Washing Your Face Shouldn't Be Complicated

How to Wash Your Face

Remember the good ol' days when you could just wash your face with whatever soap your mom bought? Then puberty hit, and it’s like, if I don’t wash my face the exact right way every night, well, cue the breakouts. 

And your skin’s barrier has a very delicate balance — you don’t want to under or over wash, and it can be tricky to get it exactly right.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to washing your face and what products to use. Believe it or not, it’s one of the hottest topics in beauty right now, and it’s highly debated.

If you’re looking for all the face washing answers and the dos and don’ts, you’ve come to the right place. We spoke with Dr. Jennifer MacGregor from Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC to get her hot takes the actual right way to wash your face. To no shock, while of course there are definitely dos and don’ts, Dr. MacGregor tells InStyle as long as a method is working for you and isn’t stripping your skin’s barrier, then that’s what really counts. 

But maybe your method isn’t working. So if you’re experiencing dry, irritated, or congested skin, read on to learn some face washing tricks, as we bust some common skincare myths. 

RELATED: The Best Hydrating Face Washes for Dry Winter Skin

Is There a Proper Motion For Washing My Face?

A major misconception people have is that you must scrub your face to rid your pores of dirt and oil. But this simply isn’t true — and it does much more harm than good.

“Gentle circles with finger pads and pat dry with a towel,” says Dr. MacGregor. “Gentle swipes upwards and along cheekbones from the mouth corner to temple is nice as well.”

Notice how the keyword here is gentle? Dr. MacGregor stresses that harsh tools — like scrubs, pastes, loofahs, and mitts — should not be used. They’ll just scratch and scrape the surface of your skin, which can cause damage.

Should I Double Cleanse When Washing My Face?

To double cleanse or not to double cleanse, that is the question. No seriously, this latest skincare fad has taken over the beauty world. But, Dr. MacGregor says it may not be entirely necessary.

“There isn’t evidence that it’s essential to ‘double cleanse’ in a certain way every night,” she says. “I personally do a double cleanse when I have a full face of makeup or just use a micellar water followed by another gentle cleanse to get it all off. I stick to oil & milky cleansers because I’m dry.” 

In terms of what products to use for double cleansing, that depends on what your skin personally needs. 

“It does make sense that oil cleansing is the first step — as long as that oil is compatible with your skin type — or a milky cleanser works well to loosen and remove oil, dirt makeup, and sunscreen.” 

But you don’t need to break the bank to double cleanse. MacGregor says you can still be effective by just using your milky cleanser twice. She just warns to stay away from over-cleansing, especially with foams, gels, and exfoliants that can cause drying and more breakouts.

“I usually see people over cleansing and disrupting their skin barrier,” MacGregor tells us. “Especially people who suffer with acne and think it’s dirt or oil. But excessive cleaning—or worse: scraping your skin with abrasives—disrupts the lipid balance in your natural skin barrier and can lead to irritation and even more breakouts.”

What Products Should I Use to Wash My Face?

The type of products you should use is entirely dependent on your skin type, of course. And Dr. MacGregor says that you don’t have to spend a fortune on your cleanser for it to actually work. For acne-prone skin, she recommends the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Cleanser or the Neutrogena Skin Balancing Clay Facial Cleanser, which will both effectively clean your skin without disrupting it’s delicate moisture levels. For dry, irritated skin, something like the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Gentle Hydrating Cleanser will soothe red and angry skin.

If you’re in need of some exfoliation, do not reach for the tools. Instead, Dr. MacGregor says to use a retinoid or a gentle chemical exfoliant. She recommends a glycolic PHAs lactic or salicylic acid one to two times a week. Try these Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads that contain both lactic and salicylic acid.

Should I Use Tools to Wash My Face?

It seems like every week there is some new skincare tool or gadget promising to rid your pores of dirt and oil to reveal perfect skin. While we want to believe that these tools will solve all our problems and clear our skin, you should think twice before spending your money — you probably don’t need them!

“Tools aren’t needed in my opinion,” says Dr. MacGregor. “I want my patients on the active and effective skin care that works for their skin type. The tools aren’t needed.”

But if you do feel like your skin needs the extra help, Dr. MacGregor suggests visiting a professional with effective and safe tools. If you truly cannot resist a good gadget, she says some of LED and gentle massaging tools are OK to stimulate your blood flow.

Should I Wash My Face In the Morning and At Night?

Dr. MacGregor is busting another commonly-believed myth. That’s right, face wash frequency. The more you wash, the cleaner your skin, right? That’s actually very wrong. Over-washing can strip your skin of vital oils, and can dry out and break out the skin more. Dr. MacGregor recommends once, maybe twice a day.

“Wash at night before bedtime skincare. In the morning, the bare minimum is to just put on your antioxidant and sunscreen and go,” she says. But if you have leftover product or makeup on or become sweaty or oily throughout the night, she says you can gently cleanse with a cleansing oil or milky hydrating cleanser before patting dry and following with the antioxidant and sunscreen.

Try this First Aid Beauty weightless liquid mineral sunscreen for light, all-day coverage.

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