10 things to avoid when cleansing your face


Of the beauty tips that you often receive, proper cleansing probably tops the list and I won’t be surprised that you could be quite tired of hearing it. So much so that you may not even think much of it and may even wonder at the fuss over the topic. Well, like it or not, cleansing is the most important step in our beauty ritual and lays the foundation for fortifying our skin. And today, I’m going to discuss my take on what to avoid and how to cleanse our face properly based on my experience.

1. Avoid cleansers containing SLS
When I was a lot younger, I like the squeaky clean feeling of washing my face. However, in these latter years, I’ve started to be adversed to that idea and that is why I avoid cleansers contain drying and irritating surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate. Although I still like cleansers that foam, I much prefer those that use coconut-derived fatty acids or plant-derived cleansing agents as surfactants. My current favorite is Sukin Foaming Facial Cleanser but I only use it in the morning now. For other times, I’m using Yuan Organic Mung Bean & Joy’s Tears Soap for treatment purpose although I don’t really desire that squeaky clean feeling after using it.

2. Avoid over cleansing especially in the morning
I always wash my face during my shower in the morning but there are some days I don’t and all I do is to wipe my face with my floral water.  And I’m happy to say that this is deemed fine because according to this interesting entry, studies show that people who wash their faces with soaps in the morning are about 50% less protected when they go out in the sun because soaps strips the lipid barrier on our skin.  Hence, the recommendation is that those with dry skin should wash their faces with tepid water only while those with oily skin can wash with a mild cleanser. 

3. Avoid stripping your lipids with your cleanser
The purpose of cleansing is to remove grime and oil so that our pores would not be blocked and breakouts would not occur. However, when you use a cleanser containing SLS, chances are the strong surfactant is going to strip away the beneficial oils of the skin along with the grime. In addition, a strong cleanser may alter the level of acidity on our skin which is supposed to act as a barrier to keep out bacteria. This is why you see some soaps are marketed as providing pH balance. Bottom line is if your cleanser is leaving your skin squeaky clean to the extent of it feeling taut, then you may want to think about changing it soon.

4. Avoid washing your face more than twice a day
Allow your face to maintain an adequate amount of oil.  This applies to those with oily skin as well.  Hence, try not to cleanse your face more than twice a day unless it is really very dirty.  And if you need to wash your face in the midday and evening, then avoid cleansing and use a toner or just water instead in the morning as I mentioned earlier.

5. Avoid over massaging your face when it’s unclean
If you’re using cleansing oil or cleansing cream to cleanse your face, my advice is to avoid over massaging for too long especially if your face is unclean with makeup.  I have a theory that the oil cleansing method could have contributed to my initial outbreak of cheek acne.  I can’t be certain though but it wasn’t so coincidental that my cheek acne broke out about the time I started experimenting with the method.  The thought came about during a conversation with the Korean trainer at my DIY skincare workshop.  She was very skeptical when I mentioned to her about the method which involves massaging oil into the skin for a good 10 – 15 minutes because according to her, this is almost equivalent to massaging the grime and dirt back into the pores!  Although I only had patience to massage the oil for about 5 minutes, I think her argument makes sense especially if we massage the oil into a face full of makeup!  Anyway, I don’t use the oil cleansing method so frequently now and I certainly avoid massaging oil for more than a minute when my face is very unclean.

10 Things To Avoid When Cleansing Your Face
6. Avoid using hot water to wash your face
The oil cleansing method aside, I would always say it’s best to start washing  your face with warm or tepid water and then finish off with cool water.  Hot water has a drying effect and this is why it is not recommended to use the oil cleansing method too often.  That aside, it’s also very uncomfortable to wash our faces with hot water!  As for cool water, it will help constrict the blood flow and trigger a natural pumping action plus it really freshens us up!  Cold water is a no no because it can cause broken capillaries.

7. Avoid scrubbing and rubbing whilst cleansing
You skin is not a kitchen sink and there is no need to scrub hard at it.  In fact, you want to know that excessive pulling and tugging may contribute to premature wrinkle formation.  Hence, there is no need to use a face towel to rub your skin.  Instead, use an exfoliator once or twice a week to remove dead skin.  At other times, the general advice is to wash our faces using circular movements but if you can, follow the Korean’s advice of using upward and outward movements (towards the ear) when washing our faces for that face lifting effect.

8. Avoid using your dirty hands to wash your face
Whilst it’s pretty much common sense, we sometimes forget and may launch straight into washing our face without thinking about the state of our hands.  As a thumb of rule, wash your hands with soap prior to cleansing your face.

9. Avoid shampooing your hair after cleansing your face
As I mentioned in my entry, washing my face after shampooing my hair, your shampoos and conditioners may contain ingredients or even SLS that can irritate your skin and cause breakouts.   Hence, it’s best to wash your face after you shampoo your hair.

10.Avoid using one bath towel to wipe from head to toe
Similarly, it would defeat the whole purpose of keeping your skin free from unwanted ingredients or residues if you’re using one bath towel to wipe yourself from head to toe.  Hence, my recommendation is to keep a separate face towel to pad your face dry after cleansing.

Follow up cleansing with a toner
Finally, much has been said about toner being a useless product but I beg to differ. I like to use a toner after cleansing because it can help to correct the pH balance of the skin after cleansing. This is of course not necessary if your cleanser is already providing optimal pH balance but still, a good toner such as hydrolats or one containing essential oil will also deliver beneficial ingredients and help the skin stay balanced.


  1. Natalie says:

    A very thorough advice. I love your post! ? I’ve heard long ago about the SLS, but, recently I just found out that my Cetaphil cleanser contains SLS. I’m so confused because it’s my new found top 1 cleanser.

    Any recommended toner? Thanks Sesame. ?

    Natalie: I had a look at Cetaphil’s ingredients. SLS is listed 4th so maybe the concentration isn’t a lot and that’s why it’s always recommended as a mild cleanser. For toner, I use floral water or hydrosol. I find them great cos they’re cheap and they deliver goodies. Where are you based? If in Singapore, you can get them from Yours Essentially.

  2. pf1123 says:

    Hey Sesame, wow…what a thorough post on cleansing!

    On the recommendation of my beautician, I actually use a facial sponge to wash my face. This is because I use a gel, non foaming cleanser (in fact, 2 different gel cleansers). She said that for gel cleanser, its best to use a sponge or a towel to make sure that everything is cleansed off properly.

    When I thought about it, I think thats quite true. In the cleansers, there’s glycerin and other whatnots to make our face feel smooth and soft. Surely if we don’t cleanse properly, they might clog pores.

    Yup. Thats why I use 2 wet facial sponges in my cleansing.

    I have a toner which is a cleansing lotion! I find it a fabulous addition to my cleansing routine. Mind if I do a guest post on it??? ?

    pf: I know some pple like to use towel or facial sponges and I did write something about this sometime ago. Facial sponges are softer but like what Raelynn mentioned, they are breeding grounds for bacteria so must wash, dry or change them often. I suppose it’s a personal choice and your beautician is probably right too but I much prefer using hands.

    Hey, sure you can write about the toner. Let me know via email! ?

  3. raelynn says:

    dear pf1123, as a friendly advice, do remember to change your sponges often as they tend to accumulate a lot of germs and bacteria even with frequent washing =)

  4. pf1123 says:

    Hey, thanks raelynn! I was just wondering what I should do with those sponges!

    I just started this routine not very long and wondered if I should clean it with detergent. But I’m worried about detergent residue left in it.

    So, debating changing sponges…but that might be too costly. Perhaps I should change to using face towels…

    pf: Just wash and dry them everyday if you can. But the face towels are probably easier when it comes to washing and drying.

  5. Synaesthesia says:

    wow.. i’ve learnt a lot from ur postings… I always have this bad habit, rubbing too hard during cleansing. haha…

    Synaesthesia: Hey, I learn along the way and sometimes readers share their useful tips too! I know what you mean about habit. You know how we’re conditioned to rub our face up and down since young? Quite hard to outgrow that habit and recently I’m trying to learn the Korean way of sweeping the face upwards and outwards when washing. Quite tough…

  6. pf1123 says:

    Ok great! I will send you a mail. Maybe later part of the week. Just came back from overseas. hehe…

    pf: I was guessing you went on vacation. ?

  7. Leon says:

    Great Tips Sesame:) I follow all the tips except the last one. I stopped using toner recently because I flet my skin did well without toner, no matter what kind of toner I would use my skin would feel uncomfortable.

    Leon: I like using toner. I find my skin gets more oily without using it. Or maybe it’s psychological…

  8. Raelynn says:

    dear pf1123, indeed, as suggested by sesame, washing and drying everyday would help. when i had a short stint on using sponges, i used the regular shower foam or facial cleanser, with anti-bacterial properties. But even with daily cleaning and washing, probably cause the sponge remains cold and wet for quite a long time, there’s this smell that reminds you of clothes esp towels that didnt dry too well. this was the case as well when i tried body shop’s sponges that hardened when dry and softened when wet. i stopped using sponges altogether after that because replacing was not cheap..

  9. elleve says:

    uh you meant “avoid shampooing your hair after cleansing your face” for #9 right? was a bit confused!

    elleve: Oops! ? Thanks for spotting that and highlighting! That was my error! Sorry…I was the one who was confused. ? I had meant after.

  10. Elaine says:

    I need a very gentle cleanser. I’ve just started using Renova and my skin is so dry that it hurts.
    I’ve never been one to have dry skin before this.
    I’m applying it at night because of the acne on my chin and cheeks.
    Just started using it Friday.
    Ceptaphil is too strong.

    Elaine: I read that acne treatments are mostly drying. You definitely need something without the SLS. Are you able to moisturize your face as per normal?

  11. pf1123 says:

    Raelynn, the sponges I’m currently using is also the type that is hard when its dry. I wash my sponges after every use and make sure that my cleanser residue doesn’t remain on the sponges. Then I clip them up to dry in the bathroom. My bathroom is quite dry. The sponges gets dried very fast.

    So far so good. No nasty smell. But yeah as you’ve said, the bacterial probably remains.

  12. BT says:

    I was proned to #1-3, which might be over cleansing once in a while. Thanks for the reminder! (“/)

    BT: You’re welcome! ? Writing this post also keeps me reminded!

  13. 30ats says:

    i’m guilty of using 1 bathtowel from head to toe! will stop doing that asap. hahaha

    30ats: I was using one bath towel until recently too! You’re not alone!

  14. Ms. Blacklace says:

    I also didn’t massage the oil in for too long. I too, was paranoid about the dirt and grim going back in. So usually I’ll splash my face with water and wipe away any dirt from my face before I do the OCM. With the layer of sunblock gone, it’s easier for the oil to unblock my pores.

    On days when I don’t have to wear sunblock, like on my off days [i don’t leave my home on my off day], I’ll just wash my face with water or oatmeal.

    During my secondary school days, I did #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Lol! But it didn’t breakout so much though…. Guess my skin was pretty strong back then.

    Ms Blacklace: Wow, you did all of that? What about #6?

  15. Raelynn says:

    dear Elaine, perhaps if foaming cleansers, even gentle ones do not work, then perhaps it is time to try cream cleansers. cream cleansers do not necessarily leave an oily afterfeel so as long as u wash it off properly and swipe a little toner gently to remove the last traces.

  16. Ms. Blacklace says:

    I didn’t do #6 because I don’t like the way hot water scalds my face. haha! Luke warm / warm water was fine.

    Ms Blacklace: Yes, that’s what I mean too…don’t use hot water, at least not so often cos it’s uncomfortable and also drying.

  17. pf1123 says:

    To Elaine:

    If you have suffered for a couple of months and the products you tried all didn’t work, perhaps its time to see a derm.

    I have acne on my jawline and neck, clogged pores all over. I spent so much money trying all sorts of products but they all didn’t work and made it worse. But visiting the derm solved the problem.

    My friend had a bad breakout all along the chin and jawline. A visit to the derm, $60 spent on birth control pills to regulate hormones and everything solved within a month.

    I paid more dearly than that. An expensive lesson learnt.

  18. Nurul says:

    Hi Sesame,
    You mention that it is bad to shampoo our hair after cleansing our face due to the SLS in shampoos, have you ever thought of switching to Shampoo Bars? Basically they are bar soap made especially for the hair. On my recent switch to go all-natural, I have switched to using shampoo bars, bar soaps to wash my face and body and natural home remedies. I hope using handmade soaps aren’t too bad for my skin. My complexion has improved dramatically though ever since I made the switch. It’s really hard to find commercial products which are all-natural, because oftentimes they are labeled as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’, and they are anything but!

    For example, I bought the aloe vera gel and an organic conditioner from Nature’s Farm without reading the label, because I took for granted that the products would not contain silicones, but to my horror they do. Some ‘natural’ products contain propylene glycol too. I really think that we as consumers need to educate ourselves instead of just taking for granted that the product is what it claims to be. (I’ve learnt a lot from your blog thanks!)

    Silicones are one ingredient that I stay away from, because I think that they clog pores over time. I have read that silicones in shampoos/conditioners cannot be removed easily by washing with water alone and it causes buildup in hair overtime. The silicones can only be removed by using harsh shampoos which contain surfactants (which in turn strip your natural oils). Hence, the need for us to switch our shampoos often so that our new shampoo is able to strip the buildup in our scalp, and in turn deposit the new silicones on our hair again. I think if silicones have that kind of adverse effect on our hair, the same can be said for our face too. Some facial cleansers do contain silicones! Let me know what you think. ?

    Nurul: Yes, I agree about silicones. I try to avoid that with products used on the skin as far as possible. I wrote something on that under Ingredients 101 sometime back. As for hair, I can”t stay away from SLS-free shampoos. I have extremely greasy scalp and those natural/organic formulations don’t make the cut for me. I’m still on the hunt. A reader mentioned Nature’s Gate shampoos are good so maybe that’s something I’ll try. But I don’t use conditioner so that’s a blessing cos I believe conditioners have the most silicones.

  19. astrorainfall @ beauty box says:

    Hi Sesame, your tips are really awesome. Though this topic has been touched on before, quite a few of your tips shed some new light. Eg. using a separate towel for face and body, not over-masssaging, and cleaning our hands before cleansing. Thanks for sharing!

    Astro: You’re welcome! I’m glad you find some of the tips useful. ?

  20. Dee says:

    I like this information! Thank you Sesame!!! =)

    Dee: You’re welcome! ?

  21. Kathleen says:

    Since I have been using the Clarisonic, I find I can use a much more gentle cleanser and still get all of my makeup off. I love it!

    Kathleen: Hey, I was looking at these products. I noticed a couple of brands have launched. Maybe I’ll like to try one soon!

  22. Pipsila says:

    Just wondering is there a special kind of cleanser we should use to remove water resistant sunscreen from the face? Is it suffice to just use facial cleansing wipes (alcohol free) to remove the sunscreen?

    Pipsila: For certain brands, there is a special cleanser but if you use facial wipes, then I suggest you follow on with a gentle foaming cleanser. The wipes are not enough to remove all. You can also use a cleansing cream or cleansing oil first follow up a foaming cleanser.

  23. Leann says:

    This was VERY interesting. I never heard the majority of these tips so this is really helpful info

    Leann: I’m glad you find these interesting! ?

  24. Chris Soh says:

    i’m loving this post esp since 8 out of 10 times, when you ask someone what sort of skin they have, the word “SENSITIVE” pops up.

    interestingly, a lot of the issues that come with sensitive skin can go away quickly if the ten tips are observed.

    reason being, the skin barrier is being protected. it’s the thing that keeps the bad stuff out and the good stuff in.

    stripping the skin barrier by over cleansing leaves it highly prone to loss of moisture and with loss of moisture comes redness.

  25. sesame says:

    That’s interesting. Actually I’ve been wondering lately what’s the difference between sensitive and sensitized. Seems that most pple have sensitized skin but think it’s sensitive.

  26. Chris Soh says:

    excellent thought!

  27. ani says:

    wow i like post website… Honestly I dont know what kind should I buy cleanser for face wash and toner natural? I am still searching and i couldn’t find it… I have my skin normal/dry…

    Please help me,
    thank you,

  28. sesame says:

    Send me an email – vivawoman at gmail.com and let me know your skin type, your location.

  29. joey luv says:

    thanx aloooooooooooooooooooooot 4 e great eye opener long live!!!!!!!!1

  30. MrsRance says:

    Such an informative posting…thanks Sesame. I learn a lot from your blog

  31. sesame says:

    Glad you find some of the info relevant. ?

  32. cheng says:

    Hi.. I wash my face every evening since I go to school I think it will remove the dirt that i accumulated throughout the day. BTW is it bad to scrub my face with sugar everyday? Thank you and great post.!!! :))))

  33. Sesame says:

    Yes, not good to scrub daily. Since you’re young, your skin renews quite quickly. Plus sugar is a bit rough in texture.

  34. ellie says:

    i’m literally hooked to your site~~~… in fact, after researching on my own on top of your recommendations, I’ve already started to use my own economical concocted skin care! I’m now using yoghurt mask, honey mask, oatmeal mask (and mask is really important to me) and mixed them up anyway I feel like it. You gave really great insights and useful information! All credits to you! And most importantly, it really helps me to prolong my usage of my own commercial skincare products coz’ I’m using really costly ones even though I have staff discounts.

    Just to share with you some other information for the use of toner:
    always use a cotton pad with toner and wipe our face. the idea is that our face could’ve remnants of dead skin cells and other dirt and grime, so it is actually considered your last step of “cleansing”. on top of that, it helps you see if you’ve cleanse properly, and if your cleanser is truly working for you. Also, all toners should be alcohol-free, whether it’s for oily skin or not. Lastly, toner not only works to close the pores (coz’ our pores doesn’t close that fast after shower), it’s actually like a “wake-up call” for our skin, to prep them to absorb the nutrients from our moisturizers. Hence, lightly pat all over our face with toner cotton pad, and then flip over the cotton pad, wipe face using outward motions. Sometimes when I saw the cotton pad seemed to have residue of makeup left, I would go through the wiping again with a new cotton pad.

  35. Sesame says:

    Thanks Ellie for sharing! I appreciate your visit and am glad that you enjoy the info here. I’m good with using toner but I don’t use a cotton pad though cos I already cleanse my face with a sponge and so it’s pretty clean.

  36. Jaycraw says:

    I am in my late 30’s, and would like your recommendation on a suitable toner for dry skin. I live in Korea, and am learning more about your great products here! Thanks!

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