Ever since I stopped using water on my face, my skin is doing much better. My routine is simple: I use nothing but micellar water — I’ve even stocked up on several different kinds to test out!
But most of the girls around me wash their faces with water. It’s usually because they feel like they need water on their skin to feel clean, and I can understand that. It took me months to get used to not feeling that splash on my face. Alex, for example washes her face with water everyday, so we thought it would be a good idea to talk a little bit about cleansing with water. To each her own, right?

– Garance

I love to wash my face (I’m proud to tell you that I’ve been sticking with my 2014 Beauty Resolution of washing my face and taking off my makeup at night! It feels pretty good not having mascara marks all over my pillowcases). I love that clean feeling and when I wash my face, I use water and sometimes I even use one of those cleansing gadgets (I know, it goes against everything Garance does… maybe it’s because I’m American?).

Anyway, I realize that despite loving to wash my face, I’m not a pro. For those of you that might need more of a helping hand in the face washing department, I went to facialist Joanna Vargas. She already gave you some tips for tips for in-flight skincare (which I follow, religiously) and here she breaks down everything you need to know about having a clean face…

Let’s start with the basics: what temperature should the water be for washing your face?

The temperature should really be tepid. You don’t want it to be too hot or too cold. Extreme water temperatures tend to dry out the skin or could cause an eczema type reaction, especially in the winter. You want to keep it mild.

Is there ever a time when washing your face with water should be avoided?

There are a lot of times when people travel and the water might be harder in other countries, that could make your skin breakout. In those situations skipping water on the face it totally appropriate.

Garance doesn’t wash her face with water. Her dermatologist said it would be better for her if she didn’t use water because it was breaking down her natural defenses and she was producing more sebum. What is your opinion of this? Can you get too clean, resulting in stripping your skin too much of oil?

You can definitely overstrip the skin in many ways. You can over wash your face by washing it too many times a day. If you use water that is too hot you can also strip the skin of its natural oils, but very few people have a water sensitivity, so I would first make sure you weren’t doing these things first.

When should you be exfoliating?

Exfoliation is the key to having great skin. Spring, summer and fall, you should be doing it twice a week. In winter, just once a week. Use a circular motion, when you are exfoliation you’re applying more pressure than when you just cleanse. I like it when people use an exfoliant that is both a physical exfoliant, so it has some sort of a scrub, plus something that has enzymes and lactic acid. The dual method of exfoliation is really amazing for skin. You can resurface the skin and also slough off the dead skin cells and really wash them away.

What’s the biggest difference between washing your face with dry skin versus breakout prone skin?

It depends on the type of skin that you have. If your skin breaks out, washing your face twice a day is really important. If your skin is very dry, you’re not really going to want to wash your face in the morning because it is just going to dry out your skin more. Splashing water on your face is perfectly fine for super dry skin. For dry skin, I would wash my face in an upward, circular motion because it will bring more nutrients and circulation to the skin. If you have skin that tends to break out, I would wash my face in a downward motion, with downward circles. It will help your skin take away all of the waste.

Lymphatic drainage is the process that brings nutrients and carries away waste. If you have blocked lymph nodes in the face or the neck, you’re going to have kind of chalky, dry skin or skin that breaks out. The chalky, dry skin means that the part of the system that is bringing nutrients is blocked. If you have skin that breaks out, the part that carries away waste isn’t working properly.

What do you think of cleansing gadgets? [Editor Note: This has been a big debate here on the blog– remember this post?]

It depends on the gadget, but yes they will give a better cleans. It’s really a great way of keeping your pores cleaner, you get a little bit of exfoliation when you use the devices. I like it for everyday because it helps products penetrate better.

How do you know you’ve gotten everything off, that your face is really clean?

I always encourage clients to consider themselves the best judge of products and how they work. If your face doesn’t feel clean to you, it probably isn’t. For me, most clients prefer a foaming face wash because it does make the skin feel squeaky clean, it gets off makeup really easily. My foaming face wash contains an exfoliant in it as well. It doesn’t have granules or beads, but has an exfoliating agent to keep the pores nice and clean and to feel like you’re washing away fine lines.

What’s the best step to take after you are done cleansing, what should you apply first?

I love applying a serum. Serums are great because you can really customize them for your skin type and especially moving into warmer weather, you want something really concentrated that delivers great nutrients to the skin without it feeling like the skin is suffocating. I’m a big fan of serum and then a SPF.

What’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to washing their face?

I think that people don’t really get that it’s a very important step, so people don’t do it for long enough or they have nights when they skip it. Cleansing your skin before bed is absolutely, 100% necessary. If you don’t wash your face before you go to sleep, you’re not giving your body a fair chance to repair itself while you rest. Your skin is your defense system against sun damage, against pollution, you need to cleanse in order for your skin to do it’s job properly.

Spending a few extra seconds working cleanser into your eye area, so you get all your makeup off is important. You only really need to cleanse your skin for two minutes. I think most people average around 10 seconds. If you really spend a good two minutes, really working the cleanser into your skin and taking extra time rinsing at the end, you’d be surprised at how much healthier your skin would be.

What are some key ingredients to look for in a cleanser?

Across the board, I like a cleanser that includes some sort of exfoliating agent in it. I have an ingredient in my cleanser called Galactoarabinan which is a natural ingredient derived from the larch tree. Not only does it cause more cell turnover than a lactic or glycolic acid but is also an anti-inflammatory ingredient. You’re getting a lot of cell turnover without making the skin super red or sensitive, so it’s safe for all skin types. I like things that have anti-inflammatories because it becomes more universal. I think it’s a bit tedious to think of skincare in terms of this is for acne, this for dry. In general, everyone needs good exfoliation and good cell turnover on a daily basis.

How do you wash your face? Do you use water? A gadget?

Ready to wash? I tried (and love) these: Joanna Vargas Vitamin C Face Wash, Bobbi Brown Extra Balm Rinse, One Love Organics Easy Does It Foaming Cleanser, Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser, Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash and ESPA Balancing Foam Cleanser, Kahina Giving Beauty Argan Soap