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Washing your face may seem like a simple task, but according to skincare experts, a few can’t-miss steps in the process can make all the difference for the health of your skin.

“When cleansing your face, it’s important to eliminate bacteria and dirt while not over-stripping your skin of its much-needed natural oils,” says Jasmine Martinez, a licensed esthetician at LifeSpa in Peoria, Ariz. “This helps to maintain the skin’s moisture barrier, as well as clear up acne breakouts and prevent future blemishes.”

We asked Martinez to share her guidance for optimal cleansing.

How to Wash Your Face

Martinez recommends washing your face twice a day: In the morning when you wake up and at night as part of your bedtime routine. However, your morning and night routines will look a little different.

How to Morning Cleanse

  1. Choose a gentle cleanser that meets the needs of your skin type. A cream cleanser is a great product for the morning as they are often more hydrating and work well for anyone with normal to dry skin, according to Martinez. A gel cleanser is a good option for someone with oiler skin.
  2. With clean hands, apply a dime-size amount of cleanser directly from your fingertips to your cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead.
  3. With the tips of your finger pads, massage your face gently using circular motions to create a lather. Massage the cleanser into your skin for about one to two minutes.
  4. Rinse the skin by splashing warm water on your face. Make sure you rinse enough to remove all the cleanser.
  5. Gently pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Do not use the same towel you use to dry your hands or body and ideally, use a fresh, clean towel every day.

How to Nighttime Cleanse

At night, Martinez recommends employing the double-cleanse routine. The purpose of a double cleanse is to thoroughly clean your face of makeup, your daytime skincare products, and the day’s grime, as well as to prep for the absorption of your nighttime skincare products.

1. For the first cleanse: It’s best to use an oil-based cleanser as the oil can quickly break down makeup, SPF, and any accrued pollutants from the day. Apply this cleanser with clean fingertips directly onto the face and rub gently for one to two minutes. Rinse off with lukewarm water.

2. For the second cleanse: Choose a cleanser based on your skin type to remove excess oil from the first cleanse and any residual makeup, skincare products, dirt, or bacteria. If your skin tolerates it, Martinez recommends a gel-based cleanser for this step, as a cream-based cleanser after the first oil cleanse can cause build up. For the second cleanse, follow the application and rinse steps of the morning cleanse.

Note: If you’re an athlete or someone who needs a midday cleanse, Martinez suggests opting for a gentle cream cleanser so it won’t dry out your skin.

Cleansing Considerations

Add in a Washcloth

In the evening, incorporating a washcloth on your second cleanse can enhance the process by providing physical exfoliation to help remove dead skin cells, residual makeup, and impurities more effectively than just using your hands, according to Martinez.

“The cloth can also help improve circulation and leave your skin feeling smoother,” she adds. “However, it’s important to use a gentle touch to avoid irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin. And always use a clean washcloth.”

Water Temperature Matters

Warm water is best when washing your face at home, Martinez advises. “You want enough warmth to help remove bacteria, but if the water is too hot, it can dry out your skin.”

A cold splash of water can also be beneficial. “Rinsing your face with cold water can help tighten pores, reduce inflammation, and enhance blood circulation,” Martinez notes. “The refreshing effect is especially beneficial for sensitive skin.”

Consider a Sonic Scrubber

One of Martinez’s favorite additions to her cleansing routine is a sonic skin scrubber.

“A sonic skin scrubber provides deep cleansing, gentle exfoliation, and can improve product absorption when used two to three times per week,” she says. “It can also help reduce the appearance of pores and promote better circulation for a healthier complexion while being gentle on the skin.”

Choosing the Right Cleanser for Your Skin Type

As is the case with most skincare, there may be some trial and error needed to determine which cleanser works best for your skin.

Below are Martinez’s recommended cleansers based on skin type for both morning and night. And for more guidance on the right products for you, ask your esthetician or dermatologist for recommendations.

For Dry or Aging Skin

In the morning, opt for a cream cleanser with a single cleanse to avoid stripping the skin of natural oils. These oils are good to keep the skin hydrated and healthy — this is especially important for aging skin. In the evening, double cleanse using an oil cleanser with a gel cleanser to remove excess oil, makeup, and daily impurities without compromising the skin’s moisture.

For Acne-Prone or Oily Skin

Use a gentle gel cleanser in the morning and opt for an exfoliating cleanser at night, preferably one with enzymes or Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). These ingredients are designed to address acne-prone and oily skin concerns and promote skin renewal.

For All Other Skin Types

Martinez recommends Eminence’s Stone Crop cleanser for both morning and night use. This versatile option offers purifying, nourishing, and healing properties suitable for various skin types.

What About Face Wipes?

Martinez shares that she would not use wipes as a replacement for cleansing the skin, but they can be helpful for removing heavy makeup before the evening double cleanse. She does caution that some cleansing wipes have harsh fragrances, chemicals, and preservatives, so you want to be sure to look for the better options on the market.

“The beauty wipes I use (they’re the Honest brand) I love because they are hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, paraben-free, silicone-free, phenoxyethanol-free, and fragrance-free, as well as dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested,” Martinez says.

Martinez also notes that wipes can leave residue behind on your skin and are not the most eco-friendly option. “I personally try to eliminate waste as much as possible, and single-use wipes are something you use once and throw away.”

Jolene Turner
Jolene Turner

Jolene Turner is a beauty writer and social media strategist focusing on the salon, spa, and professional hair care industries. She currently works with the Life Time LifeSpa team on social media marketing and content development. Turner’s background includes working as the senior editor for American Salon, as a head writer for beauty blogs, and as a communications and consumer engagement professional for a global beauty brand. She’s worked with leading beauty brands including Aveda, Hotheads Hair Extensions, HiBar, Wella, and more.

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