How to Properly Wash Your Face
What is the best way to properly wash your face?
Learning how to properly wash your face is the first and most important step in your skincare routine. It's the foundation of good skin health. But of course, it's not always easy to know what to do.
How many times a day should I wash? Should I use wipes? Micellar water? Foaming cleanser? What if I have oily skin or I'm prone to acne breakouts?
Creating the proper cleansing routine for you will take some trial and error depending on your skin type. Here's our best recommendations to get you started.
How to wash your face properly step by step
A good rule to live by is to wash your face twice a day. That means once in the morning and once in the evening. How you wash your face will depend on your skin type, whether or not you're wearing makeup and how much time you have available. So buckle up, we're going to cover as much information as possible in this step by step.
In the morning
Your morning cleanse is the second most important of the day. It serves 2 purposes:
- To wash off any product residue from overnight treatments and/or oils transferred to your face via hair to pillowcase; and
- To prep the skin for the application of your daytime skincare products.
Over-washing is a problem with many people's skin care routines.
In the evening
Your evening cleanse is - you guessed it - the most important of the day. This is true for two main reasons:
- Your skin accumulates dirt, grime and pollution throughout the day. Plus you're definitely wearing sunscreen and maybe make up too. All of that needs to be washed off to prevent irritation, inflammation and acne.
- Overnight your skin works to repair itself. We support this natural process using more targeted treatments overnight. In order for those treatments to work, we need to apply them to fresh, clean skin.
Here's our guide to washing your face at night - with a few variations along the way.
Step 1: Wash your hands
Before you pick up a product, wash your hands. A little soap and water will do!
Step 2: Remove makeup
Most face cleansers are not designed to remove makeup. So before you can cleanse your skin, you need to take off the top layer of makeup and sunscreen.
Step 3: Dampen skin
Splash face and neck with warm water.
Anything too hot or too cold will irritate the skin. This is especially true if you have sensitive skin or dry skin.
Step 4: Choose your facial cleanser
Our top choice for all skin types is an oil cleanser.
If you have oily skin, look for a product with ingredients that regulate oil production. Hemp seed oil and meadowfoam seed oil are top picks! Folks with acne prone skin will benefit from ingredients that clear out pores like linoleic acid and salicylic acid.
Avoid cleansers that contain alcohol. These are extremely drying, damage the skin barrier and disrupt your skin's ph.
Step 5: Dry
Gently pat your face dry with a clean towel. Just like you started the process with clean hands, it's important to end with clean drying too. This ensures all your hard work doesn't go to waste.
Don't let your face air dry. (Yes, it's good for your hair but doesn't work the same way on your face). Air drying allows moisture to evaporate from your skin. Instead follow with hydrating products that seal in moisture.
Now you're ready to apply toner and the rest of your nighttime ritual.
The best way to wash your face:
With a washcloth
The best way to wash your face with a washcloth is to BE GENTLE. Choose a washcloth with natural fibers to avoid skin irritation. Use warm water to dampen the washcloth, gently press to your face and pat dry. Always hang up your washcloth to allow it to dry properly.
For those with acne
This one is tricky. Acne prone skin can be the result of many factors including lifestyle, diet and hormones - which no skincare regimen alone can fix. For non-hormonal, non-cystic acne, here's our best suggestion.
Use an oil based cleanser 1x per day. Do this at night when your skin needs a deeper clean. Choose a cleanser with non-comedogenic oils like MCT coconut and meadowfoam seed.
For best results, look for a cleansing oil with omega-6 rich oils. These contain contain linoleic acid. Linoleic acid benefits acne prone skin because it keeps sebum thin and runny so that it does not clog pores.
In the morning, rinse with warm water or choose a gentle cleanser. A product with salicylic acid will support your skin in removing dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is a very gently chemical exfoliant. The best option is to alternate between the two so that you're not exfoliating every day.
After working out
The key to washing your face after working out is to not overdo it. If you consistently cleanse in the morning and at night, then after working out becomes a third wash of the day. Over-washing is a big culprit for skin issues like acne, dryness and skin irritation. If you must wash your face a third time in the day, like after the gym, less is more. This is a great time to cleanse with only water or a very gentle cleanser.
Or try this alternative: if you work out in the morning and know you'll wash your face afterwards, adjust what you do first thing in the morning i.e. before you work out. Start your day with a splash of water and your SPF, then execute on your regular morning cleansing routine post-sweat.
With eyelash extensions
The best way to wash your face with eyelash extensions is to use a gentle foaming cleanser. While you know we are big fans of oil cleansing, you need to avoid oil with extensions because it will break down the adhesive.
Just with water
Here's a few tips for when you wash your face with just water.
- Wash your hands before touching your face
- Use lukewarm water - both cold water and water that is too hot will cause irritated skin
- Be gentle around the eyes; no rubbing or pulling at the delicate skin around the eyes
- Always choose a clean, soft towel to gently pat dry
With a face roller
Best practice with a face roller or gua sha is to do these treatments after face washing. There's two methods you can try:
- Use a face roller after you've applied your oil based cleanser. After your facial massage is finished, continue with rinsing off your cleanser or following with your second cleanse.
- Massage your face with a roller after you've washed your face and applied your serums and moisturizers. It is believed this method helps the active ingredients to absorb more deeply into the skin.
Either way, always use your face roller on clean skin. There's no use rolling around the day's dirt, grime and pollution!
With regular soap
We do not recommend washing your face with a regular bar of soap.
These bars can be compared to detergent - yes detergent - because they contain surfactants. Surfactants are ingredients that break up oils and suspend them in water to be washed away.
This may sound like what you want in a face wash, but bar soaps wash away the natural oils that you need to maintain a healthy skin barrier.
Thankfully there are bar soaps being made now that are gentle enough to be used on your face.
The best way to wash your face with these facial bars is to dampen the bar until you create a lather, apply in a circular motion and rinse with lukewarm water.
Check the label for hydrating ingredients like coconut, olive and hemp oils.
After using makeup
The best way to wash your face after using makeup is not - I repeat not - to use face wipes or micellar water. Wipes do not clean skin effectively and micellar water leaves behind a filmy residue. Instead, start by removing makeup with a make up remover and a cotton pad. Follow with your cleanser and finish with a damp washcloth to ensure you've removed all residue.
Or you can remove makeup with oil and wash your face all in one step: oil cleansing. Whichever you choose, do not leave your makeup on overnight.
Should I steam my face first?
No! It is not safe to use hot water or hot steam on your face at home. Even if you do not have a sensitive skin type, your facial skin is delicate and needs to be treated with care. That's why you should be careful in the shower too. Even normal skin should avoid extreme temperatures. It's true that a hot towel can dialate blood vessels and increase blood circulation. But we suggest you leave that to the professionals. Anyone order a facial?
Do you wash your face first then exfoliate?
We could write an entire article on exfoliation. (One day we likely will!). Some people will use a gentle cleanser or a makeup remover before exfoliating. This is typical when using a mechanical exfoliant like a salt/sugar scrub. But word to the wise: be weary of scrubbing products - while they do help by removing dead skin cells and revealing fresh glowing skin underneath, they should be used sparingly.
Chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid and glycolic acid are often found in facial cleansers. When used moderately, chemical exfoliants support your skin's natural process of cell turnover and sloughing off dead skin cells.
Do I need to wash my neck too?
Yes, you should wash your neck too! The skin on our necks is prone to dryness, crepiness and wrinkling because it has less oil glands than the rest of our face and body. So it's important to extend your entire skin care routine all the way down to your collarbone. Your neck will benefit most from a hydrating oil cleanser to remove sunscreen, makeup and dirt without drying it out. Follow with a moisturizing neck cream for best results.
Do I need to wash my face before or after using a face mask?
Face masks should be applied to clean skin. So you should be washing your face before using a mask. Masks are designed to deliver active ingredients in concentration so you do not want to wash again after. This would just wash away all the benefits you've just applied.
How do you wash your face without getting water everywhere?
I wish we had an answer for this one! If you figure it out, call us.
What exactly is a double cleanse?
Double cleansing is a cleansing method made popular by Korean Beauty where you wash your face twice! Step one is to use an oil cleanser to remove makeup, dirt and grime - this is the first cleanse. Step two is to use a water based cleanser to remove residue and clear out pores - this is the second cleanse. Double cleansing is very popular. Some folks use this method every night, but we caution you that unless you choose super gentle products, this may cause irritation to sensitive skin.
Remember that most cleansing routines need a little trial and error in the beginning. Less is more, and be gentle always!
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Author Bio: Jennifer is the president and founder of empyri. Jennifer’s passion for formulation and product development was set ablaze in 2019, when she incorporated the healing power of cannabis roots into her long-standing three-step skin care system. Armed with scientific evidence on the actives in cannabis roots and seeds, a clean and conscious brand was born. Using her masters degree in bio-chemical engineering, Jennifer is forging a path to ...READ FULL BIO