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Skincare Basics: How to Wash Your Face

Having enviable skin can be as easy as washing your face the right way. Here’s how.

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The next time the siren song of a warm, fluffy duvet tempts you to go to bed without washing your face, take a moment to picture all of the dirt, grime, pollution and day-old makeup still caked on your skin.

If that doesn’t get thee to a sink pronto, consider this: “If you don’t do a good job cleansing, all of these things can clog your pores and cause breakouts,” says Dr. Amy Wechsler, YouBeauty Dermatology Advisor.

Avoiding unnecessary pimples is worth putting off sleep for an extra minute or so, no? Here’s how to wash up right.

Choose your weapon. Cleansers aren’t one-size-fits-all—you need one that works with your skin type. If you have normal skin, Wechsler recommends sticking with something simple and gentle like Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser. 

If your skin is dry, step it up to something milkier such as Clinique ‘Take The Day Off’ Cleansing Milk. But if just thinking about something creamy make your oily skin break out, choose formulas containing salicylic acid to help fight zits (Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser is a good one).

And if you’ve got sensitive skin, look for cleansers that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free such as Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser for Intolerant Skin.

Lose the makeup. While most good cleansers these days will get rid of things like foundation and sunscreen residue, Wechsler says, certain products (think eye makeup and long-wearing lipsticks) have more staying power. To take off the stubborn stuff thoroughly, use a separate remover before cleansing. Wechsler likes Almay Eye Makeup Remover Pads.

Wash right. After moistening your face with lukewarm water (anything too hot can dissolve the body’s oils and make skin dry, Wechsler says), work your cleanser all over your face, going up and into the hairline and down past your jaw. Use your fingers instead of a washcloth (cloths get grubby after just a few uses and can transfer pore-clogging bacteria to your face).

Take your time—a good cleansing should take at least 30 seconds to one minute, Wechsler says. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel and you’re done.

Don’t overdo it. How’s this for a time-saver: No matter your skin type, you only need to cleanse your face once a day (do it in the evening, when skin is more likely to be dirty). This is not the time to be an overachiever: “If you over-clean, you can dry out your face and could cause your skin to react by producing more oil to compensate,” says Wechsler. The exception: If you’re a major night-sweater, feel free to wash up in the a.m., too.

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