Although scrolling through social media might make skin fasting seem super new, it’s actually been trending on and off for some time now. However, as is the case near the beginning of any new season, many of us start to think about switching things up or simplifying our routines – so it’s a great time to consider why skin fasting might be for you.
What is Skin Fasting?
Just as with food-related fasting, the premise of skin fasting is pretty simple: stop using products, or at the very least strip them down to the bare essentials, such as SPF – because you’re probably going to have to leave the house – and a light moisturizer. You’ll notice that I didn’t include a cleanser as a bare essential; that’s because, with skin fasting, you’re expected to rely on good old Mother Nature’s favorite cleanser: water. Which brings me to my first reason for not following the trend.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re living somewhere that brings to mind meadow flowers and crystal-clear spring water, you can probably get by with rinsing your face in water, morning and night. But, if you live in London or New York, I’ll bet that there’s no way in hell you’re going to leave your AM and PM cleansing to simple old H2O. London water, for instance, can be so hard that you’ll see build-up around taps and sinks within a couple of days – imagine what that build-up could do to your skin?
I know I’m probably being a little dramatic and to be honest, the water-as-cleanser is probably the only real issue I personally have with skin fasting. As someone who’s dealt with problem skin (i.e. hormonal acne that’s brought on by my period and times of extreme stress), I’ve come to rely on my favorite products to get me through times when a breakout just won’t go away. I know I would find it hard to give them up, even for a couple of days. I talked about this recently on my podcast with a fellow beauty enthusiast. While I said I might experiment with some type of skin fast at some point, my guest said there’s no way she could go cold turkey – especially when it came to her beloved Tretinoin. The conclusion of the conversation was that I would only ever consider a skin fast when my skin is doing really great – but then I’m sure I would be nervous about sending things in the opposite direction. Sigh.
I’ve tried to imagine what a three-day skin fast might look like for me: wake up, rinse face with water, start writing/shooting/editing for the day. Okay, sounds do-able, but I’m guessing that after a couple of hours of work, areas of my skin would feel quite dry and start to become irritated. But let’s say I stick it out for the day and do nothing else to my skin, until bedtime, where I, once again, wash my face with just water. My skin should fare better at night, as that’s the time when it gets to work on repairing damage, self-moisturizing, and self-exfoliating. I’m guessing that by day three of this austere regime, my skin will feel either super dry or pretty oily – and I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. It takes time for your skin to re-learn that it’s okay for it to do its thing again.
So, what do the experts say about skin fasting? One thing’s for sure, no-one is attacking it as an option. A well-touted blog by the Mirai Skin Clinic (literally every article on skin fasting references this 2011 article) claims that skin fasting encourages our skin to do what it’s supposed to do. I also read a positive review of skin fasting by Jessica L. Yarbrough; as a problem skin sufferer, she found it cleared her skin within one week, and has been ‘skin detoxing’ for several years.
For me, it’s clear that it’s a very personal thing, depending on your skin condition and your schedule. On the surface, skin fasting makes a lot of sense; with many of us using anything from five to 15 products a day – sometimes twice a day – I’m sure we could all see the benefits of stripping things back.
So, you want to try skin fasting? Here’s how to make things a little bit easier:
1: Plan ahead. If you know you’ve got some time off coming soon, plan to strip back your skincare routine then. This way you won’t feel pressured to wear makeup and can keep skincare to a bare minimum. Of course, if the reason you have some time off is that you’re on holiday and spending more time outdoors, don’t skip the sunscreen!
2: Don’t stress. It’s likely, depending on your existing routine, that you will notice changes in your skin within 48 hours; don’t worry, this is your skin finding its way back to ‘normal’ – whatever your normal is!
3: Do what feels good. If, after a couple of days, you feel like skin fasting isn’t for you, then ditch it. There’s no point trying something new if it’s going to stress you and your skin out. If you’re less of a stress-head, then, by all means, keep going and see if you can cut things down for an entire week.
4: Be warned. Skin fasting probably isn’t something you’ll want to do in the run-up to a special occasion – it can often cause extreme purging, i.e. breakouts.
You don’t want to try skin fasting but you do want to trim down your skincare routine? Here are some easy ways to downsize without compromise:
1: Avoid alcohol in your skincare – yes, even those toners. Cleanse efficiently, moisturize and keep it moving.
2: Avoid physical scrubs – and no, don’t tell me about your favorite ‘popular’ peach kernel or walnut scrub. They’re a ‘no’ on the daily, not just when you’re trying to simplify your routine.
3: If you have rosacea or very sensitive skin, beware of chemical SPFs as they can irritate. Go for a physical block containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
4: Choose fragrance-free products; more and more we’re becoming aware of the excessive perfumes added to our skincare, and don’t be fooled by ‘unscented’. Often that means that the brand has added in a fragrance to neutralize what might initially be an unpleasant scent.
Today we have more choices than ever, and it’s easy to assume that by going ‘natural’ or ‘clean’ (which is a whole other subject in itself), you’re helping your skin, but even natural ingredients can irritate your skin – we’re all so different. When in doubt, seek the opinion of a dermatologist.
Have you tried or heard of skin fasting? Let us know what you think! We love hearing from you.
Image by Charisse Kenion
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