Sunday, January 30, 2011

What is the proper way to wash your face?

Many of you have asked me about acne problems as well as many other skin problems. I actually think that the most important aspect of skincare is not actually the expensive moisturizers or serums, but cleansing. This is because cleansing is the foundation of a good skincare regimen and without it, all the rest of your efforts may tumble. A good cleansing routine keeps your pores unclogged, which prevents acne and lets other products (serums, moisturizers, etc) absorb better.

What You Need:
1. A gentle cleanser, preferably one without SLS:
A gentle cleanser may not be as satisfying as a harsher one (you don't get a very clean feeling), and may not produce as good initial results as a harsher one, but in the long run, you are doing your skin a favor by using the gentler cleansers.
I have personally used some of the harshest cleansers there is in my teenage years. I remember for a week, I used a harsh scrub containing Salicylic Acid, immediately followed by a 10% benzoyl peroxide cream cleanser. My skin felt so dry after using this combination, and it did somehow prevent acne for a week for me. After that, my skin got so oily as to become very unsightly and I also developed acne.
Later on, I stopped stacking the two cleansers together and used the benzoyl peroxide wash alone for a year. It was not as stripping as that combination, and after a while, my skin does not feel dry after cleansing anymore, but I noticed that my skin produced more oil, and I responded by leaving the cleanser on my skin longer and longer. That was one of the biggest mistakes I made, and it took my skin a year to return to its normal oil production level.

2. A soft and clean washcloth:
This is rather optional actually. For years, I had no washcloth, and just pat dry my face after cleansing if I had time, or leave it to dry (or wipe the excess water off with toner on a cotton pad) when I'm in a hurry. It worked fine for me. However, I started using a washcloth a year ago, and I noticed the difference.
I don't use the washcloth while washing the face. I generally wash my hands, apply cleanser to my face, massage around, wash my washcloth while leaving the cleanser on, and then rinse off and pat dry with the washcloth. This has not made a big difference in my skin but does help me get ready faster in the morning. This will be essential for people who are living in areas with contaminated or hard water, because you'll want the water off your face as soon as possible.
If you do decide to use a washcloth, please clean regularly. The washcloth will accumulate the oil, bacteria, and impurities your cleanser got out from your skin. It is best to use a clean one everyday, and toss the dirty one into the laundry if you can afford it. However, if you are just using it to pat dry (like me), washing the wash cloth daily and then doing major cleanings weekly would be fine since when the washcloth come in contact with your face, your face is relatively clean.

3. Clean luke warm water, general running water is fine unless your water is very hard:
This seems basic. However, I have found that luke warm water is essential. You do not want to shock your face with too cold or too hot water, which may result in broken capillaries. Yes, cold water wakes one up in the morning, and yes, hot water makes one's face feel cleaner, but I'd rather forgo those benefits for beautiful skin.

How to clean your face:
1. Make sure your hands are clean: I generally wash with anti-bacterial soap before touching my face.
2. Put a drop of cleanser in your hands: This is important. Do not use too much cleanser. It is a waste, and can overdry your face. I have found that a pea-sized amount is generally fine for most cleansers. Or if you are using a bar cleansing, running the bar through my hands twice is enough for me.
3. Lather up the cleanser in your hands (foaming cleansers): Many people like to apply the cleanser straight to the face and lather up on the face. This is admitted easier. However, it is gentler to your face if the potential chemical reaction of cleansers interacting with water, and foaming up happens on your hands.
Or skip to step 4 if you have a non-foaming cream cleanser
4. Apply the foam to your face and massage or if you have a non-foaming cleanser, apply the cleanser to your face: Gently apply the foam or cleanser to your face, and massage with the palms of your hands. Massaging with fingers is tempting because it is easier, but palms are gentler. Massage around for a minute or half a minute depending on whether your skin is dry or oily or sensitive. The more oily your skin is, the longer you have to massage, unless your skin is oily because of overdrying.
5. Optional: leave the cleanser on face for less than a minute: Take this step if you have time in the morning or if your skin is extra-oily. I sometimes leave my cleanser on for a mini-facial when I think I need special cleansing power
6. Rinse off: Gently splash luke warm water (slightly warmer than room temperature) to your face to rinse off the mixture. I like to splash at least 9 times without touching my face, and rinse with my hands to make sure I get everything the last time. If I don't, I'll splash some more.
7. Pat dry with a clean towel/washcloth or with your hands or a cotton pad

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