Home Tips & Trends Beauty Tips Are You Washing Your Face All Wrong?

Are You Washing Your Face All Wrong?

Expert face washing tips, right this way.

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When it comes to setting up a thorough skincare routine; you can go a number of routes; from the minimalist friendly approach of face wash and lotion to the more maximalist approach like the 10-step K-beauty routine.

The number of steps and the type of products you use in your routine depend on a number of factors including but not limited to; skin type, age, location (dry versus humid, cold versus hot climates), and so on.  However, there are two ingredients that are essentially regardless of climate, age, or other individuals factors; sunscreen and face wash. 

While washing your face is the primary step in your skincare routine, it is shocking how few of us know the proper way to wash your face. Much like a baking recipe, if you start off with the wrong first step, you’re not going to get optimal results. 

Here are the tips to make sure you are starting off your skincare routine on the right foot. 

Are You Using the Right Cleanser?

Before we dive into the factors that could affect how to properly wash your face, let’s start off with the primary product of a skincare routine, the cleanser.

“The skin barrier is primarily composed of lipids, including ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. These molecules play a crucial role in maintaining skin hydration, protecting against environmental stressors, and preventing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Disruption of these lipids can compromise the skin barrier’s function, leading to dryness, irritation, and increased susceptibility to external factors,” says Dr. Ekta Yadav, a highly-studied medical doctor and creator of the popular podcast Skincare Anarchy.

Here are six factors Dr. Yadav suggested to take into consideration to find a cleanser that won’t disrupt your skin’s barrier:

1. Gentle surfactants

Choose cleansers that contain mild and gentle surfactants. Examples include coco-glucoside, decyl glucoside, or lauryl glucoside. These surfactants have a lower potential for disrupting the skin barrier compared to harsher ones like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS),” Dr. Yadav noted. 

2. Non-comedogenic

The point of a cleanser is to wash away dirt, oil, or other pore-blocking elements off the skin. So searching for a non-comedogenic cleanser, meaning products that are formulated not to clog pores, is essential.

3. pH-balanced

Another factor Dr. Yadav suggested to take into consideration is to search for cleansers with a pH level close to the skin’s natural pH of 4.5-5.5, as it will help maintain the skin’s acid mantle (a fine, slightly acidic innvisible film on the surface of the skin that acts as a protective barrier to bacteria and other potential contaminants). 

4.Moisturizing ingredients

Even if you are on the oiler side, it’s important to look for cleansers that contain more moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or ceramids, as these components help replenish your skin’s moisture levels and supports the barrier function during the cleansing process. 

5. Fragrance-free and dye-free

While they may smell great, fragrances in skincare products is a controversial topic, but especially for cleansers. As Dr. Yadav pointed out, “Fragrances and dyes can potentially irritate the skin, particularly for individuals with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema. Choosing fragrance-free and dye-free cleansers reduces the risk of irritation and disruption to the skin barrier.

6. Avoidance of harsh exfoliants

While exfoliation can be great every now and then, cleansers are meant as a regular product in one’s routine and it is best not to overly exfoliate to avoid damage to the skin area. When you prefer to exfoliate, use a separate exfoliating product designed specifically for that purpose. 

Do’s and Don’t of Facial Cleansing 

Do: Wash your hands! Before you go in with the cleanser and touch your face, make sure that your hands are free of dirt, bacteria, or other potential pathogens that could be transferred to your face. 

Don’t: Use overly hot or cold water for washing your face. Cold water can constrict blood vessels and hinder effective cleansing, while hot water can cause excessive drying by stripping away natural oils. It’s best to wash your face with lukewarm water.

Do: Make sure you wash your face for an appropriate length of time. Gently massage the face for around 30 seconds to allow the cleanser to interact with your skin’s surface and wash any any impurities. Any longer or a more aggressive type of cleansing may damage the skin barrier.

Don’t: Aggressively dry your face with a towel. Instead opt for a soft, clean towel and pat your face gently to remove excess moisture. 

Do: Apply a moisturizer right away to replenish your skin’s moisture and help restore the skin barrier.  You can check out TikToker and skincare aficionado Young Yuh’s, otherwise known as @yayayayoung, video for how to go about cleansing your face. 

Bottom Line

The overall takeaway is to make sure that you are choosing a cleanser specific to your skin barrier’s needs, that you are being gentle with how you apply your cleanser to your face,  and that you follow up right away with the next steps in your routine. 

Happy cleansing!


Dr. Ekta Yadav, MD MBA MS, is a highly-studied medical doctor and researcher with qualifications from several institutions including Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Dr. Yadav took her medical training and her love for all things beauty to create one of the most well-known beauty podcasts Skincare Anarchy.

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Nicole Kirichanskaya
Nicole Kirichanskaya is a born-and-raised Brooklynite with a passion for fashion, feminism, and the fanciful. Her love of beauty stems from when she was taught the importance of a good manicure at an early age from her Ukrainian babushka. She has written for a number of publications including Global Glam Magazine, CEW, Footwear News, and more.