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Back To Basics: How To Cleanse Your Face

Updated: Feb 15, 2019

July 2018



This is the first post in what will be an occasional series for this blog – back to basics. It’s important to review and discuss daily skincare steps that we take for granted or mindlessly complete. We’re going to start by talking about how to properly cleanse your face. This particular post was inspired by Heal Your Skin: The Breakthrough Plan for Renewal by Dr. Ava Shamban, which I recommend for the skintellectually curious. Dr. Zein Obaji of ZO Skin Health calls this process Getting Skin Ready: Bringing your skin back to its most healthy, balanced state for a radiant glow and clear complexion, regardless of skin type.

Step 1: CLEANSE

Properly cleansing your face is an essential step for everyone, not just for those people who take their skincare routines seriously. Clean skin is something everyone needs and benefits from. Think about the first steps of any facial – it’s always a thorough cleanse.

I’ll start with some basic advice:


How to Wash Your Face

This section may seem obvious, but a good technique for skin cleansing is just as important as your choice of cleanser. To wash your face:

  1. Pull your hair back so that it’s easier to clean your whole face and neck. This way you won’t transfer hair products to your clean skin.

  2. Wet your face by splashing it gently with room temperature water-this is a must! Here's the cold, hard truth: Rinsing your face with icy water won't tighten your pores. And using hot water, though it may feel good, can dehydrate skin. Lukewarm is best, and if you have redness, try cool — not cold — water, to help constrict blood vessels.

  3. If you’re in a pinch, you can get away with a pre-moistened pad or a disposable wipe formulated for gentle makeup removal and tailored to your skin type now and again, but this should really not be a regular occurrence. You don’t want to leave behind any waterproof mascara or eyeliner liner that might irritate your eyes.I always find that I have spend a little of extra time removing my eye make-up; And remember, when you are in the shower, wash your face last – after you have rinsed off any shampoo or conditioner.

  4. Put a dollop of cleanser about the size of a medium to large pearl into the palm of your hand. Rub your palms together to spread the cleanser evenly. Gently massage the cleanser into your face, avoiding the eye area. Be sure to apply the cleanser about a quarter inch into your hairline to remove built-up hair products and to address any acne that may be present in these areas. Don’t forget to cleanse under your chin and the back of your neck.

  5. Rinse thoroughly by splashing your face or by gently using a wet washcloth. If you use a washcloth, make sure that it is clean, too. Either launder the washcloth every single day or use a new one each time you wash your face. Washcloths can re-deposit dirt and grime right back to your skin.

  6. Pat – don’t rub – your skin dry with a clean cotton towel. If your skin is particularly dry or sensitive, leave your skin damp. Applying product to skin that’s slightly damp improves absorption of active ingredients and helps retain moisture. Again, use a designated clean towel each time you dry your face.

  7. In the evening, remove your makeup before cleansing. I suggest using either a gentle cleanser such as ZO Skin Health Gentle Foaming Cleanser for all skin types or Oxygen Infusion Wash by Skinbetter Science. If you’re in a pinch, you can get away with a pr-moistened pad or a disposable wipe formulated for gentle makeup removal and tailored to your skin type now and again, but this should really not be a regular occurrence. You don’t want to leave behind any waterproof mascara or eyeliner liner that might irritate your eyes.I always find that I have spend a little of extra time removing my eye make-up; And remember, when you are in the shower, wash your face last – after you have rinsed off any shampoo or conditioner.

It’s important to consider a double cleanse for your face in the evening; this step is especially important if you use extended-wear makeup and sunscreen (and I hope ALL of my readers are using medical-grade sunscreen such as EltaMD everyday). The problem is that many heavier oil-based products, mineral based and more water-resistant makeup and sunscreens are not adequately removed with water-based cleansers. Combine this with how quickly most of us cleanse our skin and too many of you lovelies are unknowingly walking around with a dirty face. For this reason, I recommend a second evening cleansing to thoroughly remove residual products, environmental pollutants, and build-up from the skin. As a matter of fact, even if the skin is cleansed twice with a water-soluble cleanser, there still may be some oil-soluble substances that remain, but that’s okay. Be sure to massage your cleanser into your face for at least 30 seconds, even up a minute if you have the time and patience.


When a cleanser is applied to the skin, surface active agents provide the primary cleansing action. During the initial cleansing process, the surfactants are emulsifying the fat or lipid grime, such as sebum, makeup, environmental hydrocarbons and sunscreens, allowing them to be solubilized in the rinse water. Considering the amount of material that potentially collects on the skin, it’s not surprising that this initial cleansing will only remove superficial debris and is not adequate for a thorough cleansing.

Just a splash of warm water and a single pass with a sudsy cleanser—even a good one—is not enough. In fact, a light oil-based solvent could be used on the skin first as an initial step. This should not be mineral oil, although in generations past mineral oil and oily cold creams did perform the task of dissolving makeup. Today, there are some amazing alternatives like CAILYN Cosmetics DIZZOLV’IT that do not require an alcohol-based toner to remove them. The methodology here: Like attracts like. Oils applied to the skin attract the oils produced by the skin for an ideal, nonaggressive cleansing. Water added to the mix allows the combined, released oils to be rinsed away.


Lastly, don’t skimp on the time you take to wash your face! Put on some music, listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook...make this time a sacred part of your end-of-day ritual and self-care plan. Trust me, falling in love with your nightly skincare routine is a gift to yourself that will keep giving back.

Bottom Line: Proper cleansing is the backbone of any good skincare regimen and doesn’t take an advanced skill set to execute like a professional. Take your time. Make it a priority-not an afterthought. Be kind to your skin and your skin will be kind to you for many, many years.




XOXO

Michelle McDonald, LMA