How to Properly Wash Your Face

Image of a woman washing her face.

Most people establish their face washing habits when they’re teens, and then never give it another thought. But maybe it’s time to reexamine this basic beauty ritual. The way you wash your face can make a difference in your skin’s health and appearance. Here are face washing best practices, as taught by the American Academy of Dermatology.

When to wash your face

Washing is good. Over-washing can irritate your skin and alter its natural oil production. Limit yourself to once in the morning, once before you go to bed, and additional washings after sweating heavily. Stick a small bottle of your favorite cleanser in your gym bag, as it’s best to wash your face as soon as possible after sweating.

Soaps and cleansers

Gentle is key. Look for a non-abrasive cleanser. Check the ingredient list to make sure it doesn’t contain alcohol. Many people are also sensitive to sodium lauryl sulfate, a common ingredient in many cosmetics.

Use your fingertips

Scrubbing your skin with wash cloths and facial brushes make you feel like you’re doing more. But, according to some dermatologists, these tools can do too much. Use your fingertips to apply and gently rub in your chosen cleanser. Be gentle but thorough, especially if you wear a lot of makeup or sunscreen.

Go lukewarm

Some people come up with theories about why they should use hot water for washing and cold for rinsing. But moderation is the ticket. Lukewarm water helps lift dirt from skin. If you turn the temperature up high, the effect is too drying.

Pat dry

Use a soft, clean towel to pat your skin dry. No rubbing, which can stretch out your skin and cause wrinkles.


Your skin absorbs moisturizer best when it’s still slightly damp. So moisturize immediately after washing your face. The same applies if you use special skin products like serums. Let them soak right into your clean skin. Be extra careful when applying products around your eyes. This skin is very sensitive, so you don’t want to pull on it.