11th March, 20214 min read

How to clean your face

Medical reviewer:
Dr Ann Nainan
Dr Ann Nainan
Helen Prentice
Helen Prentice
Last reviewed: 09/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Cleaning your face is probably something you do without thinking. But it’s worth taking a bit of time with your face care routine to make sure your skin stays healthy. After all, your skin works hard protecting you, so it makes sense to take good care of it.

Read on for tips about how to wash your face, including what products to use, how often to do it and what to avoid.

Do I need to clean my face?

Regardless of your skin type, it’s important to remove dirt and make-up from your face at the end of the day. This will help keep your skin healthy and support it to repair and renew itself, which happens at night when you're asleep.

How often should you wash your face? Well, washing it too often can actually be a bad idea, as it can remove natural oils that help to keep it healthy. It’s a good idea to stick to twice a day – once in the morning and once before you go to bed.

You should also clean your face when you get very sweaty, such as after exercise. Sweat on the skin can cause irritation, so it’s best to wash it off as soon as you can.

What products should I use to clean my face?

We all have different skin types and what works for one person won’t be right for someone else, so it may take a bit of time to find the best product for you.

Generally, however, it's best to avoid using harsh soaps on your face, especially products containing alcohol, which can irritate and dry the skin. Choose a gentle, non-abrasive skin cleanser instead.

This is particularly important if you know you have dry or sensitive skin. In this case you may also want to avoid ingredients such as fragrances, retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which can also cause dryness or irritation.

Blobs of skincare product against background

What’s the best way to clean my face?

This step-by-step guidance has been approved by dermatologists:

  1. Wet your face with water – lukewarm, rather than hot, is best.
  2. Use your fingertips to apply your cleanser – a cloth or sponge may irritate the skin.
  3. Avoid scrubbing too hard – this will irritate your skin.
  4. Rinse your face with lukewarm water.
  5. Gently pat – rather than rub – your skin dry, using a soft towel.

You may also want to apply moisturiser, especially if your skin feels dry. If so, remember to:

  • apply it straight after washing your face to lock in moisture
  • be careful around the delicate eye area and avoid pulling on the skin

Face care – quick tips

  • it’s particularly important to wash your face at the end of the day to remove dirt and make-up (if you wear it)
  • if you wear make-up, you should also wash your make-up brushes regularly
  • choose skincare products that suit your skin type – such as those designed for dry or oily skin
  • central heating, air conditioning and travel can all dry out your skin, so you may need to moisturise more
  • if you’re going to be spending time in the sun, remember to apply sunscreen

Person looking in the mirror drying face with clean towel

When to speak to your doctor

If you have very dry skin, it’s worth getting advice from a doctor or dermatologist. They may suggest an ointment or cream and check if you have a skin condition that needs treatment.

You should also keep an eye out for changes in your skin. If you notice any unusual spots, lumps or itchy or crusty patches that don’t go away within 4 weeks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. They will be able to examine your skin and decide if you need any tests.

Key points

  • cleaning your face can help your skin stay healthy
  • it’s best to wash your skin twice a day – in the morning and before bed
  • use lukewarm water and a cleanser free from alcohol or fragrances to avoid irritation
  • you may want to apply moisturiser after washing, especially if your skin is dry
  • if your skin is unusually dry or you notice any changes it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor
Was this article helpful?

We include references at the end of every article, so you know where we get our facts. We only ever take evidence from medically-recognised sources, approved by the UK National Health Service's The Information Standard, or certified by Health On the Net (HON). When we talk about popular health trends or claims, we'll always tell you if there's very little or no evidence to back them up. Our medical team also checks our sources, making sure they're appropriate and that we've interpreted the science correctly.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.