The Truth At Last: Derms Explain Whether or Not a Morning Cleanse Is Necessary


When it comes to beauty topics, some of the most-asked questions tend to revolve around skincare routines. There’s something so mesmerizing about watching editors, Insta-famous dermatologists, and influencers walking you through their daily and nightly regimens step-by-step. And, more often than not, watching this process comes with the idea that washing your face both morning and night is absolutely paramount. While this is true for some skin types and regimens—say, for those who work out first thing in the morning—we couldn’t help but wonder: Do we really need to wash our faces in the morning? After all, if you wash at night, is it even getting dirty throughout the night?

With this question top of mind, we reached out to two board-certified dermatologists—Dr. Orit Markowitz Dr. Noelani Gonzalez and for their unwavering expertise. Ahead, learn whether or not it’s actually necessary to rinse as soon as you wake up. 

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Noelani Gonzalez is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, where she specializes in cosmetic dermatology.
  • Dr. Orit Markowitz is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of OptiSkin in New York City.

How Often Should You Wash Your Face?

The key word here is wash. Afterall, unlike rinsing—which is the practice of using water to remove contaminants without an actual cleanser involved—washing typically uses soap or detergent as part of the cleansing process. With this in mind, Dr. Markowitz says that most people only need to wash their face once a day. 

“If you wash your face at night you don’t need to wash your face again in the morning with a lather-and-rinse cleanser,” she explains. “If you go right to bed after washing your face, it is not coming in contact with anything that really needs to be washed off.” That said, she admits that people can sweat in the middle of the night, which is why she recommends rinsing your face with water come morning. 

What If You Have Oily Skin?

One of the two exceptions is if you have incredibly oil skin. Since your sebum can build-up overnight, Markowitz says opting for a compromise product between water and traditional cleansers—like micellar water—is a good idea. Simply soak a cotton pad with micellar water—we love Garnier’s SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water ($6), which comes in a variety of options to cater to oily, dry, and normal skin types, as well as to people who wear stubborn waterproof makeup—and wipe it across your face before delving into your morning skincare routine.

What If You Have Dry Skin?

The other exception is if your skin is naturally dry or if it has a tendency to dry out during the harshest seasons of the year—as is common during winter and summer. During these times of the year, Markowitz recommends reaching for a cleansing oil or balm—we love Tatcha’s Pure One Step Camellia Oil Cleanser ($48) and HoliFrog’s Kissimmee Vitamin F Therapy Balmy Wash ($42)—to add a little hydration back into the skin. For best results, massage one pump of oil or a small dab of balm into the skin, let it soak in, then use a warm, damp washcloth to wipe it away.  

Should You Wash Your Face in the Morning?

The verdict? It all comes down to preference. Remember: The word wash insinuates that some sort of cleanser is involved. While Markowitz says that washing isn’t necessary and instead recommends a rinse, Gonzales has another stance.

“You should wash your face in the morning for various reasons,” she says. “Bacteria can accumulate throughout the night and, also, you should prime your skin by cleansing it for your morning skincare routine, not to mention to remove your nighttime creams and serums used the night before.”

While Gonzalez’s stance is different from Markowitz’s, it’s worthwhile to mention that micellar water and cleansing balms are great gentle cleanser options to wash in the morning. Of course, if you prefer to use an exfoliating cleanser—like Exuviance BioActiv Face Wash—to start your day on a super-fresh slate, that’s cool too. That’s because, at the end of the day, whether you need to wash your face in the morning comes down to preference. 

What If You Workout in the Morning?

This is one factor that makes morning cleansing non-negotiable. Regardless of your skin type, if you work out first thing in the morning, you need to wash your face immediately after. Skeptical of whether it’s really necessary? Considering your sweat mixes with whatever dirt and bacteria is on your skin—because, yes, you might have washed your face last night but if your linens aren’t freshly laundered, bacteria could live there and transfer onto your skin—if you don’t wash your face post-sweat, it will clog up your pores and cause breakouts. 

Morning Cleanser Formula Considerations

Just like whether or not to cleanse come morning comes down to preference, so does the formula you choose to reach for. Where Gonzalez points out that there’s no set formula for cleansing your face—as it depends on your individual skin type and needs—she suggests gentle, non-stripping formulas, like a cream, balm, or micellar water. 

Speaking (once again) of micellar water, Markowitz can’t speak more highly of the product type.“I love micellar waters for the morning, like the Elemis Cleansing Micellar Water ($39) and find these work great for the morning refresh in addition to its traditional use as a makeup remover,” she shares. That said, since many people equate the convenience of using a micellar water with the convenience of a makeup wipe, Markowitz makes it abundantly clear that she never recommends makeup remover wipes to any clients. “Makeup remover wipes tend to be more damaging to the skin and can dry it out or cause irritation especially in those who have sensitive skin,” she says.

The Takeaway

It’s simple. If you work out first thing in the morning, washing is a must (after your workout of course, not before). If, however, you don’t, then washing your face in the morning is completely a personal preference. Just be sure to at least rinse your face with water in the morning if you choose to forgo a full cleanse.

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