The Fundamental Step
In any skincare routine the first and foremost step is cleansing the skin. This may sound pretty basic – you might be thinking its obvious – but it is still worth saying.
Everyone can benefit from 3 basic skincare steps: cleanse, moisturize, and sunscreen.
You can’t consider toner, serum, moisturizer, or any other skin treatment without cleanser.
Clean skin works for you
Cleansing your skin is the crucial first step to any skincare routine because it removes buildup and makes the skin clean. This buildup removed can be dirt, debris, pollution, oils, makeup, bacteria, viruses, and dead skin cells.
Without cleansing, not only does all of that gunk sit on your face, but it also impairs benefits from other steps you may be taking to optimize the health of your skin. Moisturizer should only be applied on clean skin, and sunscreen should only be applied on freshly cleansed and moisturized skin.
Cleansing your skin also helps to improve your skin’s hydration. Cleansing with water and a cleanser helps return the skin’s pH to normal, introduces water, and prepares the skin to absorb and retain product properly. So that moisturizer on freshly cleansed skin will help lock in hydration to keep your skin feeling soft and fresh.
Firstly, let me make it clear that acne is not a symptom of poor hygiene. It is a disorder of the skin and is typically caused due to genetics or hormones.
That said, the first step to managing acne-prone skin is properly cleansing the skin. Since we know that acne is the result of too much buildup of skin cells in the pore, we know that doing what we can to remove and mitigate that buildup is crucial. Hence, cleansing.
For acne management, the 3 step minimum won’t be quite sufficient. But check my other posts for more information on that.
When to cleanse
As a rule of thumb, you should always cleanse your skin in the evening. Throughout the day your skin has accumulated all of the buildup I mentioned above – and you do not want to go to sleep and press your grimy face into a pillow. So, at some point before bed, take a couple of minutes to properly cleanse your skin and moisturize it. You’ll wake up with more fresh-feeling skin!
Cleansing in the morning is a more individual choice. For those with acne, cleansing in the morning is a must-do. For those without acne, though, cleansing in the morning might not be completely necessary. Splashing your face with water, then moisturizing and applying sunscreen might be completely sufficient.
Determining whether or not you need to cleanse in the morning is a personal experiment. Try cleansing your skin with cleanser one day, and just splashing with water on another and see how you feel. I personally alternate whether or not I use a cleanser in the morning depending on how my skin feels – it’s just personal preference!
How to properly cleanse
Now that you understand why it is important to cleanse, let’s talk about how to cleanse your skin.
Step one is always to wash your hands. Then, with clean hands, proceed to wet your face. Get some of your cleanser into your hand (a high quality cleanser will require a dime size or less) and swipe your hands together to get the cleanser distributed over your palms and fingertips.
Then start massaging your face with your hands – palms and fingertips. The key here is to be gentle. Your cleanser has been professionally formulated (unless it is homemade) to do most of the work for you. You just need to gently work the product into your skin. Be thorough – make sure to get your hairline, jawline, around your mouth and nose – but gentle.
You can cleanse your skin anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes – but overall, once you’ve hit the 30 second mark and you’ve been thorough, you’re all good! Rinse with warm (not hot) water, and pat dry with a clean towel.
If you are wearing makeup, or have reapplied sunscreen many times throughout the day you may find you benefit from double cleansing. Double cleansing is a cleansing method that involves cleansing twice.
You can technically double cleanse with the same cleanser each time, but most find that it is more beneficial to first use an oil-based cleanser, cleansing balm, or micellar water to dissolve the makeup and sunscreen. After this process, you then cleanse with a non-oil based cleanser to remove everything else.
Double cleansing is not a mandatory process if:
- your makeup is coming off completely cleanly from your first cleanse
- you don’t wear makeup
- you don’t have built-up sunscreen on your skin / it is sufficiently removed from your first cleanse
If those markers aren’t being met, I do recommend that you take an additional minute or two to double cleanse in the evenings. (No need to double cleanse in the morning.)
Just to reiterate: the basic 3-step skincare routine that everyone would benefit from is cleansing, moisturizing, and applying sunscreen. Depending on your personal skin goals, it may be worth it for you to have an additional step or two in your routine to target specific concerns.
The most important step in any skincare routine, though, is sunscreen! Even if you rolled out of bed and are running out the door, take 5 seconds to quickly apply some sunscreen. Yes, it is ideal to properly cleanse and moisturize your skin first, but sun damage does not discriminate. We know that sun damage is accumulative, so it adds up from running to the mailbox or the grocery store without SPF.
Don’t forget to protect your skin!