Quick Tips: Should I not wash my face if it's dry?

By: Jennifer Cohen

You've been slathering on moisturizer like it's your job, but your face remains dry, tight and flaky. You might be tempted to forgo cleansing, hoping to preserve a scant amount of natural, hydrating oils on your parched and peeling skin. But is that a god idea?

If your face is very dry and you don't have acne, it's fine to skip your morning scrub or replace it with an invigorating splash of cool water [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Just be sure to change your pillowcase regularly, since breakout-causing oil, dead skin and hair products can build up on its surface and sully your skin while you sleep.


What you shouldn't do, however, is go to bed without washing up. No matter how dry it is, your skin can't breathe and regenerate under a day's worth of makeup, sunscreen, bacteria, dirt, pollution and oil. Not only will you risk clogged pores, fine lines and dullness, but any products you use overnight won't be able to penetrate through the grime [source: Kitchens].

A dry complexion requires special precautions, so be sure that your cleansing routine is right for your skin type. First, use lukewarm rather than hot water, which strips away natural oils. Instead of scrubbing with a washcloth or anything abrasive, gently massage your face in circular motions with your fingertips. After rinsing thoroughly with tepid water, pat -- don't rub -- dry with a clean cotton towel, leaving the skin slightly damp. This will help seal in your moisturizer, which you should apply right after cleansing [source: WebMD].

Most important, of course, choose a mild, non-foaming, soap-free cleanser that doesn't contain fragrance, alcohol or antibacterial chemicals such as triclosan. Instead of a gel, opt for a cleansing cream, lotion, milk or oil [source: Donahue]. For extremely dry skin, look for products with added moisturizers, such as ceramides, glycerin or shea butter [source: Way]. Steer clear of toners, especially alcohol-based formulations, and exfoliate no more than once a week.

And finally, if a nighttime-only cleansing regimen works for you, make an exception when you work out in the middle of the day. Otherwise, you might wind up with a bad case of acne to complement your flakiness [source: Way].

For more tips and information about dry skin, check out the links on the next page.


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  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Saving face 101: How to customize your skin care routine with your skin type." November 10, 2009. (July 26, 2013) http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/saving-face-101-how-to-customize-your-skin-care-routine-with-your-skin-type
  • Donahue, Kayleigh. "5 Face-Washing Tricks for Glowing Skin." Redbook. (July 26, 2013) http://www.redbookmag.com/beauty-fashion/tips-advice/glowing-skin-tips#slide-1
  • Kitchens, Simone. "Is It Really That Bad to Sleep in Makeup? Dermatologists Tell Us The Truth." The Huffington Post. December 18, 2012. (July 26, 2013) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/sleep-in-makeup_n_2289084.html
  • Way, Gina. "How You Should Really Wash Your Face." Marie Claire. April 10, 2012. (July 26, 2013) http://www.marieclaire.com/hair-beauty/how-to/how-to-wash-your-face
  • WebMD. "Slideshow: How to Clean Dry Skin." February 14, 2013. (July 26, 2013) http://www.webmd.com/beauty/dry-skin-10/slideshow-cleaning-dry-skin