5 Most Common Mistakes to Washing Your Face

Cynthia Bailey, MD|November 10, 2016

Are you washing your face the right way? 

Your complexion is not the same as everyone else's. That's because your complexion is the result of your unique choices and characteristics including: where you live, what you do during your day, the products you use on your skin, your unique skin problems, and how oily or dry your skin is.

All these factors determine how you, and only you, should wash your face. The most common mistakes I see people making when it comes to their face washing routines are:

  1. Picking the wrong cleanser for their skin type 
  2. Using the wrong water temperature 
  3. Not washing product, dirt and oil off twice a day
  4. Using cleansers with unnecessary allergens and irritants 
  5. Forgetting to exfoliate

So, how do you cleanse your face correctly so that your complexion is healthy and looks its best?

#1 Pick the right cleanser for your skin type.

Is your cleanser too harsh for your skin type? Or, is it not strong enough to remove your natural build-up of skin oil, product residue, or daily dirt and grime? It's important that your cleanser fully cleans your skin, but does not irritate your skin. Some of the best cleansing products I use to build Complete Skin Care routines for my patients include:

Facial cleansers matched for oily and acne prone skin: Oily and acne prone skin needs a cleanser that lifts dirt and oil off skin with a foaming agent. There are many good choices including liquid and bar skin cleansers. Naturally made soaps will also foam, especially when used with softened water. Some of my favorite choices include: 

Oily and acne prone facial skin also benefits from a second skin-toning cleansing step to remove any residual oil and debris. One super simple option is to use a natural skin toner like witch hazel. Our new Hydrating Rose Toner contains organic witch hazel plus other ingredients to soothe and clean your skin. Our patients battling acne or clogged pores often choose our Acne Treatment Pads for their skin toning, because they contain salicylic acid and glycolic acid to penetrate oily pores and loosen clogged dead cells and debris.

 

Facial cleansers matched for normal, dry, or sensitive skin: Normal or sensitive skin may or may not need a foaming cleanser to remove the day's products, oil and debris. In my practice, our favorite gentle skin cleanser is Toleriane Cleanser. Naturally made or hypoallergenic soaps like the Naturally Best Bar Soap and Vanicream Cleansing Bar are good alternatives that are capable of cleaning skin gently. If you want a second cleaning treatment then go with the Hydrating Rose Toner as dry and sensitive skin complexions tolerate this product well. 

 All complexion types benefit from cleansing with the Clarisonic Cleansing Brush System (either the Clarisonic SMART Profile or the Mia 2). Sonic cleansing helps your cleanser travel deeper than normal into your pores, which increases its cleaning and correcting powers. Believe me, after years of looking at skin biopsy specimens under the microscope, I know for a fact that pores can accumulate a lot of stuff. I like sonic cleansing to get pores really clean! 

#2 Use the right water temperature for your complexion.

Just like when you are washing the dishes, cold water is not as effective at removing oil as warmer water. That said, hot water can damage skin over time, may remove too much natural oil if you have dry skin, and is often just too harsh. How is your choice of water temperature working for your skin? Does your skin feel tight and dry after you wash it? If so, you may want to use a cooler water temperature and/or a milder cleanser. Whereas, if your skin still feels grimy and oily after you wash it then you can do the opposite (warmer water and stronger cleanser).

I usually recommend starting with tepid to slightly warm water and adjusting from there. If you have rosacea that is prone to flushing, then you may find that cooler water feels better because it helps to constrict your flush-prone facial capillaries. 

#3 Wash and rinse your face twice a day.

Clean skin is able to absorb the correcting products you layer on after you wash your face. Be sure to fully cleanse and remove what has built up over the last 12 hours before applying anything else to your skin.

You'll notice that I said "rinse" too. Yes, I'm a fan of rinsing skin with water to remove product residue. I'm not a fan of cleansing wipes because they leave a residue of all those cleansing ingredients on your skin. Read the ingredients in your wipes! You'll find fragrance, preservatives, and stuff that I'd prefer you not to use. I have many patients who use and love their wipes so I know I won't convert everyone. I will try though - because I am the one who sees the skin allergies and irritation rashes caused by those ingredients. My bias is to stick with the right cleanser, right water temperature, and a good rinse. 

#4 Use cleansers free of unnecessary allergens and irritants.

This is the same idea as avoiding product residue from standard wipes. Cleansers that are loaded with fragrance or ingredients that are too harsh for your complexion are going to cause a rash. An allergic rash happens usually from fragrances or preservatives (even natural fragrances can cause an allergic reaction, such as citrus) . The products I have on my site are hypoallergenic - specifically because I see so many needless problems from the typical allergens. 

Irritants are relative to your complexion. Sodium laurel sulfate is the classic irritant. Some oily complexions need this synthetic foaming surfactant to remove skin oil and product residue. Whereas, sensitive skin usually does best by avoiding sodium laurel sulfate and its relatives. Again, pick your cleanser based on your skin type as I mentioned in tip #1 and chose hypoallergenic cleansers. Who needs exposure to allergens for the few minutes that they are cleaning their face? It's not worth the risk.  

#5 Exfoliate.

It's instant gratification! Exfoliating your skin gives you a complexion 'pick me up' right away. It's just like when your house looks better after simply dusting the furniture, sweeping the floor, and vacuuming the carpets - only it's easier. Dead cells accumulate, they hold product residue, and they look dull. Exfoliated skin not only looks better, it absorbs product better too.

 Although, the ‘devil is in the details’. You want to gently remove dead cells but not scratch your skin surface or go past the dead cells into the living cells. I recommend products like a Facial Buf Puf sponge with your cleanser or Replenix Scrub. Sensitive complexions need extra care when exfoliating. Tougher complexions have more latitude in how often or how much pressure is applied when using an exfoliating product. 

Remember, Complete Skin Care includes 4 essential steps:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Correct
  3. Hydrate
  4. Protect

See the facial cleansing products I like, trust, and know well, including exfoliating products and the Clarisonic. Clean skin is the best canvas for using any skin care products, and maximizes the time and money you invest in your skin. I hope this information has helped you start or continue to build your complete skin care routines! 

 

What are your favorite facial cleansers & exfoliators? Share in the comments below!


To learn more, read these related posts: 

My nightime cleanser is DHC Cleansing Oil and I LOVE it! I have used it for years and it removes all traces of makeup and leaves my face clean and soft.  I am 59 and have combination skin.

By Dayna on 2016 11 11

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