How Often Should You Wash Your Face if You Have Acne?

Have acne? We have tips. Here's how often you should be washing your face

This is how frequently you should be washing your acne-prone face

Every teenager or young adult struggling with acne has probably heard these solutions a thousand times: “Wash your face more often, and stop eating chocolate!”

Well, it seems the jury is still out on the chocolate debate, but in recent years recommendations have changed regarding face-washing and acne. While it’s clear that washing your face regularly is an important part of fighting acne, how often is too often? Can washing your face too often make your acne worse?

Does a Dirty Face Cause Acne?

According to dermatologists, having a dirty face may make acne-prone skin more inflamed, but acne itself doesn’t begin on the skin’s surface where dust and dirt from the environment settles. Instead, acne begins deep below the skin’s surface where sebum, or skin oil, becomes blocked inside a hair follicle or pore. This can be caused by over-productive oil glands, or by dead skin cells blocking the follicle or pore. The blockage causes sticky oil buildup and bacteria begin to feast on the oil, leading to a small infected area—a pimple.

So, while allowing dirt and oil to build-up on your face may make acne breakouts worse, it is not the actual cause of acne. Acne is caused by overactive sebaceous glands and dead skin cells that don’t shed properly. Both of these factors are caused by hormones and genetics, and not by dirt on your face.

Should Acne Sufferers Wash Their Face More Often?

While it may seem logical to assume if excess oil and dead skin cells cause acne, scrubbing both away from your face with a good acne face wash as often as possible would help to get rid of acne. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly correct. Washing your face too often—and scrubbing too vigorously—can actually worsen acne. If your skin becomes dry, red, and flaky you are over-washing. If your skin feels tight and dry after washing, it’s a more subtle sign that you are washing too frequently. When this happens, your oil glands will attempt to compensate by beginning to produce oils more abundantly as a means of self-defense. Also, that tight feeling that you might believe is a good thing because it means you are clean and oil-free, actually means that your skin is dried out and your stripped pores are shrinking. Pores that are dried closed will trap the new production of oils inside, leading to further breakouts.

How Often Should an Acne-Prone Face be Washed?

According to dermatologists, your face should ideally be washed twice a day when you are a teenager or young adult. Washing twice per day will remove dust, dirt, and pollutants without over-stripping the skin of its protective oils. Washing in the evenings is essential, especially if you wear makeup. It’s important to remove all makeup, dust and dirt from your face before going to bed so your pores are free to breathe and recover from the stressors of the day. Washing your face in the morning helps to remove any sweat and oil buildup which accumulates while you sleep. Washing your face in the morning is especially important if your sheets and pillowcases have been slept in without washing for more than two or three days. Oil and bacteria build-up on your pillowcase and sheets can infect your face while you sleep and cause acne break-outs.

As you age and acne stops becoming an issue, it isn’t always necessary or advisable to wash your face in the morning as well as at night. Aging skin tends to be dry, and washing again in the mornings can cause further drying. For most older adults washing before bed is sufficient.

Should Acne Sufferers Wash with Soap?

It’s important for everyone, but especially those who suffer from acne breakouts, to avoid washing their face with typical soaps. Many soaps use perfumes, deodorizers and antibacterial agents that may irritate the skin and cause dryness. It’s better to choose a face wash that is specifically formulated with ingredients to prevent acne if you have frequent breakouts, or a face wash that is moisturizing for older users.

If you do use a typical bar soap, look for those that are noncomedogenic and gentle on the skin. Soaps that make lots of large bubbles are generally harsh and over-drying. Choose instead a soap that makes smaller, creamier bubbles. Smaller bubbles indicate a gentler soap that won’t over-strip your pores.

Resources— VeryWellHealth, Allure, AverAglow

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