Why Washing Your Face Is Good For Your Brain, From Experts

The intimate brain-skin connection is well documented. There’s even an entire field of psychodermatology dedicated to discovering how our minds affect the health of our skin—and vice versa. 

But washing your face deserves its own moment in the psycho-derm conversation. Just take it from board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist Amy Wechsler, M.D.: “There is a big psychological component to washing off the day,” she tells mindbodygreen. “When I get home, I have to change out of my work clothes and into my home clothes. Then I feel like I’ve left the stress of the day behind… There is also a symbolic cleansing of the day with washing the face.” As the daily grime washes down the drain, so do the daily stressors. 

We don’t have much data on the brain benefits of face washing in particular, but research has shown1 that cleaning oneself is related to reductions in anxiety, even after stressful events. Studies have also demonstrated that stress can result in ritualized behavior2, and cleansing rituals have existed for centuries across many different cultures and traditions. 

For example: “Dinacharya is a common Ayurvedic practice, which translates to ‘a daily ritual,'” Michelle Ranavat, Ayurvedic beauty expert and founder of RANAVAT, explains. “A ritual like daily cleansing brings consistency of purification, which helps to balance the mind, body, and spirit.” That’s exactly why she formulated her calming Lotus Cleansing Balm, “not only to remove makeup and SPF but to provide a relaxing moment during a stressful day,” she notes. 

Or consider Japanese beauty brand Tatcha, which currently conducts neurological testing to demonstrate the benefits of various products on the brain. The mind-skin connection is crucial to the brand’s ethos, founder Vicky Tsai tells me during a recent brand event, so they routinely use electroencephalography (EEG) to measure participants’ neural responses when testing products. 

When testing the Clarifying ritual—which includes the Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser and Clarifying Clay Mask—they found participants had a 46% reduction in cognitive load, a 106% increase in relaxation, and a 68% decrease in heart rate variation (HRV), after just one use. 

It may seem far-fetched, but Wechsler says it is possible to see such dramatic effects. “When someone is taking care of themselves, it lowers cortisol levels,” she adds. “It’s going to raise all those positive molecules. And if you decrease cortisol, you lower your stress. It’s good for your mood, it’s good for healing, and it’s good for inflammation3.” 

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