What's The Caveman Regimen?
If you haven't heard of the caveman regimen, it basically means you stop using any skin care or products on your face and you avoid scrubbing or picking at your skin for 30 days. It is suppose to work by giving your skin time to rebalance itself.
So yes, I basically stopped washing my face for a whole week.
I noticed my skin went thought a lot of changes during that week.
A skincare addicts worst nightmare? Going without cleanser, serums, moisturizers, spot treatments, or masks for the rest of their life.
A severe acne sufferers dream? Clear skin for the rest of their life without spending all that time and money on skincare.
As both a skincare addict and someone with acne, I feel a bit conflicted on this process.
I've always thought an expensive and excessive amount of top shelf skincare equaled clear skin, but in reality, sometimes overuse of products can actually irritate our skin and make conditions worse. At least this is the theory behind the Caveman Regimen.
I haven't actually seen a whole lot of personal testimonies or before and after acne photos (like you do with extreme diet or lifestyle changes), the success stories are mostly word of mouth.
The caveman regimen is basically like the paleo diets of skincare, it urges for acne sufferers to go back to extreme basics.
I'm talking absolutely nothing touching your face, no makeup, no skincare, no hands, not even water for a whole 30 days. You can't pick, scratch, or touch your face during this time period while your skin rebuilds and rebalances itself.
The theory being that a lifetime of chemical filled acne treating products may be irritating your skin and disrupting the skin barrier. There is some suggestive evidence that an impaired skin barrier function tends to correlate with more acne.
By giving your skin a break, your allowing it to function on its own and naturally heal itself as nature intended- without the disruption from other topicals. Of course, this won't work for everyone but if you've tried everything it might be worth a shot.
The caveman regimen is also theoretically about ditching typical acne rules.
You don’t have to wash your face every single morning and night, apply zit cream, moisturize, or do any of that stuff! It's about letting go, not worrying about strict routines or diets, and not letting acne control your mind and thoughts.
If you get spots, screw it! Don’t pick em, don’t treat them, and stop obsessing over your skin, just let the spots be and see what happens.
Why I Decided to try the Caveman Regimen
I mean think about it. When is the last time you didn’t wash your face? Ever since my first 15 year old pimple I've been taught- cleanse, tone, moisturize.
So basically, for the past 10 (ish) years my face hasn't gotten a break, I've been treating it every single morning and night with the FEAR that skipping a wash would lead to a breakout.
In reality, I may have been doing the opposite of what my problematic sensitive skin needed. From what I can tell the caveman regimen is recommended for those who have oily, dry, dehydrated, and acne prone skin. Its recommended as a last resort- for those who have tried absolutely everything. It seems especially helpful for the treatment of chronic adult acne / cystic acne.
This is why I decided it was time for me to give it a go; I've tried everything. Antibiotics, birth control, Accutane, veganism, low carb diet, high carb diet, dairy free diet, gluten free diet, exercising every other day, 2 step skincare routines, aha/bhas, 12 step skincare routines, only using essential oils, washing my face with bottled water, retin-a, epiduo, and all-natural skincare (and probably many other things).
My acne isn't hormonal, it's not really triggered by foods other than dairy, and considering I'm the only one in my family that has cystic acne- I'm pretty sure it's not genetic. Confused, right? Me too.
I've exhausted all of my options and while natural skincare works for me most of the time, the past 3 months I've been consistently breaking out in a pre-Accutane manner.
Whiteheads and blackheads, I can deal with no problem, but 4 cysts at a time the size of quarters that take 3 weeks to go away (and scar when they do) - not okay. I started looking at the rest of my skin, my jawline, my neck, legs, chest, and back are all blemish free.
The difference between these areas on my body and my face? I'm not constantly manipulating, masking, lotioning, and washing them. I leave them alone and allow them to regulate themselves, why would the skin on my face be any different?
A few other reasons I decided to try the caveman regimen are:
- Many men have clear skin and lack a skincare routine. My husband for example lets water run down his face in the shower every couple of days and hasn’t had one pimple the entire 4 years of our marriage.
- It’s the simplest and cheapest cure ever, less really is more. I've tried just cleansing and moisturizing, but I have never completely cut out all skincare. For the past 10 years my skin has never gotten a break.
- I've been breaking out anyways and driving myself crazy with countless cures, diets, and topicals, so what do I really have to lose?
- I've never noticed a difference with dietary changes (besides cutting out dairy). I can be a fully raw vegan or eat hot dogs for a week, I want it to make a difference but most of the time it truly doesn’t. The only way I've ever noticed a difference with my diet was cutting out dairy and upping my veggie intake- and I still get cysts.
- I've noticed my skin always clears up when I ignore my usual routine: when I'm sick, camping, or accidentally sleep in my makeup. It could be a coincidence or it could be the answer to everything.
- The acid mantle. We have a protective layer on our skin that protects from harmful bacteria and prevents acne- this is called the acid mantle. The face washes and moisturizers we use for acne may actually destroy your acid mantle overtime if they are not properly pH balanced (making your skin feel squeaky clean). If you're interested in the role the acid mantle plays in having acne and balancing pH, you can .
- Giving up and letting go. I just don’t really feel like being restricted to such an intense routine and diet anymore. The more I research about acne, it feels like the less I know and the more conflicting information I find online about what actually causes acne and what cures it. "Do try this, don’t try that". Screw it, I'm going to try.... nothing!
My One Week Caveman Experiment
Every caveman experience is different, some people go without anything touching their face- not even water. Others use only water every day, and some even use spot treatments or makeup but don't rinse it off when they're done. I have been virtually makeup free for the past 7 months so going barefaced wasn't going to be difficult for me.
However, not letting anything at all touch my face wasn’t going to fly. I am used to daily serums, moisturizers, cleansers, and toners; skincare has been in my life so long, its apart of my identity.
I actually enjoy the experience of pampering myself daily so giving up everything was going to be tough. I decided to just use water occasionally but I'm not going to make a point of it;
I wasn't going to scrub or use anything else other than occasionally water.
My 7 Day Caveman Experience
Are you guys ready? Because the results are ridiculous.
Day 1: I honestly didn't go in with a positive mindset- being that I've tried everything I didn't expect something as simple as not messing with your face to actually help your skin. I mean, it makes sense but acne products are specifically designed to improve skin conditions, not make them worse!
My skin felt fine the first day, no life changing events. It was quite weird to go to bed without cleansing my face, I felt dirty and greasy tbh. My skin was breaking out when I began this experiment so I thought- screw it, it can't get any worse!
Day 2: So, I'm not sure what happened overnight but I woke up to my skin being completely dried out. It felt itchy and tight but looked a lot calmer. Redness was gone and my cystic spots looked a lot less aggravated.
Day 3: Okay at this point I'm craving a good ole face wash. My skin feels disgusting but again, it's actually clearing up and looking a lot calmer. There are patches of dead dry skin around my mouth, but that’s a part of the whole process while your skin works to balance itself out.
For the people who don't wash their faces at all, they build a "dead skin mask" that is washed off after 30 days and reveals clear, baby soft skin.
Day 4: I caved. Today I decided I couldn't stand the feeling of dead skin on my face anymore- I don’t know how regular people do this? So, I washed my face with warm water and let me tell you, it felt amazing.
I just used my fingers to exfoliate gently and a bit of water coming from the shower head. When I got out of the shower and looked at my face there were dead pieces of skin literally hanging from the sides of my face, it was gnarly but at least that means its working!
I got a decent sized pimple under my nose that had been waiting to pop up for a few days, it was large and throbbing. I've also been having some textural issues on my forehead and my chin, but nothing major and nothing really ever comes to a head. If it does, its only lasting about a day or so.
Day 5: So far so good, I don't know if this is just a honeymoon phase or what but almost all of my acne has cleared.
My cysts are flat, not inflamed and a little piece of dead skin flakes off from my spots as they heal every day. It's been crazy to see such a fast turnaround time. Today I feel like my skin is producing oil, maybe?
It feels a bit greasier in my T-zone area but the rest of my skin is still pretty dang dry and flaky (especially around my mouth).
It's been exciting to wake up and not have a new cyst every day or every other day, I've actually been cheating on my diet a little too and haven't experienced any negative consequences so far. I worked out for the first time this week today so it'll be interesting to see how my skin reacts to the sweat and dirt that’s accumulated on my face.
Day 6: I knew going into this experiment that my skin would go through lots of changes, however day 6 has been the roughest so far. It's actually better and less inflamed from when I started but it's not as clear and bright as it was yesterday. It looks rough, dry, and has some red skin patches.
I'm chocking this up to lack of sleep as I got a total of 1-hour last night and sweating during exercise then not washing my face. Some of the under the skin spots I had been dealing with are now purging and finding their way to the surface, mostly on the chin (which is odd as my breakouts are always on my cheeks).
I have two under the skin small bumps right next to old cysts I had-but I'm unsure if they’ll turn out as cysts or just go away as they aren't very inflamed. I'm thinking about rinsing my face with water again the next time I'm in the shower but I'm trying to hold out until tomorrow!
Day 7: I'm committed y'all, I have no new cysts. Last night was valentine's day and though I felt the urge to slap foundation all over my face, I resisted. In all honesty I did put concealer under my eyes, but other than that I was virtually makeup free. My skin felt and looked so good at one point in the night my husband actually asked me if I was wearing makeup!
I've basically decided that for the rest of the experiment I'm not letting anything else touch my face, not even water. It's going to be hard but I've seen such amazing results I'm hoping it'll be worth it!
I'm actually flabbergasted that this experiment is working soo well. I haven't exactly been eating the healthiest and had a few drinks to celebrate the holiday. Completely ditching my skincare routine and not worrying about what I'm eating has completely freed up my mind and help me feel more at ease. I hope it only continues to get better and I can provide a 30 day update!
my conclusion on the caveman regimen
The biggest takeaway for me was to not worry about my skin. There are so many different factors at stake when it comes to what causes acne, it doesn't help to obsess over it. Not constantly picking or staring over each and every pimple I got made me feel more relaxed and grounded.
It has been really good for me psychologically to just stop worrying! It's also been eye opening for me to realize that I touch my face way more than I thought. I've consciously left my hands away from my face during the whole experiment and whenever I messed with a spot it immediately becomes inflamed.
You've got nothing to lose, if you’ve tried everything might as well try nothing. You can modify the caveman regimen as you see fit, even washing your face with an oil every few days!
I've seen such great results that I'm going to continue it for the full 30 days to completely rebalance my skin and repair the acid mantle.
If my skin clears after an entire month then I will begin to reintroduce skincare a little bit at a time, masking once every two weeks instead of every other day. This time I'm going to take ALOT of time with each product I am using to make sure that it doesn't break me out.
And maybe- I won't wash my face ever again, who knows?! So far, the caveman regimen has taught me that sometimes we need simplicity, to take a step back and get out of the way so our bodies can regulate themselves.
Don't overwork your skin! It's meant to heal itself and sometimes we can get in the way of that by layering on products and over exfoliating the skin.
I actually continued this experiment for a full 30 days, with some modification, you can read it on the link below!
Reference: Acne Vulgaris and the Epidermal Barrier: https: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579484/