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What’s the best way to wash your face? Dermatologists share this 5-step routine

Experts share their best tips for washing your face properly — and avoiding common mistakes.

It doesn't get simpler than washing your face, right? Well, you might be surprised at how frequently people get it wrong — and end up irritating their skin in the process.

In fact, "there's a lot of misconceptions about washing people's faces," Dr. Shari Lipner, associate professor of clinical dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical Center, told TODAY. "And I think some people really overdo it in a way that can harm skin," she said.

Cleaning your face is an essential daily step of your skin care routine, but it's important to do it correctly and to use the right products for your skin. Here's how to wash your face properly, according to experts.

Wash your face regularly.

Our skin turns over every few weeks, Dr. Emily Newsom, board-certified dermatologist at UCLA Health, told TODAY.

Your skin cells are always shedding, which can clog your pores, she explained. That, combined with sweat, environmental exposures, and makeup and skin care products can all leave your skin dirty. It can also exacerbate skin conditions, like acne.

"In our everyday lives, we're exposed to dirt and bacteria, which makes it to our face. So it's important to wash our faces regularly," Lipner explained.

For many people, that will mean washing your face once in the morning and once in the evening, experts explained previously. But for some people (particularly those with skin that's on the dry side), just once a day — usually in the evening — is enough, Lipner said.

But you should also wash your face after sweating, she added.

But don't wash your face too frequently.

Yes, you should wash your face at least once a day, but be careful not to accidentally overdo it.

"If you wash the face too much, you'll lose natural oils and fats, which can actually allow the bacteria to enter the skin causing inflammation and infections," Lipner explained.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you wash your face no more than twice a day and after sweating. If you find that washing your face that often leaves your skin dry, inflamed or tight, that's a sign that you can probably cut back.

Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser.

Here, simplicity is the name of the game. Pretty much everyone should opt for a fragrance- and alcohol-free gentle cleanser to wash their face, Lipner said.

Dermatologists may also recommend that people who have acne or other skin conditions use medicated face washes, like those containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, experts said previously. When using cleansers like this, you can even leave them on your face for a few minutes to get the most out of them, Newsom said. (But be aware that this may be irritating, so only do this if your skin can handle it, she said.)

And although you might be tempted to use scrubs to wash your face, they should not be your regular daily cleanser, Newsom said. "It feels like you're getting cleaned," she said, but scrubs can be too abrasive.

Wash your face with cool or lukewarm water.

You'll want to wet your face first to activate your cleanser. And, to do so, you should use lukewarm — not hot — water, Lipner said.

"If you use super hot water it can strip the oils from your skin," she explained, which may damage the protective skin barrier and leave you open to bacteria and irritation.

On the other hand, you can use colder water if you'd like. "I don't think most people would find it too pleasant but it's fine to use it if that's what you enjoy," Lipner said.

Apply the product with your fingertips.

Use your fingertips to apply your cleanser and gently work it into the skin, Lipner said. You should start at the top of your face with the forehead and work your way down to the nose and cheeks (avoiding the eyes), and then to your chin, she said.

"You're going to use circular movements," Lipner said, "And you're not going to want to scrub your skin because scrubbing can irritate the skin."

On that note, Newsom recommends against using motorized brushes to cleanse your skin. "If you're going to do it, maybe just limit it to once a week," Newsom said. Lipner agreed that motorized brushes "could probably do more harm than good" if used on a regular basis.

Rinse your face with water and pat dry.

Once you've used the cleanser fully, use water to rinse the product off your face. Again, you should use lukewarm water to do this step.

Then, pat your skin dry with a clean, soft towel, the experts advised.

"If you rub the skin, it will irritate it," Lipner said. "So just a gentle pat with a soft towel is is how to not irritate the skin."

Follow up with a moisturizer.

With your skin cleansed, go ahead and finish the rest of your skin care routine. Be sure to use a moisturizer and, in the morning, daily sunscreen, Newsom said.