- Separating the myths from the facts about washing your face can be confusing.
- Dermatologists recommend using a cleanser that’s well-suited to your skin type over a bar of soap.
- Washing your face twice a day isn’t always necessary, but cleansing once can prevent breakouts.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
There are plenty of myths about washing your face that need debunking, so to set the record straight, Insider reached out to dermatologists to weigh in on some of the most commonly-debated face-washing practices.
Here are some myths about washing your face, and what experts say you should really be doing:
Myth: You shouldn’t wash your face in the shower.
Although some think washing your face shouldn’t be part of your shower routine, it can be a good thing as long as you’re careful, said Shasa Hu, a board-certified dermatologist and cofounder of the skin-care consultation service BiaLife.
“When you wash your face in the shower, the warm mist from the shower promotes deeper exfoliation and unclogs the pores,” Hu explained.
She continued, “As long as you are not using scorching-hot water or harsh soaps, washing your face while you’re in the shower will save you time, save water, and give you a deeper cleaning to prep your skin for the rest of your skin-care routine.”
Myth: You should always wash your face twice a day.
New York City-based dermatologist Hadley King told Insider that whether or not you need to wash your face twice a day depends on your skin type and what you need to wash off.
Dry or sensitive skin types are fine to cleanse once in the evening, but oily skin might require you to cleanse at least twice a day, King said. However, if you complete a sweaty workout or wear heavy makeup, she recommends always washing your face after the gym or before bed.
“Cleansing before bed is generally recommended not only to remove makeup, but also [to remove the] dirt and pollution that accumulates on our skin during the day,” King said.
Those particles, she added, can cause oxidative damage and contribute to collagen breakdown and wrinkles.
“If you use overnight skin products that leave a residue or film on your skin, then you will likely want to cleanse your face in the morning as well,” she told Insider.
Myth: Your products are only effective if your face feels a slight burn or tightness after use.
“No pain, no gain” doesn’t apply when it comes to skin care, said Audrey Kunin, a dermatologist and founder of the clinical skin-care brand DERMAdoctor.
“When skin is burned or irritated by skin-care ingredients, it upsets the protective acid mantle of the skin, which can lead to further skin sensitivities and even skin infection,” she explained.
However, certain acids and prescription-strength retinoids can yield a slight burning sensation or peeling reaction until the skin has adjusted to it, according to Hu.
“In general, these symptoms subside as the cellular turnover gets re-equilibrated by the active ingredient,” Hu said.
If you’re unsure whether or not your skin’s reaction to a product is normal, reach out to a dermatologist before continuing use.
Myth: Washing your face with soap and water will suffice as a routine.
“Regular soap is for cleaning regular things. Your skin is not regular,” Rachel Nazarian, a New York City-based dermatologist, told Insider.
Conventional soaps will strip your natural oils and “disrupt the pH of your skin and damage the skin barrier,” she said, which can cause dryness and irritation.
Instead, wash your skin with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that offers a deep clean and caters to your unique complexion.
Myth: Scrubbing with a cleansing brush is the best way to get a deep clean.
Contrary to popular belief, scrubbing with a washcloth or mechanical devices won’t scuff away oil or makeup polymers on the surface of the skin, Hu said.
“Over time, your skin responds to aggressive mechanical exfoliation by producing more oil, which can lead to clogging,” she told Insider. “This often then becomes a vicious cycle.”
Mechanical scrubbers can even cause “microscopic fissures” on the skin that can raise the risk of an allergic reaction or skin irritation.
If you must scrub, she recommends using a soft muslin cloth or a gentle, exfoliating cleanser.
Myth: You have acne because you don’t wash your face every day.
Although maintaining a clean complexion definitely helps prevent breakouts, there are other factors – like genetics and hormones – that can cause acne, according to King.
“If you have oily skin and are acne-prone, then yes, you may get more clogged pores and acne breakouts if you are not washing your face regularly,” she said. “But if you are not particularly oily or acne-prone, not washing your face every day is not so likely to give you acne.”
Myth: You shouldn’t use a washcloth to dry your face.
Drying your face with a washcloth can only really be problematic in two situations: First, if the cloth is contaminated with bacteria, yeast, or fungi, and second if the cloth is so abrasive it results in irritation.
However, King said it’s usually fine to use a clean cloth on your face if you “gently pat dry without rubbing.”
Myth: You don’t need to take your makeup off before you wash your face.
Some people believe a cleanser can strip away makeup and cleanse the skin one swoop – but Hu highly recommends making makeup removal the first step of your skin-care routine.
“Makeup has pigment, preservatives, minerals, and metals that often can clog your pores if left on too long … and prevent penetration of your skin-care products,” she explained. “It is essential to remove makeup as the first step in your nighttime routine.”
Myth: “Washing” your face with only a makeup-removing wipe will suffice.
Although removing makeup should be the first step of your nighttime routine, it shouldn’t be the only step, especially if you’re using makeup removing wipes, according to Nazarian.
“Cleansing wipes remove a bulk of bacteria, dirt, and oil, but also leave a trail of residue behind,” she said. “This can potentially lead to acne and infected glands, especially around the eyelids and eyelashes. Appropriate facial cleansing requires a water-based rinse to fully clean.”
Myth: You don’t have to wash your hands before washing your face.
Even if your hands don’t look or feel dirty, it’s always best to wash them before touching your face, according to Hu.
“Most people use hands frequently for typing on keyboards and phones, or driving,” she said, and the bacteria and chemicals on these surfaces can lead to skin and eye irritation or infection, especially in people who are prone to eczema.