How to cleanse my face properly

With all those face cleansing products on the market, it can get a bit confusing. What is the right order? Do I use my cream cleanser first or oil cleanser? Which step comes first – tone, exfoliate, cleanse? Don’t stress out! We’re here to clear up all myths and misunderstandings around facial cleansing once and for all.

Face cleansing in K-Beauty terms is not just one step. It’s actually 5 steps. And that’s probably where many of you are starting to get confused with all the products involved. The reason why cleansing is such a lengthy process in Korea is because Koreans strongly believe that proper cleansing is the base for flawless skin. Basically, half of the infamous 10 step K-Beauty routine is dedicated to face cleansing. Here are those 5 cleansing steps in their proper order.

Face cleansing: The proper order

  1. Remove eye and lip make-up (mascara, eyeliner, lipstick etc.) using a make-up remover: Your eye and lip make-up are usually the most difficult to get off. They tend to be extra long-lasting, smudge-proof and water-proof. All good qualities to have during the day. But a bit of a struggle when it comes to getting them off in the evening. That’s why you should dedicate a separate step to removing eye and lip make-up. You can use a make-up remover that’s made for eye and lip make-up specifically, but essentially any liquid make-up remover will do. What’s important during this step is to be gentle. The skin around your eyes and mouth are pretty sensitive. Best way to efficiently remove the make-up is to soak some cotton pads in remover, leave them on the closed eyes and mouth for some seconds, then gently wipe it all off.
  2. Remove face make-up (foundation, bronzer, highlighter etc.) using an oil cleanser: For Koreans, oil cleansers are the best option to remove face make-up. If you’re not wearing a lot of eye and lip make-up, you can also use the oil cleanser to remove your entire make-up. But first things first – what’s an oil cleanser? As the name says, it’s a cleansing product that’s mainly formulated with oils. The consistency will immediately remind you of an oil. Oils are great to melt down all the make-up and dirt. You should massage them onto your dry face. Then rinse everything off with lukewarm water.
  3. Cleanse skin and pores using a foaming cleanser: The main step of cleansing is to use a foaming cleanser. What’s a foaming cleanser? All cleansers that foam up when in contact with water. Foaming cleansers come it different formats – creams or gels that foam up when you mix them with water and rub them, liquids that automatically foam up as they are dispensed or solid tabs that start fizzing and foaming in water. Whichever kind you choose, they are all applied in the same way: Foam them up, massage them into the face, rinse them off with lukewarm water.
  4. Exfoliate using a peeling: Now this step shouldn’t happen every day. We don’t want to over-exfoliate the skin! If you do need a nice peel, apply it after cleansing when your face is still wet.
  5. Tone using a toner: This is a transitional step between the cleansing and caring part of your routine. To finish off your face cleansing, apply some toner. This helps bring your skin back to its natural pH-level and also provides your skin with a first load of much needed moisture.

Now that you know the proper order of your cleansing products, let’s talk about some common mistakes people do when they wash their face. Here are 8 don’ts of face cleansing!

8 don'ts of face cleansing

  1. Don’t skip make-up removal prior to cleansing: Your face cleanser is very likely not enough to remove all the make-up, dirt and impurities all at once. That’s why we highly recommend you to remove your make-up in a separate step. You can either use make-up remover and some cotton pads to remove all your make-up. Or use an oil cleanser to melt your make-up off first.
  2. Don’t rub and tug at your face during cleansing: Generally, you should try to avoid any harsh motions like rubbing, scrubbing and tugging at your skin at all times. When cleansing your face, don’t apply your cleanser directly to your face then rub it in. Instead, apply the cleanser to your hands first, rub your palms together to foam it up, then massage it into your face.
  3. Don’t rush it when you cleanse your face: Take your time when cleansing your face. Use the opportunity to give yourself a nice facial massage as you work your cleanser in. Anyhow, your cleanser needs a bit of time to properly work and remove all the dirt. Splashing some water on your face, then rubbing the cleanser on in light speed won’t do anything!
  4. Don’t use hand soap, shampoo or shower gel to wash your face: Soap, shampoo and shower gel are often not gentle enough to be used on the face and can overly strip away the natural oils and moisture from your skin. So use a proper face cleanser instead. Another tip: When showering, wash your hair and body first. And cleanse your face at the last step to prevent any residues of shampoo and shower gel ending up on your face.
  5. Don’t use hot water for cleansing: Never ever wash your face with hot water. First, it hurts! Second, it can actually dry out your skin.
  6. Don’t skip face cleansing in the morning: You’re not wearing any make-up as you sleep, so why bother to cleanse the face in the morning? Well, you should cleanse it anyways, because your skin can accumulate sebum and dirt from your pillow and sheets over the night. However, it’s absolutely fine to go for a lighter cleanse in the morning. For instance, you can simply soak a cotton pad in cleansing water or toner to wipe off your face.
  7. Don’t use your body and hair towel to dry your face: In general, towels can become a welcome home for bacteria to accumulate in, especially because they’re hanging in the bathroom. Other than that, your hair and body towel can of course also contain residues of shampoo and body wash. You want none of that on your face! So if possible, don’t use any towels for your face at all. Did you know that many Korean actresses swear by ditching the towel for their faces? Instead they pat their faces dry or just let it air dry.
  8. Don’t leave your skin bare after cleansing: Always have a toner, facial mist or moisturizer ready as soon as you finish your face cleansing routine. Your skin is most recipient to your skincare products when it is still a bit moist. Also, after cleansing your skin appreciates some help to get back to its natural pH-level. So be sure to apply toner asap!


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