Debunking the Rules, Part 2: Morning Cleansing

Rules, while offering some structure and reassurance in a chaotically unstructured world, pose a problem in skincare. I prefer a less prescriptive approach—especially when it comes to cleansing. We all need to wash our faces, but when and how we do so depends an awful lot on our skin types, tolerances, and lifestyles. These many divergent needs couldn’t possibly fit a one-size-fits-all skincare dictum. Read on as I tackle three contradictory rules of AM cleansing.

Myth 1: Double cleansing is important, so you should do it morning and night.

Firstly, double cleansing isn’t for everyone—you may not have time for an extra cleansing step in your routine, you may feel like your skin is sufficiently cleansed without a second round, or you could just plain not like it. These are all valid reasons not to double cleanse at any time of day.

Moreover, the idea that you would need to double cleanse in the morning doesn’t make much sense. The whole point is to break down and thoroughly remove the buildup of the day—things like SPF, makeup, dirt, and environmental pollutants that generally don’t accumulate in your sleep. As long as you cleanse sufficiently at night, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to double cleanse in the morning.

Verdict: you do you, but it’s certainly not necessary.

Myth 2: Balm cleansers shouldn’t be used in the morning, only at night.

On its surface, this reinforces my take on morning double cleansing. If balm or oil-based cleansers are used for removing makeup and stubborn layers of SPF, they don’t really serve that purpose in an AM skincare routine.

However, it’s important to remember that oil-based cleansers aren’t just makeup removers. They’re also a perfectly appropriate cleansing option for dry skin types. The most important consideration is what feels good on your skin and produces results you like.

Verdict: there’s no harm in AM oil cleansing, as long as it works for your skin type.

Myth 3: You shouldn’t cleanse your skin at all in the morning.

In a perfect world, AM cleansing wouldn’t be necessary. A thorough nighttime cleanse and a simple splash of water in the morning would suffice. However, in our imperfect world, there are plenty of reasons why you may feel the need to cleanse again come morning. Perhaps your nighttime cleanse isn’t cutting it, in which case you can add a second cleanse or use a washcloth to really break down the grime of the day. Alternatively, you may be applying too much of your PM serum or moisturizer. An overly thick layer of skincare may leave you with some filmy residue the following morning. In this case, try applying lighter layers.

As a general rule, I believe we’d all benefit from scaling back our over-ambitious skincare routines a little—especially when it comes to over-cleansing and the risk of stripping the skin’s barrier. Cutting back on cleansing is an admirable goal, but it may take some trial and error to make those tweaks in your routine. If gentle AM cleansing helps you in the meantime, that’s absolutely fine.

Verdict: true in an ideal scenario, but you may need to consider some outlying factors first.

I hope this helps to demystify some issues around skin cleansing. Feel free to check out my earlier myth-busting post on retinol rules here, and stay tuned for more rule-breaking advice in the next few weeks!