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How Long Should I Leave Cleanser On My Face?

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In this Article

The Question of Double Cleansing
How to Properly Cleanse your Face
How do Facial Cleansers Work?
Can I Cleanse my Skin for Too Long?

Life has many questions, doesn’t it? When we’re in the shower, brushing our teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil, we often have our most in depth conversations with ourselves. (What do you mean, you don’t? Just us then? *shrugs distractedly and fills the kettle*) 

We might ponder on how long we can realistically leave it until we give in and sweep the autumn leaves from the front garden. Or when we’ll start the Couch to 5km running programme we promised ourselves we would in the last lockdown. We might question that just too high to reach spider’s web in the corner and how long it’s been there. Or thereally important life questions, such as who will win this years’ Strictly Come Dancing. 

It just seems that we simply have too many questions and not enough answers. But, and if you’re a regular here you’ll know, wedo like to find answers to life’s common questions when it comes to good skin care.And we like to tell you about them. 

So if you’ve ever deliberated on how long you should leave a cleanser on your face, then you’re in the right place. (If you're looking for insider knowledge on Strictly, then sorry, we don’t have the answers. But we’ll jolly well enjoy watching along at the same time as you to find out!) 

Here’s the Sönd lowdown on how long we should all aim to be cleansing for...

The Question of Double Cleansing

First, let’s discuss the merits of double cleansing as part of a thorough skin care regime for clean, healthy skin. 

Double the cleansing equals double the products, double the money and double the faff, right? Well the first two are indisputable - the more involved your skin care routine, the more products you’ll have and the more money you’ll spend.

But the benefits ofdouble cleansing are multiple. Our faces are exposed to an extraordinary amount of dirt, grime and pollution as we go about our daily lives. 

Even if we don’t go outside (as many of us are spending more time indoors due to the coronavirus restrictions and working from home) we’re still exposed to dust and dirt from our homes. Plus cooking fumes, soot from candles and general air pollution can all build up on our skin. 

Then there’s the things we put on our faces, such as makeup. Many of us alsotouch our faces a lot, potentially transferring oil, bacteria and dirt. Then there's the sebum produced naturally by our own skin each day. 

All of these things can build up and signal bad news for our skin if we don’t carefully cleanse and remove them, twice a day. Without effective cleansing, we can suffer the consequences of blocked pores - spots, acne breakouts and generally stressed out, dull skin.

That’s why effective cleansing is so important, and why we advocate the benefits of double cleansing. 

So, what is effective cleansing and how long should we dedicate to cleansing our skin?

How to Properly Cleanse your Face

Regardless of whether or not you’re double cleansing, and of what sort of cleanser you’re using, your cleansing product needs to be in contact with your skin for long enough in order to work. 

Each skin cleanser, whether rich and creamy like ourClean Slate Cream Cleanser, is light and foamy or thick and heavy, will have its own instructions. That said, generally speaking, a cleanser needs to be on the skin for around30 to 60 seconds

Some cleansers will have specific instructions regarding how long they should be kept on the skin. Especially so those that contain highly specific ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that have a peeling, exfoliating effect on the skin. 

These instructions should be followed to the letter, as some of these ingredients can become irritating to the skin if they’re left on the face for too long. Or, they could be less effective if they’re not left on long enough, rendering them a uselesswaste of money

But if a facial cleansing product comes with no instruction with regard to how long they should be used for, or it’s a little vague, then the 30 to 60 second rule should come into play. 

How do Facial Cleansers Work? 

Last year, the internet went mad after videos posted by both Kylie and Kendall Jenner showed them washing their faces (both were promoting their own ranges of skin care products). Thesocial media backlash that ensued was based mainly around the fact they washed their skin for a mere few seconds. 

This simply isn't long enough for cleansers to work. Facial cleansers work byattracting dirt, grime, oil and makeup, and lifting it away from the skin so that we can then wipe or rinse it away, along with the cleanser. 

This process takes time, and the cleanser needs to be in contact with all the unwanted debris in order for it to work it’s magic on lifting it out of the pores and away from the skin. 

So sorry, Kylie and Kendall, a quick rub for a few seconds simply isn’t enough! 

Also, when cleansing, don’t be tempted to betoo vigorous. Our delicate skin can become red or irritated by being too overzealous. 

Instead, use the pads of your fingers to gently massage in your cleanser, using small circular motions all over your face and nack. Don’t forget under your chin, your forehead or your temples, which can be easy to miss in favour of concentrating on the middle parts of our faces. 

Can I Cleanse my Skin for Too Long? 

Great question! Because all of this said, over washing our skin can also have detrimental effects. If our skin is sensitive, stressed out or contrary, then washing our skin for more than about a minute can cause it to feel worse. Lengthy cleansing can strip the skin of it’s important oils, making it feel tight and dry. 

So like anything, it's important that you cleanse your skin for as long as your skin feels it needs it, and can tolerate it. This might mean standing in front of a stop watch whilst you work out what’s best for your beautifully individual skin. 

Then, find a few lines of a favourite song, or a mantra or affirmation to repeat each time you cleanse, so that you know you’re effectively cleansing for the right length of time. 

Or, if your skin isn’t that precious when it comes to how long you cleanse, give it the full 60 seconds of gentle, circular massaging. Leaving you extra time to deliberate on all those important life questions. Now, about that spider’s web… 

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Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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