One of the simplest rituals in our daily lives is also one that many of us get wrong. Yes, there’s a wrong way to wash your face. Here, then, the Six Dirty Sins.
Sin #1: Applying creamy or milky cleanser to wet skin.
Oil bonds with oil, and water with water. Massage the cleanser over the skin, allowing it to break down surface oils. Then add water. It will rinse much cleaner and leave very little residue.
Sin #2: Not leaving cleanser on your skin long enough.
In order for any cleanser to break down oils and makeup, massage it into your face for at least thirty seconds. If you’re using a good milky cleanser, (like our amazing new Moisture Cleanse with coconut milk) take a pump of the cleanser, massage it in, then add another pump and continue to massage. The second helping of cleanser helps to emulsify the first. Then add water.
If you left cleanser on your face all day, as you do moisturizer, you would probably end up with irritated skin. Cleanser is different from moisturizer; it has a pH that is higher than the skin’s. That’s just fine. Cleanser is designed to trigger a very mild reaction from your skin. This is also called a purge response and it helps to flush your pores of debris and activates blood circulation. This is the same thing that happens when you use a mask. When you whisk cleanser on and off your skin doesn’t get a chance to react to its chemistry.
Sin #3: Using water that’s too hot.
Hot water causes blood vessels to expand. Lots of hot water, day after day, causes blood vessels to expand a lot. As long as those vessels are elastic, they will contract again. But eventually, like old socks, they just stay expanded. Wondering why you have lots of little dilated capillaries? Heat and friction are the main culprits. Warm water gets the job done perfectly well. And a cool rinse is like dessert for those delicate little capillaries.
Sin #4: Using overly rough washcloth or exfoliation implements.
I think it’s the frustrated Puritan in us that makes us want to scrub our poor faces to bits. There are two exfoliation tools that I let touch my skin: my fingertips (which are remarkably effective exfoliators if you’re a little patient, and using a low-grit exfoliant like AcquaCures Fango) and my Clarisonic brush. A little gentle friction is fine. What makes the Clarisonic so wonderful is that it is giving you vibration, not just friction. This doesn’t overstimulate the skin–in fact, it stimulates it in a way that the skin really loves. Clarisonic users are fanatics for good reason.
Sin #5: Not cleansing twice a day.
Clients still ask me, “Do I have to wash my face at night?” Let’s see. You’ve got sunscreen, makeup, sweat, dirt and pollution stuck to you. Of course you have to wash your face at night, silly.
Does this mean you can take the morning off? I’m afraid not. When you’re sleeping, your skin is performing a self-cleansing ritual, pushing waste and debris out through the sweat glands and pores. I call it “taking out the trash.” There is a residue of waste left on your skin in the morning. So yes, you gotta wash twice a day. Make peace with this.
Sin #6: Not using toner after cleansing.
For the generation that grew up on alcohol-based, acetone-laced Clinique Clarifying Lotion, a mild toner is the skin care equivalent of kissing your sister. Why bother if it doesn’t burn or sting?
And while we’re at it, why use something that burns and stings?
You shouldn’t. Toner is not supposed to hurt. A properly formulated (that is, alcohol-free, hydrating) toner is the most under appreciated skin care product in the world. (Do you ever see full page ads in Allure for toners?)
Most people think we use toner simply to wipe up whatever was left behind by our cleanser, and that’s certainly a fine reason to use toner, if you happen to be practicing sins #1-2.
If that’s not it, why use toner? For the same reason you use a squeegee in your shower. The nasty stuff that dries on the glass is drying on your face, too. Mineral salts, chlorine, you name it–all forming a nice, drying crust on your skin, even as you trowel on the Extra-Super-Hydrating Moisturizer and wonder why you’re so darned flaky.
So that’s reason #1 for using a toner. The second, equally important reason is that pure, clean water is about 100 times more alkaline than the pH of your skin. So this means that water itself is drying. (I’ll wait for a moment while that sinks in.) The acid pH of your skin also protects it from bacteria and yeast. When you leave it alkaline, you leave it vulnerable to critters without conscience, who think nothing of leaving you with a big zit on your nose just in time for that job interview or romantic dinner.
To summarize my praise of the humble toner, it is the second step in cleansing and the first step in moisturizing your skin. It should be packed with moisture-attracting humectants, to hydrate your skin. If your skin is well hydrated, it doesn’t need as much moisturizer. And that’s generally a good thing–for your budget and your skin tone. Over-moisturized skin loses its tone.