Could the no-cleanser experiment clear up your acne?
The so-called caveman regimen keeps skin clear and healthy, say advocates.
The biggest trend in skincare over the past year hasn’t been a product or secret ingredient. The hottest thing is doing less — much less — from skipping showers to eschewing shampoo, and now there are some brave souls who have quit washing their faces, calling it the “caveman regimen” (like the Paleo diet for your face). They’ve bought into the idea (pun intended!) that spending lots of money and time on facial cleansers, toners and moisturizers merely subverts the natural process, and that contrary to the idea that all those products are helping our skin, they might be hurting it.
As Victoria Loustalot wrote over at XOJane, “The idea that our skincare woes might be linked to the expensive and excessive chemicals we slather on our faces every day isn’t the craziest theory.”
Conceptually, the idea is that our skin is best when we let it take care of itself. Using hot water, soaps, exfoliants and chemicals strips the skin’s protective acid mantle and natural oils, which keep the bad stuff out. So not only are we constantly irritating our facial skin by using multiple products, we are letting in pollutants and bacteria — and causing acne and wrinkles in the process.
Loustalot took the most extreme approach of the group, going without washing, rinsing, scrubbing, lotions or makeup for 60 days and she had good results — at first. “Almost immediately the annoying pimples that routinely cropped up around my chin vanished. Meanwhile, the rest of my face remained blemish-free. My skin no longer looked or felt irritated, and cutting my nighttime routine down from an embarrassingly long 20 minutes to zero was kind of amazing.”
She goes on to detail that the first 30 days cleared up her skin and made her glow, but that over time, dead skin built up on her face, and while she made it the full 60 days sans washing, things did get a little gross. The uneven skin patches aged her 10 years by the end of the experiment, the opposite of what she wanted. (Most caveman regimen advocates suggest exfoliating gently with a washcloth and warm water every couple of weeks.) Once she had a good facial, though, her skin was glorious. Loustalot’s conclusion: Moderation. Instead of a Sephora-store’s worth of products for morning and evening cleansing, she is now using a very mild, all-natural oat cleanser and a simple oil once a day, and that works for her.
Inspired by Lady Gaga, Alexa Chung and Salma Hayek, who have all said that they don’t wash their faces, Erica Tempesta stopped washing for 31 days (she rinsed with water, occasionally scrubbed with a washcloth and also used lotion, just no washing), and it cleared up her cystic acne. From her report, it sounds like she missed the routine of her cleansing more than her skin did.
Anthea Frances tried the caveman regimen too, reporting, “My skin felt awful and rough after a week or two, and I was about to abandon the experiment when, in weeks 3 and 4 all of a sudden it became much smoother, with fewer breakouts and a more even tone. I went out to a birthday lunch yesterday wearing just lipstick and a dab of cover-up on a couple of tiny blemishes and that was it. My skin tone was so much more even. It almost looked like I was wearing foundation.” She only rinsed with warm water occasionally and avoided all products.
Maryann at What the Curl? writes: “Not washing my face absolutely worked for me.” It also cleared up her adult cystic acne, to a dramatic degree.
I won’t be trying the caveman regimen, because my cystic acne cleared up when I eliminated dairy and started oil cleansing over a year ago, but what I do have in common with these women is dramatically improved skin once I cut out 90 percent of beauty products. Now I just cleanse once a day with coconut oil and then use a bit of good-quality serum and an eye cream in the evening. (If you’re a twice-a-day washer, it’s the morning wash you want to skip.) That’s it — though I do like to exfoliate once a week or 10 days. (Kaeng Raeng’s charcoal one is the best.) I only wear makeup a couple times a week, but when I do it’s natural, mineral makeup — like Mineral Fusion or Jane Iredale — which comes off easily.
In my experience, when you use fewer products and wash less, your skin tends to look great, so you don’t need much makeup, which is a win-win-win in my book, saving time, money and improving skin too.