What A Dermatologist Thinks About The Skin Fasting Trend

Your questions, answered

Gone are the days when putting 10 layers of skincare products on your face is the trendy thing to do. At the moment, what’s gaining traction are philosophies related to mindfulness and minimalism. There’s even a popular beauty trend called “skin fasting” that not just calls for limiting your skincare routine to just the essentials but also to completely stop using them for more or less a week in hopes of “resetting the skin”.

Some have claimed that it made their skin feel stronger and less irritated. But is this practice beneficial for all? Is there really such a thing as “skincare overload”? Can it help “detox” the skin? To give clarity on the matter, we interviewed Dr. Krizia Ty, a board-certified dermatologist in the Philippines. Ahead, she answers questions about skin fasting.

Is there any benefit to skin fasting?

It may not be the best move to stop using all of your skincare products at once, even if it’s just for a week as doing so could result in clogging of pores, dry skin and UV damage. “Our skin is unable to cleanse itself and needs to be washed with mild surfactants or synthetic detergents present in cleansers that can remove the daily build-up of oil, sweat, dead skin, dirt, and pollution. These things that accumulate on our skin on a daily basis are not water-soluble and will not be removed by washing our skin with water alone,” Dr. Krizia said.

She goes on to explain that skipping all of your skincare including cleansers will not only promote acne formation but also skin infections. Yikes!  “If skin fasting is done in the extreme form like this, I believe there is no benefit to it as it does not help preserve the skin’s integrity and function,” she said.

What should one do instead?

While completely abandoning your skincare routine is not a good idea, reducing it down to the basics may be beneficial if you’re “using multiple skincare products that are redundant (same active ingredient in different forms) or antagonistic to each other (active ingredients that clash with one another)”, according to Dr. Krizia.

This is where the concept of the so-called “skincare overload” comes into play. As it turns out, such a thing really exists. “It may be possible to overload on skincare. 

Using too much of the same thing (for example, using a cleanser, toner and cream that all contain AHA/BHA) or using too much of many different things (such as AHA/BHA, retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, vitamin C in leave-on formulations applied all together) might not be a good idea since this may lead to further breakdown of the skin barrier leading to irritation,” she said.

Skincare pink scrub

(Photo from: Polina Kovaleva via Pexels)

What one should do instead is “a skincare diet” rather than “fasting”. “Narrow down the skincare products you use to the ones that are necessary for your skin type and skin goal. Using targeted skincare products in the proper concentration, formulation and combination is more cost-efficient and effective than just using whatever is trendy or popular,” she said.

What are the skincare products that you should not skip?

Cream in a jar

(Photo from: Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash)

So what does a “skincare diet” consist of? “Cleansers, moisturisers and sunscreen are the basic skincare products that should never be skipped regardless of skin type, age, race or gender,” she said. “Think of the skin barrier as the ‘roof’ of a house. Because of its constant exposure to the elements over the years, sometimes the ‘roof’ will get a few holes here and there. Think of moisturisers as the ‘sealant’ which we can use to cover the holes of the ‘roof’ and sunscreen as the ‘paint’ to protect the ‘roof’. If we don’t repair the ‘roof’ or skin barrier by applying the ‘sealant’ or moisturisers and the ‘paint’ or sunscreen regularly, our skin barrier will eventually break down and allow irritants, toxins and pathogens to enter freely which may lead to skin diseases and conditions that are harmful not only to our skin but also to our overall health.”

What are the skincare products that can be skipped when going on a “diet”?

Skincare products in the sink

(Photo from: Polina Tankilevitch via Pexels)

There are some proverbial “fat” from our skincare routine that can be cut out if we want to go on a skincare diet.

The first on the list are toners. “Toners were previously used to balance the pH of the skin after cleansing. Fortunately, most cleansers available nowadays are gentle enough to retain the skin’s acidic pH so there is no need for this if your cleanser is able to do this. However, you may opt to use them if their purpose is to deliver an active ingredient such as hyaluronic acid or niacinamide,” Dr. Krizia said.

Two other things that you can cut during your skincare diet are serums and essences. “Serums and essence are usually concentrated versions of active ingredients like peptides, antioxidants, probiotics etc. They serve to enhance the skin’s function by making the skin more resistant to free radical damage and inflammation. Although this is useful for our skin, it will never replace the use of sunscreen as the main skin protective agent. You may still incorporate them in your skincare regimen if you wish as long as you have the budget and time for it,” she said.

Person holding skincare bottle

(Photo from: Vie Studio via Pexels)

Lastly, chemical exfoliants and retinoids can also be skipped. “Chemical exfoliants such as glycolic or salicylic acid are used to speed up the skin’s turnover time by shedding away dead skin to reveal fresh and brighter skin underneath. These may be used as an add-on a few times a week if the skin looks dull or if there is an acne breakout. Topical retinoids, on the other hand, are used both as an anti-acne and an anti-ageing agent. Both chemical exfoliants and topical retinoids are usually used only if there is an indication for it that is why they are both considered optional,” she shared.

At the end of the day, Dr. Krizia recommends having a consultation with a board-certified dermatologist so you can have a professional to guide you on how to optimise your skincare routine with specific products.

Will doing a skincare “fasting” or “diet” detox the skin?

One much-talked about benefit to doing skincare fasting is that it will detox the skin of toxins. Dr. Krizia clarified that “detoxification or breaking down of toxins to be excreted out of our body, only occurs in the liver and kidneys, not in the skin”. Essentially, no skincare regimen could detox body toxins out of your skin. Instead, the skin protects you from environmental aggressors.

“The skin’s function is to serve as a barrier to protect our internal organs and it plays a vital role in the body’s immune system as the first line of defence against pathogens and environmental insults. The main purpose of basic skincare products is to maintain the skin’s function as an effective barrier and to protect it from further damage,” she said. “If the skin is maintained on consistent use of basic skincare products, it will remain healthy enough to be able to efficiently block pathogens or environmental insults that are trying to disrupt the skin’s balance, naturally.”

To summarise, casting aside your skincare routine isn’t a great move but narrowing down the products that you use to the basics may help you identify the things that you may or may not need in your regimen. Instead of trying skincare fasting, this is an invitation to discover that maybe less is truly more.

(Cover photo from: Polina Tankilevitch via Pexels)

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