Did you know that you have a great deal of control over the texture, clarity, suppleness and long-term health of facial skin just based on how and how often you cleanse? Whether you’re young or old, man or woman, you can do your skin a big favor by cleansing correctly.
Cleansing is arguably the most important part of your basic skincare routine. Proper cleansing gets rid of old surface skin cells, dirt and dust, grime, make-up and bacteria, and keeps skin pores free of clogs and able to breathe freely.
Cleansing also aids circulation and prepares the skin to receive topically applied nutrients and lipids.
Here are some tips for proper facial cleansing from the 5,000-year-old healing tradition of Ayurveda:
1. Cleanse twice a day, no more. Unless you have exposed your skin to excessive dust, grime or pollution, twice-a-day cleansing is more than adequate for any skin type. Cleansing too often strips your skin of precious natural oils. Not cleansing regularly, particularly before you retire for the night, may lead to build-up and eruptions.
2. Choose a cleanser that is appropriate for your skin type. Do not use soap on facial skin: it can be too harsh and drying and damage skin over time. A too-rich cleanser can clog pores, while a too-dry cleanser can irritate the skin. A cleanser for dry skin should contain nourishing herbs and oils. One for oily skin should include herbs that balance oil production and support clarity. Sensitive skin benefits from an ultra-gentle, fragrance-free, non-irritating cleanser.
Traditional Ayurvedic cleansers are made fresh with natural ingredients such as ground oats, lentils or chickpeas, complexion enhancing or clarifying herbs such as turmeric, Amalaki, Neem and sandalwood, emollients such as milk, cream yogurt or honey, and floral or citrus waters for pure healing fragrance. You can make your own by mixing the dry ingredients to last a week or two and blending the mix with milk or cream right before use. Otherwise, look for a natural cleanser that’s gentle and fortified with skin-friendly herbs.
3. Always cleanse with tepid water. Hot water dries and damages skin over time, and cold water won’t dissolve and take away embedded dirt and grime as well as lukewarm water.
4. If you use sponges or washcloths, make sure they are clean and soft. They are not necessary for effective cleansing: your fingertips can do just as good a job.
5. Wash your hands thoroughly before you cleanse your face, or you will be working dirt into facial skin. Use a headband to secure hair away from the face.
6. Start by splashing tepid water on your face and neck.
7. Apply the cleanser with your fingertips or a soft sponge, using gentle circular massaging strokes and moving upward on the face and neck. Do not scrub too much…gentle massaging strokes are enough to help improve circulation as well as loosen grime and old surface skin cells. Too much scrubbing will stretch skin and irritate it, especially the delicate skin around the eyes.
8. Rinse with lots of tepid water. Don’t forget to rinse off cleanser from the neck and hairline. Cleanser residue can clog pores and attract dirt.
9. Gently blot off excess water with a soft towel. Do not scrub dry or drag towel along skin.
10. Follow immediately with a water-based toner and a moisturizer appropriate for your skin type to seal in surface moisture and offer nourishment when skin is receptive.
Note: This ayurvedic information is educational, and is not intended to replace standard medical care or advice.
Shreelata Suresh is a yoga instructor who lives in the Bay Area. She writes for various publications on yoga, Ayurveda and Indian culture.