Sunday, 30 June 2013

How to Cleanse Your Face (for Every Skin Type) (tutorial)

Face Rinsing © 2010 thebeautynook
Face cleansing. This may be one of the most basic routines any of us undertake but there's more to it than a bit of soap and water. I've encountered a few people over the years who really don't know how best to clean their faces. Many don't realise that the products you use as well as the method you use them can make the world of difference.

Admittedly, the situation is complicated somewhat by varying skin types and problems that crop up on even the best kept faces, but rest assured there is a way to tackle every issue and prevent many more from appearing. If you get this step right you'll find you'll need fewer specialist products (such as spot solutions, redness remedies and dry-skin soothers) and will be well on the way to facial harmony.

Skin Types

To find out which skin type you are - essential for choosing the correct products - first, divide your face into two areas. Figuratively speaking, not literally! The first area encapsulates the forehead, nose and chin which together look like a 'T' and is therefore called the T-zone. The second area consists of temples, cheeks, jawline and neck which we'll call the O-zone, for 'other'.

Normal skin looks very similar all over. You might get the odd oily patch on your forehead and nose, but they won't be pronounced. You shouldn't suffer from any dry patches, either. Count yourself lucky, this is the easiest skin type to manage even though you still might get the occasional blemish.

If your T-zone is oilier, shinier, perhaps with more visible, larger pores than the O-zone then you've got oily skin. Your O-zone should be soft and smooth. The extra oil on your skin should help slow down the appearance of wrinkles and you'll often have a healthy glow, but you're more likely to get blemishes.

Very small, almost invisible pores and a feeling of tightness after cleansing indicates you probably have dry skin. You're the least likely to get blemishes and won't be shiny-faced but the low-oil content of your skin means you're more likely to get wrinkles and may be lacking in radiance.

Reacting to even gentle products, either by feeling itchy or getting a burning sensation; perhaps suffering from redness or dryness suggests you've got sensitive skin. It is often caused by specific ingredients; once these are identified and eliminated you can get back to normal.  Check out the Top 5 Ingredients You Might Like to Avoid.

Of course you can have a combination of skin types. You might have seen on some products a label saying normal-dry or combination-oily, but beware of falling into the trap of buying two separate products for your face. This is rarely necessary, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to get more money out of you.

Types of Cleanser

You'll see under the FACE heading in our Product Index three separate categories of cleanser. Generally speaking cleansing washes are suitable for normal to oily skin types whereas cleansing creams and lotions are better for dry and sensitive skins. Using water can dry out the skin which may be problematic for those with dry patches, while wipe-off cleansers might not clean deep enough to tackle clogged pores of oily skin people. This is only a guide of course, there are no hard and fast rules.


To be used with water. They lather up as you massage them into your face, which is a process that is too drying for dehydrated skin. To get the most out of your wash-off cleanser you should massage it in for about thirty seconds, concentrating on your T-zone, particularly around the sides of the nose where blemishes are most likely to appear. Take care not to drag your face down when massaging, instead gently push up and out with each stroke. Some washes come with exfoliating beads or grains but these are to be used with care and never on a daily basis.


Includes traditional cold creams; to be wiped off with cotton-wool or a cloth/sponge. The gentlest method for removing cream cleansers is to wipe them off with a cotton wool pad. (The best pads are patterned and smooth so they shred less.) You can also use a flannel – or muslin cloth – as well as specialist cleansing sponges to remove creams and lotions, which will clean much deeper. After massaging in the cleanser for about a minute using circular motions, again making sure you've targeted your t-zone, dip the cloth or sponge in a bowl of medium-hot water (from the tap, please, NOT the kettle!) and wipe off the product in upward and outward strokes.


Easiest, quickest way to cleanse – no water or cotton wool pads and no mess. There's a massive variety of wipes on the market, designed for every skin type imaginable and by and large they work well. I use them all the time, but no more than once a day as in my experience they don't cleanse as thoroughly as wash-off or wipe-off cleansers. A lot of the wipes are also not a particularly environmentally friendly choice as many aren't yet biodegradable. Bearing in mind the U.K. is Europe's second biggest user of facial wipes after Spain, that's a lot of wastage! On the bright side natural and organic options are increasing all the time.

To Tone or Not To Tone

There's a long running debate about whether or not toners are surplus to requirements and there's a strong argument in favour of dumping them. Afterall, if you cleanse properly what can a toner possibly bring to the equation? The idea is toners can remove any traces of cleanser you accidentally left behind, as well as (temporarily) tighten pores and freshen you up.

Personally, I like them and use a toner all the time. I find them particularly useful if I haven't used a wash-off cleanser as creams often leave me feeling like I've only half-cleansed. My advice? Skip the toner if you have dry or sensitive skin, as they can be even more drying (especially the alcoholic ones, which no one should be using, really). If you have normal or oily skin then you can use a toner if you wish, but don't expect any miracles.

Cleansing Tools

Everyone should have cotton wool pads and a cloth of some kind. If you have these to hand you really won't need anything else. But sometimes you can find a new tool that makes your life easier or suits your cleansing style more.

Cotton © 2010 cybersnot
Cotton Wool
Pretty basic stuff; you probably all have some!  I only choose organic cotton wool as it's grown without pesticides.  I also prefer the patterned pads as they shred less.  Cotton wool can also be used to apply toner, remove eye make-up and nail varnish and dab away excess make-up powder! 

Facial Loofah
These mini loofahs – gentler and handier than your standard body loofahs – are designed to be used with facial wash and take the place of exfoliating products. You won't ever need to use a separate exfoliator if you have one of these to hand. I don't find them scratchy and use one with every shower, but if you have dry or sensitive skin then avoid.

Muslin Cloth
Perfect for dipping in hand-hot water and wiping away cream cleansers. These also exfoliate, but do so very gently and can be used by all skin types, except very sensitive. If you suffer from redness make sure the water you dip the cloths in isn't too hot, or it'll make the redness worse. After wiping away the cleanser, splash your face with cold water to cool down, refresh and temporarily shrink your pores for an even-looking complexion.

Work in a similar way to muslin cloths but vary in quality. The best flannels are soft and gentle but the cheaper you go, the harder and rougher they seem to get, so choose with care. They also wear out with continued use and need to be thrown away (or used as household cleaning cloths) before they get too scratchy.

Cellulose Sponge
I love these; they work so well with all manner of cleansers (even scrubs) and are oh-so-gentle; they can be used by anybody. They're derived from completely biodegradable natural plant fibre which contain very small cells to gently yet thoroughly pick up all traces of grime and oil.  Best of all, they're an eco choice because their manufacturing process is low in toxins plus they are reusable multiple times and therefore far preferable to the plastic-based sponges you often find, and even non-organic cotton wool pads.

Cleansing Sponge
Very hard when dry, it softens beautifully when wet and is to be used with wipe-off creams and lotions. Its cleansing ability is very effective which means it's good for removing even very stubborn make-up and giving you a deep down clean without irritation.  Not as environmentally friendly as cellulose sponge, though.

General Hints & Tips

  • Make sure you cleanse up to your hairline, so tie back long hair so it's off your face and pin back fringes.
  • If using wash-off cleansers open up your pores by splashing your face with warm water or hop in the shower and wash your face there.
  • Don't scrub too hard, whatever product you use. Gentle but thorough is the key to proper cleansing.
  • Avoid anything with alcohol in if you suffer from dry patches or sensitivities.
  • Remove all traces of product thoroughly. Leaving cleanser on your face can clog your pores and give you spots.
  • Don't pull or tug your skin when drying it, as you'll increase the chances of sagging skin and wrinkles.  Pat dry gently instead.
  • Be careful not to overdo the cleansing. Once in the morning and before bed should suffice. It's fine to cleanse again after sweaty exercise, too.

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