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The Common Facial Cleansing Mistake That Is Wrecking Your Skin

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosJune 23, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou

Facial cleansing wipes (aka makeup remover wipes) have a lot going for them. They’re portable, easy to use, and remove dirt and debris from your skin. But when you ask a dermatologist if face wipes work as a replacement for an actual cleanser, the answer isn’t as promising as you’d hope.

When you look at the ingredients on a face wash versus a face wipe, you won’t see too much of a difference. “Cleansers and makeup remover wipes work with similar ingredients,” says Charlotte Birnbaum, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Spring Street Dermatology. “They both have surfactants to break down the interface between oil, water, and dirt, helping to remove it from our skin.” The major difference is how you use the two products (namely, the addition of water). “When we use cleansers, we rinse off the debris with water. With wipes, oftentimes residue of the wipe is left on the skin.” This can happen with micellar water, too, ICYDK.

A facial cleansing wipe can leave a plethora of different ingredients on your skin, many of which would be better washed down the drain. “This residue can include surfactants, solubilizers, emulsifiers, and preservatives, which, when left on the skin, can lead to irritation or an allergic reaction,” says Dr. Birnbaum. Ronald Moy, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles, adds that alcohol can be another ingredient left on your skin, which can either cause irritation or dryness. The residue is something to take note of especially if your skin is on the sensitive side or if you have a skin condition like rosacea or eczema.

“A lot of times people can have rosacea or can be sensitive to certain chemicals,” says Dr. Moy. “I’ve seen skin reactions to every single chemical out there, so if you don’t want to risk irritation, it’s better to go with a basic cleanser.” His take? Using soap (via a facial cleanser) and water is the most effective way to wash your face. Dr. Birnbaum echoes this, and recommends using a gentle cleanser over a facial wipe alone.

This isn’t to say that it’s time to ditch your go-to face wipes. “Using wipes is better than not cleansing your face at all,” says Dr. Birnbaum. If this is the cleansing route you’re going to take, she suggests rinsing your face off with water (at the very least) afterwards.

Watch below to see a dermatologist-approved skin-care routine: 

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