Some facial cleansing myths: Good, bad or ugly

December 1, 2006

Ranella J. Hirsch, M.D. debunks myths about cleansing

Key Points

In skincare, as in life, fallacies abound!

Even something as basic as facial cleansing technique may warrant another look.

WRONG ONE First and foremost, pick the right product for your skin, advises Boston dermatologist Ranella J. Hirsch, M.D., vice president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery.

"I see more breakouts from people using the wrong products than anything else - usually using products that are too aggressive for their particular skin type."

The good news, Dr. Hirsch says, is that most people actually do have a good handle on their skin type and don't really need a special trip to their dermatologist to have it determined.

"If you are flaking and dry to the touch, then you would be looking for something more moisturizing and if excessively oily, looking for gel-based products to help dry you up."

HANDS OFF On this one, your mother was right.

"Absolutely no picking, poking or popping," Dr. Hirsch cautions.

But some conventional wisdom may bear a second look. Take the popular notion of using a facial toner or astringent on a cotton ball following your face wash. This is often advised to remove any final traces of makeup that may have been missed.

"Poison!" Dr. Hirsch says flatly. Unless you have been directed to use a toner or astringent by your dermatologist, you're much better off avoiding them entirely.

"What you are actually removing most of the time is the normal oils which we have been trained to think is dirt; it is not!"

Dr. Hirsch also warns against using textured scrubbing pads or loofahs for cleansing the face. Especially high on her exfoliation no-no list are those over-the-counter facial cleansers that contain crushed fruit seeds as "buffing agents."

"These can cause microscopic damage to the skin," she explains. "Avoid them! Most people who exfoliate don't need to do so, and those who do should never exfoliate more than once a week at the most."

TOO MUCH Which bring us to a final face care blunder: overdoing it in general.

"Most people over-wash which is especially damaging during this time of the year when falling temperatures, indoor heat and long, hot baths are already zapping skin's limited moisture."

"Heat is drying," Dr. Hirsch explains. "When you get out of a hot bath, your skin is 'pruny' because of the loss of water in the hot tub. Moisture in your skin has been lost - has moved from the cooler skin surface to the hot bath water."

Taking a kinder, gentler approach to facial cleansing, in general, can help to avoid some of what may be some self-inflicted woes of breakouts, dry flaky skin and rosacea flare-ups. Now, about those eight glasses of water? Nope, no fallacies there - so drink up!