If there is one question I am asked more than any other, it is about basic facial care. In my opinion, careful daily washing is the key to healthy, clear skin. The following is a routine suitable for everyone:
- Wash your face every night before going to sleep so your skin can breathe while you are resting. To do this, wet your face with warm water since hot water risks harming your skin and cold water will close your pores, preventing effective cleansing. Pour face wash into the palm of your cleanly washed hands and apply it to your face, creating a gentle lather while carefully rubbing in upward circular motions. Focus on your T-zone (that is, your forehead, nose, and chin) while avoiding your eyes. In fact, it is best to wash your face with your eyes closed to prevent soap and/or essential oils from potentially stinging your eyes. Splash your face with warm water to remove all the face wash lather and soapy residue. Gently pat your face dry with a clean towel – do not rub. .
- If you are prone to developing hard bumps on your face that look like acne spots but do not fill with pus, or if you have flaking dry skin, this could be a sign that your skin needs a little help clearing impacted sebaceous glands and/or releasing dry cells. In this case, exfoliating face wash can help — apply it just like regular face wash and be sure to rub gently in upward circular motions (still avoiding your eye area) to work the exfoliating beads across your skin evenly and into pores. Depending on how sensitive your skin is, you may benefit from daily, twice-weekly, weekly or monthly exfoliation. If your skin is too sensitive for daily exfoliation, alternate between regular face wash and exfoliating face wash as required. Please find details notes below. .
- If you have oily/combination and/or acne prone skin, using toner after washing your face is an important step to help clear bacteria and excess sebum (the natural oil produced by the skin) so skin can be gently disinfected and breathe more effectively. Toner is also helpful if you wear make-up and/or sweat heavily during the day. .
- The correct way to apply toner is as follows: First, always shake the bottle very well to evenly distribute the essential oils throughout -- at least 10 seconds (counting to 20 helps for accuracy). Next, lightly saturate a cotton pad with toner and sweep it onto your face in upward motions to remove oil and dirt. Sweep the cotton pad over all areas of your face except near/around your eyes. Repeat this with the back side of the pad, or a fresh pad, until there is no longer any traces of oil and/or dirt transferring to the pad. Toner can also be applied to your neck, shoulders, back, and behind your ears using this same method to absorb excess oil and dirt. Your skin should not feel damp after using toner, just refreshed. If your skin feels wet after toning, it is a sign that you are using too much. Keep in mind that not everyone needs toner. If you have normal/sensitive skin or dry skin and do not wear make-up and/or sweat heavily and/or are exposed to a lot of dust and/or pollution, regular and careful face washing may be adequate. Toner should not burn. If it does, the formula may be too strong for your skin type, or the bottle may not have been adequately shaken. If discomfort persists, please discontinue use. .
- Use your fingertips to apply a tiny bit of moisturizer to the areas of your face that feel tight and/or dry after washing. A little goes a long way, so begin sparingly and apply more if required. .
- Avoid applying moisturizer to your eyelids/around your eyes if you are using moisturizer for oily/combination skin and/or acne prone skin as essential oils may sting..
In the morning…
- Rinse your face with warm water – re-washing with a face wash product is usually unnecessary, unless you have just gone to the gym and worked up a big sweat. .
- If you have accumulated a lot of oil overnight (i.e. if you’re in a hot and humid climate, or if your skin is naturally very oily), re-apply toner using the method described above. .
- Moisturize sparingly, as described above..
If you are currently managing acne…
- Follow the steps described above for evening and morning facial care. Avoid applying moisturizer to your eyelids/around your eyes if you are using moisturizer for oily/combination skin and/or acne prone skin as the essential oils that are great for disinfecting may sting sensitive tissue. .
- Apply spot treatment before going to sleep and again in the morning after toning and before applying moisturizer. Allow the spot treatment to lightly dry before applying makeup. .
- It can be difficult to use exfoliating products when you have pus filled blemished, so it may be best to use the acne spot treatment to help them heal and focus on using regular face wash (without exfoliating beads) until the pus filled spots are gone. Alternatively, you can focus the beads around the blemishes. It is especially important to wash in circular motions when using exfoliating face wash for coverage that avoids too much pressure in one single area.
- Keep in mind that effective use of toner is the most important part of caring for acne prone skin. Please scroll above for details..
What is toner and is it necessary?
Toner is, in my opinion, the most important part of a daily skin care routine concerned with lifting excess sebum, bacteria, sweat, and environmental pollutants from the pores, which is often of concern for people…
with acne prone skin
- trying to control oily skin
- living in humid climates
- working in environments with lots of dust or smoke (i.e. sawdust, drywall dust, etc.)
- who sweat a lot (i.e. athletes)
- who wear makeup, especially if it contains petroleum ingredients, which are often designed to remain fixed onto the skin for prolonged periods of time and prevents skin from breathing as well as it could
That said, people who don’t have acne prone or oily skin, who don’t sweat a lot, who don’t have concerns relative to their daily environment, or who never wear makeup might not find toner necessary.
Toner is often, and I think quite oddly, considered a gendered item, but keep in mind that aftershave works on the very same principle. In fact, many natural toners and aftershaves can be used interchangeably to clean and soothe skin.
When using toner, do keep in mind that is most effective when used correctly – gently rubbed onto the face with a cotton pad to pick up and remove unwanted elements, not sprayed onto the face. Please see above for further details.
If you choose to use a facial scrub (such as, for example, this one) to control blackheads or bumps, I recommend that you always scrub after washing, but before toning and/or moisturizing. Directions are as follows:
- Wet face and hands with warm water
- pour a little bit of scrub into hands and/or dab and apply using wet finger tips (it ultimately depends on how much you’d like to use and whether you’d like to scrub your whole face, or just a particular area such as around the nose, upper lip and chin and/or forehead, all of which can be particularly troublesome areas)
- apply to face in gentle circular motions avoiding eye area; let product rest on face for a few minutes as a mask before rinsing if desired; rinse well with warm water; pat dry with a clean towel and tone and/or moisturize as desired.
A product tip for Just the Goods’ facial scrub: To enhance this product for dry skin, blend a small amount of scrub with rose water in a bowl to desired consistency before applying it to your face. To enhance this product for oily/combination skin or acne prone skin, add lavender water instead. Use more scrub to create a thick paste if you’d like to double this item as a facial mask. In that case, after scrubbing, allow the product to rest on your face for approximately 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with warm water. Pat dry with a clean towel and tone and/or moisturize as desired.
How to clear blackheads / comedones / impacted sebaceous glands
Blackheads / comedones / impacted sebaceous glands (the hard bumps appearing on skin as a result of sebum, dirt, makeup residue, etc. hardening and creating a waxy substance within a clogged pore) can be prevented, but do require manual extraction once formed.
Ultimately, the accumulation of these materials indicate a need for:
- regular exfoliation because pores can become clog when dead skin cells linger on the surface of the skin, trap material inside the pores (see notes above for how to use exfoliating scrub)
- deep pore cleansing with the correct use of toner (see notes above for how to use toner most effectively)
Although blackheads / comedones / impacted sebaceous glands aren't necessarily bacterial in nature, using toner with antibacterial support can help break down accumulated materials within pores.
In all cases, the issue is one of prevention and any existing bumps will need to be removed manually. If you have never done this before and feel that you need tips, booking an appointment with an esthetician for a basic facial with extractions is the best way to learn.
Regardless of whether you pursue this route, or choose to remove build ups under the skin at home, it is important to begin extractions after cleansing the skin thoroughly and ideally after a facial steam, preferably at the end of the day/before bed so your skin has an opportunity to heal overnight.
Do not use your nails to clear your pores as that can lead to bleeding and scars. Instead, use the soft ends of two cotton swabs or stainless steel tools such as the ones available here (https://justthegoods.net/products/5-piece-stainless-steel-blackhead-pimple-comedone-acne-extractor-removal-tool-kit). After extracting the material that has accumulated within your pores, rise, apply toner, then apply a tiny bit of moisturizer to areas that feel tight/dry after cleansing.
Note: If you are using an at-home method, you might not be able to clear the clogged glands all at once. You might need to re-steam, or you might need to wait until another day as, again, aggressive force can cause damage to your skin.
With respect to prevention, if you choose to exfoliate daily, you may prefer a face wash with exfoliating beads. Lightly foaming for oily/combination skin is most recommended. Alternatively, you can use a stand alone scrub, once or twice a week, or more/less as you find is necessary. Toner should be used daily or even twice daily depending on your skin type, and the climate in which you (i.e. hot, humid environments).