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How Much Washing Can Dry Skin Take?

By Amalah

Here’s the deal: I don’t wash my face if I’m not wearing makeup. I know what you’re saying: “gotta wash off the grime of daily life, blah, blah, blah.” But I have dry skin; sometimes so dry that I apply a drop o’ vaseline to the cheeks come the winter. In the summer, when I don’t work and therefore don’t wear foundation, I’ll go days without washing, though I may stick my face under a hot shower. I’ve been doing this for 20 years.
BUT, I’m wearing makeup because summer is over and when I get home from work and prepare to workout, I face a dilemma. I run on an elliptical and that can be a major sweat-fest for me, so I want to wash off the makeup so that it doesn’t roll off my face in little drops that will gross out my 7 year old. Also, seems like that’s better for the skin. But, when I wash my face (mild Clinique bar —– been using it for more zit-free years than I care to remember), it feels a little dry afterward and so I put on some moisturizer (Lubriderm for sensitive dry skin…….because yes, my skin is that dry). But when I work out, that feels gummy and close and icky on my face.
Solutions? Should I just get a lighter moisturizer for the pre- workout wash? Do I need a better soap for washing my face? Should I workout with the makeup on my face and tell the kid to suck it up?
Sweaty in Jersey

clinique.jpgPersonally (translation = I have absolutely no scientific or medical explanation for this), I cannot use bar soaps of any kind, Clinique included. My skin is not very dry, but any type of bar cleanser sucks the life right out of my cheeks and leaves me with dry, flaky patches.
So. Have you tried a liquid cleanser? Have you tried ? Because on paper (or…uh….pixels), your ultra-dry skin sounds like a perfect match for Cetaphil. You can even use it without water, which is a HUUUUUGE perk for dry skin. Warm water — or not super-pure hard water in general — is extremely drying. (On that subject: the sticking-your-face-in-a-hot-shower thing? Not helping. It’s not really cleansing anything, and the hot water is stripping your skin of what little natural oil it produces.) Rubbing a little Cetaphil on your face pre- or post-workout will gently cleanse AND moisturize, hopefully solving the gummy problem you mentioned.
cetaphil.jpgAnother option — if you don’t like Cetaphil — would be downgrading to the “extra mild” version of Clinique’s soap and see if that makes any difference. (Although it bugs the CRAP out of me that Clinique doesn’t make the ingredients of their soaps readily available. The fragrance-free promise is all well and good, but what about other irritants? Sulfates? Menthol? Bah.) (P.S. and on the down low: Certain tin-foil-hat-wearing people on the Internet swear that Clinique and cleansing bars are virtually identical.) (Although they also claim that tin-foil hats are the season’s hottest accessory, so who knows.)
You don’t mention how often you use your moisturizer, although I hope you use it morning and night, regardless of washing and working out. I am not sure I can really get behind the idea of applying a body moisturizer to your face, but Lubriderm is non-comedogenic, so I won’t nitpick.
Personally, I’d prefer if you cleansed after your workout, and get the makeup and the sweat (which can be very irritating and burny to sensitive skin) off in one fell swoop, since your skin obviously won’t tolerate a before-and-after washing. Or workout in the morning, before you apply foundation. But since I’ve never ellipticalled a mile in your shoes, I don’t know what would make your skin the most comfortable. Try a liquid cleanser like Cetaphil at some point during the day, avoid the hot water, turn off the heating/AC while you work out and moisturize, moisturize, moist. ur. iiiiize.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Isabel

    October 22, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I use a Clinique bar when I’m traveling…since a bar is easier to pack then a liquid these days. And dude, it dries my skin out like crazy! I have stopped using it…ever.
    I thought it was just me…but it sounds like the bar is just no good. I wonder what is in it to make it suck so bad?!

  • seresy

    October 22, 2007 at 11:27 am

    I’m extra-super lazy, so I’m a HUGE fan of the Clarins One-Step facial cleanser (the orange one). You don’t need water- just put a little on a cotton ball, swoop it over your face a couple of times, and it’s all done. And it likes my dry patches (which are flaky beyond belief). I was going to link to it on Sephora, but the url is ridiculously long (and I can never remember which site comments use what format)-it’s easy enough to find.
    It’s expensive: $30 a bottle. BUT I’ve never had a bottle of it last less than 9-10 months(I usually use it twice a day) so it’s worth it over time. And the Clarins counter people usually have samples with enough for a week or so available, so you can check it out and see if it works for you first.

  • Amy

    October 22, 2007 at 11:38 am

    My skin is pretty dry. I use the regular Cetaphil cleanser in the morning (put on my face without getting it wet first, then use water to remove it). I use Cetaphil’s other liquid cleanser, Daily Facial Cleanser For Normal to Oily Skin to get the makeup off my face at the end of the day. I follow the gentle cleanser with Oil of Olay’s Complete Defense Daily UV Moisturizer w/SPF 30 sensitive skin. At night I follow the Daily Facial Cleanser with a little tiny bit of Vaseline– even in the summer. I used to have dry patches of skin, particularly on the apples of my cheeks, but that’s not a problem anymore with this routine.

  • Olivia

    October 22, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I have very dry skin, also. So dry, a doc diagnosed it with some looong word when I was a kid and told my mom to rub Crisco on me after a bath. My mom, “Whaaa? How about I just get a better lotion.”
    Anyway, I like the creamy cleanser recommendation for dry skin. I haven’t tried Cetaphil, but St. Ives makes a nice one. Bar soap is way too drying on the face. And I would suggest finding a specific Face moisturizer of your choice, I use one from Avon. Regular body lotion does feel too heavy for the face, and that is probably why your face feels “gummy”.
    P.S. I also run on the ellyptical after work and I don’t bother with washing my face until after. Just use a towel to wipe away the drippiness, the makeup will wash out.

  • Valette

    October 22, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve been known to slather my face in Vaseline when temps were in the -40s, and Cetaphil has been salvation to my skin in the winters. So has the Mary Kay moisturizer in the pink container.

  • Hot Librarian

    October 22, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Using Cetaphil without water is so the answer. Bonus: Cetaphil is cheap. Added bonus: lots of places have a store-brand version that is exactly the same and even cheaper.
    Bar soaps containing an agent to keep them in bar form, and that agent is SUPER drying, no matter how gentle/moisturizing the soap itself is.

  • robin m

    October 22, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    How about a dab of olive oil on your face when it’s so dry? That would (I presume) be WAY better than Vasoline. I agree that you should experiment with different cleansers. There are so many choices out there that you might be missing the perfect solution. Also I recently tried Clinique’s dramatically different moisturizing gel and my face was still soft and moist – the next morning.

  • elle

    October 22, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    I’m a dry-skinned Clinique fan — but of the liquid facial soap, not the bar. I also love their moisture surge extra moisturiser, which soothes away the itchy patches I get when work is extra stressful… At calmer times I mix it half-and-half with the dramatically different moisturising lotion (the gel version is better for oilier skin). Ask at your local Clinique counter for a free sample of the relevant 3-step stuff. I swear by it.

  • Elizabarracuda

    October 23, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Hot Librarian beat me to saying this, but it’s worth repeating: the chemical that keeps a cleanser in solid (bar) form is really unpleasant to your skin. The solidifying agent is not only drying, it can also clog pores.

  • Amy Corbett Storch

    October 24, 2007 at 10:38 am

    So glad it’s not just me, with the bar soaps. It took me forever to figure out, and then took me another forever to get Jason to stop using them too, even though his skin was flaking off in chunks.
    I thought it was maybe because I was using the Clinique bar for oily skin, but it happened with the normal one AND bars of Dove. Had no idea about the solidifying agent being so drying.
    You guys = smart.

  • sassafras mama

    October 31, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Hey —– thanks for the advice. Switched up the soap to mild face wash; got some face moisturizer (Clinique) and the result is a much happier face.

  • marcie

    October 27, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I don’t care what anyone says…Clinique is horrible. It contains mineral oil, which acts as a barrier on your skin so you’re not actually getting any of the moisture from the product. Its important to LOOK at the ingreidents on the label and see if you understand any of them. If you like Clinique, but want to avoid the mineral oil – go for the Made from Earth Vitamin Firming Serum or the Made from Earth Vitamin C Moisturizer. . .better results than clinique and no harmful chemicals