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Photography Donna Trope

Skin fasting: forget CBD serum, it's time to give your skin a break

The new way to get glowing skin is to chuck your products out of the window and do absolutely nothing.

To say I love my skincare routine would be an understatement. I indulge in it. I take pride in it. It calms me down and it allows me to wash away both the remnants of London's dirty air and anything that’s gone wrong that day. I cleanse, I tone, and I apply serum like it's going out of fashion. And did I mention I apply a sheet mask every Sunday? Needless to say, I was pretty sceptical when I stumbled across skin fasting, a trend which has been making waves across the internet lately.

Skin fasting, in short, is the act of avoiding all skincare products for 1-4 days in a bid to give your face a much-needed detox. It has been popularised by Mirai Clinical, a Japanese beauty brand dedicated to sharing "unique beauty secrets from Japan which you have never seen or experienced". The method builds on the ethos of "less is more" and the premise that fasting can often lead to a healing process.

If nothing else, an anti-routine like this is sustainable. You use smaller amounts of product, so they last longer and you spend less over time. Fasters will still experience the buzz that new skincare trends bring, just minus the constant spending. Euromonitor International recently found that 'new consumerism' is seeing buyers adopt a 'less is more' approach to their beauty purchases, placing strong importance on the circular economy (that is: reduce, reuse and recycle).

Yes, my skincare routine sparks serious amounts of joy, but a detox does sound beneficial, and I'm all for making changes in the name of sustainability. I decided it was time to delve a little deeper.

The clever bit

The skin's main functions are to protect us from the outside environment, keep precious water in, fight against UV damage and regulate body temperature. Oh, and on top of all this, the skin breathes. Talk about multi-tasking.

Dr Mervyn Patterson, one of the UK's leading aesthetic doctors, tells us: "The top layer of the skin derives its oxygen supply from the atmosphere and not from the blood." Granted, this only contributes to around 2% of a human's total respiration, but there is a small gas exchange going on.

Our skin also produces a substance called sebum. Although we’re often inclined to look at its negatives (such as its ability to make your skin appear oily), Dr Patterson says the presence of sebum is actually vital for preventing the skin from losing moisture and acting as a barrier against microorganisms. With this in mind, it would make sense to assume that an excess of products could inhibit the skin's ability to both breathe and produce these healthy natural oils to its optimum. This is where skin fasting comes in.

 ”Fasting was likely to be nothing more than a wonderfully romantic idea“

Koko Hayashi, founder of Mirai Clinical Body Care says that the “Japanese have studied the skin’s regeneration on a monthly basis and have proved that ‘skin fasting’ will improve your skin’s condition and detoxify skin impurities.”

Clinical facialist Kate Kerr also supports the idea that an over-use of products can be detrimental. “By using a moisturiser, our skin’s surface sends a signal down to its water reservoirs telling it that there is plenty of moisture and to halt production,” she says. “This makes the skin sluggish and lacking in moisture”. By the same token, over cleansing with harsh products tends to strip the healthy lipids out of the surface of the skin.

Aside from this, my research didn’t show a lot of support for getting rid of your routine entirely. Fasting was likely to be nothing more than a wonderfully romantic idea, but in the same way that I down Apple Cider Vinegar every morning despite no solid support for its benefits, I decided it was time to turn a blind eye to science and press pause on applying products.

3, 2, 1, Fast

For fear of not surviving without a face wash for the maximum amount of recommended time, I settled on a three day fast and bounded into the first day full of anticipation. Apart from a flick of clear eyebrow gel, I didn't wear any make-up. I simply splashed my face with cold water when I woke up and got on with my day.

My eyes felt tired in the absence of eye cream, but it was a feeling I could just about get used to. My shiny nose, however, was not quite so easy to look past, and by the end of the day, my skin was definitely feeling a bit oily and clogged up. With a reunion dinner to attend? Not ideal.

Day two was the greasiest of them all. I felt gross, dirty and tired from the moment I woke up, and my T-zone kicked up a serious fit (read: you could have probably fried an egg in the oils on my forehead). The entirety of my morning was spent wondering how any man gets through life without a bottle of Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel in tow, but I hoped things might improve.

And they did! Day three wasn't quite so bad. I felt dirty, yes, but the grease had died down slightly. I tried to drink more water in a bid to moisture-up my lips, which worked, if a little less effectively than my Burt's Bees lip balm would've. Thankfully and surprisingly my lips were the only dry part of my face. The biggest visible change was the number of spots that decided to rear their ugly heads, particularly around my eyebrows (weird – probably the clear eyebrow gel I was applying in abundance). I went to bed excited to resume normality the next morning, albeit surprised that my life did not depend on moisturiser application.

The verdict

Despite my reservations, ditching the skincare routine did have some benefits. For my skin, there were few, but the general lack of any dry patches unveiled a realisation that perhaps I don’t need to be spending quite so much money on moisturiser.

Skin fasting has shown me that (discounting cleanser) I’m probably using most of the products I do to feel fresh and clean rather than for the benefits they have on my skin. If nothing else, skin fasting will show you what is and isn’t a necessary splurge.

I’m not ready to ditch the routine which instils calm in my busy life just yet, but the remainder of March might see me say goodbye a few little indulgences. Balance is best, and my bank account is likely to thank me.