One time in Nepal, I stopped washing my face for four months and had the best skin in life.
About five years ago, I quit my job and up and left for Nepal to do a writing gig with an NGO based there. It was an adventure of a lifetime.
My first month there, I was blissfully unaware of the fact that I was in a third world country. I mean, I knew, but I didn’t realize just how critical things could get. I stayed in a comfortable hostel, was constantly surrounded by other first-world travelers, and was extremely well taken care of by my hosts.
How I Stopped Washing My Face
Then one day, we lost water. We just ran out. The truck that delivered water was delayed because of a landslide. Normal occurrence. Suddenly we had to ration drinking water. Food was a problem – without water, you can’t cook, you can’t wash things.
That was only one day. This was the daily life of a Nepali family.
It was also then that I truly woke up and realized we’re not in a first world country anymore. I felt so… dumb and helpless. That there I was claiming to be there to do a bit of good, yet I was so blind to their daily struggle.
So to live more consciously (and alleviate some guilt), I cut out on some daily comforts. The first order of business was to use as little water as I humanly could. This meant not showering everyday. Sometimes a whole week even. Honestly quite liberating.
I also skimped out on skincare. I stopped doing anything to my face. Just stopped. Cold turkey. Once my face wash ran out, I stopped washing my face. I didn’t moisturize or apply sunscreen, since this meant I would need to wash them off at the end of the day.
The Greaseball Phase
Prior to this, I had ok skin. I would say it was oily, sensitive, acne-prone, and it has never been spotless. But I thought it was ok. If you saw me back then, your first thought would not be “wow zit face”. But it will also not be “wow nice skin”. It was just… meh. So I was just a girl with meh oily skin.
Five years back, dewy skin was also not in fashion.
My skincare incorporated all the things designed to help with the oilies – think words like mattifying, oil-controlling, foaming, acne-busting.
I thought I was oily then. For the next few weeks since I stopped washing my face however, I became even more oily. Like OiLy. OILY. OIL SLICK. My face could kill a seagull.
I felt a little self-conscious initially, but no one else seemed to care. Or maybe people were just too polite to say anything… In any case, I stopped caring too.
Once I stopped getting grossed out by my oily face, I noticed somehow it was beginning to clear up. Not only did I stop breaking out altogether, all the leftover pesky acne and congestion began to clear. I also noticed I became less oily. I was still an oil slick, don’t get me wrong, but it’s somehow more… dewy? A glowy, healthy, maybe even hydrated?
What is going on?!
I’m a… Caveman?
After my epic Annapurna hike, I was cooped myself up in my hotel room to recover. That gave me a lot of free time to obsess over my skin transformation. For some couple of days, I was out on the balcony facing Lake Pokhara, poring through page after page of this strange phenomenon. A lot of it from this lady right here. Turns out, it is not new and has a name.
The Caveman Regimen.
The caveman routine is simple: do absolutely nothing to the face. Nothing. No use of soap, no applying of any topical treatments, no makeup, no creams – zilch. The strict caveman will not even allow water to touch the skin.
The Theory Behind the Caveman Regime
The regimen stipulates that by allowing the skin to reign free, you’re allowing it to reset and repair its acid mantle. Acid mantle is this layer of sebum and organic stuff that forms naturally on top of skin to protect it from bacteria. It is also slightly acidic.
When I washed my skin and inflicted all sorts of harsh things to it, I was ruining the acid mantle. When the acid mantle is ruined, skin is imbalanced and becomes more alkaline – the opposite of healthy skin’s acidity. As a result, bacteria, in the form of acne, found a nice home on my face.
On top of that, the more pimples that you get, the harsher you tend to treat the skin. Suddenly things made sense. I developed my sensitized, acne-prone skin due to the harsh skincare I was subjecting it to. Looking back, I had good skin as a teen, but I freaked out over a couple of pimples and began plying skin with all the salicylics and the benzoyl peroxides of the world.
I even signed for a facial package, which turned my skin into the worse state it’s ever been. Almost 10 sessions in, and they were still calling it “purging”. NO. I wanted to stop going a long time ago, but since I was a starved student, my mom paid for all those sessions. Shoutout to moms worldwide who fork out for your kids’ vanity because love.
ANYWAY. The right thing to do back then was to leave the couple of zits alone and let the acid mantle heal the skin. Think about how maybe 80% of the men in your life, and how clear their skin is? They don’t do shit to it like the rest of us do. Caveman.
TLDR; Cavemen Routine = Resetting skin’s natural acid mantle = Balanced pH levels on skin = Optimal skin health.
Pics or it didn’t Happen
Unfortunately, I don’t have good photos to prove how clear my skin got. For starters, I never even knew such a routine (or more like a non-routine) exists. Also HD photography was not a thing back then. But I did pull these two semi-bad photos off my archives:
This was in the middle of my Annapurna Trek – tanned but clear skin!
Ignore the horrible crop, but this was with a blinding flash so you can see my glowy vs oily face in its full glory. You can also barely make out some scars from pimples that existed when I came to Nepal, but has disappeared since. I had forehead congestion too, but you can tell from this photo that it’s pretty much all cleared up.
“SOUNDS AMAZING! IMMA STOP WASHING MY FACE RIGHT NOW.”
Unfortunately – and this is a huge unfortunately from me – the Caveman Regimen is just not practical for life in a city.
When I came back to civilization and city life, I wanted to keep at the Caveman Regimen. On top of my healthier skin, I saved so much time and money not having to deal with products. Down with capitalism!!!
Until I started my new job about a month later. For several reasons:
1. Although my skin wasn’t overly oily anymore, I was still on the oily side. I’ve read that the method promises balanced, normal skin ultimately, but my skin somehow never came round to that stage. Going to the office with a greasy face? No, no. It just feels… gross. What if you met people without showering? Think about all the dirt and grease and city pollutants all collected on your face. NO.
2. As long as you want to use makeup, the caveman regimen is almost impossible. Having makeup on the skin meant you need to double cleanse to remove all traces of makeup off the face. That and all the makeup prep. And I want to wear makeup. My confidence boost, you know.
3. My skin cleared up, sure, but I never really went acne-free. I broke out less, but I would still have random congestion somewhere.
4. Sometimes my skin would peel and flake. Those are the dry patches from the dead skin that you’re not removing from your skin.
5. The most major con? Sun damage. As a caveman I skipped out on sunscreen obviously. The elevation in Nepal is much higher, and you’re that much closer to the sun. But the weather is cool, so you don’t feel the heat. So I got incredibly tanned, so tanned that friends and family were both shocked at how dark I got. I looked healthy, but once the tan faded, the sun spots, uneven skintone and fine lines became apparent. Sad 🙁
6. I’ve also read that people experienced extreme breakouts before their skin healed. Thankfully, I escaped this, but it does not sound like a pretty purging process.
So You Still Want to Be a Caveman?
The Caveman Regime is good… as a momentary detox for the skin. I would only recommend giving the Caveman Regime a go only if you’re plagued with acne and have tried everything under the sun.
Try it for a month first, since the skin shedding cycle takes about 28 days. That should give good indication if the Caveman Regime is working for you.
You also need to grow some thick skin and stop giving a crap about your skin and how it looks like. Because for the first couple of weeks, it will not be pretty. It was a lot easier for me because I was in a third world situation – my looks don’t matter.
You can also do a modified version of it by paring down to skincare basics. Opt for gentle cleansers and basic moisturisers. Obviously, skip the makeup.
An example of a modified routine:
Morning Routine: micellar water, sunscreen that doubles up as moisturizer.
Night Routine: micellar water, basic moisturizer
Would I Give the Caveman Regimen Another Go?
Probably not. Sounds nice to be able to give skin a detox… except my skin right now is the best its ever been.
Thanks to my research into this Caveman Regimen, I began understanding skin a little better. Two words: Acid. Mantle. Armed with some skincare science knowledge, I also became a bit obsessed about skincare and what I’m putting on my skin. Basically the complete 180 from my time in Nepal, where I gave zero shits.
Besides, I love my daily skincare routine. Taking time everyday to show myself some love? Yass self-care.
Would you give the Caveman Regimen a go?