What is skin fasting?

With the hashtag climbing to 312k views and growing, ‘skin fasting’ looks set to be one of the biggest emerging skincare trends for early 2023. 

The approach itself is very simple: as the name suggests, ‘skin fasting’ involves regularly taking short breaks from your skincare products, once or twice a week. By essentially pausing your skincare routine, the suggestion is that the skin gets a much-needed break, which allows natural sebum levels to regulate and rebalance the complexion. 

‘Skin fasting’ is also easy to do – you simply stop using all your skincare products, including cleansers, moisturisers and serums, for up to 24 hours.

The context

‘Skin fasting’ is likely to have been influenced by the ‘skin minimalism’ movement, which has seen a trend for replacing complicated multi-step routines with simplified core products. This approach became increasingly popular during the main ‘lockdown’ period of the coronavirus pandemic. 

At the same time, during a time of economic instability, the trend allows individuals to invest in their favourite, clinically proven formulas with the knowledge that the products will last longer if they use them slightly less often. 

The benefits

“Skin fasting can be beneficial for the skin as it gives it time to recover, which if you’re a regular user of retinoids or chemical exfoliants - can be a welcome break for your complexion,” says the registered nurse and founder of Emma Wedgwood Aesthetics, Emma Wedgwood. 

“Overuse of certain, potent ingredients (such as retinol and acids) can disrupt the skin barrier, stripping the skin of its natural moisture and causing irritation. Due to this, many people with dry skin find skincare fasting beneficial, as skipping products containing ingredients that irritate the skin gives it an opportunity to produce the natural oils it needs to remain balanced and hydrated,” continues Wedgwood.

The considerations

It’s important that individuals aren’t encouraged to follow the ‘skin fasting’ trend blindly. It should be acknowledged that the trend suggests a blanket solution that doesn’t account for the individuality of skin types and goals. 

“Oily skin types can benefit from a break in skincare, allowing your skin’s barrier to reset and rebalance its natural levels - but if someone suffers from acne, they need to check in with a dermatologist before making changes to their usual regime,” says the founder of Este Medical Group, Sam Cinkir.

“Acne-prone skin needs cleansing daily to remove breakout-causing bacteria, excess sebum and oil - so they could consider switching their usual cleanser to a gentler one during ‘skin fasting’ days, rather than skipping this step completely.”

Furthermore, it’s important to educate individuals that other treatments that they are having alongside their skincare routines – be they facials, peels or injectables – may require aftercare not supported by the ‘skin fasting’ trend. 

A tweaked approach

“Remember, if someone likes the idea but can’t live without that one must-have product, skin fasting is a trend that can be interpreted in numerous ways,” suggests Wedgwood. “You can skip all skincare products for a day or two each week - or you can implement less drastic changes such as abstaining from using some of your usual products (such as serums or cleansers) for a few days.”

Plus, there is one aspect of a routine that should never be skipped: “One thing I would recommend never skipping, skin fasting or not, is SPF. Whether you’re inside or outside - come rain or shine, your skin needs protecting so skin fast sensibly,” warns Wedgwood.