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How to Properly Wash Your Face in 10 Steps

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Washing your face is easy, right? Just splash on some water, grab anything that “cleans” (hand soap, dish detergent, shampoo?), go to town foaming it up for a few seconds, and rinse it off -- easy peasy.

Actually, no.

The skin on your face is a much different surface than, say, the skin on the rest of your body, your dishes, or your hair, and should be cleansed with a different product.

There is a reason why face products are formulated for gentle facial skin, and there should be a method to this face-washing madness.

Read on for tips on how to choose an appropriate product to wash your face, and learn the basic steps you should take to clean your face properly.

1. Choose the best cleanser for your skin

The first step to getting the best wash possible is making sure that you are using a cleanser that suits your skin.

Everyone should be avoiding cleansers that have alcohol, synthetic scents, and artificial colors -- these things aren’t doing anyone’s skin any favors.

To start, choose a gentle cleanser based on your skin type. If you have dry skin, choose a creamy or lotion-like cleanser that gives you more of a moisture boost, for more oily skin you may be better off with a foam or gel cleanser to help mop up excess oils.

Cleansers with acne-fighting ingredients may be the one to choose if acne is a big issue, but these are likely too stripping for twice-daily use, or for those without acne problems, and can leave your skin dry and irritated.

2. Set a schedule for face washing

Know how often you should be washing your face is a big part of washing your face properly.

Washing too much or too little can both be damaging for your skin, so getting this right is key.

You want your skin clean with dirt and extra oils removed, but you don’t want all moisture and protective oils stripped off.

For most people, going with a morning and night cleansing, plus a wash anytime your face gets sweaty is a good place to start.

3. Properly remove any make-up first

For those who wear make-up daily, just cleansing with a gentle cleanser may not be enough to remove oil-based, mineral, or water-proof cosmetics, so a “pre-cleansing” make-up removal process may be needed.

Before getting into the actual skin cleansing steps, use a gentle make-up remover, micellar water, or an oil cleanser to get all of that make-up off.

4. Run the right temperature water

Super hot water might feel great, but it is way too steamy for the skin on your face.

Too high temps dry out your skin and wash away too much of the protective oil layers that you want.

Opt for lukewarm water for your showers and face washings.

As a bonus: cooler water temps are better for your hair health too.

5. Wet face and gently massage cleanser around with fingertips

You may have some fancy scrubby cloths or pads that are meant for face washing, but the best choice is good old fingertips.

Scrubbing products may have their place for exfoliation, but when it comes to cleansing the skin, adding in something scrubby twice daily is likely way overkill.

Simply wet face with lukewarm water, then apply the recommended amount of cleanser to your hands and massage into your entire face.

6. Don’t ignore the skin below your chin

During the cleansing process, don’t forget to include the skin on your neck and under your jaw as well. These parts have similar skin to your face, and will likely need the same treatment.

7. Time it out

A speed wash of 10 seconds won’t be enough time to fully cleanse your face, and foaming everything up for 5 minutes is likely too long and drying.

Try to aim for a face washing time of 30-90 seconds to hit that perfect wash time sweet spot.

8. Skip excess exfoliation

Exfoliation and cleansing are two separate steps in skincare.

So, while it may seem like you are being more efficient by picking up a cleanser with scrubby beads or an exfoliating chemical like salicylic acid, it doesn’t quite work that way.

Dermatologists recommend that you exfoliate your face 2-3 times per week, but you need to be cleansing your face about twice daily -- see the problem here?

If you combine your exfoliant into your cleanser, you will likely be way over-exfoliating, possibly leading to dryness and irritation.

9. Gently pat dry

The skin on your face is really delicate, so you need to take care and be gentle when it comes to the drying step.

Grabbing your 3-day old shower towel and scrubbing your face like it owes you money is a no.

Go for a soft, clean, absorbent cloth each time you wash your face, and use patting motions to dry your skin.

10. Quickly follow with your other skincare products

Now that your face is properly cleansed, you can start with the other steps in your skincare routine, whether it be toners, serums, or moisturizers (which is a must).

To get the most out of these products and help lock in some of the moisture that you just worked into your skin, you want to apply these immediately -- we’re talking within minutes.


  • Properly cleansing your skin is necessary for the optimal health and beauty of your face.
  • Choose a gentle cleanser that works for your skin type, and set a washing schedule -- normally morning, night, and when you sweat.
  • Remove make-up before cleansing if you wear it.
  • Use only lukewarm water to wash your face.
  • Apply the cleanser with your fingertips and massage in gentle circular motions for 30-90 seconds.
  • Don’t forget to clean your jawline and neck as well.
  • Don’t choose a cleanser with scrubbing particles or a chemical exfoliant, exfoliation should be done separately and less often than cleansing.
  • Apply your moisturizer very soon after cleansing to help lock in as much moisture as possible.
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