Should You Wash Your Face in the Morning?


The basics of skin care 101 teach us never to go a day without washing your face. Face washing is considered the most fundamental step of a well-rounded skin-care routine and necessary for creating a clean slate. While you wouldn’t (we hope!) think of going to bed without washing your face, a long-lasting debate has existed within the skin-care community around washing it in the morning—and viral TikToks are shedding light on it yet again. While some dermatologists say skipping washing your face in the morning is fine and beneficial to some skin types, others say never to omit it, which probably leads you to ask, “Should I wash my face in the morning?” 

Meet the expert

  • Aya Ahram, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery in New York.
  • Kiran Mian, DO, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York.
  • Joanna Vargas is a celebrity esthetician and founder of her eponymous beauty brand.

If you’re still wondering if you should wash your face in the morning, we’ll help you figure out the answer once and for all (hint: your skin type will influence your decision heavily).

Should I Wash My Face in the Morning?

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The fact is, your skin will probably be okay if you don’t wash it every morning. That’s because, as Dr. Mian explains, whether or not you need to cleanse your face in the morning depends on your skin type, what other skin-care products you are using, and even the time of year. “During the summer, there is more humidity in the air, and the skin is more sweaty and oily, so washing your face every night and morning may be beneficial,” she says. “In the winter, the skin is drier, so foregoing face wash in the morning is a way to hold on to hydration levels in the skin.”  

If you wash your face before getting some shut-eye, some skin-care experts say it’s okay to skip washing it in the morning. “Some people find that washing their face in the morning with a cleanser is too drying, especially if they use skin-care ingredients that can dry out the skin, such as retinol, exfoliating acids, or benzoyl peroxide,” says Dr. Ahram. “Instead, they opt for just washing with water in the mornings. As long as you wash your pillowcase frequently so that you do not transfer bacteria, hair products, or anything else on it onto your face, I think it is fine to skip a morning face wash.” Plus, the skin doesn’t come into contact with contaminants or pollutants while sleeping. 

If your skin is oily and produces a lot of sebum at night or your nighttime skin-care products leave some residue, Dr. Mian says it’s a good idea to wash your face and remove that in the morning.

But not every expert is of the anti-morning face wash camp, and some, including Vargas, find it necessary to wash the skin every morning. “Removing your nighttime skin-care products before you apply your daytime skin care is important,” she says. “Different products often function differently, and layering ones from the night under ones for the day isn’t great for anyone’s skin, especially if you tend to break out. As an esthetician, I rarely see a client who experiences unhappy skin when they wash in the morning.” 

The Role Your Skin Type Plays in Face Washing

If you’re still confused about whether to wash your face in the morning, consider your skin type, which will help guide you in making the right choice. Dr. Mian says dry skin types and those who load up on active ingredients may prefer to skip washing their faces in the morning, especially in the wintertime, so that the skin can retain its hydration levels. The same goes for people with sensitive skin and inflammatory conditions like eczema or rosacea. “Some are concerned that a morning wash might overstimulate sensitive skin,” Vargas adds. “It might be too drying, or the cleanser might strip the skin too much of its natural oils.” For combination skin, which can go either way, Dr. Ahram suggests using a gentle cleanser when you feel like you need to wash your face in the morning and just water on the days when it doesn’t.

For oilier skin types, washing the skin both morning and night is essential. “It’s important to remove oils from the skin before applying vitamin C serums, moisturizer, and sunscreen,” Dr. Ahram says. “I always recommend people with oily skin to wash their face in the morning. Sometimes, I have my more acne-prone patients wash their face with a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid cleanser in the morning, so they get a dose of an acne-fighting ingredient onto the skin,” she shares. “But if this is too much or irritating for their skin, I have them alternate mornings between water and washing with a medicated cleanser.”

How to Refresh Sans Cleanser

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As long as your skin doesn’t veer on the oily side and you wash it properly before going to bed, Dr. Mian says if you choose not to wash your face in the morning, rinsing it with lukewarm or cold water should be adequate. “It can help you feel awake and refreshed without overdrying the skin,” she adds. Or, apply a light layer of micellar water like Payot Micellar Water ($25) or a water-based mist.

The Best Morning Cleansers

For those who like the fresh-faced feeling of washing their skin in the morning, Vargas recommends using a gentle, hydrating cleanser. One to try is her Cloud Bar ($22), a super soothing gentle cleansing soap loaded with nourishing coconut extract and soothing chamomile, perfect for dry skin.  

If your skin is super oily or prone to frequent or occasional breakouts, Vargas says to start your morning routine by washing your face, which sets the stage for clean skin. The key is to retain the skin’s natural hydration levels while cutting through oil, so avoid washing your face with harsh cleansers first thing in the morning. According to Dr. Mian, it’s best to bypass washing with glycolic acid-based cleansers since alpha hydroxy acids can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Instead, stick with a gentle face wash like Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($9), Dr. Idriss Soft Wash ($30), or Prequel Gleanser ($18).

Still, regardless of your skin type, always wash your face after a morning sweat session. Sweat and oil produced while working out, plus whatever else is lingering on the skin, can potentially cause clogged pores and breakouts. 

After washing your face in the morning, follow it up with the rest of your regular skin-care routine. Then, top off the skin with sunscreen, and you’re good to face the day.


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