10 Mistakes You're Making When Washing Your Face (Part 1: Seriously, Skincare)

Washing your face sounds pretty basic, right? But, it’s truly such an important first step to healthy skin and a proper skin-care routine. But, several of us are washing our faces wrong.

“Proper facial cleansing prevents acne breakouts, can improve skin health, and may even reduce skin inflammation,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Let’s walk through 10 mistakes you might be making.

Mistake #1: Forgetting to wash your face before bed

All day long your face is accumulating so much junk (i.e. dirt, pollution), that it's just gross to think about leaving all that stuff all over your skin and into your pores. Throughout the day natural oils and sweat accumulate on the skin, too.

All this stuff builds up on your outer skin. Not removing all this gunk at the end of the day can cause skin irritation, inflammation, and acne breakouts.

We need to wash our faces before going to bed at night to clean our skin from the day.

Jerome Garden, M.D., director of the Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago, reminds us to “make sure to wash the T-zone and U-zone (around the jawline), as these are areas people tend to ignore.”

Mistake #2: Skipping the morning cleanse

Maybe you think you only have time for the bare minimum. And, washing your face only at night is the bare minimum.

Germs from your pillowcase can move to your face during your sleep. While you're tossing and turning at night, bacteria from your saliva and oils from your hair are easily transferred to your face and eyes,” explains Rachel Nazarian, M.D., dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York and New Jersey.

A quick morning cleanse can also wake up you and your skin for the day and get you to a fresh start! It also creates the best absorption for your other skin care products.

Mistake #3: Using hot water

Sorry, babe, but hot water is no friend to your skin. It might feel good in the shower or after a chilly day. But, you’re messing with the way your skin protects itself and could be causing damage.

“Extreme temperatures, such as hot, steamy showers or hot water, can cause dilation of blood vessels and breakage of delicate tissue,” warns Dr. Zeichner. “Further, the hot water naturally strips skin of the necessary oil barrier that helps maintain skin integrity.”

Meaning, your skin will dry out quicker, become more itchy and flaky over time.

Instead, use lukewarm water when washing your face.

Mistake #4: Using your face cleanser as a make-up remover

I’ll assume for this article that you already understand the perils of going to bed with a face full of make-up (i.e. acne). However, your facial cleanser should not double as your make-up remover.

“Many makeup brands are smudge-proof or water-proof, so basic cleansers will not remove them thoroughly,” explains Dr. Nazarian.

It’s important to use a gentle make-up removing wipe, micellar water or an oil-based make-up remover prior to washing your face. Especially, if you use smudge-proof and water-proof make-up products.

Mistake #5: Using the incorrect facial cleanser

If you’re prone to oily skin, using a facial cleanser that’s made for dry skin could cause you further skin problems. And, vice versa. Companies make specific skin-type formulas for a reason.

Along this line, using a bar soap as your facial cleanser could mean you’re stripping the natural hydrators from your skin, which could leave your face inflamed and red from broken blood vessels.

Use gentle cleansers that respect the pH balance of your skin.

Mistake #6: Wiping your face off with your shower towel

Different microorganisms live in different areas of your body. This means you don’t want to wipe your face with the same towel you wipe your body. So, when you hop out of the shower have a separate face cloth for your face.

Mistake #7: Reusing wash cloths

Your washcloths build up with bacteria and mold and you could be transferring all this to your face! Experts say to toss that washcloth into your hamper each time.

Now, I understand this might seem like you’re creating extra laundry. So, try having several basic wash cloths that are cheap around your house to prevent you from needing to do the laundry more often. Amazon has a set of 24 for very little money if you click here.

Mistake #8: Washing your face too much

On the flip side you want to make sure you don't wash your face too much. Morning and night as well as after any heavy workouts or excessive sweating is generally enough, unless you're someone prone to skin infections.

However, washing your face too much can lead to dry, irritated skin. It can also make your skin to paradoxically produce too much oil.

Mistake #9: Scrubbing your face

Over scrubbing, especially when using an exfoliating wash, can quickly lead to irritated and red skin. Jerome Garden, M.D., director of the Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago, recommends wetting your face with lukewarm water and using apply your cleanser in a circular motion using your fingertips.

Once you’ve built up a nice lather, rinse, and pat dry with a soft, clean towel.

Mistake #10: Not moisturizing right after a wash

It can make a huge difference when choosing to moisturize at the right time! Experts recommend applying your moisturizing right after washing your face.

“If you wait even a few minutes, the surface cells dehydrate and are actually harder to moisturize,” says Dr. Marmur. “Moisturizers provide key nurturing ingredients to your skin, leaving you with a clean and hydrated surface.”

Washing your face helps gives your skin the best absorption, as we already discussed earlier in this article.

Also, remember that if your daytime moisturizer doesn’t contain SPF that you also apply sunscreen on top of it. “The SPF will help protect all the hard work you’ve been putting into your skin care,” says Dr. Garden.

Make sure to check back next week for the next installment of “Seriously, Skincare” where we’re going to teach you the proper way of washing your face.

If you missed the previous installments of this serious, click here to go to the first article called “Seriously, Skincare” and work your way through the series.