You know that what you wash your face with can completely make or break your complexion. That’s because your cleanser can determine how naturally glowy and hydrated your skin is, how often you breakout, plus how your skin reacts to every product you apply next.
Skincare experts say it’s surprisingly common to mess up this seemingly simple step, though. Below, six of the most common cleansing mistakes you might be making—and the very easy ways to fix them.
YOU’RE WASHING TOO FREQUENTLY WITH A HARSH FORMULA
The purpose of washing your face is to remove makeup, sweat, and micro-particles of pollution, so you might find yourself cleansing several times a day, says Sejal Shah, a dermatologist in New York City. For example, on a day that you’re hitting the gym, you might be washing your face four times: in the morning and evening, as well as before and after your workout. That’s fine—so long as you’re using a gentle formula.
On the other hand, if you’re using a cleanser with ingredients that strip skin of its natural oils, you’ll sabotage your skin’s health in the immediate and long term.
SWAP FOR A MORE GENTLE CLEANSER
Avoid 99.9 percent of all gel and gel-to-foam cleansers, because they’ll likely dry out your skin if you use them several times a day. Instead, opt for creamy or lotion-like textures. Also, steer clear of those that contain drying ingredients (think salicylic acid for acne and any version of the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate).
“Products that contain soap or harsh surfactants can detrimentally affect skin’s barrier properties,” explains Olay Principal Scientist Dr. Frauke Neuser. “A cleanser doesn’t have to be harsh to do a good job at cleansing.”
A properly-formulated gentle face wash will help retain and replenish your skin’s moisture balance. “Clinical studies spanning three weeks showed the positive effect of the Olay Sensitive Calming Liquid Cleanser technology on skin dryness and barrier properties of skin, which are both important factors that can drive skin sensitivity,” explains Neuser.
YOU’RE OVERUSING PRE-MOISTENED MAKEUP REMOVING WIPES
Although pre-moistened makeup removing wipes seem like an amazing quick fix, many can leave a residue behind on your skin that can, over time, lead to breakouts and irritation.
TRY A ZERO-RESIDUE CLEANSING CLOTH
Reach for cleansing cloths that infuse skin with essential hydrators. We like Olay Daily Facials 5-in-1 Cleansing Cloths, which are dry, softly textured cloths that lather with water.
They remove every trace of makeup without over-drying skin (due to moisturizing grapeseed extract and glycerin) and don’t leave behind anything that can irritate or inflame skin.
YOUR SKIN IS TOO CLEAN
If your skin feels squeaky clean after you wash it, you’re likely not using the right kind of cleanser. “The biggest risk here is that you’re going to strip your skin of its natural oils. When that happens, the skin barrier does not function as well,” says Shah.
Once the skin’s superficial barrier is compromised, your skin might feel “overly dry, itchy, even scaly,” explains Shah. If you continue this cycle “and don’t somehow replenish skin’s barrier, your skin may never fully recover.”
HYDRATE WITH INGREDIENTS LIKE GLYCERIN
Stick with a face wash that contains hydrating ingredients—especially if you’re the type to wash your face throughout the day.
The best of the best: glycerin as well as shea butter, grape seed extract, and water essences. Also, try a cream formula, such as Olay Total Effects Revitalizing Foaming Cleanser.
“Hydrating cleansers moisturize the skin while also removing dirt, makeup, sweat, and pollution,” notes NYC dermatologist Joshua Zeichner.
YOU’RE IGNORING YOUR SENSITIVE SKIN
If your skin is constantly dry—or it flares up and turns red or pinkish for who-knows-what-reason—it may be time to switch to a cleanser that’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin. But sometimes, that’s easier said than done. According to Olay research, 50 percent of women report having sensitive skin, yet only 11 percent of cleansers are designed for that skin concern.
GO FRAGRANCE FREE
Seriously. Olay Sensitive Fragrance Free Calming Liquid Cleanser contains no added scents, which is key if you have sensitive skin. “Fragrance in products is actually a very common cause of skin allergies and irritation,” says Zeichner.
A two-week Olay clinical study showed that women who were assessed to have sensitive skin had zero skin tolerability issues from repeatedly using their new line of sensitive cleansers.
Every formula is non-irritating, free of sodium lauryl sulfate detergents, and contains essences of soothing aloe, cucumber, and tea extracts, as well as skin fortifying petrolatum and moisturizing glycerin.
YOU’RE WASHING YOUR FACE IN THE SHOWER
It might be efficient, but washing your face in the shower isn’t good for your skin. Hot water washes away all of the good oils your skin needs and can lead to flakes, redness, and more frequent acne flareups as your skin creates more oil to compensate.
GIVE SKIN TLC WITH TEPID H20
Be strict about only using warm water to wash your face. Unless your showers are lukewarm, take the extra few minutes to step away from the shower head and cleanse your skin when you get out.
According to Chang, it’s well worth it. You’ll notice less irritation, redness, and flakes after a few days (especially in colder weather).
YOU’RE REMOVING YOUR MAKEUP TOO QUICKLY
If you have sensitive skin, you may be irritating it by trying to take off a full face of makeup in one quick step, says Yunyoung Claire Chang, a dermatologist in NYC.
“After a long day of wearing makeup, your skin accumulates dirt, bacteria, and oil, and it’s very important to remove all of that before going to bed to prevent clogged pores and acne breakouts,” she says.
START DOUBLE CLEANSING
Chang suggests double cleansing—a two-step, two-formula routine per cleansing session.
Start with a gentle makeup remover, like Olay Daily Facials 5-in-1 Cleansing Cloths, followed by a cleansing water, like Olay Sensitive Hungarian Water Essence Calming Cleansing Water Fragrance Free.
Think of it like this: Step one gets rid of makeup, oil, and pollutants while step two removes all remaining impurities and rebalances your skin.