How to: Cleanse Your Skin Properly

One of the greatest skin rituals you can do for clear, beautiful skin is to thoroughly cleanse your face, morning and night.

cleanse your skin properly
Image: Tata Harper

And though it seems simple enough – slap on some soap, then rinse off with water – there are some tricks and tips to making the most out of your cleanser and to learn how to really cleanse your skin properly.

Proper makeup removal

First, make sure that you’ve removed all your makeup properly. Using a cleanser to remove makeup doesn’t count as cleansing – after makeup removal, you still need to cleanse again. Your skin is clean of makeup, but not clean of all the other things – oil, grime, dirt, pollution from the day.

Warm water only

The water you wash your face with should not be too hot or too cold. Cold water makes your skin more prone to broken capillaries, and hot water… well, you know what hot water could do. Luke warm water is the best.

Proper application

Lather up your cleanser in your palms, and start by applying the cleanser to your face in gentle, upward circular motions. Start at the center of your face, nose outwards to your cheeks, then proceed to your t-zone, chin, and then another round all over your face. Allow the cleanser to be left on for at least 45 seconds, longer if you can manage. (It’s said that 2 minutes is the recommended for all the ingredients to soak in properly.)

Double cleanse

If you were wearing sunscreen or heavy foundations, I’d recommend applying another layer of cleanser. As I mentioned earlier about makeup removal, the first time you cleanse will only remove makeup and products sitting on top of your skin, whereas the second cleanse is to actually cleanse your skin throughly. When in doubt, double cleanse!

Lastly, allow water to run over your face and gently rub off your cleanser, massaging your face at the same time. After, take a few pieces of face tissue and pat your face dry – don’t rub your face because it’s too harsh for the skin.

Et voila, apply your moisturizer and your skincare regime is done!

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    1. Hey! I do have one to recommend! I actually use Clinique’s Liquid Facial Soap and I ADORE it. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and it has changed my skin. It’s a tad expensive, though.

      What have you been using in the past? If it works for you, you should just keep going! I think Cetaphil is a really good cleanser as well, very gentle for your skin.

      1. Is the Clinique’s Liquid Facial Soap is safe for me? I’m only 14 but i have an oily face and the acnes are all in my face especially on my nose and forehead. And is the Clinique’s Liquid Facial Soap expensive?

  1. hey i just washed my face and then came on the website…
    i used to be really lazy with washing my face, if i didnt feel like it i would just skip it, but i started to see that my face was breaking out and was very oily, so i got back to washing it day and night. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
    question: after we massage the cleanser on, then we have to wait 30 seconds?

    1. Hey Meli – yes, try to wash your face twice a day. It really makes a difference.

      And yup, once your cleanser is on, either just leave it there for 30 seconds or just continue to massage it in for 30 seconds … as long as it stays on your face for awhile for it to really “work”.

    1. Hey Alicia! My favorite is Clinique’s Liquid Facial Soap. Some others I’ve tried in the past that I’ve liked (but was not as good as Clinique’s, personally) is Cetaphil, Simple and Therapeutic.

      What’s your favorite cleanser?

      1. I usually use anything from DDM, because of zits. I hadn’t seen much result in it, though, and your post got me thinking- maybe it was because I didn’t leave it on! I’ve tried this for a few days now, and my skin looks considerably clearer. Thanks so much! 🙂

  2. Hey Renee, long time no talk ! I’m often late in the morning so I don’t leave the cleanser on, I just wash and dry :/

    1. Aw, if you’re in a hurry don’t worry, as long as you wash it in the morning it’s fine. If you reeeeally want it to work though, it’s recommended to leave it on for a little bit! Just wash a little longer at night. Or maybe you can apply your cleanser first and leave it on while you wash your body, so it stays on longer?

  3. Happy Saturday!

    I wash my face and apply Witch Hazel toner, it makes my skin feel REALLY clean, without being dry 🙂

        1. Oh dear! Thanks for the link, April.

          Vanessa, is it a pure witch hazel product or is it just called that ’cause it’s a minor ingredient?

  4. That’s exactly how I do it, although I generally don’t go over my oily areas more than my normal/dry areas. Perhaps I will try this though, although I doubt it will help (my oily areas are usually oily because they are dehydrated, especially my forehead. It’s been oilier now in the winter than in the summer because of dehydration!)
    I always massage it all over and count to 30-45 in my head. I find that if I do it for too long, it tires my hands out haha. But I do agree, massaging it in for longer than 5 seconds really does make a difference.

    1. Hey Ashley – so true, anything longer than 5 seconds works!

      As for the oily bit tip, since you are in a colder climate it may dry your skin more so maybe you should skip that! I was told that tip by a facialist I tried out because she said my cheeks were oily and that that method would help. I guess it also has to do with the fact that I live in a BURNING hot country so we tend to get extra oily, haha. I apologize for that mistake, I will edit it to say it’s probably better for those in warmer climates.

      1. Ah, thanks! Although I think that when I cleanse, I do go over my t-zone a little more than my cheeks without thinking about it… Maybe that’s why my t-zone is dehydrated! I will try going over my face more evenly today and see if it makes a difference.

        But perhaps I’ll try it once winter is over and summer begins, since our summers can get quite hot! (Well, anything above 10 degrees Celsius here in Canada is basically hot).

        1. Def try it out in summer … I think for now all you need to do is wash normally and MOISTURIZER is crazy. (Canada must be freezing right now, right?)

  5. thanks for the tips 🙂 i am very bad, i wash and go, i should leave it on much longer for it to work! i’ll try it out 🙂

  6. i cleanse my face with noxema astringent…ive noticed it takes out so much dirt than a cleanser “cleanser”. the cotton literally comes off black sometimes…although i do proceed it with washing my face with a vitamin c facewash. clean as ever 🙂

    1. Oooh Maria I am intrigued! Can you tell me more about this astringent? I know they clean very well, but do you find it’s strong for your skin? I’ve been told it can be harsh.

      1. people generally do find it harsh because it gives you this light tingly sensation on the skin …but i on the other hand like it atleast i know its working…and since i wash my face afterwards instead of leaving it on it doesnt dry my skin at all…im very fair with sensitive skin so if it works for me i bet it’ll work for everybody. the vitamin c facewash is great…i use the one from loreal ‘visibly clean’ and my skin has become visibly clean after using it 😀

        1. That’s great you found such a great product, Maria! I too have sensitive skin so I feel your pain – everything I tried in the past used to make my break out/peel/burn. I have not seen that line by L’Oreal yet, will have to keep an eye out the next time I’m at the store.

  7. I used to do this, but I find that using Pond’s cold cream works so, so well! I just put it on and remove it with a wet face towel. It is amazing how much dirt is on there. Then I go for a gentle face wash or if I’m in a hurry a bit of water is good enough!

    1. Luana, that sounds great. I have heard about this method before, but don’t know too much – I am very intrigued! I don’t think we have that over here, you’ll have to tell me more.

      1. ive used this method for taking off my makeup…it does work really well…i do use ponds cold cream as a night cream though..and my skin has become noticebly soft and supple

        1. Thanks Maria for your review on it too! Hmm I have to hunt this one down, I really have never heard of it before, it sounds so good.

      2. I hadn’t heard of it before either, my mom showed me how because she used to be in theater and they used it to take off all the makeup. Right now I get all my stock from the US or Venezuela from my father, I think it’s unfortunately discontinued elsewhere!

  8. Hi,

    My tip is to get your washcloth and leave it on your face, when its hot to alow your pores to open up enough to absorb the product.
    Also i love muslin washclothes and the Evelom clenser range!!

    1. 1) Pores don’t actually open or close, as they do not possess the mechanisms to do so. The hot water can help loosen up what is in the pores, hence the “open”, and cold water will usually shock the pores “closed”.
      2) This technique is a no-go for us gals with sensitive skin. Using something very hot or very cold on the skin can lead to minor traumas like broken capillaries and overall irritation 🙁 Believe me, I’ve tried and failed in the past.

      Muslin cloth.. is that exfoliating at all? I have some microfibre cloths that I use at the gym as my sweat rags (everything else is too rough!) but I’ve been thinking of using them once a week to exfoliate in place of my scrub, and just use the scrub once a week. How soft are muslin cloths?

  9. Muslin clothes don’t need to be exfoliating, i dont use it for its exfoliating propertys. I use it to apply and remove product, to massage it into the skin.
    I don’t think its fair for you to be critical of advice that’s offered just because it doesn’t suite your skin type. There are other people reading this than yourself, surely that’s the point?

    1. I wasn’t “critical”. I simply told her that the technique she uses likely wouldn’t work for those of us with sensitive skin. How is that criticism? I think that stating the fact that it’s not a suitable idea for those with sensitive skin is helpful, because as you said “there are other people reading this”. Which means that perhaps women with sensitive skin are reading this, and it’s beneficial for them to know that it’s not a very suitable technique for their sensitive skins. Had I been critical, I would have said something childish like “pft, hot washcloth? What, are you stupid? That is totally unsafe for the skin”. Which, clearly, i didn’t. If I came off in a different light, then that definitely was not my intention. Obviously it works for her, and I’m glad it does! But, that doesn’t mean that I cannot voice my opinion on how it will not be very suitable for women with sensitive skin.

  10. Thanks for tips, i always used to wash my face with cold water, it said that it tighten pores, now i think i will use “normal” water xD.

  11. heeeey,
    im not sure if i should completely WASH off my cleanser then apply moisturiser , or i should just roughly run it through warm water and then use a cotton pad to wipe of the extra cleanser i have on my face ?

    1. Yep, wash off ALL trace of your cleanser with warm water in the shower, pat dry with facial tissues, then apply moisturizer 🙂

  12. also, if you’re using an oil based cleanser, don’t get your face wet before you use it. water+oil= natural born nemeses. Put the product in your palm, massage it into your face very well, get your fingers wet, and massage again. The water will make your cleanser look kind of milky. Massage as long as you want, and then rinse off

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