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From “miracle” elixirs to “revolutionary” regimens, there’s no shortage of skincare companies claiming to hold the key to bright, flawless skin.
On the flip side, skincare fasting recently gained buzz-worthy status across the internet. And although the concept seems harmless and straightforward enough, dermatologists recommend not taking the term “fasting” too literally.
Skincare fasting implies taking a break from all skincare products for a period of time, whether it’s weeks or months. This supposedly allows the skin to reset, get stronger, and reduce sensitivity. Do more by doing less—sounds good, right?
Er, wrong. While a total skincare fast might be a viable option for some, experts warn about the risks of doing it incorrectly.
Try A Half-Fast Instead
The overwhelming consensus among experts we spoke to was that they do not recommend a full skincare fast. Sunscreen and some other key items should rarely be omitted.
“We cannot totally remove skincare because our skin is the first layer of protection of our body,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Patricia Gaile Espinosa.
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“We need to protect our skin from the unwanted effects of sun exposure, such as skin cancer and photoaging leading to wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and texture. We also need moisturizer whether it’s hot or cold,” Espinosa continues.
A gentle cleanser and lipid-rich moisturizer is another item you want to keep in your skincare routine, said Dr. Simran Sethi, founder and CEO of RenewMD.
That said, it is a good idea to take a break from certain products as part of a fast, she added. “Hold off on any chemical barrier sunscreens. Switch to a physical barrier sunscreen that contains zinc or titanium oxide or both.” Your skin might also benefit from taking a break from retinol and hydroquinone products.
Keep It Consistent
Elina Fedotova, founder and chief formulator for Elina Organics, recommends skincare fasting only if you’re using a mismatched skincare regimen. “Most people have purchased random products from different locations and created a regimen that does not necessarily go together,” Fedotova said.
“If you are trying to cook a particular dish, you should follow a specific recipe. It’s the same thing with skincare. The cleanser is supposed to bring your skin to a desirable pH and prep your skin for a particular toner. Then, the toner is supposed to prep your skin for a specific serum or moisturizer.”
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Using multiple products from different brands can cause adverse skin reactions, Fedotova said, in which case, fasting might be helpful. If a professional created your skincare routine but it still isn’t working, Fedotova suggests returning for a consultation or finding a new dermatologist.
It’s Not For Everyone
Many experts we spoke to noted that, while skincare fasting might be a viable option for some, it isn’t for everyone.
“I’m skeptical about everything that contains some variation of the word ‘detox,’” warns beauty expert Katya Bychkova. “While I’m all-in for a minimalist skincare approach and multi-tasking products, going cold turkey is not the best thing you could do.”
Instead, Bychkova reiterates the importance of including a gentle cleanser and moisturizer in your daily skincare routine, no matter what.
“I’d think a hundred times before skipping on sunscreen,” she said. “In my universe, this skincare step is non-negotiable.”
“I wouldn’t recommend attempting [total] skin fasting to anyone, especially people struggling with medical conditions like eczema and cystic acne. Talk to your dermatologist first if you plan on skipping any topical treatments,” she adds.
Skincare fasting does have potential benefits. If you’re using a mismatched regimen with clashing products, then a skincare fast might help reset the skin while you find a more appropriate routine.
But remember to only abstain from harsher products, like retinol, AHA, BHA, and hydroquinone. No matter how long your fast lasts, you should continue using a gentle cleanser, lipid-rich moisturizer, and chemical-free sunscreen. As it turns out, less is more, but nothing is not necessarily best.