Although acne isn't caused by not cleansing your face, there's no doubt that regular cleansing is an important step in your acne treatment routine. But exactly how many times a day should you be washing your face?
The magic face-washing number is generally agreed to be two. A twice-daily cleansing, morning and night, is just enough to clean away makeup, dirt, and extra oil hanging around on the skin, but not too much to be irritating. If you get sweaty or especially dirty, a third cleansing might be needed.
What products you use to cleanse your face is also important. The skin on your face is delicate, so you don't want to use harsh cleansers or soaps. Antibacterial hand soap is out, and so are bar soaps that leave your skin feeling tight and stripped. Never use rubbing alcohol to cleanse your face.
Stronger isn't always better. Instead, choose a cleanser that leaves your skin feeling clean but not overly dry or stripped.
Acne Isn't Caused by a Dirty Face
It's important to remember that acne isn't caused by a dirty face. If you're breakout-prone it doesn't mean you aren't taking proper care of your skin. Most people with acne are fastidious about keeping their skin clean—but breakouts still happen. This is because acne is caused by factors completely independent of skin care regimen. People with acne have skin cells that don't shed away properly and are more sensitive to irritation caused by acne-causing bacteria called Propionibacteria acnes. Hormones play a role in acne development, too.
Washing Too Often Can Worsen Acne
Over-washing your face can be just as bad (or even worse) than not cleansing at all. If you wash your face too often, you can easily strip away all of the good oils your skin needs to stay supple. You can also break down the acid mantle, which is a protective coating that we have over our skin made up of sweat, oil, and good bacteria. For strong, healthy skin you need a strong, healthy acid mantle.
Cleanse too often and you can easily end up with skin that is dry, red, flaky, and irritated. Probably not the result you're looking for. Scrubbing is also a no-no. Harsh scrubs won't clear your skin any faster but can irritate your skin and aggravate breakouts.
Cleansing Alone Isn't Enough for Acne
Good skincare obviously helps remove dirt, excess oil, makeup, and the like, and can help reduce pore blockages. But cleansing with simple soap, or face wash, and water just isn't enough to clear up acne. Consider your twice-daily cleansing as step one in your acne treatment routine. Step two should be the regular use of an acne treatment product.
For mild breakouts, you might try over-the-counter acne products first. Those with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are the most effective. Use them regularly for a few weeks and see if that helps smooth away bumps and clear pimples.
More severe or inflamed breakouts won't improve with store-bought acne products. Instead, you'll need a prescription acne medication from your doctor. These will give you a better shot at clearing your skin.
Just remember, all topical acne treatment medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription, work best when applied to freshly washed and thoroughly dried skin.