When it comes to skincare, what we hear constantly is that cleansing is ‘the boring bit’. But over the past 20 years in the beauty world, what we’ve learned is: cleansing is actually probably the most important thing you can do for your skin. (In fact, we like to call ourselves ‘the Queens of Clean’.)
Why’s that? Because if cleansing isn’t done properly, you are virtually pouring the money you’ve spent on your moisturiser or your whizbang anti-ageing cream down the sink, frankly. And we always liked the description (picked this up from a New York dermatologist) that ‘applying skin creams without cleansing properly is the equivalent of putting polish on a dirty floor.’
The type of cleanser you go for is a matter of preference. Personally, we prefer rich creams, balms and even oils over foaming cleansers or washes, because they ‘emulsify’ make-up, gunk and grime (during the massage we describe below), melt it ready for removal, are non-drying, and don’t interfere with the skin’s pH. If you don’t know about cleansing oils, meanwhile, these are a real revelation and you might like to check out Nude Cleansing Facial Oil, which has wowed our Beauty Bible testers, notching up a super-impressive score of 9.16 marks out of 10, averaged across 10 testers: ‘Wonderful on waterproof make-up; no trace on my pillow’ • ‘easy to use, skin felt velvety’ • ‘much richer and less drying than my usual cleanser’ • ‘Fabulous! Skin felt very moisturised and soft’ • ‘love the floral smell’.
What we also know is that a muslin or a wash cloth turbo-charges the effectiveness of any cleanser. End. Of. Second-best is a good old flannel (these have to be washed and changed daily). But the gently buffing action of the cloth works like a gentle exfoliator, buffing away the surface cells that are ready to be lifted off, and leaving skin that bit brighter.
Over the years, with a little input from our friends Eve Lom, Liz Earle and Vaishaly Patel, we’ve basically fine-tuned what we think is the perfect massage to perform as part of your cleansing regime. Maybe sometimes it seems like a bit of a faff, but it pays dividends in terms of renewed radiance, glow – and in terms of performance of your facial oil/moisturiser, which will penetrate to where it’s going to do the best job. This features in our book The Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible, but for those of you who haven’t yet got your signed copy via VH, here goes.
Massage your cleanser into skin – balm, lotion, cream, whatever your preference. Ideally at this stage in life you will have progressed from foaming cleansers, which in general are too drying for mature complexions. And if you’re still using soap and water? Stop. Right. Now.
When we say massage, we mean massage. Ideally, use a pressure-point massage, making firm, small circular movements starting at chin-level and working up the cheeks to the eye zone, then shifting along the jaw-bone towards the ears (a distance of around 1.5 cm.), mid-cheek, cheekbones. And then the same on your forehead. Sweep your fingers more gently around the eyes in a circular but outward directions.
But – important BUT – if you can’t be bothered to follow that precise prescription, just general firm massage of your face using circular movements will work wonders for a) melting make-up, b) improving circulation, c) decongesting. You can do this for as long as you like. We recently talked to a French woman who explained that in France, it’s not unusual to spend 10 minutes on cleansing. We award ourselves Brownie points if we manage two, but really, the longer you knead your face with your fingertips the more it will love you for it.
Take a hot, wet cloth – ideally a muslin cloth, failing that a flannel. Press onto the face to remove the first load of cleanser and debris. Rinse under hot water (warm-to-hot water if you are prone to broken veins), then be a bit more vigorous as you swipe away more of the cleanser. (NB Do not ever rub at areas where you have those aforementioned vein problems, incidentally.) Repeat, until you feel you’ve swooshed away all remaining cleanser.
Rinse the cloth again and wrap a corner of the flannel or cleansing cloth over the tip of your index finger. Rub at areas where skin and make-up build up – particularly in the crease around the nose, or the cleft of the chin. If you do this, you may never need to use a specific exfoliator. (We rarely do.)
As a final step, Jo likes to swish the flannel/cloth in cool water and press it on her face. (While imagining the day and all its stresses is trickling away down the plug-hole. Which isn’t compulsory, but can be a relaxing technique…)
And one extra tip we’ve learned? If you ever open your travel beauty kit to find you’ve left your cleanser on the bathroom shelf at home, you can use any moisturiser for this, at a pinch: apply a really super-rich layer, massage as per instructions below, and remove with a hotel washcloth. (We’ve been known to use hand towels if they don’t provide flannels.) If things are really desperate, you can even use a body butter, provided it’s not too highly-scented. We’re certainly not advocating this every day, but as an alternative to getting your face (squeaky) clean with the hotel soap, it works a trick. (It’s amazing the products that do double duty, when you have a play with them. We once used cellulite gel to style our hair, which it did brilliantly.)