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How to wash your face: Pro tips + video!

Spoiler alert—washing your face involves more than just slathering on cleanser.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 10, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Smiley woman applying foam on her face
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 10, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

If you’re like most people, you might think there’s not much to knowing how to wash your face. Just splash on some water, lather on the soap, and rinse. Right? Not quite. 

Face washing is one of the most important ways to help keep your skin happy and healthy. But how often you clean your face and the products you use make a difference. Here we’ll explain the importance of face washing, highlight some dos and don’ts, and share the benefits of a clean face. And be sure to stick around to watch Curology’s licensed dermatology providers share some tips (and confessions)! 

The importance of face washing

When you wash your face, you remove dead skin cells, sebum (skin’s natural oil), grime, and environmental pollutants that collect on exposed skin throughout the day. It’s a critical step for maintaining a vibrant, healthy complexion and preventing breakouts. A single-blind, randomized trial showed that washing twice daily reduced non-inflammatory comedones (whiteheads and blackheads).¹

The ingredients in your face wash or cleanser make all the difference, especially when addressing specific skin concerns. But if you’re looking to learn how to wash your face to get rid of acne, specifically, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or beta-hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid, which can treat and help prevent pimples. While washing your face helps reduce non-inflammatory whiteheads and blackheads, you may need more powerful acne-fighting ingredients to get rid of inflammatory papules and pustules. 

How to properly wash your face

When done right, face washing shouldn’t affect the integrity of your skin. That means no scrubbing, harsh soaps, or overwashing—a squeaky-clean face may feel nice, but it can actually damage the skin barrier. 

Proper face washing is about finding the sweet spot between unclean and overly clean. This is especially important if you’re experiencing skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and acne

Here are some tips our dermatology providers recommend for face washing: 

  • Choose the right cleanser for you. Someone with sensitive or dry skin may benefit from oil-based cleansers with hydrating ingredients. A foaming face wash with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide will likely work better for someone with acne-prone skin.

  • Wash your face daily. Wash your face in the morning to remove treatment creams applied the night before and to clean off dirt and oil from your pillowcase. At night, wash again to remove impurities picked up throughout the day, including makeup and oil. Midday washes are only necessary after a workout or excessive sweating. It’s even okay to wash your face with just water. How? Just rinse it with lukewarm water to help prevent excess buildup from things like sweating.

  • Use clean, soft towels. Pat your skin dry after washing with a non-abrasive, fluffy towel. Resist the urge to reach for a used hand towel—bacteria can transfer from the towel to your freshly clean face. 

  • Avoid hot water. Lower the water temperature when wetting and rinsing your face. Hot water may drain moisture from the skin, leading to dryness and irritation. 

  • Avoid toners. Toners are astringent, often containing salicylic acid, witch hazel, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)—a lot of the same ingredients in facial cleansers. Many also contain alcohol. If you want to use one, look for an alcohol-free product. 

  • Avoid rubbing. Before washing, clean off stubborn eye makeup with makeup remover or micellar water. Use two fingers to massage a dab of gentle cleanser over the skin. Double cleansing may offer better results, but be sure not to rub or scrub, especially on delicate areas. Many treatment creams contain chemical exfoliants like alpha-hydroxy acids that can be much more effective and less damaging than scrubbing. 

Face washing makes a difference in how you look and feel. Here at Curology, we recommend a simple cleansing routine. Here’s how to wash your face step by step:

  • Wet your face with warm or cold water before applying a face cleanser.

  • Apply cleanser to the face, jawline, and neck using gentle circular motions. 

  • Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a clean towel.

Don’t forget the moisturizer and sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher after cleansing in the morning and moisturizer and treatment in the evening, and keep these common cleansing mistakes in mind.

How we do it at Curology

We asked our team at Curology to weigh in on face washing, and here’s what they had to say. 

4 benefits of washing your face

Regular face washing helps prevent acne breakouts and keeps your skin fresh—but that’s not all! Here are some of the many benefits of washing your face: 

  • Helps remove buildup. The most obvious benefit of washing your face is cleaning the buildup that accumulates throughout the day. Since the face is rarely covered, it often comes into contact with bacteria, dirt, and environmental pollutants. Our skin also produces sebum and sheds dead skin cells that build up on the face. Washing prevents a thick layer of gunk from clogging pores and decreasing skin vitality.

  • Helps boost hydration. Dehydrated skin accentuates fine lines and wrinkles and has a dull appearance. Cleansing is the first step toward hydrating the skin, but the ingredients matter. Cleansers formulated with humectants, emollients, or keratin-softening agents can give your skin a hydration boost before you follow up with a rich moisturizer.²

  • Helps maintain clear skin. Acne occurs when pores get clogged with dead skin cells and excess sebum. Buildup on the skin’s surface can also block pores, trapping sebum inside. When bacteria feed on excess sebum, an inflammatory response occurs which can result in acne. Cleansers formulated with exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid can penetrate the dermis to help clear out sebum.

  • Gives treatment creams a boost. Whether you’re treating acne or photoaging, a clean face gives your treatment topical a clean slate to do its job. 

Curology takes the guesswork out!

Curology helps take the guesswork out of your skincare routine—licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options. We use clinically proven, prescription-strength ingredients to help you reach your skin goals through personalized skincare.

The Curology Gentle Cleanser is a dermatologist-designed gentle, hydrating, non-comedogenic lightly foaming cleanser for all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin. If you’re looking to upgrade your everyday cleanser—and skincare routine—sign up for a consultation to get started today.*

FAQs

Why is it important to wash your face?

Washing your face is a critical step for maintaining a vibrant, healthy complexion and preventing breakouts. When you wash your face, you remove dead skin cells, sebum (skin’s natural oil), grime, and environmental pollutants that collect on exposed skin throughout the day.

A single-blind, randomized trial showed that washing twice daily reduced non-inflammatory comedones (whiteheads and blackheads).

How to wash your face?

Face washing makes a difference in how you look and feel. Here at Curology, we recommend a simple cleansing routine. Here’s how to wash your face step by step:

  • Wet your face with warm or cold water before applying a face cleanser.

  • Apply cleanser to the face, jawline, and neck using gentle circular motions. 

  • Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a clean towel.

Don’t forget the moisturizer and sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher after cleansing in the morning and moisturizer and treatment in the evening, and keep these common cleansing mistakes in mind.

What to keep in mind when washing your face?

Proper face washing is about finding the sweet spot between unclean and overly clean. This is especially important if you’re experiencing skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and acne. Here are some tips our dermatology providers recommend for face washing: 

  • Choose the right cleanser for you. Someone with sensitive or dry skin may benefit from oil-based cleansers with hydrating ingredients. A foaming face wash with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide will likely work better for someone with acne-prone skin.

  • Wash your face daily in the morning and at night. Midday washes are only necessary after a workout or excessive sweating.

  • Use clean, soft towels to pat your skin dry after washing.

  • Avoid hot water.

  • Avoid toners.

  • Avoid rubbing.

What are the benefits of washing your face?

Regular face washing helps prevent acne breakouts and keeps your skin fresh—but that’s not all! Here are some of the many benefits of washing your face: 

  • Helps remove buildup.

  • Helps boost hydration.

  • Helps maintain clear skin.

  • Gives treatment creams a boost.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1.  Choi, J.M., et al. A single-blinded, randomized, controlled clinical trial evaluating the effect of face washing on acne vulgaris. Pediatric Dermatology. (2006 September 27).

  2.  Mukhopadhyay, P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian Journal of Dermatology. (January-February 2011).

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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