Could You Really Just Wash Your Face With…Water?

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.

The Question: In the age of less is more, is it really possible to wash your face with water? No soap, no cleanser, no oil, no honey. Just. Water.

The Case Study: Carin Garland, 61. Born-and-raised in New York City, Garland learned the water-only method as a child. "My mother had a little eczema when she was younger and the one beauty tip she told me was to never put soap on my face, because it's drying," Garland says.

Her routine simply involves splashing her face with water (warm or cold, doesn't matter), rubbing with circular motions to create friction, drying off, and finishing with plain moisturizer.

And, while Garland's skin does look great for her age, it's important to note that she inherited good genes — "My mom's skin always looked very young," Garland says — and she rarely wears makeup. "Occasionally I'll wear a little mineral blush and lipstick, but that's it," she says.

What The Pros Say: While dermatologists do see patients going overboard with cleansers and soaps, the water-only method is extreme.

"It's not the ideal way to cleanse your skin," says dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf. "If you're using just water on your skin, you're not really getting everything off and you're depleting lipids. If someone went to the gym and just showered with water, they would still stink." Plus, water alone doesn't exfoliate — a necessity of most skin types — or get rid of acne-causing bacteria. (And, forget about waterproof mascara.)

The water itself can also be problematic, Graf adds, especially if you're in a city that has tap water with a high or low pH. "If you have phosphorus and fluoride, the pH of the water is going to be too low and will dry out the skin," Graf says.

If you're looking for the next best thing, Graf suggests micellar water. When swept over the skin with a cotton pad, the water's tiny micelles dissolve dirt, oil, and makeup without over-drying the skin.

Those who do simply wash their face with water might have good genes and a quality water source to thank. But, "Maybe if they didn't just use water, their skin would be even more flawless," Graf adds.

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