We’ve been washing our face nightly since seventh grade when we discovered the wonders of Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash. But TBH, we’ve never given a second thought to whether or not that’s actually enough. So, we decided to ask a dermatologist. Her answer? Twice a day, people. But there’s more to the story than just that. Here’s everything she had to say about the skincare ritual.
How often should you wash your face?
Welp, it turns out once a day routine isn’t quite enough. Ideally, you should be washing your face twice a day–morning and night, says Dr. Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University. “Why? So that one can go into the day or night with a clean slate, so to speak,” she explains. OK, makes sense.
Is it better to wash your face in the morning or at night?
If you prefer to wash your face once a day, we totally get it. It can be a huge hassle. In that case, make sure that you’re at least washing your face at night, says Dr. Gohara. That’s because the nighttime is when our skin regenerates, and it’s best to put active ingredients like retinoids and peptides on our face before bed. “[Your skincare products] will be more effective on clean skin [because] they’re not hindered by buildup or excess oil,” she explains.
Do people with certain skin types need to wash their faces more than others?
If you have oily skin, you might think you need to wash your face more often, but that’s actually not the case, says Dr. Gohara. “[Washing] morning and night with the right product should work for everyone. Speaking of the right product…
What should you look for in a facial cleanser?
Keep your eye out for pH-neutral cleansers, advises Dr. Gohara. These are formulas that won’t upset your skin’s natural pH. If you mess with that, you risk redness, dry patches and breakouts. An easy way to tell if a cleanser is pH-neutral? It’ll either say it’s pH-balanced or soap-free (since soaps have a high pH), explains Dr. Gohara.
You also want to avoid cleansers that contain sulfates because they strip the skin of essential oils and disrupt its protective barrier, she says. Look for a bottle that’s SLS (which stands for sodium lauryl sulfate)-free.
Not in the mood for an internet deep dive? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here, nine facial cleansers that are pH-neutral, SLS-free and gentle enough for twice daily use.
1. Dove Beauty Bar (Pack of 6)
OK, so washing your face with a bar of soap might feel a little old school, but according to Dr. Gohara it’s worth a shot. She recommends the Dove Beauty Bar because its mild cleansing formula is designed to moisturize the skin and replenish its nutrients that get stripped away during the typical cleansing process. Bonus: You can totally use this bar on your body too.
2. Fresh Soy Face Cleanser
This best-selling cleanser is pH-balanced and suitable for all skin types, which definitely caught our attention. The gentle gel melts away makeup (yes, even mascara) without leaving your face feeling dry or tight. In fact, the results are just the opposite. Reviewers say their skin feels soft and refreshed after use. And they point out that it’s especially great for sensitive skin. With that info, we aren’t surprised it has over 5,000 five-star reviews on Sephora’s site.
3. First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser
Another pH-balanced formula, this Pure Skin Face Cleanser from First Aid Beauty promises to hydrate and calm the skin, while protecting it against environmental damage. “The impressive ingredient list works effortlessly to calm down my sensitive skin and redness,” writes one reviewer. It’s also sulfate-free, so we know it’s a winner in Dr. Gohara’s book.
4. Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Milk Gentle Cleanser
Soy proteins and green tea work together to cleanse, moisturize and soothe in this face wash. Massage it in, rinse, and you’ll be left with a smooth, glowy complexion. Reviewers say it’s gentle enough to use around the eyes to remove eye makeup, too.
5. Youth to the People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser
Rich in antioxidants, Youth to the People’s Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser is formulated to remove makeup, prevent clogged pores and support the skin’s natural pH balance. And considering it's made with kale, spinach and green tea, it’s basically a big glass of green juice for your face. Users say it’s also great for keeping acne at bay.
6. Andalou Naturals Creamy Meyer Lemon Cleanser with Vitamin C
This creamy, natural cleanser is so popular, it’s currently sold out on the brand’s site. The mixture of fruit stem cell complex, vitamin C and manuka honey sloughs away dull, dead skill to reveal a brighter, smoother complexion underneath. Plus, the light citrus scent smells amazing.
7. Tatcha The Rice Wash Skin-Softening Cleanser
This new launch from Meghan Markle’s fave skincare brand has already racked up an impressive 709 five-star reviews, despite only being out since August 3. The pH-neutral cleanser contains Japanese algae, hyaluronic acid and Hadesei-3, Tatcha’s signature anti-aging complex to smooth, plump and nourish the skin. No wonder it’s already so popular.
8. Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser
If you prefer a more sudsy cleansing experience, this one is the way to go. While it definitely foams, Aveeno’s Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser is soap-free, which, as Dr. Gohara mentioned, means it has a healthy pH level for your skin. It also contains salicylic acid to help fight breakouts. Just keep in mind that salicylic acid can be drying, so you might want to use this cleanser once a day, or even every other day if your skin starts to lose moisture.
9. Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
This is one of Glossier’s most popular skincare products for a reason: It doesn’t leave your skin feeling irritated or dry like some other cleansers. The pH-balanced combination of rose water, comfrey root extract, pro vitamin B5 and poloxamer, a cleaning agent used in contact solution, is designed to be soothing, mild and refreshing. And according to the over 2,000 positive reviews, it’s that and much more.
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