As the first step in any basic skincare routine, I never questioned what I was doing when it came to washing my face. Now that I've got my cleanser choices down to a fine art—lightweight micellar water for morning and a more heavy-duty acid-infused foaming cleanser for the evening, FYI—I thought it was pretty much plain sailing from here on it. Oh, how wrong I was.
Turns out that there are some major no-no's when it comes to washing your face properly—and lots of us are doing them on the daily.
From double cleansing to relying on facial brushes to do the legwork for us, there are plenty of things I previously considered to be good skincare practice but certain skin experts actually don't appear to be a fan of. So far, so confusing.
"What may seem like a really unimportant and basic step in your skincare routine can have huge implications for your skin if it is done incorrectly," explained Anita J. Sturnham, general practitioner and founder of Nuriss. "At the other end of the spectrum, I see those who are skipping the recommended morning-and-night cleanse steps and only cleanse their skin once a day. Both steps are vital if you want healthy skin."
If you're as concerned as I am about whether you're cleansing correctly, then keep scrolling. I'll be filling you in on what the most common cleansing mistakes are—according to the experts—and how to actually wash your face properly.
Mistake #1: Over-Cleansing
"If you are using a good-quality cleanser, you should not need to double cleanse," said Anita. Instead, she suggests reevaluating the contents of your everyday makeup bag: "If you are overloading your skin with layers of primer, foundation and pressed powders, and your cleanser is not removing this adequately, then I recommend cutting back on the pore-clogging makeup rather than adding extra stripping and sensitising cleanse steps."
Look for makeup products that state they are non-comedogenic (like this foundation from BareMinerals), which means they won't clog your pores and overload your skin.
A gentle balm to oil cleanser that works on all skin types (even sensitive) and removes all traces of makeup and grime in one step. No need for any elbow grease on your part with this balm.
Mistake #2: Scrubbing Too Hard
"The biggest issues I see are people over-cleansing their skin by performing steps such as… scrubbing away brillo-pad style [and] overdoing it with facial brushes," explained Anita.
Instead of relying on electric tools or really rough face cloths, use a gentle muslin to assist with your cleansing and spend time choosing the right cleanser for your morning and evening routine to make sure you're getting the results that you want.
"Your morning cleanse should be light, hydrating and balancing… it helps to reset the skin and get it ready for the day," said Anita. "Your nighttime cleanse can be more intensive. This step will help to remove pore-clogging makeup, bacteria and environmental debris that may have accumulated throughout the day."
Muslin cloths make a great addition to your cleansing routine as they're gentle on the skin while still providing some light exfoliation.
These double-sided mitts feature a finely weaved side for gentle makeup removal and a more textured side for mild exfoliation.
Mistake #3: Using Harsh Exfoliative Cleansers
"Your skin has a very important layer called the epidermis. This top layer of your skin acts as a brick wall to block bad stuff like UV rays, pollution and bacteria from getting in and preventing the good skin and water from escaping," said Anita. "Over-cleansing [and exfoliating] can obliterate this protective layer, leading to redness, dryness and sensitivity. A break down in epidermal barriers makes the skin more susceptible to environmental damage throughout the day."
Try using a liquid exfoliant to slough away skin dead skin cells and keep your complexion bright with less risk of damaging your epidermis.
If you really can't skip the manual exfoliation, then try and limit it to once or twice a week and choose a gentle formula like this one from Liz Earle, which uses fine jojoba beads suspended in a cocoa butter base.
Mistake #4: Getting the Water Temperature Wrong
"Skin likes consistency, and sudden changes in temperature can be disruptive to cellular health," said Anita. "There's no need to use piping hot water and then splash with cold water to close the pores—this is a skin myth. I recommend using lukewarm water for your cleanse both morning and night."
Use this calming mask post-cleanse if you're prone to experiencing any tightness or redness afterwards.
Forget using cold water to close your pores—this charcoal-infused mask will deeply cleanse them to actually minimise their appearance.