These days, elaborate 20-minute skincare routines are the norm. Cleanser? Check. Jade roller? Check. LED mask? Check. But is skin fasting actually the secret to saving money, time, and your skin? Here’s what experts had to say about this rising skincare trend. Plus: the results of my ill-advised weeklong trial.
First, What Is Skin Fasting?
Skin fasting is the practice of abstaining from the use of any skincare products for a set period of time. Consider it the antithesis of elaborate multi-step glass skin routines. And yet, some skincare enthusiasts swear by it. The timing behind skin fasts varies, with some users abstaining from skincare for several weeks at a time while others merely abstain at night.
“It’s a great skin rejuvenation method established by some Japanese dermatologists and has been popular for over a decade in Japan,” explains Koko Hayashi, founder of Mirai Clinical, a skincare line that focuses on sharing holistic Japanese beauty secrets. In fact, Koko is credited with bringing the skin fasting craze to the United States.
Purported Skin Fasting Benefits
The idea behind skin fasting is that when we relieve our skin from the constant onslaught of product, we allow it to rebalance itself naturally. “Skin has an innate ability to rejuvenate itself from within,” Koko explains. Without product, “the skin is forced to produce its own natural moisture and oils and balance, instead of depending on skincare creams.” Her one caveat? She doesn’t recommend skin fasting for anyone with extremely dry skin.
What Do Dermatologists Say?
For a dermatological perspective on skin fasting, I connected with Heidi Waldorf, MD. “There is NO scientific evidence that ‘skincare fasting’ is beneficial,” she clarified from the get-go. “If anything, the opposite is true. Consistency is the key to success with any skincare routine. The [only] reasons to change your routine are changes in your environment temperature or humidity with location or season, and changes in your skin that occur with age, ailments, or procedures.”
But what about all that talk about giving our skin a break to regenerate? “It is possible that your results plateau after long-term use [with products]. The answer isn’t to stop and restart the same treatment, but to build on your prior treatment.”
My Skin Fasting Experience
Still, I was curious to try this trend firsthand. I committed to experimenting with a seven-day trial of my own. Typically, my daily skincare routine consists of a cleanser, toner, serum, and a moisturizing SPF for the daytime. FTR, my skin is on the drier side with some congestion in my cheeks and chin. In addition to my daily routine, I dabble in the occasional hydrating overnight or sheet mask.
For my weeklong fast, I abstained from all makeup and skincare products, day and night, using only water to cleanse. But did it actually help kick my natural sebum production into high gear?
Not quite. It turns out dry skin without product only gets drier. (I can’t say Koko didn’t warn me!) Looking at my before and after photos, the fine lines and wrinkles under my eyes look more pronounced post-fast. There’s also less bounce in my skin, and a lack of that glassy glow I work so hard to achieve in my normal skincare routine.
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To be fair, Koko instructs that skin fasting is only recommended at night. This timing allows you to still keep your skin protected during the day under UV rays. She also has pointers for fellow dry-skin sufferers. “If your skin is dry, don’t suddenly [fast]. Reduce the amount of skincare cream little by little every night.” Finally, she recommends beginning skin fasting when it gets rainy outside and there’s more natural humidity in the air.
Admittedly, I basically did the skin fast all wrong. Seven days felt like both a short amount of time to experiment, yet also a dragging eternity without product. Nonetheless, I did appreciate the opportunity to check in on the natural state of my skin, even if it only confirmed what I already suspected. While I wouldn’t repeat a weeklong fast again knowing what I do now, I do like the idea of a seasonal weekend-long fast to reassess my natural skin’s needs—or simply easing up on nighttime products to relieve the congestion in my skin. But besides that, I’ll stick to my many skincare potions, thank you very much.