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Are You Cleansing & Exfoliating The Right Way?


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Facial cleansing the right way? - skincare / green beauty / eco beauty / exfoliating / facial care / face washingOne topic that we seem to cover with a lot of customers is HOW to properly cleanse your skin! Often times, we see people give up on a new cleanser far too quickly because they don’t understand how to use it properly. It’s a topic that comes up ‘on the regular‘ in all sorts of facets, so we figured it was about time we put together a resource that covers all the ins and outs of cleaning that beautiful face of yours.

NOTE: Before we jump in, this blog is meant to cover the ‘physical act’ of cleansing and exfoliating your skin. If you’re looking to find information on how to pick a cleanser that’s targeted for your skin, head over here to take our Cleanser / Exfoliator Quiz or check out this blog- How to pick the best cleanser for your acne prone skin.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty!

Here’s a list of bad habits we all need to stop doing ASAP and how to correct them in a way that won’t stress and/or damage your skin.


1: The “scour is power” mentality

Probably the most common minor infraction we see come up in our discussions. Let’s replace this train of thought with, “If it scratches, it gashes. If it irritates, separate (as in, it’s time to let it go)!”

Let’s start with how this applies to exfoliators, as this is commonly where the issue arises. While we make exfoliators at varying levels of physical abrasion, that doesn’t mean the scrubbier the better. In fact, in most cases the scrubbier the exfoliator is the worse off you are! We’ve been trained to believe that we want our skin to have that ‘squeaky clean’ feeling. In reality, this is often a sign that we’ve taken our cleansing too far and stripped our skin of its natural protective layer- our lipid barrier.

This leaves our skin extra vulnerable and increases our chances of inflammation (if it hasn’t already caused inflammation by being too rough in the first place). While it’s essential to include an exfoliator in your routine, the process should never hurt or feel uncomfortable. Listen to your skin, as it will be your best source for figuring out what level of abrasion your skin can handle. You want your skin to feel like it can breathe, but you never want it to feel dry and stripped. There should always still be some evidence of your natural oils.

As for your cleanser, anything that feels like its peeling off a layer of your skin or causes your skin to sting/burn is definitely too harsh! Our skin has a natural cycle, and while a good cleanser will help the process along, it should never do the job for it! Be supportive, but don’t be pushy. Your skin will push back and you likely won’t be happy with the results (either now or in the future).

Pineapple Scrub made with natural ingredients / fruit enzymes / facial exfoliant / green beauty


2) Hot water will get you in hot water with your skin

One of the easiest ways to dehydrate your skin is to constantly subject it to the torture of hot water. Our brains are wired to believe that hot water kills bacteria, but bacterial is only killed at a temperature far beyond what our skin can handle. But it feels so good, right? Unfortunately, your skin doesn’t see it that way. While it may feel relaxing and soothing in the moment, once your skin dries,  it REALLY dries… as in dries out.

Dehydrated skin can lead to a number of unwanted results like breakouts, flaking, itchiness, sore /chapped skin, congestion and so much more. When there’s a lack of water in our skin, our pores aren’t able to function because they lack the natural lubrication they need to secrete oils and debris. As a not-so-fun bonus to dehydration, your skin will appear dull and ‘loose’- Hello, fine lines!

When cleansing, your water should never be more than lukewarm. It’s a tricky one to break, but something this simple can make a world of difference if dry skin has been your jam for far too long. Your cleanser should contain everything you need to remove the bacteria and without the help of a scalding soak.


3) ‘Tools rule’ attitude

Everyone’s got the latest and greatest tools for cleaning your face. From cleansing mitts to electronic brushes, extractors, peels and beyond, there seems to be an endless aisle of new ‘things’ you can use to cleanse your face with. While we aren’t anti-gadget, the reality is that all you need to cleanse your face is a set of hands and a good cleanser. There is absolutely no need to introduce a third party to the mix in most cases. As mentioned above, a good cleanser will be able to do the job without outside help.

If you do choose to (or need to) use some sort of a tool to help with your cleansing, it’s SUPER important to make sure that the tool you’re using is gentle on your skin. Just like our exfoliators, nothing should ever feel like it’s tearing, scraping, pulling or hurting your skin in any way. Even when you’re using your hands, it’s key to never use more pressure than is required to simply move around the product on the surface of your skin. A light hand is a great way to show your skin some love.

Green Tea & Pineapple Cleanser made with natural ingredients / green beauty / acne care / skincare / face wash


4) Squashing the over-washing

This one goes out to all my oily-prone and acne-prone Radiant Rebels as we tend to be the biggest offenders when it comes to over-cleansing our skin. A lot of us feel like the twice a day rule isn’t enough to keep our oils and bacteria at bay. The truth is, when we wash our face too often, we’re actually causing our skin to produce even more oil to compensate for oils we remove when we cleanse.

Our skin requires our natural oils for a number of functions and when we remove it from the equation, this triggers our sebaceous glands to go into overdrive to make up for the loss. A balanced skincare routine is an essential strategy for balancing your oils and bacteria, not over-cleansing. Twice a day should be the limited that we don’t exceed to ensure they’re maintaining a clean environment without taking it too far. If you feel like you need to freshen up during the day, opt for an alternative product like mattifying powder (Oil Absorbing Setting Powder) or an oil eliminating mist (Quick Spritz Oil Fix). Blotting papers are another option, but make sure they don’t contain perfumes or other harsh chemicals.


5) The light rinse factor

In the opposite direction of thinking, many of us cleanse too “briefly or weakly” for our cleansers (this one is really two-fold). This is because we’re often used to chemical-based cleansers that contain harsh, stripping ingredients that seem to get the job done in a jiffy. BUT, when it comes to natural ingredients, you want to ensure you’re cleansing for the appropriate length of time and with the right tools! Firstly, here are the general guidelines to follow when it comes to the length of time when using a green beauty cleanser:

For regular cleansers/exfoliators: A good cleanse should take approximately 1 minute twice a day. This doesn’t sound very long but try using a stopwatch and we bet it’s longer than you think. The 1 minute also refers to the amount of time the cleanser is on your skin for and does not include your rinsing stage.

For cleansers/exfoliators that contain fruit enzymes: These types of cleansers require a full 2 minutes in order for the enzymes to efficiently work at breaking down congestion and other debris inside your pores. Keep the product moving in gentle, circular motions as well.

For sensitive skin: If your skin simply can’t handle a full cleanse twice a day, pull back to once a day and do your cleansing in the evening to ensure you’re removing the day’s ‘gunk’ from your face. If you feel like you need a refresh in the morning, simply splash it with some water.


Now let’s addresses cleansing only with water. Is it a good idea? Read on … 

Our bodies do a lot of work while we sleep. It rests, repairs and resets but it also works at purging and detoxifying, especially when it comes to our skin.

If you’re not using a cleanser in the morning, those excess hormones and/or waste products will remain on the skin all day.

It’s also likely that if you’re just splashing with water you’re missing out on sloughing off dead skin cells, and because our face is an area that produces more oil, these dead skin cells are going to stick around much longer and produce a rough texture. We refer to this as skin crust! This prevents products from being able to absorb probably because they can’t penetrate the wall of dead skin cells. While SOME might get washed off with water, if you’re prone to sticky cells or you’re in your hormonal spike of your cycle, sticky sebum will ensure that that debris sticks around – literally!

 If you’re prone to acne, this isn’t effective at keeping bacteria at bay either. While we don’t want to strip off ALL the microbes on our skin (we want our skin flora balanced), washing with only water opens the door for bacteria, like p. acnes, to flourish. Once a high number of them congregate in a specific area, like extra oily areas where p. acne can feast on sebum, irritation occurs- voila, breakouts!

With rosacea-prone or sensitive skin, it’s similar! Skin mites are involved in rosacea. Just like bacteria, or skin requires a certain amount of skin mites, but washing with an actual cleanser can help control any overpopulation, minimizing the risk of redness and irritation. For those with sensitive skin, irritating bacteria exasperates an already sensitized area of your body, so it doesn’t take much for sensitivity to spark when not washing with the right cleanser or just moving bacteria around.

While we mentioned that washing once a day may be beneficial for those with sensitive skin, you need to ensure that ‘once a day cleanse’ includes a cleanser, not just water.


6) Exclusively dating the oil cleansing method

Wild Basil & Cucumber Cleanser made with natural ingredients / green beauty / facial care / oil cleanser / eco beauty

This is a complex topic and we won’t overwhelm you in this post about it (We wrote an in-depth blog about his HERE if you’re curious). Basically, when it comes to oil cleansing, we believe it can be really beneficial with the RIGHT oils and when COMBINED with a targeted cleanser for your skin’s needs. When you restrict your cleansing to a specific oil or simple blend of a couple of oils, you’re limiting the healing and helpful ingredients that can be found in a properly formulated cleanser. If you can give your skin everything it wants and needs, why would you deny it, right? While we’re on the topic of oils, HERE is a great blog to check out on the use of oils in natural skincare as a whole.


When it comes down to, just remember- Keep it gentle, keep it cool, keep it effective, and aim for longer, not stronger.

With love and radiance,

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Facial cleansing the right way? - skincare / green beauty / eco beauty / exfoliating / facial care / face washing






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Jamie Sabot, Author, Grounded Sage Skincare

Jamie Sabot

Jamie Sabot is the founder of Grounded Sage Skincare. Since she started in 2009, Grounded Sage Skincare has helped thousands of customers with their skin by creating handcrafted skincare products, online workshops, and this blog, which has been a trusted resource for straightforward natural skincare information to over 2 million readers and counting.

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