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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • The Right Way to Wash Your Face: 7 Pro Steps for the Perfect Cleanse

The Right Way to Wash Your Face: 7 Pro Steps for the Perfect Cleanse

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Image – Hannahcriswell/Stocksy

As I write this article, the water supply in my town has been off for three days and counting. This has particularly reminded me about the importance (and pure luxury) of cleansing, since my skin hasn’t touched water for 72 hours. 

Never mind not being able to shower, I have actually found the not washing my face bit much, much more grating. Because what a (negative) difference it has made, even in the space of three days. 


Image – Angelarober/Stocksy


Cue greasiness, dry patches, makeup that slides off, a couple of new spots and everything in between. I can’t tell you how excited I am to give my skin a triple cleanse when that water comes back on. 

But it’s not just exterior side effects that occur if you don’t cleanse your skin properly, it’s bad for your skin’s overall health too. After all, regular cleansing helps things like encouraging hydration and fighting off excess oil production. All of which contribute to the long-term condition of your skin.

Here, I breakdown how to perform a good cleansing routine. All with a little help from celebrity aesthetician Jenette Serrins, dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Baron and family medicine and dermatology expert, Dr Jodi LoGerfo.

Because cleansing is, quite literally, the first step to achieving healthier skin.


Step 1: Choose the right cleanser

To really nail your cleansing routine, you’ll need to first choose the best cleanser for your skin type. After all, there’s no point in investing time and money into one that’s going to work against your skin.

Think about your skin type and your concerns. For example, if you’re worried about the harmful effects daily aggressors like pollution or UV might be having on your skin, Dr Baron recommends protection.

“If you really want to reduce the day’s damage, you can use a cleansing formula that is rich in antioxidants,” she says.

If you’re looking for one to just do the job quickly and aren’t fussed about a particular skin concern, Dr Baron says “a gentle, soap-free or detergent-free cleanser works for all skin types and won’t leave your skin feeling tight afterwards.” 

“Added fragrances are not helpful and can actually be harmful as they can be irritants and allergens. Astringents and detergents strip away your important natural oils and are never recommended for any skin condition, even if you have acne and especially if you have rosacea or eczema,” she adds.


Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy


Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (£9.99 from Superdrug UK /$11.99 from Ulta Beauty US) is affordable and soap and fragrance-free.

An oil cleanser is another option which works on both dry skin types and oily skin too. After all, they work wonders on lifting dirt and makeup off the skin, which are the main causes of breakouts. 

“For oily or acne-prone skin, you should use an oil that is non-comedogenic (or minimal risk of clogging pores),” advises Dr LoGerfo. “An oil like jojoba or argan is a good choice.” Face Theory Deeply Nourishing Jojoba Cleansing Oil (£17 from Face Theory UK /$18.99 from Face Theory US) also contains argan oil and hydrates as it goes.


Step 2: Do a pre-cleanse

Ok I know this is an extra step but this will give you a head start in removing all traces of makeup.


PRO TIP: Run a micellar water or makeup remover-soaked cotton pad around your face before you even think about using water. This will loosen the dirt and make your water cleanse a lot more efficient.


Step 3: Get the water temperature right

I hate to use a greasy chip pan reference in relation to your skin (rude), but you wouldn’t wash one of those with cold water as it wouldn’t be very effective. So, avoid using cold water to wash your face.

Equally, very hot water can strip moisture from your skin, so make it lukewarm warm instead to ensure all the dirt can lift off without irritating.


Step 4: Do a double cleanse

This is the best way to cleanse your skin in the evening. It is just how it sounds – cleanse once, rinse, then cleanse again and rinse. This ensures all the day’s makeup and SPF are removed which have both been designed to stay on.

Read the instructions on the back of your cleanser and use accordingly – some need water to activate, others need to be applied to dry skin.


Step 5: Be thorough

Whilst you’re massaging your cleanser into your skin, don’t forget nooks like the sides of your nose as well as along your jawline, in your hairline and down your neck. It’s not just the middle of your face that gets dirty.


Step 6: Pat, don’t rub

Once you’ve rinsed off your cleanser, make sure you gently pat your skin dry with a towel. Rubbing and tugging at the skin can cause irritation and dryness. 


Step 7: Seal in moisture

Finish your skincare routine with your serum and/or moisturiser. “Don’t wait more than 2 minutes to apply after drying your face because evaporation starts immediately and your skin will do best if you can lock that in,” says Dr Baron


How often should you cleanse?

You may have heard different opinions on whether you should cleanse both morning and evening, or just evening. Either way, there is a strong argument for the evening cleanse.

“If you wear sunscreen, cologne/perfume or makeup, your evening facial cleansing routine is not something to skip,” explains Dr Baron.  


Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy


Not cleansing in the evening can also mess with your other skincare products, according to Serrins. “If you’re not cleansing your face before bed, your toners, serums and/or moisturisers will not work [properly] and you are not allowing any true healing to take place while you sleep,” she says. 

So, if you’re going to only cleanse once a day, make it in the evening. 

Personally though, I love the feeling of newly cleansed skin in the morning as it creates a fresh and smooth canvas for my makeup. If you’d prefer to meet in the middle and keep your morning cleanse minimal though, Serrins has a quick fix. 

“You can simply rinse your face well in the shower or mist with a toner,” she says.

Dr Baron agrees; “Because most of the previous day’s exposures were cleansed well the night before, the morning is a time to bring in moisture and stimulate your circulation with a good soak with warm water and nothing else.”


PRO TIP: Using an oil cleanser? Once is plenty. “This should be done only once a day as you don’t want to over do it,” says Dr LoGerfo.


The takeaway

Cleansing really does set your skin up to be the best it can be. If it’s clogged up with dead skin cells, bacteria and oil, let alone makeup and SPF it won’t be given the best possible chance to replenish and heal overnight.

Whilst you might be dubious about certain skincare products, a cleanser really is a non-negotiable – cleansing with just water twice a day just isn’t enough. 

If you’d rather stick to once a day, make sure you use a water cleanser in the evening time, no matter what. You can do the same in the morning as I do, or simply splash your face with warm water in the morning for speed.


Meet the experts

Jenette Serrins is a skincare expert and celebrity aesthetician, and the owner, founder, developer and alchemist of Jenette Skin Care Inc and Being in LA wellness spa, a Los Angeles-based spa that tends to the likes of Emma Watson and Rachel McAdams.


Dr. Jennifer Baron is a double board-certified dermatologist with a premier skincare line. For more than a decade as a private practice dermatologic surgeon in San Jose, California, Dr. Baron continues to pair her medical training and experience with research and innovation of effective skin care treatments for her patients.


Dr Jodi LoGerfo is a skincare expert, Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Family Nurse Practitioner certified in Family Medicine and Dermatology.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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