The Ultimate (Twinkle) Guide to Washing Your Face
Hi, quick question, how do you wash your face?
When do you do it? How often? Why? Where? How?
Do you know the answers to these questions?
What if I told you that simply washing your face could give you the balanced skin you always dreamed of? Well, of course I would be exaggerating, but in all seriousness, it's more important than a lot of people realize.
How, how often, and with what you choose to wash your face with, can make a huge, huge difference in the health of your skin. Seriously! (Maybe if I say "serious" enough times in this post you will believe me LOL.)
When I started making and selling skincare (which was kind of by accident because it was not at all what I set out to do when I decided to start this business,) I was very surprised to learn that a lot of people don't wash their face regularly.
It would be like,
Customer: HELP! My skin is freaking out and I don't know what to do. What do you have that will help?
Me: Well, what is your current routine?
Customer: ... (awkward silence) Well, I'm not very good about taking care of my skin I guess...
Me: Ok, well, do you think you can start a routine? I think it will help balance your skin and prevent future freak-outs.
Customer: Is it like, really simple? Like a one step thing?
Me: Well, no, 3 steps. Cleanse, tone, moisturize.
Customer: Ugh, that's just too much for me to deal with. Don't you have a product that will fix this?
Me: Uh, ok sure, try this charcoal mask/lotion stick/acne spot treatment I guess...
Now, going on six years later, NOTHING I'm told people do or don't do to their faces shocks me. If you're reading this thinking, "Gee, this is pretty basic stuff, doesn't everyone know to wash their face daily?"
In fact, I meet people every day who don't have a daily face washing routine!
Even people who are really into shopping for skincare treatments!
Hence the writing of this post!
Here's the thing about washing your face:
Before you can expect any of my products (or any fancy, more expensive treatments) to work for your face that's "freaking out" you have to be doing some basic grooming. And washing your face twice daily is just basic grooming. It's something that, if done with the right products, anyone and everyone will benefit from. Your daily cleansing routine is what lays the foundation for healthy, balanced skin. Meaning, if you want healthy, balanced skin, it all starts with washing your face. It's very, very important that you master this and make it a part of your routine. Twice a day. Every day.
So let's get back to basics, shall we?
Personally, I've always had a skincare routine, (for better and for worse,) but I guess I can understand that not everyone grew up reading YM and Seventeen magazine with such devoted fervor as myself. Even as early as Jr. High I can remember giving myself facials on Sunday afternoons using St. Ives Apricot Scrub, Clean and Clear foaming face wash, Freemans peel-off cucumber face masks, and Sea Breeze toner. (Full disclosure, I also did this while I was cleaning my bathroom, so perhaps this is not so normal pre-teen behavior, but also, was my foray into the skincare industry always meant to be?!) Also, also YIKES! I wouldn't touch any of those products with a 10 foot pole today. Not so much because they're "toxic," but because I now know that they are TERRIBLE for my skin's delicate acid mantle and were causing my skin to constantly cycle between always being too-dry or too-oily.
(Side note - how evil genius-y is the Clean and Clear plot to sell us foaming face wash that stripped the oil off of our faces, causing our teenage skin to ramp up oil production in an attempt to re-balance itself, which meant we always had to have those little blue Clean and Clear blotting papers on hand AM I BLOWING YOUR MIND RIGHT NOW.)
Ok and if you're wondering - what the heck is an acid mantle - don't worry, I didn't learn about it until I started making my own, very much non-foaming facial cleanser, and had to figure out why it was so much more effective and balancing than any kind of "face wash" I had ever used before...
First, get to know the acid mantle/skin barrier/microbiome
To put it very simply - the acid mantle is the protective barrier of natural oils that covers your face and keeps everything in balance - moisturized, hydrated, breakout-free, and elastic. It can also be referred to as the skin's "barrier layer." The word "microbiome" also usually comes into play in conversations about the skin barrier, because this protective layer is also full of good bacteria and micro-organisms that are working to fight off bad bacteria and harmful pathogens. The ideal pH level for your facial skin is slightly acidic, about 5.5, so using products that are too alkaline (basically anything that gets good and foamy) disrupts your skin's acid mantle, stripping all of those protective oils and good bacteria off of your face.
This causes your skin to leak water and become more permeable, making it dehydrated, reactive, sensitive, susceptible to harmful pathogens and allergens, and the overgrowth of bad bacteria, (like P. acnes,) as well as making it more susceptible to environmental damage from free-radicals, which leads to pre-mature aging. Conversely, when your skin loses its protective oils, it works extra hard to produce more oil to make up for what it lost, leading to too oily, greasy skin.
Oh, and chronic stress and inflammation, poor sleep, and poor diet choices can wreck your acid mantle too, but that's another conversation for another time!
Today, let's just focus on washing your face properly.
First, my number one piece of advice: avoid soap and foaming cleansers at all costs.
If you haven't noticed yet, I am very against any kind of soap or foaming cleansers for the face. They're way too alkaline and thus damaging to the skin barrier. Sadly, over-exfoliating or using a facial brush/mechanical cleansing device can also be damaging to the skin barrier.
So you might be thinking, "Why wash my face at all then if it's so damaging?" But washing your face is important because it helps break up the excessive oil buildup that could be clogging your pores and causing breakouts, or oxidizing and causing blackheads. It gets rid of the actual dirt and environmental toxins, that your skin is exposed to throughout the day.
Even if you're not breakout prone, washing your face actually helps your skin stay balanced and prevents premature aging (!) When your skin's natural oils can't reach the barrier layer because there's too much dirt and oil buildup in the way, your skin won't be effectively moisturized (in addition to the breakouts that will no doubt ensue with all of that oil trapped in your pores.) This leads to dry, uncomfortable skin that's more pone to fine lines and sagging. Obviously if you wear makeup, OF COURSE you need to wash it off at the end of the day. Better yet, remove your makeup, then wash your face!
By the way - all of this advice is for ALL GENDERS and all ages, from pre-teen through adult. (Young kids can actually get away with rinsing with only water until their oil glands begin to kick into gear as they approach puberty - the rest of us need a little help with products.)
The idea is to clean the dirt and excess oil off in a balanced way, without stripping the protective, good stuff off of your skin, and there are sooooooo many options. Obviously I'm going to recommend my products, (see below,) but if you're looking elsewhere, I'd recommend looking for the most gentle cleanser you can find. Look for something that makes a point to say it's gentle, for sensitive skin, and/or pH balanced (it can be from 4.5-6,) and NON-FOAMING. If it gets sudsy at all, it's going to be too alkaline for your acid mantle. Avoid cleansers with a lot of fancy sounding active ingredients that you're just going to rinse off. The idea is to do this gently as possible. You can treat your skin with all kinds of fancy ingredients after it's clean.
One thing to keep in mind when I talk about pH is that pH only applies to water based, liquid cleansers. pH is a measure of the level of acidity in water, or water based solutions, so it isn't applicable to oil or powder based cleansers, which are considered pH neutral.
Before I go into detail about all of the different ways to wash your face, let's talk about when to wash. You might have heard somewhere that faces don't need to be washed in the mornings or that just a splash of water will do... my opinion is that this is only true for the luckiest ones among us with skin that is not prone to clogged pores or breakouts. (Not many people fall into this category.) And dry skin that doesn't worry about breakouts will still greatly benefit from also toning and moisturizing in the mornings, because a "splash of water" is going to make dry skin even more dry as the water evaporates.
So basically, this whole thing needs to be done twice a day.
The good news is that if you wash at night and go to bed with extra clean skin, you can keep it minimal in the mornings! I spend more time on my skincare routine at night, so in the mornings, a quick (yet luxurious!) oil cleanse rinsed off in the shower is all I need. You can see my entire routine here.
You can either wash your face at the sink or in the shower/bath, but here's the thing - I do not recommend storing any of my skincare products in the shower/bath as they do not contain preservatives to prevent mold and bacteria overgrowth. Tap water is full of potentially harmful microbes that have no place in any of my bottles and jars. Keep them dry. Trust me!
Look, it's not rocket science. Gently rub whatever cleansing agent you've decided to use (see list below) over your damp skin (or dry skin if you're oil cleansing,) in gentle, small, circular motions. Focus on washing where your skin's pores tend to get the most congested. Rinse off with lukewarm water (hot water is drying!) and pat dry. You could wipe the cleanser off with a damp cloth if that's more appealing to you. Either way, really.
Oh, and don't forget your neck. All skincare should also be applied to the neck. I don't want to see any more mask selfies that stop at the chin. (Are we still doing mask selfies? I feel like I haven't seen one in a while, now that I think about it!)
Ok, here we go! The products:
If my following list of ways to wash seems overwhelming, remember that you don't have to do all of it. Just pick what sounds right to you. If after a week or two, you're not feeling it or aren't happy with the results, switch it up and try something else from the list. I'm not going to list all of the instructions for every product here, so check the listing for the product you're using for the full details!
Aim to work in a gently exfoliating product during your cleansing routine 1-3 times per week, taking care not to over scrub!
Great for all skin types. Helps minimize pores and break up oil build up. Non-drying. Great for morning and night. Can be done twice a day. Effective makeup remover.
Products to try: Makeup remover + cleansing oil, any facial oil, plant oils from the kitchen (olive, grapeseed.)
Great for all skin types. Gentle, very mildly exfoliating. Non-drying. (Can be drying if left on the skin too long though!) Great for morning and night. Can be used twice a day.
Exfoliating facial cleanser or face masks
Great for all skin types. Gentle exfoliant. Can be drying if left on the skin too long. Best for nighttime. Can be done twice a day if you take care not to over-scrub.
Konjac sponge + water
Best for skin that is not prone to pore blockage and breakouts, although it could be a pared-down morning cleanse option for anyone, assuming you went to bed with a clean face the night before. This is also a great way to get a pre-teen/tween started with washing their face. It's also a nice, gentle exfoliant for those who shave their faces.
- Or -
Konjac sponge + oil cleansing
Good for all skin types. This adds a very gentle exfoliation to a regular oil cleanse that's good for morning or night.
Facial balm cleanse
Great for dry skin, winter skin. Works the same way as an oil cleanse, but, thicker.
Double cleansing (oil cleansing followed by a powdered cleanser/mask)
Great for all skin, especially skin with easily clogged pores. The oil cleanse dissolves makeup and dirt, then the mask exfoliates and draws buildup out of your pores. I recommend this at nighttime. I do this pretty much every night.
Hybrid oil + powder cleanse (mix a cleansing oil and powdered cleanser together instead of doing an oil cleanse before masking)
Good for all skin types. This is great if you want to add a little exfoliation to your oil cleanse. Can be done morning or night.
Just toner (or hydrosol)
Best for skin that's not breakout prone. Much better than a splash of water. Way better than nothing!
Mehhhhhh... this is ok in the mornings, assuming you washed your face the night before. Best for skin that's not prone to breakouts and clogged pores.
This is a great first step for removing makeup, but it's not the same as washing your face. However, if this is all you can do, it's definitely better than going to bed with your makeup on!
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE...
I know I told you that this was a face-washing guide, but I'm not done quite yet!
It's time to start thinking about toning and moisturizing as an integral, permanent part of your facial cleansing routine.
Remember what I was telling you about pH and the acid mantle? Well, unfortunately most tap water is pretty alkaline. (Remember, your skin prefers to be more acidic.) So even if you've chosen a pH balanced/neutral cleanser, the water that you rinse with can still throw things off a bit.
Toning (with either an astringent toning mist or a more hydrating hydrosol,) brings the skin back into balance. It also helps remove any dirt or trapped oil that your cleanser might have missed. So it's basically like a second cleansing step. (Certainly not to be missed if you have easily clogged pores!)
Moisturizing needs to happen any time your skin gets wet.
If your skin feels dry and tight after cleansing, it's not the cleanser's fault, it's actually the water's fault. As water evaporates off of your skin it takes more moisture away with it. This is why we moisturize.
Moisturizing with a lightweight oil after cleansing (yes, even if you cleansed with an oil or balm,) is helpful, balancing, and nourishing for all skin types. Not only does it prevent excess water loss and condition the skin, it puts a damper on over zealous oil glands and actually prevents your skin from getting greasy. Sounds crazy but it REALLY WORKS.
So cleanse, tone, and moisturize, THEN your face washing routine is done!
Give this routine a chance for a couple of weeks and I KNOW your skin will become more balanced, clear, and supple.
You just have to stick with it... promise!
You know how to get a hold of me!
- XO -