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Face Wash 101 | Face Cleansing

Washing our face is the most basic thing that we do daily. Without even realizing it, this simple task might be the first-ever skincare routine that we developed at a young age. That being said, face wash is something that we should not overlook since it is considered one of the most fundamental steps in our skincare ritual. Even though it seems pretty straightforward, there are a lot of questions asked regarding this particular subject, such as "am I washing my face too frequently?", "Does water temperature matter?" as well as "Which face wash should I use?". No matter how easy washing our face is, a proper method and face wash cleanser are needed to maintain healthy skin.

Do we need to wash our face?


Our face is exposed to pollution, sun exposure, and other external aggressors throughout the day. Not to mention SPF, makeup, yesterday's moisturiser, sebum and sweat that cover our face. Now, imagine the accumulation of unwanted debris that can clog our pores during the day. Sounds terrible, right? Even at night, when all we do sleeping, there can be bacteria and dead skin cells build-up. These can cause numerous skin issues such as acne flare-ups, irritation, premature ageing, etc. That's why washing our face is necessary. We all know how refreshing washing our face can be, especially in the morning, as it helps us feeling more awake. However, that is not the primary purpose of face-washing. What's more important is getting rid of dirt, sebum and other impurities on our skin; and preparing our face as a clean canvas for the next skincare regime, so other products can work their magic much more efficiently.

How often should we wash our face?

Ideally speaking, we need to wash our face twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. However, I believe you've all heard this one simple rule: when it comes to skincare, there are no rules! Listen to your skin and do what works for you.

For instance, after doing an intense workout where you sweat buckets, it is understandable and totally fine if you want to thoroughly wash your face with a gentle cleanser for the third time that day. Just be sure to apply moisturizer afterwards to make sure the skin stays hydrated. Nevertheless, keep in mind not to over-wash or over-cleanse your face too frequently since it may cause damage to your skin barrier.

One of the most debatable questions out there about face-washing is: do I really need to wash my face in the morning? As previously mentioned, it is better to start your day with a proper morning wash to prime your face for your AM routine. But some people, especially those with extremely dry or sensitive skin, prefer to rinse their face in the morning with water only, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just a matter of personal preference.

Even though "your skin, your rules", I highly suggest never skipping your nighttime cleanse before going to bed. A little tip, if you can't be bothered to wash your face in the morning or perhaps need to wash your face more than twice a day, you can always opt for micellar water. You just need to pour some of it on a cotton pad, wipe it all over your face, and you're good to go; no rinsing required.

How to wash your face to maintain skin health?


1/ Choose the right cleanser for your skin

When looking for a face wash, you need to consider your skin type. Some face washes are created for a specific skin type or skin condition in mind. Remember, ingredients matter. If you have oily skin, you might want a face wash that helps to regulate oil production, while those with dry skin call for more hydrating ingredients.

2/ Start with clean hands

Wash your hands with soap and water first. When it comes to touching your face, always make sure that your hands are clean.

3/ Use the right water temperature

Either lukewarm or cool water is a suitable temperature to wash our face with. While hot water feels really nice, especially after a long day or during winter, it can strip the skin from its natural oil and even cause breakage of the skin. The most common misconception that seems to stick around no matter how often it is debunked is: using hot water to open up pores and using cold water to close the pores. Pores are nothing more than small openings on the skin. Since pores are not muscles, they can't voluntarily open and close. Therefore, pores' size has nothing to do with the temperature of water you use for washing your face.

4/ Be gentle and thorough

Wet your face with water and apply a pea-sized amount (or other recommended dosage) of cleanser with your fingertips. Without using too much pressure, massage your face in a circular motion for 30-60 seconds (for those with sensitive skin, you might want to shorten the duration), allowing the ingredients to do their job and adequately cleanse our skin. Then, rinse thoroughly.

5/ Pat dry with a fresh soft towel

To dry your face, it is recommended to use a clean, soft cotton towel or, for convenience sake, a paper towel. Gently and lightly pat (not rub) your face, leaving it a little damp, then carry on with any of your following skincare routine—toner, serum, moisturizer, and so on. Why, you ask? Think of our skin as a sponge. When it is dry, it cannot absorb liquid as much as if we wet it beforehand. The same principle applies to our skin. By doing so, the products can absorb into our skin better and traps in the hydration. One more thing, please make sure you never use the same towel for your hair and body to dry your face; believe me, you don't want the bacteria from your body or residue from your hair conditioner anywhere near your face.

Types of Cleansing Routines


Single cleanse

This is the simplest form of cleansing your face and is considered the OG method of cleansing that you should do every day, no matter what your skin type is. Single cleanse is especially suitable for kicking off your AM routine to remove overnight sebum and dirt build-up. You can also do it in the evening after spending your day at home without wearing any makeup.

Double cleanse

Double cleansing has been all the rage over the past few years. It originally came from Japan to remove heavy paint-like makeup used by Japanese geisha. If you live in a polluted city, apply heavy makeup or do intense workouts, you might want to consider doing it. It is a two-step cleansing method using either cleansing oil, cleansing balm or micellar water followed by a gentle water-based cleanser. The first step is to break down makeup, sunscreen, pollutants, sebum and grimes that sit on the skin's surface layer. Then, you wash it off with a water-based cleanser that aids in removing residual oil and dirt for a more thorough cleanse. Everyone with any skin type can reap benefits from double-cleansing.

Triple cleanse

Another K-beauty inspired cleansing method, but instead of performing two rounds of facial cleansing, this routine takes things up a notch. Yes, you guessed it right; this method requires an additional cleansing product for an even deeper cleanse that cannot be achieved by double-cleansing. There are varying orders to triple cleanse. (Disclaimer: there are no fixed rules that you need to follow, as long as you combine water-based and oil-based cleansers in three different steps, it is considered triple cleansing.) You can begin with an oil-based cleanser, followed by a cream cleanser and finished with a gel/foaming cleanser. Or, you can also start with micellar water, then an oil-based cleanser, and finally a water-based cleanser. Triple cleanse is not recommended for those with dry and sensitive skin.

Reminder: Multistep cleansing routines, such as double and triple cleanse, are not compulsory. You don't need to arrange a specific schedule to do this every day or even every week; do it when you feel like your skin needs it. Let your skin be your guide.

Types of face wash cleansers

Gel cleanser

Gel Cleanser

Just like its name, this type of face wash has a clear, gel-like consistency. It is considerably more lightweight compared to other types of face wash. It helps remove excess sebum and clear out your pores, leaving the skin fresh and clean without stripping away its natural oils.

Suitable for: Oily, Acne-Prone, Combination skin

Cream cleanser

cream cleanser

Texture-wise, it is thick and silky. It can come in the form of "lotion" or "milk". Thanks to its rich cream-based formula, this cleanser type tends to be more gentle and hydrating; hence your skin will feel soft and moisturized post-cleansing.

Suitable for: Dry, Sensitive skin

Foam cleanser

Foam cleanser

Among other cleansers, foam cleanser has a rather bad reputation for being too harsh on the skin, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin. The culprit is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), one of the most common ingredients in foam cleansers, which creates its rich, foamy lather. Fortunately, thanks to the advancement of science, it is no longer an irritating product it once was. All you have got to do is find one without SLS in its formulation. That way, you can get its pore penetrating capability to get rid of all the gunk without drying out your skin.

Suitable for: Oily, Combination skin

Powder cleanser

powder cleanser

It comes in the form of powder, then you add a little bit of water, and voilà, it transforms into a creamy or foamy concoction. You can adjust this cleanser's consistency depending on the amount of water you mix with. Use less water for more exfoliation or add more water for a general cleanser; your call.

Suitable for: Oily, Combination, Sensitive Skin

Clay cleanser

clay cleanser

This type of cleanser offers benefits similar to clay mask. It can draw out impurities in the skin, absorb excess sebum and thoroughly clean pores.

Suitable for: Oily, Acne-Prone, Combination skin

Oil cleanser

oil cleanser

Using oil to clean our face may sound intimidating, especially for those with oily skin. But, the good news is, oil cleanser is suitable for all skin types. Cleansing oil will help attract excess sebum and debris on the skin. It is ideal for double cleansing in the evening after spending the day with heavy makeup. Apply to dry skin and massage gently. It will then emulsify by turning into a milky texture when you add a splash of lukewarm water. A proper wash off with another face wash is necessary afterwards.

Suitable for: All Skin Types, especially Dry skin

Micellar water

micellar water

An ultra-gentle water-based cleansing liquid that features purified water and micelles—tiny oil molecules—that act like a magnet to attract dirt, oil, and makeup away from your face. Its formula is gentle and hydrating. When you're looking for a fuss-free cleanse, this is your go-to. All you need is a cotton pad and say goodbye to unwanted debris on your face. You don't need to rinse it off unless you're doing a double cleanse.

Suitable for: All Skin Types, especially Dry and Sensitive skin

Balm cleanser


This solid oil-based cleanser generally comes in tubs with a small spatula to scoop out some of the product out. You just need to massage the product on dry skin with circular motions, and as it warms up, it will melt into a creamier texture and emulsify into a milky liquid, then wipe it off with a soft wet washcloth or rinse with water. Like an oil cleanser, it is less likely to dry out or irritate the skin.

Suitable for: Dry, Sensitive skin

Exfoliating cleanser

exfoliating cleanser

There are two forms of exfoliating cleansers: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliating cleansers are those with tiny abrasive particles (beads or scrubs) to slough away dead skin cells. Since physical exfoliants may be too aggressive, increasing the risk of irritation and compromising our skin barrier, chemical exfoliants are preferred. Chemical exfoliating cleansers contain mild acids such as AHAs (glycolic acid) and BHAs (salicylic acid). These active ingredients help keep pores clear and control breakouts. Chemical exfoliating cleansers are safe to use once or twice daily as long as your skin can tolerate it without getting irritated. Remember to always check the label instructions for usage frequency.

Suitable for: Normal, Oily, Acne-Prone skin


Best Ingredients in cleansers to Look For


Dry skin: look for ingredients that retain moisture, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramide, jojoba oil, coconut oil.
Oily or acne-prone skin: look for ingredients that help regulate sebum production and unclog pores, such as salicylic acid, activated charcoal, niacinamide, tea tree oil.
Sensitive skin: look for ingredients that soothe the skin and combat signs of irritation, such as Aloe Vera, Witch Hazel, Centella Asiatica, Green Tea Leaf Extract. It is advised to steer clear of cleansers that contain fragrance in their formula as it may be an irritant leading to redness and itchiness.

Face wash recommendations:

COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

cosrx low ph good morning gel cleanser

Suitable for: acne-prone, oily

This beauty award winner is a super gentle cleanser to keep your skin clean and fresh day and night. It doesn't strip your skin of its natural oil, so it won't make your skin feels tight post-cleansing. Even better, it has a slightly acidic pH level that is close to our skin's natural pH. It is packed with soothing ingredients (tea tree oil and saccharomyces ferment) and BHA to control sebum production.

AXIS-Y Quinoa One Step Balanced Gel Cleanser


Suitable for: combination, acne-prone, oily skin

A clear gel facial cleanser that removes makeup and impurities in one cleansing step. It is non-stripping and very gentle on the skin. It is enriched with quinoa, a nourishing superfood that supports collagen production. In addition, it contains anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and soothing ingredients such as Centella Asiatica, calendula, green tea, sweet almond oil, and so on. What's not to love?

BEAUTY OF JOSEON Radiance Cleansing Balm

Beauty of Joseon Radiance Cleansing Balm

Suitable for: dry, sensitive skin

Looking for a product to do your first step of double cleansing? This sherbet-like cleansing balm will glide smoothly on your skin and melts your makeup, dirt and excess sebum away. It contains rice water and fermented grains that nourish and retain moisture. Its chrysanthemum extract is rich in antioxidant that can soothe skin from environmental aggressors.

ACWELL pH Balancing Bubble Free Cleansing Gel

ACWELL pH Balancing Bubble Free Cleansing Gel

Suitable for: Sensitive, Oily

ACWELL pH Balancing Bubble Free Cleansing Gel is non-foaming cleanser which is suitable for those with sensitive skin and want to avoid foaming cleansers. It is formulated with 8 types of Hyaluronic Acids and licorice water to soothe inflammations in the skin.

KLAIRS Gentle Black Fresh Cleansing Oil


Suitable for: oily, combination, sensitive skin

A cocktail of sunflower seed, grape seed, jojoba and black currant seed oils that remove all the excess dirt and grime from your skin. It emulsifies effortlessly to a milky texture and can be rinsed off in no time. On top of that, it has no fragrance that makes it also suitable for sensitive skin.

ACWELL pH Balancing Soothing Cleansing Foam

acwell ph balancing soothing cleansing foam

Suitable for: acne-prone, oily skin

An acne wash with a difference. With ingredients like liquorice root extract and salicylic acid, this cleansing foam will deeply cleanse and exfoliate your skin without stripping it of its moisture. It has a soft creamy texture that turns into a dense bubble that feels luxurious on the skin.

DR. ORACLE Clear Enzyme Powder Wash

Dr. Oracle Radical Clear Enzyme Powder Wash

Suitable for: Normal, Acne, Oily Skin

Dr. Oracle Clear Enzyme Powder Wash is a water activated exfoliating cleanser which results in no accidental spills in your travel pouch. It uses the enzymes to gently exfoliate skin whilst the mild foam cleanses skin. To activate, simply add water and rub between hands to create a lather.

Beplain Greenful pH Balanced Cleansing Foam

Beplain Greenful pH Balanced Cleansing Foam

Suitable for: Dry, Sensitive, Oily, Acne

Beplain Greenful pH Balanced Cleansing Foam is a hydrating facial wash which effectively cleanses skin without stripping skin. It is formulated with Mung Bean Extract and fine Green Tea powder to detoxify, clear clogged pores and exfoliate skin.

ITFER Everyday Balancing Low pH Cleanser

ITFER Everyday Balancing Low pH Cleanser

Suitable for: Acne, Oily Skin

ITFER Everyday Balancing Low pH Cleanser is a budget-friendly cleanser which clears clogged pores without irritating skin. It is enriched with Bentonite Clay to absorb excess sebum and exfoliate skin. It also soothes skin with the plant extract, Mugwort, a common ingredient in Korea used to soothe acne inflammations.

ATRUE Double Cleansing Set

Atrue Double Cleansing Set

Suitable for: All skin types

ATRUE's Double Cleansing Set is a match-made in heaven which includes the bestselling ATRUE Pure Balancing Cleansing Oil and the ATRUE Sweet Song Black Tea Cleansing Gel. End the day with a double cleanse to make sure all traces of the day has been washed away without irritating the skin barrier.

AXIS-Y Sunday Morning Refreshing Cleansing Foam


Suitable for: All skin types, sensitive

AXIS-Y Sunday Morning Refreshing Cleansing Foam is a mild cleansing foam which offers a deep cleanse whilst add moisturise back to its skin. Need a cleanser which does the job but does not damage the skin barrier? Look no further, try out the AXIS-Y Sunday Morning Refreshing Cleansing Foam.


Takeaway: Cleansing has been a part of our routine without thinking about the importance of this step. Many factors affect how effective this step is: how we cleanse and what we use. Now armed with all you need to know about cleansing, a curated face wash list for each skin type/ skin cocnern will you change how you cleanse? Let us know in the comments.


Claudia Christin

- By Claudia Christin (@Funskincare)

MBBS, Ph.D. (Dermatology)

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