I’ve never paid much attention to my cleanser. It’s only on your skin for what, 10 seconds? What can it really accomplish in that time?
Turns out, a lot. Lo and behold, there actually is a proper way to wash your face—plus plenty of ways to mess it up.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban stresses that nighttime is the best time to really focus on cleansing your face in order to “remove the day.”
“Overnight, the skin works hard to repair and replenish necessary oils at the skin’s surface,” she says.
Below, Dr. Shamban shares more of her wisdom on how to get the most out of washing your face—and what to avoid at all costs.
How long should you spend washing/cleansing your face for your cleanser to actually work?
“Moderation is actually the winner here. More [cleanser] or longer is not necessarily better. No more than about a minute of actual cleansing is needed for the entire face and neck,” says Dr. Shamban. “Think about it in seconds of ‘action’ per area of the face, broken down by forehead; midface, cheeks, and nose; and finally, chin, jawline, and neck.”
What are some things people do incorrectly when washing their face?
- Rubbing with a harsh cloth.
- Using a washcloth that is not clean.
- Using a washcloth that has been washed with harsh chemicals.
- Using the wrong cleanser for their skin type.
- Overcleansing (stripping) or undercleansing (leaving residue).
- Exfoliating with harsh, abrasive ingredients.
How can you tell when you’ve cleansed correctly?
“First of all, I can tell you what you should not feel—tight, dry, or itchy. And your skin should not be red or bumpy,” she says. “Any of these is a signal from your skin that it’s been overdone or mishandled.
“Instead,” Dr. Shamban explains, “your skin should feel soft, smooth, a bit plump, fresh, revitalized, and almost velvety.”
She also notes that if your skin products are pilling, that could be a sign that your skin wasn’t fully cleansed and holds lingering residue.
It’s always smart to double-cleanse, right?
“Nope! Double-cleansing is not necessary for all patient populations at all times,” she explains. “Skin type, seasonality, environmental conditions, and the amount of makeup and minerals impact how many times you should be cleansing.”
Wondering when to double-cleanse? Below, Dr. Shamban highlights who can most benefit from it.
- Athletes, who are more prone to higher sweat and bacteria levels after exercise.
- People who use thick mineral sunscreen.
- Those who wear heavy makeup.
- People with extremely oily skin who can benefit from a super hydrating, calming cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin or solicit the sebum production response.
“If going for a double, it is often best to use an oil-based cleanser or balm, often called a melting cleanser, which is most effective at breaking down surface products and eliminating impurities and debris without disrupting the skin barrier function or pH balance,” she adds.
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