How To Wash Your Face In 7 Simple Steps

We're talking more than just soap and water, folks.

Washing your face seems like a pretty straightforward practice, right?

While a quick splash of water and some soap might be all you need, there are some subtle things you may be doing that could be the cause of excessive drying, oily skin or even those dreaded breakouts.

Fear not -- a few simple tweaks can make your skin healthier. Because we've committed to taking better care of ourselves as part of our Look Good, Feel Good Challenge, we felt it was time to get this simple cleansing practice down right -- once and for all.

We spoke to board-certified dermatologist Jessica Krant, M.D., M.P.H. for her take on a healthy facial cleansing routine. Check out her seven simple tips below.

1. Keep it simple
Because everyone's skin is a little different, there’s no single miracle face wash. But, something we all can do is look for a cleanser that is simple. "Cleansing should take away dirt, germs and excess oil, but not appropriate skin moisture and healthy cells," Krant says. Find the gentlest cleanser that will "get the job done," as she puts it, but nothing too harsh that leaves redness or rashes.
2. Don't obsess
If your skin is sedentary on a certain day -- meaning you didn't sweat or put on heavy makeup -- Krant says skipping a day of washing your face isn’t a sin. On the other hand, she points out, “It’s best not to let old makeup or sunscreen sit around too long or go to sleep with you.” Generally, washing your face once or twice a day is a good plan to stick to. Anything more than that is excessive (unless there are special circumstances prescribed by your dermatologist), and can lead to “rebound overproduction of oil and breakouts.”
3. Cool it
While it might feel good to warm up with a steamy splash of water, Krant says icy cold or lukewarm water both have their benefits. Excessively hot water will "strip healthy natural oils from your skin too quickly."
4. Exfoliate sparingly
Exfoliating definitely has skin benefits: The scrub can increase circulation for a rosy glow, and it helps to remove dead skin cells. But excessive exfoliation can "lead down the path to trouble." Krant recommends a gentle exfoliation one or twice a week, max.
5. Pat your face dry
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A lot of us rush our routines, and wipe our wet faces on whatever's closest to the sink: a used towel, the shirt we’re wearing. But it’s important to use a gentle, clean cloth to dry up. Krant recommends patting your skin, rather than rubbing, and letting a "fine mist of water to remain so when you apply your moisturizer it will seal the moisture into the surface of the skin."
6. Winterize your regimen
"The most important thing to watch out for in winter is overcleansing and overdrying," Krant says. In the cooler temps we’re prone to taking longer, hotter showers and spending more time in the overheated indoor air, both of which can dry out the face -- and fast. Krant says it's important not to wash your face excessively and to introduce a moisturizer, if it’s right for your skin. Also crucial is an SPF: She suggests choosing a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 in the winter (and upping it to SPF 30 in the summer, when we spend more time outdoors).
7. Watch your eyes
Fight the urge to splash your eyes open to wake yourself up on groggy mornings. The skin around your eyes is delicate and thin, so it it needs to be treated even more gently than the rest of your face. Things to keep in mind? "Use a gentle eye makeup remover and don't use harsh soaps or cleansers directly on delicate eyelids," she says.

This piece was originally published on November 16, 2012.

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