Why the TikTok 15-minute cleansing challenge isn’t great for your skin

Written by Hanna Ibraheem

TikTok is filled with people cleansing their faces for 15 minutes, but does it do more harm than good? Stylist’s senior beauty writer Hanna Ibraheem tried it.

Another day, another TikTok beauty trend. First we had the long winded but fairly effective foundation hack, then the dry shampoo trend and more recently, a clever trick to achieve a faux fringe. Now, TikTok is awash with videos of people cleansing their faces for 15 minutes. Yes, 15 whole minutes dedicated to just cleansing.

When I heard about this trend, my first thoughts were: honestly, who has the time?! Don’t get me wrong, cleansing is an incredibly important part of your skincare routine. It ensures that your face is clean and ready for the rest of your skincare products. So much so that, at night, you should actually double cleanse in order to make sure any traces of make-up, dirt, grime, pollution and, of course, SPF are gone. 

“Your future self will thank you for cleansing as leaving your makeup on or the debris from the day overnight can clog your pores, preventing cell renewal and leading to the appearance of blemishes,” explains Daniel Isaacs, director of research at Medik8.

But when you factor in the other steps of your skincare routine, it just doesn’t seem feasible. I usually spend around one minute massaging my cleanser around my face, but 15 minutes sounded slightly excessive. Nevertheless, I gave it a go.

When selecting my cleanser, I opted for a balm-to-oil formula. As my fingers would be massaging my face for so long, I didn’t want to use something that would create dragging and friction. An oily cleanser supplies a lot of slid and slide, and the oil goes greater lengths than cream or foam options.

I scooped up my usual amount, warmed the balm up between my fingers until it broke down into an oily consistency and started massaging it around my face. Let me just say, it wasn’t until doing this task that I realised just how long 15 minutes is.

To help the time go by, I put on an episode of New Girl and continued to massage the oil around my face. At around four minutes in, the cleanser began to feel a bit gritty (some people say this is sebum and blackheads, but I think it was the cleanser gathering into bits from rubbed around so much) and by the seventh minute, my cheeks started to feel a bit hot. My guess is the consistency of the oil cleanser wasn’t thick enough and so there was still some friction occurring.

When the 15 minutes was over, I ran to the sink and splashed it with cold water before placing my whole face under the tap and letting it cool my face. Once my face felt a bit calmer, I gently wiped the excess cleanser off with a muslin cloth and then patted it gently with a face towel to dry. After a few minutes, the hot feeling returned in my cheeks and I ended up slathering my face in La Roche Posay’s Cicaplast Baume B5, £14.

In all honesty? That wasn’t fun. The waste of time aside, I just don’t think cleansing your face for so long does your skin any good. In fact, it probably does more harm. Isaacs agrees: “For sensitive skins, this can cause unnecessary trauma to the skin”.

I would like to take this moment to say my skin isn’t even particularly sensitive and it still felt horrible and left my skin inflamed. Some users on TikTok have claimed that trying the trend has made their skin break out.

So trends aside, what is the best way to cleanse? “A lot of people aren’t cleansing effectively, or for long enough,” says Isaacs. “In the morning, remove the nighttime build-up by using a foam or cream cleanser. Massage it onto the skin for one to two minutes and follow with a toner.

“The real important cleanse is in the evening. Double cleanse to ensure that every last trace of make-up and dirt is free from the skin and not clogging pores. Start by massaging an oil or balm onto your dry face, use circular motions to lift the make-up – do this thoroughly for two minutes. Follow with a lighter cleansing product – either a foam, cream or micellar for a minute to thoroughly clean the skin.

“The best way to ensure that you’ve effectively cleansed is to check the pad, cloth or flannel you are using and make sure it comes away completely clean at the end of your cleanse.”

And there you have it. While TikTok is filled with loads of great beauty hacks, this is one we wouldn’t recommend trying.

Images: Hanna Ibraheem

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