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The Best Way To Wash Your Face: 6 Simple Steps

Learning how to wash your face properly can upgrade your skincare routine and help you get healthy-looking skin. Here, we’re breaking it down in six steps.

We have news: You don’t know how to wash your face the right way. Or, to be more specific, there’s an 80% chance you don’t. It’s true. One study found that 80% of Americans actually wash incorrectly. They make mistakes like using hand soap to cleanse their skin or skipping face-washing entirely. Well, it’s time for an intervention. Face-cleansing is, no doubt, an essential skincare step, and it’s important to learn how to properly wash your face. Here, we’re answering common cleansing questions (like “how often should you wash your face?”), sharing our best face wash options for your skin, and breaking down an easy face-washing routine. Keep reading for all the details on the best way to wash.

Step #1

Pick The Right Face Wash

Not just any cleanser will do. Don’t assume all cleansing products can work as a face wash; you shouldn’t use anything that’s not actually formulated for your face. This means no hand soap, body wash, or shampoo. These products, while effective for the jobs they’re meant to do, aren’t suited to facial skin.

Knowing to use a real face wash is the first step, but beyond that, it’s also important to find a product that suits your skin. The right facial cleanser for one person isn’t necessarily a match for the next. Choose a formula that will be gentle on your skin and address your needs. You can also use formulas meant for all skin types to simplify your search. One of our favorites is Ultra Facial Cleanser. It’s a mild face wash (made with olive-derived squalane and avocado oil) that helps dissolve oil, dirt, and debris without stripping your skin of its essential oils.

Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub

For men, Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub is a top Kiehl’s pick. The efficient facial scrub not only cleanses but also exfoliates the skin. And it can be used to help soften tough facial hair for a closer shave. The invigorating formula includes apricot kernels, caffeine, and menthol.

Another option that exfoliates and cleanses simultaneously is Clearly Corrective Brightening & Exfoliating Daily Cleanser. It’s suitable for all skin types (even sensitive skin) and helps to clarify and visibly brighten. The formula with pearlstone and white birch extract is dermatologist-tested and gentle enough to be used twice per day.

Step #2

Wet Your Skin and Lather Up

Once you’ve selected the right facial cleanser, it’s time to put it to use. Keep in mind, it isn’t necessary to use a ton of your face wash. A small amount is enough to cleanse a full face. Squeeze a dime-sized dollop onto your fingers. Then, wet your face and use your fingertips to apply it. Massage the face wash over your skin to work the formula into a lather, taking care to be gentle. You don’t need to be rough to get your skin clean; the cleanser should do all the heavy lifting.

Step #3

Rinse Your Face With Lukewarm Water

One of the biggest face-washing mistakes our Kiehl’s Customer Representatives hear about is customers who turn their water to the wrong temperature. Yes, this does matter. While it may seem logical to wash your face with steaming hot H2O in order to get truly squeaky clean, in reality, this does your skin a disservice. Hot water can dry out and irritate the skin, which is why we always recommend lukewarm water instead. Adjust the tap to water that falls in that perfect in-between spot—not too hot and not too cold—to rinse off the cleanser.

Step #4

Pat (Never Rub!) To Remove Excess Water

Rubbing your face can irritate your skin, which is far from the goal here. Post-cleansing, your skin should feel refreshed and comfortable, not irritated. Don’t reach for a towel and roughly dry off your skin. After you cleanse, pat it dry with a soft towel instead. You also don’t need to wipe away every last water droplet. Leaving a little bit on your skin can help with locking in hydration when you apply moisturizer later on.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: Make this step extra gentle by using a soft (clean) cotton T-shirt in place of a towel.

Step #5

Follow With a Facial Toner

Cleansing and toning go together like many other famous duos: peanut butter and jelly, shampoo and conditioner, and so on. Using a face toner after you cleanse can help refresh and restore skin’s pH balance, while also removing oils and impurities that remain after cleansing. Reach for Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner, an alcohol-free toner infused with hand-picked calendula flower petals, burdock root extract, and allantoin. It gently balances skin’s natural oils and removes any cleanser residue, dirt, and debris. Saturate a cotton pad with the formula and smooth it onto your skin.

Step #6

Replenish Moisture

One of the primary rules when it comes to how to wash your face is that when you finish cleansing, moisturizer is always a must. Smooth hydrating formulas—serums and moisturizers—onto your face to trap in moisture and end your routine on the right note. Start with Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate, a face serum with glycerin that visibly improves the appearance of dehydrated skin. It also visibly smooths fine lines and uneven skin texture. Take one pump and apply the serum evenly over your face.

Ultra Facial Cream

Use Ultra Facial Cream next. The face cream formulated with squalane (a Kiehl’s #1 best-seller) provides lasting, 24-hour hydration and leaves skin with a healthy look. Scoop out a dime-sized amount and apply the moisturizer as per usual. At night, this can be your final skincare step. In the morning, you’ll want to finish with SPF. We recommend Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+, which protects your skin from environmental aggressors, including UV rays and pollution.

How Often Should You Wash Your Face?

Keeping your skin clean and fresh is important, but washing your face too often can leave it dry and irritated, and potentially lead to breakouts. A good rule to follow is to wash your face twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. In the morning, you’ll cleanse to give your skin a fresh start and wash away any sweat that built up overnight. At the end of the day, cleansing is key to remove makeup and impurities that are sitting on your skin. Beyond these two cleansing sessions, you should also wash your face after exercise or sweating, because when sweat mixes with surface debris, it can contribute to clogged pores.

Why Is My Face Still Dirty After I Wash It?

If your face doesn’t feel clean after washing, you may need to go back and double-check that you’re cleansing the right way. Ask yourself if you’re using the correct cleanser for your skin type. It’s possible that using a cleanser for dry skin when your face is oily won’t leave you feeling completely clean. You also need to question whether you’re being thorough enough. Make sure you carefully cleanse every spot, even ones that are easy to miss, like the skin around your nose and your hairline.

It’s also possible that your skin is calling out for something more. Double cleansing is a popular skincare method that involves washing your face twice in a row. First, with an oil cleanser to remove makeup and long-lasting products (like sunscreen), and then with a standard face wash to remove lingering impurities.

For a deeper clean, try this technique. Take a few pumps of your oil cleanser in your hands and massage it over dry skin. Add water to emulsify the cleanser, then rinse. Next, grab a gentle foaming formula and wash your face again. To learn more about how and when to double cleanse, read our article What Is Double Cleansing and Why Should You Try It.

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