5 Bad Cleansing Habits You Should Break ASAP

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One thing I always tell my friends: Invest in a cleanser you really like, because if you’re not cleansing your skin every day, and properly, you might as well throw out the rest of your skin-care routine. And this applies to those who don’t wear makeup, too, as we sweat and our skin picks up dust and debris throughout the day. A good cleanser resets your skin and allows everything you apply afterward to sink in and work its magic as intended. “Cleansing is the step that makes or breaks a skin-care routine,” says Boise, ID dermatologist Dr. Dustin Portela. “It can have a cascading effect for good or for bad.”

According to a survey conducted by CeraVe among 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18-40, a whopping 80 percent of them did not know which ingredients to look for in a cleanser. Here, top dermatologists weigh in on some of the most common mistakes people make when washing their face and why it’s important to break them ASAP.

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Washing Your Face With a Product Not Made for Your Face

“For example, using bar soap or shower gel just because it’s convenient,” says Dr. Portela. “If you admit to this, you’re not alone. According to a survey of 200 board-certified dermatologists also conducted by CeraVe, more than half of dermatologists—51 percent—say that one of the most common patient mistakes is using products that dry out the skin when they are not necessary for their skin needs. If you’re not using a product made for the face, you could be drying out your skin and you could be then needing to use more moisturizer, and that could compromise all the steps in your routine.”

New York dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD adds, “I will say the worst I have seen is that I had a patient who used dish soap because he thought it made him feel really squeaky-clean and it was good for his acne, so clearly we need to do a lot of education here.”

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Washing Your Face With Hot Water

“Most of us know lukewarm water is the best to cleanse our skin with, but many of us are guilty of using hot water and that’s one of the worst things you can do,” says Dr. Henry. “It’s leaching your skin of moisture and disrupting your skin barrier. The perfect approach is lukewarm water and washing for 60 seconds.”

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Not Choosing a Cleanser Based on Your Skin Type

“There’s such a wide range of cleansers and formulations in the cleanser category, and as dermatologists, we take the time to learn those so we can make thoughtful recommendations for our patients,” says Dr. Portela. “In the CeraVe survey, 70 percent of people don’t know their own skin type, so they’re not able to choose a cleanser that’s based on that skin type.”

According to the doctors, there are five common skin types: “Normal, which sounds the way it is—balanced, not very oily or acne-prone,” Dr. Henry explains. “Oily skin has more active sebaceous glands; dry skin can have a little bit of scaling and it can get uncomfortable and tight when you’re cleansing. Combination skin is a little bit dry and a little bit oily, and then there’s sensitive skin, and you’ll know if you have sensitive skin: those of us who turn red with everything or you have stinging when you use certain skin-care products. There are also a lot of things that can change your skin type, such as getting older or your environment. I always tell my patients that sometimes we have to adapt a little bit depending on our environment. Like if you work indoors and the air conditioning is leaching your skin, or you move from New York to Houston and the climate is different.”

“Make sure you’re using something compatible for your skin and beneficial for you,” Dr. Henry adds. “Let’s say you have dry skin, you’ll want something that will give you that hydration—a creamy texture would work well. If you have oily skin, you’ll want to use something that will give you a really robust cleansing response to get rid of the oil, dirt and debris—I love a gel cleanser for a deep cleanse for this skin type. If you’re a heavy makeup-wearer, a foam cleanser is a good option, or a double-cleanse with a balm that will help melt away the makeup and then follow that with a traditional cleanser.”

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Not Using a Derm-Approved Cleanser

“Only 12 percent of individuals who were surveyed were using a derm-approved cleanser in their skin-care routine, which is a lower number than I thought it would be,” says Dr. Portela. So what is a derm-approved cleanser, aside from the obvious approval from your doctor? “It’s a cleanser with gentle surfactants that will cleanse your skin without disrupting your skin’s pH balance,” Dr. Henry explains. “I always say that it’s a cleanser that takes away the bad stuff and leaves a little good behind. It leaves behind good ingredients we need like hyaluronic acid and ceramides that help fortify your skin barrier and prep your skin. CeraVe’s core cleansers use three essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid to ensure that they are cleansing, while not disrupting the skin. Remember that cleansing is not a throwaway step—it’s the first step in your skin routine. It’s preparing your skin so that everything you do after works a little bit better. And even though it washes off, it can still deposit skin-loving ingredients.”

Dr. Henry adds that there may be consequences if you’re not using the right cleanser, too: “If it’s not a derm-approved cleanser, you may not be cleansing your skin appropriately, and this can lead to acne and inflammation. It can also damage your skin if it’s too harsh. Many of the non derm-approved cleansers don’t protect the skin barrier.”

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Not Following Your Cleansing Routine With Good Skin Care

Cleansing by itself is not enough to maintain healthy, youthful skin. What you apply afterward, especially at night when your skin is in repair mode, is essential. “My very top skin-care ingredient would be ceramides,” says Dr. Henry. “They’re part of the lipids in our skin and make up about 50 percent of those lipids. If we look at our skin as a brick wall and the cells are the bricks, ceramides are the mortar. They’re really protecting our skin and waterproofing it, keeping the good things in and the bad things out. They’re critical to having skin that feels good and functions optimally.” In the CeraVe survey, 52 percent of dermatologists said ceramides were the most important ingredient to look for in a cleanser.

Hyaluronic acid comes in a close second place, Dr. Henry adds. “I call it the miracle molecule—it holds 1,000 times its weight in water—and it really helps to optimize our hydration.”

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