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The Best Way to Wash Your Face, According to Your Skin Type

Turns out that there's a lot more to cleaning your face than just soap and water. We spoke with a top dermatologist to pinpoint the best face-washing techniques for every skin type.

Mederma Facial CleasnerKate McIndoe/rd.com

Oily skin

Those with oily skin may need a bit more than a bar of soap to neutralize that shine; the bright side is that you have more room to experiment with tools and exfoliants. Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and author of Skin Rules, is a big fan of the Clarisonic Sonic Facial Cleansing Brush System. “The sonic technology helps to gently remove dead skin from pores, so they don’t get clogged,” she says. Using it once a day is sufficient. If you don’t want to invest in the brush, a cotton pad or baby washcloth are good substitutes. (Be sure to use a clean washcloth every time you wash your face.) A face wash like Burt’s Bees Soap Bark and Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream is strong enough to remove oil, makeup, and grime, but with chamomile and aloe, it won’t strip your skin of moisture. Follow with an oil-free, mattifying moisturizer day and night and be sure to use sunscreen lotion in the morning. Mederma’s Facial Cleanser is a great option as well. It’s moisturizing qualities help your skin realize it does not need to produce so much oil. Don’t miss these beauty secrets for women with oily skin.

IT Cosmetics Facial CleanserKate McIndoe/rd.com

Dry skin

The way you wash your face can be a make-it-or-break-it experience for those with dehydrated skin. “It is especially important to choose a mild cleanser so that you don’t further dry out delicate skin,” Dr. Jaliman says. Pick one with ceramides, glycerin, and/or hyaluronic acid–any of these ingredients will help hydrate the skin. (A smart choice is IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser.) “Using a cotton pad, wash your skin in a gentle, circular motion,” she advises. Then pat, don’t rub, your skin dry to prevent irritation. Immediately follow with a potent hydrating moisturizer to lock in hydration. Jaliman recommends the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for an extra boost of glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides.

Thomas Roth Facial CleanserKate McIndoe/rd.com

Acne-prone skin

If pimples and blackheads seem to have a magical connection to your pores, you need a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer to make them disappear, Dr. Jaliman says. The best cleanser for you contains salicylic acid or glycolic acid, chemical exfoliants that help remove excess oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria and unclog your pores. A salicylic acid or glycolic acid-based toner like Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads deliver a one-two punch and is especially helpful on oily T-zones. Follow with a light moisturizer morning and night and always apply SPF lotion in the morning. Finally, remember that you can’t “scrub” away blemishes—the result of overzealous washing is red, raw skin and ramped up oil production. Although occasional exfoliating is helpful in keeping acne at bay, limit your washing routine to no more than twice a day, and be gentle to your pimples to prevent permanent inflammation and scarring.

Neutrogena Facial CleanserKate McIndoe/rd.com

Combination skin

Combination skin is particularly tricky to cleanse; with an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, your face just seems confused. “For combination skin, use a mild cleanser to wash the face and toner for the T-zone to take out the excess oil,” Dr. Jaliman says. Follow with a non-comedogenic moisturizer, concentrating it on the drier areas. Dr. Jaliman likes Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum, because it’s packed with hyaluronic acid, yet won’t clog your pores and is easy on your wallet, too. Find out the beauty rules for combination skin.

Sea Radiance Facial CleanserKate McIndoe/rd.com

Mature skin

Skin naturally thins as you age, making it not only delicate but more prone to lines and wrinkles. To keep it healthy and radiant, choose a mild hydrating cleanser with glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. (Dr. Jaliman likes Sea Radiance Gentle Cleanser, which she helped create.) Cleanse your face with gentle, circular motions using only your fingers; the physical motion is enough to remove the dead skin and debris, Dr. Jaliman says. Always moisturize right after washing so that the water molecules will bind to the outer layers of the skin. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser has a loyal following among those with sensitive skin and is a super wallet-friendly option. The hyaluronic acid helps retain skin’s natural moisture. Try these tricks to make you look younger.

Vanacream Facial CleanserKate McIndoe/rd.com

Sensitive skin

Your go-to products are mild without any harmful chemicals and unnecessary ingredients, including added fragrance. Lightly wash your face with lukewarm—not hot!—water for no more than three minutes with a gentle cleanser (one Dr. Jaliman likes is Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser) and immediately follow up with a moisturizer made for sensitive skin that’s oil-free and non-comedogenic. Those with sensitive skin will want to follow these 11 rules.

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Hana Hong
Hana Hong is a journalist/storyteller whose writing has appeared in many publications and websites, including Reader's Digest, InStyle, CollegeFashionista, Her Campus, and The Fashion Network, among others. She hails from the midwest, where she graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in News-Editorial Journalism, but has a passion for the East Coast. Visit her website: Hana Hong.