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Skin fasting: should you really edit your skincare regime?

Turns out less could be more when it comes to returning skin to factory settings, so we asked our Etre Vous experts to weigh in

The guilt after skipping your usual skincare routine after a late night can often lead to an extra cleanse or mask add-in the following day to atone. But what if you actually chose to forgo your regimen for a day, a week or perhaps even longer? Enter “skincare fasting”. 

According to Mirai Clinical, the holistic Japanese beauty company that popularised the movement, the idea for skin fasting comes from Hippocrates’ belief that fasting can be used as a healing method.

But does your skin really need to “detox”? We asked the experts to break it down before you cut anything out.

What is skin fasting?

"Skin fasting is the practice of hitting pause on the use of some or all skincare products for a period of time before returning to them," shares Etre Vous expert, founder and medical director at Thames Skin Clinic, Dr Anna Hemming.

"Essentially moisturising creams and oils prevent the exfoliation of your outer dead skin layer. This layer becomes thicker and more brittle causing tiny cracks within it and the mass dehydration of your living skin cells underneath in the functional epidermis.

Over the counter creams feel good on the outer dead skin but causes something I call “lazy skin syndrome” inside: skin cells slow down, become less effective, dehydrate and lose their capability to function. 

In severe internal dehydration, the skin cell cracks and leaks its contents which includes irritating chemicals. These cause inflammation, irritation and heat in the epidermis which leads to increased sebum activity and congestion in some and driving redness (as skin tries to lose heat) and the tendency to flush in others. Along with other environmental processes the skin becomes more dysfunctional," explains Hemming. 

How to do a skin fast

While some go cold turkey and completely stop using skincare entirely, allowing skin’s sebum to do all the balancing and protecting, skin fasting can be just phasing out one product at a time to test what works best for your skin.

Julie Scott, Etre Vous expert, owner and clinical director of Facial Aesthetics , recommends this more targeted approach to fasting by adapting to environmental conditions and the state of your skin. "If I were to advocate any type of skin fasting for my patients, it would be in a more controlled way. For example, pulling back on vitamin A and not using it as intensely during the summer months or reducing the amount of moisturiser products when your skin already feels hydrated."

But Hemming warns that some products should never be cut out or cut down on. "It’s essential that the skin is protected from UV damage using a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or above which also protects against HEV rays, the visible light rays that are harmful to the skin."

Who should try skin fasting?

"While I’m not a big advocate of skin fasting in general, there is a benefit to not using copious amounts of moisturiser. If you’re someone that layers cream upon cream onto your face, it could have some benefit to refine your regime and pull out some of the steps and use lighter serums,’"suggests Scott. 

Who should avoid skin fasting?

"I don’t recommend people with any skin concerns try this trend," warns Scott. ‘Consider a patient with acne or oily skin. Their skin will be harbouring bacteria and by not effectively cleansing or treating the skin, they will be encouraging the accumulation of oil, pollutants and other unwanted debris and acceleration of their acne."

The final word

"I wouldn’t recommend it," says Julie. "Instead visit a skin specialist who understands skin health,  who can look at your skin carefully and curate a skincare regime specific to your needs. Then you won’t need to stop the skincare you’re using, because it will be working effectively for your skin."

Hemming also advises a skincare upgrade and cutting out less effective skincare steps entirely: "I advise all my patients to cut out over-the-counter products for good and switch to a professional plan that we can review over time to target any concerns - making “lazy skin” a thing of the past. In my practice we use medical, professional skincare which has steps in the program designed to deep cleanse and exfoliate the skin, removing the offending outer dead skin cells and reducing oil production. This allows professional serums to penetrate deeper within the epidermis and actually reach the cells for which they are intended," she explains. 

Conclusion: if it ain't broke, don’t fix it.

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