Dermatologists’ Dos and Don’ts for Face Washing: 10 Rules

Face washing should go without saying, right? Actually, not quite. According to a 2017 poll by the skin-care company CeraVe, 80% of Americans make at least one or more typical blunders when washing their faces. For instance, more than half of us forget to wash our faces before going to bed.

According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology division at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, bathing properly has many advantages. Getting rid of dirt and debris can aid in acne prevention. He continues, removing pollution accumulation from your skin “minimizes free radical damage produced by particulate matter in the air, which is related to premature aging.” Additionally, cleaning your face is important to remove dead skin cells that accumulate on the skin and cause dullness; by sloughing these off, you reveal healthier, more vibrant skin.

However, it is possible to go overboard with face cleansing. While excessive washing and scrubbing may make you feel spotless, Dr. Zeichner claims that doing so is harmful. You want to wash your skin to get rid of excess oil, filth, pollution, and makeup, but you don’t want to damage the integrity of the skin barrier. (The network of skin cells and lipids in the outer skin layer that shields your skin from the environment is known as the skin barrier, he says.)

Everyone needs a good cleaning routine, but individuals with rosacea and eczema need it more than anyone. According to Zeichner, “under these circumstances, the skin barrier is naturally compromised, raising the risk of inflammation.” It’s important to be kind so as not to aggravate the situation further.

Discover the dos and don’ts of good face washing as recommended by dermatologists in the following paragraphs, and watch your skin bloom.

8 Guidelines for Facewashing

1. Do Select the Appropriate Cleanser

According to Zeichner, the cleanser that is ideal for you could not be the same as what your closest buddy uses. Because the lathering ingredients used in foaming cleansers tend to be more drying on the face, he advises sticking to moisturizing, nonfoaming cleansers if you have dry or sensitive skin. Dermatologists prefer Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (available at

A foamy or salicylic acid-based cleanser may be best for you if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that helps effectively remove oil from the skin, is more suitable for persons with oily skin who need a deeper clean, according to him. One well-regarded alternative is CeraVe Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser (

Zeichner continues that there are a variety of cleaner compositions that fall somewhere in the middle. Each cleanser offers a unique sensory experience to suit your specific preferences, he says, ranging from milk to oils, balms to waters. Regardless of the product you select, avoid overwashing: Zeichner cautions against over-scrubbing your skin if it becomes red, peels, flakes, or feels tight or scratchy.

2. Avoid washing your face with hot water.

According to Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon with Shafer Clinic in New York City, washing your face with hot water will suck the moisture out of your skin, leaving it dry and possibly irritated.

Zeichner advises rinsing off your cleanser with cool or lukewarm water. In particular, if you have sensitive skin or rosacea, hot water might cause facial flushing and a flare.

Dr. Engelman recommends drinking cold water as a further step. According to her, it is appropriate for all skin types and can tighten the skin by enhancing circulation and promoting blood flow. “Cold water regulates sebum (or skin oil) production, which helps reduce pore size and prevent breakouts for acne-prone skin. Washing your face with cold water will also aid those with sensitive skin because hot water will dry up your skin by removing the natural oils that help your skin retain moisture.

3 . Wash your face twice daily.

Zeichner normally advises washing your face once in the morning and once before going to night. But it’s imperative to have clean skin before sleeping. If you’re only going to wash once, he advises, wash in the evening to get rid of the day’s accumulation so you may go to bed with a clean face on your pillow. And after a sweaty workout, remember to clean up. He continues, “If you exercise, try your best to wash afterward.”

4. Never assume that you must use toner or an astringent

According to Zeichner, cleansers today are considerably more powerful than they ever were, therefore a toner or astringent is not necessarily required to completely remove dirt and oil. If you believe your cleanser isn’t doing the job on its own, I usually simply suggest a toner or astringent, he says. Zeichner advises Neutrogena Pore Refining toner ( with alpha hydroxy acids to help eliminate oil and reduce the appearance of pores if you decide to use a toner.

5. Do make use of a Specific Makeup Remover.


Before going to bed, it’s crucial to completely remove your makeup. According to Zeichner, this can reduce the possibility of skin irritation resulting from the makeup itself.

Your typical face cleanser might be sufficient to remove little makeup, he advises. To remove makeup, though, you can also use micellar water or a cleanser with an oil base. According to the skin care manufacturer Nivea, micelle water has micelle molecules that attach to both water and oil to efficiently remove grime and makeup. This works best for wearing heavy makeup, such as to a wedding or other important occasion. (Pro tip: It works well to take off any costume makeup, like the kind you could wear for Halloween.)

Zeichner advises using an eye makeup remover or a cleanser with vegetable oil as a basis for the eye area, such as Dermalogica Precleanse ( Without pressing or pulling on the delicate skin around the eyes, these oil-based treatments dissolve tenacious makeup and liner. You can choose to do a second cleanse using a typical water-based cleanser after this (but more on that later).

Now that your mascara is gone, the rest of your face can really benefit from the cleansing action of your cleanser. Zeichner cautions his patients to carefully remove their eye makeup, nevertheless. Instead of rubbing, one gentle method is to pat the region around the eyes vertically. According to him, excessive pressure or rubbing in the delicate area might cause low-grade irritation, which eventually results in hyperpigmentation.

6. Don’t rub your skin incorrectly.

Your best tools for a delicate yet thorough cleaning are right at your fingers; in fact, they are your fingertips. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), they not only are kinder and less likely to irritate your skin than washcloths or sponges, but it’s also a terrific chance to engage in self-care by lightly massaging your face.

According to Zeichner, sonic washing can more successfully remove water from the skin for an extra-deep clean. In fact, he continues, “sonic-assisted scrubbing more effectively removes particle matter pollution from the skin as compared to hand cleansing.” Zeichner suggests any of the Clarisonic brushes for basic cleaning (

7.  Make Sure You Only Use a Clean Towel for Your Face

Cleaning isn’t just for your face, either! Zeichner advises cleaning your hands completely before washing your face. And don’t feel compelled to use the family hand towel that has been hanging over the rack for several days to dry your face. On the towel, bacteria can multiply and spread to your fresh, dewy face. He advises using a soft, clean towel that you solely use on your face. Use a towel to gently pat your skin dry; don’t rub or pull at it. (Or, as suggested by the cosmetics giant L’Oréal Paris, consider air-drying, especially if you have sensitive, acne-prone, or dry skin.)

8. Apply moisturizer right away after cleansing.

Zeichner advises that while you should give your face a thorough washing, you shouldn’t severely deplete the skin of its natural oils or result in dryness. He advises sealing in hydration with a little moisturizer after washing. The Tatcha Water Cream, he says, “is my favorite since it provides adequate hydration while feeling incredibly light on the skin.”

Zeichner advises using an anti-aging treatment like retinol or acne medication after applying moisturizer since the moisturizer acts as a buffer to help reduce any discomfort.

9 . Perform a double clean (but Keep It Brief)

If you have dry or acne-prone skin, Dr. Engelman advises double cleansing, which involves washing your face once, then immediately repeating. Without stripping or irritating the skin barrier, she explains, “double washing is a gentle technique to help guarantee that you have properly removed any makeup, grime, and pollutants from your skin.” Beginning with a nourishing cleaning oil, such as Elizabeth Arden’s Ceramide Replenishing Cleansing Oil (, rinsing, and then washing again with your regular face wash are the steps she suggests doing.

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But she adds that face washing sessions shouldn’t go longer than two minutes because doing so too vigorously will dry out your skin and disturb healthy sebum production, which can lead to irritation or inflammation. “The ideal washing time is between 30 and two minutes.” And if you do have dry skin, be sure to use a mild cleanser to prevent robbing it of its essential oils.

10. Avoid Exfoliating Daily

Any healthy face-washing routine should include exfoliation, although Engelman cautions that it is possible to overdo it. “Exfoliating too frequently might deprive your skin of its natural oil levels and lead to excessive sensitivity,” the expert warns. It can actually have the opposite expected impact and result in inflammation, wrinkles, and hastened aging when our skin is constantly stressed in this way.

She also advises against using facial cleansing brushes more than once or twice a week, despite the fact that they are fantastic for stimulating blood flow to the skin and providing an extra-deep clean: Over-exfoliating the skin by using facial washing brushes can lead to irritation, redness, and even damage to the skin’s protective barrier.

Exactly what is “skin cycling” and should you give it a shot?

Your skin type and whether you’re using a chemical exfoliant or an exfoliating instrument will determine the best frequency for exfoliation. Consult your dermatologist to determine how frequently you should exfoliate.


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