What you need to know about 'skin fasting', the skincare trend dividing experts

woman skincare
Could your face benefit from a fast? Photo credit: Getty.

Fasting is definitely having a moment - you've probably heard all about your friend's latest intermittent fasting routine, or maybe you've even seen maniacs on Instagram attempt 24 hour-long fasts in the name of 'health'. 

But it turns out it's not just your diet that may benefit from a fast. Skincare experts have been left divided over 'skin fasting' - a trend of cutting back your complex skincare regime to the most basic to give your skin a 'break'. 

There are different levels of skin fasting. Some people reduce their routine to a simple cleanse, moisturise and SPF, others take it to the extreme and use just water or a hot flannel on their face for days and weeks on end. 

So what's the science behind it? 

"One theory of skin fasting is that skin has a tolerance level, and when it gets overwhelmed by too many layers or too many actives, we should minimise skincare for a period to help skin settle down and 'reset'," skincare expert Dr Michele Squire told Mamamia.

"Another school of thought is that skin gets 'used to' the same products and can do with a time out. Yet another involves leaving the skin to 'breathe' or 'detox' every now and then." 

This means cutting out AHAs and BHAs, actives like acids and vitamin C, and even your beloved retinol - please, God, no. 

But does it work? David Lortscher, a San Diego dermatologist told Allure "it could go either way".

"If you have a compromised skin barrier [to begin with], eliminating potentially irritating ingredients will encourage healing. But, eliminating products with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or ceramides that help repair a disrupted skin barrier may leave you worse off, despite the simplification of your routine."

Mamamia beauty editor Leigh Cambel has a stauncher opinion, stating on the You Beauty podcast that "the short answer is no".

"Your skin does not breathe, believe it or not. Skin is our biggest organ, as we know, but skin is fed through our blood. 

"Having said that, I wouldn't wear a hectic, full face of makeup and not cleanse it off at night. But it's fine to do all the things that make our skin glowy. Daily skincare is great. Morning and night, great."

So the answer? There isn't a definitive one - if you feel like taking a break from your 12-step nightly routine and letting your skin barrier reset, it won't hurt. If you're suffering any irritations or breakouts, perhaps try nixing everything for a few weeks and introducing each one back in at a time, so you can see what's not working for you. But if you get joy out of using every lotion and potion in the book, great! Keep on keeping on. 

As for me, you will have pry my retinol and vitamin C out of my cold, dead hands.