Dos and Don'ts of Washing Your Face

This seemingly basic first skincare step is not as basic as one would think. To wash your face properly, you need to pay attention to several factors - from the water temperature to the towel you use - otherwise, you might be harming your skin rather than helping it!

October 23, 2021 6 minutes read
Woman washing her face with foam cleanser

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Soap, rinse off, dry... and that's it, right?

Well, not quite! From the type of your cleanser to whether or not to use a washcloth, the list of instructions for this seemingly straightforward task is longer than you thought.

As it turns out, many people mess up their skin over the long rung due to the wrong cleansing technique. Yep, you've heard it well! There is a wrong and right way to wash your face (and neck!).

However, we learn while we live! So, if you're ready for a clean slate, follow these top 10 tips from pros on the do's and don'ts of proper face cleansing.

Do #1: Choose the Right Cleanser for Your Skin Type

woman cleansing her face

First of all, no matter your skin type, you shouldn't use harsh soaps and cleansers. And, the one you're using for your body is probably too aggressive for your face. Therefore, generic soap bars are a big no-no as these are overly drying and can disturb your skin's PH balance.

That being said, pay close attention to the ingredients of your cleanser to make sure you're using the right one for your skin type. If you have dry and sensitive skin, stick to non-foaming cleansers, like cleansing creams or balms with hydrating components, such as glycerin, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and others.

On the other hand, if you have oily or acne-prone skin, you'll probably need a more thorough and deeper cleanse. So, it would be best to choose foaming formulas with salicylic acid, niacinamide, or benzoyl peroxide.

Don't #1: Use Hot Water for Rinsing

woman rinsing her face

Extreme water temperatures can lead to irritation. Scorching hot water will strip your skin of all the natural oils, dry it out, and potentially cause capillaries and blood vessels to break. Water that's too cold, on the other hand, will tighten blood vessels and constrict blood flow to your skin.

So avoid using too hot or cold water for rinsing your cleanser, but rather find some middle ground. Dermatologists suggest rinsing your face with lukewarm or tepid water.

Do #2: Remove Your Makeup First

woman removing makeup using cotton pad

Before starting with the actual cleanse, especially in the evening before bed, thoroughly remove your makeup first. If you don't, your pores will be congested and clogged, and won't be able to get rid of all the toxins and pollutants overnight. If you don't properly remove all the makeup before bed, you're likely going to wake up with flare-ups and blemishes. In the long run, this can even lead to more severe skin issues.

For removing your makeup, you can use a double cleanse or micellar water. The double-cleanse method is a two-step cleansing routine where you first dissolve all your makeup with an oil-based cleanser (you can also use natural oils, such as olive or castor oil). Then, you remove all the makeup and excess dirt and oil with your regular cleanser.

If you prefer using micellar water, just drench a cotton pad with it and gently remove your makeup. Using a cotton pad or swap is particularly handy for gently removing your makeup around the eyes and other not-so-accessible areas of your face. After micellar water, you should also use your regular cleanser to ensure all the excess dirt is gone.

Don't #2: Rub and Scrub Too Harshly

upset woman about to scrub her face with a sponge

It's pivotal to be gentle with your skin and refrain from rubbing it too harshly. Scrubbing too hard with a washcloth can also strip your skin from its protective barrier, leading to more irritation and breakouts in the future.

It's best to use your fingertips – so wash your hands first, of course – and use gentle, circular motions. If you want to exfoliate, use silicone exfoliating brushes or gentler face scrubs with smaller and round particles. You can also use chemical exfoliants – it may not sound like it, but these are much gentler to the skin – such as glycolic acid or lactic acid solutions.

Do #3: Cleanse Twice a Day (or Once)

woman taking care of her skin before going to bed

It's important not to get carried away and over-wash your face. While there are plenty of benefits to cleansing your face, such as removing excess dirt, oil and preventing acne and skin damage, you can still compromise your skin's health by over-washing it.

Over-washing will gradually damage your skin's natural barrier that protects you from the environment. With a weakened barrier, you're increasing the risk of various skin conditions, such as irritation, inflammation, and even eczema.

Therefore, limit your face cleansing to twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening before going to sleep. Some people, especially those with dry skin, can go with only one cleanse a day, but cleansing before bed is a must, no matter your skin type.

Don't #3: Over-Exfoliate

woman refusing to use exfoliant

Just like over-washing can damage your skin's natural protective barrier, so can over-exfoliating. As we already mentioned, you should avoid using harsh scrubs altogether. But, you should also be mindful when using other types of exfoliants, such as AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids).

Too much exfoliation can damage the outer layer of your skin, leading to skin hypersensitivity, breakouts, and irritation. Therefore, if you're using some of these products, limit the frequency of application to once or twice a week. Also, reserve this skincare routine step for the evenings, as exfoliating can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun.

Be mindful of cleansers containing active exfoliating ingredients, such as AHAs (fruit enzymes, glycolic or lactic acid) or BHAs (willow bark extract or salicylic acid), as these can be too harsh on your skin, especially if used daily.

Do #4: Use a Clean and Soft Towel That's Only for Your Face

woman pat drying her face with a towel

It would be best if you had a separate towel for your hands, body, and face. Don't use a hand towel that's been hanging over the rack for days to dry your face. Wet towels are an ideal playground for bacteria that can be easily transferred to your clean face, causing all sorts of problems.

Instead, have a clean and soft towel or cloth prepared when cleansing your face. After you've finished washing, use the soft towel to pat dry your skin gently. Try to resist the urge to aggressively rub your face no matter how soft your towel is.

Don't #4: Stop at Your Chin

woman touching her neck and chest area

Your neck and décolleté need some TLC as well. Throughout the day, it's not only your face that's exposed to sun rays and pollutants, but also your jawline, neck, and chest. So, when cleansing your face in the evening, don't forget to go south of your chin.

Using gentle and upward strokes, cleanse your jawline and neck, and give your decolletage a cleansing massage. This way, you'll remove all the dirt from these areas and prepare them for your next skincare steps. Also, massaging will improve blood circulation and help your skin stay naturally lifted, firm, and young-looking.

Do #5: Seal the Deal With a Toner

woman applying toner with cotton pad

Toner should be the last step of your cleansing routine. Although it technically is not a cleanser, it does help remove any last and stubborn specs of dirt. It also balances out your skin's PH level and preps it for the skincare steps that follow.

Besides removing any last traces of dirt and rebalancing your skin, some toners target specific skin concerns. And so we have toners for:

You can use your fingertips or a cotton pad to apply your toner. And again, try to refrain yourself from tugging and stretching your skin, but rather use gentle, dabbing motions.

Don't #5: Use Wet Wipes

woman taking a wet wipe out of a package

If you're using face wipes for removing makeup or instead of your cleanser – please stop doing that! First of all, wet wipes aren't the most effective method for removing your makeup. Instead, they'll only push the oil, dirt, and makeup residue around your face and into your pores, clogging them and causing breakouts.

Additionally, the chemicals most commonly found in wet wipes aren't the most skin-friendly. They tend to be pretty harsh and drying, stripping your skin of all the natural oils and disrupting your skin's PH. As a result, they often cause inflammation, irritation and can age your skin a lot quicker.


As you can see, the good old 'soap and water' routine isn't quite the best approach. But, although it may seem like the list of rules for face cleansing is endless, it's pretty simple. All you need to remember is to be gentle to your face, use gentle products, avoid hot water, and always remove makeup before bed.

So, if you've been doing these Don'ts but haven't been doing these Do's, it's time to remedy that. You'll look better, fresher, and younger, and you'll feel that way too!

how to wash your face infographic


How should you wash your face every day?

Avoid hot water and harsh soaps and scrubs. Instead, use gentle cleansers, lukewarm water, and always remove your makeup before bed.

How do I clean my skin properly?

Find a face cleanser that's specifically formulated for your skin type. If your skin is dry, use non-foaming cleansing balms or creams. If your skin is predominantly oily and prone to acne, go for foaming cleansers formulated with salicylic acid as these will give you a more thorough cleanse.

Is washing face with water good?

If you have dry skin, washing your face only with water in the morning could be totally enough. However, if you have oily skin, you'll probably need a cleanser in addition. Otherwise, your pores might get clogged, leading to acne.

Is it OK to wash face 3 times a day?

There's no need to wash your face more than twice daily, in the morning and evening. However, you should add one more cleanse in between after exercising, for example.

Is hot water good for pimples?

No, hot water can damage your skin, no matter your skin type. It will dry out your skin and irritate it, and potentially, lead to more breakouts in the long run.

Is Dove soap good for face?

Dove soap is a bit gentler than other soap bars. However, if you have dry skin already, it might be too stripping, removing all the oil from your skin, and drying it out even more.

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