TikTok Fact Check: Is Dry Cleansing Actually a Better Way to Wash Our Faces?

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A new year sparks another skincare trend from TikTok. Meet dry cleansing. It’s the latest method that’s causing quite a stir on the platform. Although it’s become a new way to clean your face, some are asking: Is it really safe to try on your skin? We asked two dermatologists to weigh in on the trend before you go and make any changes to your skincare routine.

Meet the Experts:

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What Is Dry Cleansing?

Dry cleansing (or dry washing) is a technique that consists of rubbing a facial cleanser on dry skin before rinsing it off with water. This TikTok method challenges the common way of washing your face (aka applying cleanser on a damp face) and it claims to have better benefits for your skin.

OK, Does Dry Cleansing Actually Work?

Yes…and no. The key to dry cleansing properly comes down to the type of cleanser you’re using. “Gel or foam-based cleansers are activated by water, so dry cleansing with those types of cleansers can actually cause friction and sometimes lead to an adverse reaction—especially if you’re not used to experiencing the full effects of your cleanser’s actives,” says Dr. Howard.

Both experts we interviewed recommend skipping foam, gel or water-based cleansers and going for an oil, cream or balm cleanser instead. “Certain cleansers like lipid-based cleansers and micellar waters are designed to be used on dry skin, so dry cleansing works appropriately,” adds Dr. Farber.

What Are the Benefits of Dry Cleansing?

According to TikTokers, dry cleansing has a bunch of benefits that might sway you into trying it out yourself. One example is that it offers a better use of your cleanser. When it comes to regular cleansing, adding water to your face before applying your wash can dilute the ingredients that make it crucial for your skin in the first place. As a result, dry cleansing promises to get the most out of your cleanser and all the active ingredients found in it.

TikTok creators also claim this technique offers a deeper clean and an even smoother finish. “Dry cleansing claims to allow for a deeper cleanse to remove oil, dirt, makeup, etc. by allowing you to get the full concentration of your face wash since you’re not diluting the actives with water,” says Dr. Howard. However, the derm also points out there are no clinical studies that back the efficiency of this method.

Is Dry Cleansing Safe?

Unfortunately, not everyone should try dry cleansing. Dr. Farber suggests people with sensitive skin or any chronic skin conditions (i.e, eczema, psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis), sit this one out. But if you want to participate in the trend, avoid cleansers with ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, which can cause irritation if not diluted with water. “Dry cleansing can strip the skin [of its natural oils] and cause an increase of dryness. This method can also cause existing skin conditions, like rosacea, eczema and dandruff to worsen,” adds Dr. Farber.

On the other hand, people with oily and acne-prone skin might have a better experience. Though we must note here that Dr. Howard is still against it. “Those with oily skin might prefer foaming cleansers with more surfactants in them, which require water to be effective,” explains Dr. Howard. If you’re unsure what your skin type is, consult a dermatologist before giving dry cleansing a go.

What Are the Steps to Dry Cleansing?

If you’re still down for dry cleansing, there are three simple steps to follow:

  1. Find the right cleanser. As mentioned, the right cleanser is key for the trend to work on your skin. “If you want to give dry cleansing a try, it’s best to stick to gentle, non-foaming cleansers that are either cream- or oil-based. When applying cleanser, your skin should feel slippery enough that you’re not tugging or pulling on your skin,” explains Dr. Howard. Look for hydrating ingredients like ceramides, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid and plant-based oils.
  2. Apply cleanser to a dry face. Smooth on a dime-sized amount of cleanser to dry skin, using dry hands to massage it in upward strokes. Then, let the cleanser sit on your face for 30 seconds to a minute.
  3. Rinse your face. Once the minute is up, splash lukewarm water onto your face to wash away the cleanser. Finally, pat dry with a towel before moving on to the next steps in your skincare routine.

Bottom Line

While TikTokers praise the method, there’s no scientific proof that washing your face this way is actually any better than the ol’ fashioned way. And in fact, dry cleansing can be super irritating and drying for people with sensitive skin. Just remember: If you’re going to try the trend, stick to an oil, cream or balm cleanser and stop immediately if it’s causing any reaction. But honestly folks, your current skincare routine is probably just fine.

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...