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How to Wash Your Face
Washing your face doesn’t need to be complicated, but it’s important to know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to cleanse. We want to make sure you’re doing it right so your skin looks its beautiful best!
The steps you follow to cleanse your face depend on the type of cleanser you're using, but the result with any cleanser should be the same: smooth, soft, refreshed skin—never dry, tight, reddened, or dull.
Following are our research-supported, step-by-step instructions for using each of the various types of cleansers.
1. At your sink, splash face with lukewarm water (never hot!).
2. Dispense a nickel- to quarter-size amount of cleanser into the palm of one hand.
3. Rub your hands together to disperse the cleanser in a thin layer.
4. Apply to face and eye area using gentle, but vigorous, circular motions. Do this for 20–30 seconds, longer if you wear heavy makeup. Avoid pulling at skin as much as possible because that will encourage sagging.
5. You may want to use a washcloth or gentle cleansing brush with your cleanser to be sure all your makeup is off or for an extra-clean (but not dry) feeling.
6. Rinse your face enough times so that you don’t feel any cleanser on skin.
7. Pat (don’t rub—always pamper your skin) skin dry with a clean, soft towel.
If you have dry skin and you’re using a thicker, cold cream–style cleanser, cleansing balm, or cleansing oil, the steps are similar to those above:
1. Dispense a small amount of cleanser onto clean fingers, rub fingers of both hands together and apply to either wet or dry skin (depending on personal preference) using gentle, circular massaging motions. Do this for 30–45 seconds.
2. Optional: Use a washcloth or gentle cleansing brush to be sure all your makeup is off or for an extra clean (but not dry) feeling.
3. Dampen your face with lukewarm water and rinse several times.
4. Pat skin dry with a clean, soft towel.
What about micellar water cleansers?
These liquid cleansers resemble large bottles of makeup remover and are, in many ways, similar to water-based makeup removers that contain mild surfactants. “Micelles” are minute structures that have to do with how surfactants (that is, the cleansing ingredients) combine with water; it is a way to formulate a cleanser that interacts with oils and debris to wash them away. Micellar technology is effective, but nothing special. Other than ease of use, this type of cleanser doesn’t have a strong edge over others. Here’s how to use micellar water:
1. Apply the watery liquid to a cotton pad.
2. Gently stroke over the face (avoid pulling skin because, over time, that will cause skin to sag!), replacing each pad with a fresh one until you do not see any makeup or dirt on the pad.
3. With most micellar waters, the directions indicate that you don’t need to rinse, but because leaving even mild cleansing agents on skin for longer than necessary isn’t ideal, we strongly recommend following with a regular rinse-off cleanser or rinsing with plain tap water before doing the rest of your skincare routine.
If you’re using a cleansing cloth or makeup-removing wipe, the steps are as follows:
1. Remove one cloth or wipe from its packaging, unfolding to full size if necessary.
2. Gently, without pulling or tugging, massage the cloth over your face and eye area, including eyelashes.
3. Discard the used cloth and take out another if you have more makeup to remove. One cloth usually isn’t enough to remove a full face of makeup.
4. Rinse your face with lukewarm water.
5. Pat skin dry with a clean, soft towel.
Note that some cleansing cloths and wipes state that you don’t need to rinse and should instead massage any remaining product into skin. It's important that if you do this, you choose cloths that have skin-replenishing and soothing ingredients in their solution instead of harsh cleansing agents.
What about removing eye makeup? Most types of cleansers do a great job of removing light eye makeup (eyeshadow, pencil liner, regular mascara), but if you use long-wearing, waterproof formulas, a product like our GENTLE TOUCH Makeup Remover is a must to ensure every last trace of makeup is off. Check out our tips for removing eye makeup here.
References for this information:
Indian Journal of Dermatology, September-October 2014, pages 442–444; and February-March 2011, pages 2–6
Clinics in Dermatology, May-June 2012, pages 297–300
The Journal of Clinical & Aesthetic Dermatology, August 2011, pages 31–49
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, Supplement 1, 2009, pages 1317
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About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!