8 Cleansing Mistakes Experts Want You to Stop Making

Amy Lawrenson

Cleansing is a seriously important step in your skincare routine. Wash your face thoroughly and any products you apply afterwards will work more efficiently. Serums and moisturisers can be expensive, so it’s a no-brainer that you would want them to work optimally. If your products are doing their thing, it means you can use less product, still get great results and your favourite pot of skincare will last longer. You may think you know how to wash your face, but do you know how to super-charge your cleansing routine? We called on dermatologists and facialists, from London to Los Angeles, to reveal the cleansing mistakes they discover clients doing time and again. Surprisingly, rethinking your routine could save you time and get you plumper, more glowing skin fast.

Keep scrolling to see whether you’re making these cleansing mistakes.

Mistake #1: Not Cleansing Twice Per Day

How often do you forgo an a.m. or p.m. cleanse? Is it a rarity or something you do on the regular? You may thoroughly cleanse away the day at night but a morning cleanse is key too. “Just as cleansing at night removes the oil, dirt and debris from your skin incurred during the day, cleansing in the morning also serves a special function,” says facialist Kate Kerr. “The goal is to awaken your skin by increasing circulation, clearing away dead skin cells, and preparing the surface of your skin to effectively absorb your targeted daytime products.”

On the flip side, consultant dermatologist Alexis Granite finds that some of her patients don’t cleanse at night, “especially teens or those who shower in the morning, tend to forgo an evening routine. It’s beneficial to cleanse before bed to wash off all of the makeup, impurities and oils that have built up during the day.”

As for technique, advanced skincare and laser specialist Debbie Thomas advises, “rub your hands together to activate the cleanser, then massage onto the face using circular motions. This boosts the skins circulation as well as working the product into the skin, giving a good cleanse.” 

Mistake #2: Not Washing Your Hands

Do you ever wash your hands before washing your face? Me neither, but it’s seriously important that we do. “To cleanse effectively, clean your hands first, as you don’t want to rub the dirt and bacteria from them into your face,” Thomas says.

Mistake #3: Being Too Abrasive

Cleansing is cleansing while exfoliating is something entirely different. You shouldn’t need to scrub at your skin twice per day or be too abrasive. “Let the cleanser do its job!” says Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Jessica Alba’s favourite esthetician, Shani Darden.

Being abrasive is a common trait in women with problem skin: “Patients with spots sometimes think the cleaner the better, but really excessive washing can irritate skin and actually worsen breakouts,” explains Granite.

Use a muslin cloth to gently remove your cleanser, the cloth will have a very gentle exfoliating action on the skin. Make sure to stock up your supply so you can wash them after each use. When it comes to drying your face post-cleanse, dermatologist Sam Bunting, MD, recommends, “pat your skin dry gently, don’t rub.” 

Mistake #4: Using Temperature Extremes

The water temperature is key. You may think you need to use hot water to open your pores during your cleanse, and cold water after to close the pores but this just isn’t true. “Opt for lukewarm water,” Darden says. Water that is too hot can lead to dryness, irritation and skin redness.

Mistake #5: Double-Cleansing

Double cleansing is quite the trend right now. But not all our experts are convinced. “I am not a fan of the double-cleansing trend,” Bunting says. “I believe that one cleanse, done properly, is sufficient. The true key is to fix problems and get to the point where skin condition is great; makeup is then a tool of enhancement, rather than a security blanket to hide behind. And as a result, less product is used, and it comes off in one cleanse.

“The problem with multiple cleansing steps is that this disturbs skin barrier function—and this is not good. It’s important to realise that ‘squeaky clean’ skin means you’ve gone too far—I think skin should have no residual tightness after cleansing if you’re using the right product. So my advice to patients, many of whom suffer from acne and rosacea, so are very dependent on cosmetics—is that if you need to double-cleanse you need to re-examine your makeup practices.”

Of course, you may well want to wear more makeup for a night out or special occasion, in which case we think the occasional double-cleanse is warranted.

Bunting agrees, however, that a specific eye makeup remover used before cleansing is okay since it’s not strictly “double-cleansing.”

Another exception to the rule? “After intense exercise or heavy sweating an additional cleanse or use of facial wipes may be beneficial,” Granite says. “But I would recommend applying moisturiser afterwards so as not to dry out the skin.”

Mistake #6: Using a Cream or Balm

Naturally, the cleanser you choose is important and, thanks to the experts, the choice is less daunting than you would expect. “I recommend a gel or foam cleanser, rather than a cream or balm, as these can leave behind residue, causing congestion, irritation and upset of your skin’s natural moisturising processes,” explains Kerr. “They also reduce your skin's ability to absorb the products you apply post cleansing.”

Bunting agrees: “I honestly believe that for the vast majority of women, a gentle, non-clogging wash-off gel cleanser does the trick. That the same cleanser can be used a.m. and p.m.”

Mistake #7: Thinking Devices Are Faddy

A cleansing device like a FOREO or Clarisonic can make a wonderful addition to your face-washing routine. 

“Devices can be a useful adjunct to p.m. cleansing in someone who lives in an urban environment,” explains Bunting. “Especially if they exercise outdoors or perhaps cycle to work. We know that pollution can drive signs of skin ageing like hyperpigmentation and mechanical cleansing may ensure that very fine particulate matter is thoroughly removed.”

As with all aspects of cleansing, less is more. “Frequency of use should be guided by skin type—oily/combination skin will tolerate more frequent use than thin, dry skin. I’d also advise caution in anyone with inflammatory skin issues like acne or rosacea—fingertips are the best tool for cleansing in those with problem skin,” Bunting says.

Thomas suggests limiting your gadget use to absolutely no more than three times per week. “Too much use can over stimulate and over cleanse the skin causing irritation.”

Mistake #8: Avoiding Acids

Acids are your skin’s friend, honest. “Use a daily cleanser that is balanced with good active ingredients like salicylic, lactic or glycolic acid. These will clean and unblock the skin without stripping it,” Thomas says.

Kerr recommends you build up to daily use, however. “If you’re new to using products with active ingredients, start with a gentle cleanser for a few weeks before introducing an active alpha hydroxy acid or beta hydroxy acid exfoliating cleanser in the morning.”

Next up! The makeup mistakes that are ageing you.

Opening Image: The Frugality

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