At the end of a long day, nothing feels quite as good as cleansing your face. Removing every trace of dirt, sweat and makeup allows the skin to breathe, repair and renew itself. Having a spotless surface also helps your other skin care products to penetrate your skin more deeply and perform their tasks more efficiently. As the first step in your skin care ritual, it’s important to nail this part before even thinking about your serums and anti-aging creams.
With so many cleansing options available, and with each one touting different benefits, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and get swayed by false marketing claims. Knowing the difference between each type allows you to filter your options and makes the hunt for the perfect cleanser a whole lot easier. If you have a normal skin type, feel free to try any type of cleanser as long as your skin tolerates it.
Gel cleansers are clear and, as the name suggests, have a gel-like consistency. Generally designed for deep cleansing, they are effective at decongesting clogged pores, removing excess oil and killing acne-causing bacteria, thanks to their antiseptic and exfoliating properties.
Cream cleansers are usually thick, creamy and contain moisturizing ingredients like botanical oils. They gently cleanse your skin without stripping it of its natural oils. Cream cleansers can also come in the form of “milk” or “lotion.”
Foam cleansers are lightweight cleansers that start out as cream or gel and burst into a rich, foamy lather. This type of cleanser removes excess oil as effectively as gel cleansers.
Washing your skin with oil may sound like a recipe for breakouts, especially if you have oily skin, but most experts disagree. An oil cleanser is a gentle way of removing pore-clogging debris—including waterproof makeup—without drying your skin.
Originating in France, micellar waters feature “micelles”—or tiny oil molecules suspended in soft water—that attract oil, dirt and makeup. Another great thing about them: You don’t need to rinse them off with water.
Powder cleansers are nothing new, but they certainly are having a big moment right now. These cleansers—powdery soft when dry—disintegrates into a creamy concoction upon contact with water, thoroughly cleansing your skin while providing gentle exfoliation. Unlike traditional physical exfoliants like beads and scrubs, powder cleansers glide smoothly on your skin, so you can use them every day even on sensitive skin.
After years of staying out of the skin care spotlight, bars are slowly sneaking back in. These new breed of bars—some contain very little soap, others have none at all—are just as skin-friendly and luxurious as their liquid counterparts. They also offer more skin-friendly pH levels in addition to nutrient-rich, highly moisturizing ingredients, such as glycerin and essential oils. Extra points for being a greener choice than liquid soaps because the packaging materials—primarily paper and cardboard—break down more easily in landfills than plastic packaging.
There are cleansing wipes, and then there are cleansing cloths, mitts and sponges. These cleansers are made with special fibers—some are plant-derived and don’t typically require the use of any traditional cleansers—to thoroughly remove impurities while also sloughing off dead skin cells. A few examples are muslin cloths, kassa/kessa mitts and konjac sponges.
Experts have different opinions about how often you should wash your face. Our advice? Listen to your skin. Some skin types can benefit from a twice-a-day, morning-and-night cleansing routine to control excess oil and shine, while the same routine can make others dry and tight. As a general rule: Wash your face at night, and never sleep with your makeup on. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide on how to wash your face properly.
STEP 1: REMOVE YOUR MAKEUP
Choose your poison. Some people prefer a traditional oil-based makeup remover, while some opt for a cleansing oil, a micellar/cleansing water or cleansing wipes. This step is particularly important if you wear waterproof makeup.
STEP 2: WASH YOUR FACE
Place a small amount of your chosen cleanser into your hands and emulsify with lukewarm water. Massage it onto your skin using circular motions for at least 30 seconds. Make sure you cover a lot of ground, including commonly missed areas like along the hairline, below your ears, the front and back of your neck and your décolletage.
STEP 3: RINSE AND PAT DRY
Remember to rinse your face with warm water, not hot. Once done, gently pat (instead of rub) your skin with a clean, dry towel.