Washing your face is such basic beauty advice and we already know we should be doing it regularly (read: EVERY DAY.).
What many may not know, however, is the rest of the picture when it comes to actually good advice... like how to properly wash your face in order to thoroughly remove the dirt, grime and makeup from the day and NOT strip away precious oils or otherwise compromise it's natural protective barrier.
What I've found throughout years of actively participating in the beauty industry, whether by recommending products in a sales capacity or more recently as an independent facialist, is that even this fundamental piece of advice is often misunderstood at best. People are consistently confused about what to wash their face with, how often they should be washing, and how their skin really "should" feel once it's clean.
There is often this expectation that your skin should feel "squeaky clean" afterwards, but what ends up happening is that most of us don't actually like feeling our skin uncomfortably tight until we slather moisture back on it... the more you wash and the more aggressive the cleanser the better? Or the idea that scrubbing it to death on a regular basis is the thing to do. RIGHT?!
Wrong. This is totally backwards. Our skin (just like our body) is literally already engineered to maintain a constant state of health, hydration and renewal at all times. So what's the deal with all these issues of super dry, dehydrated faces or the polar opposite of oil slick t-zones, annoying blemishes and even full blown acne?!
Although there are many factors involved with the current epidemic of skin imbalances (ie. hormones, lifestyle, environmental pollution, etc.), one of the smallest and simplest things you can start doing right away to regain a healthy foundation is to recognize your cleansing habits as being fundamental to the rest of your routine. Think about this. If you set yourself up right from the beginning to have to play constant damage control, you've taken two steps back and maybe one forward. When you over-wash your face, just like we've acknowledged with over sanitizing our hands, you are actually damaging an inner eco-system full of beneficial "germs" and oils, a natural barrier function which is designed to maintain balance and prevent bad germs from either spreading or penetrating and wreaking deeper havoc while also sealing in necessary moisture and preventing water loss (among many, many other essential duties). ALL of these things are absolutely essential to every single skin type.
The idea that the skin requires all this excessive moisturizing and replenishment, while helpful in the right context, is really more of a marketing agenda to create a problem that then requires a solution. Sales, profit, the bottom line. Whatever you want to call it. Have you ever met someone who actually does very little to their skin and yet barely breaks out, barely ages and has a generally beautiful complexion? We can certainly blame it on good genes and luck, but honestly a big chunk of it is more likely the simple fact that they've left their skin alone and let it do what it does best: heal, build & protect.
YES, you need to wash your face. We live in a day and age where even if we go out of our way to avoid unnecessary exposure to pollution and other external irritants, it is still all around us. Even if you don't wear makeup, just being out and about will expose you to quite a bit of grime. Just like a car sitting outside even if it's not driven around, it just gets dirty. You need to remove that before you go to bed and let your skin rest, renew and regenerate on a clean slate. So what's the answer?
Approach this, as with the rest of your health, with the guideline of doing no harm. Choose a cleanser that doesn't excessively lather and doesn't sting or burn your face or create an uncomfortable tight feeling afterwards. Choose a cleanser with nourishing ingredients as well as gently purifying ones. ALWAYS choose a cleanser that doesn't have a laundry list of unrecognizable ingredients. If you do wear makeup or heavy sunscreen, I'd strongly encourage a double cleanse with the first step being a cleansing oil. My top favorites:
And as for how often you should be washing... I always recommend doing what feels right to the individual as long as they are using the right products. My personal philosophy which has worked on my own skin as well as everyone else I've recommended it to so far, is to do a thorough evening cleanse and a simple rinse in the morning. Many people resist this idea initially, thinking they'll be too dirty or oily if they don't wash again. I think it's safe to say by now that the over washing and excessive oil production connection is widely acknowledged and accepted. For those like myself who like to go the extra mile, an alcohol free toner accomplishes the deeper "clean" craving usually present with acne prone and oily skin types. Usually water alone is sufficient, but I really enjoy using a toner for it's balancing and gentle purifying properties.
If you have specific concerns you'd like to target like blemishes or brown spots, try a spot treating approach as it is almost always localized to a small percentage of our skin. Another great option is to rotate products on a seasonal or temporary basis- for example you can use more active cleansers during problematic times like summer time which often causes more oil and bacteria build up, or brightening treatments during the winter months when skin is less exposed. Always keep in mind that when using active ingredients you need to be extra careful about UV protection. In general though, when you shift your focus to fortifying and nourishing your skin and body, it will take care of itself and reduce the need for more aggressive treatment.
And shoot, when all else fails and you simply cannot bring yourself to do a full cleansing routine after a long day, invest in good quality wipes. Use the same principles as above and choose gentle, effective and appropriate wipes for your skin type. And, KNOW YOUR SKIN! Invest the time to understand how your skin behaves, if it really is problematic year-round or during certain times of the month, or if you are only really breaking out because you're not washing it. Really think about these things, they will go a very long way into your future choices not only with products but with habits.
It's been said before by many, but seriously- THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET. No magic creams, pills or potions that will make up for poor choices and habits. The right products will, however, supplement and compliment your actions taking your complexion goals to the next level, without a doubt.