Skip These Common Face-Washing Mistakes

Most of us have been washing our faces for as long as we can remember. It’s probably such a part of your daily routine that you do it robotically, without thinking. But if you’re just carelessly rushing through this step each day, you may be doing more harm than good.

Here are the biggest face-washing mistakes you’re probably making, and how to replace them with better habits for a clear and beautiful complexion.

Using the Wrong Cleanser

If you are still using the same face wash you did when you were a teenager, it may be time for an update. You want to make sure that your cleanser is free of any harmful or irritating ingredients, and is also appropriate for your current skin needs.

The first step is, of course, is identifying what those needs are. Most people have a pretty good idea of where their skin falls on the dry to oily scale.

  • If throughout the day your skin appears shiny or greasy, you probably have oily skin.
  • If you easily develop dry flaky patches, you most likely have dry skin.
  • If some areas look oily and other parts look flaky at the same time, it’s possible you have what is known as combination skin.
  • And, if you’re lucky enough to experience none of the above issues: congratulations, you have normal skin.

Many skincare lines conveniently label products according to what type of skin they are designed for. Definitely look for these and choose accordingly.

If you want to take it a step further, pay attention to the formulation. Keep in mind:

  • Dry skin does well with lotion or cream textures.
  • If your skin is especially oily, gel formulas may work best for you.

If you find that you are already using a cleanser that is designated for your skin type, but think you could be getting better results, trying a different texture may be a good idea. 

Using Water That’s Too Hot

The temperature of the water you use to wash your face may actually be more important than the cleanser itself. You don’t want to expose the delicate skin of your face to extremes of hot or cold.

If you use hot water—and by hot I mean anything more than a little beyond lukewarm—you could be burning your skin. Hot water inflames and dehydrates your skin, causing it to look red and dry after washing.

Cold water isn’t as damaging, but probably isn’t pleasant and may make it more difficult to remove all traces of cleanser.

Try to use water that is comfortably warm to slightly cool and rinse thoroughly, especially in areas that may trap product such as around the nose and hairline.

Scrubbing Your Face

So we’ve covered the cleanser and the water, but there’s one more major element to basic face washing: the method. This could be a washcloth, a cleansing brush, or simply your fingers.

Many people think they will clean their pores better with a heavy duty approach such as a battery-powered brush. But this is not always the case.

While these can be great for exfoliating dead skin and clogged pores, they can also be a source of major irritation for your skin. It depends on several factors. While oilier skin types may get away with using these devices more often, some sensitive types can only handle it a couple times a week at most. It’s way too easy for most of us to overdo it, whether we are using a cloth, a brush, or face scrub.

So does that mean you need to stop using these completely?

No, but you do need to consider your skin type when deciding what type and how often. Most skin experts agree that you should be exfoliating no more than once a day at most.

If you notice any redness or irritation develop, stop and take a break for several days. And you definitely want to take extra caution to only apply only light pressure, and go over every area only briefly.

For many of us, a gentle hand might be a better bet than more aggressive approaches when it comes to cleansing without irritation.

Drying Your Skin With a Dirty Towel

Drying may be what you do after you wash your face, but don’t let it be just an afterthought! Not considering how you dry your face could undo all the cleansing you just did. If you simply grab whatever towel is nearby, you are more than likely just putting bacteria right back onto your freshly cleaned skin. Even if you have a dedicated towel just for drying your face, you do need to replace this often. It’s best to replace it every day.

But before you go and give yourself an extra load of laundry every week, consider keeping a set of small washcloths and using one every day or two. This is a great way to make sure you are using a clean, dry cloth every time.

Woman drying face with a clean towel

If you run out of clean towels, you can also opt for facial tissue. They are thinner and not as absorbent as towels, so you may need to use several, but it is a very gentle alternative in a pinch. 

One more very important aspect of drying your skin is your technique. Avoid rubbing or tugging your skin in any way. Instead, gently pat your skin dry and moisturize and apply any skin care treatments immediately afterward.

Using Too Much Face Wash

It’s tempting to think more face wash equals cleaner face,  but this is not really the case. In reality, a little goes a long way and the way you massage the cleanser into your skin is more important for a thoroughly cleansed complexion. It is recommended to aim for about a dime-sized amount. Any more, and not only are you wasting product (and money), but you could cause irritation if your cleanser contains any acne fighting ingredients.

Not Washing Your Face

It needs to be said: skipping your daily face washing routine is a bad idea. This is extra important on days that you wear makeup. I know that everybody has long days when washing your face is the last thing you want to do before crawling into bed.

But hitting the pillow with a day’s worth of dirt, mascara, and foundation on not only ruins your pillowcase but can lead to a whole host of issues. Among these are eye infections, clogged pores, dehydrated skin, and the development of wrinkles over time.

Washing Your Face Too Often

On the flip-side of not washing your face at all, is washing your face too much. Most people wash their face in the morning and at night before going to bed. But if you are dealing with breakouts, don’t buy into the idea that washing more than that will help. Over-washing can just make the problem worse.

When you wash your face you are stripping away moisture from your skin, and this can trigger your pores to overcompensate with more oil, thus leading to pimples.

Thus, it’s best to stick to washing your face twice and day and no more.

In fact, some dermatologists state if you thoroughly cleanse your face every night, you don’t have to do it all over again the next morning unless you suffer from oily skin.

For normal and dryer skin types, it may be enough to splash with lukewarm water and then apply your daily moisturizer. Although it doesn’t hurt to follow your complete cleansing routine morning and night, listen to your skin and adjust if needed.

Oh, and there’s one more thing to consider. If you break a sweat exercising, try to cleanse your face immediately afterward. This will prevent clogged pores and pimples, no matter your skin type. If you can, try to time your workout so that it coincides with your morning or evening wash, so that you aren’t adding an unnecessary cleanse to your day.

Not Applying Moisturizer Immediately After Cleansing

For those of us with dry skin, it may be a no-brainer. We naturally reach for moisturizer after washing our face to seal in the hydration and stave off annoying scratchy dry patches. But if you are oily skinned, don’t think skipping moisturizer is doing you any favors.

All skin types need moisture after coming in contact with water and the drying effects of cleansing agents. Again, contrary to your instincts, your skin will only act out by producing extra oil if you don’t give it the moisture it requires.

If your concern is drowning your acne-prone pores with something too heavy, the key is to instead look for the appropriate type of moisturizer for your needs.

Avoid oils and cream textures, and go for a gel or light lotion formula designed for oily skin. Freshly cleaned and properly moisturized skin will glow, and not in a greasy way!

Not Removing Your Makeup First

Now I know what you may be thinking: 

“If I’m washing my face with a good cleanser, do I really need a makeup remover too?”

The truth is that most cleansers are meant to clean what naturally accumulates on your skin. And even the best cleansers can’t reach your pores if there are layers of foundation and concealer in the way.

While you may be able to get around this problem by doing a double cleanse with the same product if you use any long-wear or water-resistant makeup this may not do the job. Take, for example, waterproof mascara— even the best cleanser probably can’t break through a waterproof formula, at least not completely. It’s essential that you remove these barriers so that your face wash can get to the skin underneath.

So if you wear makeup at all, invest in a separate makeup remover. There are many options to choose from,  including those specially designed for hard to remove mascaras. Just be careful not to pull and tug, especially when taking off eye makeup. The area around the eyes is sensitive and composed of thinner skin that needs to be handled gently.

Just like going to sleep with your makeup intact, not removing your makeup before washing your face will leave traces of makeup in your pores. And the consequences of skipping this step are the same— breakouts, irritation, and premature aging.

Relying on Wipes

Makeup remover wipes and cleansing wipes are very popular beauty items due to their convenience and portability. But if you’re relying on these alone to clean your face, that’s a problem. While a quality makeup wipe can remove the day’s makeup as a first step to cleansing, they do not truly clean your skin. And this goes for any type of face wipe—you will need to get to a sink and thoroughly rinse with water at the very least.

Woman wiping face with face wipe

It’s important to always follow this additional step for a number of reasons: 

  • Wipes cannot actually remove dirt and oil from the surface of the skin. The most they can do on their own is lift the top layer of dirt to make it easier to wash away. If you don’t follow with a thorough wash and rinse, you’re actually just leaving all of that on your skin. 
  • Most wipes contain alcohol and other potentially drying ingredients that can cause irritation if left on your skin. 
  • Using a wipe is not very gentle—you usually have to go over your skin several times and apply some pressure to remove makeup, and this can weaken your skin.

So before you go throw out all your wipes, know that using them occasionally is fine and may be necessary.  For example, they’re great for cleaning up makeup mistakes on the go, or for traveling without access to a sink. But at the end of the day, you’re better off using more traditional methods to remove stubborn makeup and dirt. 

So whether you’re a makeup junkie or more into natural beauty, it’s always a good idea to review your routine and habits to see where you could use a skincare overhaul. And no matter your skin type, following these simple tips will set the foundation for clean, healthy skin.