What does washing with wipes for five days do to your skin?

As Glastonbury kicks off, we hear from dermatologists and experts on why face wipes may not be the best idea, and alternatives to try.

Beauty on the go may be harming your skin and the environment
Two girls smiling in their tent at Glastonbury Beauty on the go may be harming your skin and the environment (Yui Mok/PA)

Glitter, face wipes and clouds of dry shampoo are recognisable festival staples. Yet, as the summer heat rises and festival season kicks off, dermatologists urge that packing those trusty make-up wipes might not be the best idea.

“Whilst convenient, make-up wipes often contain alcohol and other harsh chemicals that can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and sensitivity,” says Dr Chandni Rajani, advanced aesthetics doctor and general practitioner.

“Additionally, the friction from wiping can cause micro-tears in the skin, making it more susceptible to irritation and inflammation. Over time, the residue left behind by wipes can clog pores, leading to breakouts and uneven skin texture.”

(Alamy Stock Photo)

It seems, not only do make-up wipes cause irreversible damage to the skin’s barrier, but they may not even be doing the job at all. “Essentially, these are water wipes which will only take off a small amount of make-up and dirt from the skin,” notes Dr Ross Perry, medical director of Cosmedics Skin Clinics.

“in actual fact all you’re doing is rubbing the grime further into the skin.”

Moreover, UK festivals reportedly create 23,500 tonnes of waste a year, with non-degradable wipes acting as a large contributor.

Abandoned rubbish at Glastonbury, 2013
Abandoned rubbish at Glastonbury, 2013 (Alamy Stock Photo)

So what should you pack instead? Alternatives include  micellar water and no-rinse cleansers, says dermatologist Dr Eva Melegh. “The best way to remove make-up when you don’t have access to washing facilities is to use a water-free cream cleanser followed by a toner as a double cleanse to remove make- up and dirt from the skin.”

What does washing with wipes for five days do to your skin?

Kanzen Skincare

: Derma Acne Duo, £20

CeraVe Micellar Cleansing Water, £13, Sainsbury’s

So festival skincare isn’t all or nothing. No access to water doesn’t mean you should leave out the rest of your skincare steps. Ensuring you follow cleansing with a toner and moisturiser will lessen the likelihood of breakouts.

Sainsbury’s Source of Nature Hydrating Toner, £2.50

M&S Collection Apothecary Revive Day & Night Cream Duo, £20

However, if you’re truly unable to part ways with your wipes, celebrity facialist Donna Ryan suggests, “when you get back to your normal skincare routine post-festival, I would advise that you book in for a facial or do a clay mask at home to help rebalance the skin.”

Opting for a gentler and environmentally friendly option is also better than nothing.

There are some plastic free, compostable alternatives on the market, “using a gentle, antibacterial body wipe specifically formulated to cleanse the skin thoroughly offers a practical solution for staying fresh and clean in challenging environments,” notes Dr Hilary Jones. “This ensures the skin remains healthy and free from unwanted odours.”

FreshWipes Unscented FreshWipes Antibacterial/Biodegradable Body Wipes – Fragrance Free, £5.99

So, simply subbing your wipes for micellar water and cotton pads maybe the best solution to avoid your skin becoming dry, itchy and more prone to sun damage. It seems 2024 is the year where wipes may no longer be a festival essential.