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How to Properly Wash Your Face

Geraldine Orentas

Washing your face is something that appears very straightforward. But, odds are you've probably wondered how to cleanse your face - the right way. It turns out, cleansing your face properly involves much more than rubbing in a bit of cleanser and rinsing it off. 

Cleansing your face washes away dead skin cells, makeup and other residues that can clog your pores. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, proper facial cleansing can help prevent acne breakouts, improve skin health, and reduce skin inflammation. 

But, how you cleanse your face can make a huge difference. Other things like how often, what type of face wash you use, using the right cleanser for your skin type and when you wash your face also play a role in your skin's health. To help you make sure you're putting your face cleanser to good use, here are some ways to make sure you're properly cleansing your face. 

First, Wash Your Hands

Before you even attempt to cleanse your face, it's important to wash your hands. When you skip this step, you're basically pushing the dirt and bacteria on your hands around your face. Instead, use a gentle soap to wash your hands and prevent any bacteria and oil from making it to your face.

Remove All Traces of Makeup

Cleansing with a full makeup face won't do much to your skin. Makeup can become a layer on your skin that won't let the nourishing properties of your cleanser make it through. Likewise, a gentle cleanser won't remove all that makeup, especially if your products contain mineral sunscreen ingredients or oils. 

If you have sensitive skin, consider using micellar water, which contains micelle molecules that attach to makeup and debris to break it down. Some people also like to use a double-cleansing method. Here, you use an oil-based cleanser to remove most makeup and a water-based cleanser to remove the remaining traces of makeup or dirt.

But, don't consider a makeup remover like micellar water, makeup wipes or cleansing balms to be your entire cleansing routine. 

Use The Right Temperature Water

A common culprit of irritation and dry skin is using hot water in the shower or washing your face. While a steamy shower might feel nice after a long day. It can actually be very damaging to the skin on your face. 

Extreme temperatures, such as hot water, can cause dilatation of blood vessels and break delicate tissue in your face. Furthermore, hot water naturally strips the skin of its necessary oils and disrupts its natural barrier that helps maintain its microbiome. This is why some people experience dry skin that becomes more irritated, flaky or itchy over time. 

Also, hot water can trigger rosacea, a skin condition that causes redness and acne-like bumps, particularly among people with sensitive skin. So, it's important to use either lukewarm or cold water to wash your face. 

Step Away From The Bar Soap

Most bar soaps are formulated with harsh cleansers that strip the natural oils on the skin, leaving it more vulnerable to irritation and inflammation. While it can be tempting to reach for the bar soap in the shower to cleanse your face, this can lead to skin issues in the future. 

Instead, opt for a gentle facial cleanser that won't disrupt the delicate balance of the skin. 

At the same time, you want to avoid sulfates in your face wash. Surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, or ammonium laureth sulfate can dehydrate the skin. These soaps also tend to have a naturally higher pH that can be too strong for sensitive skin.  

Use The Right Amount of Cleanser

Using too much can leave your skin dry and irritated, especially if you're using anti-acne cleansers. On the other hand, not using enough cleanser means you'll be leaving dirt, debris and remaining makeup on the skin that can clog the pores and lead to breakouts. 

Regardless of the type of face wash you use, a dime-sized amount is all you need. If you're using a foaming cleanser with a pump, one pump is more than enough to get the job done. 

Massage For at Least 60 Seconds

A cleanser needs time to work, and how you use it matters too. Rather than scrubbing or rubbing vigorously for 20 seconds and calling it a day, you should massage your cleanser for at least a full minute. 

Using circular motions stimulates your lymphatic system to encourage oxygen and blood circulation. This can help promote a healthier skin barrier and cell regeneration. Ensure to wash your forehead and the area around the jawline, as these are areas most people tend to ignore. 

Washing too aggressively or for too long can quickly lead to inflamed and irritated skin, mainly if your cleanser contains exfoliating ingredients. 

Do Wash at Least Twice a Day

Some people only wash their faces at night, which is fine. But ultimately, you should try to cleanse your face twice daily. Natural oils and sweat accumulate on the skin throughout the day. We're exposed to the environment, and pollution and debris can build up on the outer layer of the skin. Not removing the dirt that accumulates overnight can cause irritation, inflammation and acne. 

Though you might not be exposed to these elements overnight, bacteria from saliva and oils from your hair easily make it to your face and accumulate on your pillow covers. If you wash your face at night and wash your pillowcases often, you still want to follow up with a gentle face wash in the morning. 

If you have particularly sensitive, acne-prone, or dry skin, opt for a moisturizing face wash that's not too harsh in the morning. You can use more active ingredients at night, such as salicylic acid cleansers for acne-treatment medications to prevent dryness. 

But Avoid Excessive Cleansing

Cleansing your face twice a day should suffice. That's really the maximum. Some people believe that it's important to cleanse the face after workouts or excessive sweating. However, using a face wash more than twice a day is not necessary for most people. 

Overly washing can lead to dry, irritated skin, leading the skin to produce too much oil. Even if you have delicate skin or oily skin, overly cleansing can lead to more oil production, which can make your skin's concerns worse.

Instead, if you exercise, spend time outdoors or sweat excessively, omit the cleanser and simply wash the face using lukewarm water. Merely washing the face with water should rinse off any excess oil, sweat and dirt lingering on the skin until you're ready for your next cleanse. 

Don't Stop With Your Face

The best way to properly cleanse your face is to extend your cleansing routine to your neck and chest area. The neck and chest are spots that first show signs of aging, mainly because we often don't include them in our skincare routines. 

But, making sure your face cleanser reaches all the way up to your hairline (another commonly neglected spot) and your neck and chest can help prevent breakouts and promote healthier skin. 

Run to Your Moisturizer

Immediately after cleansing your face, you should run to your moisturizer, not your towel. If your skin feels tight, you've waited too long to apply your moisturizer. Every second you wait to apply the rest of your skincare products, dry air is pulling moisture right out of it. 

To lock moisture in, apply your nourishing moisturizer within one minute of using a cleanser. If your skin still feels damp, even better. Applying a moisturizer on a wet face can help it attach to water molecules and penetrate better into the skin.

Use Clean Towels 

It can be tempting (and practical) to reach for your bath towels to clean your face. However, the skin on your face is often more delicate than your body's and requires special care with a soft towel instead. 

Towels you use to dry your body and hair can have some pore-clogging residue from your shower products in them. Make it a habit to keep clean, fresh towels or washcloths each day to avoid problems causing germs and bacteria from growing on your towels. 

Also, like you avoid rubbing your cleanser aggressively, you should avoid rubbing or scrubbing a face towel on your face. This friction can produce irritation and damage the skin's barrier. Instead, pat dry with a soft towel using tapping or gentle bloating motions to dry your face. 

The Takeaway

When you follow these steps to cleanse your face using a gentle cleanser, you can help it restore its natural balance, avoid acne-causing bacteria and maintain its microbiome. 

All of this is to say that learning to cleanse your face is the first step to maintaining your skin's natural microbiome. The rest comes from all the serums, moisturizers and skincare products you use to promote skin health. 

Keep in mind, healthy lifestyle habits like a balanced diet, exercise and the use of probiotics can all have an impact on your skin's health too.

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