How to Wash Your Face: The 10 Commandments of Cleansing

woman washing face


When you’re faced with daily tasks as simple as washing your face, sometimes you start to slack. However, proper cleansing is anything but basic. Despite the amount of energy we devote to perfecting our skincare regimens, when it comes to the very first step, we don’t often give the same amount of care.

To correct that tendency, we’ve outlined exactly how to wash your face by drawing up the 10 commandments of cleansing your skin correctly. Starting with taking off the day and finishing off with exactly when to apply serums and moisturizers onto your freshly-washed visage, these straightforward face-washing steps guarantee to get you on your way to clearer, healthier skin. Keep reading to study up on the commandments and shop some of our favorite cleansing products to incorporate into a face-washing routine.

Now raise your right hand, and repeat after us…

#1: Thou Shalt Wash Thy Hands First

How to Wash Your Face: The 10 Commandments of Cleansing
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If you were to wipe down a surface with a dirty rag, would you really be cleaning it? No. Similarly, when you wash your face with unclean hands, you’re pushing that dirt around on your face. Wash your hands first. 

#2: Thou Shalt Remove ALL of Thy Makeup Beforehand

How to Wash Your Face: The 10 Commandments of Cleansing
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#3: Thou Shalt Use Lukewarm Water

Using hot water may feel nice, but it’s not doing your skin any favors. Hot water is dehydrating—it strips healthy, natural oils from your skin too quickly. Lukewarm water is warm enough to help loosen dirt and sebum without stripping your skin.

If you’re redness-prone, try cleansing with cool water, which helps constrict blood vessels.

#4: Thou Shalt Double-Cleanse

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The benefits of double cleansing are plentiful—smoother skin, a more thorough clean, better product absorption. Pollution, makeup, and some sunscreens just can’t be removed with one cleanse. Use a gentle cleansing milk or oil first to remove all of the grime that sits on top of your skin, and use a cleanser that suits your skin type to finish the job.

#5: Thou Shalt Not Use Any Cleanser With Sulfates

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You know to avoid sulfates in your shampoo, but did you know there might be sulfates lurking in your cleanser? If you see sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, or ammonium laureth sulfate on the ingredients list, put that face wash down. Sulfates are surfactants that are used to cut oil from the skin, but they’re stronger than you need and will end up dehydrating your skin. Also off-limits? Bar soap. The binding ingredients that hold a bar of soap together have a naturally high pH level that’s too strong for your delicate skin.

#6: Thou Shalt Massage Thy Face for at Least 60 Seconds

You need to give your cleanser time to work. And technique matters too. Rather than scrubbing vigorously for 20 seconds, spend a full minute gently massaging your face in circular motions. This stimulates your lymphatic system, which encourages oxygen and blood circulation.

#7: Thou Shalt Not Neglect Thy Neck

In case you haven’t heard it lately, your neck needs love too. It’s one of the spots that show signs of aging first, mainly because it’s not a top priority in your skincare regimen. But your neck should be included in every step of your routine, starting with cleansing.

Make sure your face wash reaches all the way up to your hairline (another commonly neglected spot), or you could start to see breakouts forming there.

#8: Thou Shalt Pat Dry With a Clean Towel

How to Wash Your Face: The 10 Commandments of Cleansing
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Because the skin on your face is so delicate, take extra care to pat it dry with a soft towel. And it doesn’t need to be bone-dry when you’re done. It’s okay to leave a thin layer of moisture on your skin since the products you apply next will seal that in. It’s not okay, however, to grab any old towel you can find. Towels you use to dry your hair and body could have pore-clogging residue from your shower products on them. Make it a habit to use a fresh towel each day and you’ll avoid problem-causing germs and bacteria.

#9: Thou Shalt Apply Skincare Within One Minute of Cleansing

How to Wash Your Face: The 10 Commandments of Cleansing
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The moment your skin starts to feel tight, you’ve officially waited too long to apply your products. Every second your skin is left bare, dry air is pulling moisture right out of it. To sidestep unnecessary dehydration, apply the first layer of your skincare regimen within one minute of drying off.

#10: Thou Shalt Follow These Commandments Every Morning and Night—No Exceptions

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It’s the skin advice as old as time: Wash your face morning and night. The usual protest against this sage guidance is that in the mornings, your skin is still clean from the night before. But that’s not exactly the case. Overnight, your skin cells are hard at work, which means they’re secreting toxins and sebum. Wash your face in the morning to remove all that waste and secure better performance from your daytime products.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Barel AO, Paye M, Maibach HI. Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Fourth Edition. CRC Press; 2014.

  2. Barel AO, Lambrecht R, Clarys P, Morrison BM, Paye M. A comparative study of the effects on the skin of a classical bar soap and a syndet cleansing bar in normal use conditions and in the soap chamber test. Skin Res Technol. 2001;7(2):98-104. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0846.2001.70208.x

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