Remember, this is a product you literally wash down the drain. "Cleansers spend very little time in contact with your skin, compared to serums and moisturizers," says Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. While some amazing high-end cleansers certainly contain cool ingredients, smell great, and leave skin feeling soft, they won't change your skin -- that's what treatments and creams are for. After price, consider what kind of cleanser best matches your skin type. Anyone can use a cleansing oil, cream, or micellar water (a new watery product you apply with a cotton round). If you're dry, avoid charcoal cleansers or anything that foams a lot. If you're acne-prone, go for a gel that contains salicylic acid.
Double cleansing -- using an oil to melt off makeup followed by another face wash to eighty-six pollutants -- is a thing right now. Also popular: All manner of electronic exfoliating gadgets and gizmos. "There's certainly nothing wrong with either," Engelman says. "I use a skin brush myself. But you have to figure out what your skin can handle." Over-cleansing removes the skin's natural biofilm -- the layer that helps keep it soft. Here's a test to see if your cleansing routine is right for you: After rinsing, skin should feel supple, not squeaky clean. If it's the latter, switch to just one moisturizing cleanser and limit exfoliation to twice a week.
If the water you're using is too hot, it can cause serious dryness. Go too cold and it will close up pores, meaning your cleanser can't evict blackheads from their hiding places. Lukewarm is just right, Engelman says. Massage cleanser onto skin with circular motions. The "up and out" direction can actually help prevent pimples and clogs.