Washing my face used to feel like a simple, mindless skincare step. Splash, lather, and splash again. The last few years have changed that and somewhere along the way my step 1 has become a thoughtful and enjoyable process.
I take washing my face pretty seriously and now have a range of cleansers so I can wash with a purpose every day. Am I getting old?
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through the link I may make a small commission. I am not a medical pro, just someone who loves skincare and has done the research. Everyone’s skin is different and any serious skin issues should be consulted with a dermatologist or your esthetician.
Step 1 in any skincare routine: wash your face. That is easy, right? It totally is, but there are some key things to keep in mind when cleansing to make sure you are working towards bright and not stripped skin.
7 essential tips to wash your face for bright, happy skin
1. Choose the best face wash for your skin type
Cleansing for your skin type is crucial to make sure you are being just as gentle or aggressive as your skin can handle. If you saw my post on identifying your skin type (must read!), then you know how to pick the best cleanser for your skin.
Dry skin benefits most from a cleanser with a creamy texture. Avoid foaming cleansers if you have dry skin as these tend to strip the skin more and can leave you with that tight and dehydrated feeling.
Some favorites for dry skin:
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. This is a CLASSIC and budget-friendly fave with a friendly cream texture that houses ceramides and hyaluronic acid to leave you with a strong and hydrated skin barrier.
Paula’s Choice (you know I am a true believer in Paula) RESIST Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser. This has a creamy texture that is packed with glycerin, green tea, and chamomile to leave you with supple, hydrated, and calm skin.
Gel or foam textures are where it’s at for oily skin. It’s important to remove excess oil or acne-causing bacteria from the skin regularly to maintain a clear and glowing complexion. Use a gentle gel-based cleanser as this works well to remove excess oil without stripping skin dry.
My all-time favorite cleanser is the Olehenriksen Find your Balance Cleanser. It contains a blend of botanicals and AHAs to remove excess oil and unclog your pores. Your skin is CLEAN after washing but still feels happy and hydrated.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly and hard working classic cleanser: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. This foaming action will remove excess oil while the niacinamide will help balance oil production.
If you are more acne-prone, the CeraVe Acne Foaming Cleanser may be the one for you. It contains ceramides (to protect skin barrier), niacinamide, and 4% benzoyl peroxide to fight acne. Be sure to follow up with a hydrating toner and moisturizer when using benzoyl peroxide.
Combination skin requires balance at every step of your skincare routine. Finding a face wash that targets both oily zones and dry patches without adding trouble to either is crucial for laying the foundation of your routine. Look for a gel or lightly foaming face wash that contains ingredients that are hydrating and that will work on unclogging pores.
Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Cleanser. This gel-based cleanser is gentle yet powerful enough to remove impurities on the surface of your skin without stripping it. It contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate and AHAs to smooth the skin’s surface.
Paula’s Choice RESIST Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser. It’s all in the name! This cleanser will address both dry and oily areas by hydrating, removing excess oil, and reducing enlarged pores.
Sensitive skin relies on a gentle routine and it is especially important in the cleansing step so your skin is not left stripped. Look for gentle ingredients like ceramides to keep your skin barrier strong and humectants like glycerin to stay hydrated.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. This classic cleanser is a great option for sensitive skin since it is packed with ceramides and hydrating ingredients. This is so gentle and works to keep your skin strong.
Tula Probiotic Skin Care Super Calm Gentle Milk Cleanser. This is formulated specifically for sensitive types with glycerin to hydrate and colloidal oatmeal to soothe irritation and redness.
2. How often to wash your face
Do we really need to wash our face twice a day? It depends. Your skin type and your morning routine activities will dictate what is best for cleansing. In general, you should not wash your face more than twice a day, even with very oily skin.
Washing your face will remove skin’s natural oils and leave it exposed to the elements. This is true whether we are using a gentle cleanser or not, although your cleanser choice is important to make sure you are not leaving your skin stripped.
If you wake up on the normal to dry side, you are generally safe by just splashing water on your face or using a hydrating facial spray (my fave is the Caudalie Grape Water Mist). Follow with a hydrating toner to bring hydration back to your skin and create a damp canvas for your remaining products.
If you are oily, it is important to wash your face in the morning and night. This ensures that you remove excess oil that can contain bacteria or clog your pores and cause acne.
Essential tip: Even with oily skin, it is not recommended that you wash more than twice per day. It is important to maintain a strong skin barrier and not over strip your skin of natural oils. If your oily skin is stripped down, it will counteract by producing more oils to compensate.
3. The Double Cleanse
I always get this question: do I seriously need to double cleanse? My answer: yup.
Double cleansing is an essential part of your nightly skincare routine, whether you wear makeup or not. Our skin faces a lot on a daily basis: product and sunscreen layering, sweat, exposure to elements, and for many of us, makeup.
Cleansing with an oil or cleansing balm first breaks up and removes makeup, pollutants, sebum, dirt, and even your sunscreen from your face.
Essential tip: avoid makeup wipes at all costs. Makeup wipes can contain chemicals that can cause major irritation. They also do not cleanse and fully remove makeup, but move it around your face instead. Stick to an oil, balm, or micellar water to make sure your skin is being treated like the queen she is.
Once you’ve got your oil cleanse taken care of, move on to round 2 with your regularly scheduled cleanser.
Now you will be left with a clean slate, free of makeup and environmental stressors so your skin is ready to soak up the rest of your skincare routine.
TFE favorites for double cleanse:
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm. Since using this in my sister’s hotel room on vacay, I will never look back. This is truly the balm. Green Clean glides so effortlessly over skin and removes all sunscreen and every trace of makeup without making my dry skin feel stripped.
Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser. TBH, this name sold me immediately. Something about butter cleanser just makes me want to slather it on immediately. DE doesn’t let us down, so we know that this step 1 will get our skin clean and the fruit antioxidants will keep it happy.
Bioderma Sensibio H2O – Micellar Water. For those who prefer a more classic approach to makeup removal or do not love the oil part of a double cleanse, Bioderma’s micellar water will do the job. If you do use micellar water, apply with a reusable pad to reduce waste (I use these ones from Amazon).
4. Water temperature
There are many skincare myths out there that seem to stick around forever. Many believe that starting your facial cleanse with hot water will open up your pores and allow your cleanser to get deep inside for a real clean. Follow that with a super cold water rinse to close those pores and you are ready to go! Sound familiar?
The truth is, our pores cannot easily expand and contract and using extreme temperatures can actually cause more harm than good. Hot water has a stripping and drying effect on the skin by taking away more of your skin’s natural oils. This leaves room for dried out and potentially irritated skin.
On the flip side, cold water is actually less effective at removing excess oils from your skin. This means your face may not be getting the clean it needs and oils left on the skin can lead to clogged pores.
Essential tip: wash your face with lukewarm water to get the best clean. This will help you get a good cleanse of excess oils and other environmental invaders while avoiding overly dried skin.
5. Be gentle with those hands
I prefer my hands over a facial brush or washcloth any day. Using your hand for a cleanse allows you to be in control of how your skin is treated. Washing with a cleansing brush is a form of exfoliation, and using everyday can lead to a stripped down skin barrier and lots of irratation.
Be sure to use gentle motions when cleansing and avoid rubbing and tugging your skin. Pulling your skin like this can accelerate the aging process by stretching skin and breaking down elastin. Your elastin is essential for keeping that skin plump and wrinkle free.
6. Don’t rush it
Give your cleanser enough time to actually do its job by massaging your face for at least 30 seconds. I aim for 30 – 60 seconds of cleansing time to make sure my skin is getting the clean it needs. Rushing through your cleanse runs the risk of oils, bacteria, makeup, and other irritants staying on your skin and clogging your pores. Be sure not to overdo it, though. Over cleansing can leave your skin barrier overexposed making room for extra dry and irritated skin. Keep to 30 – 60 seconds and that skin will be golden.
7. Dry carefully
I used to rub my skin dry with the towel hanging on the back of my door. I cringe.
Now that you have a clean slate, be sure to grab a CLEAN towel or cloth to gently pat dry. We know that rubbing our skin can break down our elastin, so it is important to stay gentle any time we are touching our faces.
Towels can harbor bacteria or even mold when not left to dry properly, so avoid already used towels when it comes to your face. Try these microfiber facial cloths to be sure you have a steady rotation on hand.
No need to get that skin perfectly dry, either. A damp face is ideal for taking in the rest of your products. Damp skin is more permeable than dry skin, so start up the rest of your routine within one minute of washing so you can reap the full benefits of your skincare.
Following these 7 essential tips is sure to leave you with clean and happy skin that is ready to take in all of the ingredients that come next.
Let us know your favorite cleansers and cleansing hacks that keep your skin glowing everyday!