Facial cleansing has a reputation for being the simplest, most basic building block of any skin care routine. It’s the essential first step before applying ANY of your other products, and we all should be doing it every AM and PM. But the truth is, many of us are cutting corners when it comes to cleansing — meaning improper removal of the day’s buildup of toxins and makeup. Improper cleansing techniques can set your dermis up for blemishes, flaking, oil overproduction, dullness, and a long list of other skin care woes.
So how do you avoid these face-washing-woes? You’ll need to establish a super smart and dependable cleansing routine, use the right tools and ingredients, and avoid harsh chemicals. Sounds like common sense, right? We’ll break it down anyway, to make sure you get a proper cleanse every time.Know Which Cleanser Ingredients to Avoid
First thing to get straight: what cleansing ingredients should you be AVOIDING? Two major redflags are surfactants and synthetic fragrances.
Regardless of your skin type, you should know to steer clear of surfactants: a category of chemical used to make oil and H2O play nicely together, and responsible for the foaming lather in most over the counter formulas. While surfactants can certainly cut through oil, they also effectively over-deplete your skin’s natural lipid barrier, leaving you with tightness and clinical dryness (not to mention enhanced absorption of other chemicals lurking in surfactant-based formulas).
Synthetic fragrances are often also hidden in cleansers, used to give them the the scent or appearance of being plant-based (think labels that say ‘lavender scented’ but without having any real lavender in the formula). Synthetic fragrance is a known allergen and generally is made up of an undisclosed mixture of petrochemicals and phthalates, both of which have been listed as potential carcinogens.Do You Know How to Properly Wash Your Face?
One common mistake that amounts to a superficial cleanse (and breakouts to prove it) is using cleansing wipes or makeup remover pads — instead of slowing down, hitting the sink, and actually washing your face. Many wipes are soaked in chemical cleansing agents and preservatives that give them a longer shelf life, so if you’re using makeup removing pads, it’s best to follow up with a natural cleanser (plus water) to remove any of the lingering chemicals. The residue left on your skin after using a cleansing wipe can also cause dryness and irritation, compounded by the fact that disposable wipes won’t properly remove all of your makeup.
Generally, in order to properly dissolve eye makeup and any lipid-based foundation, you need to use an oil-based cleansing agent. Even if you’re not doing a full face oil cleanse, you should be using natural plant oils to remove makeup. Pure organic coconut oil will leave you bare-faced, while delivering a dose of essential fatty acids to your gentle eye area.
Another factor that plays into a proper cleanse is the question of what your skin requires in any given season. Although consistency is good when it comes to your nightly cleanse, it's ok to switch up your formula, depending on how your skin is reacting to the weather. For winter skin, which can suffer from increased dryness due to cold temperatures and low humidity, try out an oil cleanser (coconut oil, sunflower oil and jojoba oil are all good options). This will effectively clean your pores and dissolve any hardened sebum, while maintaining natural moisture in your lipid layer. In the hotter months, try out a cleansing formula with naturally astringent ingredients like witch hazel or tea tree oil, or else soothing and cooling ingredients like aloe, cucumber water, or floral hydrosols.Be Gentle When Cleansing
Whichever formula you’re using, remember that it always pays off to be gentle when doing the deed — whether you’re using your hands, a brush, or a sponge. Use a massaging motion with fingers to increase circulation and even lymphatic drainage, leaving you with a glowy complexion, healthy color, and increased blood flow to your dermal blood vessels.
Avoid using harsh scrubbing motions, and remember that poking and squeezing at pores will leave you with inflammation and entrenched pore blockages. No matter how tempting it is, don’t squeeze your pores. Leave this to your facialist, or better yet, leave things be. Some of us have naturally larger pores, and this can be dealt with through a combination of plant-based toning ingredients, and antibacterial oils (like lemon, orange, or thyme oil).
That said, while poking and prodding will leave you with blemishes and scarring, exfoliating can be keyto your nightly cleansing routine, depending on your skin texture. For those of us with slightly thicker skin — rough, uneven, or frequently flaking — a gentle nightly exfoliation can be extremely beneficial. Just make sure to choose the right tools. A soft facial brush or a gentle konjac sponge are best for nightly sloughing, intermittently mixed up with a slightly more intense scrub (try using salt, sugar, or oatmeal for a DIY manual exfoliant). And for those of us with sensitive skin that’s slightly thinner or more prone to irritation and breakage: stick with clean fingertips, and once a week exfoliation to keep pores clean.
Here’s our final pro tip: don’t just cleanse your face! Your shoulders, neck, back and chest all accumulate excess sebum, dead skin cell buildup, and environmental toxins. Without proper AM and PM cleansing, you can be left with dry skin, blemishes, and rough textures all over your body. Generally skin on your body is slightly less fragile, so don’t hesitate to use a more intense exfoliant (think body brushes and sea salt scrubs).
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