Who’s with me? Some nights my skin-care routine is so luxe, so extravagant that it feels like it should belong in a movie montage and other evenings, the amount of energy I have to devote to my skin-care routine is seriously lacking. I grab my favorite cleanser, quickly swish it around my face, and wash it off in 10 seconds flat—but is that enough scrubbing to actually do my complexion any good? According to the experts, not so much.
To get the results you want, it turns out cleansing your face has some of the same rules as other daily tasks like brushing your teeth. While your face-washing routine doesn’t need to be quite that long, there should still be more effort involved than a quick splash or two in the sink. “If all the prep—such as thoroughly removing your makeup—is already done, it should take 20 to 30 seconds to wash your face each morning and night, and after sweating,” Libby Rhee, DO, a New York City dermatologist, tells me. If you don’t have a makeup-removing pregame, however, you might go at it for a longer amount of time. “Sometimes I recommend a slightly longer or more complicated cleanse depending on someone’s goals, like using a gentle exfoliating brush while cleansing, which usually takes around 60 seconds,” she adds.
Basically, there’s a happy medium when it comes to proper face-washing: not putting in enough effort could be keeping you from clear, glowing skin, but going in overboard could result in some issues, too. “Over-washing—with respect to frequency, length, and abrasiveness of each cleanse—can lead to dry, irritated skin that’s more sensitive and prone to eczema and even breakouts,” Dr. Rhee says. That means that you might need a full minute of washing if you’re using a cleanser that’s creamier with a lower level of surfactants, but you might be able to abbreviate that if you use a foam or a gel, which tend to be a bit tougher on skin. So the key? Knowing how to properly cleanse, and finding the timing that works for you, which minimum should be 20 seconds.
According to Rhee, the best place to start is using your fingers to rub a gentle cleanser into your face with lukewarm water, then follow up with a hydrating moisturizer. Maybe your skin needs 30 seconds of TLC, or maybe it’s a full minute for that squeaky clean effect, but experiment until you find your perfect skin-care routine.
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