,” which means, in boyfriend-speak, “Yeah, it’s not looking great.”
I fell asleep as visions of moisturizer danced in my head.
Day 5: Saving the environment
My face was still pretty dry, red, and itchy on day five, but I was less disturbed by it all. “Only two more days, and then you’re free,” I whispered to myself on the bus, as the passenger in front of me turned to deliver a genuinely concerned glance my way. I’ve got a loud whisper.
As the day went by and tiny flakes fell from my peeling nose as I scratched it, I couldn’t help but think about all the waste I’ve produced throughout the years just by washing my face. Between my beloved cleansing wipes and the endless number of empty bottles I tossed in the garbage before I took up recycling, my skincare routine hasn’t exactly been a force for good on this planet. So I made a pledge to educate myself on the impact my daily routines have on the environment.
If you’re reading this and can relate, you’re in luck, because a simple Google search holds the key to a plethora of zero-waste skincare resources.
Day 6: Oil machine
I never thought I’d nearly squeal with joy to find a small imprint of oil on my pillow in the morning, but that’s exactly what happened when I woke up on day six. My experiences on days four and five had me believing that any moisture had been permanently zapped from my skin — but here I was on day six with an oily-as-ever forehead. The itchiness had subsided, the flakes were nowhere to be found, and all was right with the world.
However, my oily excitement dwindled as the day continued on. I took a look at my reflection around lunchtime expecting to see that dewy-faced, water splashing, slow-motion Neutrogena model — only to nearly be blinded by my own shining forehead. I tried to dab away the excess oil, but no amount of Kleenex was a match for the oil machine that was apparently my face.
Is there a dry shampoo for skin? Asking for a friend.
Day 7: Is it over yet?
I woke up on day seven feeling like a little kid on Christmas morning. The only difference was that instead of being stoked to see if Santa left me the Girl Talk board game (no judgements, please), I was beyond thrilled to finally feel the sweet relief of a squeaky clean, evenly toned, and fully moisturized face.
Of course, I had to make it through the day without washing my face — a task that once seemed impossible, but now seemed like child’s play. If my skin on day seven was any indication, I had survived the worst and made it through to the other side. Though my T-zone was still a bit too oily for comfort and I could feel the beginnings of a pimple budding on the tip of my nose, my skin wasn’t nearly in the condition I’d expected at the start of the week. I could have probably gone another few days without washing my face and been just fine — but the bottle of cleanser sitting on my bathroom sink was simply too tempting to resist.
Girl, wash your face!
In Girl, Wash Your Face — the wildly popular self-help book released in February 2018, author Rachel Hollis writes, “Rise up from where you’ve been, scrub away the tears and pain of yesterday, and start again … Girl, wash your face!” And while I have a feeling that Hollis’ advice was meant to be received on a bit of a deeper level, I couldn’t help thinking of her words as I literally washed my face, scrubbing away the tears and pain of my itchy, flaky, oily, temperamental skin.
Seriously, though, my experience was far from disastrous, even with the bumps along the way. My skin didn’t revert to its nightmarish middle school days — and for that, I am eternally grateful. While every skin type is different and going without a daily wash isn’t an option for us all, I’m happy to know that missing a wash or two throughout the week likely won’t make or break my skin.
Washing your face twice a day may not be the secret to eternal youth (sorry, Mom), but man does it feel good.
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