Complexion 101: How To Wash Your Face Like You Mean It

Cleansers_dos_donts_1Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
When it comes to our faces, we don’t rely on just anyone to tell us what our skin needs to get that ever-elusive glow. Instead, we turn to skin-care veteran (and celebrity fave!) Renée Rouleau, who knows it takes more than the right products to get radiant. Each week, she’ll be serving up her expert tips to keep your complexion in tip-top shape.
Washing our face is an important step in our skincare routine. And, though it’s a simple step, there is definitely a set of rules to follow when it comes to cleansing. Cleansers all have generally the same basic function: clean dirt, debris, oil, bacteria, and makeup from the skin. But, following these cleanser commands will ensure you get the best and healthiest results from your cleanser. Here goes!
Don’t use a cleanser that leaves your skin feeling tight or dry
What you wash with is the most important part of your skin care routine, and many foaming and gel cleansers made today are formulated with the ingredients Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. These ingredients are surfactants — a cleansing agent that cuts oil from the skin, but they are simply too harsh and will strip the water out of the skin after every washing. It will leave your skin feeling tight — it pulls all the water out of the skin and creates dead, dry skin cell buildup — and can actually create more oil and shine. Instead, choose either cleansing lotions and gel cleansers that do not include these drying ingredients. Here’s the rule: More lather, more drying. Less lather, less drying.
Cleansers_dos_donts_2Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Don’t wash with bar soap
Washing with a bar of soap — no matter how expensive it is or how moisturizing it claims to be — is just an absolute no-no as far as I’m concerned. The binders that hold a bar of soap together naturally have a high pH balance, so they are always going to be too strong for the skin. In my travels to France to see family, I’ll occasionally try a luxurious French soap on my skin and I have never found one that doesn’t strip my skin of water. So, for all the reasons mentioned above, bar soaps are not suitable for your face. Still, if you do use a bar of soap and are convinced that it’s not drying your skin out, this may be because you have used it for so long and have gotten used to the tight feeling it leaves on the skin. My suggestion is to wash one side of your face with soap and immediately after, wash the other side with a mild, sulfate-free cleanser and compare how each side feels. I guarantee that the gentle cleanser side feels much less tight or dry.
Do choose a cleanser made exclusively for your skin type
I still find it difficult to understand how skin care companies are able to say that their cleansers are “suitable for all skin types.” All skin is different and therefore, each individual has very unique needs when it comes to skincare products. Because a cleanser is a staple in a morning and evening routine, it’s essential to use one made for your skin type.
Do avoid cleansers containing synthetic fragrance — especially if your skin is sensitive
Individuals with sensitive skin can react negatively to synthetic perfumes. Dryness, itchiness, and redness can result from using a perfumed cleanser. Before purchasing your cleanser take a look at the ingredients and avoid products that read “parfum” or “fragrance.” Information regarding artificial fragrance ingredients will usually be down towards the end of the list of ingredients.
Cleansers_dos_donts_3Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Do apply moisturizer within 60 seconds after cleansing
After cleansing, you must immediately use an alcohol-free toner and moisturizer. Even if you’re using the gentlest cleanser and you leave your skin bare for more than a minute, it will start to dehydrate as the dry air attracts moisture out of the skin. Perform your skin care routine quickly, and be sure to follow cleansing with alcohol-free toner and moisturizer to seal in the hydrating benefits. This will leave your skin protected and avoid the tight, dry feeling.
Do switch cleansers every season, if necessary
Believe it or not, skin needs change with the weather. Your skin’s ability to retain moisture or reduce oil production is directly correlated to the climate. If you are more accustomed to a humid environment or have oily skin, you will want to use a foaming or gel cleanser, and in dry environments, a lotion-based cleanser may be best for those with dry skin. With every season change, be sure to reassess not only your cleanser, but your other products as well.
Cleansers_dos_donts_4Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Do limit the use of the sonic brushes with your cleanser
Electronic cleansing brushes have become increasingly popular to use along with a cleanser when washing your face. Many of the manufacturers suggest for you to use the devices with every cleansing, but I feel this is way too much for the skin. What you need to understand is the action of the bristles rotating over the skin is it giving a physical exfoliation, similar to that of a facial scrub. Certainly you wouldn’t use a facial scrub twice a day, would you? Using a cleansing (exfoliating) brush too often can cause dryness and disrupt the skin’s lipid barrier. This may make moisture seep out of the cells more easily, causing them to dehydrate. Every skin responds differently to physical exfoliation but for most skin types, but I suggest using it no more than three times a week, especially if you’re using other exfoliating products such as acid serums or a facial scrub.
Don’t use a facial cleansing oil to cleanse your skin
I know this will come as a shock to many as I know people love washing their skin with a cleansing oil. The problem I have with using a cleansing oil to wash your face, is that although they can feel luxurious to use and do leave dry skin types feeling very soft after using it, the concentration of the oils leave a residue and barrier on the skin. This will prevent the active ingredients in your serum or moisturizer (when applied to the skin after cleansing) from penetrating to provide the best benefits. Even if the facial oil appears to wash away easily and doesn’t feel like it left a residue, it does, which is why the skin feels so soft afterwards. The purpose of cleansing is to remove excess oil, bacteria, dirt, and debris from the skin and to provide a clean slate to the skin for the products to use afterwards to absorb deeply. At the very least, use an alcohol-free toner to remove the residue it can leave behind. Serums and moisturizers can affect positive change in the skin and you don’t want a barrier of oil to interfere with this process.
Don’t forget that washing your face morning and night is the foundation for healthy skin. Follow these tips to ensure you are getting the most out of your cleanser!

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