Hey you: You’re washing your face wrong
It’s not exactly brain surgery, but that doesn't mean the mindless slapping on and rinsing off of your face cleanser is the correct way to wash your face. ‘Cause it’s not. It seems an inordinate amount of us are washing our faces wrong, with a recent article in Allure Magazine citing a whopping 70% of women still using soap and water. SOAP and WATER?! Are you kidding me? No.
It’s these shameful statistics that lead us to harping on about the how-to’s of face washing — yes, again. We’re going to do this until we’re all doing it right.
“How and what you wash your skin with sets the tone for the rest of your skin care.” Allure quotes one dermatologist as saying. “Many patients are either using the wrong cleanser or over washing, which leaves skin dried out, or under washing and going to bed with the day’s pollution on their skin.” *Ew.
So it’s safe to say that rule number 1 is wash 2x a day — a.m. and p.m. Since the skin’s repair process is heightened overnight, washing your face in the morning helps to eliminate the waste products that surface while you sleep. And washing your face prior to bedtime helps to eliminate the free radicals, pollution, and environmental aggressors that your skin has been collecting all day. Now take a moment to imagine all of those disgusting things marinating on your face all night long in a big sloppy stew of disgustingness. I think we’ve made our point.
We can also all agree on the fact that not all skin is created equal. Some faces run toward the oily side, some toward the dry side, and some play a Goldilocks-style combination of “just right” that’s anything but. Some are prone to acne, some to rosacea, and some are so freakin’ sensitive that one wrong move could send it careening down a slope of stinging redness and itchiness. Which all adds up to the fact that how and what you wash your face with is as big a deal as the rest of your skincare rituals — perhaps even the biggest deal of them all.
Dry side requires moisture, so the last thing you need is any cleansing product that includes harsh ingredients that can suck the life (read: oils) out of your skin even more. Using a creamy or milky cleanser with ingredients like nicotinic acid and niacinamide, no more than 2x a day, can help rebuild the lipid barrier in your skin that keeps the moisture in.
Oily skin, on the other hand, gets first dibs on those foamy face washes that produce copious amounts of satisfying lather whose bubbles allow for the cleanser to reach the maximum surface area. But beware overdoing it with harsh formulas or rushing to the sink more than 3x a day. You want to remove enough oil, while avoiding over drying — which will just produce more oil. The sad circle of life.
Combination skin that’s both unfairly oily and dry requires a cleanser with a gentle foaming agent to tackle the oily bits and glycerin to tackle the dry ones all in a neat little one-two punch. Light use of an electronic face brush on your T-zone, can also help stave off excessive oil.
A plus for acne prone skin is that you can wash your face up to 3x a day, which is nice in the sweaty summer season— but you can’t do it with those foamy, lathery, cleansers that are so much fun. Instead, dermatologists recommend using cleansing formulas with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid — which all act as mild exfoliators that rid the skin of the daily buildup of oil and dead cells, and clean out clogged pores. If you’re really brave, you can even use a trendy oil cleanser, which clings to the oil blocking your pores, so you can rinse both down the drain.
Skin prone to sensitivity or rosacea are both a whole different ball of wax, with the temperature of the water you wash with being nearly as important as the products you use. The serious flushing of rosacea and burning redness of sensitive skin requires a gentle touch that overly warm water simply cannot provide. Using a tested cleanser (try a gentle formula on a small area for three days before making a commitment to a cleanser), morning and night, with cool to lukewarm water will help deter your skin’s vasodilation process, which will just make your skin redder. Steer clear of any products that are gilded with fragrance if your skin is really touchy.