A Dermatologist’s Guide to Washing Your Face

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Washing your face might seem like a simple enough chore — but the truth is, it may be more complicated than you might imagine. When done properly, face washing can help you prevent breakouts and other unwanted skin conditions while improving hygiene and overall health. When done improperly, however, washing your face can actually be just as harmful as not washing your face at all.

Here are a few dermatologist-approved ways that you can ensure that you’re washing your face properly, according to the latest medical understanding of skin health:

Use Luke-Warm Water. The hotter water is, the more effectively it will strip your skin of useful oils that keep your skin functioning properly. There’s no need to go all-out and be uncomfortable using icy water, but it is recommendable to avoid steaming hot water.

Choose Cleansing Products Carefully. Different people have different needs for their skin. If you struggle with dry skin, for example, a gentle cleanser is likely the best option. If, on the other hand, you have moderate acne problems, then a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid is likely worth the drying effects. (Just be careful with sun exposure in this case, as many acne drugs make the skin especially sensitive to sun.)

Pat dry. When drying your skin, it is best to “blot” the water off with your towel rather than rubbing, as the latter option can cause redness and damage.

Moisturize dry skin. It’s a good idea to end your cleansing routine with a moisturizer, especially if you have dry skin. Those using medications such as the aforementioned salicylic acid may also wish to discuss moisturizing options with their dermatologists, as many acne drugs cause dryness as a secondary effect.

Inspect. As you clean your skin, inspect it for changes that can develop slowly over time. Paying close attention is the best way to stay aware of potential problems as they develop — and whether it’s as simple as a slight increase in the amount of acne, or as complex as early-stage skin cancer, detecting problems early is always in your best interest.

Shave/remove hair carefully. Shaving and/or plucking hair are both important parts of many people’s skin care routines. Unfortunately, removing hair can be extremely irritating to the skin, which is why it’s important to be careful. When shaving, use hot water, shaving cream, and a sharp razor — and when plucking hair, use a good light source and a strong pair of tweezers.

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