Face wash exfoliation scrub soap woman washing scrubbing with skincare cleansing product

For the series “skincare basics” I want to give you some advice on how to wash your face, what products to use, and what to avoid.

Sorry, I hate introductions…  let’s get into it right away.

Washing your face (the right way) - Why is it so important?

Because if you don't do it properly you could damage your skin. Symptoms of this could be redness or dryness. When your skin is constantly dry , no matter the time of the year or climate, you probably are being too aggressive.

The most common mistakes:

-Overdoing it. You don’t need to wash your face more than twice/day - if you don’t wear makeup stick to once a day.

-Using the wrong products. This habit can lead to skin dryness and damages to the barrier which turn into more skin dryness (when the barrier is damaged the skin can’t keep moisture inside). See down below for what the “wrong products” are. Using the wrong products include using the same products you use for the body (body washes or even shampoos).

-Not using anything. While this might be better compared to using a bar soap it is still not ideal. Tap water it is definitely not ideal plus it doesn’t remove pollutants and other impurities.

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The FREE guide that teaches how to pick products that work.

How often should you wash your face?

You don’t need to wash your face more than twice/day - if you don’t wear makeup stick to once a day.

Are there exceptions to this rule?

Yes, if you sweat a lot gently wipe off sweat each time. Because sweat is rich In salts it can lead to skin dryness unless you wipe it off.

After I eat chips my lips feel super dry - do yours feel the same way?
The concept is the same.

What ingredients should you avoid ?

For the face it is better to avoid all anionic surfactants.
Let me give you some definitions and name to make things clear.

What are surfactants?

Basically surfactants are the ingredients that are able to clean and wash. They’re detergents and foaming agents present in shampoos, body washes, face washes, micellar water cleansers but also in dish detergents, laundry detergents and so on. 

Are they all the same?

Clearly  not or else I would’t be here on Halloween Saturday morning writing this article …

A practical way to classify surfactants is based on the charge on their molecule.

Anionic: negatively charged.
Cationic: positively charged.
Amphoteric (Zwitterionic) : both (positive charge is on one part of the molecule and negative on a different one.
Non -ionic: no charge.

Here’s what you need to know:

foaming cleansers

foaming cleansers are too aggressive for the face.

  • Anionic surfactants are the most effective in cleaning which also makes them the most aggressive. These can be used on the body (they’re mitigated by the association with less aggressive agents). They can be recognized by the name and by the fact they’re the ones that make the most foam. Anionic surfactants include the “famous” sulphates which have a bad reputation (although for the wrong reason).
  • Cationic surfactants: very common in conditioning products rather than cleaning ones. They include chemical classes such as Amines, Alkylimidazolines, Alkoxylated Amines, and Quaternized Ammonium Compounds (or Quats). Attention: cationic surfactants can cause irritation.
  • Amphoteric surfactants. These are mild and are often used to clean while also conditioning. Very common in baby products. Amphoteric surfactants do not exist as “natural”. This is something to keep in mind if you’re looking for a 100% natural product (which you shouldn’t but hey just saying).
  • Non ionic surfactants. Very low foaming properties. The most common in cleansers are polisorbate 20, sorbitan stearate and decyl glucoside (considered natural).

How can you pick the right surfactants?

A simple To establish whether your product is too aggressive for your face -even if you don’t know anything about surfactants ingredients is to see how much foam it makes. No foam is the best and don’t worry it can still clean efficiently.

Luisa, how should I clean my face?

I’m happy you finally asked :S

First, make sure you're causing no harm. This means don't scratch too hard (for example by using brushes) ,use the right products, avoid water that's too hot or too cold. 

The best way to clean your skin is to use a micellar water cleanser.
Micellar water is a very diluted cleanser that contain structures called micelles. Micelles are clusters of surfactants into water.

The benefits of micellar water

micellar water cleanser


It’s a multipurpose product. While it cleans and removes makeup, it also contributes to skin hydration. In fact most micellar water products also contain soothing and hydrating ingredients.


It avoids the skin the contact with tap water which most of the time has high levels of hardness and can contain contaminants. The water In the micellar water is deionized and purified and the product is buffered at the best pH level.


 It allows you to clean and refresh in any condition- even if you have false lashes. Together with the hyaluronic acid serum, a micellar water cleanser is one of my staple for traveling or when I didn't get enough sleep. Both give my face a boost of freshness without the need of a  sink.

How to wash your face normal skin

You have normal skin... I feel for you 🙂

 How to articles on skincare rarely pay much attention to normal skin because, you know, it's normal! You can use a vast range of products. You get the best from both worlds.

So how do you wash your face properly?

Your skin is a bit more tolerant compared to other skin types. That doesn’t mean you can wash it with bar soaps (the worst ever)! Micellar water or a lightly foaming milk cleanser is the way to go.

How to wash your face- for dry skin

A Micellar water cleanser is still the way to go. But you also want to consider cleansing balms which work like a charm on dry skin. Balms are also preferred if you wear waterproof makeup.

My favorite cleansing balms are:

-Clinique: take the day off
-Then I Met you living cleansing balm

How to wash your face- oily skin

When you have oily skin you need to avoid oil AND you need to avoid products that completely remove it.

Oil (sebum) production is physiologically regulated through glands. Using cleansers that strip away your skin natural oils is a short lived solution. Your body will respond by producing even more oil and you will never solve the issue.

Excessive oil production has an hormonal cause. So what are you supposed to do?

You can effectively clean your skin using micellar water.

What to use to remove makeup

Micellar water is not perfect, alas.  Its weakness is that it is not super efficient in removing makeup- especially waterproof makeup. 

For this reason if you use heavy makeup I recommend an oil free makeup remover like this from Neutrogena 

After you are done removing the makeup proceed with the micellar water - or other cleanser if you're still not convinced about micellar water :)) 

The opposite won't work so make sure you do those two in that order.

Can you wash your face with just water?

The best thing about life is that you can do almost anything you want...so you can wash your face with plain water BUT the fact  that you can doesn't mean you should.

Water can be used to refresh, but it cannot remove impurities and remove makeup. So no, it's better that you don't.


I was first introduced to micellar water when I started my internship in a pharmacy back in Italy. At that time I didn't know anything about cosmetics, yet I fell in love with it right away mostly because of how practical it was. It just made my life a bit easier being able to wash my face without making a mess. 

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

AND if you found this post useful share it with a friend!

6 thoughts on “[Guide] How to wash your face (for each skin type)

    • Luisa says:

      Cleansers that get rinsed off after a few seconds can contain all ingredients you want BUT none of those is gonna be effective as it gets removed from the skin right away. Conversely leave on cleansers can contain active ingredients such as salicylic acid. My point is that if you want to use salicylic acid it should be in a leave on product.

  1. rida says:

    my skin is dry sensitive acne prone skin which cleansers are best for me? one with active ingredients or the hydrating ones? i use salicylic acid cleanser. plz explain and tell me. i have salicylic exfoliant paulas choice as well. which is use twice a week only…. but for cleanser which should i choose? with the active ingredient or the hydrating one?

  2. myriam says:

    i suffer from hormonal acne each time i get my period 🙁 is micellar water enough to clean my face ? and what product should i use to clear the pimples/spots ?

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