When a journalist avoided cleansing for a whole month in the name of research, experts said her skin had aged by a decade. It's time to face up to the fact that cleansing is compulsory, writes Judy Johnson

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Ladies, the game's up. We all KNOW that we should back away from the face wipes and run towards the hot cloth cleansers. We all KNOW that we should go to bed having fully cleansed, toned, moisturised and perhaps even swiped on a serum. But some of us, so busy are we in trying to be superwoman and being everything to everyone and all the while looking great, occasionally, maybe, forget to take our make-up off before bed. We've all been there. But, despite certain recent campaigns which have even tried to convince us to apply make-up before bedtime  (side glance to Boots) we know it's not right. And now, it's been proven.

A writer for the Daily Mail has done the unthinkable in beauty land and managed an entire month of not removing her daily make-up , other than a little splash under the water in the shower. All for research purposes, of course. And thank goodness she did because the findings are enough to shock even the laziest of maquillage wearers to dig out their micellars.

Mail writer Anna had her skin analysed at the 3D Cosmetic Imaging Studio before the month began where the experts studied every tiny flaw, from pigmentation to broken veins and everything in between, as well as checking moisture levels so they could monitor any dryness that occurred.

For a whole month, Anna left her make-up on overnight, using no cleansers or make-up removers despite applying a full face of make-up every day. As anyone who's endured just one morning-after-the-night-before sans cleanse will know, it wasn't a pleasant experience. The findings were even worse - after a month the skin analysis showed uneven skin tone, severely dry skin which in itself exacerbates the appearance of wrinkles, and a lot of irritation. All in all, they concluded that her skin had aged by approximately ten years in just one month. Yikes.

MORE GLOSS: The GTG team review the best cleansers

So why is cleansing so vital to our skin's health? Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting  says it's all about the build-up. "It’s imperative to cleanse skin at night. If you’re wearing sunscreen every day (which you should!) then there will be residue on your skin at night which needs to come off, otherwise it may clog pores," she explains. "In addition, most of us wear make-up every day; I know I do. So the combination of these layers on our skin means the fine particulate grime of city living can get trapped on the skin. Studies have shown that pollution can drive hyperpigmentation and free radical damage, which can lead to ageing."

That explains the Mail writer's skin's rather fast and furious acceleration in ageing, then. However, it's not just make-up that needs to be cleared at the end of the day; our skin needs saving from itself, too. "We all produce sebum to some degree or another. This is our own natural moisturiser – but in excess, it blocks things from penetrating our skin. So if you have very oily skin and want to use a product containing retinol at night, you’ll want to remove excess sebum to enhance its penetration," Dr Bunting tells us.

The odd night off from your beauty schedule won't cause any drastic ageing effects - but it doesn't take a second to swipe away your day-old make-up so really, superwomen, there's no excuse to start off on that slippery slope. If wrinkles aren't your biggest concern then perhaps memories of being a teenager will kick you into action. When make-up and the rest of the day's offerings get the chance to build up, Dr Bunting says the most likely result is break-outs. "Make-up is designed to ‘coat’ the skin, especially long-wear products, which are currently very popular. These can lead to clogged pores, and every clogged pore is a spot in waiting," she warns.

Convinced? Good. Read on for Dr Sam Bunting's top tips for smart cleansing:

Take the morning off

"In the morning I think those with very oily skin should cleanse by necessity. But those with normal-to-dry skin who aren’t acne-prone may well be ok to skip cleansing, depending on how their skin feels."

Make up for lost time

Dr Bunting tells us what to do if we, er, 'forget': "There is little excuse – keep a big bottle of Bioderma Micellar Solution , from £4.50 and a pile of cotton pads on the bedside table – it takes two minutes! If you do skip it, the next morning I’d suggest cleansing with some kind of exfoliating acid-based product: AHAs for drier skin and BHAs for oily skin."

Don't go OTT with your TLC

"Respond to what your skin needs; over-cleansing is as much of a sin as under-cleansing, so like most things in life, everything in moderation. Except sunscreen!"