The new 5:2 Skin Diet demonstrates that the natural and organic movement has taken a downturn.
First, political groups hired scientists to create hype over chemical ingredients in products. Then natural and organic product companies decided to jump on the bandwagon and extend the fearmongering to their advantage, creating ideas like, “You should be able to eat your skin care,” or, “You shouldn’t use any chemicals you can’t pronounce.” (By the way, “Ingredients of a Natural Banana” is my favorite rebuttal to the latter argument.)
But now it seems that the populace has rebelled against even natural and organic products with a new notion: The 5:2 Skin Diet. In this regimen, you use skin care and cosmetics Monday through Friday, and allow your skin to “breathe” Saturday and Sunday.
Here, I will go through the advantages and disadvantages of this idea (and then I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!):
Advantages to the 5:2 Skin Diet
By taking a day or two off from skin care and cosmetics, those with rosacea, dermatitis, and other inflammatory conditions might get some relief. As dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu, M.D., states, “Some of my patients get flareups of their rosacea and perioral dermatitis rashes when they use heavier creams or sleep with their makeup on […] I often advise patients who are being treated for these conditions to skip moisturizer and sleep with a bare face at night.”
If you use skin care from brands that feature harsh ingredients like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide, taking a night or two between treatments may also be beneficial to allow the skin to restore and heal itself. (For the record, AminoGenesis products are more gentle, and only contain retinoids as more skin-friendly retinyl palmitate).
But the idea that you are exposed to less “toxic” chemicals by only using skin care only five nights a week is misguided. For instance, as we covered in an AminoGenesis post on parabens, controversy over paraben use in skin care and cosmetics is based on misguided research. For instance, In a breast cancer cell study, MCF-7 human breast cancer cells are subjected to parabens in one million-fold molar excess — tens of thousands of times beyond the amount of parabens a person applies in a typical skin care product application. [Read more: Are Parabens Good or Bad for Your Skin? on the AminoGenesis Blog]
Disadvantages to the 5:2 Skin Diet
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to the 5:2 skin diet is the dose-dependent effect. With most skin care formulations, the dose of key ingredients is optimized for a specific concentration to be applied at specific intervals. When you apply skin care only five out of seven days, you are getting only 85% of the concentration of key ingredients needed to achieve certain results. While it is still likely to work, it may also take longer.
Another disadvantage to the 5:2 skin diet is that skin needs to be regularly exfoliated in order for skin care to penetrate the skin well. Studies show that the skin’s cellular turnover rate decreases by approximately 10% for each decade of life. If you don’t exfoliate dead skin cells with regular surface treatments, key ingredients like amino acids, peptides, and retinyl palmitate cannot penetrate the skin to be effective. So you essentially have to slough off two days’ of built-up skin cells every week.
The final disadvantage to the 5:2 skin diet is that it just doesn’t make sense. Very few ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream, and the liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system do an excellent job of regularly detoxing your body. If you’re not cleansing, toning, and moisturizing two days per week, you are simply allowing bacteria to build up on your skin — leading to breakouts, flare-ups, and other skin conditions!
For the best results with your skin care, I recommend sticking with it everyday! This is the way that skin care ingredients are applied in studies to test for efficacy and safety, and it is not practical to apply only five days per week.