The Best Way to Wash your Face According to Dermatologists

The Best Way to Wash your Face According to Dermatologists

Washing your face seems to be one of the simplest and most uncomplicated routines in your daily life. However, cleaning your face requires time and proper care, and doing it correctly may be the difference between glowing skin and an acne breakout.


One common reason for washing your face is (obviously) to remove dirt, oil, and other undesired particles. As you go throughout the day with various activities, the skin on your face will be constantly coated with germs, pollutants, viruses, debris, and old (dead) skin cells. Your daily facial cleansing removes them, giving your face a fresh, glowing look. 


So while it's certainly something you should do every day, are you sure you're washing your face properly? Learn how to make the most of your everyday routine in order to get attractive, bright skin.

When you should be cleansing your face

“Many believe that you need to only wash your face to remove makeup or when it looks dirty. In actuality, it’s recommended you wash your face twice daily,” says Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist from Scottsdale, Arizona.


Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, agrees. He recommends washing your face twice per day, in the morning and before bedtime.


However, if you can only commit to a wash once daily, do it before you go to bed. “If you’re going to wash only once, my recommendation is to wash in the evening to remove everything that has accumulated during the day so you sleep with a clean face on your pillow,” Zeichner says.


Is a third wash necessary? Only after a sweaty workout. “If you work out, do your best to wash afterward as well,” Zeichner adds.


But when you apply a lot of makeup or sunscreen during the day, you should wash their face in the morning followed by a more thorough cleanse at night.

How often should you wash your face?

But before you splash those cleansers on your face, it is important to note that how often you should wash depends on your skin type.


  • Dry or sensitive skin: It can be irritating for those with dry, sensitive skin to wash their faces twice a day. Hence, use a gentle cleanser at night and simply rinse with warm water in the morning.
  • Oily or acne-prone skin: While you may feel the urge to wash your face every now and then because of the oil, washing your face more than twice a day may dry out your skin.
  • Combination skin: If you have a combination skin, it is advisable to wash twice a day and use a gentle formula.


While in general, you should be cleansing your face at least twice a day, Dr. Saya Obayah, a board-certified dermatologist ‌in Austin, Texas, says it is better to monitor your skin: “As the weather changes and gets cooler and drier, you should pay attention to your skin and see if it requires daily cleansing twice a day. For many of us, the wintertime is a good season to decrease face cleansing to once a day and increase moisturizing by using creams, serums, and masks.”

Can you wash your face too often?

The answer is a definitive no. You should not wash your face too often. Washing your face too much can be just as harmful as not washing it at all.


“Overwashing and over scrubbing may leave you with a squeaky-clean feeling, but this actually is damaging,” says Zeichner. When you overwash, your skin barrier is damaged, weakening your skin protection. This makes a just-right washing routine vital for everyone, especially for those suffering from skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.


“In these conditions, the skin barrier is naturally weakened, increasing the risk of inflammation,” says Zeichner. Be gentle as possible using mild formulas and avoid overwashing so as not to aggravate the irritation already present.

What ingredients/products to include

Cleansers aren't always the same for everyone, says Zeichner.


“If you have dry or sensitive skin, stick to hydrating, non-foaming cleansers, because the lathering agents used in foaming cleansers tend to be more drying on the skin,” he explains further.


If you have oily or acne-prone skin, a foaming or salicylic acid–based acne cleanser may be best for you. “Foaming cleansers are better suited for people with oily skin who need a deeper clean, and salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that helps effectively remove oil from the skin,” he adds.


Furthermore, there are also many different cleansers that fall somewhere between the two. “From milk to oils, balms to waters, each cleanser gives a different sensorial experience to match your personal preferences,” he says.


No matter what product you choose, beware of over scrubbing. If you suffer from redness, peeling, or flaking, or if you feel tight or itchy after washing your face, you might be over scrubbing.


When it comes to cleanser (and skincare in general) the most important thing you need is "gentle".


“A lot of times patients come in saying they have sensitive skin, but it's really because of all the things they're doing to it,” says Dr. Kathleen Cook Suozzi, a dermatologist, and director of aesthetic dermatology at Yale Medicine. “You want to strip everything down and stick to a really gentle skin care regimen. Then you can add things back, but add them in slowly. Add one thing at a time and use the product for at least two weeks before you add anything else to avoid sensitizing the skin.”


Like Zeichner, Souzzi recommends “hydrating gentle moisturizers to patients over 40; whereas patients in their 20s may require a foaming cleanser if acne prone.”


What about toners and retinol? Toners are optional, but they can be beneficial if they're alcohol-free and contain ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid, which can help add moisture to your skin. If you do decide to use a toner, apply it with a cotton ball after cleansing and before you apply your moisturizer.


Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that helps improve skin tone, texture, and firmness. It can also help diminish the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and scars. If you're interested in using a retinol product, start by using it every other night and gradually increase the frequency to every night.


Trying different face cleansers out to see if they work for you is a lot of trial and error, and you will know if it is working for you if you do not have irritation, redness, or an over-drying sensation.


However, remember that your skin care regimen should be enjoyable for you, or at the very least something you feel good about doing. With this easy guideline on the best way to wash your face according to dermatologists, you can be assured that you're providing your skin with the care it needs, allowing you to enjoy beautiful, healthy skin all year.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise explicitly stated, the content on this blog, including all articles, videos, and other information, is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, health practice, or other institution.