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How to Wash Your Face the Right Way

Follow These Important Steps

By: Dan Kern, Acne.org Founder & CSO
Last updated: February 08, 2020

The Essential Information

Avoiding irritation is the name of the game when it comes to washing your skin. Follow these guidelines:

  • Wash no more than twice per day.
  • Use a gentle facial cleanser. Avoid soap.
  • Use only your bare hands and barely touch your skin. Let the cleanser do the job for you.
  • Wash for only 10 seconds or less.
  • Very gently pat dry. Don't rub.

The Science

Medical science has achieved significant breakthroughs in the treatment of acne. However, gentle cleansing must precede topical treatment in order to prevent irritation, because irritation can lead to more breakouts.1

Choosing Your Cleanser

Look for the terms "non-comedogenic" (non-pore clogging) when selecting a facial cleanser. You know you're on the right track when references to "ultra-gentle," "mild," "non-irritating," and/or "non-overdrying" are mentioned as well. If you have inflammatory acne, the most common variety that comes with redness, you'll want to avoid any scrubbing cleansers as well. Simply choose a gentle liquid cleanser with no scrubbing agents, beads, or balls.

Cleansers should be non-comedogenic, ultra-gentle, non-irritating, and mild.

Many acne cleansers also include other medications. For instance, Neutrogena Acne Wash Oil-Free Cream Cleanser has 2% salicylic acid in it. Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser contains 10% benzoyl peroxide. You may unwittingly be layering medications this way, and over-medicating the skin can cause irritation and perpetuate the acne cycle.

How To

Wash two times per day, morning and evening. Excess washing can cause irritation.

1. Wash your face only twice per day, morning and evening. Excess washing can cause irritation.

Use only your bare hands to wash, and wash for 10 seconds or less. Washcloths and hand-held cleansing devices are unnecessarily irritating.

2. Use only your bare hands to wash, and wash for 10 seconds or less. Washcloths and hand-held cleansing devices are unnecessarily irritating. Consider the act of washing as simply prepping your skin for medication, nothing more. Washing itself does not clear breakouts since dirt does not cause acne, so there is absolutely no need to scrub.

Gently pat dry. Do not rub. Rubbing the skin is irritating.

3. Pat dry. Do not rub. Rubbing the skin is irritating, and excess irritation can perpetuate the acne cycle. Gently pat dry.

Next Steps

Once your face is properly cleansed, you are ready to apply whichever medication you and your doctor have chosen. Click on the choices below to learn more about prescription or over-the-counter treatment options.

Prescription Acne Medications Over-the-Counter Acne Medications

References:

  1. Jung, J. & Hwang, E. J. Do patients with acne need cognitive behavioral therapy? An analysis of patient knowledge and behavior. Int. J. Dermatol. 51, 1319-1324 (2012). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22804693

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