Close-up of a woman's cheek with white foamy face wash

There are few absolute truths in skincare because all of us have different skin. While one person might exfoliate every day, another with sensitive skin might find a weekly scrub just right. Some pros swear by slathering on SPF every morning, but others will skip for a little medicinal sun absorption instead. Opinions in the beauty world always vary. Which takes us to the age-old debate about good ol’ step one: what’s the best way to wash your face?

For many proponents of the ‘less is more’ way of life, washing just with water in the morning can prevent skin from constant stripping. And we’ve met some water washers with great skin. But for the ‘do the most’ camp, keeping things squeaky clean, then feeding the skin with nourishing products is the only way to live. Many Korean skincare fans will are proponents of the multi-step cleansing process with an oil cleanser and a gentle cleanser.

So, which is correct? Skincare is ultimately an intuitive process. Listen to what your skin is telling you it needs and choose between these two methods below. Or stick with your own routine – and tell us what it is in the comments below!
On Double-Washing

January Olds is an aesthetician and founder of January Labs skincare who is self-proclaimed obsessive compulsive about washing her face, cleansing three to four times a day.

I usually wash my face in the morning, then after my workouts and before I go to bed. Some might find this a bit much, but it is really the ONLY way to keep the pores clean and small. My esthetician is always amazed by how little extractions I need when get facials….she says it’s a true testament to the product I created specifically so I could wash my face 3-4 times a day without drying my skin out. As a trained aesthetician and product educator, I can attest that all those myths on over-washing your face are not true……with the caveat that you’re using the right sulfate-free cleanser. When I created the January Labs Pure & Gentle Cleanser, the key ingredient I was looking for was Willow Bark, a natural salicylic acid to keep the skin lightly exfoliated and also help with inflammation and acne. I also made sure that the bottle was large enough to last with all the many times I wash my face a day!

On Washing With Water

Adina Grigore, founder of SW Basics, author of the Skin Cleanse explains why she only washes her face with water.

My love for washing with water started out of desperation. My skin was in a complete and total crisis. I was itchy, red, inflamed, oily and dry at the same time, and constantly breaking out. But I was doing everything “right.” Cleansing, toning, moisturizing, spot treating, seruming, massaging, aromatherapying, yogaing. Plus I was eating super healthy, and my skincare routine was full of wholesome, natural products. I couldn’t figure it out, so I gave up. I started rinsing with water as a break for myself, but to still feel somewhat clean. The results were miraculous and permanent. I experienced immediate relief. My skin got brighter, clearer, and calmer. To this day, I’ve pared back to a small handful of products I use sporadically. Otherwise, I only wash with water.

Your skin knows how to take care of itself. It produces its own moisture, flushes toxins, and kills harmful bacteria. It doesn’t need your help. Water is slippery enough to cleanse your skin of excess dirt and sweat. Let your hands do the work of a face wash (we’re all so afraid of our hands these days, clean them well and get over it). Not even the safest, cleanest products in the world can compete with the simplicity of water. If high-quality beauty products are your greens juice that’s great, I’m not saying to get rid of them, just like I wouldn’t tell you to quit drinking your greens. But I would tell you that you have to keep drinking water, too. It sounds silly but it’s one of our life forces, and it’s a really powerful one.

Plus, let’s talk about how much time you save when you wash with water. My entire routine takes me under two minutes. If I get a little dry, I dab on some oil. When I want to add more products in, I do. But to me, the idea that you need to layer on products to get good skin is completely false. I didn’t have good skin until I switched to this routine, and now I feel like I’m more in tune with my skin, while simultaneously experiencing virtually no flare-ups but way, way more free time (that I fill telling people about washing with water).

How do you wash your face? Share in the comments below, and
check out a few of our face cleansers here.

From our friends


  1. I do a combo of both. I mix a spoon of coconut oil with some herbs like alma and I use it to wash my face in the morning and at night and on the days I workout. The rest of the time I use water.

    Esther | 07.26.2018 | Reply
  2. I always use a natural cleanser. My morning routine consists of a cream based cleanser and at night I double cleanse using an oil-based cleanser.

    Jazzie | 07.26.2018 | Reply
  3. I use oil to remove makeup and follow up with a soapy cleanser at night. In the morning i use creamy cleanser and exfoliate twice a week.

    Jane Frey | 07.27.2018 | Reply
  4. I use water only a majority of the time to cleanse and follow up with a cactus water mixture spray I make, and every now and then I like to use Sukin micellar water ($8)

    Livi | 06.19.2019 | Reply
  5. I only use water to cleanse my face and finish with a light moisturizer. I have beautiful skin.

    Karla | 10.07.2019 | Reply
  6. I take my make up off with warm milk then I wash ,clarify and moisturise. I use SPF most days and keep out of the sun.

    Betty Boop | 11.04.2019 | Reply
  7. I am so glad you shared this! I came here through googling out of desperation because I’ve become reactive to every cleanser I wash my face with. Period. I’ve tried so many things that I am afraid to try more, plus I’m pouring money I don’t really have down the drain. Interestingly, I’ve only been washing my face with cleansers (my go to was Noxema till I became sensitive to it recently, which started this whole odyssey) for the last 3 years because I got put on a CPAP machine for sleep apnea and was told I had to wash my face before putting the mask on. Before that I hardly ever even washed my face, just in the shower and my skin was fine as far as sensitivity/allergy went (except for acne, that I figured out was due to eating sugar). After reacting to yet another product this morning it was my hubby who said, “Don’t shoot down my idea right away, but what about just washing with plain water?” So.. to google and to your page. Thank you again!

    SeverinaQFormina | 11.30.2019 | Reply
  8. hello, I have very oily and sensitive skin. like you, I’ve tried several high quality recomendedI products for years I’ve spent am insane amount on just skincare products and I’m getting nearly tired already. I’m insipired by your story, will I have the same chance like you if I only wash my fsce limited twice a day only day and night with salicylic cleanser cosrx but in the afternoon it starts to get even more oilier so I just wash it with plain water, will that cause any harm or is that more any good? I hope you can respond to this as I am very anxious of how my skin would react

    Haziqah | 03.11.2020 | Reply
  9. hello!
    I started washing my face with water only just last year. That time, my face was really a mess! Bumps here and there, and the redness! So just like you, out of desperation and fuel of hatred why my face wont calm down, i stopped using all my face products. I think for three months, i only used water when washing and then at night, i’ll put on honey which i would leave for 5 mins then washed it off. My face calmed down. Then after 3 mo, i started to use again the face products. And it worked, tho not instantly, but yes. So i think the secret is that, when you want to try new products for your face, you have to let your face rest for weeks or months before putting it on. Right now, im currently back again with this water washing because i want to incorporate the vitamin c serum to my routine. My acne are gone, tho the marks are still visible. Trust the process, and ofcourse, believe.

    Sidenote: my acne was mainly due to stress in college. The stress level is absolutely high, plus the environment in our university is pure powder and hell. But still grateful to graduate and survive in this university❤

    believe | 05.07.2020 | Reply
  10. Hi I want my face to clear up of zits and pimples and nothing seems to work what should I do?

    chezni | 02.28.2021 | Reply
  11. I did water only for some years because of environmental concern. Because of Covid I had to change my routine. Also I realized my face needed some deep cleaning when using masks. I battle against acne and sensitivity. Better than water is milk. I thought milk was awful but my face love it. I mixed it with cornstarch and it is terrific. My face got better over time but I got what seemed to be acne all around my body. Milk help heal those eruptions.

    Loani Castillo Pimentel | 03.13.2021 | Reply
  12. When I became vegan several years ago, I wanted to make sure my beauty products were also vegan. I never found a facial cleanser that had the natural ingredients I desired, so I just sort of resorted to water to clean my face. And because I no longer put those chemicals on my face, and I eat clean and plant-based and drink lots of water, my skin reverted to a youthful texture, so much so that I can see freckles I didn’t realize I had. Water cleansing seems to be enough combined with a healthy lifestyle.

    Tamara | 06.23.2021 | Reply
  13. I am 53 years old and have tried many skin care products expensive and drug store brands. NOTHING and I mean NOTHING has help my skin other than plain water. I have no issues with my skin at all. I do also drink lots of water daily. All natural water cannot be beat. And the best thing about it…it’s FREE lol

    Lini | 07.21.2021 | Reply
  14. I have malassezia folliculitis or what people call mistakenly call “fungal acne” It SUCKS! It’s a type of yeast that feeds on oils, fatty alcohols and basically the stuff that’s in nearly ever skin care or make up product.

    Thanks to finding the website Simple Skincare Science, my skin is on the mend. The guy that runs that website is a saint & deserves a Nobel! He has compiled a brilliant bible of skincare and he’s done it for free & boy does he dive deep into the science of what the problem is and why you need to do what you need to do to fix it. He has a list of 1500 products and growing that are “fungal acne” safe. I highly recommend taking a look if you have skin woes. He covers all the big problems people have with their skin.

    So from his awesome site I water cleanse in the AM followed by Sebamed Care Gel mixed with 3 drops of plant derived squalane oil. (I use The Ordinary)
    In the PM I use vanicream cleanser and every other day Stridex pads in the red box.
    Then I do an oreo method Hyaluronic (TO) and a drop of niacinamide (TO) The oreo method is to pat water on your face, then the HA, and then pat more water on top. Then I “seal” it in with the Sebamed/Squalane moisturizer. The oreo method is so effective that I can totally plump the few stretch marks on my boobs out to be invisible for 12+ hours. If I really wanna go all out I use my NuDerma Wand (Like the Derma Wand but WAY more affordable) over it to really set it all in. I also do a manuka honey turmeric, organic Greek plain yogurt mask I leave on for as long as I can stand. Any time I feel up to it I’ll use a manuka mask plain. Cannot go wrong with that stuff. Sometimes I wash my face with just manuka honey. Warm water, a quarter sized dot, I rub it all over then let it sit for a couple mins and rinse off. That stuff is pure magic!

    AnitaTaco | 07.23.2021 | Reply
  15. I have hormonal acne and I have tried everything from DIY to dermatologists. Nothing works! Now I am just trying to set a decent skincare which might work. I use a soapy acne-free facewash in morning and I was wondering if a night-time wash with just luke warm water might help? My skin is dry, not oily.

    Alee | 07.23.2021 | Reply
  16. Due to having a reaction to EVERY cleanser and moisturizer I have tried (except 2 that I mention coming up), I just switched to warm water and Elizabeth Annes aqueous cream, but the cream was not enough for my dry skin, 2 years ago I found a fantastic natural cream by Simply Bee (anti aging one) that contains natural oils, honey etc and my skin is not only calm but also looks younger than it did before! (and cutting out gluten, sugar and dairy has cleared up my acne 95%) I am 33 and my skin is looking the best it ever has.

    Anne | 08.28.2021 | Reply
  17. hello!
    i have a few questions i would like to ask
    -should i try this method if i’m a 13 year old who breaks out a lot and has those tiny bumps on my forehead

    – if yes, after i was my face with water only should i apply my moisturizer after or just leave it

    -how long should i try this technique for

    thank you!

    emily | 03.13.2022 | Reply

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