Cleansing skin correctly is the most fundamental step in a skin care routine. Diligent cleansing leads to better and healthier skin.

It’s especially important if you:

  • are prone to breakouts and blackheads
  • wear makeup
  • exercise
  • live in a humid climate

It’s important to clean skin twice a day.

  • At night before bed to remove dirt, sweat, sebum, bacteria, pollution, makeup, and sunscreen.
  • And in the morning to remove sebum and sweat that has accumulated overnight.

While your skin may feel dry in the morning and not seem dirty, you still need to cleanse to remove the sweat and bacteria. There is a lot of activity in skin at night.

How to Cleanse Skin

Types of Cleansers

Water-based cleanser

  • foaming cleanser
  • gel cleanser
  • milky cleanser
  • creamy cleanser

Oil-based cleanser

  • makeup remover
  • cleansing oil
  • cleansing cream
  • cleansing balm


  • micellar water (eau micellaire) – applied with a cotton pad and wiped off
  • cleaning wipe/towelette
  • electric or manual cleansing brush that is used with cleanser

To find a good cleanser, you’ll just need to try a range. You may find that you prefer a milky cleanser in the winter months, and a gel cleanser in the summer. There’s no harm in having more than one, for different situations. In fact, it’s a good idea.

Skin is not constant. It changes all the time, with the seasons, with climate. It’s important to treat skin according to its current condition.

If your skin is dry, choose a mild, non-foaming or low-foaming cleanser, and use only a small amount of it. Decyl glucoside is one of the most cleansing ingredients for dry or sensitive skin.

If your skin experiences regular breakouts, use a cleanser with Salicylic Acid, which will help keep pores clear and control bacteria.

Ways to Cleanse

The Double Cleanse is a highly effective method of cleansing, which I explain here (Double Cleanse Method).

If you don’t wear makeup or have oily skin, you can just cleanse with a water-based cleanser (most cleansers). Avoid cleansers with strong sulfates as they can strip skin of essential lipids and irritate skin.

If you wear makeup, remove it first with a face makeup remover and eye makeup remover.

Using a sonic cleansing brush (e.g. Clarisonic) or manual handheld brush provides some exfoliating benefits, though I personally find the bristles are too aggressive for thin and sensitive skin.

I don’t find it necessary to cleanse with a brush, since a Double Cleanse does a thorough job without the irritation. Plus, I exfoliate by another method (chemical exfoliant), which is a more effective way to exfoliate. (A brush is a mechanical means of exfoliation.)

However, a brush is an option if you wear a lot of makeup or you don’t like removing makeup before bed. The brush can reach deeper into pores. Be aware that it can unleash a wave of dormant breakouts that can take months to heal.

Cleansing Technique

With a few fingers, massage cleanser into your skin using circular motions. No need to rub hard. Always treat your skin gently.

Spend more time on the nose –  on the tip, sides, and bridge, and around the nostrils. Most people are prone to blackheads on the nose.

Be gentle around the eyes. The skin there moves easily. You don’t want to loosen it.

Rinse with tepid warm water. Not hot water, which can strip lipids from skin and weaken the barrier function. It can also inflame skin that is already irritated.

Dry your face by lightly patting it with a towel. Don’t rub. Use a towel reserved just for the face. (Not your bath or hand towel.) This minimizes transfer of bacteria.

Apply toner immediately afterward while skin is still damp.