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How to wash your face: A top derm dishes

Macrene Actives

We've posted a number of tips from Macrene Alexiades, the New York-based dermatologist with a BA, MD, and PhD from Harvard: she's brilliant, and she has a unique scientific and clinical background that makes her a master at identifying and evaluating the effect of active molecules on aging skin.

Recently, she pointed out to us that improper cleansing methods and products can cause unnecessary harm to skin — she often sees her patients over wash, over scrub, and over dry their faces in that single skincare step. Read on so that you don't make the same mistakes.

AYLA: Can you share your top cleansing tips with our readers?
Dr. ALEXIADES: Of course! Here are my top 10 tips for a good face washing routine.

1.) Choose the right cleanser. Cleansers should help clean and prep skin for active delivery of skincare ingredients from serums and creams. Opt for a mild, moisturizing cleanser that removes oil and residue without leaving your skin dry, tight, or flaky.

2.) Hands first. Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin washing your face. You don't want all the bacteria from your hands to transfer onto your face.

3.) Lukewarm water. Rinsing your face with cool water to close your pores is just a myth; water that is too hot or too cold will only shock and irritate skin, causing broken capillaries.

4.) Don't be so direct. Never apply cleanser directly without moistening your face first. Most cleansers are too harsh and need to be diluted with water. Use one pump of product and create a lather with your fingertips first. Apply using a gentle, circular motion to loosen dirt.

5.) Rinse and repeat. Residual products will dry out your skin and clog pores. Keep rinsing until all the cleanser is removed from your skin. Don't forget to rinse your hairline, neck, and the sides of your nose. These are places often missed and can lead to skin irritations.

6.) Too much exfoliating can be a bad thing. Acids and buffing agents are meant to smooth skin by removing dead skin cells, but exfoliate too often and you run the risk of stripping and drying out the new layer. Over time, this will weaken the skin's natural barrier.

7.) Your washcloth may cause abrasions and wrinkles. Fingertips are always best, but if you must use a washcloth, make sure it's clean, and never rub. The skin on your face is delicate, and rubbing too harshly with a towel can lead to abrasion and wrinkles over the years.

8.) Lock in moisture. While your skin is still damp, apply a moisturizer to seal the moisture balance before your water evaporates off the skin's surface.

9.) Too much of a good thing. Washing your face 2-3 times a day is healthy, but over cleansing will disrupt natural barrier functions and can actually make conditions like acne and rosacea worse.

10.) A good night's rest begins with clean skin. Never go to sleep without a proper facial cleanse. Skin pollutants left overnight can cause seborrheic dermatitis, overnight yeast buildup that results in redness and scaling.


Note from Ayla: Luckily for you, Dr. Alexiades has created a cleanser herself that is some stellar stuff. Learn about the Macrene Actives Cleansing Treatment here. Want more? Shop the entire Macrene Actives lineup here, and if you'd like to hear more from Dr. Macrene, check out these posts on our blog:

Dermatologist Macrene Alexiades on skin firmness & elasticity

Collagen in topical and ingestible skincare: dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD weighs in

Dr. Macrene Alexiades on her new Macrene Actives line

A top dermatologist's acne tips

About Dr. Alexiades: Dr. Macrene Alexiades has long been an Ayla inspiration for many reasons, starting with her list of accomplishments. She has a BA, MD, and PhD in genetics from Harvard, where she was a Fulbright scholar; a bustling dermatology practice on Park Avenue and in the Hamptons; an associate clinical professorship at Yale School of Medicine; a long list of articles and textbooks she’s published; an organic farm in New York’s Hudson Valley; a phenomenal line of skincare products called Macrene Actives; and two wonderful children. She does it all, she owns her brilliance, and we love her for it. 


Any topic discussed in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please check with your doctor.

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