Trends in skin care are constant and ever-changing. Recently, we’ve seen collagen-boosting smoothies, bespoke formulas, LED lights to blast blemishes. But the current craze may be the simplest of all: do nothing.
One of the fastest growing trends in skin care is skin fasting—the theory that taking a several-day break from using skin care products will help detoxify your skin. The idea is that skin care products are helping “aide” your skin, and that over time, your skin becomes dependent on them. Skin fasting advocates claim that by breaking from your daily routine and using nothing on your face, your skin essentially goes through a detox and learns to stabilize and maintain itself.
While the theory is certainly intriguing, the science behind it is a little shaky. Here’s what we know so far.
Can it Detoxify Skin?
The short answer is no. You’ve likely heard the phrase, “let your skin breathe.” While skin does account for a very small percentage of our respiratory activity, it is not accountable for our breathing. This can be confusing, because many manufacturers claims that their products are “non-comedogenic,” meaning the products won’t block pores. Blocked pores cause acne breakouts, not suffocation. In fact, your skin does not have the ability to use or absorb oxygen.
What’s more is that the skin is not responsible for the breaking down of toxins. Toxin breakdown is a function of the liver and kidneys, which is why the idea that skin will be able to detox by taking a break from serums and moisturizers is a myth.
Can it help with dry skin or acne?
One of the key arguments of skin fasting is that, due to the use of moisturizers, the skin slows its natural production of sebum. Sebum is the oil that all of our bodies produce to prevent moisture loss. This is just not true. Aside from the fact that it’s been well documented that both dry skin and oily skin benefit from the use of moisturizers, the idea that your body will begin producing more oil because you stopped using a product has no scientific standing.
Acne-prone skin is not recommended for skin fasting. If you’ve recently starting using an acne treatment and aren’t seeing results, or feel that the acne is worsening, you’re better off giving that product more time to properly purge your skin of impurities than to stop using it. If you’ve been on a treatment for some time and are unsatisfied with the results, consider trying a different treatment. Finally, if you are using a treatment that you feel is working for you, the worst thing you could do is to immediately stop for the sake of a skin fast. To be effective, acne treatments should be applied consistently, without random multi-day “fasts”.
So, why is skin fasting so popular?
This is a good question, and almost an impossible one to answer. Skin fasting can have benefits, but not in the way that it’s currently being sold.
If your routine has gotten out of hand and you find yourself layering 15 different products concurrently, a skin fast can help offer perspective. Chances are, not all of those products are working in tandem, and taking a few days off can help before starting up again with a more concise routine.
Or if you’re using products that aren’t helping your skin, a skin fast can help you recognize that. You may stop using a moisturizer and notice an improvement, but it’s not because your skin is detoxing— it’s because the moisturizer wasn’t agreeing with you.
Finding a routine that works for your skin is important. Once you’re satisfied, keep it up. If you’re skin is happy with what you’re doing, there’s no proven reason that you should take a break.
International Journal of Pharmaceuticals: X, March 2019, ePublication
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2019, ePublication
Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2017, pages 253-256
Mediators of Inflammation, October 2017, ePublication