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A little cleanser, some water, your fingertips or a washcloth. Yep, those are the basics. Here, some more sudsing know-how.
—Washing in the a.m. and p.m. is typical (and still okay), but most people don't realize that only a nighttime routine is crucial, says Miami dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD, author of The Skin Type Solution. Getting rid of makeup, dirt, and impurities before bed is a must, but post-snooze there isn't much to wash off. "Washing in the morning may wake you up, but it's generally not necessary," says Dr. Baumann.
—Water should be lukewarm. Extreme temps can irritate skin and lead to dryness and broken capillaries—those tiny red dots that sometimes pop up in clusters around the nose.
—Swap your cleanser for a scrub or exfoliating wash like St. Ives Naturally Clear Blemish and Blackhead Control Apricot Face Wash, $4, two or three times a week to jump-start cell turnover. More often than that is going overboard, says Dr. Baumann.
—Most people prefer foaming cleansers, but only use them on oily skin—they can be drying, says Dr. Baumann.
—The drier your skin, the creamier the wash you need. Feeling tight or parched? Try L'Oreal Paris Go 360 Clean Deep Cream Cleanser, $7, which comes with a built-in "scrublet." If you're oil-prone, go for light frothy washes, such as Ambi Even & Clear Foaming Cleanser, $7.
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For a just-right allover rinse, try these tips:
—Limit showering time. Derms say 5 to 10 minutes is long enough—more than that can actually rob skin of moisture.
—If you get breakouts on your back, try using a 2% salicylic acid wash like Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, $7, on affected areas.
—When you've been applying sunscreen all day, use a gentle scrub to loosen and remove any sticky residue. Aveeno Positively Nourishing Smoothing Body Wash, $6, contains supersmooth grains that won't aggravate, and it has a refreshing scent.
—Gently pat yourself dry with a towel—the friction from rubbing makes you lose important lipids from skin that help prevent water from evaporating, says Heidi A. Waldorf, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Slather on lotion immediately after bathing, while skin is slightly damp.
—What comes after cleansing is just as important—sunscreen during the day, anti-aging moisturizers at night.
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—Unsure of your skin type? Take a quiz to find out at skintypesolutions.com.
—If your skin is sensitive (red or acne-prone), skip exfoliating altogether.