Do I Actually Need To Wash My Face Every Day?

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,

I’m not really wearing makeup at the moment nor am I going outside much, for obvious reasons. So, that being considered, do I really need to wash my face thoroughly every day? What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t?

Iona, 25
Just this morning, I was having a conversation with my friend about whether it’s worth putting on makeup right now. She says yes, and has been doing her usual full face every day, just to get into Lululemons after. I’ve only been wearing makeup on Zoom call days, but have been wearing a full face of Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask just to bash out work. Basically, I’m not going to tell you what routine you should be in, because various levels of grooming comfort and distract different people differently. 
One thing that is for certain, though? You have to wash your face. I understand that if you’re not wearing makeup, you might feel like there’s nothing to remove per se, but cleansing is about so much more than that. "If nothing else, the coronavirus has shown us how much we touch our faces," explained Joanne Evans, facialist and founder of Skin Matters in Notting Hill. Even with all the hand washing, our fingers contain traces of oil, food and general debris from around the house which we absent-mindedly slap all over our faces with every light brush of the fingertips.
Evans, who is currently offering skin consultations over Skype and FaceTime (considering she usually has a three-month waiting list, this is a coup), insisted that daily cleansing isn’t optional but that it needn’t be arduous. "Cleansing your face at night is important to remove pollution, dirt and your SPF," she explained. "Plus, it’s a ritual to signal the end of the day and to help you shift into relaxing mode. I only recommend a proper cleanse at night. In the day, I just wash with water under the shower and finish with ice cold water. Only very oily or acne-prone skin will need to do a deep cleanse day and night."  
Notice Evans said SPF – that’s right, you still need to be wearing sun protection, even if you’re not going out. If you’re sitting in a room with windows, especially if you sit close to the window, I’m afraid to tell you that the glass offers no protection against UV rays, so lotion up, please. Anyway, if you don’t wash your face, in the short term your skin will look dull and tired. In the long term, Evans "would expect to see that the skin looks inflamed, congested and irritated," also noting that it can exacerbate everything from sensitivity to acne. Your skin has a natural exfoliation cycle where dead skin is sloughed off. But without being manually removed from the surface of your skin through cleansing, a lot of that dead skin just sits there. And if you put serum or moisturiser on top of it, you just compress it all down and then you get the inflammation. And it’s nasty. There, I said it.
This natural exfoliation cycle also contributes to the normal production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid (volume, firmness and hydration, respectively), and if you’re not cleansing properly, it’s not a stretch to think you’d impede the production of those goodies, too. Personally, I love cleansing! Get me a warm flannel, a deep sink and a pump of something balmy and unctuous and I’m set. But I understand not everyone finds the process enjoyable and to that end, just buy a cleanser that’s inexpensive and not too much work to lather up. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is great, as is the classic Cetaphil – cheap, dermatologist-approved and super gentle on the skin. Maybe it won’t be a big spa moment for you. That’s fine. Just make sure you do it, please.
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