Face cleaning: the critical step in a good skincare routine

Face cleaning is the most important step for healthy skinFace cleaning is the number one step of any good skincare regime. It’s non-negotiable.

So here are some of my face cleaning do’s and don’ts.

The big DO is that is that it is absolutely essential that you do it. You have to clean your face every night. No excuses. This is to remove the dirt of the day, the make-up if you’re wearing it, and the sunblock you should be wearing.

And let's get this straight – it is never OK to go to bed in your make-up, never. No discussion

Cleaning your face every night creates a clean palette for whatever skincare products you put. In all honesty, if you’re not cleaning your face before putting on product at night, you’re wasting your time and money.

That’s what you have to do, but there’s a few things you shouldn’t do too.

The big don’t is do not use soap. It’s deadly on your face and is worth a whole blog all of its own.

Take it from me, I was a hand hygiene coordinator for one of the biggest DHBs for nearly two years and one of the major challenges of the job was educating people on how to care for their hands with the cleaning required. It is tough being a healthcare worker because there is a lot of hand cleaning and only two options: soap or alcohol sanitiser. (Sidenote: alcohol is less drying and damaging!) Soap is drying, can cause irritation and damages your skin barrier by disrupting you skin's natural PH balance.

So, what you should use to clean your face?

I recommend a balm or an oil cleanser.

Avoid cleansers that have these ingredients: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). And actually, it’s probably not a bad idea to avoid all products with these ingredients.

These ingredients are used by big brands because they are relatively inexpensive, they make a cleanser work because they remove oils and debris by breaking down the bond between liquid and solid. And they produce the lather we all think we need to get ourselves clean. There were many reports that these ingredients were carcinogens but there is no evidence to back that. The reason to avoid them is because they are irritants and far too drying for your skin.

I’ve used oil to clean my face for more than 15 years. It’s now very on trend so I was ahead of that!

Our Blam Blam Balm works really well. It removes the dirt, the make-up and the sunblock but it doesn’t remove your natural oils. It’s a gentle – and lovely – way to clean your face. The balm, and oil cleansers in general, leave your skin feeling soft and more likely to hold moisture.

I made a video a while ago of me doing a face cleanse with the balm. It involves a cloth and some warm water. And on that point – use warm water not hot water as that’s also damaging to your skin.

Don't overdo it your face cleaning

Lots of people talk about double cleansing and it can be a confusing term. Some people say it’s a complete face cleanse x 2. Others say if you use a one product to remove eye make-up and another for the rest of your face then that’s a double cleanse. Either way, if you are using more than one product to cleanse then it’s double-cleansing. The rules are the same, though, if you do double-cleanse just make sure they’re really gentle products.

One of the biggest things to avoid is over-cleansing. It seems to be a big thing these days and people are over-doing it. Too much cleansing can damage to your skin, causing dryness and irritation. And I meet lots of people who think they are fixing their acne by cleaning their face a lot. But if you do it too much you will cause more oil production and more acne.

Exfoliation is another subject all of its own. But the same rules apply: don’t overdo it. Once or twice a week is sufficient and use a gentle exfoliator.

I always use a flannel (or a face cloth as we used to say – I’m not sure when flannel became the word). Not only is it a really effective way to clean, it ticks a few other boxes for me because of its simplicity and the fact it’s less wasteful and more environmentally friendly than cotton balls, pads or – even worse – wipes 😬. Wipes are not a good way to cleanse as you are just moving dirt around your face and it is so wasteful!! They are only good for emergency situations.

A face cloth also provides a little exfoliation as you cleanse. Plus it's so easy throw in the washing machine after two uses.

Once your face is clean you should apply your skincare to a damp face within 60 seconds to lock in the moisture. The only exception is if you use a retinoid which needs to go on a dry face but that should be clearly stated on the product.

I don’t re-clean my face in the morning. But if your face is oily or glowing when you wake up you probably do need to cleanse – just make sure it is a gentle one. For those with dry or irritated skin it’s best to avoid morning cleansing.

So, as your mother always said, clean your face before bed.

And while cleansing our skin is absolute essential it doesn’t have to be a chore. If you do it right and, better still, enjoy it – it’s a lovely timeout at the end of the day.