You can do it anyway

This feels ridiculous to type, but I really dislike washing my face at night. I wash my face in the shower in the morning. At night, getting ready for bed, I take out my contacts and brush and floss my teeth without incident. Yet somehow, the prospect of getting my face wet and soapy when I’m tired makes me incredibly cross. It brings out my inner rebel. I just don’t want to do it.

I have tried various methods of making this chore more pleasant. I’ve procured lovely-smelling, luxurious face soaps. They do smell nice, but I’m still not pleased with the wet-and-soapy part. I’ve experimented with various cleansing pads to do away with the wet-and-soapy part, but they don’t remove make-up all that well.

Anyway, for a long time I was going through various mental gymnastics and whininess about this. Then I had a realization. I didn’t have to like it. If I thought it was important to wash my face, then I could do it anyway. Whether I liked washing my face or not was irrelevant to the fact that I could become the sort of person who washes her face every single night.

And so, I have become that person. Every night I hear a little inner voice saying “I don’t want to!” and I proceed to tell that little voice to be quiet as I wash away. It’s over quickly and my skin looks mildly better than it otherwise would.

I am guessing you don’t have these toddler-level battles with yourself over face washing, but maybe there’s something else you are willing to believe might be important that you don’t want to do. Lots of people resist exercise. Some people, as adults, still won’t eat their vegetables. I hear from spontaneous sorts all the time about how they hate to plan — especially if it involves weekends! Then there’s flossing, which people hate so much that they lie to their dentists about how often they do it.

Our first inclination, when we encounter inner resistance to these tasks, is to come up with a seemingly good reason that we just can’t do X, Y, or Z. Dentists hear from people that they don’t have time to floss, even though it doesn’t take much more time to floss than it does to complain about how you don’t have time to floss. I’ve always been amused by ads for gadgets promising people they can get a full work out in 4 minutes or something like that. It’s not that people can’t find 15 minutes to exercise but could find 4. It’s that they don’t want to exercise. I would tell myself that I don’t wear much make-up. Especially these days!

But instead of expending this mental energy to prosecute the case, why not just…do it anyway? You don’t have to like it. If you’re tired of living in chaos but you don’t like planning your time, well, try planning your time. If you’re tired of feeling stiff, and you think walking more might help, you can walk for 20 minutes a day even if it’s not your idea of fun. If you think your life might be improved by doing something, you can do it whether you enjoy it or not. You don’t have to like it. Realizing this can be life-changing. Or at least might make the next dentist visit better.

17 thoughts on “You can do it anyway

  1. Two words: micellar water. Invented by French women, who need to cleanse their skin of Parisian pollution and makeup but have an aversion to their tap water.

  2. I think the opposite it this is also true – You don’t have to do something you don’t enjoy, even if it’s good for you. I’ve always been such a disciplined person but as I get older I have realized that I don’t have to always meet my self or societal – imposed “rules”—at least where it does not harm someone else.

  3. Micellar water. I discovered it a couple of years ago and it works. I use a cosmetic oval. I do not have to wash my face afterwards, but sometimes I do anyway. Just because I like how it feels, then I put my Pond’s moisturizer on.

    As to flossing, remember your recent post “picture being on the other side”? I just remember a past dentist visit after 6 months of dedicated flossing, and how quick and easy the appointment went. Now, thinking about the next appointment keeps me motivated, well, a little, to keep it up. Still not a habit, but maybe in another year, or two, it will be. I still don’t have to like it!

    1. Thank you for this – it’s the single most motivating thing I’ve ever read about flossing! Honest! I’m starting today and will think of you fondly if my next check up goes well. And attempt to sue you for millions if it doesn’t. 😀

  4. Tonight, when my four year old said to me, “I don’t want to help clean up!” I literally said to him, “You don’t have to want to do it. You just have to do it.” Clearly I need to listen to myself more.
    I think this is what they call “adulting”.

  5. Don’t feel alone. I’ve tried ALL the products, including the micellar water, and I DON”T WANT TO CLEAN MY FACE AT NIGHT. It’s just that simple!!! I literally laughed out loud when I read this – “That’s ME!” And I came to the same conclusion several months ago. Just do it anyway. It’s not going to kill you, and it doesn’t take that long. It’s the same thing making the bed. I usually do OK most of the time, but I still have those occasional mornings when I just would rather not. But it takes me less than a minute to make the king-size bed, so I just do it anyway, and then I’m much happier with myself.

  6. I can so relate to this post and have only just made this a regular habit (and I’m older than you)! I’m not sure what flipped the switch for me, but I do go to bed feeling much better about it these days.

  7. Ugh. I HATE washing my face at night, too. I despise the feeling of soap and water on my face. But I do feel better waking up with a clean face.

    My solution – take a short, hot shower before bed. Sometimes I put a bit of coconut oil on first and let this absorb in to my skin/break down the mascara. After standing in the steam for a few minutes, I use a makeup-removal face cloth (like these from Amazon: which require no soap and don’t really absorb water that much so my face barely gets wet. I NEVER put my face under the water in the shower, and a gentle circular motion gets my very limited makeup off.

    I literally shower at night to make my face washing more bearable!!

    1. This was going to be my suggestion! As I read this I realized I don’t ever wash my face at night… because I have a shower in the evening to wash away the day in general. Then I moisturize and don’t bother with any make-up, even if there is quite a lot of the evening left. Sometimes you can figure out a creative way of getting a task done instead of having to do things you don’t like all the time!

  8. I also understand the face washing discomfort. Occasionally I mention it to other people and no one ever gets it! I don’t like using my hands to wash my face.
    So, I feel like a teenager, but I use stridex Sensitive face pads. Takes makeup off, skin is clean. I let my face air dry and 2 min later put on night cream.
    I know the purpose of your post was not soliciting face wash solutions, but I had to share since I too dislike this standard practice!

  9. Haha I hate it too! I wondered if I was the only one! I hate the way the water drips into my hair or down my neck. Finally I worked out that a warm wash cloth more bearable to me. But yes good point that sometimes we just have to use tough love on ourselves.

  10. I am going to also try the micellar water, but inspired by Gretchen Rubin, I tried to identity my stumbling block for a good skin care routine. I am great about the process in the morning shower, but struggle at night too. And I am not in a freezing cold region of the country so no excuses for splashing cold water on my face! But I think my stumbling block and maybe is annoying for others is the water running down my neck and into my hair. A friend suggested and uses a fluffy cloth hairband and just uses a good body towel for her face washing instead of feeling like you have to “save” this good big towel for another time or another person. Use the towel and make it more of a spa experience! I am going to see if these easy solutions helps
    me and thought I would pass it along!

  11. Yes! I had this breakthrough a few years ago when I didn’t want to get back to the work at hand. It felt too big and overwhelming. I told myself “you don’t have to want to,” and somehow this admission freed me up to do it anyway.

    I’m looking forward to your talk for PRH later this week!

  12. I drag my heels oftentimes too at “having” to wash my face at night, though I do ultimately like the end result and the routine of smearing nice smelling products on my face after. But I’ve only been consistently doing it for the last couple of years! It always felt like such a hassle….However, the skin care expert I spoke with at a local skin health center this past summer (where I left with my hands full of many probably overpriced products), informed me that just the simple act of washing your face alone at night makes your skin age at an 8% slower rate than someone who does not wash their face. No real idea where they got that statistic or if it’s even real, but it seemed compelling and it stuck with me. Haha!

    1. @Grateful Kae- 8% slower would be great! If that compounds, it means that in 9 years my skin will be only half as aged as it could be!

  13. I gave up makeup during the pandemic, so I only wash my face in the morning after I work out. My skin looks much better, probably due to no makeup, and I didn’t have dry skin this winter. When I go back to the office regularly I will probably start makeup again and go back to washing twice a day. Uggh!

    Side note: check out James Hamblin’s book Clean. It’s a fascinating read. We don’t need to wash as often or use so much product!

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