What Is Skin Fasting and Should I Try It?

What Is Skin Fasting and Should I Try It?

Skin fasting embraces the concept of taking a break from your usual skin care routine in an effort to improve the way your skin functions. The theory behind it differs a bit depending on who you talk to, but the most popular school of thought claims that skin fasting “detoxifies” skin and allows your skin’s “natural maintenance system” to work more effectively by taking away the “skin care aides” that it has become dependent on. Is any of this true? Let’s dive into the research.

How to Do a Skin Fast

Skin fasting can be as a simple as giving up your moisturizer for one night or as in-depth as abstaining from your entire routine for a few days. Proponents of skin fasting believe doing so allows skin to reset and inherently take better care of itself—even though there’s no hard research showing that to be true.

Should You Try a Skin Fast?

If you’re using a great skin care routine for your skin type and concerns, a skin fast isn’t worth it. There’s no physiologic reason to do it; skin doesn’t “adapt” to well formulated products and “forget” what to do naturally.

More to the point, trying a skin fast likely means your skin will be missing out on important ingredients it needs on a daily basis. For example, fasting from sun protection would leave skin vulnerable to UV damage. Who would want that?

Can Skin Fasting Detoxify Skin?

Debunking the myth that skin fasting detoxifies skin is actually pretty easy. Our article, Can You Really Detox Skin?, goes into the science behind why that simply isn’t possible. Long story short: Toxins don’t get broken down and leave your body through your skin (that’s handled by your and liver and kidneys as part of the body’s excretory system).

Can Skin Fasting Help Dry Skin?

A common argument for skin fasting goes something like this: With too much “added artificial moisturizers,” skin stops naturally producing sebum (oil) on its own and hence, becomes drier. The belief is that refraining from using a moisturizer retrains your skin to make its optimal supply of oil naturally again.

To be frank, this logic is faulty. It doesn’t take into account the many reasons skin can become dry, from sun damage to skin disorders like eczema, seasonal dehydration, and age-related changes that impact how much oil skin produces. If you have dry skin on your face or body, stopping moisturizer for some random period of time does not and cannot signal your skin to make more of its own oil.

Besides, keeping skin soft, supple, and hydrated takes more than our natural oil; we need replenishing, emollient, and restoring ingredients, too. Without those, all the oil in the world won’t make dry skin feel better. (They’re found in well-formulated moisturizers or serums.)

What About Skin Fasting for Acne?

Skin fasting is a particularly bad idea for acne-prone skin, as a break from your anti-acne products (a good cleanser, salicylic acid (BHA), and benzoyl peroxide) could result in an uptick in breakouts. A consistent anti-acne routine is imperative for keeping breakouts at bay.

Are There Any Benefits to Skin Fasting?

There are a couple circumstances where a skin fast can prove to be beneficial (but not for the reasons claimed all over the internet).

If you’re using a new skin care product or combination of products and experiencing a negative reaction, you need to eliminate (or take a "skin fast" from) the product or products that you suspect might be the culprit. This process of elimination is necessary to determine what’s causing the problem, and then you can adjust your routine accordingly.

Another instance where skin fasting is beneficial is if you’re using the wrong products for your skin type or if you’re unknowingly using irritating/harsh/drying ingredients to begin with. If you “fast” from the products that aren’t good for your skin, you’ll see a visible change. The key is to then find the right combination of products that can help your skin (our routine finder makes that easy).

The bottom line: When you have a good skin care routine, skin never needs a break from it.

References for this information:
Dermatologic Therapy, February 2017, pages 926–935
Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, pages 1–10
Indian Journal of Dermatology, Jan-Feb 2011, pages 7-12
Journal of Investigative Dermatology, December 2005, pages 364–368
Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, Mar-Apr 2003, pages 69-75
Mirai Clinical (online)

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!