The Least Expensive Step in Your Skin-Care Routine Is Also the Most Important

Photo: Well+Good Creative
"Did you wash your face before you got in bed?"

It was the question my mom called into my room every single night until I left for college, and still asks me—a 27-year-old beauty editor—whenever I'm staying with her. So to say that she drilled it into my head that "cleansing your skin is important!!!!!!!!" would be the understatement of the last two decades. But every now and then, when I'm feeling tipsy or tired or some combination of the two, I'll get into bed without giving my face a wipe down. I rarely wear makeup, and have been blessed to barely ever get pimples since puberty, so what's the harm anyways—right?

Actually, as I recently discovered, that is super wrong. Whoops! Despite the fact that I'm not worried about breakouts, by skipping out on the cleansing step, I'm actually doing a major disservice to my anti-aging routine.

Everyone knows that washing your face, especially at night, is important for getting dirt and grime off of your face in order to avoid zits. But it's also critical for removing pollution, which can lead to free-radical damage—and eventually, signs of aging. In fact, not only should you be cleansing once every night, but you should really be doing it two times over.

"So often we think [that] cleansing your skin from makeup, dirt, and pollution will nix acne, but there's actually a great anti-aging effect to double cleansing," says Soko Glam founder Charlotte Cho. "Pollution that settles on your skin can actually create free radical damage, and damage the surface of your skin which leads to pigmentation and lack of collagen (which can contribute to fine lines and wrinkles). Washing it away thoroughly and consistently every morning and night will help prevent premature aging."

Connecticut-based dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara confirms that cleansing is critical to anti-aging because of its function in ridding skin of pollution. She recommends cleansing first with micellar water, then doing another wash with something gentle like the Dove Beauty Bar ($7), and finishing it off with an antioxidant serum. And one more reason to give your face a twice-over, no matter what your skin concerns happen to be? "It will help the build up of dead skin cells on the top layer of the skin which will make the skin look more hydrated and dewy," says Dr. Lily Talakoub of McLean Dermatology and Skin-care Center.

And though double cleansing may add an extra two minutes to your bedtime routine, you should rest easy knowing that at least it won't add (or, er, subtract) any extra weight to your wallet. Skin-pros agree that it doesn't matter if you're spending $8 or $800 on a cleanser, as long as you're giving your face a regular scrub down every evening. So even if you aren't worried about acne or wrinkles, you really should always wash your face before bed. Mom, you were right.

Supplement your double-cleanse with this $7 toner, which happens to be the best-selling skin-care product on Amazon right now. And here's why you should think of your scalp as part of your skin-care routine, too. 

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