“When you use water on your face, it changes the natural pH of the skin,” explains aesthetician Joanna Czech. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 seen as ‘neutral’, yet our skin is naturally slightly acidic at around 5.5 – and the skin’s acid mantle is a key part of its naturally protective barrier, helping to maintain a healthy skin microbiome. Tap water is mildly alkaline at around pH 7.5, and although many skincare products today are carefully balanced to work with our complexions, the water we use with some of them isn’t. “Water can change the skin’s environment from acidic to close to alkaline, and that leads to dryness,” explains Czech. While the skin will naturally readjust, it can take up to one hour (or longer), causing some to experience reactive issues, as well as dehydration and dryness. Having stopped that morning wash, I’ve realized that most of my subsequent skincare routine was not to boost my skin but to reverse the ultra-drying and uncomfortable effects of the water.
One way to counter these effects is to use a toner immediately after washing and drying the skin. “Not an essence, tonic, mist or peeling lotion, but a proper toner,” Czech advises. “People often think a toner is step two of their cleansing, but it’s not: its job is to rebalance the skin.” Also, the temperature can make a huge difference. “There’s this big push to use cleansers and hot cloths, but heat is not good for the skin,” explains Tina Craig, founder of U Beauty. “When I was growing up, my mother always told me to use cool water on my skin; in China we drink hot water, we would never use it on our face.”
So, for the past three months, I’ve followed Caglia’s advice, scrupulously cleansing at night, while using my usual products first thing without washing. “Unless your skin is acne-prone, by morning it should be in an optimal state, so why disrupt it?” she’d reasoned. When I do use water in the evening, it’s tepid as Craig advises, and, as Czech instructs, I use a toner post-cleanse, too. But my face remains unwashed in the morning – and the difference is truly incredible. My skin is still a bit dry, but that’s the skin type I was born with; what has changed is the chronic dehydration. And the shift was fast, taking literally a matter of days. I even use fewer serums – in fact, usually just one (I’m currently rotating Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Super Anti-Aging Serum and Joanna Czech’s The C+ Serum) and a face cream. Last week, I had a facial and, as the therapist peered and prodded at my skin, she said, “It feels great, nicely balanced and, in fact, you’re one of the few people I’ve seen who doesn’t have any dehydration.” I think that says it all.