Good Skin Starts With a Clean Face
Washing your face is a no-brainer, right? Well, not exactly. A recent study by Olay found that only 50 percent of women wash their face regularly. And even if you are among the half that does, most are not using the correct product, rinsing properly, or treating their skin with the TLC it deserves.
“I think probably 80 percent of women don’t wash their face properly,” says Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica. “Good skincare starts with clean skin. There’s no point in moisturizing or using anti-aging or anti-acne products on your skin if you don’t have a clean palette to work with.”
Overwashing your face can be just as damaging as not doing it at all. “Many people have the concept that skin needs to be squeaky clean,” explains Hema Sundaram, MD, a Washington, DC-area dermatologist and laser expert. “But that means it’s been stripped of its protective barrier. We must recondition ourselves on what clean skin means, which is dewy but not tight,” Read on and discover the secrets to proper face cleansing and watch your skin glow.
Treat Your Eyes With Care
Before you can start washing, you need to remove makeup — or else the cleanser can’t really reach your skin. If you’re left with raccoon eyes after washing, you need to take the extra step of dissolving mascara and other eye makeup.
To remove eye makeup use 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.
King offers up her technique for gently wiping away eye makeup: put cleanser on a damp cotton pad, lightly press it on the eye area and wait a few seconds, and then sweep the cotton pad down over the eyelid and eyelashes (this is also the best way to prevent makeup from getting into the eye). Repeat as needed, circling in towards nose but always sweeping down over the lashes. Open the eye, fold the cotton pad, and gently swipe under the eye. Rinse off the makeup remover to get rid of residue.
Choose Your Cleanser Wisely
The first step to achieving clean, dewy skin is finding the right cleanser (and yes, you do need to use something besides just water). Your cleanser doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be gentle and preferably non-foaming. “The majority of body soaps and liquid soaps are very drying on the skin. The face needs something that’s less drying and more gentle,” King says.
The type of cleanser that is best for you depends on your skin type. “Oily skin tends to do better with a gel wash, which helps dissolve oil, makeup, and sunscreen,” says Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC Medical School and a dermatologist in Los Angeles. Try Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($6.89). “If you have normal skin, use a foaming lotion cleanser; if your skin is dry or sensitive try a gentle creamy cleanser,” she says. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ($11.49) is a dermatologist favorite.
“When it comes to cleanser, less is more,” says Filomena Scola, MD, a Philadelphia-based dermatologist. “The general rule when picking a cleanser is ‘the gentler, the better.’ If you have sensitive skin, be a label reader, as you could react to different formaldehydes, preservatives, lanolin, or fragrance in a product.”
Sleep With a Clean Conscience
Most experts agree that washing your face in the morning and in the evening is best. “Sebum builds up overnight and we have debris from our night lotions and potions. If you are applying a rejuvenating or acne cream, it’s important to create a clean surface for the ingredients to do their work,” says Dr. Sundaram.
Washing at night is especially key as, “debris builds up on our skin during the day — makeup, sebum, environmental pollutants — so it makes sense to wash in the evening to remove it,” she says. However, you know your skin best. If a rinse in the morning and a thorough cleanse at night keeps your skin glowing, go for it.
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.
While over-washing and over-scrubbing can irritate sensitive skin, make redness and rosacea worse, and aggravate breakouts, some facialists do use facial sponges to help cleanse more thoroughly without the abrasiveness of a scrub or washcloth. This is especially helpful for acne-prone skin, which tends to get clogged, says Dr. Wu.
Everyday Health editors are fans of the Clarisonic Skincare Brush ($195). It cleans with sonic waves to gently exfoliate and it beeps at intervals to ensure you spend enough time washing each section of your face. If you don’t invest in a brush, Dr. Scola recommends singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice while applying cleanser, which should roughly come out at 30 seconds.
Keep Things Lukewarm
When you are done cleansing, rinse thoroughly and repeatedly to remove cleanser, using your hands to cup water and bring it to your face. Experts recommend using tepid or lukewarm water to remove your cleanser. Water that’s too hot or too cold will only irritate skin and could cause broken capillaries.
Don’t Stop at the Sink
Cleaning involves more than just cleanser! Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin washing your face. 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. When drying your face, Bucy urges you to be gentle and pat your face dry, as opposed to rubbing it with a towel. Use a soft, clean cloth that you only use on your face.