How Often Should You Cleanse If You Have Acne?

If you have oily, acne-prone skin, chances are that you have probably been led to believe that washing your face multiple times a day is the number one rule for having clear skin.

I am not going to lie, I have been led to believe that too. By multiple people, online skin experts as they call themselves.

But when my face started hosting acne as if it’s a damn free hotel, I started questioning my decision to listen to all the gibberish these skin experts say.

Naturally, googling the issue led me into bigger confusion than I was, and I realized that this is going nowhere and that I had to do something about it myself.

So what did I do?

I paid a huge deposit and started studying so I can finally tell you how often should you cleanse if you have acne.

Here I am today with a sole purpose to tell you that you will probably need to unlearn everything you have been taught about washing your face and start all over again.

Spoiler alert! 

It’s simpler than you thought. But let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room.

What Causes Acne?

acne mechanica

NB: While you’re here, be sure to download my guide showing you the 4 things everyone needs in their skincare routine.

Your skin has tiny passages that we all know as pores. Each and every single pore is an opening to a follicle and the follicle is made up of a single hair and a sebaceous gland.

The sebaceous or oil gland releases an oily substance called sebum which travels up and out of the pore. It remains onto your skin to keep it moisturized and lubricated.

How cool it is that we produce our own moisturizer?

It only gets better.

This oily film keeps the skin soft and protected from bacteria and pollution. It is on the acidic side of the pH scale, which in simple terms is the oilier side.

Sebum has mild bactericidal properties to keep harmful bacteria at bay.

Well, if this sebum is supposed to protect me from bacteria, why do I have acne on my face? 

Acne develops when the pores on your skin become blocked with excess sebum, accumulation of dead skin cells, and bacteria buildup.


The mixture of dead skin cells and overgrowth of bad bacteria clogs the pores and prevents the natural oil from escaping and it remains trapped inside the follicle.

It is meant to stay on the surface of the skin, and not under it, so it’s basically trying to tell us that we should grab a cleanser and get rid of the blockage.

How to Choose The Right Cleanser?

Medik8 Clarifying Foam review
See my Medik8 Clarifying Foam Blemish Cleanser review.

While washing with water may seem most convenient, this is rarely a good idea. Yes, my grandma washes her face only with water and swears she’s never had a pimple in her life, but I like to do it otherwise.

When we are blessed (or spoiled) to choose from the endless options on how to improve the condition of our skin, washing our face with soap and water is just not good enough.

Water can dry out the skin, especially if you enjoy splashing hot water on your face (like I used to) and will do a very poor job in removing the surface dirt, bacteria, sweat, pollution, makeup, and whatnot.

Needless to say, this method cannot prevent the gunk from getting inside your pores and clogging them.

But, choosing the right cleanser for your skin type can be a challenge on its own due to the rather bold claims written on the packaging.

The most important thing in a cleanser is the pH.

Let’s have a quick throwback to chemistry class: pH is a scale that measures acidity and alkalinity. Zero is the most acidic (oily) and 14 the most alkaline (dry).

The pH balance of our skin is between 4.6 – 6, which makes it slightly acidic due to the production of sebum.

Which means that healthy skin is supposed to be on the oily side because the acidic environment supports the growth of the skin’s natural bacteria. The good kind. 

Moreover, it is the ideal environment for the enzymes which seal in hydration and shed the dead skin cells to function properly.

In simple words, our skin needs to remain acidic in order to be able to fight the environmental factors and protect itself.

In order to remain clean and healthy, we need to wash our face with a cleanser that has a pH of 5.5. You can recognize that a cleanser may be a bit too harsh for your skin if it leaves the skin “squeaky-clean” after washing.

This removes the build-up of dirt, but it also strips the protective barrier of your skin and leaves it exposed to harmful microorganisms and harsh environmental factors that can cause acne, dryness, irritation, and all hell.

A pH balanced cleanser is your friend regardless of the formulation or texture of the product.

How Often Should You Cleanse Your Face?

how to Medik8 Clarifying Foam

Overwashing your face, especially with harsh products can lead to significant moisture loss, dehydration, and irritation.

The general rule is to use common sense. But, by using my common sense combined with a lack of knowledge, led me into washing my face three times.

Whenever I get a little bit of superficial oiliness throughout the day, you would find me in the bathroom, scrubbing my face with a damn soap from the pharmacy from fear that the little bit of oil will somehow aggravate my acne.

As soon as I switched to washing my face ONCE a day, my condition started improving significantly. And I wasn’t imagining things.

My overly supportive friends and family noticed too and didn’t hold back with sharing compliments on how much better my skin looked.

I stopped washing my face in the morning completely and noticed that it was becoming less and less oily as I went along.


Because I wasn’t overdrying it with harsh cleansers and frequent washing, so after some time my skin didn’t feel the need to produce excess sebum in order to make up for the lack of hydration.

Washing my face once a day gave my skin a chance to be in its natural state, and boy it didn’t disappoint at all.

There are days when I wake up oilier than usual, and this is when I typically swipe a gentle rosewater toner across my face, apply my Balance Moisturizer by Medik8, slatter a few pumps of sunscreen and go on about my day.

Final Thoughts

how often should you cleanse if you have acne

While having oily and acne-prone skin can be a huge challenge (take it from someone who lived through it), there is always something our skin is trying to tell us by misbehaving.

And that does not always mean that it needs the addition of something, but most of the times it means that it needs less of something we are doing to harm it.

When suffering from acne it is important to take it easy, as this not only has an impact on how your skin appears, but it can also negatively affect your self-esteem.

Kill them with kindness is something I highly recommend, as this approach never fails to give the best results.

This article teaches you about the importance of choosing the right cleanser and how to do so, as well as how often should you cleanse your face if you have acne.

how often should you cleanse your face if you have acne

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