8 Guidelines for Washing Your Face: A Dermatologist Advice

Washing Your Face

Washing your face is something you no doubt do everyday, but are you certain you are doing it right? Learn how to maximize this ritual for a beautiful, glowing skin.

Washing your face requires no skills, right? Well, not exactly true. A survey by skin-care brand CeraVe learned that 80 percent of Americans make at least one or more common mistakes when cleansing their face, and more than one-half of us is reluctant to cleanse before going to bed.

Meanwhile, too much washing of your face can be just as harmful as not washing at all. “When you’re washing your skin, you want to remove excess oil, dirt, and makeup without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier itself,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Overwashing and overscrubbing may leave you with a squeaky-clean feeling, but this actually is damaging.”

Continue reading and know the dos and don’ts of proper face-washing, and watch your skin glow.

Never Rinse Your Face With Hot Water

Zeichner recommends using cool or lukewarm water remove your cleanser. “Especially if you have sensitive skin or rosacea, hot water can lead to facial flushing and a flare,” he explains.

Always Wash Your Face Before You Go to Sleep

Zeichner typically recommends washing your face twice per day, in the morning and before bedtime. But going to bed with clean skin is a must. “If you’re going to wash only once, my recommendation is to wash in the evening to remove everything that has accumulated during the day so you sleep with a clean face on your pillow,” he says. And don’t forget to clean up after a sweaty workout. “If you work out, do your best to wash afterward as well,” he adds.

Washing Your Face

Rub Your Skin the Right Way

For a gentle but thorough cleansing, your best tools are at your fingertips — in fact, they are your fingertips. “Your fingers do a terrific job and can actually provide a light massage during your cleanse that can stimulate circulation and promote lymphatic drainage,” says Jill Bucy, owner of Jill Bucy Skincare in Seattle.

For an extra-deep clean, sonic cleansing can more effectively remove water from the skin, says Zeichner. “In fact, compared with manual cleansing, sonic-assisted cleansing more effectively removes particulate matter pollution from the skin,” he adds. For basic cleansing, Zeichner recommends any of the Clarisonic brushes.

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Washing Your Face

Use a Clean Towel That’s Only for Your Face

Cleansing involves more than just cleanser! Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin washing your face, says Zeichner. And resist the urge to dry your face with the family hand towel that’s been hanging over the rack for several days. Bacteria can breed on the towel and be transferred to your clean, dewy face. Use a soft, clean cloth that you only use on your face, he suggests. When drying your face, Bucy urges you to be gentle and pat your face dry, as opposed to rubbing it with a towel. 

Washing Your Face

Use Eye Makeup Remover to Remove Heavy Makeup

If you wear light makeup, your regular face cleanser may be enough to remove it, says Zeichner. But for heavier makeup, you may need a specialized makeup remover. Zeichner recommends a vegetable oil-based cleanser, such as Dermalogica’s Precleanse, or an eye makeup remover. These oil-based products liquefy stubborn liner and makeup without rubbing or tugging on the delicate eye skin. And with your mascara down the drain, your cleanser can really do its job on the rest of your face. However, Zeichner warns his patients to remove eye makeup cautiously. “Too much pressure or rubbing in the delicate area can lead to low-grade inflammation, which translates to hyperpigmentation over time,” he says.

Washing Your Face

Choose the Right Cleanser for You

The right cleanser for you might be different than what your best friend is using, says Dr. Zeichner. “If you have dry or sensitive skin, stick to hydrating, nonfoaming cleansers, because the lathering agents used in foaming cleansers tend to be more drying on the skin,” he explains. 

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, a foaming or salicylic acid–based cleanser may be best for you. “Foaming cleansers are better suited for people with oily skin who need a deeper clean, and salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that helps effectively remove oil from the skin,” he says.

There are also many different cleanser formulas that live somewhere in the middle, adds Zeichner. “From milk to oils, balms to waters, each cleanser gives a different sensorial experience to match your personal preferences,” he says. Whichever product you choose, beware of overwashing: If your face develops redness, peeling, or flaking, or feels tight or itchy, you might be overscrubbing your skin, Zeichner warns.

Washing Your Face

Don’t Assume You Need to Use Toner or Astringent

Today’s cleansers are much more effective than they were in the past, so toner or astringent is not always necessary to fully remove dirt and oil, says Zeichner. “I typically recommend a toner or astringent only if you feel your cleanser is not doing the job by itself,” he says. Zeichner recommends Neutrogena Pore Refining toner  with alpha hydroxy acids to help remove oil and minimize the appearance of pores.

Washing Your Face

Don’t Forget to Always Use Moisturizer After Cleansing

While you do want to give your face a good cleaning, you don’t want to overly strip the skin of essential oils or cause dryness, notes Zeichner. After washing, he recommends hydrating your skin with a light moisturizer. “My favorite is The Water Cream by Tatcha, which offers effective hydration but feels extremely light on the skin.” If you’re using acne medication or an anti-aging product like Retinol, Zeichner recommends applying it after you put on your moisturizer, since the moisturizer acts as a buffer to help minimize potential irritation.

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