Here's why you should be washing your face twice a day

insider@insider.com (Ashley Laderer)
If you have rosacea or eczema, you may want to consider washing your face once a day.
If you have rosacea or eczema, you may want to consider washing your face once a day.

Julia Gunther/Getty Images

  • You should wash your face once in the morning and once in the evening.

  • But you should also add in a face wash after a workout since sweat and oil can buildup in your pores and lead to breakouts. 

  • When choosing a face wash, look for gentle cleansers, and avoid ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, fragrance, and alcohol. 

  • This article was medically reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in New York City

  • This story is part of Insider's guide on How to Get Clear Skin.

Regardless of skin type, you should be washing your face every day. It's crucial to keeping your pores clean and skin healthy. Here's how often you should wash your face and the best way to go about it.

Wash your face at least twice a day

Experts generally recommend that patients wash their face twice a day, once in the morning and again before bed, says to board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD, who has a private practice in San Francisco. 

Wash in the morning

Washing in the morning rids your face of any sweat and oil (from your hair) that may have accumulated on your face as you slept. It will also get rid of any bacteria from your pillowcase, says Sara Hogan, MD, a dermatologist at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. 

Additionally, Hogan says washing your face in the morning is important to create a blank canvas and increase the effectiveness of daytime skin care products, including moisturizers and sunscreen.

Wash in the evening

Washing at night, you'll remove impurities like makeup, dirt, oils, sweat, and even residue from the pollution that accumulates on your skin throughout the day. The goal here is to avoid clogging your pores, which can result in irritation and acne

When twice a day isn't enough

However, there are some caveats to the twice a day rule. For example, Campbell recommends removing any makeup before you work out as well as washing your face after exercising. 

When you exercise, natural oils and sweat can collect on the skin in higher amounts, which runs a higher risk of clogging your pores and causing breakouts. "Do not 'marinate' post-exercise. Sweat, oil, and dirt accumulate on the skin and can block hair follicles, leading to increased risk of acne breakouts," says Hogan. 

If you're on the go and don't have time for a real wash post-workout, Campbell recommends at least using a fragrance-free face wipe. Another situation where you might have to wash your face more than twice a day is if you live in a hot, humid climate, or somewhere with high levels of pollution, says Hogan.

When twice a day is too much

On the other hand, if your skin is very irritated or you're experiencing active inflammation such as flareups of rosacea or eczema, you might cut down to washing once a day, in which case you should wash at night to rid your skin of makeup, sweat, dirt, oils, and pollution from the day.

However, most people can tolerate washing their face twice a day as long as they use a gentle cleanser.

How to pick a face wash

For most people, you should wash your face twice daily with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser. But if you're dealing with certain skin ailments, you should wash once with the gentle cleanser and the other time with a medicated wash that's specific to your ailment, says Campbell. For example:

  • If you have acne-prone skin, wash once a day with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser.

  • If you have sensitive skin with acne or rosacea, wash once a day with a sulfur cleanser.

  • If you have very oily skin, wash once a day with a glycolic acid or salicylic acid  cleanser.

Some gentle cleansers that Campbell recommends for people with all skin types are:

Ingredients you should avoid

When buying facial cleansers there are some ingredients that you should avoid, Hogan says. Always check out the label and make sure there isn't anything that could actually dry out or irritate your skin like:


  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): This is commonly added to many cleansers to act as a foaming agent. However, it can remove natural oils in your skin's protective barrier, causing dryness and irritation.

  • Fragrance: It's best to use cleansers with labels that say "fragrance-free" to be safe. "'Fragrance' is an umbrella term for numerous if not hundreds of chemicals that can cause irritation in the skin," says Hogan. 

  • Alcohol: Alcohol may be added to thin out thicker formulas of cleansers, but it can be very drying to the skin. Hogan says to use caution with alcohol-based washes if your skin is already dry and sensitive.

How to wash your face

You've got your perfect facial cleanser in hand. Now here is a step-by-step guide on how to properly wash your face according to Hogan:

  1. Wet your face with lukewarm water.

  2. Use cotton or a baby washcloth to apply a nickel-sized amount of cleanser to your face. 

  3. Massage the cleanser into your skin gently for about 20 seconds.

  4. Rinse with lukewarm water.

  5. Pat (don't rub) your face dry with a soft, clean towel.

Follow these steps and you'll be well on your way to clean, healthy skin.

If you're experiencing skin ailments that aren't getting better with over the counter face washes and products, make an appointment with your dermatologist to get a diagnosis and see if prescription treatments may be helpful. 

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