"Wash your face before you go to bed." Parents everywhere echo this sound advice nightly when they send their children off to bed. But as children grow into adults responsible for their own hygiene, how many keep this tradition, and how many ever truly learned the right way to do it? Despite years of parental advice, skin care commercials, and even visits to your Dermatologist's office, you may have never actually learned how to properly wash your face.

This Dermatologist's guide to face washing explains the reasons, products, and steps behind the routine so you can achieve healthy, beautiful skin.

Cleanse Your Face for Skin Health

Skin care is not just about looking your best. It's also about maintaining healthy skin. When you wash your face, you clear away toxins that can cause acne breakouts, clogged pores, and accelerated skin damage and aging. Wash your face every morning and night to help rid your skin of the following damage-causing elements.

Bacteria and Dirt Buildup

Dirt contains an astounding array of pollutants and impurities that can cause skin damage over time. Even if you rarely spend time outside, dust and dirt from inside your home or office can settle on your face and allow free radicals to wreak havoc on your skin by damaging DNA and accelerating aging. Washing your skin regularly to keep it free of dirt and bacteria helps you maintain strong, healthy skin and a clear complexion.

Dead Skin

Skin renewal occurs in a cycle: the body produces skin cells, skin cells eventually die, and the body produces new skin cells to replace them. Dead skin cells can easily build up if they are not washed off and may give your skin a dull sheen and a rough texture. The gentle exfoliation provided by daily facial cleansing sloughs away dead cells and leaves your skin bright and smooth.


You may feel too tired in the evenings to wash off your makeup, but leaving makeup on overnight clogs your pores and makes you more vulnerable to acne-causing bacteria. If you wash off your makeup by cleansing your face each night, you will keep your skin pores open and clear for healthier skin.

Excess Oil Buildup

Natural oils in the skin create a protective barrier that seals moisture in and keeps toxins out. However, common factors such as sweating, sun exposure, hormonal imbalances, and poor hygiene can lead to excess oil buildup. Take care to wash your face each morning and night so that your protective barrier functions as intended.

Skin Care Products You Need to Wash Your Face

The first step to washing your face properly is to make sure you're using the right skin care products. A gentle, non-abrasive facial cleanser is essential. A great Dermatologist-recommended foaming facial cleanser will be formulated with gentle enzymes and amino acids that loosen makeup and wash away oil and other impurities. The ideal cleanser is oil-free and safe for all skin types (including sensitive skin) and is gentle enough for twice-daily use. For individuals who have oily skin or who wear heavy makeup, a deep pore facial cleanser may be in order. These offer more thorough cleansing without over-drying to leave your skin feeling clean and balanced.

In addition to your gentle skin cleanser, you will need a quality facial skin toner and moisturizer. Both of these provide essential protection to the skin by enhancing the skin's natural barriers, including the moisture barrier that keeps out damaging toxins. It can be tricky to find the right moisturizer for your skin, so you may need to try several or ask your Dermatologist for a recommendation. If your moisturizer does not include sunscreen, you will also need a broad-spectrum SPF for long-term skin health.

Most Dermatologists do not recommend using scrub pads, washcloths, sponges, or other related abrasive products. These devices can easily contaminate and irritate the skin, especially if you do not wash or replace them after every use. Ultimately, the best tool you can use to wash your face is your own hands.

Steps to Washing Your Face

Establish a habit of washing your face every morning, night, and after heavy sweating. To keep your skin looking and feeling healthy, follow these steps to wash your face properly:

  1. Remove any makeup with your preferred makeup remover if applicable.
  2. Wet your face with lukewarm water; hot water is too harsh and dries out your skin while cold water closes your pores and inhibits thorough cleansing.
  3. Use your fingertips to gently massage the facial cleanser into your skin in small circles.
  4. Avoid scrubbing or overly irritating your skin.
  5. Rinse your face with lukewarm water, again, not too hot or cold.
  6. Pat your face dry with a soft towel—rubbing is close to the scrubbing you should avoid.
  7. Apply toner using a soft cotton ball or pad.
  8. Apply sunscreen when going through your morning wash; you may skip this step if your moisturizer includes sunscreen.
  9. Apply moisturizer; be gentle around the eyes as this skin is very delicate.

If you know how to properly wash your face, you can keep your skin looking healthy and youthful for years to come. As you build these good skin care habits, you will see and feel the difference—your skin will become softer, smoother, brighter, and more even in texture and tone.


  • Brandon Kirsch, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Brandon Kirsch is the President and Chief Executive Officer at ClearifiRx.com, a dermatologist-led online platform providing personalized prescriptions to treat skin conditions. Dr. Kirsch also serves as Chief of Dermatology for the Naples Community Hospital and is the founder of Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida.

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