5 Mistakes You're Probably Making When Washing Your Face

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Washing your face seems like it should be the easiest step in your skincare routine. All you have to do is lather up with your favorite cleanser and wash it away, right? While cleansing your face is easy, there are a few small details you might be missing. If you’ve noticed that something about your skin isn’t quite right (it's dry or oily, or you're experiencing excessive breakouts, for example) your cleansing routine could be to blame. The good news is, all it takes are a few simple tweaks to see serious improvements. We've gathered guru advice from Alissa Chasen, a licensed esthetician, acne specialist, the founder of POREspective Acne Control and an all-around expert on everything you need to know about washing your face. Here are five of the most common cleansing mistakes and how to fix them.

1. You don’t fully remove your makeup

Many of us make the mistake of thinking that our skin is clean just because it looks clean, but this isn’t always the case thanks to leftover product residue. Try adding another small step into your routine by using a makeup remover and then a cleanser. We love using Neutrogena's Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes ($6.99, Walgreens) and then cleansing as we would normally.

"Rinsing too fast without letting the cleanser soak in and do its work is one of the biggest mistakes I see in my acne clinic," Alissa adds. For reference, just think of how much cleaner a greasy baking dish gets when allowed to soak! "It’s best to start with wet skin, massage the cleanser in well, then let it sit for 30 seconds before rinsing in order to pull the grime out of the pores and get the skin really clean."

2. You don’t wash your hands first

This is a big one that a lot of people overlook. But if you think about it, our hands touch tons of dirty surfaces throughout the day. Even if you’re a die-hard hand sanitizer fan, germs can lurk in unexpected places, like under your fingernails. So do your face a favor and give your hands a thorough scrub before you touch anything else. "Those of us who are 'germaphobes' instinctively wash our hands before touching our faces," Alissa says, "but young women definitely need to be instructed to always wash their hands before splashing the skin with water and washing their face." 

3. You exfoliate too often

There’s no denying that giving your face a good scrub is super gratifying. There’s nothing better than ultra soft and clean skin! But if you’re scrubbing too often, you could be breaking blood vessels in your skin, causing unnecessary redness and damage. Luckily, there's a way to reap the benefits of an exfoliant without paying the price—just stick to a less frequent routine, and try for a gentler option, like an exfoliating cream. "I love to add a creamy scrub to my client's home care routine 2x/week to get some extra physical exfoliation," Alissa says. "It really brightens the complexion!"

4. You’re using the wrong cleanser

The skincare aisle at any drugstore is a pretty overwhelming sight. There are hundreds of different cleansers on the market, and many of them are targeted toward different skin types or concerns, so if you’re not sure which one is right for you, try sticking with something that’s gentle (but efficient) and agrees with all skin types. "I also recommend staying away from the ingredients sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate in cleansers," Alissa says. "These are pore-clogging."  

On the other hand, the POREfessional site is a great place to start if you know what you're looking for. Not sure what your skin type is? They can help you with that, too! They offer video consultations, so you can visit an esthetician from your dorm room or apartment.

5. You use water that’s too hot

We know it’s soothing to wash off all your makeup with hot, steamy water. It feels like a facial! But be careful with the temp because water that’s too hot can actually cause long-term damage to your skin. Hot water can burst capillaries, causing a lot of redness. It can also disturb your skin’s natural oil balance and dry you out. Worst of all, this dryness can begin an endless cycle by making your skin produce more oil to compensate, which tends to lead to breakouts. Not fun! "Warm water is recommended because it expands the pores and allows the cleanser to get in there to do its work," Alissa says. "Cold water closes the pores and should be avoided with washing."


So when you go to wash your face tonight, don’t forget to put these mantras to good use. If you’re suffering from a serious skin issue (like acne) even the smallest change in skincare can make a huge difference—give your skin the TLC it deserves, and it’ll thank you later!