One of the hottest trends in the beauty market is skin fasting. But what is it? How do you do it? What are the benefits? Most importantly, is it something you should try?
We were mystified by this new fad so we set about getting to know it better.
Defining Skin Fasting
If someone says that they’re going to go on a fast, what do you think? For most people, a fast means avoiding eating certain types of food for a set period – from a few days to a few weeks. It’s a popular way to reset your body and get it back to working at optimal levels.
This is the concept behind skin fasting. However, instead of abstaining from eating, you abstain from putting ALL products, lotions, serums, and makeup on your skin.
In theory, this should be able to help “reset” your skin, and it should start looking and feeling younger and healthier from this reset. As with food fasting though, expect a Herxheimer reaction – things get worse before they get better.
This means you’re in for a rough ride before you start seeing good results, i.e. the skin starts to heal itself.
The Skin Fasting Routine
Unlike other beauty fads that have you buying certain products to get ready, this is the polar opposite. There are no products to buy. You only need to stop all your existing beauty rituals.
If you’re puzzled, don’t worry. So were we.
Here are the exact steps:
- Step One: Pick a day to start your fast, and plan to start it in the evening. Gently cleanse your face with a non-stripping cleanser. Soap and water also work well. Rinse your face and pat it dry.
- Step Two: Do not apply any cleansers, toners, serums, or treatments before you go to bed. The idea is to keep your skin open and able to get good exposure to air as you sleep.
- Step Three: When you wake up in the morning, cleanse your face with lukewarm water before you go about your day. Don’t apply any moisturizers, sunscreens, toners, or makeup. You want to leave your face bare all day before you give it a quick cleanse with water before going to bed again.
- Step Four: That’s all! A skin fast can be done intermittently (e.g. one day a week) or for a longer period like 1-2 weeks at a time.
The Science Behind
The proponents of skin fasting explain the process in this manner:
Your skin functions as a protective organ that keeps bacteria and germs out. It has pores that allow it to “breathe” throughout the day. When you apply heavier layers of makeup or skin treatments, you stop your skin from being able to breathe as well as it can when your face is bare. This can lead to clogged pores, excessive oil production, and breakouts.
Your skin also naturally produces an oily substance called sebum. This comes formulated out of a mixture of fatty acids. Sebum’s main function is to help prevent moisture loss through your skin. When you cleanse your skin too much and apply too many products, it can strip away this sebum layer. In response, your body can start to produce more sebum. You can end up with oily skin that has a higher chance of breaking out or feeling grimy as time goes on.
By not applying products to your face, it’ll start to heal and re-balance itself. You may feel itchy during the first day or two. Your skin may also look very oily at first because your body is used to producing more sebum to keep up with sebum you remove when you remove your makeup or apply cleansers and toners. This should start to clear up around day five if you choose to do a week fast.
The Dos and Don’ts Of Skin Fasting
Just like anything you try during your lifetime, there are things you should and shouldn’t do during your skin fast. These things can help you improve your overall results at the end of each fasting period. They include:
- Drink a lot of water and stay hydrated. Itchy skin is usually a sign that you’re not getting enough water.
- Cleanse your face in lukewarm water. This will help you retain a healthy amount of oil on your skin.
- Make sure that you have a high humidity level in your home. This can help to hydrate your skin.
- Skin fast if you have an underlying medical condition that affects your face. You shouldn’t stop your prescription products without consulting your dermatologist.
- Skin fast if you aren’t feeling very well. This can impact your overall results because you may sweat more.
- Start a skin fast if you’ve recently had a chemical peel. It takes a while for your skin to recover without stressing it more.
Do We Recommend It?
When I first heard of skin fasting, I was perplexed. I thought it might have been an April Fool’s story. Getting to know more about it though, I have to admit that in theory, skin fasting makes sense.
Makeup and an overwhelming amount of skin products in the market are simply not healthy for our bodies. In fact, I believe in this so strongly that I have pared down my own beauty essentials (makeup, that is) to a tinted facial sunscreen and a smidgen of lipstick when I go out.
So, on one level, I get it. Give the skin a break from the harmful products we expose it to on the regular.
But the rest? I’m afraid, it’s not too practical. For one, by having you give up all beauty products, it also forces us to give up products that are actually beneficial or even downright essential in this day and age like moisturizers (hello, winter) or sunscreen (hello, deadly space rays).
To conclude, I would say skin fasting is not for everyone. If you live somewhere where the air is really clean and you don’t need to go out in the sun for long periods of time, I think you have the perfect environment to do skin fasting.
However, if you live in a grime-filled city and under a thinning ozone layer like I do, I opt to give this a hard pass. Instead, I’d recommend the following if you are serious about taking your skin care to another level:
- Eat clean
- Minimize the use of makeup
- Use safer products and brands; check against the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database
- Treat your skin to serums and moisturizers
- Try facial gua sha and/or the Korean 10-step beauty regimen