This is a guest post by Boyd Blackwood, a veteran marketer and writer with a love of good grooming – especially skincare



Think you don’t need instruction in face-washing?

You’ve been doing it daily for umpteen years, right? Yeah, but chances are you’re washing your face backwards.

Well, upside-down really. More on that below.

The Bar Was Set Low

Growing up, many of us were drilled in face cleaning using a bar of soap and a washcloth. The result: a shining face that dried to a tight, itchy mask.

That “squeaky-clean” face advertising writers used to extol as the highest virtue? Turns out it’s a sign of skin-abuse.

Dr. Mona Gohara, M.D, writing in Good Housekeeping, calls washing with most types of bar soap: “The worst thing you can do to your skin.”

One reason she says: “Using a harsh bar soap with a high pH can literally eat away the outer, protective layer of skin, which is loaded with hydrating proteins and fatty acids. Destroying this barrier leaves the skin sullen, easily inflamed, and hyper-reactive. Make sure to choose a cleanser with a neutral pH.”

Moody, grumpy friends and family are plenty to deal with, who wants to add sullen skin?

She goes on to quote several professor-dermatologists who add their views that bar soaps are:

  • Super-drying
  • Breakout-causing
  • Wrinkle-inducing and
  • Makes germs easier to breed

Her final recommendation is to simply avoid using any product with the word “soap” in it.

No-Soap Options

Avoid washing your face with soap.

photo credit: Bubbles (license)

It’s much better to start your day (and end your day) by cleaning your face and neck with a sulfate-free liquid, gel or cream cleanser formulated for your skin type, whether “normal,” sensitive, dry, oily or combination.

For “normal” skin: If you don’t have particular skin problems, you may have a choice problem – a tidal wave of cleansers has hit the marketplace in recent years. You can narrow your search by eliminating any with non-neutral pH or added synthetic fragrances, colors, and preservatives such as parabens and surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate to make suds super slippery.

These can cause irritation and trigger allergies, especially for sensitive/reactive skin. Always carefully read ingredient labels.

Look for men’s skincare products that feature natural and organic ingredients that are safer for most of us to use. If a product has a fragrance, it is good to use products scented with natural essential oils, a growing trend.

For dry skin: Try a cream-based cleanser with glycerin or shea butter (the closest oil to our skin’s natural oil) for a moisture-boost to your skin.

For oily skin: Foaming cleansers are often recommended. Don’t over-do it. Too much stripping of your natural oil actually causes your body to overcompensate by producing MORE oil.

Counter-intuitively, you can fight oil WITH oil. Some cleansers use natural lipids such as olive oil and hemp oil and essential oils like geranium and grapefruit to dissolve dirt and grime as well as removing excess facial oils. (Oil and water don’t mix, remember, but oil and oil do.)

How often?

According to, most dermatologists recommend washing your face twice a day, and a small 2006 study comparing people who washed their face once, twice, or four times a day found that acne improved at twice a day.

That jibes with the advice given by The American Academy of Dermatology: “Limit washing to twice a day and after sweating. Wash your face once in the morning and once at night, as well as after sweating heavily. Perspiration, especially when wearing a hat or helmet, irritates the skin. Wash your skin as soon as possible after sweating.”

Hot or not?

Water hardness affects the shaving cream lather quality and performance

Not. Hot water can be drying to your skin, cool water doesn’t move oils well. Opt for warm to wash and rinse.

That old “hot water opens your pores; cold water closes them” wisdom?

According to Dr. Matheson A. Harris, an oculoplastic surgeon writing in, that’s a myth. “The pores are consistently open, which is required to allow us to sweat. The skin oil, or sebum, also is released from the pores. The pores appear closed or full whenever the oils get backed up, clogging the opening. Hot water or steam helps soften these oils, organizing the pores. The pores, unfortunately, have no muscles and do not open or close.”

Now, how to actually wash

Remember I said you were doing it upside down?

Most of us pull our fingers down our faces as we wash, rinse or apply creams or lotions, letting the natural pull of gravity do its work.

But think about doing that thousands of times through the passing years. Each tug downwards breaks down your skin’s elasticity a tiny amount; over time you’ve contributed substantially to creating jowls, wrinkles and other saggy skin.

Facial care specialists recommend washing, rinsing, and applying face products on the tips of your fingers using a gentle, circular and upward motion.

If you have particularly thick, oil-prone skin, you can use a soft washcloth to add a slight exfoliation to the process but using fingers is best for most of us.

Save that soft washcloth for patting your face just slightly dry after rinsing the cleanser off. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, when rushed or tired, it’s easy to miss the hairline, behind the ears and under the chin.

But leave your face slightly damp (i.e. not dripping) for the next step.

To maximize absorption and help seal in moisture, apply moisturizers immediately after cleansing while skin is still damp.

The same goes for serums and special treatment products. Waiting until your skin is dry will make it harder for the active ingredients to sink into your skin; they’ll more likely lay there on the surface, causing skin to look and feel greasy.

Hang it up

And that’s it, all you need to know to know how to wash your face properly, except for this:

Your skin is host to over 1,000 kinds of bacteria – good and bad. Don’t add more.

After you wash hang your washcloths and towels where they can get good air ventilation and dry quickly. Left too damp, they can become petri dishes for breeding bacteria, germs and the breakouts that they cause.


boyd-blackwoodAbout the author: Boyd Blackwood is a veteran marketer and writer with a love of good grooming – especially skincare. Help us discover what YOUR skincare concerns are in a simple, five-question survey so we can help you solve them with advice and information! Survey is HERE


Main image courtesy: Hootie2710/