Is Your Face as Clean as You Think?

Take a break from moisturizer and grab a bar of soap, says this NJ skin doc.

illustration of woman in bathtub
Many people are bathing but not properly washing their faces.

If you’re like me, you shy away from bar soap in favor of gentle facial cleansers each morning, followed by moisturizer before applying makeup. Then, at bedtime, you use more mild cleanser followed by another slather of nighttime moisturizer. And you think your face is loving all this moisturizing, right?

You can imagine my surprise when a girl-to-girl chat with Morristown dermatologist Lauren Cooper made me do an about-face.

“Many people are walking around with dandruff on their faces,” she told me. Sometimes, especially if you’re prone to flaky skin, clogged pores and break-outs, using a too-gentle cleanser and over-moisturizing prevents the face from becoming completely clean. In fact, when people complain that their skin is “flaking,” it’s often skin dandruff …layer upon layer of dead skin and oils hanging around on the face. Ewwww.

“And what do patients do when they think their flaky-looking face is a sign of dry skin? Unfortunately, they use even more moisturizer,” adds Dr. Cooper. “The remedy is simple. Just wash your face with bar soap in the shower,” she says. “Use any multi-purpose soap like Lever 2000 … just stay away from harsh deodorant soaps. Once you start washing your face with soap, it might take about seven to 10 days for your skin to start looking clearer and more radiant, but people do come back and thank me for the tip.”

She adds, “Many women over-moisturize … and some don’t need any moisturizers at all. It’s really all about sunblock because that’s what actually prevents wrinkles, not moisturizers. My four best tips for skin protection are sunblock, sunblock, sunblock and a big hat.”

But wait, there’s more…

Unfortunately, some people tend to avoid certain areas of the face when using their too-gentle cleansers and cleansing towelettes. Again, washing the face with soap in the shower is an easy solution. “I’ve seen patients who neglect to properly cleanse their eyelids and lips, and this can result in various skin irritations. Under-cleansing can cause as much irritation as over-cleansing,” Dr. Cooper says.

What does Dr. Cooper use on her own face at night? Her go-to bedtime regimen includes a fruity acid peel in the form of alpha hydroxy acid, and no moisturizer.

So now you have the skinny on facial care. While some dermatologists still swear by moisturizers, Dr. Cooper’s straightforward, somewhat contrarian approach has piqued my curiosity and I’m going to give it a try.  I would love to hear your comments on this intriguing topic!

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