Did you know that you have a great deal of control over the texture,
clarity, suppleness and long-term health of facial skin just based
on how and how often you cleanse? Whether youï¿½re young or old, man
or woman, you can do your skin a big favor by cleansing correctly.
Cleansing is arguably the most important part of your basic skincare
routine. Proper cleansing gets rid of old surface skin cells, dirt
and dust, grime, make-up and bacteria, and keeps skin pores free
of clogs and able to breathe freely. Cleansing also aids circulation
and prepares the skin to receive topically applied nutrients and
Here are some tips for proper facial cleansing from the 5,000-year-old
healing tradition of Ayurveda:
1. Cleanse twice a day, no more. Unless you have exposed your
skin to excessive dust, grime or pollution, twice-a-day cleansing
is more than adequate for any skin type. Cleansing too often strips
your skin of precious natural oils. Not cleansing regularly, particularly
before you retire for the night, may lead to build-up and eruptions.
2. Choose a cleanser that is appropriate for your skin type.
Do not use soap on facial skin: it can be too harsh and drying and
damage skin over time. A too-rich cleanser can clog pores, while
a too-dry cleanser can irritate the skin. A cleanser for dry skin
should contain nourishing herbs and oils. One for oily skin should
include herbs that balance oil production and support clarity. Sensitive
skin benefits from an ultra-gentle, fragrance-free, non-irritating
Traditional ayurvedic cleansers are made fresh with natural ingredients
such as ground oats, lentils or chickpeas, complexion enhancing
or clarifying herbs such as turmeric, Amalaki, Neem and sandalwood,
emollients such as milk, cream yogurt or honey, and floral or citrus
waters for pure healing fragrance. You can make your own by mixing
the dry ingredients to last a week or two and blending the mix with
milk or cream right before use. Otherwise, look for a natural cleanser
thatï¿½s gentle and fortified with skin-friendly herbs.
3. Always cleanse with tepid water. Hot water dries and damages
skin over time, and cold water wonï¿½t dissolve and take away embedded
dirt and grime as well as lukewarm water.
4. If you use sponges or washcloths, make sure they are clean
and soft. They are not necessary for effective cleansing: your fingertips
can do just as good a job.
5. Wash your hands thoroughly before you cleanse your face, or
you will be working dirt into facial skin. Use a headband to secure
hair away from the face.
6. Start by splashing tepid water on your face and neck.
7. Apply the cleanser with your fingertips or a soft sponge,
using gentle circular massaging strokes and moving upward on the
face and neck. Do not scrub too muchï¿½gentle massaging strokes are
enough to help improve circulation as well as loosen grime and old
surface skin cells. Too much scrubbing will stretch skin and irritate
it, especially the delicate skin around the eyes.
8. Rinse with lots of tepid water. Donï¿½t forget to rinse off
cleanser from the neck and hairline. Cleanser residue can clog pores
and attract dirt.
9. Gently blot off excess water with a soft towel. Do not scrub
dry or drag towel along skin.
10. Follow immediately with a water-based toner and a moisturizer
appropriate for your skin type to seal in surface moisture and offer
nourishment when skin is receptive.
Shreelata Suresh is a yoga instructor who lives in the Bay
Area. She writes for various publications on yoga, ayurveda
and Indian culture.