Hold up: Is air-drying your face the secret to clearer skin?


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Photo: Getty Images/Jonathan Knowles

While everyone in the locker room post-workout clamors for the blow dryers, I walk out scot-free with my wet strands because I’m an avid hair air-dryer. I stan air drying because a) it’s fast and, well, ultimately ideal for those who are lazy with their hair (like moi), and b) it lets your natural hair texture come through. And I just learned of another way to incorporate air drying into my beauty routine: post-cleansing.

In the depths of a Reddit Skin-care Addiction subthread on “ways to clear up your skin that have nothing to do with your beauty products,” I read about someone’s success story when they started air drying their face after washing it, as opposed to patting it dry with a towel. I’m all too aware that towels can be a breeding ground for bacteria if you’re not washing them on the reg (c’mon—I can’t be the only one personally familiar with the “week old wet towel” odor), but I tapped a dermatologist to get her expert take on the matter.

“Actually, air drying is a somewhat better way to dry your skin,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology... but notes that there are a few caveats to that statement. She explains that aggressively rubbing your face with a towel can cause irritation and inflammation, which won’t happen if you’re air drying, but if you tend to take more of a “soft and gentle” patting approach to towel drying your face with a towel, “it’s not remotely dangerous or irritating.” So basically, you can totally opt for an air dry if you want—but it’s not a total “must do” in the quest for clearer skin. As long as your towels aren’t filthy dirty, that is.

That said, keeping your skin damp for longer can help with product penetration—which makes all of those pricey serums you’re slathering on post-cleanse slightly more effective. “Leaving some of the hydration on your skin does allow for better absorption of ingredients that are applied,” she says. Overdo it, though, and you’ll be doing more harm than good, because the water on your face will dilute the products.  For the perfect air drying sweet spot (and peak product absorption), Dr. Nazarian advises gently patting excess water off of your face, then applying your serums immediately afterward.

The verdict? “Air drying your skin is a nice option to be gentle to your skin if your skin is sensitive, but it’s certainly not necessary or all that beneficial,” says Dr. Nazarian. So as long as your skin’s somewhat moist post-cleansing, and you’re not scrubbing your face with a dirty, stinky towel, you’ll be alright.

Also useful is this guide on the right order in which to apply your skin-care products. And, whatever you do in your beauty regimen, make sure you’re slathering on a retinol for healthy skin cell turnover. 

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