Excessive Cleaning

Emblem for Skin Support Module - Avoid Excessive Cleaning for Skin Health

Executive Summary

Over washing and cleansing of the skin can degrade the skin’s natural barrier function, reduce it’s moisture holding ability and result in negative alterations in the skin flora. Reducing the frequency and amount of cleansing agents used can help soften the blow and give the skin a chance to repair.


For many of us, regular cleaning of the skin is an important daily practice. Weather to remove dirt and swear or make-up, many individuals believe that cleaning the skin is important to keeping it healthy and vibrant.

When it comes to skin conditions, it seems the first natural instinct is to try to keep the area as clean as possible. Accordingly, one may increase the frequency or duration of skin cleaning regimens.

Regrettably, most of us are unaware the too much cleaning can cause a myriad of negative effects and impede the skin’s own repair process. Thus, by having good initial intentions, you may in-fact be worsening the condition of your skin and further perpetuating the underlying issues.

In reality, soaps and detergents are often described as some of the most damaging substances commonly applied to the skin; with the amount of damage being directly related to the concentration and frequency they are used [1].

Their (soaps and detergents) primary role is to remove oil from the skin, but the skin needs oil to maintain adequate hydration.

By over washing you are literally drying out your skin and causing structural damage to it’s outermost layer [2]. And since this layer is known to be already damaged and highly sensitive in most inflammatory skin conditions, you may only be making things worse.

The Components of a Healthy Skin Barrier
Water content, humidity, pH, intracellular lipids, microbial diversity and controlled rate of shedding are all integral components of a healthy skin barrier [3].

Ideas for Integration

Reducing the negative effects of skin cleaning agents is as simple as cutting down on the amount used and the frequency of usage. If you do need to clean your skin, try to not exceed once a day and ensure your rinse the skin throughly after surfactant (cleansing agent) usage.

In addition to this, a few other things to consider include:

  • Sometimes less is truly more (in terms of effectiveness)
  • Soaps and cleansers that integrate a moisturizing agent can help reduce their drying potential
  • Vaseline can be used to remove most make-up without drying the skin and altering it’s pH

Negative Effects

Over cleaning of the skin has been shown to present the following issues [4, 5, 6]:

  • Raised skin surface pH
  • Lasting skin barrier damage
  • Increased trans epidermal water loss
  • Increased number of microbial organisms

Why It’s Important for Inflammatory Skin Disease

Reducing the frequency of skin washing can give the skin an opportunity to restore some of it’s most important protective components, including:

  • Advantageous skin surface pH
  • Improved lipid availability
  • Reduced trans epidermal water loss
  • Reduced irritant exposure
  • Reduce skin flora fluctuations

Additional Notes

  • In industries/professions where frequent hand-washing is required, chronic skin issues such as eczema, irritant dermatitis are significantly more common and significant changes in the skin flora have been noted [7, 8, 9]
  • Bacteria counts post washing have been shown to be higher then prior to washing [10]
  • Most people believe that washing with plain soap reduces germs, but research has shown it can actually have the opposite effect and increase the potential of microbial transmission [11]
  • Washing damaged skin has been shown to be less effective at reducing the number of bacteria present then washing normal (healthy) skin [12]

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