What is 'skin fasting', and do you need to try it? Let's investigate.
When my editor asked me to give up my skincare for a week to go on a ‘skin fast’, I was intrigued. I have heard that if you use the same products for a long time, your skin gets used to them and you stop seeing the results. I’ve also heard that cleansing too much strips your skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry and dehydrated. But despite all this, I was never tempted to give up my precious products. What would I do without my Vitamin C serum? Die, probably.
‘Skin fasting’ is a practice popularised by Japanese skincare website Mirai Clinical. The idea behind it is to strengthen the skin’s natural protective barriers by reducing your skincare to the absolute bare minimum. According to founder Koko Hayashi, constant use of cleansers and moisturisers causes the skin to stop producing enough natural oils, leading to drier skin. By taking a break, either for one night a week or longer, you’ll keep things ticking over. Hayashi also claims that spots will clear up quicker after a ‘fast’, but advises people with eczema or other serious skin conditions not to attempt it at all.
I have to try lots of different skincare products for my job, which maybe isn’t ideal for my skin. Despite this though, my core routine is relatively simple. Or it’s simple for me, at least – you may beg to differ. Some reading this might feel smug at only ever washing their faces with soap and water, which is nice and all, but I want more than that. I want GLOW. I want MOISTURE. And for that, I need products.
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In the morning I use a brightening serum, a hyaluronic acid eye cream and a moisturiser with SPF. At night, I take off my makeup by double-cleansing with a balm and a face wash, then go in with some Pixi Glow Tonic and a hyaluronic acid serum or, depending on the night, a retinol. I finish off with my eye cream and a nice, thick moisturiser or overnight mask (my fave is by Korean brand Laneige), then settle down for some beauty sleep. The products change every few months, but at its core, my little regimen stays the same.
However, if Vicki had asked me to do this even two months ago, I probably would have said no. I had persistent cystic acne on my chin and jawline for years, and went through a whole host of at home treatments to try and fix it: masks, spot creams, exfoliators… you name it, I was using it. I fially decided to go to the doctor, who prescribed me the pill for acne – and two months on, I have the best skin of my life. Because of this, I wasn’t as afraid to be without my lotions and potions as I would have been, but still, the thought of going product-free wasn’t very enticing. Would my skin feel clean? Would it be tight and dry without my daily dose of hyaluronic acid?
Now, I should say that we didn’t follow Mirai Clinical’s guidelines exactly – they say to forgo make-up along with skincare, which I did for a few days, but it wasn’t possible for me to completely give it up for the week. So with that in mind, Vicki laid down a few rules: I could use waterproof makeup remover to get my mascara off, but otherwise I’d be scrubbing my face each night with only water and The Skin Nerd’s Cleanse-Off Mitt. SPF was still allowed (no goddamn UVA/UVB rays are touching my skin) but no moisturisers or eye creams. And with that, I embarked on my skincare-free week.
The first thing that struck me was how much time I suddenly had. I was getting up in the morning, splashing my face with water, patting on some SPF and then going off to do the rest of my bits. At night, I could wipe off my make-up and fall into bed straight away. Such a novelty! And my face didn’t feel dry or grubby at all, which was a relief.
The real test was always going to be the shower, which zaps my skin of all moisture. Without the glorious drink of water that is hyaluronic acid, my face did feel tight at first, though it did balance itself out after a little while. To be honest, for the first few days my skin looked and felt fine – it wasn’t too oily or too dry, and while it didn’t have the glow of freshly moisturised skin loaded with Vitamin C serum, it didn’t look bad either. How long would this last?
Eh… not very long. On day four, I saw what happens when you stop regularly exfoliating with a glycolic acid toner. Tiny little blocked pores emerged on my chin and cheeks, and of course, I squeezed. Usually, this would be fine. I’d squeeze, get the satisfying little bit of gunk out (sorry, but like, it IS very satisfying), then swipe on some toner and forget about it. This time, it resulted in two angry little spots that I could now do nothing about. It was my own fault, but… still mad.
So now I had spots. They weren’t budging. I almost gave in and dabbed on some spot cream, but I held fast, for you know, journalism. It didn’t help that my foundation suddenly looked terrible – strangely patchy and mask-like, just sitting on my skin rather than blended in. My kingdom for a well-primed, moisturised base!
At this point, I could not WAIT to get my skincare on my face again. I hated how my make-up looked, I missed the glow of my brightening serum, and I needed to go at those two spots with my Glow Tonic (you will be delighted to hear that they cleared up almost straight away once I did). On night seven, I was dreaming of the moisturiser I’d slather all over my face in the morning. That’s how excited I was.
Skin fasting for longer than a couple of nights just isn’t for me. My skin didn’t like it and I didn’t like it. I enjoy my products, and the ritual of taking care of my skin. I may have had more time in the mornings and evenings, but I actually relish taking that time for myself, massaging in my serums and creams and seeing my skin perk up accordingly. It’s the type of self care I one hundred percent subscribe to.
I do believe that overloading your skin with products isn’t the best thing for it, and I may try a shorter skin fast in the future. But when every product in your routine serves a purpose, as I believe mine do, you can see a difference without them. So for now, I’m grabbing my skincare and hugging it tight. I’ll never leave you again, moisturiser. I promise.
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