When it comes to skin care, there’s one thing that almost no one tells you – and that’s how to wash your face. Maybe it’s because it’s seen as the unglamorous part of skin care. Or maybe it’s because it’s just assumed that everyone knows how to do it. Or maybe it’s just not seen as important as the other steps in skin care. I’m here to tell you that knowing how to wash your face is the first step towards clearer and healthier skin. I would also argue that it’s the most important step in skin care. Yep, you heard me, the most important step in skin care.
Wipes and one-step micellar waters make it super easy but they don’t properly clean your skin. In the long-term, they’re bad for your eyes and bad for your skin. Use them for emergencies or those late nights when it’s that or nothing. But don’t ‘cry me a river’ that you don’t have time to do a complete cleanse with a wash at least once a day!
Cleanse with a wash, not wipes
So why is cleansing with a wash necessary? Let me give you four simple reasons:
- To prevent unnecessary breakouts and irritation.
- To prevent eyelid infections.
- To enable your precious serums to absorb.
- To prevent premature ageing of the skin. You really don’t want all those pollutants, chemicals and oxidising lipids to remain on your skin!
Using cleansing wipes or micellar water just moves dirt, pollutants, oils, chemicals, makeup and who knows what else around your face. Cleansing with a wash actually removes them from your skin and sends them down the sink hole.
Most of us would never dream of picking up a dirty and dank dishcloth and wiping our faces with it, but we will move around a lot of muss on our faces and let it resettle into our pores.
You might remember seeing old movies and the ritual of the Hollywood movie star removing her makeup with a thick cold cream before cleansing. Or maybe you remember your grandmother doing it. Or maybe you don’t. Anyhow, skip past the YouTube videos, unless the instructions are coming from someone over 50!
Double cleansing has been around a long, long time, even if it wasn’t called this. The first step is to remove the makeup and the second step is to cleanse the skin. But then micellar water came along and the marketing has told us we don’t need to do this.
The problem of incorrect cleansing has been made worse by the elimination of toners from skin care routines. Forget the nonsense of ‘you need a toner to correct your skin’s pH’. However toners do play a role in wiping away any remaining residue that has been left from not cleansing and rinsing meticulously.
I’m certainly not a fan of old-style traditional toners. They are essentially water, colour, fragrance and citric acid. But I do like some new-style toners that have balancing, soothing and humectant properties. Some are even good enough to be serums in their own right.
How to cleanse with a wash
You should be doing a thorough cleanse at night, every night, and a light cleanse in the morning, according to your skin type and skin concerns, with one exception. If you have particularly sensitive or dry skin and find that washing in the morning is a little too much for your skin, try wiping with a cotton pad sprayed with a humectant toner or eau thermale instead.
- Use an oil-free eye makeup remover and clean off most of the eye makeup and mascara. An oil-free eye makeup remover is best for the health of your eyes and eyelids.
- Apply your first cleanser to the rest of your face. This can be micellar water, balm, cleansing cream or cleansing oil. You can otherwise use your second-cleanse cleanser, if it’s suitable. Remove with a tepid, damp face washer or rinse with water.
- Rinse out your face washer several times to ensure its ready for use again..
- Apply your face cleanser, massage gently around your face, add water to emulsify and then remove with a tepid, damp face cloth or rinse with water, thoroughly. Rinse and repeat several times with the face washer. Be extra gentle around the eyes. And pay close attention to the hair line.
- If you’ve used a face washer, you’re good to go. If you’re rinsing with water, gently pat with a clean towel, leaving skin somewhat damp. Or, better still, dry thoroughly and spray with a soothing, humectant toner. This way, you’re not sealing in hard water and chemicals into your skin.
- Follow to the next step, whether that’s a serum or moisturiser.
- If you’re using a retinoid immediately after your cleanse, ensure your skin is completely dry. This reduces the potential for irritation.
If you don’t wear makeup or sunscreen, you really only need one cleanse. But then that begs the question: Why didn’t you wear your sunscreen?
- Apply a very small amount of gentle cleanser and massage gently around your face, add water to emulsify and then remove with a tepid, damp face washer or rinse with water, thoroughly. If you use a foaming cleanser at night, give it a miss in the morning. Try something that is less drying and stripping of the skin. Using foaming cleansers can make your skin too alkaline and more prone to bacteria.
- If you’ve used a face washer, you’re good to go. If you’re rinsing with water, gently pat with a clean towel, leaving skin somewhat damp. Otherwise, as above, dry your skin and spray with a soothing, humectant toner.
- Follow to the next step, whether that’s a serum or moisturiser.
- Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen.
The washing rules
I have some face washing rules that you should be aware of and, dare I say, follow:
- Use a clean face washer. One for every day of the week and one extra for wash day. You want to cleanse your skin and leave it clean, not add bacteria and contaminants. You can use the soft polyester types, if you have sensitive skin. But the same rule applies. Use a fresh face washer for every day of the week.
- Don’t fill up the vanity basin to rinse. It’s likely got bacteria and who knows what else lurking in it that you don’t want to put onto your face. Use water from the tap.
- Use a dedicated face towel rather than your body towel.
- Be gentle so that you don’t abrade or irritate your skin.
- Don’t use a face washer without cleanser. Some supposed miracle face washers claim you only need water. We’re not buying the marketing. You want clean skin, not clogged skin.
A word on face washers
Yes, face washers, face cloths or flannels, or whatever you like to call them, are old fashioned, but they work! Face cloths do a better job of removing all the gunk from your face than splashing lots of water. They’re helpful in doing two other things too. They provide some physical exfoliation. And they make your skin feel less dry … something to consider if you have dry or dehydrated skin.
If you’re going shopping for face washers, don’t go for those super plush ones. They’re more difficult to use on your face and tend to less effectively clean. You actually want to trap all the cleanser, makeup, sunscreen and everything else in the short face washer fibres. I just don’t find the ultra-thick face cloths get in close enough or capture as much. A thinner, lower pile works better. And believe me, I’m a face washer tragic.
White and light colours are best. You get the satisfaction and reward of seeing what comes off your face. Dark colours sometimes leave fibres, especially when they’re new, and you don’t want those specks showing on your skin.
I personally love the Pestle and Mortar Erase & Renew Double Cleanse Facial Cloths. They have a soft, low-pile cotton on one side and a muslin cloth on the other. They’re crisp white and have a handy little hanging loop. And they come in a lovely box of three.
Practice makes perfect
So now that you know how to wash your face the right way, you can stop buying those skin unfriendly and environment unfriendly wipes. There’s no cleanse as good as an old-fashioned cleanse with a face wash and a face washer. And while I could be wrong, I certainly don’t think beauty guru Caroline Hirons is. We both love this type of cleansing.
Don’t treat it like a chore. See it as me time and something to enjoy. If you start today, your skin will look clearer and healthier in no time.
If you need help putting together a skin care routine for your skin type and skin concerns, check out our Skin Care Packages. Or you can contact us for free advice on selecting the right products for your skin.
Yours in better skin