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The 60 second rule: do’s and don’ts

When washing your face for a full minute is doing too much

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 5 min read
Person rubbing skincare cream on their face
Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 5 min read
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 a long-time reader of the blog, you know I’m a big fan of simple skincare routines and getting the maximum mileage out of your products. So when licensed esthetician and skincare influencer Nayamka Roberts-Smith (@LaBeautyologist on Twitter and Instagram) invented the 60 second rule for face washing, I was all in. At its core, this “rule” is just about getting the most out of a skincare product we often rely on morning and night. The problem? It’s been 2 years since the #60secondrule went viral, and some of the simple genius of this trend has gotten lost in translation.

So… what is the 60 second rule, anyway?

To quote Roberts-Smith, “All the 60 second rule is: washing your face — with your fingers — for 60 seconds. That’s it!” Supposedly, most people only wash their face for about 15 seconds. The 60 second rule is a skincare hack that prolongs cleansing so you’re sure to wash every single part of your face. In other words, “60” isn’t a magic number. But the spirit of the rule is to pay more attention to how you wash your face:

How long you should wash your face depends on your skin type and your cleansing method. In fact, when I’m removing a full face of makeup, it takes me more than 60 seconds, and more than one type cleanser — shoutout to micellar water! Oil cleansers are also a popular makeup-removing choice.

How often you should wash your face is subjective. Twice daily (morning and night) is the most common recommendation. But if you’re not a morning person, a thorough cleanse before bed might be enough. If you’re dealing with breakouts, try to at least splash some water on your face in the morning! In most cases, though, the nighttime cleanse is the most important, since it (theoretically) clears away the dirt and grime that builds up throughout the day.

The do’s and don’ts of the 60 second rule

In the two years since the #60SecondRule went viral, many have put their own personal twist on it — for better and for worse. If you want to give this cleansing ritual a shot, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Do use a gentle cleanser — don’t use an exfoliating one!

Oil cleansers, foaming cleansers, and hydrating cleansers tend to work best with the 60 second rule. Exfoliating cleansers and facial scrubs can be great in moderation, but aren’t usually meant for everyday use. That includes cleansers with chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs) and physical exfoliants (granular scrubs). Signs you’re over-exfoliating: skin that looks shiny but not oily, skin redness, tightness, or dryness.

There’s a caveat, though: while some BHA cleansers (i.e., cleansers with salicylic acid) might be gentle enough to use every day, your skin might be too sensitive to handle it for a full minute before rinsing. Follow the directions on your product’s label, and trust your instincts.

2. Do use your fingers — don’t use anything else!

There’s a reason Roberts-Smith mentions only using your fingers when explaining the 60 second rule. Rotating brushes, silicone scrubbers, and facial sponges tend to be too harsh for this cleansing method. That’s because they’re a form of physical exfoliation, which isn’t meant for every day. If you enjoy these tools, they’re fine to use every once in a while — like a few times a week, tops. So using them twice a day for a minute at a time is overkill!

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3. Do gently massage your skin — don’t scrub it!

You can’t scrub away your skin concerns. Don’t even try it! Not only is a good gentle rub with the cleanser relaxing, but it’s how your products are intended to be used. Going too hard can damage your skin and may make breakouts worse, so use a soft touch and be kind to your face.

4. Do check your cleanser ingredients — don’t use harsh ones!

No matter how long you leave a cleanser on your face, you don’t want to use one that could potentially irritate your skin or cause breakouts. That’s why it’s important to check your cleanser’s ingredients. (Hello, sodium lauryl sulfate!) And, thanks to technology, you don’t have to look up ingredients one-by-one. The cosDNA test is one way to check your products. You can also read the many, many product reviews on the Curology blogs and guides (like the best cleansers for acne-prone skin).

Does it really work?

Roberts-Smith claims that washing your face for 60 seconds can improve skin texture, unclog pores, and reverse hyperpigmentation. But this is likely an oversimplification — the technique of washing your face for longer doesn’t necessarily mean your skin will improve. But if your skin does improve, it might be for a few reasons.

Reason #1: It removes makeup with pore-clogging ingredients.

Some (but not all) makeup is made with comedogenic ingredients, meaning it can potentially clog pores. If your makeup isn’t non-comedogenic, leaving it on can lead to breakouts. So it makes sense that thoroughly removing your makeup would improve your skin. Of course, if your cleanser also contains comedogenic ingredients, then you’re just fighting fire with fire.

Reason #2: You’re washing away buildup from your entire face.

Theoretically, if you’re washing your face too quickly, you may be missing certain areas. Spending a full 60 seconds on gently washing your face allows you to give each section (forehead, cheeks, nose, chin, etc.) the attention it deserves. So this might help improve breakouts on previously-neglected parts of your face.

Reason #3: Certain active ingredients can help with specific concerns.

If you’re using a cleanser with certain active ingredients, it may be helpful to keep it on your face for a full 60 seconds. For example, topical zinc may suppress sebum (oil) delivery, so using a bar soap with zinc pyrithione and leaving it on for a full 60 seconds before rinsing may help decrease excess oil. In many cases, though, it’s best to use cleansers with active ingredients a few times a week and alternate with a gentle cleanser. You could also choose products that are meant to be left on your skin rather than rinsed off, like your custom prescription skin treatment by Curology.

When you sign up for a free month of Curology, you get a custom cream with a mix of 3 active ingredients. Those ingredients are prescribed by an in-house medical provider to help you reach your skin goals. You can also try our other products for free, including the Curology cleanser, designed by dermatologists to be non-clogging and safe for sensitive skin. You’ll just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping/handling on your first box.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas

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