How Long Should You Wash Your Face? The Magic Range, From A Derm
While investing in high-quality skin care products is important, so is how you use those products. Habits like applying your routine in a certain order and cycling through active ingredients, like retinol and exfoliants, can make all the difference.
Even how you wash your face can make or break your routine, as simple as it may sound. Here's how to achieve the best results from your cleanser, according to a derm.
How long should you wash your face?
Some people say to leave face wash on for 30 seconds, others say two minutes, and some claim it doesn't even matter. What's the right answer? According to board-certified dermatologist Divya Shokeen, M.D., FAAD, it's not a one-size-fits-all step.
"Ideally, we recommended washing your face for at least 30 to 60 seconds," she says. "This is enough time to remove dirt, oil, and impurities from your skin without over-drying it."
Why this range? Well, some people use an oil cleanser to remove dirt, makeup, and SPF before washing with a water-based formula (a routine called double-cleansing). For those folks, 30 seconds should fit. But if you only use one cleanser to remove everything, make sure you massage it into your skin for a full minute to truly dissolve all the grime.
Another caveat: If you're using an active cleanser with ingredients like AHAs or BHAs (exfoliating acids) or benzoyl peroxide, then you should keep it on for 60 seconds to ensure these ingredients work their magic, Shokeen notes. (Otherwise, you're literally washing those actives down the drain.) You may want to use these special cleansers only twice to three times weekly to prevent drying out your skin, but you'll want to get the most out of them when you do indulge.
A few extra tips for cleansing:
- For those with highly sensitive or rosacea-prone skin, then be sure to stick with gentle cleansers and only wash your face once daily if possible.
- For everyone else, twice daily is A-OK. For the morning wash, rotate in a gentle cleanser rather than anything active.
- Avoid over-scrubbing the skin, instead working your cleanser in with gentle fingertips.
- Make sure you add a bit of water to your hands and face before applying cleanser to emulsify the formula.
- Always moisturize the skin post-cleanse.
It turns out, the golden time frame for cleansing your skin ranges from 30 seconds to 60 seconds, depending on what skin type you have, what steps you do before, and what kind of cleanser you use. Looking for a new cleanser? Here's a curated list of our top picks to kick off your search.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.